The Wretched is a 1973 Japanese anime film directed by Isao Takahata and written by Satoshi Kon. Airing in the original Japanese with English subtitles, The Wretched was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature and Best Special Effects. It's also been credited with being one of the first anime films to be banned in North America.
Just as the title implies, a young man receives a terrible sickness and dies shortly after his return home from a trip. However, his spirit can no longer be restrained by the deadening shackles of death and follows a derelict soul out into the world on a quest for a lost love. This movie is about true love and the conflicts of giving it.
By the time the Wretched takes place, Japan has been occupied by the Allied forces. Some believe the war is the cause of all evil and The Wretched is a powerful allegory for all wars. On the other hand, some see it as a satire of the so-called Imperial Japanese Army that ruthlessly slaughtered many non-combatants during the war.
The title character is The Sick Hero, a soul plagued by the spirit of an innocent victim. The two are in pursuit of a teenage girl who has escaped her abusive home and took refuge in the forest. For The Sick Hero, the girl is the sole cure for the terrible sickness that destroyed his life. The sick hero knows that a soul like hers can exist only within the earth, yet he cannot resist the call to travel outside and seek her.
For the girl, the inevitable consequence of this act is the loss of a beloved father. With her father gone, she is forced to flee into the forest to find herself. But where to?
The Wretched brings to light the ways in which violence, even when perpetrated by those we would consider innocent, can affect the peace of the world. The Wretched is indeed a true meditation on the way we treat the world, ourselves, and our fellow man. The movie showcases how peace of mind will be won only by searching for happiness within oneself and the world around them. Like anything else worth having, happiness cannot be found instantly; there must be a true sacrifice to be made in order to find happiness.
In addition to providing insightful movie commentary, the video clip of The Wretched playing in the background of each scene also provides a chronological overview of the story of the movie as it progresses. It includes lines by the villainous Father (Akio Ohtsuka) and features brief English subtitles. It also includes the full theme song sung by the band Fumio (Miyo Miyagawa) and Masashi Hamauzu (Kazuhiro Wakabayashi). The only characters in the movie that do not have subtitles are the school girls and the wise old rabbi (Yasunori Masutani).
If you are a fan of anime films and movies, then you should definitely watch The Wretched. The experience will remind you of your childhood and refresh your memory of all the great anime films of the past.