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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Warriors of the Wind: "No Cuts"

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most respected anime directors in the business, and the title that truly made him a name in the industry, and lead to the creation of the venerable Studio Ghibli, is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Originally debuting in December 1981 as a manga drawn by Miyazaki, Nausicaä ran irregularly until March 1994 & became a classic in the world of manga. In 1984, Miyazaki was asked to make his manga, which he purposefully made as "impossible to animate", into a movie, which likewise became a classic in the world of anime. In 1985, New World Pictures licensed the movie for North American release, but felt that the movie was unprofitable in its original form, so they made cuts & altered the story to make it more "family friendly". The end result angered Miyazaki so much that he supposedly put an embargo on his films from ever getting international release until Disney/Buena Vista got the rights in the late-90s, though there were special exceptions, like My Neighbor Totoro. How bad is this dub? Well, the trailer that was made for it certainly doesn't give a great first impression:

Oh boy. This is Warriors of the Wind.

One thousand years ago, giant creatures called "Fire Demons" (Giant Warriors in Nausicaä) destroyed the Earth in what has been called the "Seven Days of Fire", and in the time since then giant toxic jungles have sprouted filled with giant insects, the largest & most dangerous ones called "Gorgons" (Ohmus). In a small place called the Valley of the Wind lives Princess Zandra (Nausicaä), who welcomes her "uncle" Lord Yuppa (Yupa) after his long journey to survey the world. One night, though, a cargo ship from Tolmekula (Tolmekia) crashes into the Valley. Inside is Princess Listelle (Lastelle) from Plecita (Pejite), & the last remaining Fire Demon; all the others became petrified & broke apart. The next day, Tolmekulan forces lead by Queen Selina (Princess Kushana) invade the Valley & take over it, killing Zandra's father in the process. Selina promises that the Fire Demon can burn away the toxic jungles & save the world, and she takes Zandra hostage on her way back home. This is only the beginning of the adventure that will also involve Plecita & it's prince, Milo (Asbel).

The best part about Nausicaä is that it's a subtle movie, never pushing any of its themes onto the viewer; even the heavy ecological message the movie has isn't overbearing in any way. Warriors of the Wind, on the other hand, removes a fair bit of that subtlety simply by removing about 30 minutes of footage, shortening a 2 hour movie into a 1.5 hour movie. Unfortunately, the scenes that were removed all had some sense of importance to them. For example, one scene had Yupa discover a hidden room Nausicaä made that was filled with plants & spores that should have been toxic, but since they were grown using underground water, which wasn't toxic, the room was filled with pure air. Also, any & all "dream" sequences that made Nausicaä, and the viewer, more sympathetic to the insects have been removed, excising the entire ecological message & turning the insects into creatures that seem to only want destruction, rather than making them into more defensive creatures. The other cut scenes tended to be shorter bits that simply added more logic & flow to what's going on in the story. For example, before Nausicaä & Mito (called "Axel" in Warriors) head off as hostages, Yupa wishes Mito well & says that he will keep watch on the Tolmekians. This scene is awkwardly cut off right as Yupa appears on screen, so a later scene where Yupa is watching the Giant Warrior in secret has no real context to it. Supposedly, New World Pictures felt that the movie had too many slow scenes, so these removals were supposed to speed up the pace, but all they do is simplify a story that was filled with subtlety.

In fact, all subtlety is essentially removed from the film by the inclusion of a giant internal monologue done by "Zandra", when she and "Milo" wind up in an underground forest that's free of toxins. This monologue has her outright talking about the "irony" of her seeing Milo's sister die in front of her, and then him trying to shoot her down the next day, focusing on how violence begets violence and that the result is the post-apocalyptic world that they all live in. Also, these changes go as much as they can into making Plecita come off as the "true evil" in the movie, because of their plan to send a swarm of Gorgons to the valley so that it can destroyed along with the Fire Demon. The original story wasn't terribly different in this regard, but it also explained that Pejite wanted to start anew after the destruction, going off of the "Ends Justify the Means" logic, showing that there isn't any battle between "good & "evil" going on, but rather a strong "grey" between all of the characters. Nausicaä never outright states any of this, instead letting the viewers come to this conclusion naturally on their own, but Warriors follows the stupid American idea that "kids are dumb" & can't understand complex ideas like there's a "grey" space in between good & evil, resulting in a super-simplified story that only gets the basic idea out, but without any of the fun complexities.

Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any visual edits made, which means that all of the violence is left intact. Granted, Nausicaä isn't exactly a violent movie, but there still is a moderate use of blood when needed and the action scenes are amazingly fluid, even to this day. Honestly, I was surprised that the scene where Nausicaä kills about five Tolmekian soldiers after she sees her father dead was kept intact in Warriors, though it's never directly stated that Zandra killed them in this version. It also doesn't dumb down the movie by removing any mentions of killing, death, guns, etc., and instead has no problems bringing them up (outside of that scene I just mentioned, of course). As much as the stupid cuts & story changes are the animation itself is still excellent, showing off why Studio Ghibli has been, and still is, one of the greatest anime studios in existence.

Music-wise I am happy to say that most, if not all, of Joe Hisaishi's music is kept intact in Warriors, though the cuts do result in some original tracks being included so that some parts don't sound jittery... Though there are one or two moments where Hisaishi's music suddenly appears due to the cuts. Also, later on in the movie, there is a quick spot where an original Japanese voice is kept, though it is a simple use of the word "kisama/bastard (liberal translation)", which is pretty embarrassing. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't credit its cast whatsoever (in fact, it credits the Japanese staff more than the English staff!), so I can't talk about it too much, but some names have since been found out. The legendary Cam Clarke voiced Prince Milo, and he did a pretty good job, while Susan Davis supposedly voiced Zandra. Unfortunately, while Davis was obviously trying hard, her performance isn't exactly a great one mainly because she gives the character an odd "squeaky-ness" to her voice, making it hard to take her seriously at some points. In other notable performances "Queen Selina" had a faux-British accent that just sounded hilarious, but "Yuppa" surprisingly sounded really good and was probably the best performance in the dub.

99% of this cover is a lie, and the 1% that isn't is shoved into a corner...

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is an anime "classic" in every sense of the word and truly should be seen by all. Warriors of the Wind is the "diet/lite" equivalent that's lost all of its carbonation, removing most of the subtlety and a lot of the overall taste. While on its own it's still a nicely-animated animated film, with great music and a few good performances, it only manages to be above average, at best. Compared to the original movie, though, it's pretty bad. There's good reason why Hayao Miyazaki was horrified by this version of his "life work", demanding a "no edits" clause be in all of his future licensing agreements and asking everyone to simply forget about Warriors & act like it "doesn't exist". When Miramax considered editing Princess Mononoke to keep it from getting a PG-13 rating, a producer from Studio Ghibli sent them an actual katana that came with a simple message: "No Cuts." As it is today, Warriors of the Wind is nothing more than a curiosity, simply because when Disney released Nausicaä on DVD in 2005 they commissioned a new, uncut English dub that outdoes Warriors in every way, featuring the likes of Alison Lohman, Shia LeBouf, Patrick Stewart, Uma Therman, & even Mark Hamill. If you really want to own Warriors of the Wind, you can buy the VHS release from 1991, which goes anywhere from $10 (used) to $100 (new). But, let's be honest, just get Disney's BD/DVD combo pack of Nausicaä from 2011, because it looks beautiful.
With that out of the way we are now at 99 reviews! I purposefully chose Warriors of the Wind to be #99 because it can lead into #100 very nicely: They're both embarrassing edited dubs of classic 80s anime and they are both insanely infamous... But the latter is even worse than Warriors, and its infamous production story makes it the biggest shame in Robotech history. For Review #100 the "Untold Story" will be covered!

1 comment:

  1. While many would diss "Warriors of the Wind" for what it is, I know a few who do enjoy watching this "Abridged" version of the film simply because it does drop the slow/dramatic elements in favor of a faster pace of action (the brainless kid flick certainly was a bigger deal in the 80's). It's hard for me to argue with them, knowing full well how deep these things do run.