One of the things that I loved about anime in the 80s and 90s was that the whole double-feature thing for anime films worked well. You could get a number of solid and diverse films that didn’t try to pad things out in a way that was problematic, giving you some sixty-minute projects that made for an hour of compelling viewing. Often the films that were paired together matched in some ways but we also had others that were mismatched. The Weathering Continent arrived in the summer of 1992 but was part of a triple bill with the second Heroic Legend of Arslan film and the second Silent Mobius film. Can you imagine what that experience was like in the theater at the time? Two distinctly fantasy-oriented projects and one very big science fiction film that was helping to define the early 90s scene while adapting hugely popular 80s material.
The Weathering Continent is based on the novel series from Sei Takekawa which had illustrations by Mutsumi Inomata that ran for twenty-eight volumes between 1990 and 2006. The film came early in the run of novels and it was written and directed by Koichi Mashimo, who directed things like Dirty Pair: Project Eden and would go on to found Bee Train. Now put I.G. Tatsunoko as the studio working on it and you had some real magic happening here. One that, unfortunately, took some time before it was finally released in English as Media Blasters picked it up for release back in 2003. It’s the kind of standalone property that was popular on the fansub market of the 90s that you would have expected to be nabbed quickly as something accessible. It also got some good afterlife, showing on Starz network and Media Blasters had a solid dub from NYAV Post on board for it as well.
The premise takes place in a post-apocalyptic time, but one quite in the past from our perspective. The world has come and gone a few times and we focus on one particular continent that has seen both a height of civilization and now many years after its fall, complete with an ice age and just general all-around destruction. Life is harsh, there look to be only a few people really about and the times are just not happy. It focuses on three characters, Bois the tall, dark, and rugged warrior, Lakushi the almost thief-like but bright and curious character, and then Teeye, the very pretty mage/healer. We follow the trio as they travel across the desert and reach one area of ruins where there should be a well. But someone had gotten there first. Or rather, two groups of someone’s as the first group was brutally murdered and tortured by the second group. The well appears dry and they’re ready to move on, but one of the very young survivors of the first group is still there and mistakenly attacks the trio, thinking they’re the same bandits.
As it turns out the first group was about thirty-five villagers who had left their homes seeking a treasure that would help their poor village. Some bandits found out about it and the map they had and attacked them here, leaving them for dead after finding nothing. We get to know the survivor a bit and the plight of the world from this encounter, but they’re not long for the world and the trio is ready to move on again as there’s nothing they can do. But there’s something that calls out to Teeye and hints at Bois from one of the ruins. We pan deep down inside and there’s the background call of something, something potentially evil and dangerous, but the two sense water nearby based on the fog that started rolling in. All three decide to head into the ruins to see if they can find water since the next potential well is still two days away. And it’s this descent into the dark catacombs and layers of a world long gone where their real trouble begins, combining the dark dangers in there with that of the returning bandits that continue to hunt for both treasure and water.
With its run time of just under an hour, they take the pretty standard story and avoid having it filled with padding or other subplots that would draw things out without really adding anything. Instead, they focus on moving the plot – what little there really is – forward nicely and going through the motions. The bad guy bandits aren’t all that impressive and there’s so little hook with the trio of good guys that it’s hard to feel too much for anyone here, though it’s not so bad as that you root for the brutish barbarian bandit types. There is a lot of good fantasy-style eye candy here in the decrepit and aging ruins as they explore them and some of the moments of magic are well done, but the show moves so ploddingly at times that it’s easy to let your mind wander.
The film is one that in a lot of ways has not aged well. It’s very much of its time and it is, admittedly, a very small sliver of a larger work that I don’t know well at all as it was never licensed. But it is a good look at the kinds of shorter and more direct films that we used to get back in the day that had a solid budget and was able to really inspire the imagination. Seeing this through early comic book conventions and tapes traded around, and coming from a gaming fantasy background like Dungeons & Dragons, this was a fascinating show at the time and is a bit of rose-colored nostalgia now. It’s not going to do a lot for modern fans looking for deeper and more serialized works, but it’s a really interesting and almost lost bit of anime history that was very popular for many years. I also found it enjoyable just to see another aspect of how Nobuteru Yuuki’s character designs evolved over the years into the kinds of things he became a lot more famous for, like Escaflowne and Heat Guy J. There’s definitely a trademark look to his designs that was evident this far back.