I'll start off with a little background. Origin: Spirits of the Past is a 2006 film by the studio Gonzo and was Gonzo's first foray in to feature films (Previously they've produced series such as the Anime adaption of the Gantz Manga). I stumbled across this little gem when browsing for DVDs in HMV and noticed Origin for the princely sum of £3 - Worth taking a chance on, I thought.
"Long, long ago, there was a seed, which shook the heart of the forest. A Forest Dragon fell from the moon. Man trembled at the Forest Dragon’s red breath. Man cowered at the Forest Dragon’s green tears. Long, long ago, when the Forest Dragon’s tears dried up, man strained his ears to hear the voice of the forest"
|Setting new standards for hentai, Origin manages to tentacle rape an entire planet!|
The story starts out in Neutral City, a growing town built in the ruins of the skyscrapers of the cities of old. Neutral city sits between the forest and the military state of Ragna. Where the people of Neutral City try to live alongside the forest (negotiating with the forests messengers, the tree-like druids, for the forests water), Ragna intends to use military power to bring the forest under control.
One day, a boy from Neutral City, named Agito stumbles upon an old cryogenic stasis pod. Frozen in the pod is a young girl, Toola. Once revived Toola finds it difficult to adapt to a world that seems completely alien to her. She is further distressed upon meeting Agitos father, a man who became enhanced by the forest to help him build Neutral City. Having overused the forests power, he began turning in to a tree. A world of violent trees that attack people, ruined cities and people turning in to trees is too much for her to handle.
|As the apocalypse approaches, a frightened Toola is placed in stasis|
Overall I liked this film. It's similar in concept to Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of The Valley of the Wind. Having seen both, I'd say that Origin is more morally ambiguous than Nausicaa. Where Nausicaa (the character) has a clear belief in humans living in harmony with the Fukai, Toola is much more conflicted. As someone out of time and place it is harder for her to choose between maintaining the tentative peace the people of Neutral City have created and using the power of her time to restore the world as it was.
|The forest with the fractured moon in the background|
Visually, Origin looks like it was inspired partly by Nausicaa (hardly surprising as Miyazaki is regarded as one of Japans masters of animation). The steampunk style of the Ragna tanks reminded me of the live action adaptation of Casshern.
Now the crucial question - to watch in Japanese or English? Having watched in Japanese (with English subtitles) and the English dub I can safely say
Unfortunately, like many Anime films Origin suffers from poor execution. I felt the ending was a little disappointing. Not that I'm saying it was bad, I just think it could have been better.
My recommendation: If you liked Nausicaa or Princess Mononoke I think this film will likely be up your street. If you're expecting something as deep as Nausicaa or Mononoke, you'll be disappointed.