A Wind Named Amnesia
It's a few years in the future (when this was made, anyway), and not a whole lot has changed. Mankind inevitably discovers the usefulness of mecha and uses it here and there... and then the wind comes. As it sweeps across the world, everyone forgets EVERYTHING. How to speak... how to drive... how to read... With everyone from the bums on the street to the President of the United States to the editor-in-chief of ANN reduced to the mental state of a newborn infant, things kind of go higgeldy-piggeldy.
A few years later, we meet Wataru, a sole civilized human on a cross-country road trip to see what has become of humanity. The only reason he has any knowledge whatsoever is because he was taken in by a boy with artificial intelligence that wasn't wiped out by the wind. America is a very desolate place by that point, and when he's saved from a mecha run amok by a mysterious woman known as Sophia, she asks for a lift to New York City. Wataru takes her there, hoping to get some companions along the way.
During the trip, Wataru reflects on his own past with the boy -- Johnny -- and his thoughts as to what mankind's real tendancies are. They meet up with a girl about to be sacrificed by her clan to a "god" (an out of control mecha piloted by some whack-job) and her father who, although he has no idea who she is, still has a protective instinct. They come across a totally automated city with no inhabitants except for two people, who are being used by the computer as puppets to fill all of the roles. Everyone's personality is completely explored, and the images along the way are beautiful.
I normally regard Yoshiaki Kawajiri as being generally overhyped when it comes to anime directors. I wasn't overly enamored with Ninja Scroll. Demon City Shinjuku and Cyber City Oedo 808 were entertaining, but ultimately mind candy. Birdy the Mighty was pretty fun, and Wicked City was too, in an entirely different way. We shall not mention the "Satanica" pilot. And then there's A Wind Named Amnesia: a total gem from a director with a very spotty record.
There's not too much story here, but that's OK -- this isn't about a story, this is about people, and what really motivates them. While the ending seems a bit taylored to fit in a quick sex scene (which seems TOTALLY inappropriate here), where the film leaves off is satisfying. It's not one of those films you watch and forget about. You ponder what happens for days afterward.
Now the DVD presentation: First off, let it be known that Crush Digital Video menus really really blow--they're unusably slow and not PC mouse-supported. The video itself is adequate in quality, with a little bit of a halo effect left over from the analog post-production. It's a fact of life. The transfer is fair, with the colors looking a bit washed out in places and some clipping of the top left corner. The MPEG-2 compression is actually very nice, with pixellation only becoming apparent in scenes of almost total black.
The subtitles are standard for anime DVD's... meaning white with almost no border. It looks all right here, since the film is very dark overall, but many titles are mis-timed, resulting in up to three seconds of dialogue at a strech with no titles at all. No translations are omitted, but to those that don't know Japanese, it can be disconcerting. The translations themselves are very good -- typical Neil Nadelman fare. The dubbed version is one of the older Manga Video dub jobs, with good post-production values, but only fair quality. It's unfortunate that the English cast seems too preoccupied with sounding like good voice talent, but not in expressing the innocence of the characters.
The packaging is nice, but I still don't understand the point of having all of the liner notes on the inside of the insert. It's impossible to access, you run the risk of ruining the cover, and the chapter names are not easy to get at. (They don't help much anyway, as the chapters are kind of unevenly distributed.) The Japanese cast is not noted anywhere in English -- not on the video or the packaging, which I found a bit annoying, especially since they make that information available on the VHS subtitled release.
Overall, A Wind Named Amnesia is a great anime that anyone that considers themselves a fan should pick up. Never mind the weak ending or the so-so DVD execution... this is a classic. Hey, it's still just as good as an LD release...
+ Thought-provoking story, good animation
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