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Geeky: 3/5 The music is beautiful, but the artwork is very outdated (losing 1 point).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 Despite the outdated artwork, the character designs are cute and memorable, I often think someone working on Pokemon drew inspiration (perhaps even subconsciously) for fan-favorite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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Growlanser Generations: Growlanser II and Growlanser III Review

Hang tight; things are going to get confusing if you’ve never heard of this series before. Growlanser Generations is the name of an American version of Growlanser II and III (that’s the one I’m reviewing below). BUT Growlanser Generations is the name of a Japanese game in the same game series, which is Growlanser V (and this game was also released in America as Growlanser Heritage of War, but I hate (or at least strongly dislike) that one, so I’m not reviewing it (at least not right now).

So Keep in mind, this is a review of Growlanser II and Growlanser III (Generations NA). And it is NOT a review of Growlanser V (Generations JP) Got it? Good :)

Title: Growlanser Generations

Publisher: Working Designs

Release Date: 2004

Platform: PS2

Genre: Strategy RPG with Dating Sim Elements

Where to buy: Amazon has a few available ranging in price from $65 to $95 depending on quality and deluxe or standard editions. You can browse whats available on this page here: http://www.amazon.com/Growlanser…

Geeky: 3/5 

Sweetie: 5/5 

Overall: 71/90 79% C+ “Good Game For Girls”

Concept: 7/10 Though packaged in America as a single game, this is originally two separate games (though from the same series) in Japan. Growlanser I was never released in America, which puts us at a disadvantage because Growlanser II’s story takes place at the same time as, and has the same characters as, Growlanser I. It is basically letting you play as the opponent’s army  from the first game, to draw sympathy and give you another look at the war from a different view point. But since we never got Growlanser I in America (I’m sure Working Designs would have if they could, but this game actually was one of their last games and probably partly responsible for the ultimate demise of the company – selling two games, for the price of one, at the expense of double the staff hours, wages, localization fees, etc.) — Anyways, since we never got the first game, Growlanser II is mostly a stand alone story for English speaking players – and I felt its story, while good, was weaker than III – which is intended to be a new stand alone story – because Growlanser II is supposed to be enjoyed with Growlanser I.

Anyways, beyond that, they are both real-time strategy rpgs with a high amount of freedom and player choice and consequence. Choices matter, and there’s a branching plot, mostly focused around who you date in the game. There’s multiple endings and of course the data from one game to the next can be carried over from game to game.

Gameplay: 8/10 The gameplay in these two games features real-time (as opposed to turn-based) strategy rpg battles which sometimes have you trying to reach the edge of the map to “escape” or sometimes destroy all enemies on the map, or sometimes must protect an NPC from being killed. Growlanser III expands on the gameplay of II by allowing you to freely move around the overworld instead of just choosing points on a map. However, Growlanser III cuts the active party members in half from 8 in Growlanser II to just 4 in Growlanser III. Growlanser III also raises the encounter rate significantly from that of II and introduces proceduraly generated dungeons which are sometimes rather hit or miss in their design.

Upon gaining a level you can spend attribute points to customize your party members to your liking, which is just another testament to the freedom of choice these games provide. Also as you level up your equipment, you can unlock new spells and abilities that are tied to the equipment, making the equipment a key focus of your battle strategy. You can team up with party members to unleash joint spells and abilities and you are also free to move around the map, not stuck using a grid based system in other Japanese strategy games such as tactics ogre and final fantasy tactics.

Because the game has a branching plot and multiple endings, there are some things which may happen in battle which would typically be a gameover in most games, but in this case, the game goes on (not always, haha sometimes it REALLY IS a gameover lol.) – Sometimes though this can throw you off the route you want in the game so save often and make use of multiple save files.

Outside of battle there is not much to do in this game (aside from talking to your comrades which can influence the storyline which is a big draw to this series) — That is changed years later with Growlanser Wayfayer of Time on PSP which introduces city building and “pet” raising elements to the game series. (But that’s a review for another day (maybe soon).)

