In the early 1980s, before there was a Studio Ghibli, there was Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, a Topcraft film which paved the way for the legendary Japanese animation studio to launch in 1986 with Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
All the soon-to-be-Ghibli hallmarks were already there for Nausicaä: high animation production values, a Joe Hisaishi score (peppered with 1980s synthesizers in this case), and a self-sufficient girl as the lead. Miyazaki’s environmentalist themes were also leading the way in this allegorical fantasy. Nausicaä was a lot darker than I remembered it, but Miyazaki would double down on these themes more than a decade later with Princess Mononoke.
Which brings me back to the heroine of the story, Nausicaä. She serves as a model for many of Ghibli’s future lead characters, and perhaps has the most in common with San from Princess Mononoke. Given the similarities between Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke, that’s not too much of a surprise.
So Princess Nausicaä, who has the ability to communicate with nature, is the first in a long string of Ghibli leads who are among my favorite anime characters.