Looking Back At A WIND NAMED AMNESIA - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace is taken with the wind.
One of the things that I’m finding about original video animation from Japan that oftentimes benefits it is that it is not afraid to be brief; after Western films that go on for more than two hours, such brevity can be refreshing. Such works, like 1988’s Appleseed, trade length for economy, and use their runtimes very well.

Such is A Wind Named Amnesia, released in 1991. Directed by Kazuo Yamazaki, based on a novel of the same name by Hideyuki Kikuchi. I found it through the recommendations on Amazon Prime, and for that I must tip my hat (and I do wear a bowler hat not infrequently in non-pandemic times) to whoever programmed their algorithm. It’s honestly an incredible film.
Despite being a Japanese production, the film is set in the United States, on a trek from California to New York with a brief prelude set in Montana. The premise is a rather simple one, albeit one with many depths: one day in the future (sometime in the 1990s, as shown by the opening), everyone loses their memory. They lose their capacity to operate vehicles and machines and tools. They lose their relationships, familial and romantic and friendly. They even lose their knowledge of the languages they had known since childhood. The end result is a complete and total apocalypse, where the United States is now a lawless wasteland where life is nasty, brutish, and short.

This film follows two characters who meet in the ruins of San Francisco: Wataru (a name bestowed upon him) and Sophia. Wataru is introduced saving innocents from a rogue military robot, and Sophia is first seen standing on a ledge. It is the relationship between Wataru and Sophia that the film wanders through the implications of this strange event. The two talk a lot about memory and its persistence or lack thereof (albeit with a distinctive lack of melting clocks), and if humanity in all its cruelty and all its benevolence deserves to remember anything.
The plot itself is a road trip through a wasteland, akin to a more sedate Mad Max outside the cities and to Escape From New York in the cities (San Francisco certainly feels like all the criminals of the country have been dumped there and locked in). As you travel alongside Wataru and Sophia, you will see Las Vegas and a purposely-built government city with secrets (and something that will remind you of Appleseed), all heading towards the Big Apple. You really get a sense of just how big America is, and how much bigger it would seem if you have so very little modern infrastructure that is actually well-maintained.

The only major flaw of A Wind Named Amnesia that occurs to me is the presence of nudity in some rather strange contexts. I believe I understand the purpose when it does show up, and I’m reasonably confident that it isn’t mere pornography; rather, it reminds me of how Kim Stanley Robinson writes about sex, with some arcane trail of logic that must appear sophisticated to somebody but feels arcane to those not on its level. For those like me, it can come off as rather uncomfortable and poorly-handled.
But that is but one flaw. At its core, A Wind Named Amnesia is about the utter fragility of modern civilization, and how dependent that civilization is on human beings. We talk of ‘industrial civilization’ and ‘technological civilization’ and ‘digital civilization,’ but all of those are dependent on the human beings who know how to operate them. Human achievements are those of memory and of practice and of discipline and of communication, and this film is about what happens when they are all ripped away from us. We should all be thankful that our memories are for the most part time, and that we should never take them for granted.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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