Windaria Anime Movie Review

Title: Windaria

Alternative Title: Once Upon a Time

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Action, Adventure

Release Date: 1986 (Japan initial release), 1992 (US, (VHS) first US release), 2004 (US re-release (DVD) with title change)

Where to Watch: I don’t support piracy here, but as a heads up, ALL of the “US Releases” of this film are very severely edited. And YES, that includes even the subtitled versions! I highly recommend that you watch the original Japanese version at least once before passing judgement on this beautiful movie. Of course, I grew up with the VHS in the 90s, and I STILL loved even the heavily edited dubbed version of the film way back then. Last year, I finally got the chance to watch the original Japanese version. A lot of content was cut from the English version, including significant amounts of story content. They change the order of certain scenes, remove most of the violence (and drugs and sex) and have completely re-written the script of the original film to better suit an American audience (where cartoons were (and still are) primarily intended for children). Also all of the music is different in both versions, although it’s very good in both versions as well. Still the overall theme and plot and moral of this heart breaking anime remains the same in both versions. That’s why I really recommend you to try to watch the original film – and then still go ahead and buy the English DVD or VHS to support the creators :). I’m not going to tell you where to find the original online, but you can find it if you look. And then you can purchase the Windaria North American DVD here.

Geeky: 3/5 The music is beautiful, but the artwork is very outdated (losing 1 point). Interestingly enough, the Japanese DVD includes 2 versions of the film, 1 being a “pilot film” where the animation and coloring style is different. (I have never seen this version). Despite the outdated artwork, the character designs are cute and memorable, I often think someone working on Pokemon drew inspiration (perhaps even subconsciously) for fan-favorite Eevee from the little pet squirrel/cat like creature in this film. The story is dark and full of action (and sex and drugs and gore in the original Japanese version). Therefore I feel this film would appeal to all geeks regardless of their genders. I’m removing one more point for the heavy handed editing of all of the US versions of this film. It’s been almost 15 years since the film has been brought to American audiences (for a 2nd time) – so perhaps some day we will see a company pick up the license for this film and do it justice with a more faithful English adaptation.

Sweetie: 5/5 – The story is soul crushingly sad. If you like sad anime, this is for you. Both versions of the film, even the mangled US version(s), still show the tender love stories of the central characters, and demonstrate the costs of war and greed. I happen to be a fan of sad love stories, and this particular anime reminds me of almost a Romeo and Juliet type of fairy tale, 2 lovers who can never be together, and 2 other lovers who have everything but still manage to mess everything up in the end. It’s also a story of regret, love, and greed. It imparts morals to the viewer, to value the love you have or else it may slip away. And that even if you are poor, if you have love, you can be happy. Or you can overlook the happiness you have right in front of you and only realize what you have once it has slipped away. The emotionally engaging story is also heightened by a fantastic music score which further draws the audience into the film.

Overall: 33/45 73% C “Good Anime for Girls”

Story: 9/10 – I removed a point again for the poor handling of every commercially available North American release of this film. Otherthan that small complaint, I give the story 10/10. Even the badly edited version. I loved the anime back in the 90s, and I still love it today. It’s a tale that withstands the tests of time. Universally relateable to anyone who has loved and lost.

The story of Windaria intertwines the fates of 2 very different couples. One couple is a princess and prince from neighboring kingdoms. As tensions mount between the kingdoms, and war seems inevitable… Can their love survive? The other couple lives in a small farming village caught between both warring nations. Their village has remained neutral for years, but as war descends around them, can that peace last? The people of the neutral village are poor, but live happy lives not knowing the tragedies of war, and protected by spirits who live in a giant tree. But can people be influenced to take a side when wealth and adventure knock on their door? How will the war change the lives of the people in this tiny village?

Everything is connected, and you cannot escape war. You can’t remain neutral. You must make a decision and take a risk. What will you risk? Will you risk your life? Your love? Your Home? And how will the war change you? Can you return to your old life after the war ends? Will there even be anything left to return to?

Windaria examines all of these heavy hearted deep thinking questions.

The setting of the story is also very intriguing. We have 2 nations at war. The haves and have nots. One kingdom has plenty of water and wealth and prosperity. They control the flow of water to the neighboring nations. The other nation does not feel they have enough water. They are not nearly as wealthy or powerful as their political neighbor. The lands between the two nations are full of magic and mystery. There is a river where people go crazy and see horrors which are merely reflections of their own fears and feelings, there is the giant magic tree which protects the neighboring farming village, and there’s the ghost ship which takes souls to the other side.

Interestingly enough, although the setting and time of this anime appear to be fantasy based, there is no magic or “fantasy”, instead we see a strange blend of technology in a fantasy world. Airplanes, motorbikes, guns, grenades, tanks, etc.

