The Warriors of the Red Ribbons is a Japanese animated OVA movie released in 1996. It was written and directed by Akira Kyo and was produced by Studio Kagayakashimon.
Phu is the 10-year-old crown prince of Dalaam. The film opens with Phu casually reading while his parents, Emperor Kairo and Empress Lin, having a fight. Apparently, Kairo tried to arrange a marriage for his son with his friend, the King of Dalaam simply because his daughter, Rhadika, wants to marry Prince Phu. Lin calls-out Kairo for not caring about his son's well being and proceeds to hit him repeatedly with a nangun. Just then, hysterical screaming is heard outside and the King of Dalaam, Hattori rushes in and announces that Onibaba is terrorizing Dalaam once again. The emperor sends out his army to kill her but she turns them all into rats. Meanwhile, Rhadika brings inside a merchant despite being told to not let anyone inside. The merchant shows her all sorts of jewellery. She then offer the girl a purple apple and claims that it'll make so beautiful, even Prince Phu won't be able to resist her. Rhadika eats the apple but it turns out that the apple is actually made with sleeping poison and she falls unconscious. The merchant then turns to Onibaba she proceeds to kidnap Rhadika. Hattori sees Onibaba flying off with his daughter and tries to stop her but to no avail. He pleads for Kairo to save his daughter. However, Kairo pretends to be sick and suggests that they let Phu do it instead. Lin is reluctant to let her son go but his willingness to do it eventually leads her into letting him go. In the next scene, Empress Lin tearfully says goodbye to her son and wishes him luck as he flies off on his pet dragon, Vasuman. Phu is able to catch up to Onibaba but she takes him down easily by casting a sleeping spell on him. The last thing Phu sees before blacking out is what appears to be another dragon being attacked.
The next morning, Phu wakes up to find that he and his dragon have landed in a flower patch in what seems to be the middle of the forest. Soon after, a strange old man in a colorful kimono appears and offers to help Phu find a way out if he listens to his predictions. Phu agrees and the old man tells him that he'll meet a beautiful girl around his age wearing two red ribbons in the kingdom of Kyohon. Phu is disappointed that his prediction is about a possible suitress and he says that he's not interested in girls. The old man ignores what Phu says and give him a red ribbon claiming that it'll bring him good luck. After the old man leads Phu and Vasuman to civilization, the old man disappears into the forest. Phu desires to leave Kyohon to find Onibaba but he doesn't know where she lives. So he tries to get information from the townspeople but they all tell him that either the queen or the princess might know about her since they both known to go on adventures to faraway places. The last person he talks to , an old lady, gives him directions to the Castle of Kyohon. Phu makes no haste to hop on his dragon to fly there but he's stopped by a white dragon who leads him to a horribly wounded girl lying face down with short black hair worn in pigtails with red ribbons. Phu uses his psychic powers to heal her. The girl instantly gets up after being healed to reveal that she's a very beautiful young girl. She instantly falls in love with Phu and while Phu does fall in love with her, he's also very skeptical about the girl as well. She thanks Phu with a kiss and offers to take him to meet her father, the King of Kyohon. Phu makes no haste to ask about Onibaba but she knows nothing about her. However, she knows Yaoguai, a young witch who lives in the island of Mu-dao who's very knowledgeable about supernatural creatures. Phu wants to go right away but Panya purposely doesn't give him directions so she could introduce him to her family.
The scene then cuts to Onibaba who is watching the two children through a crystal ball. Her pet kitsune suggests that she attack the children right away but Onibaba decides not to, claiming that she's waiting for when the children are at their most vulnerable state. Back in Kyohon, Panya introduces Phu to her parents and explains that he saved her from dying. King Yakuza and Queen Juu-Lee are ecstatic they decide to have a grand party. They get even more ecstatic when the notice that Phu's wearing a red ribbon which meant that Nakoudo might have matched him with their daughter. Phu denies this but his red face tell them otherwise. During the festivities, Phu and the princess talk in private. She reveals that her name is Panya and decides to affectionately call Phu Junjie because she found Phu to be too shameful of a name for him. Panya then proceeds to ask Phu many questions about him and he answers all of them. Eventually, she questions him on what he's doing and he tells her that Onibaba has kidnapped a girl from his kingdom. The adventurous Panya wants to join Phu and help him out. At first, he refuses because he thought that she was incapable of defending herself but he changes his mind after they have a quick sparring match. However, Phu then realizes that her parents might not allow her to go. And they let her go, much to Phu's surprise.
