Saturday, September 19, 2009

DVD Look: A Wind Named Amnesia

This is a movie I’ve wanted to review for a very long time now. But I wanted to take my time with it and get everything down right, because I wanted to do it some justice. Anyway this movie is called A Wind Named Amnesia and it’s easily one of my all time favorites. I first saw this movie on Comcast’s Anime Selects on Demand Channel. CPM used to put tons of titles from their catalog up on Anime Selects, but I still think I was lucky to find this movie and watch it. I just randomly watched this movie, because the title seemed interesting, that’s all. I didn’t really read the little plot synopsis or anything. I was bored, and there was an anime movie, seemed like a good idea. And I’m lucky that I choice to watch this, because I am still impressed by this movie all these years later. I later bought it on DVD (the version in the “Kawajiri Brick Pack” collection).

The movie was created by Madhouse studios in 1990, and directed by Kazuo Yamazaki (not the wrestler), who is known for directing Urusei Yatsura, Please Save My Earth and Maison Ikkoku. Titles which seem nothing like this anime. But what’s really interesting about this movie is it was based off of a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi. Kikuchi is famous for writing the original Vampire Hunter D novels, along with several other novels turned anime like Demon City Shinjuku, and Wicked City. Kikuchi’s novels are pretty dark, bloody and violent, as are the anime series adapted from them, but Amnesia is the odd one out here. It is a mature movie, but it is not as violent, bloody, or graphic as any of the other titles I’ve mentioned. And it’s a very smart film, not at all an action type movie. And what’s even more surprising still is the screenplay was written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who used to have quite a fan base back in the day (in the US at least). He is well known for directing or writing titles like Ninja Scroll, Biohunter, Running Man, Cyber City Oedo 808, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (the anime movie), and most of the Kikuchi anime adoptions (Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku). Although he has directed titles that aren’t dark, graphic, and violent (i.e. the original Birdy the Mighty OVA’s, a future review no doubt), we all know what he is best at. And he’s damn good at directing the violent stuff too. But again Amnesia is nothing like these series, which are all horror or action type shows. The tone the film takes is just so different from all these other titles it just stands out. I’ve called this film “…philosophy ridden and feels like a traditional sci-fi story. Directed and written by people who you'd never dream of being involved in those things.” And I stand by that.

Well after all my rambling, I should at least explain the basic plot. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, a wind blows all around the earth, and this wind (you guessed it) caused everyone to forget everything. And the people did not just forget who they are, and what they did last night, but they also forget that they were people. They forget how to drive cars, talk, use technology, etc. Basically this wind set mankind back to the Stone Age. The film follows two people, Wataru and Sophia, who for their own reasons (which I won’t spoil) are normal, as they travel all around the United States looking at was has become of it. They can talk, they can think, they can use the tools of mankind. In essence they are regular people. And as they travel through the wasteland that was once the US, many different themes keep popping up. The film constantly asks us what is mankind without all this technology? Other themes the film deals with heavily are religion, society, the use of power, and the government (watch out for slight nods to Plato's Republic). All in all the things this film has to say about these topics are, while opened ended, are still very clever. In fact this is more of a “thinker’s anime” then anything else. If you want endless robot fights, don’t bother with this movie. As it’s a very slow movie, where fight scenes are sparse, the dialogue is heavy, and there are moments where seemingly nothing important happens on screen. There are however some action scenes thrown in at the perfect time, but best not to think of it as a fast paced anime. Think Oshii’s newest film The Sky Crawlers, for pacing and timing of fight scenes if you need an example. And just like The Sky Crawlers, this movie is much, much more then throw away entertainment. It is a very deep, well thought out film. With great direction and brilliant writing. The only problem with this film is a completely ludicrous and unneeded sex scene at the very end of the movie. On my first viewing of this movie (on Anime Selects VOD) this was cut out, and I am firm in my belief that it is a better film without this. But the ending is still very good, when you look past this terrible, terrible scene. I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen, as I think it was thrown in there to get some more money from the producers or something. It’s so out of place this has to have some sort of rational explanation for it’s odd placement at the end.