That’s not to say that all you do is hack and slash your way through Growlanser Generations either. Both games feature a huge branching storyline with several secret hidden side quests and dialog scenes which unless you take time to back track to previous locations and explore the map fully, are very easy to overlook. If you enjoy exploring  every nook and cranny of every location, you’ll really enjoy the huge worlds and the fact that this game does not hold your hand or force you down any “correct” path as it’s very non-linear. However, there are some gamers, who may find all this back tracking and side questing to be tedious.

Storyline: 10/10 Both games have a very emotional and action packed story which is fueled by the theme of war and focuses strongly on character backstory and development. They take place in a fantasy setting, however; it is draped around a very modern and realistic atmosphere that makes the characters and story feel quite engaging and believable. Mostly, what I enjoyed about these stories is the overarching theme of betrayal, trust, sadness, and pain that are told through the events and actions that happen in each game. As mentioned above, Growlanser II definitely has the weaker story, because in America, we only experience “one half” of the “game” (although it is in fact 2 games in Japan too, Growlanser II is a “direct sequel” – and not only takes place “after” but also concurrently during the first game. So I can’t deduct points here, because it’s no fault of the game that we only have “half” the story here.) Overall, the story becomes very emotional and the sheer volume of the game world itself and lore added into every nook and cranny and dialog options and extra scenes really help bring these games to life.

Characters: 8/10 Growlanser II is packed full of dozens and dozens of interesting characters. Like most branching plot games, some character routes are more well developed than others. Growlanser III significantly cuts back on the number of characters, BUT in exchange, they devote the time to writing a very interesting and well developed story around those characters. As I’ve said a few times, III is definitely the more story-focused of the two games in this collection, and that also shows through character development and interaction – not that it was terrible in II either, but III just really digs into it more. 12 years later I still deeply remember the story and characters of Growlanser III – while I only sorta vaguely recall some of the characters of Growlanser II.

Graphics: 7/10 While the character portraits themselves are LOVELY and very appealing, especially I think to females, as they’re rather “Shoujo” in nature, the battle effects, background environments, and other artistic elements are very underwhelming, even for a PS2 game.

Music: 5/10 – It’s been awhile since I’ve played, but I can’t recall having a strong opinion of either like, or dislike, for the music in these games. I’ll update this the next time I play :)

Voice Acting: 8/10 Working Designs is always pretty good with their localizations – of course they westernize things and take some pretty big liberties with their translations (which some fans criticize them for) but for me, I’ve always enjoyed their sense of humor and found it often times make a dry script more engaging – not that I think Growlanser is dry by any means, but it’s always fun to see Working Design’s little touches. That said, the cast is very good, reusing many actors from previous Working Designs titles (such as Lunar and Vay). So if you enjoy the voice acting in those games, you’ll enjoy it in Growlanser as well. Each game has probably about 2 or 3 hours of voice over content – which isn’t much when each game probably spans hundreds of hours through multiple story lines and endings. But hey, there are games from early 2k that don’t have any voice overs at all, so can’t complain much. I would’ve liked the option left in for Japanese voices as well but I understand those are expensive with licensing fees and Working designs was such a small little studio. I appreciate all the love and care they always put into their games and I feel out of all the 90s Dubs out there, Working Designs were some of the best!

Replay Value: 10/10 Both games feature Multiple endings, though the differences to these endings are definitely more distinctive in Growlanser II as opposed to III. There’s also tons of hidden side quests and dialog options which will require multiple playthroughs to experience everything these games have to offer. Between both games, you’ll probably spend hundreds of hours to get 100%. I’d wager it’s about 35-40 hours per single play through.

Overall: 71/90 79% C+ “Good Game For Girls”

Growlanser Generations: Growlanser II and Growlanser III Review was originally published on Geeky Sweetie