When American Editors Butchered A Hayao Miyazaki Classic
Young readers might not be aware of this, but before its mainstreamization anime could be hard to adapt to American audiences. Anime's slow introduction in the US, indeed, meant its adult themes, jokes, and aesthetic were heavily censored, but also that years went by with failed adaptations trying to adjust their biggest titles with Dragonball: Evolution results. Seriously, check out what they tried to do with the American Sailor Moon:
Yet in this context, one legend stands out: an adapted re-editing so awful it reigns supreme in the Cosmic Tournament of Awful Re-Editings, beating every challenger with punches that somehow are slow enough for the viewer to see its entire backstory and, erm, I don't know, other probably outdated anime tropes. Anyway, we mean Warriors of the Wind, an American edit so infamous even its poster featured characters that are not even in the actual movie.
Warriors of the Wind is a chopped-to-pieces version of Hayao Miyazaki's 1984 classic, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which is an absolute, certified banger. Nausicaä is an insanely smart and sweet film set in a post-apocalyptic future, with cool characters, astonishing animation, a profound environmentalist message, and a challenging plot to delight adults and actually treat kids like the smart little turds they know they are. Also, it has high-speed chase action scenes with dieselpunk airplanes exploding in mid-air, which is always awesome (and because Miyazaki just gotta have his airship scenes).
Now, the story goes that a year after Nausicaä's release, a now-defunct production and distribution company, Manson International, produced a dubbed version that machete'd-down the movie beyond recognition. This 1985 version of Nausicaä, released that same year theatrically by New World Pictures, cut down 23 minutes of footage from the original's nearly two-hour runtime. You read that right: 23 minutes. I don't wanna get too technical with the jargon here, but this is what experts in the field call one full Evangelion episode of cuts. Warriors of the Wind neutered Nausicaä's pace, themes, and humanist message, also simplifying its plot to a basic good-versus-evil schema that the movie actively rejects for a more nuanced take on its central conflicts, stakes, and characters.
But the story doesn't end there. In 1996 the rights for Studio Ghibli movies were acquired by Disney. The studio behind Mickey Mouse (or lame Bugs Bunny, as he is also known) then proceeded to distribute much better quality versions of Miyazaki's films, even if later trying to pull its own sketchy moves. However, this better deal arrived after Miyazaki had rejected several offers and after Disney itself agreed not to change any aspect of his movies. Miyazaki's high standard here was precisely due to his horror at seeing what had been done to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Seriously Just Watch it.
In this sense, the peak of Miyazaki's horror came after he met sentient sewer gunk Harvey Weinstein and was furious at Weinstein's plan to trim down 1997's Princess Mononoke to
dumb it down make it more palatable for American audiences. As the legend goes, after the meeting, Miyazaki's producer sent a friggin' katana to Weinstein -- not to chop his balls off, sadly, but with specific written instruction on how to distribute Princess Mononoke: "No cuts." Asked about the incident sometime later, Miyazaki simply said he "defeated" Weinstein.
You're free to imagine that triumph as an epic, mecha-suited anime battle.
Top Image: Studio Ghibli