What They Say:
As half of her school’s very small digital camera club, Nao Ueshima is obsessed with taking photos. What’s a bit unusual, however, is her favorite choice of subject: the sky. Unfortunately, when you spend all of your time looking up in the air, sometimes you lose track of where your feet are headed. As a result, some very unusual things start to happen to Nao.
Discovering a cat on top of her favorite rooftop one day, Nao is startled when it suddenly flies away on the wind. Flies, not falls! Even more startling, however, is what happens when Nao falls off the roof herself! Instead of being killed or hurt, Nao makes the most remarkable discovery: there are people who know how to control the flow of the wind! And one of them is one of her teachers! Suddenly school becomes much more interesting as Nao and her friends learn the secrets of everything from Air to Zephyr, and in between they’ll also discover a lot about themselves as well.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only which is in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that goes for a somewhat simple approach overall with its design as it’s mostly all about the dialogue so it doesn’t have to stretch much or do anything out of the ordinary. We get a few whispers of interesting moments with the wind from time to time and that helps to give it a little more unique feeling, but it’s not something that really stands out. It gives it a little more atmosphere overall in the end, but it’s used sparingly. The show has a straightforward design overall but it works and fits with the show and when it was made and it comes across cleanly and clearly without any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episode series is spread across three discs with four on each while the third disc gets five. Animated by Production IG, the show is one with a distinct and loose kind of look about it instead of a strictly defined design and that definitely gives it a lot of appeal. There’s a rough and raw aspect to it that works here in standard definition, though I’d really like to see a crisper and more colorful high definition version to see what more can be eked out of it. The show is one that goes for a soft color palette with some really interesting details in the background and with the way the animation moves the fluidity is captured well. But it is all in standard definition and there’s just inherent weakness in that with a show like this and its style. There’s a fairly regular layer of noise to it which I can’t tell if it’s part of the overall animation or not. The transfer is a decent one overall, but it’s not one that’s going to stand out in a big way though the animation itself is what will cause people to check it out.
The packaging design for this release has it coming in a standard sized DVD keepcase with a hinge inside to hold two discs while the third is against the back wall. The front cover makes it very clear as to the animation style of the show and it captures it well, which for some folks could be a make or break moment for viewers. The front cover goes for a simple color palette here with the soft design and it comes across well in setting the tone of it. The main cast gets their placement here, for the most part though poor Jun finds himself being hauled in by a flying cat. The back cover is a bit more colorful with the character artwork used along the left and that’s definitely appealing when mixed with the white zones. The premise is covered well and we get a few good shots of the show spread about it. The disc and episode count is clearly listed as are the extras. The bottom runs with the usual production credits and technical grid, both of which covers things cleanly and clearly as well as being accurate. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is a very good one with its overall layout and design because of the colors and the general look of it. Each disc uses different character artwork pairings, but it’s otherwise designed the same, which is good. The left side with the navigation has the logo along the top with some vibrant colors while around it and the episode selections we get more of the colors. It’s a very colorful piece with some whimsical elements to it that are definitely appealing in setting the tone. They also blend well with the character pieces on the right across all the discs. The navigation is straightforward since there’s little here beyond the show so moving around is simple and effective with no lag or problems.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from Production I.G. that was directed by Junji Nishimura, Windy Tales is one of those projects that we don’t see much of these days. The show was made for the Animax service and it was shown on it from September 2004 to February 2005, which had it on a semi-biweekly scheduled. It’s also a show that eschews the usual design aesthetic for something a bit more interesting. There’ve been a few shows that work a similar design over the years so it’s not something that I’m unfamiliar with and there’s a lot of appeal with it. Most have been more focused on experimental kind of storytelling and Windy Tales doesn’t quite go that far with its story, but it still uses it well for what it wants to do here.
The show is at its core a slice of life series revolving around a small group of middle school students. Its primary focus is on that of Nao and Miki, the main and mostly only members of the Digital Photography Club. Over the course of a year, we see them going through some familiar stories that come from being of this age though it’s only towards the end that it really moves forward through the time period. The two girls are pretty good friends and there’s a nice ease between them that makes them enjoyable to watch, especially with the expressive faces that they have through the draft style animation. This look really does set a special tone for the show that draws you into it because you feel a different kind of connection to the cast as it unfolds.
While that sets the tone what sets the show with something unique is that there’s a mysterious layer to this world that Miki gets introduced to. While taking a special shot on the roof of the school, she ends up falling over the side only to be gently guided to the bottom towards the end of her fall. She realizes that the wind buffeted her down and that it was caused by one of her teachers, a man named Taiki. Taiki, it turns out, is a wind user that comes from the Wind Village. He reveals how there are different types of wind and that there are people around the world that manipulate it. Some are stronger than others, but there’s also a sense that anyone can be a wind, user. The girls introduction to this world draws them in all the more though Nao tends to be a touch stronger with it and a bit more interested. The exploration of wind users isn’t deep or rich, but we do get a decent episode that shows that village and some of their particular traditions.
What Windy Tales seems like it might be is a show about burgeoning wind users and their experiences with it. But it doesn’t really follow that path all that much as the girls that are involved with it mostly self-train and almost play at it more than anything else. Nao gets a little help from another girl named Ryoko that often comes to the roof and uses the wind herself, but it’s still something that’s more about the mood rather than the wind. When it does use the wind it either goes for simple things, such as the cats being floated around or a flying squirrel that gets a bit of additional help from one of them. A later episode brings dreams into play as visions where they view the wind as a whole lot of cats to represent a snowstorm that may be coming. I really like the visual design for the wind in general with the line work and some of the colors that are used from time to time, but the show really underuses the wind overall in favor of the character stories.
And those stories certainly aren’t bad but they’re nothing that really stands out in a big way either. The relationship between Nao and Miki works well, but things feel looser and less defined with Ryoko. There’s some fun with Jun when he’s introduced and Nao realizes that he’s really interested in Miki as opposed to her, but even Jun is largely a side character outside of one episode. And that’s a really good episode at that as it has the group investigating some photos they find from the prior club and want to return some of them to their own. Discovering Jun’s connection to it is adorable and seeing the way the trio interact with each other humanizes all of them in a good way. Each of the characters gets material like this, to varying degrees, but it’s still all about Nao. Sadly, Nao doesn’t have all that much going on and just feels a little too introverted and self-absorbed about what’s going on with herself to really connect with the world. She tries to do that with her photography and that helps but it never really goes anywhere or says anything.
Windy Tales is a very under the radar show that, upon its being licensed, few recognized it. That’s unfortunate because from an animation perspective and with the people involved with it, it’s a series that’s certainly worth seeing. The visual design is one that’s quite appealing to really see how it all comes together and what’s involved though I’d love to see it in higher quality to dig into it more. The story is one that has its own particular appeal though I suspect it might play better if it’s spread out a bit instead of being marathoned. I like a lot of the elements of it with what it wants to do but in the end it keeps to being a slice of life character piece and avoids providing enough with the wind users, an area that left me wanting to know a lot more. It’s definitely a show to check out overall though simply because it does do things differently and it has its own kind of magic.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles Clean opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 28th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.