If you remember watching Saturday Anime on the Sci-Fi Channel, or if you ever rented anime in the late 90s or early 00s, you’re probably quite familiar with the work of Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Responsible in part for a good chunk of the early releases from Manga Entertainment and the now-defunct Central Park Media, Kawajiri’s work on titles like Ninja Scroll, Wicked City and Demon City Shinjuku helped to define anime for an entire generation in the US.
A Wind Named Amnesia, for which Kawajiri wrote the screenplay, is one of the more obscure titles of that era. It’s one of those titles you probably saw sitting on the video store shelf a hundred times while browsing the Japanimation section, but may not have bothered to ever pick up and watch. Originally released in 1990, Wind eventually made it to American shores around 1996 (this is according to eBay product information actually, as ANN’s database doesn’t cover anything prior to the 1999 DVD release) and eventually into my VCR a few years later. With CPM having taken its last breath, I felt it was a good time to revisit this title which may never see a US release again.
The story begins in San Francisco, 1999, two years after a cataclysmic event that caused everyone on the planet to completely lose their memories. Forgetting their previous lives, language and culture reduced mankind to savages. Enter our hero, Wataru, who runs into a berserk police robot known as a “Guardian” (with the dead pilot still inside, that means it’s extra berserk) gunning down some unkempt fellows who only grunt in response. Wataru catches the attention of the Guardian, who decides he’s a threat after seeing the gun he’s carrying. Making a run for it, he runs into a mysterious woman named Sophia, who helps him defeat the Guardian and then asks him to drive her to New York City. Having nothing better to do, he agrees, hoping to unravel the mysteries of what happened while seeing the sites along the way.
Wind unfortunately falls into the heavily populated category of “interesting premise, lackluster execution.” It seems to be trying to make some kind of statement about whether humanity deserves to keep going on, but spirals into such silliness that you really can’t take it seriously at all, even though it wants you to. The silliness, however, is exactly what makes it worth watching.
Wataru’s back story is a perfect example of this: during his meeting with Sophia he recalls his memories from immediately after the titular wind blew through his town. After trying to eat flowers (and failing) and fighting children for sausage, he encounters a kid in an “invalid chair” (thanks, CPM dubbing!) named Johnny, locked in a standoff with some kind of esper. Turns out Johnny is part of a government experiment and has a computer for a brain, so the wind didn’t affect him. After the matter with the esper is settled, Johnny takes Wataru in and uses a supercomputer with a ridiculous helmet to rapidly re-educate him before passing away, leaving Wataru free to go on road trips with strange women.
Our unlikely pair makes their first stop in LA, where they encounter a “tribe” of people who have taken to worshiping construction equipment like a god. Like all the best gods, this one demands sacrifices of young girls, one of whom is trying to make an escape when Wataru arrives. After helping the girl and a lumbering ox aiding her escape, Sophia, who can apparently speak fluent “gruntese,” tells Wataru that their names are Sue and Little John. Thinking he has two new buddies for his road trip, Wataru heads to the beach for gratuitous out-of-place nude scenes, where Sue strips down to nothing but panties to run through ankle deep water. After enjoying themselves for the day, Sue and Little John leave abruptly, leaving Wataru confused as to why Sue would willingly become a sacrifice. Wataru decides to intervene and takes out the construction rig. Unfortunately he is unable to save Sue. Leaving Little John behind in charge of the now-godless tribe, the pair takes off towards New York again.
The second stop is a place called “Eternal Town,” a city managed by a system called “Big Computer” which brainwashed the two remaining residents, Lisa and “Mr. Simpson,” into acting out the roles of various people that once inhabited the town. Sophia and Wataru are extended an invitation by Lisa/Big Computer to join their micromanaged lives and become residents of Eternal Town as well. Wataru declines and Big Computer attempts to coerce them into staying, however both Wataru and Sophia are adamant about moving on. Demanding to speak with the “real” Lisa and not the puppet they had been speaking with, Wataru extends an invitation of his own: for both residents to join them on his trip. Lisa accepts at first, but is unable to let go of the life she has lead for the last two years and ultimately decides to stay.
Both of these “stops” feel like they would have been better used as part of a larger story the creators didn’t have the time to tell. Having no access to the original novel, it makes me wonder if there was more to it, and if they chose to focus only on bits and pieces. It definitely feels like a large part of the story is skipped, or perhaps it’s just that the Midwest is incredibly boring, even after the apocalypse. After Sophia reveals her identity as one of the people responsible for the wind in Las Vegas, the rest of the trip is covered in a montage until they finally reach New York City.
The montage consists of romance and chase sequences where the aforementioned Guardian robot, who is able to drag itself to robot service stations and repair itself, tracks Wataru via satellite, speaks his name in that menacing one-syllable-at-a-time robot way, and interrupts conversations and quiet moments at popular landmarks. This all culminates in a showdown atop a New York highrise (the robot takes the elevator) where Wataru manages to put it down for good.
After reaching their destination and dispatching their robotic pursuer, Sophia thanks Wataru for the ride in the “Earth way” which is, apparently, in keeping the unwritten book of the road. After showing her “appreciation,” Sophia returns home to what looks like a giant mirrored sphere in the sky; telling Wataru that mankind’s fate should be decided in about an hour or so. Cut to credits.
A Wind Named Amnesia is a hard title to feel strongly about. If anything, I’m strongly indifferent. It is as far from a “must see” as mid-90s OVAs get. If you left it on the shelf while browsing through Hollywood Video’s anime selection back in the day, you didn’t really miss that much. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time hunting it down unless you are a fan of more recent things like Kino’s Journey or any of Kawajiri’s other works, but there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour and a half if you’re looking for something to watch.