We’re slowly working our way through all the Studio Ghibli films we can get our hands on. Watching Hayao Miyazaki’s films is almost like reading an author’s entire body of work; after a while you can pinpoint all the familiar morifs and themes. Flying (airships, gliders, broomsticks, dragons, floating islands, moving castles) is a big one, as is the theme of environmental degradation caused by technological progress. This often takes on a spiritual element, as the environment is often guarded by animalistic spirits (like the boars and wolves in Princess Mononoke and the giant Ohm in Nausicaa). Boiling down the movies to such basic themes and elements do not do them justice, because first and foremost they are just great stories, peopled by nunaced, complicated characters and full of riveting conflict and ratcheting tension.
I grew up on the (so I have since learned) butchered English version of Nausicaa, called Warriors of the Wind. And while the newer version is far more faithful to the original (and includes all the scenes, thereby plugging the plot holes that confused me for years), I still have a sneaking fondness for Warriors. I have entire swathes of dialogue completely memorized from that film, most of which is internally playing right along with the new version, creating an interesting mental disconnect. I’m sad that some of my favorite lines–and most of the funny ones–are no longer there, and while the story makes more sense, I find the environmentalism somewhat heavy-handed.
Despite that, Nausicaa (in its Warriors of the Wind guise) remains one of my oldest inspirations. Post-apocalyptic scenarios, weird and wonderful worldbuilding, a strong, courageous and generous girl protagonist, nuanced villains, truly scary creatures (the Fire Demons… er… Giant Warriors never fail to give me the creeps), gliders and other flying contraptions, a story that just keeps getting bigger and bigger–if any of those appear in my work, they’ve grown from the seeds sown by those bazillion viewings during my formative years. My liking for adventurous music probably stems from that, too. In fact, Nausicaa/Warriors is like a well-known, well-loved orchestral piece that never fails to elicit the same emotional responses from me–from the way my stomach drops when Nausicaa launches off from a cliff (yikes!) to the deep-seated sorrow when her people are rounded up by the Tolmekeans to all the complex feelings at the final scenes on the shores of Acid Lake.
And Nausicaa herself is just a fantastic heroine, with her great physical and moral courage, her love and loyalty for her people, her initiative, and yes, her ability to really ride those winds on a not-at-all-safe-looking contraption.