Weathering Continent Anime Review
/ Movie / Drama / 13-up
Quality production values ruined by a lame plot and terrible soundtrack.
...A shoujo-drenched Record of Lodoss War crossed with Mad Max, minus the epic.
Kaze no Tairiku
Continent of Wind
US Release By
What's In It
- Cities of the Dead
- Attractive Architecture
- Creative Culture
- Violence: 3 (significant)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 1 (mild)
- Language: 0 (none)
In the distant past the once-proud continent of Atlantis lays dying, ravaged by war and natural disasters that have left only a handful of desperate souls struggling to survive on the desolate land. Through this bleak world wander Lakushi, whose compassion has somehow survived the crushing hopelessness, Tieh, a sage man trained in the arts of magic, and Bois, a quiet swordsman. In this story, their wanderings bring them to the ruins of an ancient city fabled for its wealth, but now perhaps cursed by more than just the bandits who prowl the wastes around it.
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Weathering Continent is an impressive failure; it pairs dark, stylish visuals with a bleak and tragic story about survival and perseverance, but its production quality and the detailed history and design of the ruined city in which it takes place are its only strengths. The characters are otherwise almost devoid of backstory or development, the plot is tired and stretched even thinner trying to fill way too much time, and any mood that might have made the whole thing watchable is utterly ruined by the attractive but incessant and totally out-of-place soundtrack. Sad when one of the only decent parts of a movie actively assaults the rest.
Weathering Continent is the sort of anime that should appeal to fans of nice-looking art, bleak stories, and dark fantasy, but the only people who are likely to actually enjoy it much are fangirls who can't get enough of Tieh and his sad smile and a handful of folks who love the setting and can't hear.
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Based on its style and story, Weathering Continent could have been a lot of things--overblown shoujo tragedy, harsh and powerful dark fantasy, or allegorical social commentary. Sadly, it's best categorized as an unsatisfying fragment of a story blessed with quality visuals and cursed by a choppy, pointless storyline, underdeveloped characters, and a truly awful soundtrack.
Its strongest point as a story is the setting, which also happens to be by far the most developed character: an ancient, abandoned city that is a place with history, substance, and culture. The overall world is also well-established as a harsh, dying land with a palpable sense of bleak hopelessness on par with the best post-apocalyptic science fiction. The wandering heroes seem to know that there is little hope for them or their world, giving their perseverance and relatively upbeat personalities a tragic yet vaguely inspiring undertone.
This is deftly illustrated in a poignant scene that opens the story. In fact, the closeup of Lakushi's parched lips as she gives some of her precious water to a dying girl she knows it will not help is an image that stuck with me long after everything else about the film had faded from memory.
Unfortunately, that's more or less all the compliments I'm prepared to give. The main characters, unlike the ruins they're exploring, are thin on personality and nearly devoid of backstory. Only Lakushi's is touched on at all, and even her background and how it drives her is hazy and underexplained. The other two characters can be almost completely summed up as "Tieh, a very pretty magical monk-type fellow who spent time on a mountain," and "a scarred swordsman named Bois." Seriously, that's it. We aren't even given the courtesy of a voiceover explaining why these people are traveling together or where they're going.
Even if the movie was only intended for fans who already know the characters (which, since it's based on a Japanese novel, will be few), there is still nearly zero character development. The entire plot consists of little more than explaining the history of the ruins and watching a bunch of generic bald baddies get their supernatural comeuppance.
This is illustrated with lots of detailed art, impressive scenery, and creepy settings, along with Tieh posing with wise, knowing looks as only pretty men with long blond hair can. But there's only so far you can stretch 15 minutes of retread plot before the lack of substance starts to overwhelm the attractive visuals.
Surprisingly enough, the story isn't even the worst part of Weathering Continent; that dubious honor is reserved for what must be the worst good soundtrack I have ever heard. The compositions themselves are generally attractive and creative, ranging from airy vocalizing to grand and playful classical themes, and the performance feels expensive and suitable for an epic fantasy story. That's the good part.
The bad part is that as a soundtrack it's more like an assault on the story than background music. Not only is the music obnoxiously loud and almost constant--my ears were begging for some respite by the end--but half of the pieces are wildly out of synch with the scene, utterly destroying any atmosphere that might have been there without it. Long sequences that should have been tense or creepy are paired with a loud and lively orchestra, resulting in an almost comedic dissonance. Even silence would have been a huge improvement--that would have actually enhanced the dark settings and bleak story.
The Japanese acting, or what little there is, is solid, although I thought the main trio were poorly cast. Tieh sounds too effeminate even for a character that gets mistaken for a woman during the story, and Bois a little too baritone for a relatively smooth-looking muscleman. The contrast between the three is good, though.
In all, Weathering Continent is the sort of anime that should appeal to fans of nice-looking art, bleak stories, and dark fantasy, but the only people who are likely to actually enjoy it much are fangirls who can't get enough of Tieh and his sad smile and a handful of folks who love the setting and don't hear well. Calling the story hollow, predictable, and unsatisfying fails to capture just how little substance it has, and the moody tension--all that it has going for it--is ruined by the annoying soundtrack. I can't call it anything but an impressive failure.
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The most similar series is probably the shoujo-tinged fantasy epic Heroic Legend of Arslan, with which this was originally shown; the entire Arslan series, though less bleak, is still dramatic and has a much more satisfying story. For a more modern take on the same style, X and Earthian serve up equally dark shoujo stories (the former being more of a stylistic match). There are plenty of other well-known fantasy series, but none quite as dark as this.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a novel by Sei Takegawa, which isn't available in English as of this writing, so there aren't likely to be many carryover fans. It was, apparently, originally shown in theaters as part of a triple feature that included Silent Mobius 2 and the second Heroic Legend of Arslan feature (ironically both sequels, whereas Weathering Continent just feels like one).
US DVD Review
The DVD's most notable feature is the attractive but oddly oriented cover art (it's "letterbox" style, so to speak, with the spine on the horizontal). As far as actual material goes, the video and audio transfers are acceptable but nothing more, and the only special features are two original trailers. The box also inexplicably claims the movie is twice as long as it is--a completely random "125 minutes" when it doesn't approach half that even including every trailer on the disc.
Rated 13-up for realistic violence and some mature themes.
Violence: 3 - Not overly gory, but several people meet with unpleasant ends.
Nudity: 1 - Nothing of note.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Some implied mature themes.
Language: 0 - Nothing of note.
Available in North America from AnimeWorks on hybrid DVD.
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