The Weathering Continent
Some anime rely very heavily on creating an interesting atmosphere and mood, to tell their story. One could easily rattle off a list of series that do this well, and just as easily come up with more then a few that fall on their face attempting this. The Weathering Continent is the weird one out here. As it doesn’t seem like it’s trying very hard to create a mood or atmosphere, but it certainly has one, and it does add to the film. It’s more like, atmosphere and mood come naturally to this little movie. At times spooky, at other times exciting, and other times just relaxing, this film has a great atmosphere. And it’s a better film due to this. The Weathering Continent is quite an interesting movie, and it’s what I’ll be reviewing today if you hadn’t already figured that out.
The Weathering Continent is an almost forgotten film from 1992, that was directed by Koichi Mashimo (known for directing Noir, Madlax, El Cazador de la Bruja, and Dominion Tank Police) and animated by Production I.G. . Media Blasters thankfully brought this stateside, and released it on DVD with a dub in 2003. I’m not really sure why such an odd and unknown title was even bothered with by them, but I’m thankful to have it. Then again this is Media Blasters, king of the odd stuff. This is an adventure/fantasy movie, with three interesting lead characters that pull a lot of the weight of the film. It starts out with our three travelers heading to some distant place across the desert. We never learn where they are going, but oh well. The opening crawl however, has revealed to us that this placed was not always a desert, it was once a rich, prospering, and fruitful continent. Yet over time it has slowly withered away, damaged by droughts and other natural disasters. The continent is hinted at being the lost continent of Atlantis, and the film takes place during it last years while it’s in dire straights.
One of the travelers is a woman pretending to be a boy (although I think her friends know she’s a girl, she tries to hide it from those she meets), Lakushi who seems caring and brash yet mysterious. Another traveler is a young preist named Tieh, and our last traveler is Bois the intelligent swordsman of the group. These three come across a destroyed encampment, and find one person left alive, although severely injured. It becomes clear their camp was attacked by bandits, and everyone was killed by them save this one survivor. The injured survivor pleads for some water, and Lakushi gives out the last of their water. Then the person dies, after saying how thankful they were. The question now becomes will Lakushi’s move doom the trio to dieing of thirst in the desert? Because they are days away from the nearest source of water. Was it a worth it to give the survivor water, even though it looked like it would be a waste since the person would die anyway? Should they have made this person comfortable in their last moments alive, or save the water for themselves? The three travelers don’t contemplate this much, since what’s done is done, and instead continue on their journey. They eventually come across Azec Sistra, the legendary City of the Dead (tomb of the citizens a once very powerful and rich city). All those who died from the city were mummified and laid to rest within this city of the dead. Tieh believes there may be water inside, and so they figure it’s best to enter this city and search for water, then to continue on to the next water source and possibly die on the way. The rest of the film deals takes place in this tomb city, and of course eventually the bandits who destroyed the camp searching for something come into the picture as well. And maybe, just maybe the ghosts of the people laid to rest in Azec Sistra will make an appearance here.
This movie is quite simple. It doesn’t have a very complex or intricate plot. So those who dislike simplistic storytelling need not apply here. But for the rest of us, it’s still a very enjoyable and interesting little story. Sometimes simple stories are very engaging. And again it handles the mood and atmosphere very naturally. The movie is a little slow paced, but I found it to be intriguing, never boring. It drew me to it like a moth to a flame, and I really can’t tell you why. Much like Mashimo’s El Cazador and Noir I was just instantly attracted to this. It drew me in and held me tightly, and I can’t really pinpoint exactly how or why. The paceing and mood are definitely part of it though, that I’m sure of. The characters also helped to make this a very interesting watch. For such a short film, they are all very well fleshed out. Sure there’s a lot of mystery left here to these people, but it’s surprising that by the end we feel like we know these people quite well. I feel that it’s actually better that we don’t know everything about these characters though, the mystery helps keep us interested. In contrast the main villain, the head of the bandits who shows up later on, is quite generic. He’s just “random generic bad guy leader #5”, replace him with whoever you want really. He’s not fleshed out at all. The film does a poor job of developing him. By the end we still know very little of his motives, and he feels like he’s just there to cause conflict for the main characters. This is a small flaw however, and it’s easily overlooked. It’s also worth noting that the ending of the film has a bit of a twist to it, that you may see coming (I did). But I thought it ended the movie quite well. There is also a theme here that keeps coming up that has to do with hiding your gender, and although it’s unclear what exactly they are trying to say, it’s a very interesting theme that works well within the film.
There are some other small problems here and there with this anime. For example some things aren’t quite explained fully, and other things seemed to only be hinted at, like this is just a small part of a much grander and longer story. For example we really don’t know where these characters are heading to, nor do we get enough insight on any of their pasts (certain things are only hinted at). Other things leave you feeling a little confused, especially in regard to the issues of gender in the film. For example why do some people seem to think Tieh is a woman? What’s the deal with Lakushi exactly? There are more gender issues left unclarified as well, but they are spoilers. These are small issues that do take away from the film. There’s a reason for this however, this film was based on a light novel series by Sei Takekawa, so there’s obviously much more to this story then what we get to see. But they do an admirable job adapting such a long novel series, into one movie that clocks in at less than 60 minutes in length. Perhaps with more time the confusion could have been be cleared up. But still they manage to tell a complete story, that’s quite compelling, with great characters, and an endearing mood, without leaving any of us who have not read the novels out in the cold, in a very short time frame. And what more can you want from a little film? For this small fact alone I think this is sort of impressive. Sure it’s not perfect, but it’s very well done overall.