Characters: 7/10 – I’ll be honest here, it is REALLY hard to like the main character of this film. He is a giant D-bag. Not even gonna lie. You’re going to hate him. He rather have drunken sex and spend all day exploiting his power to get more drugs and wealth and concubines, than return to his girlfriend even after the war ends. It’s not until his own life is in danger that he flees and comes back to his village… or what’s left of it anyways. – Maybe at the end, he has a change of heart, but that doesn’t make up for what a huge D he is in the majority of the film.

The first 15-20 minutes of the film, they build this character and his love up to have this idealistic beautiful love. Everyone in the village recognizes the love between this pair. They are utterly adorable together. They have it all. But that’s not enough for our main character.

In stark contrast, his lady love waits patiently for his return, even when the rest of her village leaves and tries to get her to come to safety with them. This made me hate the main character even more. And when she forgives him for everything, that too amplifies my anger at this character.

But I suppose this is the point of the entire movie. It still isn’t easy to watch or to like, sympathize, or side with the supposed main character of the film.

Our other 2 main characters are considerably more likeable. They are victim of circumstance. They never get a choice in the events happening to them. They are bound by duty. They don’t get to choose a peaceful life of love – which puts into perspective even more, the stupidity of the main character for never realizing the happiness he had back in his own village.

The relationship of the prince and princess is doomed from the start, however, they often dare defy the duties and responsibilities forced upon them, and meet in secret anyways to profess their love and promise each other that one day they will be together. I have never really been 100% sure about the end of their relationship. I can’t tell if what she did was intentional or accidental like perhaps she was playfully chasing and playing with his gun / flirting around. Or if perhaps, she felt the weight of her duty, and decided to put her kingdom above her love and pull that trigger to once and for all, end the war. Either way, their relationship ends in spectacular Romeo and Juliet fashion.

 

There are a number of minor characters too with very intricate and detailed back stories, including a “crazy” woman who never talks to anyone as she waits for her love to return. Her love chose to become a captain of a ship taking souls to the other side. The captain cannot leave his ship for a specified number of years. (I believe it was 10 years? I can’t recall right now).

At the end of the film, we see that our main character wishes to become the captain of this ship to follow his lady love to the other side. (This is more clear in the Japanese version of the film). The crazy woman and main character both meet in the end (I think maybe the main character was contemplating jumping off the cliff) and he sees the crazy lady still there, waiting for her husband to return. So he resolves also to wait for his love as well. (although I’m pretty sure she can never come back – although a lot of Asian religions believe in reincarnation and so perhaps it is that which he is waiting for, or for his own life to end so then in the afterlife, they can be reunited.) This shows how much thought went into even the most minor of characters to make them have heavy plot focus.

Art: 2/5 – The artwork is dated, because this anime is from the 80s. On almost every website I’ve visited in the past, this anime has horrible reviews. I feel it’s not judged fairly and people are overlooking the beautiful love stories and tragedies and focusing solely on the artwork and animation quality. The character designs are still cute though, and some of the background environments are very pretty. But overall, I’d tend to agree the animation is not clean enough and the character styles are outdated by today’s standards. That still never detracts from my enjoyment of this film.

Music: 5/5 I love the music in Windaria. Both the Japanese and English tracks fit perfectly with the themes and scenes of the film. The music carries much emotion and helps tell the story, complementing the action scenes, and especially painfully highlighting the sad tragic scenes of the anime. I especially love the vocal tracks.

Voice Acting: 2/5 I really dislike both the original Japanese, and the English voice acting of most of the characters. I guess it’s typical for how old this anime is, but almost all of the performances were cringe-worthy. That’s even more reason why someone should pick this license back up and bring in a fresh English cast. The story is so good, and the performances here just do not do it justice at all.

Overall: 33/45 73% C “Good Anime for Girls”

Windaria Anime Movie Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

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12 Months Anime Review

Title: Twelve Months

Studio: Toei

Release Date: 1978

This was a joint production with a Russian studio and is based on a Russian Fairy Tale. – The only one I could find online was dubbed in Russian and had English subtitles. There are also Japanese and English voiced versions. The Russian one is not terrible though since the anime is “Set in Russia” and the characters themselves are supposed to be Russian.

Story: 10/10 I enjoyed the story immensely despite the age of the film and having watched it in Russian language. I think it’s an under rated and obscure anime. It is older than me, and probably older than most of my readers.

The story is about Anna, a young orphan girl whose step mother and step sister treat like a servant. One day, she meets a soldier sent from the palace looking for a Christmas tree (it’s called a new years tree, but similar to the western tradition of a pine tree at Christmas). She helps the soldier who tells her about the queen in the palace. It turns out the queen is just a child, and an orphan as well. The queen is very spoiled by her subjects and demands Snowdrop flowers even though her guards tell her it is impossible. The queen offers a basket of gold coins to whoever can find these flowers in the snow. Hearing this news, Anna’s stepmother sends her out to search for them. Cold and lost in a blizzard, Anna collapses. When she awakens she comes upon a bonfire with 12 strange cloaked figures. These figures represent the 12 months and each of them have a gift for Anna as they say she is a good girl and that they have been watching over her. In exchange Anna promises to keep their secret and returns home with her flowers. No one believes Anna and demands that she take them to the location where the flowers were picked. Anna bravely keeps her promise and as a result, magical things begin occurring within the forest.

