A Wind Named Amnesia

Few films come with a better pedigree than A Wind Named Amnesia. With an original story by Hideyuki Kikuchi, author of the Vampire Hunter D novels, and a screenplay by Ninja Scroll director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, you'd expect something great. In many ways, they succeed in creating a thought-provoking journey for the audience. However, the film's director Kazuo Yamazaki doesn't have what it takes to put this work on the map, despite his earlier work on Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku. It's often said that a film is more than the sum of its parts--unfortunately, in the case of A Wind Named Amnesia, the parts just don't add up.

An incredible force brought mass destruction through one powerful weapon--a wind that caused total amnesia. Humans, circa 199X, have forgotten every vital memory connected to modern society; except for a few spared by certain extraordinary circumstances, mankind has been reduced to the level of apes. Wataru, our hero, had become a savage just like the rest, but a special kind young man named Johnny was unaffected by the Wind. He takes Wataru under his wing and helps him relearn what the rest of humanity had lost. Eventually, Wataru is off on his own, and he meets up with a mysterious woman called Sophia. They wander the country looking for other signs of intelligent life, Wataru optimistic that somebody will join them, Sophia ever reticent. The machines have become a great threat, and a pre-programmed Guardian robot winds up hot on their tails. Wataru must stop this terror machine and learn the truth about what has happened to his world.

In many ways, A Wind Named Amnesia is a journeyman show not dissimilar from Fist of the North Star or EatMan '98. However, A Wind Named Amnesia is essentially a series of vignettes about life after the grand catastrophe with Wataru and Sophia as observers and occasional participants. A couple of these are actually quite effective, particular the first, which relates the story of Wataru's awakening under Johnny's tutelage. I must also admit to liking the character designs a lot.

However, the steam starts to leak from the engine around two-thirds of the way through the show. The continuing story about the Guardian in pursuit is a Terminator riff that plays poorly, and it gets staler the longer it continues, particularly when this huge machine can stalk its prey without being noticed even through huge deserts. It just doesn't make sense. There's also the character of Sophia, who for being a primary player is woefully uninteresting. We can't connect to her at any level, and we don't understand why Wataru does.

But nothing compares to the ending. Although the forces behind the Wind are explained, there's no attempt to explain how it occurred. The finale feels disjointed and unnecessary, particularly because it's so trite in comparison to the thoughtful material that precedes it. On top of all that, the conclusion really cops out, leaving us with yet another ambiguous walk into the sunset.

To be fair, the authors here have to take credit for letting their story fall apart at the end, and I can't let them off the hook. However, the direction is why the film leaves us feeling incomplete. If Yamazaki had kept the energy level consistent, perhaps the ending would have worked better. But he doesn't, and certain sequences that should have been poignant come off silly because the animation doesn't do justice to the emotion. There's also the matter of two gratuitous nude scenes that really call into question the logic within the film; when analyzed, they don't make sense in the world as it is presented. Sad to say, but they spoil a good deal of the work that was obviously done to try and elevate the film's concept.

If the ending is excused, the film might be worth a higher ranking, but the climax irritates me greatly. It's too bad that there's so much dross in with some truly contemplative concepts. For about 40 minutes, A Wind Named Amnesia tries to be original and largely succeeds. Too bad it's 80 minutes long.

A Wind Named Amnesia -- violence, brief nudity, explicit situations -- C