Like the Clouds, Like the Wind
The setting is Ancient China in the year 1607, and the 17th Sokan Emperor has died. The transitional period for the Emperor's son to ascend to the throne is underway. One of the tasks that must be done is to find suitable candidates to become part of the new Emperor's harem, with the most qualified candidate becoming 1st Empress, second only to the Emperor himself.
Ginga, a spunky and outspoken young village girl, hears of the calling for lovely girls and hears that all harem girls receive three meals a nap in the Royal Palace. Naturally, she applies, and despite misgivings from some of the officials, is escorted to the Forbidden City for her training, education, and testing, only to suddenly find herself in the middle of a deadly web of intrigue.
You see, it seems that the previous Emperor didn't die of natural causes, and that his son isn't the one that certain people would like to see next on the throne. Not to mention that elsewhere, a peasant uprising against the Imperial government is steadily gaining strength and momentum. Will Ginga's courage and never-dying hope be enough to save the new Emperor, her fellow harem candidates, and herself as well?
Even though I still have to check on the historical accuracy of this one, Like the Clouds does a more than convincing job of history-telling and delivers a powerful story about loyalty, love, and bravery.
It's not Hayao Miyazaki, true, but it sure could have been. The art and animation are all done very well, and strongly smacks of the Ghibli touch that has confused fans everywhere as to this film's origins. This movie features Chinese anime characters that actually look Asian! The backgrounds set the setting of Ancient China perfectly, and the animation ensures that the battle scenes near the end are convincing and realistic without becoming overly graphic. The soundtrack is much more Asian in flavor than other Studio Ghibli productions (if that's what this one is, too), but given the setting, it makes a lot of sense.
In terms of character design, the outspoken, sometimes brutally-honest Ginga is a character you can tell the producers had a lot of fun with. You'll want to cheer her on as she puts the court officials in their place with her antics and frank opinions. The interplay between Ginga and her classmates is great, and the producers manage to create distinct personalities without making them too flat and one-dimensional (i.e. the vain beauty, the pragmatist, the idealist, etc.). They could probably be their own story just by themselves.
The actual story, though, is intricate and involving with many twists and sudden turns -- just like in real Chinese history. Politics and subterfuge abound as moves against the new Emperor are made in this giant game of Chinese Chess. And in the endgame, it is Ginga who has to make the deciding move to decide the outcome. If the ending seems abrupt and a bit unsatisfying, it's probably because of the historical nature of the movie. No one likes an artificial ending where everything is tied up nice and neatly, especially if there's a "real" ending out there. Of course, I still have to do a bit of research to see if the events in the movie even happened at all.
Even if the historical accuracy is questionable, though, it's still a darned good movie, and one that will make you think even after the credits have passed. If you like history but don't want to sit through all six hours (:-P) of The Dagger of Kamui, try Like the Clouds, Like the Wind out.
Recommended Audience: Some very minor profanity, and some gender discussions in the Royal Palace that just skirt on the edge of being questionable are present. Also, some semi-graphic deaths in the war scenes near the end. Should be okay for pre-teens and above, though.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Like the Clouds, Like the Wind © 1990 Studio Pierrot / Nippon TV
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