Anyway…the general concept is brilliant in and of it’s self. It’s so simple one would think it was already a staple in western science fiction, but I can’t find anything similar in books, movies, or TV shows (although if you know of something similar please make a comment and tell me about it). Although some titles in the sci-fi genre may touch on these ideas very lightly, nothing else really seems to be out quite like this. In fact this movie plays out like a very traditional sci-fi live action movie. And the philosophy in the film is really something else. None of it feels tacked on, or out of place. It’s well worked into the plot, although ultimately it’s so powerful and profound the plot doesn’t really matter anymore. Like Justin Sevakis points out about The Sky Crawlers, “what's happening on the surface has little to do with what the film is actually about.” And that works for this film as well. What I mean here is that what happens in the movie in regards to the characters and progression of the plot, has very little to do with the main point of it all. Although the plot isn’t terrible or anything, and one could easily enjoy the film without picking up on any of the philosophy in it, it should not be the main focus of the viewers. We must look deeper then the surface plot to really get everything out of this film. And the brilliance of the movie is that every time you watch it, you may pick up some more things you missed last time, and change your mind on what certain things mean. All in all the movie is very original, very smart, and very enjoyable to watch. And it’s not at all hard to follow or grasp. Which is a sign of great writing.

As far as animation and artwork goes, this film was some high budget stuff back in the day. Backgrounds are highly detailed, and look like beautiful watercolor paintings or oil paintings (depending on the scene). Feel free to pause the DVD to take a look at the works of art Madhouse used for the backgrounds. From the Rocky Mountains, to some valleys, and lakes, deserts, feilds, and streams all of it looks amazing. The inner city backgrounds are also great, and give it a real gritty, decaying urban feel to it all, and these backgrounds here are much more detailed, although they look less like paintings and more like regular backgrounds. Character designs are also not disappointing. They are very detailed for their time, and flow very well. The characters’ hair seems to be drawn with less detail then the rest of their bodies, but it still looks great when everything is all together. This movie is a treat for the eyes. Even almost 20 years later, everything looks great. And one little tidbit that I can’t help but throw out there. I really think this anime looks a lot like the music video for Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution”. Some scenes in that video even seem to be drawn to reflect certain scenes in the movie (Cavemen around the fire, skeleton in a cockpit, city in the middle of a field, girl running in field as wind blows, etc). It’s even drawn in the same style, with the same color palette. It helps that that song and music video also deals with many similar themes as the film. It’s very possible that the animators or the band were inspired by this anime, since that song came out years after this was originally released on VHS (song in 1998, VHS in 1995/1996). But it’s just such a random title I think the odds are really against that being what happened. Still it’s a great coincidence, well worth looking into.

The dub for this was produced at Manga UK, with a cast of British and Canadian born actors. Dubs from this era range in quality greatly, but this is possibly the best dub from that studio. Michael Bakewell directed the dub, and he does a wonderful job. I liked what he and Manga UK did for the dub on Dominion Tank Police as well. He seemed to have some skill and it’s a shame they weren’t used more back in the day. Since this is a film with very few people in it who can talk (most just grunt like caveman), it would need actors who could sound believable with little else to compare them to. It’s a bit different and a little difficult (in my opinion) for a film to have a very small cast of talking roles, and many other grunting roles to contrast them. And the actors are up to that challenge. This was very well cast, and overall the acting is of great quality. Adam Henderson plays Wataru, and he gives everyline a very innocent and naïve feeling to it. And do to certain events that occurred in the past and are revealed early on in the film, this is very appropriate. But I always felt he made Wataru sound a little too naïve, and a bit too spaced out. But he has a great voice quality, and he is very capable of acting. Sophia is played by Denica Fairman, who gives the character a warm, yet still very mysterious vibe, which is very necessary to make that character work. The way she says things like “Well to start with I’m called Sophia…but I don’t want to say anymore about myself. Tell me your story” (while dodging the question to why she is still normal) really help display this. Lee Tyler plays Johnny, a character from Wataru’s past whose shown in flashbacks. While I feel his overall acting quality is decent, some lines from him seem a little off. But he’s usually quite good. The other speaking characters are played by Peter Marinker and Susie Baker, who do a very good job of establishing their characters for the short amount of time they are on screen. You really feel for both of their characters, and that is, in part, an accomplishment of the actors. The other people in the film are basically caveman, who do nothing more then grunt, moan, cry, or make other caveman-like noises. And all the actors playing these characters do a good job. No eye rolling grunts in this one guys. And as far as other sound goes, the background music is all very low key, but very well done. Certain themes enhance the action sequences, or quiet moments, but the one theme that stood out to me the most usually plays with Sophia around. It’s a very simple piano piece, but it adds to the mystery of not only who she is, but of what happened to the planet. It’s just a little sad, but not at all depressing. It’s quite amazing how something so simple, can display so much, but it does.

