A Wind Named Amnesia (Kaze no Na wa Amunejia)

A Wind Named Amnesia (Kaze no Na wa Amunejia) 1990

As part of my recent Hideyuki Kikuchi kick, I finally watched A Wind Named Amnesia and found it really compelling.

If you’ve read any of my reviews here at the Heap you’ll know I tend to be a bit of an ‘ideas-man’ – sometimes over their execution, though perhaps that implies I think the film failed in that respect, which it didn’t.

Maybe it wasn’t the perfect balance between concept and narrative but again, it worked for me as the central mysteries pulled me along. And the premise is definitely interesting – an unfathomable wind has removed the human race’s memory of everything, leaving them in a primitive state.

When Wataru, our hero, is granted speech, he has to navigate humanity’s struggles to rebuild – joined by the mysterious Sophia on a dangerous cross-country road trip. At times they’re chased by an obsessed killing machine and at other times the film is more episodic perhaps, as they encounter and try to help the humans they meet.  

It’s there that the mix between blockbuster action film tropes and speculative fiction might clash for some folks, but the sequences are all great even if the animation isn’t consistently top notch; I’d argue the direction easily makes up for what some might feel is lacking when compared more modern animation techniques – there’s still genuine tension in the scenes.

And what holds it together is Wataru and Sophia’s relationship – while he’s a bit slow to ask her important questions, I think the film wants you to have the jump on him in that respect. And why not? He’s not long regained the ability to think, speak and operate on more than instinct alone.

Be prepared for some violence and nudity but nothing you wouldn’t find in an old school action blockbuster actually – in fact, I think Wataru’s character design is meant to channel Rambo in some ways. Elsewhere you might pick up on perhaps a criticism of primitive life but it’s not an entirely bleak film either, with some hints of optimism throughout at least.

4 stars

Stein’s Gate (Shutainzu Gēto)

Stein’s Gate (Shutainzu Gēto) 2011

Game adaptations that work exceptionally well as film or longer narratives feel rare to me – but maybe that’s a reflection of my limited knowledge of animation that falls into that range?

Either way, I think this series is outstanding.

It’s rightly considered a classic of speculative fiction and anime; it features a compelling cast, premise and execution – and I mention that last aspect because for me, I can enjoy a show with fascinating ideas and give it a bit of a pass if the execution doesn’t quite match up, but I know not everyone is as forgiving as I am!

However, I don’t really feel Stein’s Gate has too many flaws – I mean, it panders with the harem aspects and main character Okabe has a moment of rage that stretched my ability to go along with him, but other than those two aspects I think the series will be well-regarded for decades.

Here’s a quick Wikipedia plot summary:

[Stein’s Gate] follows Rintaro Okabe, who together with his friends accidentally discovers a method of time travel through which they can send text messages to the past, thereby changing the present.

So, with that simple description comes a whole lot of tension and trauma as Okabe finally finds meaning through his discovery – only for his obsession to quickly pull his friends into life and death situations that soon keep compounding until Okabe is driven right to the very edge in his frantic efforts to right the wrongs he’s largely responsible for.

And yet, there is romance, friendship, comedy, conspiracy and alternate timelines aplenty, twists and welcome surprises too – all explored in a very intimate setting that is beautifully realised; the Akihabara, Tokyo that it depicts seems to strike a perfect balance between hyper-realistic and anime-romanticised.

The writing too I found to be top-notch – it’s self-aware without bludgeoning the viewer with the fact, generally where Okabe’s friend Daru takes the lion’s share of the one-liners or general wit. In fact, more often than not we’re encouraged to laugh at Okabe and his delusions of grandeur, something that will either become a source of fondness if you make it through the whole series, or which will drive you batty and force you to maybe walk away too soon, as I nearly did.

Having said that, I think that the science-fiction elements are both front and centre, but it’s still a drama and boy, at times it really made me feel for the characters. Okabe certainly puts himself through the ringer and part of the cleverness of the writing is that one of his friends, Mayuri, is such a sweet girl that his fear of making her suffer becomes a powerful storyline indeed.

Perhaps it’s not a revolutionary move in terms of storytelling – I mean, I don’t care so much if a villain suffers – but she’s so without guile that Rintaro’s mistakes really pack a bigger emotional punch than they otherwise might.

Anyway, enough rambling – I’ll close with a note that I think if you like time travel, drama or romance you’ll enjoy Stein’s Gate a lot, but a quick note: my dvd came with an OVA but presented it as episode 25 and to be honest, I don’t think it has the same impact as a final episode. If I was able, I’d jump back a bit in time and not actually watch it 😀

5 Stars

Harmony (Hāmonī)

Harmony (Hāmonī) 2015

Just a short review today:

A little while ago I discussed some of the context around production of three films released until the ‘Project Itoh’ moniker (which you can see here) and I suspect that the Empire of Corpses is my favourite, but that isn’t to claim that Harmony was unenjoyable (or Genocidal Organ for that matter).

I will say that I didn’t find Harmony quite as atmospheric as EoC, but stylistically it’s definitely memorable, at times dream-like, and similar to the other films based on Satoshi Itō’s novels. In all stories the speculative aspects were probably the main hook for me, both interesting and disturbing. Harmony especially, I think placed questions on what a relentlessly health-obsessed society would look like in the forefront, over character or story.

And while the oppressive elements of EoC or GO are balanced by either the boldness of the mash-up or relative calmness between skirmishing and slaughter, Harmony seems to balance the darker aspects with a somewhat half-hearted exploration of a lesbian relationship where the villain manipulates the heroine, told largely via flashbacks in an ecchi style and misses the chance to develop the characters. Maybe the novel gives the relationship proper care?

Still, I think if you enjoy stories that explore free will then you might find enough to enjoy here – great costuming, a bit of action and intrigue but mostly, things like the use of colour and the time spent on the settings, the exploring of a futuristic world, are all pretty great and the creepy performance of Reina Ueda as Miach Mihie really stood out for me in Harmony.

3 Stars