Central Park Media

The Other Side of Animation 48: A Wind Named Amnesia Review

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEAD’S UP!!!: I am going to spoil this movie’s plot to get a point across. There is also female nudity seen at some scenes in the movie at the beginning and the end. There is also some light violence. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Hope you enjoy the review!

For such a visual medium that is animation and filmmaking, it’s amazing how talky and dialogue-heavy certain shows and films can be. We have all been there, where a film relies on a huge amount of dialogue that the viewer must digest. In a lot of ways, that can be a good thing. If the writing is good, we get creative or endearing characters. It lets us relax and take in the interactions of the individuals we are following and get to invest into. On the other hand, when it comes off that the writing isn’t that great, or the story and themes aren’t executed well, the film feels bloated and slow, like you can’t fully get into it because you are trying to resist the urge to close your eyes and get some sleep. This wouldn’t be an issue worth talking about, but we have seen films/media where the writing, or lack of writing in some cases, elevates the film. Sadly, when the writing is bad, then that bad writing gets worse when it tries to be deep and life-changing when it doesn’t have the context and substance to do so, and that is a major problem. This sad little problem is what ruins A Wind Named Amnesia. This Japanese-animated film from 1990 is an odd case, not because of the manga the film is based upon, but because of who is attached to it. The director of the adaptation is Kazuo Yamazaki, who has directed films and shows like SuperBook, The Samurai, Maison Ikkoku, Slayers the Motion Picture, Yumetsukai, and Five Star Stories. The writing was in the hands of an individual we will talk about at a later date named Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Any anime fans would know him for his films like Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. It was original distributed by Central Park Media, and was recently rereleased by Discotek Media. For its time, it had a load of positive reviews, but how does it hold up? Well, let’s find out.

The story takes place in 1999 in the United States. Two years before current day, a wind blew over the earth, resulting in everyone losing their memories and all of their intelligence, resulting in everyone regressing back to caveman intellect. The plot revolves around a young male named Wander. He, well, wanders across the US to find out what is going on. After encountering some feral humans and a giant robot, he takes it down the robot with the help of a mysterious woman named Sophia. They decided to travel together across the states seeing what life is now like with feral individuals.

So, let’s get the good out of the way first. I think the animation is pretty solid. It’s not mind-blowing, and sometimes it can be clunky, but it just reminds me of the days when everything was not digitally colored. At least, when the digital colors weren’t making everything look cheap. I also like the human designs. It just sticks out in terms of what you would normally see today in anime. In a world of anime that doesn’t look all that different from one another, unless your style sticks out like Akira Toriyama’s, this film really doesn’t have a lot of anime-style tropes or design choices in it besides the male lead’s look. Even though I’m about to rip this film apart, I will give the film credit for being a bit different than what we were getting at the time. I mean, back then, most anime was full of sex, blood, cursing, and violence, and no real plot or characters. I can totally see where people were coming from when they praised this film. If all I reviewed back then were terrible violent schlock titles, A Wind Named Amnesia would feel unique and awe-inspiring. It’s odd, since if you know anything about Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s work, it’s very different than what his usual work consists of.

Now, with all that praise out of the way, let’s dive into what this film gets horribly wrong. By the way, even though this is based on a manga, I don’t really care if I need to see the manga or not. I’m criticizing this movie as a movie. I am judging and criticizing what I saw through my experience of watching this movie. Let’s get started! This film’s plot is scattershot. It really doesn’t have too much of a focused narrative throughout the entire film, besides these mini-stories that are cobbled together to make a film to run up the 80 minute run-time. Now, in the past, I have praised films that take their time and shoot the breeze, like in The Rabbi’s Cat, but that’s because the characters were worth the brain power to focus on. A Wind Named Amnesia doesn’t really have great characters. Wander is boring, and Sophia is a horrible character, but we will get to that point soon. It’s funny how this film does have a set goal, but then decides to take as many detours as possible to these areas that could have been interesting, but due to the execution of the plot and characters, they come off as pointless, since they are never mentioned again. For example, they run into a tribe of people who are trying to sacrifice this woman to a giant construction vehicle that they see as a literal God. Another encounter has them coming to this huge high-tech city that is run by a computer and only has two other humans living there who can also speak. The overall plot feels like it’s has all these neat ideas, and maybe they are explained or fleshed out better in the manga, but they never feel fully thought out or executed in the most correct way in the film. There is even this stupid robot thing that chases them throughout the film that is way too determined to kill these two people. Overall it seems like a film that could have either used a longer running time, or be turned into a mini-series.