Characters: 5/10 – The characters are very simplistic and basically cut/paste from nearly any children’s fairy tale. Wicked step mother and step sister, enslaved “good” child, woodland animals, princesses, and palace guards. Nothing terrible original or unique. The characters are charming but lack any depth beyond their stereotypical roles. This is not a very deep anime.

Artwork: 2/5 The artwork is cute in its own way but this anime is 40 years old now. This shows in both character style as well as animation techniques and even color palettes chosen throughout the film.

Music: 3/5 The music is just rather average and not bad nor amazing. It seems to fit well with the mood of the anime.

Actually both the artwork and the music are reminiscent of other animated films of the times back then, including the Lord of the Ring animated films.

Voice Acting: 3/5 – I watched the Russian version, I am sure the Japanese version is better – however, it wasn’t bad in Russian since it is based on a Russian fairy tale in the first place. The step mother and step sister had annoying voices, but I think that was intentional maybe since they were wicked.

Overall: 23 / 35 66% D “Average Anime For Girls”

12 Months Anime Review was originally published on Geeky Sweetie

Only Yesterday Anime Review

Title: Only Yesterday

Genre: Slice of Life, Romance

Release Date: 1991

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Overall: 23/35 66% D “Average Anime For Girls”

Story: 5/10 A young woman goes to spend a summer on her aunt’s farm. While helping out on the farm and around the house she is reminded of her childhood. She also meets a young man working on the farm and must reconcile her feelings of her childhood in order to become a woman.

The story is told through numerous flash backs that take place 17 years prior to the current events. The flashbacks are of other people, friends, family members, former romances, etc that she has encountered thus far in her life and how they’ve shaped her outlook on life and her experiences.

It is very slow moving. If I were just grading about the last 30 minutes of this film I’d give it a 10 lol. One of my favorite endings I think of any Ghibli film. It was very heart warming, as most Ghibli films are.

The fact that it’s told through flashback and that it features different people not related to the current events kinda disconnects the story a bit for me.

I also feel like the pacing and timing of several of the flashbacks was a burden to the film overall. I kept anticipating and thinking perhaps the two characters had met before and/or that there was some significance to the flashbacks – beyond just showing the lead character’s progression etc.

Or if the flash backs had been more spread out over the period of time – instead of focused all on one year of her life – It would have been more interesting in my opinion to see her grow and evolve through the flash backs instead – Although there are some significant events which clearly did contribute to her backstory and character development.

Overall – the story is just kinda meh to me. A little too slow and dull – though not as bad as Up On Poppy Hill or I can Hear the Ocean Waves.

I did think that it was interesting to see a very detailed account of what growing up in the 70s in Japan was like, and I enjoyed seeing the cultural aspects and history of farming and agriculture told in the movie, as well as seeing more of what elementary and middle school is like for young Japanese students. Their student council meeting was really interesting to me.

I didn’t love the story, but I did find myself caught up by the end and found the ending immensely satisfying which felt like pay off for sticking with a rather lackluster overall story.

Characters: 8/10 – The characters were very likable in this film. Unlike “I can hear the Ocean Waves” (in which the main female is a downright bitch lol) and they had significant progression unlike “Up on Poppy Hill” which never seemed to go anywhere at all. The old 90s style character designs were pretty ugly though which did prevent me from connecting as well as I would have with more “kawaii” (cute) designs. Still I felt their emotions and their pains, hopes, dreams, etc.

Artwork: 3/5 The colors used and character designs created are very drab. The main character is only 27 but she looks much older. The backgrounds are really pretty however, especially the countryside and lush landscapes. Studio Ghibli films strive for a realistic touch – and even their newer films have that hallmark Ghibli styling in the way the faces eyes hair etc are drawn. I found this film in terms of both story and design to strive even further for realism. Laugh lines, wrinkles, and round cheeks are prominent on all of the characters. Not my cup of tea but not deducting points just because of personal preference. Being from the early 90s the animation is not as clean or crisp as more current animation.

Music: 2/5 – Music majorly missed the mark for me in this film. While I appreciate being exposed to new or interesting things, and I equally appreciate Ghibli daring to do something “different” The music just really didn’t apppeal to me, nor did I feel it suited most of the scenes. The score consists of “Hungarian Folk Music” and a few Japanese “covers” of popular 70s-80s pop music and ballads. For a film that is so distinctively Japanese, it seems like an odd musical choice.

Voice Acting: 5/5 On the other hand, the voice acting was quite brilliant. I especially liked Toshio. But Taeko’s voice actress was also very convincing. Their performances conveyed a lot of heart and emotion which was key to telling the story.

Overall: 23/35 66% D “Average Anime For Girls”

Only Yesterday Anime Review was originally published on Geeky Sweetie