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Ink and watercolour. Illustration from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki.

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Few people put Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at the top of Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography, though there is a sizable contingent who absolutely love the film. At the same time, while Miyazaki’s first original feature-length film has been eclipsed by what he made under Studio Ghibli, you can’t deny the importance of that first work in the pattern of his career. Nausicaä contains the seed for all the work that came after: the visual sensibility, the treatment and choice of characters, the pacing, and most obviously, the underlying themes. It has the mark of an early passion project that encompasses an entire creative vision: everything Miyazaki wanted to express poured into a single story, which would then grow and change and spread to his future creative projects.

It’s not as obvious in the film as in the manga which he had to draw and write in order to get his dream-movie produced in the first place. The manga of Nausicaä began in 1982, before the film’s earnest development and wasn’t completed until 1994, long after that film’s release. Considering the long timespan, it’s hard to hold up the complete run of Nausicaä as an “early work” in the way you would the 1984 film, but it still functions as an incubator for other ideas, a forgotten centrepiece (at least in North America) to his particular brand of visual storytelling.

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