Now then, let’s get to the biggest failing of the film, Sophia. Later on in the film (spoilers), it turns out that Sophia is actually an alien from outer space that has been watching the human race for thousands of years. When they saw that the humans learned space travel, they thought we were going to be a threat and decided to send the wind down onto the planet sending the human race back thousands of years.  Yeah, that’s bad enough that they went with a twitch reaction to us finally learning how to get into space, but Sophia also explains that it was supposedly for our own good. Yeah, deem one race of aliens too dangerous so you wipe them of their intellect and have them mostly start off like cavemen. It’s so messed up and hilariously awful how these advanced alien beings thought we were going to be a threat, when we should be considering the aliens a threat, because they have a weapon that can wipe the minds of any living beings, and have been watching us for over a thousand years. This wouldn’t be so bad if Sophia wasn’t constantly being condescending towards human lives and ideals, and spewing half-baked arguments like, “you shouldn’t force your will on others”, when what she is essentially doing is forcing her will on the male lead by saying he shouldn’t go save a girl or question why this advanced alien race would find humans a threat. The film even tries to make it like what Sophia did was the right thing in the end. Sophia is quite honestly, one of the worst female characters/characters I have ever seen. This whole film then turns into a tripe and sloppily cobbled-together mess of “humans need to learn or else they will kill each other” kind of message, and it’s preachy and indulgent without the proper substance to back up its claims. All because this one incredibly condescending group of aliens thought we were going to be an issue.

I can’t give a bigger “thumbs down” to this film. A Wind Named Amnesia is one of the worst animated films I have ever seen.  It might even be in my top 10 worst, due to a boring story, uninteresting/unlikable characters, and pompous philosophical commentary. Yes, for its time, this film stood out, but now, it doesn’t hold up. Maybe the manga is better and doesn’t give the audience the big “screw you”, but I will never know, since any film should be good whether you have read the source material or not. Well, next time, we will look at the infamous Batman: The Killing Joke, and how to ruin a story by adding 30 additional minutes. Thanks for reading, Hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation: MD Geist I & II Review

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WARNING: This anime is filled with blood, gore, violence, and nudity. Viewer’s discretion is advised

As someone who grew up when Blockbuster was still a thing, I will always have memories of seeing certain movies or shows on the shelf, and never renting them. I can remember a handful of the titles I never got around to seeing and should have, like the critically acclaimed Fantastic Planet. This was also during a time when I was not really big into violence and gore, and today’s review is about two titles that were stuck in my head that I never saw until recently, MD Geist I and II. If you look at the retro anime scene, a lot of people will point to MD Geist as being one of the worst anime of all time. This notorious schlock title was brought over by the now-defunct Central Park Media, and was directed by Koichi Ohata, the same individual who directed the utterly boring Cybernetics Guardian (which I have reviewed) and the even more notorious Genocyber. With a title that is well known for being the face of awful 90s anime OVAs, this must be pretty horrible. In fact, if you read some articles written up by Justin Sevakis, there is a really interesting history behind it being localized, and how the individuals of Central Park Media felt about the overall project. So, is this as bad as people made it out to be? Well, let’s find out.

The two OVAs are set in this Mad Max/Fist of the North Star/any generic post-apocalyptic world that was destroyed by two different armies. The OVAs star a super-soldier named Geist, a specially-made super-human, one of many that were all apparently wiped out in the past. The plot basically has Geist dealing with gangs, one of the armies, and then in the second OVA, an army of flesh-eating robots and another super-soldier.

