Warriors of the Wind
The butchered version of Nausicaä still has glimmers of Miyazaki's original
Warriors of the Wind
New World Pictures
Directed by Kazuo Komatsubara
USA, 1984
These days, with so many new English anime releases coming out regularly, it's hard to remember that it wasn't so long ago that we didn't get quite as much translated anime on these shores. It was also far less common to get it with all the footage intact, or to have it translated more or less faithfully.

One of the best and worst examples of this is Warriors of the Wind, a bowdlerized version of the classic Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind (1984). Nausicaä was originally a serialized manga (comic) by Hayao Miyazaki in Japan's Animage magazine, which only recently concluded after more than ten years. It told a tale of Earth after ecological devastation, where insects are as large as houses and man has been demoted back to an agrarian lifestyle, though some fragments of the old technology--mostly aircraft--still remain. The very air is poison in most places, and few but the most robust dare to breathe without filter masks. New empires have emerged, few of which are stable and all of which are threatening to or under the threat of attack. Life, in short, is hard.

The Valley of Wind is so named because it happens to be one of the rare places that enjoys a climate where the wind usually carries clean air. It also has the invaluable asset of a fast and maneuverable gunship. Nausicaä, the princess of the Valley of Wind, is loved by her people, and known for her desire for an end to the constant battle between people, the giant insects, and the toxic miasma that passes for air in most places. Her father is killed when the Torumeikan army invades the Valley, and through various turns of fate she finds herself embroiled in a series of bitter struggles, affecting thousands of lives in the process.

Miyazaki himself oversaw the adaptation to the big screen, so much of Nausicaä's flavor remained intact, to the obvious delight of moviegoers--Nausicaä was number one on Animage's monthly reader poll of favorite characters for over six years.

With all this going for it, one has to wonder why New World felt the need to drastically alter Nausicaä for their release of Warriors of the Wind. Most of the characters were renamed; half an hour's worth of footage was excised; Jo Hisaishi's wonderful score was re-edited. That plus some dialogue reworkings changed an important point of the film: Nausicaä used to be someone who was mature beyond her years, and a sharp thinker. After New World got to her and renamed her Zandra, she seemed to rely less on intelligence and more on luck.

On the flip side, Warriors retains enough of the spirit of the original that it's still a good movie to watch. Something New World couldn't change was Zandra/Nausicaä's admirable determination to keep fighting for what she believed in. By the end of the movie she's battered and exhausted, but when she realizes there's one more job she has to do that may cost her life, she doesn't hesitate. That, plus the strength of Miyazaki's original vision and the fairly good voice acting make Warriors of the Wind an acceptable substitute until the real Nausicaä comes along.

Originally printed in Sci-Fi Entertainment (March, 1995)