A failed DNA experiment with plants has changed the world forever. Having demolished the moon, the intelligent and aggressive plant-life has spread to the earth and destroyed the human civilization. The few humans that remain struggle to survive, while maintaining an uneasy truce with the restless forest. One day, a villager named Agito stumbles across a stasis unit hidden deep in the forest and awakens a very cute girl from the past. Having slept for the past 300 years, Tula steps into a very different and strange world. The neighboring high-tech village of Ragna is still locked in a bitter war with the forest and when they become aware of Tula, they realize that she is the key to activating her father's final and ultimate weapon of humanity—a weapon designed to totally destroy the forest. When Tula is taken by the warriors of Ragna, Agito makes a pact with the forest to gain the strength and incredible powers to not only save her, but to stop the weapon from destroying both the forest and his village.
Like some bastard child of Akira and Princess Mononoke, Origin is one of the strangest movies I've seen in a while...
STORY - Origin's (I'm going with the English title because it's easier) central theme is the age old man versus nature. What I found particularly interesting though, is the semi-lack of advanced technology and the steampunk-like environment of the movie's present day, even if the conflict was initially caused by the usual advanced bio-experimentation we're all used to. Further intriguing is the fact that the audience is not automatically expected to side with nature in this movie (as is usually the case); because the people
of the post-apocalyptic world are essentially dependent on the mercy of the quasi-intelligent forest, it seems almost as if nature is oppressing humanity. The main idea might still be that humans and nature should strive to co-exist peacefully, but Origin certainly breaks out of mold for this one.
It's also worth noting that technology gives way to something like fantasy in this movie, thus straying out of genre lines. The powers that are granted to Agito are fantastical, and yet remniscent of those given to Tetsuo in Akira (that's so strange), except that they came from a "natural" source -- it's just that nature's been mutated by technology. Makes for a strange roundabout, but interesting, yes?
CHARACTER - Admittedly, I wasn't too ataken with any of the characters in Origin, but I'm more inclined to attribute that to my tendancy to be critical of characters in general rather than the idea that the characters were bad, because they really weren't. They just weren't phenomenal. Agito was an good character with steady development throughout the movie that allowed him to mature into a hero. He had questions, doubts, and uncertainties, but the dedication and ambition to overcome them all. My only real quip is the general goodness of his character and the spotlessness of his morality -- it's just way too easy to make characters like that. Toola was a more interesting character because of that; since she was from the past where technology reigned supreme, she had to struggle with deciding whether she wanted to preserve the status quo or return to what she was familiar with. Conflict is good.
It was also refreshing to see that there wasn't just one character who happened to survive the major disaster. When Toola was first discovered, alone in suspended animation, I was groaning. Japan seems to really like putting girls in boxes, just waiting to be discovered. It was great then, to see that Shunack had been discovered in a similar manner. Of course, the fact that both of these survivors happened to have been important in the past (or at least, had a relation to someone important in the past) is conviniently coincidental, but some realistic sacrifices always have to be made for the sake of story, hm?
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - Origin was a really visually pleasing movie filled with superbly detailed backgrounds and smooth animated sequences. I was especially impressed with how the forest and forest creatures were handled -- details in how water was rendered and how things moved was just awesome. The machinery and pieces of technology also looked great, contrasting well with the more modest environment. Once again, I find that the beauty of the artwork and animation of a movie is one of its strongest points.
MUSIC - Nothing amazing, but still good. You know, the average goodness.
VOICE ACTING - I saw this movie dubbed (because the person I saw it with didn't feel like reading subtitles at the time). It was pretty good, as seems to have been the case for most movie dubs in the last few years. Toola's voice was a bit annoying, but many young, female characters seem to be that way, whether in Japanese or English.
OVERALL - I enjoyed Origin. It surprised me in many ways, which is always a refreshing thing. The story explored a popular theme in an interesting new way, and though the characters could have been a bit more dynamic, they played their parts well enough. And the animation is just gorgeous. If you're a fan of the technology/humanity versus nature stuff, I would definitely check this out.
After reading the synopsis, you would probably think this movie was something for Studio Ghibli to create. And the truth is, it's not just obviously inspired by Miyazaki's [early] works—it feels more like the creators were moved by Laputa, Nausicaa, and Princess Mononoke so much they tried their best to outright rehash their story and some of the characters here. Which, admittedly, was a decision that both made the movie as good as it was, and ironically, hurt it the most.
The similarities are in fact so intense it would be easy to confuse with the aforementioned movies. We have here a remarkably comprehensive reproduction of
Miyazaki-specific clichés, from the brave and selfless protagonist down to a confrontation between natural and industrial civilization (with the usual "we should embrace the nature" undercurrent). Now this doesn't make this movie bad or uninteresting per se, but you have to consider the glaring lack of originality and, perhaps more importantly, proper explanation for many events that didn't quite made sense—up to the point where it leads me to believe the screenplay writer was so obsessed with some aspects of the story they decided to postpone explaining the rest until it was too late to explain anything. It's mildly fun to watch, but not anything we haven't seen before—more precisely, it contains just about zero original ideas, and its only saving grace in this respect is choosing good enough ideas to borrow.
To move on to the better aspects of the movie, let's say the animation is brilliant—and it really is. I would love to see a little more detail in character design, but the rest was very good: lush landscapes, fluidly animated machinery, and everything in general being a treat for the eye (make sure to watch it in HD!). To put it shortly, everything visual was superb—no complaints here.
Sound work was alright, but nothing to write home about. It matched the visuals convincingly and did well to represent them, but wasn't otherwise memorable.
