Monday, February 8, 2016

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hisaishi, 1984)

     One of the most groundbreaking films released during the Japanese anime boom of the 1980's, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Japanese: 風の谷のナウシカ) was the first film written and directed by the now highly-acclaimed Studio Ghibli founder and director Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿). Besides it's epic, environmentally-conscious story-line, it also featured his first collaboration with film composer Jo Hisaishi (久石 譲), who would go on to be one of Japan's most prolific and well-regarded film composers.  In a way, Miyazaki and Hisaishi's accomplished collaborative history is comparable to that of Steven Spielberg and John Williams' work together.

    Nausicaä is a very interesting score because it juxtaposes elements from Late Romantic orchestral styles, 80's synthesizer loops, "electro-rock" and synthesized "Indian" music.  The soundtrack is not a complete score release, but like most soundtracks of this time features highlights as well as planned but unused tracks.  Fortunately, all but one or two of the main thematic textures are on the CD (some of the "electro-rock" themes are not present - probably a plus, in my opinion).  The themes from the film have also been released in various "arrangements" (Digital Trip, Image Album, etc...), but of these the "Symphony" is probably the only one which I really find rewarding.  I believe one film sequence also uses the first track from the symphonic release. 

    In the analysis of the released CD score below, I often used my own titles, since the CD tracks are often several cues grouped together and are a bit misleading.  For example, track 1 is made up of 3 cues, and in the table below I note the starting time of each "sub-cue" in parentheses.  The plot is fairly complex, so I'm not going to present any kind of introductory synopsis, but I can't recommend the film highly enough, and if you have already seen it, the descriptions below should be pretty clear.

Trk Title Film Sequence Music Themes
Sea of Corruption Theme
Unused, probably for when Yupa discovers another city overtaken by the poison forest.
Synth loop with filtered trilling and electronic percussion
Legend of the Wind
(Main Title)
Nausicaä flies on a mehve (gull-flyer), lands and enters the poison forest.  An alternate version is used when Nausicaä explores the underground sand crypt and realizes how the forest is filtering out the toxins (probably track 1 from Symphonic Nausicaä).
Piano backed by harp/light percussion, then joined by strings, winds; in 2nd refrain (2:31) strings/winds carry melody (piano drops out)
Sea of Corruption Theme (reprise)
Probably for when Nausicaä first explores the poison forest and collects samples for her garden, this version was replaced in the film by a more "watery" version.  Other (unreleased) variations of this unused theme surface later, such as when the villagers search for spores and discover the God Warrior embryo, when Yupa discovers Nausicaä's secret garden, when the Village gunship lands in the poison jungle, etc...
Forest loop developed with fast echoed ornaments
An Ohmu Shell
Nausicaä marvels at how light the ohmu's eye shell is.
Chiming, panning electronic tones in triplet rhythm 
of the Ohmu
Nausicaä attempts to distract an enraged ohmu by flying ahead of it with an insect charm.
Fast electronic rock with descending chromatic motif and wailing guitar ornaments
Ohmu Theme
Unused, probably for when the ohmu has calmed down and then returns to the poison forest.  A brief fragment is used later when Nausicaä and Asbel find a dead ohmu in the Pejite building wreckage.
Mid-tempo electronic groove with synth sitar melody & synth tabla
Into The Village
Nausicaä aids Mito in fixing a windmill, the villagers converse with Yupa.
Spare texture, cimbalom (?) melody over mid-tempo tabla, shaker, etc...
Old Obaba describes the legend of the blue-robed savior. Legend of the Wind theme variation on slow cimbalom over synth pads
Towards the Faraway Land/Flying
Nausicaä takes off in her mehve, Yupa enters the village and is welcomed (also used when Nausicaä leads an insect away from the crashed Torumekian airship, and also when the children describe to Obaba Nausicaä seemingly walking in a golden field, fulfilling the prophecy of the blue-robed savior). Orchestral: after an opening crescendo, a brief statement of "Towards a Faraway Land" melody (13a) follows, then a "flying" melody driven by violins and supported by cellos, etc (variation of main title)
Ohmu Theme
(reprise, expanded)
Briefly used when Nausicaä sees insects infesting the crashing Torumekian airship carrying the Pejite princess Rastel (and an embryonic God Warrior), possibly meant to accompany the scene where Nausicaä leads a giant insect back to the forest. Mid-tempo electronic groove with synth sitar melody, then a B section synth melody (Extended variation of 2c)
Kushana Invades
(Kushana's Theme)
Kushana arrives, the Valley villagers surrender (a variation is used when Nausicaä extracts Rastel from the air crash but she dies, and also when the villagers discover that spores have infected the forest and it must be burned as Kushana escapes from her bonds, the villagers retreat to the old spaceship at the Acid Lake, etc...). Wailing synth over electronic bass, joined by a synth flute melody, then even, staccato piano chords
The Torumekian army and the Valley villagers transport the God Warrior into the village, Kushana tells Kurotowa her plans, also when Kushana begins her attack on the Villagers at the Acid Lake. Military snare/timpani, orchestral march
(Asbel Attacks)
Unused, probably written for Asbel's attack on the Torumekian airships carrying Nausicaä and her friends. Brass-led fanfare, then from 0:37 combined with a mostly orchestral variation of 2b (Stampede of the Ohmu).  At 1:36 becomes tense string-driven suspense texture with wind/brass dialogue, eventually returning to stampede motif, 2:31 begins a new melody led by oboe
Contact with the Ohmu/
Nausicaä's Theme
Nausicaä apologizes to the ohmu for disturbing them, they cover her in tendrils and see her in childhood memory.  Nausicaä's theme is also used in an alternate arrangement for the flashback where young Nausicaä's father takes away an insect friend. Swirling/tremolo piano, strings, synth ornaments, then sweeping melodic figures on strings, girl's voice over synth rhythm from 0:36 ("Nausicaä's Theme")
Below the
Sea of Corruption
Nausicaä wakes up in the sand crypt underneath the poison forest.  After the first few seconds the track is dialed out.  These beginning textures are also used when Nausicaä faces a lone ohmu in the distance and when the stampeding ohmu begin to calm down at the climax. Synth choir swells, joined by Forest loop variation (1a)
Dead Insects,
Devastated Pejite
Nausicaä and Asbel arrive at Pejite ands see the destroyed city from the ohmu stampede. Tense synth textures, electronic drum rolls, middle features a solo electronic drum dirge, followed by beginning textures joined by wailing guitar ornaments
Theme (repr.)
Nausicaä talks with the Pejite soldiers, who are just as warlike as Kushana, Asbel is knocked out and Nausicaä captured by the Pejite soldiers (var.). Slow synth rhythm, variation of 5a but without flute melody or piano chords
The Battle Between Mehve and Corvette
Nausicaä launches from the Pejite ship in her mehve, a Torumekian corvette pursues.  She is saved by Mito in the Valley's gunship. Orchestral chord accents followed by fast, driving pattern in winds/perc/etc.. With flute ornaments somewhat derived from Nausicaä's theme
Kindness of the
Baby Ohmu
Partially used when, after Nausicaä has saved the baby ohmu from the acid lake, it comforts her. Pastoral strings/piano/harp rhythm, joined by main title (Legend of the Wind) theme variation on cor anglais
The Resurrection of the God Warrior
Unused, probably for when Kushana's God Warrior attacks the ohmu, alternate faster variation briefly used when Yupa tells Mito about rumors of an exhumed God Warrior. Dark cello and timpani figures lead to string clusters, brass accents, tension figures (unused)
Nausicaä and
the Ohmu
Nausicaä has apparently been killed by the stampede and the ohmu lift her with their tendrils. Orchestral, regal, resolute string rhythm with melody on winds, leading to sweeping strings, then back to regal textures (somewhat based on "Towards the Faraway Land" motifs?)
Nausicaä's Theme 
The ohmu somehow revive Nausicaä. Child-like song theme on synth and then girl's voice over synth textures; joined by piano, etc…
Towards the Faraway Land
The wind has returned, the ohmu return to the forest, the villagers rush to greet Nausicaä. Orchestral theme, somewhat regal fanfare (or procession-like) but with pastoral wind elements
End Title
Credits montage. Main title reprise and variation (on piano/orchestra)