Let’s start with the bad. Why? Because there is so much wrong with this set of shorts that makes it so hilarious. Seriously, there is basically no plot, and what plot is makes no sense. What makes the power armor powerful, if all it takes is one strong spear toss to take someone wearing it down? Why did the humans make a last resort plan with flesh-eating robots that will even attack the creators? Why is there another super-soldier when it was said in the first MD Geist that Geist was the last one? Why is there a cyborg? How did a kid near the end of the second OVA get struck by the spear, when he had to have been at least two feet or more off the ground to get struck by it? What does the military gain from double-crossing the second super-soldier when he is trying to get rid of the flesh-eating robots? I could go on and on about more of these plot elements that make no sense, but that would end up taking over the entire review. There are so many story elements that make no sense, that it really does show that the director had no idea what he was doing. He was basically on the level of Hollywood/YouTube not knowing how Fair Use or copyright works on YouTube (remember to fight for fair use and make sure copyright isn’t abused #WTFU), and that isn’t a positive thing at all. It becomes downright hilarious, since you are just waiting to see how bad the plot gets, and it just gets worse and even more hysterical. It helps too that the voice acting is so hammy and horrible, that you can’t help, but listen to how badly the English dub was directed. Some of the action seen throughout the two OVAs is entertaining, but it is also hilarious to watch for all the stilted animations, obvious post-edit changes, and downright sloppy execution of animation as a whole. Heck, the version we got with the “director’s cut” was apparently even better than the original version that had even more mistakes and missing story elements.

As for the infamous ultra-violence seen in this anime, MD Geist is much more violent than Cybernetics Guardian, but I have still seen worse in terms of gory anime, like Genocyber and Violence Jack. Geist’s violence is definitely more graphic than most, but due to the animation, it didn’t make me squirm enough to have an effect. The characters are not memorable at all. They are just archetypes of what was popular during that time in anime. I mean, this was anime during the late 80s and early 90s; you would have to scavenge through the rampant misogyny and violence to find likable and endearing male and female characters. The music is also just cheesy, and so bad that it’s good to listen to.

Out of this entire trainwreck that was apparently the flagship title for Central Park Media, is there something good to be had here? Why, yes. I mean, if I haven’t made it clear, this is a glorious trainwreck to behold, with an even more interesting history behind the production of said series of OVAs. Sure, it can be a tad boring at times, but once those bits of inept insanity come through, it will get a laugh out of you, or your money back. It’s just funny that this came out in a time where Japan was willing to put anything out on a VHS or DVD, not caring if it was well made or not.

MD Geist I & II are easily some of the worst anime you will ever see. Its entire plot makes no sense, the animation is garbage, the characters are stale like moldy bread, and it’s just an insane trainwreck with a director who had no idea what he was doing at that time. Still, it’s a really good choice for a “so bad it’s good” or bad movie night. It has enough crazy to be enjoyable on an ironic/guilty pleasure level. You can find the collector’s edition DVD for about $15, but I wouldn’t pay more than that for it. If you can find it for cheaper, I would recommend picking up this horrific pile of garbage, if you are one of those kinds of individuals. Or, if you want to watch it online to not feel guilty, a site called tubitv.com has both OVAs up. (By the way that wasn’t a paid promo. I would have said it was at the top of this article). While it is a bad anime, I have seen so much worse in terms of both old and new anime. So, how about we look at something crazy, but really good? Yes, next time, we will be taking a look at The Triplets of Belleville. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation: Cybernetics Guardian Review

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It seems like the only industry that baffles me with how inept it can be at times, is the entertainment industry. They can take some great ideas, have a great cast of actors, talented individuals, and end up with something that is just a slog to go through, or so incredibly terrible, that you can’t take your eyes off it. I mean, here is an example. I am about to pitch you an old anime short film/OVA that sounds like the most dumb/fun/awesome sounding thing ever. The title of the OVA (Original Video Animation. Basically, another term for straight to DVD/VHS tripe) is Cybernetics Guardian. It was released in 1989, and was directed by Koichi Ohata, the same director of the infamous Genocyber. It’s about a young man who wears psychic-powered armor that is kidnapped by a cult to be possessed by this new heavily armored god of violence. This god has a huge amount of 80s glam rock hair, and can rip anything to tiny shreds. At the end of the OVA, he fights a large multi-limbed machine that the villain of this OVA has fused himself with. How cool does that sound? You then see the cover art for this OVA, and it looks like a lot of dumb 80s violent fun. You watch it, and find out it’s one of the biggest trainwrecks of Japanese animation you have ever seen. This OVA specifically is just atrocious to sit through, and not just because of the bad story, characters, animation, and setting. No, the biggest sin this OVA/short film produces is that it’s an utter bore to watch. Let’s dive in, and see what kind of bad this OVA is.

