Hermes - The Winds of Love
It is 2300BC, and the island of Crete strains under the tyrannical rule of King Minos. The people cry out for a savior, and a golden feather falls from heaven onto the town of Sitia: here is born a fair-haired prince named Hermes. 26 years later, Hermes embarks on an adventure to save Greece, win the hand of the beautiful Princess Aphrodite, and begin a new era of mankind's prosperity.
Oh, and by the way, it all really happened.
This film is more than happy to tell you right from the get-go, "This is a true story that happened 4300 years ago in Greece." Hilariously, this is not a parody: Hermes - The Winds of Love is a completely earnest mishmash of tales from Greek history, as seen through the eyes of blissed-out Japanese hippies.
We find out that Hermes, the fair-haired heroic prince of this film (you know he's a hero because he is blonde and often seen covered in glowing golden effects) is actually the reincarnation of The God of Creation Ophealis (sic). (If this is a "true story", then why haven't we heard of this guy before?) What's even better is that Hermes finds this out directly from Ophealis, so essentially at this point, he's talking to himself.
Another funny plot moment comes very early in the film, when Hermes is a baby. We get to find out that King Minos is gearing up for world conquest, and when he finds out about the birth of Hermes, he boasts that he will crush Sitia "in one breath". Then proceeds to do apparently nothing about it for two and a half decades. Now, if you check the distance between the Minoan capital of Knossos and the town of Sitia on Google Maps, you'll find it's only about 50 miles between the two locations. Yup, instead of even attempting a Herod and wiping out Sitia's firstborns, King Minos just sits in his palace and broods, proving he must be the ancient Mediterranean world's laziest wannabe conqueror.
Much of the first half of the film is by-the-numbers heroic fantasy: Hermes has a rescue romance with Princess Aphrodite (notably, neither Ares nor Hephaestus appears in this work), then proceeds to form an alliance with Prince Theseus of Athens in order to defeat Minos once and for all. There's a few interesting battle scenes, and Hermes himself is compelling enough (thanks mostly to the talents of Takehito Koyasu), but there's never really any tension because you know Hermes is going to win every single time. And then suddenly, two minor characters who've shown up in the background through the first hour turn out to be fairies and lead him on a psychedelic trip to the spiritual world. This is the point I'm starting to think that "Happy Science" is in fact pharmaceutical chemistry, but then, I guess, with drugs and pastels, all things are possible, up to and including dayglo coelacanths with halos. We are also told that, as humans have souls, flowers have fairies which determine the color and timing of every flower, which, ironically, is one of the least scientific explanations for botany I've ever heard. There's even a completely superfluous bit about mermaids thrown in for reasons never fully explained.
Then we have one final fight between a now supernaturally supercharged King Minos (living in what is perhaps best described as a Spooky Buddhist Hell Dream) and Hermes, who, realizing he and the God of Creation Ophealis are one and the same, leads a throng of angels to sting him to (re-)death with an angelic arrowstorm, because, as this film mawkishly insists, "happiness makes you invincible". Having "unshakable faith in God" may win the day for Hermes, but unfortunately, it rips out any suspense from the film, and makes him a far less interesting character as any conflict here is external.
It's implied that not only is Hermes destined to reincarnate again (we see him meditating to gain enlightenment and walking on water - not sure you could make clearer allusions without just spelling it out), but at the end of the movie we see the same golden feather from the beginning of this flick fall from the sky onto, yes, Japan. Yup, the man who came up with this whole idea, Ryuho Okawa, is the self-proclaimed reincarnation of Ophealis, Hermes, and, y'know, those other guys.
If anything can be complimented here, it's the visuals, which are fairly decent for a late 90s work - Happy Science threw so much money into this project that not only did they get Toei to animate it, but there's even a 3D sequence with blooming lotuses in the intro, sort of the late-90s animation version of super-bling. The setting is actually period-accurate and based on the then-best interpretations of actual archaeological finds in Crete; it may be idealized some, but the palaces, the villages, and pastures all look like they're supposed to. The animation on the other hand is a bit simplistic at times, and many of the minor characters all look very similar. The music, on the other hand, is fairly dreadful and overwrought, which is particularly dismaying as there's no less than three musical sequences in this film.
So who's to blame here? An easy target would be director Tetsuo Imazawa, who also brought us the incredibly bad OAV Psychic Wars. But I'm not sure even the finest director money could hire would have salvaged the storytelling, nebulously credited to the "Hermes Scenario Project". If anything, with Psychic Wars Imazawa botched what could have been a far better work, but with Hermes, he did the best he could with really off-the-wall material.
We've tackled Greek fantasy before (Arion) and enjoyed surrealistic works (Angel's Egg) but Hermes - Winds of Love not only has the temerity to attempt cramming what is essentially two movies into a single coherent narrative, but moreover, the gumption to tell us "it's a true story". The result is a lot of unintended laughter at the unfortunate expense of the religious organization that has bankrolled and created this whole work.
The best thing I can say in its favor: Hermes may very well be the least wacky entry in Happy Science's filmography.
Taken as a historical fantasy, it's got a few interesting ideas, but as proselytist propaganda, Hermes - The Winds of Love is a remarkable, embarrassing failure. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: There's some violence (scenes of war and the sequence with Minos in the underworld) but it's not particularly explicit. The first scene with Aphrodite has her skinnydipping in the ocean, but it's brief and non-detailed; there's also a topless mermaid with Godiva hair later on. The most disturbing aspect of this film is probably that its creators think it's real; other than that, okay for older children and above.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Hermes - The Winds of Love © 1997 Kofuku no Kagaku (Happy Science) / IRH Press
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