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  Warriors of the Wind
 
1984 | Manson Int. / Vestron
Warriors of the Wind Vestron

Now the name of Hayao Miyazaki is well known the world over but back when this video was first released only tiny groups of anime fans knew of his work. And just as Nausicaa is now held as one of Japanese animation's greatest works there was a time when the only way to see it in English was in this truncated form...

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, his second theatrical feature, and based on the plot of his own Manga series Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) is set a thousand years in the future in a world destroyed by a terrible ecological disaster known as the 'Seven Days of Fire'. Nausicaa is the young Princess of the settlers in the Valley of the Wind one of only a few remaining human populations. Every day is a struggle to survive against the spreading Toxic Jungle and the giant insects that live within.

Nausicaa holds a magnificent gift for communicating with these dangerous but misunderstood creatures and is the only person who can reunite mankind and nature and overcome the spreading threat of extinction of the human race.

The movie of Nausicaa was a big hit in it's native land, big enough to bring it to the attention of international investors looking for a ready made release.

 

Founded in 1970 by legendary producer/director Roger Corman, New World Pictures specialised in distribution of low budget genre films and B-movies. They were no strangers to Japanese cinema either having released Godzilla's 1984 big screen come-back to US screens a year earlier.

In 1986 the company secured the international rights to Nausicaa and prepared it for an American theatrical release. Adhering to the founder's personal mantra of keeping costs low in order to maximise profits creating an animated movie from scratch would be far too costly so distributing an existing feature made much more financial sense. Retitled 'Warriors of the Wind' Miyazaki's movie was intended to be seen as a kid's action film so around twenty minutes of footage was cut from the original, anything that was considered 'slow moving', to keep it fast paced and at a running time more suitable to the under tens.

Redubbed, edited, with some character names changed but the Joe Hisaishi score still intact Warriors of the Wind was released to cinemas in America that year and elsewhere on video including UK and parts of Europe including Germany where it was given the misleading title of 'Star Warriors'.

Many years later Miyazaki learned that his film had been edited and was very displeased causing him to add a 'no editing' clause to all distribution rights to his subsequent films.

 
Nausicaa of the valley of the wind Warriors of the Wind Vestron
Japanese Poster
 
Vestron's Cover
 

In an eary and desolate land Lord Yupa searches for life amongst buildings over grown with toxic spores. Breathing through a protective mask and being circled by giant, flying, insects Yupa finds no signs of life and moves on.

Onscreen text states "Somewhere in the world one thousand years from now..." as a narrator informs us of the Seven Days of Fire "... an event that left many civilisations in ruin and others gone forever!" As Princess Zandra effortlessly glides through the sky on her 'Cloud Climber' he continues to set the scene telling of a place known as the Valley of the Wind- the only place the wind still blows. Filling in the details of our heroine he states that the "spirited Princess" dedicates her life to "a tomorrow of peace... and joy... and hope" but things don't look good as he leaves us with the chilling statement that evil forces, moving in from the north and south, will soon invade the Valley of the Wind!

After the title we re-join the Princess as she wanders through the Toxic Jungle encountering the perfectly preserved shell of a 'Giant Gorgon'. She removes one of its lenses only to hear a gunshots coming from nearby. Racing to the surface to sees an angry Gorgon chasing some poor soul across the desert. Speeding to the rescue on her glider she recognises the person in distress as Lord Yupa. Through her understanding of the insect world Zandra manages to calm the rampaging beast and send it on it's way home.

Landing nearby she is excited to see her uncle who greets her by telling her "while I've grown old you've grown beautiful". He explains of how he accidentally angered the Gorgon while rescuing a baby fox-like creature from the claws of a mighty Gadfly. Zandra adopts the creature, naming it Foxy, and flies ahead of Lord Yupa to tell the people of the valley of his arrival. On reaching the town Yupa visits Zandra's father, King Zeal, who has fallen ill as a result of his many visits to the Toxic Jungle. Together they discuss the Lord's travels. It appears that the Jungle is spreading faster than ever and Yupa will not be able to settle until his destiny is complete. As foretold in a legend he will be the one to "tie the strings of the Earth together".