So, this whole garbage heap takes place in a city known as Cyber-Wood. I am sure many of you have come up with some lewd jokes with the name of the city, so I won’t make them here. We follow the protagonist, John Stalker, as he is in the middle of testing this power suit that feeds off of psychic waves. It’s meant to be used as an alternate means of force so violence doesn’t have to be used. Unfortunately, during the testing process, something happens to John, and he is next seen getting kidnapped by this crazy cult that has had him possessed by the god of violence known as Saldo. Can John break free from this god’s hold, and save the city from the actual villain of this trainwreck?

If I haven’t made it clear, this film is a chore to go through for multiple reasons. First off, the animation. It’s not the worst that I have seen in terms of fluid movement and character design, but nothing besides Saldo stands out about it. Every single character looks to be of something from that period in time. The color pallet is way too dark, and either because of a bad transfer job from VHS to DVD, or the actual footage is this dark, it makes The OVA hard to watch since you want to see what’s going on, but can’t. It’s not like the fight scenes are that great. You can pretty much tell this project had a shoe-string budget, and it seems like the entire budget went towards Saldo’s first transformation sequence. Cybernetics Guardian is rather disappointing in being part of the infamous clique of ultra-violent anime that was released during the 80s-early 90s. It can be violent, sure, but compared to infamous titles like Angel Cop, Genocyber, M.D. Geist, Violence Jack, Mad Bull 34, and Baoh, Cybernetics Guardian is very quaint and tame compared to the anime I listed above. Not to say there weren’t times that could make people squirm a teeny bit, but after hearing how notorious anime was for a time, it makes you feel like you were ripped off, since you were promised Tarantino levels of blood and violence. I mean, you have a giant armored being with 80s rock hair, how is that hard to mess up?! It’s apparently easier than it looks, because it is boring to watch. All the characters in this OVA are boring and forgettable. I think it really has to do with the pacing, because either limited by the time or halfway through development they were only going to get one OVA instead of more, they tried to cram so much into the 45-minute runtime. It’s like when you see an animated film based off a show try to cram in a whole season of said show into one movie. Once again, this idea never works! Heck, the OVA ends on a sour note since they (spoilers by the way) show off that there are two other armored beings that John Stalker would have probably fought next. Thank you, OVA, you wasted my time with boring characters, very few if any mediocre action sequences, and horrible voice acting, and you tease me with only one decent fight scene, and two other armored god-like beings only to never see them ever again!

So, among this entire OVA, is there something positive to say about it? Well, there is, if even then, it’s unintentionally good.  The voice acting is so bad, that it’s entertaining to hear. Also, with how rushed/forced everything feels, it would make for one of those “so bad it’s good” movie night selections. It’s easy to riff on since this was during a time when Japan was willing to put anything on a VHS due to strict censorship laws. This led to so many garbage titles that make for great comedic riffing.

Still, being made of comedic riffing possibilities does not mean it’s a good product. If anything, it makes it worse, and Cybernetics Guardian is everything that was horrible about anime back in the day: uninteresting story, setting, characters, mediocre animation, and an overall waste of your time. It’s easily one of the worst anime I have ever seen, and not because it’s horrible, but because it had so much more to it, and it never used it’s setting for anything more than forgettable schlock. I would say don’t go see this, but it’s up on YouTube, so I can’t stop you from seeing it there. I would give this a “The Worst” rating, but compared to something like Violence Jack, Cybernetics Guardian is easily more watchable. Well, we covered some good Japanese animation, and some bad Japanese animation, let’s talk about some of the best stop-motion animation around with The Boxtrolls! Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!