Like the Clouds, Like the Wind
by Paul Jensen,
Since I didn't mention it last week, I'll use this space to point out that the Preview Guide for this season is up and running. In fact, by the time this column comes out, we should be just about done covering all of the new premieres, with the exception of a couple late arrivals. It's shaping up to be an interesting season, with promising titles from a variety of genres but nothing that's completely blown me away so far. Before you rush off to read all those previews though, we've got some new releases to talk about. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Like the Clouds, Like the Wind
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Shelf Life Reviews
I'm hopping back a couple decades this week with a look at the 1990 TV special Like the Clouds, Like the Wind.
The girl in question is named Ginga, and she gets her chance to leave the country life behind when the old emperor dies. The crown prince is next in line for the throne, but he's at risk of being overthrown by his scheming stepmother because he's unmarried. Royal officials promptly begin searching the nation for suitable candidates, and that's where Ginga comes in. After hearing that royal life involves eating and sleeping all day, she promptly applies and is whisked off to the palace. Once she arrives, she has to deal with competition from other candidates, constant training and lessons, palace intrigue, and the outside threat of an armed revolution. So much for the easy life.
Like the Clouds, Like the Wind benefits from having a likable cast, with Ginga at the center of it all. She's very much the typical girl from the middle of nowhere: loud, unrefined, and honest to a fault. Her relentlessly straightforward nature has a tendency to bring out other characters' personalities, whether they're rural bandits, members of the royal court, or her fellow bridal candidates. Ginga ends up with some entertaining roommates during her training, including the obligatory stuck-up noble girl and a laid-back girl with some unusual customs. She also just so happens to befriend the prince without realizing it, and even impresses the hired soldiers who go from caravan guards to successful revolutionaries over the course of the film. With the exception of a couple of irredeemable baddies, this is a cast of entertaining people with generally good intentions.
As you might expect from such a group of characters, the story features plenty of lighthearted comedy. An early highlight is Ginga's arrival at the palace, which involves her walking down an absurdly long, dark hallway with a silent old lady. Ginga spends most of the walk pestering the woman to talk to her, not realizing that this is a formal ceremony and she's not supposed to speak while inside the hallway. As soon as they're out, the old lady launches into a long-winded rant about how annoying Ginga is, then regains her composure and silently disappears back down the hallway while Ginga stands around wondering where she's supposed to go next. The whole sequence makes for a fun jab at the palace's many traditions and rules, and it's a good example of the light satire hidden behind much of the comedy. By bringing her more pragmatic point of view into a place where everyone's hung up on ceremony, Ginga unintentionally highlights the absurdity of it all.
Unfortunately, at less than an hour and a half of running time, Like the Clouds, Like the Wind never really feels like it's able to tell its story in full detail. Most of the major plot points, especially the ones that occur outside the palace, feel like they just happen because the story requires it. There's simply not enough time to lay the full groundwork for each twist and turn, so the emotional impact of some big events ends up being relatively limited. Even with the brisk pacing, the ending is somewhat abbreviated; the movie relies heavily on narration to tell the audience about all the things it didn't have time to depict on screen, and it creates the impression that Like the Clouds, Like the Wind should have been much longer than it is.
From a visual standpoint, it's easy enough to tell that this is a made-for-TV movie and not a full theatrical production. It's certainly colorful and features some nice design work in terms of both characters and backgrounds, but the animation is more competent than spectacular. Still, it has aged reasonably well, and the quality on this Blu-Ray release is quite good. Extras are pretty limited here, and there's no English dub, which is a bit of a shame since the movie would likely play well to a younger audience.
There's nothing particularly incredible or groundbreaking about Like the Clouds, Like the Wind, and it often feels limited by its short running time. However, it is a perfectly competent and charming tale, and will likely appeal to viewers who enjoy historical romances or stories about regular people shaking things up in an aristocratic setting. As an evening's entertainment, it works quite nicely. If it happens to fall within your genre wheelhouse, give it a look.
That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!
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