That night Zandra is awoken by a commotion outside. A huge cargo ship from Tamekula is plummeting out of the sky apparently attacked by 'Loki Blood-suckers'. The Princess tries to save it but is too late and it crashes nearby. With it's cargo burning in the fields Zandra finds a body amongst the wreckage who appears to have been a captive. Carrying her to safety to recognises the person as Princess Lastel of Placeda. The girls passes away moments later relived to learn that whatever it was that the ship was carrying has been destroyed in the crash.

The next morning the towns folk work together to clear the wreckage. Despite the flames something has managed to survive the crash. Lord Yupa recalls having heard rumours of a creature from "the ancient world" that had been uncover in the country of Placeda. That creature was a 'Fire Demon' one of those responsible for destroying the ancient world with the Seven Days of Fire. He speculates that the violent country of Tommekula must have raided Placeda kidnapping their Princess and snatching the sleeping demon. It seems his theory is correct as Tomekulan ships proceed to crash through the valley causing destruction and letting loose an invading army who capture the town and assassinate the King. Their Queen Selena addresses the people of the valley explaining her plan to burn down the Toxic Jungle and unite the surviving countries under her rule. The king's aide tells her that this plan can never work as many have tried to burn the Jungle before and have all perished doing so. Selena is undeterred and plans to leave for Tomekula in the morning with Princess Zandra hostage. While she is away her scheming aide is to commence reviving the Fire Demon as they plan to use it as the means with which to start the fire.

The next day the Queen and her hostage along with several of the older villagers, supplies and a confiscated gunship, take to the skies back to her home country. But there journey is scuppered by an unexpected air attack. The ensuing battle causes both of the Tomekulan vessels to be destroyed and the Barge containing the villagers to crash into the Toxic Jungle. Zandra and her friend Axel are able to escape in the stolen gunship before the critically damaged aircraft explodes and take Selena with them. Searching within the depths of the jungle Zandra finds the barge and instructs the crew into a safe landing. All is well until the cunning Queen tries to take over the situation and a stray gunshot attracts a swarm of Gorgons. The Princess convinces them that she and the others mean them no harm and after a brief probing they leave. Noticing some strange activity amongst the insects she leaves on her glider instructing the others to return to the valley.

Her instincts are correct- the insects are swarming after a human intruder in their habitat. Zandra attempts a rescue but her and the boy are forced out of the sky by the angry hordes and end up being swallowed by quicksand. Awakening in a subterranean paradise of clear running water and clean, breathable air the Princess wonders if she is in heaven. Her companion, Prince Milo of Placeda, explains that they are still alive and are in fact beneath the Toxic Jungle. This causes Zandra to wonder on the "endless ironies of life" such as how she attempted to save his sister Lastel whereas he unknowingly tried to kill her, then as she had tried to save him he had actually saved her. And how above them is a world of death and destruction yet below it a peaceful paradise.

Meanwhile in her home town Lord Yupa watches as the occupying Tolmekulan army continues it's efforts to revive the Fire Demon. He returns to the secret hideaway inhabited by the escaped captives and where they are holding the Queen prisoner. He tried to reason with her to order the Fire Demon disposed of in the Acid Lake but she won't listen to a word of it. Insisting that her plan is the only means for mankind's survival she reveals how she lost her left arm to a Giant Gorgon attack as a small child. Back at the valley spores have been discovered growing in the trees and the towns people want their confiscated flame throwers returned so they can stop it's spreading. Lord Yupa leaves to search for Princess Zandra and unbeknownst to him the evil Queen Selena escapes.

Zandra and Milo fly to Placeda but find it devastated and in flames from a Tomekulan attack. The survivors have a plan to get back at Tomekula but it will cause the destruction of the Princess' Valley. Understandably outraged she tries to escape to warn her people but is captured and taken aboard their ship.