Raphael See of THEM anime reviews called the film “ a sleeper classic”. And it truly is. He also stated “A Wind Named Amnesia is probably one of the best titles I've never heard of.” and there really is no better way of describing it. This is easily one of the best movies out there that no one ever heard of. I highly recommend this. There’s very little information about the movie out there, and there seems to be no one who saw the film either. It’s almost never talked about on anime forums too. But it should be more well known, as it’s an all around great anime. This is only for mature viewers however, who want to watch something that's much deeper then some throwaway entertainment. The movie touches on things like religion, love, society, and many other themes, and the philosophy is great. It's very much like Kino's Journey although less preachy. Many different places separated by great distances, traveler observing the land, and studying the human condition. Both are dark, slow, mature, and refined. But both are excellent.

(Sorry the review is so long, but I wanted to do this movie some justice)

Prede's Raiting

5/5 Stars - Masterpeice

Monday, September 14, 2009


Cyborgs, Androids, and Giant Worms Oh my!
(Warning this review contains spoilers)

Vexille is an anime thriller, released in Japanese theaters in August 2007. It is entirely CGI, and was released on DVD in North America by Funimation, in February of 2008. The movie, directed and written by Fumihiko Sori, is about a woman named Vexille Serra who works for an American Police Agency called "SWORD." The story line follows her and other members of SWORD, including her fiancé, on one of their most important missions: the tedious task of infiltrating Japan and revealing to the world what they are hiding. This is difficult, however, because Japan has hidden itself behind technology that won’t allow satellite images to be taken and an “electronic wall” that won’t allow anyone near the waters of Japan (with one gate left open for trade). Cybernetics has been outlawed worldwide, so Japan opts to “go it alone”, leaving the U.N. and cutting themselves off from the world, assumedly to continue research.

The plot is exiting, and is up to par with many American Live Action Sci-Fi films. In fact Vexille ,or Vexille: 2077 Japanese Isolation as it is known in Japan, acts more like a Live Action Sci-Fi/Action summer flick than a typical futuristic anime movie. Which, of course, has some distinct advantages. After the first few minutes, one forgets that they are not watching real people, but computer generated images. The action scenes are somewhat Matrix inspired, minus the bizarre slow-mo bullet dodging. Perhaps what serves to be the most fascinating plot point is this anime's choice to have America as the “good guys” and Japan as the “bad guys”.

Many of the characters are compelling, but of course Vexille, voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard, steals center stage. The fact the lead is a strong willed female is captivating, we can practically hear the feminists cheering. Fumihiko Sori was probably inspired by strong female leads like Ripley from Alien. The CEO of the evil corporation Daiwa, Kisaragi, has a distinct “Bond villain” feel to him. His assistant is an android and is aptly terrifying. Surprisingly, behind the veil there is no super advanced Japan that we all imagined, but rather a wasteland, with nothing but the evil Daiwa Corporation Headquarters intact. There is also still a ghetto on the outskirts where the remainder of Japan’s population lives. And it’s very intriguing to learn what’s left of the population is not entirely human anymore. Daiwa has managed to turn the entire population into cyborgs and plan to do the same to the rest of the world. It is up to Vexille and a band of rebels living in the ghetto to stop Kisaragi, show the world what Japan is hiding, and bring an end to Daiwa. However time is limited, because what is left of the citizens of Japan’s humanity is slowly disappearing. The movie has an action pack ending scene-involving Giant Machine Worms straight out of Tremors and Dune .

While the plot is action packed character development is seriously lacking. Perhaps this is an ode to an American live action movie. However, seeing how that is the films biggest problem, it's not enough to ruin the movie. The music is top quality. The opening theme “Close Your Eyes” (song in English by Linda Lewis) could easily fit in with any normal American radio stations play list. The other music is mostly J-pop and techno, which fit in well with the films themes about the future and what it means to truly be human. The CGI is fantastic, and the attention to detail is marvelous. The English voice acting is very well done, and would impress many “subtitle only” anime fans.

So good action, nice CGI, good acting, good music, interesting themes about humanity, what’s not to like? Well, except for the clear lack of character personailty. Oh well. We'll let that slide

3/4 Stars

- Written by Mike (Prede)
-Edited by Elke
*Official Planetzot Review*

Case Closed: The Fourteenth Target

Case Closed: The Fourteenth Target

Sommelier on a killing spree! Talk about major food poisoning.

