Windaria (Douwa Meita Senshi Uindaria)

Windaria (Douwa Meita Senshi Uindaria) 1986

Time for another classic!

I want to start off by saying that there is a FAR better film hidden beneath the one that I saw, but my version was clouded-over by a misguided English-language script.

Sadly for me, this edition was surely not the version that Kunihiko Yuyama and Keisuke Fujikawa had in mind. As some of you will already know, Windaria has been released in several versions over the years, with most folks steering clear of the ‘Harmony Gold’ cuts.

And Windaria did go through a few cuts; chiefly to some violence and nudity, when released for the US market, along with a new script for the dub*. Now, the new script itself obviously made sense (for the most part) but it did do some ruinous things to characterisation and world-building, in its effort to make the film more ‘kid-friendly’.

I actually have an Italian release of the DVD, which happens to include the English dub – but remains visually uncut, so I’ve seen the full film in some ways, but didn’t get the real story. Later, I checked out a fansub and wow, there’s some serious differences between the two versions, especially when it comes to conveying character motivation.

Because in the dub there are some extreme left-turns for characters that have almost zero foreshadowing and a real dearth of detail in other scenes. Overall, I think it’s clear that the original is a tragic cautionary tale, told on a fairly epic scale, but the new script really makes the cast – especially Izu – seem unbelievable in key moments.

Still, there’s a lot to enjoy despite those problems. I feel like I’m being a little hard on Windaria, because it’s still worth seeing for the visuals alone. It’s a beautiful and detailed film, with sweeping vistas and great character design too. In a way, it has a very vague Castle in the Sky feel but it’s not an adventure film with that sort of violence and a happy ending.

Instead, as I mentioned above, Windara is a cautionary tale.

It focuses mostly on the ‘star-crossed lovers’ trope, and pitches them in the middle of war, politics and tragedy (of course). There are even a few protagonists almost masquerading as heroes too. Again, it’s still a bright fantasy film from a real golden age of anime, so it’s clear, and nearly everything feels high-quality in terms of production. (In particular, I loved the way they portrayed water in the film – especially in the scenes around the city of Itha.)

And there are a few moments where the true nature of the tragic circumstances shone through the dub, and without spoilers I’ll say one moment above the others was focused around poor Marin, great writing and visuals there.

Okay, so finally now – would I suggest that everyone should try to track down Windaria?

Maybe if you can get the uncut, original version. Even if maybe you don’t watch a lot of fantasy-themed anime or generally watch work from the ‘80s, the production values are high and there is a more complex, rewarding story there, it just wasn’t the case for the script that I saw.

3 Stars

* The Harmony Gold director did mention that, as was perhaps not unusual for the era, that they weren’t given a translation or notes to work from, so I suspect they did their best. And it’d be a tough job! What I guess I didn’t agree with, was pushing the story toward PG territory.

Ushio and Tora (Ushio to Tora) – Part One: 1992

Ushio and Tora (Ushio to Tora) – Part One: 1992

Time to review one of my favourite shonen series: Ushio and Tora! (Buckle up though – because it’s gonna be three posts worth of rambling :D)

Okay, so I’m starting here with the OVA from the 1990s and then I’ll go on to the 2015 series, which is a far more complete adaptation, and then I’ll finish with a visual comparison (since I got a little ‘screenshot happy’ last week.)

Ushio and Tora is classic shonen, fitting neatly into the Supernatural sub-category. You can see the imprints of common themes and tropes that came both before the show and after it – but the buddy cop relationship between protagonist (youngster Ushio) and the (mostly) antagonistic Tora keeps the framework interesting for me. Both series are based on Kazuhiro Fujita’s award-winning manga but the OVA didn’t get a chance to go very far, sadly.

I like the attention to detail here, despite a smaller budget than modern anime – this tear drop appears during the stone oni episode

I’ve tried (and failed) to research why – maybe the audience response at the time wasn’t there, maybe the studio only ever planned to make a few episodes in the first place? In the early 1990s Inuyasha hadn’t exploded yet, and a few of the other big supernatural shonen action series not yet started… but maybe the first Ushio and Tora just wasn’t as clean-looking as the series that followed?   

My personal, utterly unfounded theory is that a failure to introduce the Big Bad soon enough might have impacted audience enjoyment because there was no large scale conflict yet… BUT, shonen and action anime often live and breathe ‘monster of the week’ formats – so I don’t know if that’s on point either.

In any event, the OVA doesn’t get a chance to show how expansive Ushio and Tora’s story is, nor that some of the characters we meet across the early episodes are definitely going to come back and have an impact on events. I feel sad that when the switch between studios/production teams happened between those last few episodes, it’s clear there was a plan to finish the saga, because the new intro foreshadowed a lot of big things that they never got to animate.

But what about the actual show?

Well, it’s the regular mix between comedy and action, with supernatural (even horror elements at times) mixed in. As I mentioned before, the tension-filled interplay and growing relationship between the two leads is the main draw, but the creatures and supporting cast are good too. Overall, the OVA is rougher than the 2015 adaptation but it’s also a bit bloodier too. For me, I felt that the humour landed a little better in the new series too (though Asako’s dad was probably funnier – if odder – here).

One thing I suppose I preferred in the OVA, was that the episodes don’t cover enough ground to reveal the harem-like aspects of the storyline, it’s almost there with the vague love-triangle between Ushio, Asako and Mayuko, but that’s probably a minor quibble. There’s still a lot to like with this series because the key stuff is in place and it’s darker visually, more rough around the edges perhaps but at times, I preferred some of the direction.

And yet I think most folks will prefer the modern show: the action scenes are bigger and better, the setting is far more developed with more characters etc, and the pacing is generally spot on – and of course, best of all, it tells a complete story. (I know it’s cruel to compare an unfinished series to a completed one but I kinda have to :D).

3.5 Stars

I also noticed that while both OVA and 2015 series have fairly similar episodes and ordering, the water-wheel demon episode is unique to the OVA – as I don’t think it appears in the manga either. It’s a fascinating episode that forces Ushio to confront his feelings about Asako and includes a cute flashback too.

A lot of teeth in this show – actually, this is probably works as good shorthand for the show’s tone