Golden Age Theater
Directed by: Kunihiko Yayama
Produced in 1986, the film is also known as ‘Once Upon A Time’ and was produced by the great Carl Macek. Windaria is the only full film release from Kanade Productions, a small studio that released a few OVA and one full series. Fujikawa‘s legendary script writing was the basis of the story, but a rare departure for the prolific Sci-Fi writer of Galaxy 999 and Battleship Yamato. Even the director, Yayama, would become famous mainly for his work on the Pokemon animated series.
Windaria can be seen as the attempt to achieve greatness in one area, by many artists better suited elsewhere. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli could rest easy, knowing that Laputa: Castle in the Sky would come out the same year. Fujikawa needs more time to really explore the ideas he puts forth, and it becomes quite a choppy narrative in Windaria.
A Shakespeare Tragedy
The story is set between two countries on the brink of war, and a peaceful village stuck between them. One pressures and attacks the other, while the prince and princess are in a R&J love story. Oddly, the story marks its focus on a different man, Izu, as main character and the three women that decide his fortune.
Izu begins as a peaceful farmer with dreams of grand spectacle, something fitting of the Princess that catches everyone’s eye, and for his beloved wife whom he adores. He fights for the Pora, the industrial aggressors, and ultimately wins the war. With gold, parties, and women offered, Izu forgets the promise to his wife. Eventually the country has the last woman attempt to kill him, leading him to run back to Windaria and his wife. She says ‘peace bro’ and dies after his return.
While the story is potent, and interesting when it rolls through, the lack of focus really hinders the experience. For 20 minutes, Izu is left bouncing around the industrial city doing nothing and being held back through illogical encounters. All the while, the Prince and Princess storyline anchors the story. After their ending, we return focus to Izu to wrap up his storyline, but it feels disconnected from the early portion of the film. It just didn’t click for me.
The Better Story
While the story is interesting, this journey that Izu takes is overshadowed by the much more interesting story of the Prince and Princess. Their story of love, determination, tradition, cultural pressure, and political obligation is what carries the first two thirds of the film.
I was captured right from the first moments of the Princess’ run to the ocean, right till their deathly meeting in battle.
This felt like the true heart of the film, but was cut up between Izu’s arc to the suffrage of both. Their story is disjointed, with central points being covered but reasoning thrown away. The Prince having to turn from the moral objection to war into the powerless ruler of a war machine, is completely brushed aside in the hopes that we’ll pick it up. The Princess also goes from peaceful lover to desperate heroine with very little to tie it together. I wanted more of this and less Izu.
In the same way, the inclusion of the village and giant tree of Windaria seems almost unnecessary. The delivery of the destroyed ocean city was more impactful than the grassy wasteland of battle. Even the war-torn metaphors are delivered elsewhere, like in the literally titled Forest of Doubt.
Windaria is visually quite impressive, and the musical score was fantastic. Even the story can be touching with the seeds of some very great ideas to explore. Ultimately though, it sacrificed too much of both stories for either to work as well as it should. Luckily, Fujikawa has explored these ideas in his other series with a lot more time to show the details.