Character development is by far the weakest point of the movie, being next to nonexistent, and the characters themselves are utterly bland and uninspired, as is par for the course in movies like this. After all, many Ghibli characters are easily interchangeable as well (and I'm not talking about their face design here). For that exact reason, and in order not avoid spoilers, I will abstain from any further comments on that part. Let's just say I was completely disconnected with the characters, so there weren't really any moments that touched me or evoked strong feelings towards them.
At the same time I would lie if I said it wasn't an enjoyable watch, either. As a whole, I regard this movie, give-or-take, as worthy of your time if you want to see something reminiscent of the classic Ghibli output... On the other hand, you'd probably be better off watching the actual Ghibli movies instead. Yeah, go do that.
Having heard great things about Origin from various sources, I jumped at the chance to purchase the DVD cheaply on Amazon. When it arrived, I was excited, the blurb on the case leading me to remember the hype when it was first released; 'dreamily beautiful,' 'breath-taking,' 'almost painfully beautiful,' one couldn't blame me for expecting a lot from the film, and I couldn't help but expect a lot, with Neo's feature on the film in mind which compared the film to Ghost in the Shell: Innocence! Now, I'm not an enviromentalist by any means, so I do admit I was skeptical when I
read a lot about the film being heavily involved in such themes, but what the Hell, I thought, a great film will always be great even if I don't agree with its agenda; the Battleship Potemkin was voted the greatest film of all time and it was a propaganda piece for the USSR!
The problem with Origin, however, is that it is NOT a good film. Ignoring my own frustration at the plot's subservience to nature over man (I'll leave this out of the review, but honestly, place a human figure in place of 'the forest' and you have a tyrannical regime that limits resources to retain obedience), the story is disjointed and poorly paced. Rather than the characters developing at all, they are mere mannequins forced into various situations, insanely scaled to advance the plot with no little hint of deus ex machina. Relationships blossom without so much as a word or meaningful conversation between characters, and the viewer is left wondering why, and did they miss something? In trying to pretend its artistic and intellectual value, Origin has missed out on coherence, instead feeling like a rushed project cobbled together from a collapsed series (indeed the story might be better served within such a setting).
This might all be partly forgiven had the film measured up on another count, but the visuals in Origin were nowhwere near as spectactular as I had been lead to believe. The CGI, which in films such as Innoncence fitted perfectly with the subject matter, clashed horribly with the organic design, and the characters were poorly designed, with expressions and shadow seemingly omitted. Most offensively, smoke stacks (of which there were undue amounts in the film) were represented as completely static for the most part, even in lingering shots. This I might expect from a series, but in a feature?
The only element which Origin managed to pin down was the music, which worked well in the admittedly brilliant opening sequence (one feels the critics watched this part of the film and nothing else when writing their reviews). Overall, however, I'm just glad I bought the film cheaply, because if this is the best modern anime has to offer, I'm not convinced. A coherent plot, less static art and adult character design are demanded, especially if a film is expected to live up to comparisons with Miyazaki and Oshii.
Take two of Miyazaki’s greatest classics, "Valley of the Wind" and "Princess Mononoke". Put them in a blender with choice elements of "Titan A.E". and "Ferngully: The last rainforest" pulse a couple of times, strain and call it a film. That is pretty much about what Gin-iro no kami no Agito or Origin Spirits of the Past is.
I have heard that every so often an anime company will try their hand at making a story that is reflective of the works of Studio Ghibli. This is I’m sorry to say is apparently Gonzo’s attempt as well as
Gonzo’s first attempt at making a theatrical film.
It’s hard to find the words for how to describe this film and how I feel about it. I had wanted to like this film and do like it…sort of. Unfortunately this film is also a great disappointment which most people who have seen this anime can attest. Yet while it’s easy to say that I like something or I don’t like something and then praise it or bash it accordingly, I’m going to go out on a limb and also offer some justifiable defense for this film. To be perfectly honest this film isn’t one of my favorites, but it is far from the worst anime I’ve seen. Disagree with me if you wish, but please hear me out.
While visiting the official Funimation website for this anime, I came across a quote from Scifi.com that says “Origin is almost painfully beautiful.” This statement is rather astute on two counts. In the good points of this anime I have found the animation and scenery to be beautifully done all though blindingly garish at moments. The CGI is on par with Gonzo’s standard fair which you may take or leave as you will, and the music by Kokia is astounding. However as beautiful as the music and animation is, the plot is unfortunately quite painful.
Overall the pacing of the story is rushed, the plot is so thin and convoluted that it can give you a headache to even attempt to make any sense of the story. It’s also extremely difficult to even care about any of the characters. I can sort of sympathize with Toola somewhat, because even I would find it hard fathom what it would be like to wake up and suddenly find everyone and everything you knew was gone. However most of the time I wished someone would just run up an smack her one whenever she went into one of her “I want the world to be normal again” moments. So while it is clear this film wanted to be good; and it even tries to be good, the overall story results in an epic fail that no one really cares to watch.
I’m not all together sure that Gonzo had honestly intended to make this into a Studio Ghibli-esc film. It certainly does attempt to contain and promote the messages of environmentalism that is shown in some of Miyazaki’s more prominent works. But it also lacks the depth and drive that made people fall in love with Miyazaki’s classic stories begin with. It feels more that Gonzo was trying too hard into making this into a Studio Ghibli-like film rather then letting it be its own story.
Also the 94 minute length may have been a strike against this anime as a whole. Gonzo did honestly have something with this story and they certainly could have done alot more with it. The plot of the story feels as though it could have worked better as a 12-13 episode series at least. The movie itself comes across as though it expected the viewers to have some understanding of the back story and over-all personality of the characters and the world they currently live in. This leaves the viewer feeling as though they were thrust into a middle of the story with no idea as to what is actually going on. If it had been a series rather then a film, perhaps there could have been more time to explain some of the excluded back-story and concepts that were never explored.