Nausicaa: The 12 Principles Review

I recently watched Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind again, and decide to do a review. I was interested in reviewing the use of the 12 principles of animation on a Miyazaki film. For ease of review here, I’ve analyzed only the first five minutes of the opening scene of the film.

The film in it’s entirety would take forever to critique, and I would not be able to do it justice; at least not today. So I will continue by saying that all of Miyazaki’s films utilize the principles beautifully, and I will do my best to breakdown 5 minutes of Nausicaa Valley of Wind…so here we go.

Nausicaa: The first five minutes        

In the first 5 minutes the credits are rolling over various animation sequences. Some are scrolling static graphics, some are fully animated. Though this could be broken down as well; we’ll take a look at the first 5 minutes of Scene 1’s official start. The 1984 film utilizes the animation principles very well. Not at all surprising from a master like Hayao Miyazaki…regardless of the year.

Scene 1 Setup:

The main female character Nausicaa has just sailed in from above on her air glider. She comes to a soft landing on the sands that lay before the toxic forest. She enters unafraid wearing a breathing apparatus to collect specimens. The energy and life in the forest is easily felt. Though there is no dialogue for some time, you get a clear sense of Nausicaa’s mood and emotions. There is a sense of wonder; aided by the instrumental. She discovers the shell of the giant dead Ohmu and climbs atop it. After removing an optical lens from it’s shell, she lays beneath the dome like lens. She lays resting and watching as the toxic spores fall peacefully like snow.

The ” 12 Animation Principles”:

  1. Squash and Stretch – There is no computer assisted element of this in the first five minutes, there are however obvious uses of hand drawn squash and stretch being utilized for elements of the forest vegetation, Nausicaa’s clothing, and shoulder bag.
  1. Anticipation – This speaks a lot about Nausicaa’s actions. The animation delivers us with a believable character that is comfortably at ease within a toxic forest. The first sense of startled anticipation we get doesn’t come till around the 6 minute mark…Nausicca’s actions deliver this realistically when she is startled by a distant sound.
  1. Staging – The staging presents us with an unmistakably clear image of an intriguing character in a dangerous place; yet she is not afraid. Couldn’t be better.
  1. Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose action – Pose to pose action is used in this case. The animation required is very timing driven, so the actions were preplanned accordingly. This allowed animators to firmly place Nausicaa into this toxic world and do so believably.
  1. Follow through and overlapping action – There is general follow through of the action as Nausicaa makes her way from one area of the forest to another. Yet the use of overlapping action is also relevant to progress the action faster, and move the story along.
  1. Slow in and out – Spacing of the in between frames accurately achieves proper timing and movement with well performed hand drawn techniques.
  1. Arcs – To my eyes all the actions of Nausicaa and the life in the forest seem to possess very natural movement. Being hand drawn there are no “motion guides” though, lol.
  1. Secondary Action There is plenty secondary action going on with response of vegetation to Nausicaa’s touch, as well as her clothing reacting to her body. There is also a small explosive charge she plants at one point to remove the Ohmu lens that provides a greater example of secondary action.
  1. Timing – The weight and size of all the objects and Nausicaa’s character itself feel very accurate. Proper consistency is given to all animated frames to provide a believable experience.
  1. Exaggeration – There is little exaggeration used in the action. This is intentional to allow for a level of realistic action. Taking the viewer into this imaginary place that somehow feels like it could tangibly exist.
  1. Solid Drawing – The volume of mass is felt by the forest, every plant and animal seems to have a weight to it. Ranging from light to heavy, big to small, the shading used also adds to this sense of realism. For this reason there is a great amount of depth to the animation. The way in which Nausicaa moves illustrates correct anatomical knowledge. The interaction of Nausicaa and the objects in the environment is also very well drawn.
  1. Appeal – I have to say there is great appeal here. The initial five minutes had me captivated the first time, and I still love watching it. When all the principles of animation are utilized proficiently such as in this work…you can’t go wrong. I would suggest watching this movie as well as any other Hayao Miyazaki work.

I hope you enjoyed and please take a look at Nausicaa Valley of the Wind. A great work by Hayao Miyazaki,  its well worth the watch.

Till next time:   -RJR-

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