Why is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind considered Miyazaki’s first masterpiece?

Why is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind considered Miyazaki's first masterpiece

Hayao Miyazaki is a name synonymous with the world of animation, known for creating many timeless classics. However, before these renowned films captured the hearts of audiences worldwide, there was “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” – a groundbreaking film that is often considered Miyazaki’s first masterpiece.

Let’s delve into the reasons behind the film’s significance, exploring its artistic brilliance, thematic depth, and its role in shaping Miyazaki’s illustrious career.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was a turning point in Hayao Miyazaki’s career. It marked his directorial debut in feature-length films, establishing him as a visionary filmmaker in the world of animation. The success of the film laid the foundation for Studio Ghibli, the legendary animation studio co-founded by Miyazaki, which would go on to produce numerous beloved classics.

Miyazaki’s distinctive artistic style shines in this film. The attention to detail in the animation, the lush landscapes, and the intricate character designs all demonstrate the dedication and craftsmanship of Studio Ghibli. The film’s visual beauty elevates the storytelling, creating an emotional connection with the audience.

Pioneering Environmental Themes

A still from Howl's Moving Castle
A still from Howl’s Moving Castle (Image via Studio Ghibli)

One of the key reasons Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind stands out as a masterpiece is its pioneering exploration of environmental themes. Released in 1984, the film was ahead of its time in addressing ecological concerns, a topic that has since become central in Miyazaki’s oeuvre.

  • Set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by pollution and environmental degradation, the film revolves around the struggles of its titular heroine, Nausicaä.
  • Nausicaä seeks to understand the balance between nature and humanity, advocating for harmony with the natural world rather than exploiting it.
  • Nausicaä’s deep empathy for creatures and plants is a recurring theme in Miyazaki’s work, and it was first brought to life in this film.
  • This early exploration of environmentalism paved the way for Miyazaki to become a prominent advocate for environmental issues in the decades that followed.

Spectacular World-Building

The film showcases Miyazaki’s unparalleled talent for world-building. The post-apocalyptic setting, with its toxic forests and vast landscapes, is visually stunning and serves as a perfect backdrop for the narrative’s exploration of environmental themes.

  • The unique aircraft and technology within the film, such as the Ohmu and the gliders, are iconic creations that have left a lasting impression on viewers and inspired countless other works of fiction.
  • Additionally, the film features a rich cast of characters with their own motivations and inner conflicts. This depth of character development was relatively uncommon in animation at the time, setting a new standard for storytelling in the medium.


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Ocean Waves | Image courtesy of Ghibli Studios

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind holds a special place in the pantheon of Miyazaki’s work as his first masterpiece. Its groundbreaking exploration of environmental themes, complex characters, spectacular world-building, genre fusion, and artistic beauty all contribute to its enduring appeal.

Beyond its artistic merits, the film also played a pivotal role in shaping Miyazaki’s career and solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest animation directors of all time. As a result, Nausicaä remains a testament to Miyazaki’s genius and continues to captivate audiences, cementing its status as a timeless masterpiece in the world of animation.

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