The Fourteenth Target opens to a dramatic dream sequence where Rachel Moore (voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard), the daughter of the “great” Detective Richard Moore (also known as the Sleeping Sleuth) watches as her mother gets shot. The scene cuts to her waking up in her bed. That same night they meet up with an old family friend, Kevin Simms, who has become a famous sommelier (a fancy word for a restaurant Wine Taster, for those who aren't versed in the world of cooking). The next day after some light-hearted banter, Inspector Meguire (voiced by the gruff Mark Stoddard) gets attacked in a park while jogging, Law and Order style. A day later, while Meguire is still recovering in the hospital a plethora of other people are attacked, and it turns out they all are friends, family, or acquaintances of Richard Moore (played by the mysterious R. Bruce Elliot). The attacker seems out to “get back” at Richard. This mystery eventually leads all the characters to a Hotel owned by an acquaintance of Richard, who is targeted. They meet up with the wine taster again, and a group of others, all who turn out to be targets as well. Eventually, each of these people are killed off, but as usual Conan saves the day.

This movie is the second Case Closed movie; both were released in theaters in Japan, and on DVD in America. The movie plot is typical Conan style, in which Conan runs around and finds clue and helps the detectives figure out the crime and “whodunit" while still pretending to be a kid. Eventually he pulls a move that would make James Bond proud and knocks out Richard with his gadget. Then, Conan uses another gadget to fake Richards’s voice and successfully solves the crime similar to all the episodes of Case Closed. It turns out this wine taster got really ticked off at the fact that he is losing his sense of taste. His doctor said that stress or his recent head injury is to blame, and so he conjured up a plan to whack all the people in his life who cause him stress (and the one person who caused his injury), frame an old thief/card dealer and live happily-ever-after with his parents in a wine vineyard. And he would've gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for that meddling Conan. Oops, wrong movie.
Anywho, The music is very dramatic giving the movie a 1980’s detective drama feel to it and the saxophone manages to give it a little bit of a “Hardboiled” atmosphere. However, it occasionally comes off as dated and may not have been the best choice of music. While the artwork was spiced up for Conan-on-the-big screen, it still is largely undetailed and un-life like when compared to other animes who've graduated to the movie theater. Luckily, the content is not a loss. The movie uses comedy at the right times, has enough drama, and plenty of action. Most notably, the voice acting is great, especially for an Anime dub. The actors do an excellent job at capturing their characters emotions at pivotal points in the plot.

Perhaps the best part of this Conan installment is the connection each character has with a specific playing card, all thanks to Funimation. The Japanese version had the connections related with each character's name written out in Kanji. However, this would be hard to translate and understand, so Funimation made certain changes to the script to make the connection to the playing cards more understandable and interesting. For example Dr. Agasa holds the patents on 11 inventions, thus he is target number 11 and assigned the Jack of Spades. The only major beef we have with this movie is the killer’s motives. This is something that the show pulls off spectacularly but the film falls surprisingly short. The wine taster just got mad he can’t taste things anymore and suddenly that's a motive for homicide? He’s going to kill everyone who causes him stress? That's just as believable as Pam Anderson's boobs.

However, the writers redeem themselves with an action-packed ending. Overall a rather successful silver screen addition to the Conan collection. It'll be hard to trust a sommelier again!

3/4 Stars

- Written by Mike (Prede)
-Edited by Elke
*Official Planetzot Review*

Eureka Seven Review

Eureka Seven

Dai Sato was the headwriter for this anime, and let me begin this review by saying he has yet to let me down. He is easily one the best screenwriters working in the anime industry today. He has written for such titles as Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell SAC , Wolf's Rain, Samurai Champloo , and Ergo Proxy. How's that for a resume? And with Eurkea Seven he proves yet again that he can write brilliantly. This is a man to respect. Easily one of my favorite screenwriters. Pay attention what he works on, for it is always good. It helps that the director, Tomoki Kyoda, is very talented in his own right as well.

Anyway some history on how I watched this anime. I started watching this anime on Adult Swim, from the day it first aired. It took a few episodes before I was hooked, but once they grabbed me, they never let go. So please give this series a shot. After it aired on Adult Swim I started buying all the DVD's. I missed a few episodes in the middle and the ending the first time it aired, but watched that, plus the rest of it on DVD. Although this is one of my favorite anime series of all time, I'll try very hard to be fair and as un-biased as I can be.

It clearly takes many things from Neon Genesis Evengelion,FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gundam, and RahXephon. And I noted it acually takes some things from Shadow Star Narutaru as well (like some of the darker aspects of the series, and the Coralians and anti- Coralians are possibly inspired by the dragons [creatures] in Shadow Star Narutaru, not to mention some other smaller things as well). None of this is surprising as many of the people heavily involved in Eureka Seven where involved in these series as well.

