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WARNING/PARENTAL HEAD’S UP!!!: I am going to spoil this movie’s plot to get a point across. There is also female nudity seen at some scenes in the movie at the beginning and the end. There is also some light violence. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Hope you enjoy the review!
For such a visual medium that is animation and filmmaking, it’s amazing how talky and dialogue-heavy certain shows and films can be. We have all been there, where a film relies on a huge amount of dialogue that the viewer must digest. In a lot of ways, that can be a good thing. If the writing is good, we get creative or endearing characters. It lets us relax and take in the interactions of the individuals we are following and get to invest into. On the other hand, when it comes off that the writing isn’t that great, or the story and themes aren’t executed well, the film feels bloated and slow, like you can’t fully get into it because you are trying to resist the urge to close your eyes and get some sleep. This wouldn’t be an issue worth talking about, but we have seen films/media where the writing, or lack of writing in some cases, elevates the film. Sadly, when the writing is bad, then that bad writing gets worse when it tries to be deep and life-changing when it doesn’t have the context and substance to do so, and that is a major problem. This sad little problem is what ruins A Wind Named Amnesia. This Japanese-animated film from 1990 is an odd case, not because of the manga the film is based upon, but because of who is attached to it. The director of the adaptation is Kazuo Yamazaki, who has directed films and shows like SuperBook, The Samurai, Maison Ikkoku, Slayers the Motion Picture, Yumetsukai, and Five Star Stories. The writing was in the hands of an individual we will talk about at a later date named Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Any anime fans would know him for his films like Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. It was original distributed by Central Park Media, and was recently rereleased by Discotek Media. For its time, it had a load of positive reviews, but how does it hold up? Well, let’s find out.
The story takes place in 1999 in the United States. Two years before current day, a wind blew over the earth, resulting in everyone losing their memories and all of their intelligence, resulting in everyone regressing back to caveman intellect. The plot revolves around a young male named Wander. He, well, wanders across the US to find out what is going on. After encountering some feral humans and a giant robot, he takes it down the robot with the help of a mysterious woman named Sophia. They decided to travel together across the states seeing what life is now like with feral individuals.
So, let’s get the good out of the way first. I think the animation is pretty solid. It’s not mind-blowing, and sometimes it can be clunky, but it just reminds me of the days when everything was not digitally colored. At least, when the digital colors weren’t making everything look cheap. I also like the human designs. It just sticks out in terms of what you would normally see today in anime. In a world of anime that doesn’t look all that different from one another, unless your style sticks out like Akira Toriyama’s, this film really doesn’t have a lot of anime-style tropes or design choices in it besides the male lead’s look. Even though I’m about to rip this film apart, I will give the film credit for being a bit different than what we were getting at the time. I mean, back then, most anime was full of sex, blood, cursing, and violence, and no real plot or characters. I can totally see where people were coming from when they praised this film. If all I reviewed back then were terrible violent schlock titles, A Wind Named Amnesia would feel unique and awe-inspiring. It’s odd, since if you know anything about Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s work, it’s very different than what his usual work consists of.
Now, with all that praise out of the way, let’s dive into what this film gets horribly wrong. By the way, even though this is based on a manga, I don’t really care if I need to see the manga or not. I’m criticizing this movie as a movie. I am judging and criticizing what I saw through my experience of watching this movie. Let’s get started! This film’s plot is scattershot. It really doesn’t have too much of a focused narrative throughout the entire film, besides these mini-stories that are cobbled together to make a film to run up the 80 minute run-time. Now, in the past, I have praised films that take their time and shoot the breeze, like in The Rabbi’s Cat, but that’s because the characters were worth the brain power to focus on. A Wind Named Amnesia doesn’t really have great characters. Wander is boring, and Sophia is a horrible character, but we will get to that point soon. It’s funny how this film does have a set goal, but then decides to take as many detours as possible to these areas that could have been interesting, but due to the execution of the plot and characters, they come off as pointless, since they are never mentioned again. For example, they run into a tribe of people who are trying to sacrifice this woman to a giant construction vehicle that they see as a literal God. Another encounter has them coming to this huge high-tech city that is run by a computer and only has two other humans living there who can also speak. The overall plot feels like it’s has all these neat ideas, and maybe they are explained or fleshed out better in the manga, but they never feel fully thought out or executed in the most correct way in the film. There is even this stupid robot thing that chases them throughout the film that is way too determined to kill these two people. Overall it seems like a film that could have either used a longer running time, or be turned into a mini-series.
Now then, let’s get to the biggest failing of the film, Sophia. Later on in the film (spoilers), it turns out that Sophia is actually an alien from outer space that has been watching the human race for thousands of years. When they saw that the humans learned space travel, they thought we were going to be a threat and decided to send the wind down onto the planet sending the human race back thousands of years. Yeah, that’s bad enough that they went with a twitch reaction to us finally learning how to get into space, but Sophia also explains that it was supposedly for our own good. Yeah, deem one race of aliens too dangerous so you wipe them of their intellect and have them mostly start off like cavemen. It’s so messed up and hilariously awful how these advanced alien beings thought we were going to be a threat, when we should be considering the aliens a threat, because they have a weapon that can wipe the minds of any living beings, and have been watching us for over a thousand years. This wouldn’t be so bad if Sophia wasn’t constantly being condescending towards human lives and ideals, and spewing half-baked arguments like, “you shouldn’t force your will on others”, when what she is essentially doing is forcing her will on the male lead by saying he shouldn’t go save a girl or question why this advanced alien race would find humans a threat. The film even tries to make it like what Sophia did was the right thing in the end. Sophia is quite honestly, one of the worst female characters/characters I have ever seen. This whole film then turns into a tripe and sloppily cobbled-together mess of “humans need to learn or else they will kill each other” kind of message, and it’s preachy and indulgent without the proper substance to back up its claims. All because this one incredibly condescending group of aliens thought we were going to be an issue.
I can’t give a bigger “thumbs down” to this film. A Wind Named Amnesia is one of the worst animated films I have ever seen. It might even be in my top 10 worst, due to a boring story, uninteresting/unlikable characters, and pompous philosophical commentary. Yes, for its time, this film stood out, but now, it doesn’t hold up. Maybe the manga is better and doesn’t give the audience the big “screw you”, but I will never know, since any film should be good whether you have read the source material or not. Well, next time, we will look at the infamous Batman: The Killing Joke, and how to ruin a story by adding 30 additional minutes. Thanks for reading, Hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time!