Queen Selena returns to the Valley of the Wind to find it in the midst of an uprising. Despite stealing a tank the people of the Valley are vastly out gunned and retreat back to the Acid Lake. High above the clouds the Valley's Princess is held captive by the remaining people of Placeda. But not all of them agree with the plan and Princess Lastel's mother comes and frees Zandra disguising her as her maid. As the airship is attacked by a Tolmekian ship Zandra escapes aboard her Cloud Climber and with help from Axel races in a gunship to stop the Placeda's terrible plan. Spotting a herd of thousands of angry Gorgons they realise the plan must be to have them stampede through the Valley, destroying everything in their wake. But what has made the giant insects angry and how are they being lead to the intended target? The answer soon appears on the horizon...

Two pilots from Placeda are dragging an injured baby Gorgon through the air, on a course with the Valley. Zandra swoops in to it's rescue but in the ensuing mayhem the group crash into a tiny island in the middle of the acid lake. Zandra, suffering from several bullet wounds, tries her hardest to calm the baby so she can safely return it to it's home and avert the crisis. While attempting this she is further hurt by the burning acid waters. Seeing her selfless suffering the young Gorgon is calmed. While all this has been going on the Talmekian army has the Valley townsfolk cornered by the edge of the Acid Lake. As the marauding hordes of Gorgons approach Queen Selena gives the order for the Fire Demon to attack. Unfortunately for them the Demon has awaken to soon and can only fire off two blasts which, while extremely devastating, do nothing to stop the stampeding insects or substantially reduce their numbers. The Fire Demon melts away to useless bones leaving both the Valley people and Tolmekians to lament their impending deaths.

Out of the sky Princess Zandra descends into the path of the stampede, bravely standing her ground, hoping the sight of the safely returned young will calm them. Her people watch in horror as the giant insects crash through her without slowing and continue their course through the Tomekulan armourments. Lord Yupa and the people of Placeda watch from the sky as the eyes of the Gorgon masses, now brought to a halt just outside the Valley, turn from an angry red to a calmed blue. The people of the Valley are devastated at the sight of their Princess laying lifeless on the ground amongst the calmed monsters. But as their tears fall the insects lift the Princess with their combined tentacles which create a golden glow as they begin to restore her wounds.

The people of the Valley of the Wind look on in delight and disbelief as Princess Zandra is brought back to life and walks amongst the glowing, swaying, tentacles just as the legend foretold. The people rush in to be with her cheering and celebrating... and deep within the Toxic Jungle a the shoot of a young tree has begun to grow.

 
Missing videos
Missing videos

This review predates video clips
and, to be honest, Studio Ghibli would probably sue me if I put them up

This review predates video clips
and, to be honest, Studio Ghibli would probably sue me if I put them up

 
A reasonable adaptation
  Good voice acting
  Features the original score
  Was the only way to see Nausicaa for years
  Removes important detail
  Occasionally inane script
  Truly awful American video cover

Despite an amount of internet outcry Warriors of the Wind is nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe. In this time of easily accessible DVD releases it's easy to accuse New World of desecrating a masterpiece but you must remember that their version brought the wonder of Miyazaki's work to a whole new audience and without it far fewer people would know of it's existence. Also it never makes any attempt to hide it's origins giving full, if slightly inaccurate, credit to the Japanese crew.

For nearly two decades after it's release Warriors of the Wind was still the only way, outside of unofficial and hard to get hold of Fansub, for those interested to see Nausicaa in English. The dubbing (by an uncredited cast featuring the ubiquitous Cam Clark), while not the best, is a perfectly good effort although the new script lets it down by being fairly inane at times. The excellent score by Joe Hisaishi is still intact whereas it could have been replaced with terrible pop music. In all, while it did remove the environmental overtones and now is completely redundant, it's certainly not the worst that could have happened to anime.

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