Plot/Story: 10/10

I'm not going to go deep into the synopsis of the plot, because that may lead to spoilers. I thought it was a very well written story, and the plot was just amazing. Lot's of mystery and drama!! It's very interesting to watch the military conflicts unfold. We watch what happens (and the changes to) the government that runs the planet, and how war effects everyone. The series is also very deep, dark, and can get psychological at times (like Eva). It does have it's fun and silly moments, and even an episode or two devoted to humor and jokes. This is very well thought out though, as the drama and "darker" parts are well balanced by this. Comedy is used at the right moments not to depress the veiwer to much. Plenty of action and interesting plot developments to make sure you are never bored. It is a very complex story, moreso then it seems at first. It gets dark, but never too depressing. All of this is important because this is partly a plot driven anime.


All of the characters were very strong. While it's easy to see how Renton was inspired by Shinji (NGE) and Naota (FLCL) he is still very much his own character. Same gos for Eureka (who some say is inspired by Rei from NGE). Talho and Holland are completely original. Most of the characters are well likeable. However I found the "bad guys" of course to be much more interesting, likeable, and just overall cool. The Sage Council are an amazing trio who run the country! I was insantly mesmorized by them, despite thier short amount of screen time. Dominic Sorel, a higher up in the military is very cool, likeable, and interesting. Colonel Dewey Novak is also a great character and develops a lot throughout the anime. You see him from the begining as a complete wreck, and watch him change into a very powerful leader. Every character is interesting, and helps show the viewer a little bit of the world this takes place on. They all are good characters, which is important because this anime can be very character driven at times.


The art is very nice. It gets it's job done, plus some! It really amazes you at some times, but being a 50 episode series it does change up a little over the time. No real problems with it, but not incredbly high quality animation or anything like that. The backgrounds are great looking, and the character and mecha designs are very cool. Although I did find many of the character designs to be a bit too generic, but they were not at all bad or anything like that.



The music was just amazing!! The best songs, from the best bands were chosen for this anime!! But not just great opening and closings either, the insert songs where very powerful! Esecially the insert song "Storywriter" by the band Supercar.


I only watched the English dub, and I can defently say this is one of Bang Zoom! 's best dubs. Sure Renton (Johnny Young Bosch) could be anoying to some people, but I think he sounded really good. I didn't even know that was him, he used such a high pitch voice. Crispin Freeman will forever be Holland for me, because his voice fit so perfectly!! Despite the tons of other roles I've heard him in, I think Holland fits him best. Peter Doyle was also spot on with Dominic. In fact every single character seemed well cast. Of course Stephanie Sheh gives the overall best performance as Eureka. She's just great at anything she does. Eureka is brought to life with her voice. As it is the real subtleties that bring out that character. And Sheh is really good at that.

Final Vertic:

A more plot driven/character driven mecha then most people are used to, but actually makes this anime more apealing. It works for people who don't necessarily like mecha anime too much. Plus the mechs fly in the sky on frigen surfboards! How's that for cool? But it's not really a mecha-driven show, althought they do serve a point, and there is some mystery to them. The characters are well likeable. The plot is very well thought out, and just amazing. It gets philosophical, psychological and deep at times, but plenty of action to keep you entertained. It has a good story to tell, and proves once again Dai Sato is the man with the golden pen. When it comes to screenwriting, he always manages to outdo himself.

Welcome to Prede's Anime Reviews!

Welcome! I'm Prede from the Anime on DVD forums (as well as Anime Network Forums, Funimation forums, and My Anime List) incase you didn't know :P . My real name is Mike by the way. I've been doing reviews for Central Park Media titles for awhile now (on my other blog), but I've been convinced into starting this blog to place all my non-Central Park Media reviews at. I figure I mine as well make this as simple as can be. I'll be splitting this up into three parts. One part will consist of all the reviews I've done officially for, as it can be a hassle to go there and find them all. The second part will be made up of all the reviews I've done for My Anime List. And the third part will be made up of original reviews that I will be doing for this blog. I hope to be reviewing series quite often here.

I (try to) put a lot of work into my reviews so please feel free to make a comment about any of them. Disgagree with me? Let me know! Agree with me? Please by all means let me know. Any suggestions or other comments please feel free to make them.It makes me happy to see people commenting on my reviews, and it inspires me to do more of them. So please post away! Just try to keep everything civil.