Hayao Miyazaki's millennial odyssey | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hayao Miyazaki's millennial odyssey 

The Japanese animator's first major film creates a world after the fall of our own.

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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Hayao Miyazaki's first major theatrical work (1984), adapted from a manga series he wrote, shows the Japanese animator in full command of his art. It takes place 1,000 years after the fall of industrial civilization, and Miyazaki and his team realize the fantasy world in intricate detail—each location seems to have its own topography and flora. The action sequences are as suspenseful as any in the director's career; the most impressive scenes, though, may be the slower ones, which consider how humanity might evolve after driving itself to near extinction. Miyazaki communicates a rather grown-up sense of ambivalence, expressing cynicism toward war and environmental devastation while taking a humane view of all the characters. Even the villains are depicted as capable of enlightened behavior.

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