     The other Nausicaä release which is of interest is the Nausicaä Symphony CD.  These are all excellent concert suites or otherwise alternate arrangements of a few pieces from the original soundtrack.  I don't recognize a few tracks so it's possible these are "image" songs (ie - "music inspired by").  The first track I believe was actually used in one sequence of the film.
1 The Legend of the Wind Intro/Fanfare, then Main Title with extended coda
2 Battle Battle (Asbel Attacks), alternate arr.
3 Towards the Faraway Land... Nausicaä's Theme on oboe/bassoon duet, then a fine "Towards the Faraway Land" concert suite
4 The Sea of Corruption Dark combination of orchestral winds/strings with synth and steel drums, alternating with a gentle sweeping melody
5 Mehve Unknown source, but a pretty good tune, lively brass and strings with electronic drums
6 The Giant Warrior - Torumekian Army (1:18)- Princess Kushana (3:48) ??/March/Kushana's Theme (alt arr. featuring flute)
7 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Melody based on song single (Haruomi Hosono/Narumi Yasuda)
8 The Days Long Gone Nausicaä's Theme expanded into a concert suite with many variations
9 The Road to the Valley Not sure, lush/pastoral strings

Finally, my rough table of cues for the entire film can be found here.

Joe Hisaishi
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (film)
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (manga)


  1. hey, this might seem weird but I found out just now this website exists and I have say, you've done a terrific job on this amazing anime.

    I only have one problem: I can't find anywhere the music used when Asbel falls in the canyon and get's saved mid air by Nausicaa and where they eventually fall underneath the Sea of corruption.

    any idea what that song may be?

  2. Thank You Very Much!! I was looking for this kind of music analysis and I wasn't able to find it anywhere on the internet.
    This is an excellent piece of work and an amazing attempt to 'organize' in some way the messy releases of Nausicaä's soundtrack. I'm so grateful for your effort!
    As the comment above, I'm also a bit late, but is there a way to find the music used in the film that was not on Cds? Like the music when Asbel sees Nausicaä sleeping or when the girls in town give her the nuts.
    I know it's very difficult, but, who knows?
    Thank You again!