The Weathering Continent, being a movie from 1992 has some impressive artwork and animation. The animation is quite good for 1992, constantly showing the effects of the desert wind on the characters for example. Everything flows natural for the most part. The short fight scenes are also quite impressive for the year this was released. While nothing mind-blowing, this is quite well done. The artwork looks very unique and very attractive. The color palette is very earthly. It is subdued, yet not really faded. The color palette has a lot of light oranges and browns while they are still in the desert. Despite being a desert, you don’t get the feeling the characters are dealing with sweltering heat. Because instead of traveling during midday or afternoon, these characters are traveling while it’s cooling down, the evening and nighttime. So a lot of the shots show the sun going down, and everything looks bright orange and warm, yet not incredibly hot. It is very impressive that something so simple can deliver so much meaning. The color palette helps you feel what they feel, warm, but not dieing of heat. Later once the sunsets brown and blue seem to take over as the major color. Everything then seems to get a really vibrant blue tint to it, which looks very nice. You then get a real feeling of things have cooled off a bit. I find this fascinating. Once they enter the city of the dead, the color scheme changes to having lots of blacks, dark yellows, and dark browns, although there is some orange here and there. This change in color scheme really helps change the atmosphere around (very naturally and effortlessly), and helps make us feel like we are there with the characters. The sharp contrast between inside the city and outside is very appealing. These are small little things you sometimes miss out on with digitial paint. All in all the artwork is very beautiful, lush, and alluring. The character designs are another strong point, as not only is the style in which they are drawn attractive yet original looking, but all the characters look very distinct. Lakushi especially looks very pretty. The costumes are another strong point here, with the bandits wearing odd yet interesting clothing. And although the clothing style of the three main characters may be very standard “sword and sorcery” fantasy clothing, it looks quite good. None of the characters are cluttered, but they are drawn with a good amount of detail. Backgrounds are a little simple, not very detailed, but still very nice to look at.
The music is laid back and simple, but effective. While it doesn’t exactly standout, it’s still a good soundtrack, although often times silence is used rather then background themes. The dub on the other hand really does standout. It’s an interesting New York City dub. Media Blasters gave this to NYAV Post to produce the dub, and I feel that was really the right way to go with this. NYAV did an impressive job, not only with the casting of the main characters, but even all the minor characters and one liners do a great job. There’s not an awkward line throughout the entire film. Dan Green gives another incredible performance here, as he plays the head bandit, Gaten Rakumu. He uses a voice that sounds different then his usual one, but it really fits for the character. Dan Green almost always acts incredibly well, and yet again he lives up to the high standard I hold him to. But what would a dub be without the main cast? Jamie McGonnigal plays Tieh, the priest, and he makes the character feel very fragile, yet not weak. He doesn’t seem like a physically powerful person, and he’s not. But his sorcery is however powerful, and this is reflected upon with McGonnigal’s performance here. It’s subtle, but it’s there. His acting is good, and he fits his character very well. He is my least favorite of the dub, but he’s not bad by any stretch. Bois the tough swordman is played by Marc Diraison who fits incredibly well. This was perfect casting. Bois is a very strong guy, but there’s much more to him then that. And Diraison understands this, instead of playing him up like a stupid yet tought guy, he handles it very naturally and it works. Sure he sounds strong, but also smart, which he is. His acting is great here too. But the star of the dub is without a doubt Veronica Taylor, who gives out another mesmerizing performance. She plays Lakushi, and dshe does an amazing job. She not only perfectly fits her character to a T, but her acting is perfect. You really feel for her, and understand what she’s struggleing with and who she is. And a lot of that is due to Veronica Taylor. The dub was directed by Michael Sinterniklaas, who I’m really starting to respect as an ADR director. He really knows how to get out the subtle, but natural emotions needed for some anime. Piano and Domain of Murder are also very nuanced and subtle dubs, and they needed to be. In fact the common denominator of most of his dubs seems to be subtlety and sounding very natural. The Weathering Continent is no exception. It’s a very natural sounding. The one dub he directed that is an exception of course is the indredbly funny and over the top Ninja Nonsense. Which I think is one of the funniest shows and dubs out there, period. Sinterniklaas also stared in the recently released Sky Crawlers, which was anotherr dub that relied on subtlety, oddly enough (I’m not sure if he directed it or not, since Sony never released the English Staff credits). Long story short, the dub on this is worth listening to.
All in all this is a very simple film, yet very atmosphere and engaging . It’s almost completely unknown, and that’s a real shame since it’s worth watching at least once. The production values are impressive , and the dub is great. The characters are likeable and interesting, although the main villain is a bit generic. The first time I heard about this film was by watching Grumpy Jii-san’s Youtube video review of the film. His review got me interesting in the movie and I was planning on buying it online one day. But I put it off, and never got around to it. A few months later I was in Media Blaster’s store, Rare Flix, and the workers there suggested this film to me, since I told them how much I liked A Wind Named Amnesia. Since they seemed to think I’d like it, and Jii-san’s review got me interested as well, I bought it. And I’m very glad that i did. Personally I don’t really see the connection with A Wind Named Amnesia, but that doesn’t bother me because I still enjoyed this very much. If you’re itching to watch something a little different, a little off the beaten path and forgotten, I suggest this little film. It might not blow your mind, but it will leave you more then satisfied.