They set off the next day with Vasuman and Mizuki, Panya's dragon. Panya leads Phu to Mu-Dao right away. Onibaba's kitsune sends out an oni army to stop them. The army actually seemed like they'd be successful but they're all killed by Yaoguai who makes no haste to take the injured children back to her home. Yaoguai nurses the children back to health and advises that they should stay for a while. During their stay, Panya and Phu observe Yaoguai taking care of the dozens of children she has. Panya admires Yaoguai and reveals that she wants to be like her because all of the princes who'd asked her hand in marriage ended up changing their minds because of her tomboyish personality. Panya also reveals that she's been enrolled into the Angel Diamond Princess School and will be spending six years living there so she can become a proper young lady and thus, finally get a suitor. Phu wants to tell her that he loves her despite her tomboyish nature but he ultimately decides against it. A week passes and the children decide that it's time to continue their mission. However, Yaoguai refuses to let them go and this eventually leads to her getting into a fight with them. It was a long and difficult battle but they manage to beat Yaoguai and she gives them directions to where Onibaba lives. Phu and Panya say goodbye to Yaoguai and they set off to Onibaba's mansion. On their way, Phu and Panya have to go through the Sakura Forest. During their walk, Panya confesses her love to Phu but he rejects her. This upsets Panya so much that she begins to cry and she stops calling Phu Junjie. Suddenly, Onibaba appears and she captures Panya who makes no attempt to free herself. Phu tries to stop Onibaba but she gets away and not without mocking him for rejecting Panya.
Phu, determined to get Panya back, hops on Vasuman who is being led by Mizuki and they fly quickly to Onibaba's mansion which actually leads to them catching up to her. This leads to a chase scene that ends when they make it to the mansion. When Phu enters the mansion, Onibaba shows him where she's keeping Rhadika captive and says he can leave peacefully with her but only with her. However, Phu insists that he wants to take Panya as well. Onibaba says she'll only let Panya go if he could beat her kitsune. He agrees and it leads to a long and difficult battle with the kitsune. After a while, Phu collapses and was ready to give up. But Panya is able to re-motivate him, especially when she starts calling him Junjie again. Phu get back up and continues to fight the kitsune and wins this time around. Onibaba sets Panya free. Phu finally reveals to Panya that he does in fact love her and they share a hug which angers Rhadika. The three children go back to Dalaam.
In the final scene, Panya is seen wearing a mauve and purple hakama. This turns out to be her school uniform and she's bidding Phu farewell. The two children share one final hug before Panya flies off. Rhadika approaches Phu and asks him to marry her. The movie finishes with Phu saying, "I'll marry you when I throw away this ribbon."
Prince Poo - Takako Ōta
Princess Panya - Mitsuko Horie
Rhadika - Hiromi Tsuru
Emperor Kairo - Akira Kamiya
Empress Lin - Mitsuko Horie
King Hattori - Hiroshi Masuoka
King Yakuza - Kappei Yamaguchi
Queen Juu-Lee - Rei Sakuma
Yaoguai - Miki Itō
Nakoudo - Yukinori Ishizuka
Onibaba - Yoko Maekawa
Kitsune - Linda Yamamoto
The Warriors of the Red Ribbon was not well received upon its release. Toyoharu Nagatsuka stated that "This film had so much lost potential." But he also stated that "It was a very unique idea to have a Mother OVA focusing on Prince Poo since he's a rather underrated character and he always seem to be forgotten." Kiichi Hatayama claimed that it didn't feel like a Mother movie because, "It lacked the sense of humor, originality and the parodic nature that the Mother series was known for." The only aspect of the movie that was well-received was the animation because the art-style was similar to the style of the Peanuts but with a more anime-esque twist.
The OVA was dubbed by Startainment Studio and it aired on NBC in 1999 under the name of The Princess and the Kung Fu Boy. The film was very negatively received in America compared to Japan. Brian O'neil stated, "Nobody would want to watch a movie based on a negatively received video game. But even if you ignore that aspect, this movie isn't worth watching." He claimed that the character were "unlikable" and "annoying". He also bashed the animation for being too simple and childish. The dub is also infamous for its horrible voice acting, unnecessary name changes, the amounts of censorship done and the outright changing of the story.
Even though the OVA wasn't well received, it would eventually lead to the making a beloved feature animated film. Akira Kyo claimed that the OVA was an experiment to help with the feature film and he was very thankful for all the critiques he's gotten.
The OVA was instrumental in inspiring the making of Johnson Studios' 1997 mega-blockbuster hit, EarthBound.