After reading some recommendations of Angel’s Egg, then scanning the previous site review and still not grasping what the show is supposed to be about, I figured the only way to find out was to watch it. In short, Angel’s Egg’s biggest attraction is that nobody has a fucking clue what it means. And having just completed it, I still don’t.
I can describe the string of dreamlike sequences, if you will, the waves of creepy sounds like bizarre new age music that accompany it, and I can announce that it’s a work by Mamoru Oshii who directed Ghost in the Shell. Heck, I can at least say that I liked it. But I could never define it for you. Ever seen Cat Soup? Try defining the plot of what is purposefully a plot-less creation.
At the heart of the narrative is a small, spectrally white girl who wanders the alleys of a nightmarish city crammed with deep looming shadows and tall imposing buildings. She appears unafraid and is seemingly used to her bereft surroundings. What really catches the eye, however, is that giant egg she keeps protected beneath her dress, making her look disturbingly pregnant. Maybe she stole it from somewhere; maybe she’s taking it someplace. At a crucial point she meets a warrior whose dead eyes (which he promptly fixes on the egg) hint at a soullessness that contrasts with her glowing innocence. Their relationship is understandably antagonistic at first and full of mistrust, and the anime leaves the viewer to decide what keeps them travelling together. Interwoven through this highly abstracted narrative are overt themes from the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, with the warrior quoting Genesis 6: 6-7, 7: 4 and fragments of chapter 8.
Being a singular show of immense creative wealth, I can only judge Angel’s Egg against itself. Either the story deserves a rating of 1 because there is no coherent plot or it deserves 10 for being captivating and original in the fullest sense. It is perfect and whole as it is but I cannot recommend it to everyone. Moreover, at over an hour of running time, this is a lot of ‘nothing’ to digest – most arty titles (Comedy, Cat Soup) keep things brief and frivolous whereas Angel’s Egg insists on slow and sombre development. This will no doubt put some – nay, most – people off, but for patient viewers with fringe tastes it will prove a rewarding sojourn for the senses.
Actions speak louder than words, which explains why Angel’s Egg is so expressive. To know what the characters feel, watch their faces; to understand their discourse, read their body language. Moreover, stylistically memorable, emotive and eerily beautiful, Amano Yoshitaka’s (Final Fantasy, Vampire Hunter D) designs offer incredible sequences of challenging scope.
Voice acting? What voice acting? A full twenty-five minutes pass before anyone utters a word, and afterwards the characters are defined predominantly by oppressive SILENCE. What little dialogue there is, though competent, merely fills necessary gaps in the story that cannot be told through animation. That is all.
Nonetheless, the wealth of other noises in this show is incredible. Be it water dripping creepily into a beaker or rich orchestral themes, each sound leads to a more powerful emotional experience than the spoken word ever could.
The protagonists are nobodies. The girl with the egg is simply a girl with an egg. The warrior with the sword is simply a warrior with a sword. They talk to further the plot, their faces express appropriate emotions at the appropriate time, but beyond that they have no relevance. Asking what they want and where they are going is a fruitless exercise. Moreover, it’s irrelevant; even the characters themselves proclaim not to know their identities. Their lack of purpose doesn’t seem to bother them, however, and in light of the numerous fascinating questions the story throws up to compensate, me neither.
Essentially senseless, Angel’s Egg spurns ordinary analysis in favour of subjective interpretation. It is far more interested in prompting questions within its audience’s mind than offering a rational external plot. As such, any attempts to define it will necessarily fail. Still, having absorbed every detail of the movie and finding its overt existentialism thought-provoking, what do I actually think it means? Well, my guess is rebirth. What’s yours?
One name: Mamoru Oshii. Between directing and creating, the man who brought about such great animes as Blood+, Ghost in the Shell, and Urusei Yatsura, this was one title I could not pass up. I went into Angel's Egg expecting something very thought-provoking and, to say the least, was blown away by the depth this anime delved. To state bluntly, those who do not enjoy philosophical thought or anime with little dialogue may want to stop reading now and move on to something else. For those still interested, please read on.
Story: Within the first five minutes, in between the interesting things happening, you are introduced to the two main characters. You see a male soldier holding what appears to be a cross-shaped item and a white-haired young girl with an egg. The nameless characters eventually meet, but with two different agendas. The girl seemingly asks the man for help protecting the egg, while he tries many times to destroy the egg, but we are left with the thought that he may or may not have had a change of heart. The rest of the story follows these two travelling and the girl trying to find a safe place for the egg. I will leave the ending for you to watch and see what happens, as it is quite interesting and I do not want to spoil it.
On the surface, it seems a very weird story that makes absolutely no sense, but if you take a deeper look at the story, you will see a very existentialist story with a slew of meanings everyone will interpret differently. Although there was not an obvious plot, I gave this a ten because the undertone of the story was incredible and I was drawn in to what Oshii was possibly saying. The thoughts ran deep for me, giving me much to think on.
Animation: Angel's Egg was released in 1985 and the animation for the time was excellent. Most of the story is based on the actions and reactions of the main characters to each other and their surroundings. The animation had to be well done, especially with facial features, so the ideas of the film could be conveyed. The backgrounds and foregrounds were beautiful. While they were not vibrant in colors, the animation gave off all the right emotions to become involved in the story. I gave this a 10 because of exactly the reasons I stated. I was completely drawn into the emotions swirling all around.
Sound: The sounds used were just incredible. While the main characters spoke no more than a couple times, there were very little sounds, and little use of music, the sounds and music were used at the appropriate times to provoke the greatest emotions at the most critical times. What people will notice is the extreme amount of silence and may find it a downfall of the film, but I firmly believe it is one of this film's greatest assets. It is used to show the audience how the silence seems to be there, crushing down on them, threatening to swallow their very existence. Sometimes silence is the best sound. I gave the sound a 10 because of how hauntingly, chillingly beautiful they were, when used. The music was also very beautiful and worth listening to.
Characters: I had a hard time trying to give this a definitive number, as the basis of the story is not around whom the characters are and what their back-story is, but how they respond to the environment around them and what the final outcome of their actions is. It is true that these characters have very little plot to them and there are people who find that a problem, but this is one of those rare stories that character development is not necessary for the enjoyment of this story. I finally settled on a 6. As stated previously, there is no name or plot to the main characters, but at the same time, I do not feel it is needed, though many will disagree.
Overall: This review has become a bit long and I apologize, but this is one film that cannot be easily summarized no matter how well you try, so I will try my best. The philosophical, ideological, and emotional thoughts and feelings provided by this film are intense. While many may dismiss this film because it does not make sense, I implore everyone to take the time to watch this film and judge for yourself. I do recommend that you watch this when you have time to sit through it and think about what you are seeing. You will be amazed at what ideas flow from this old, but ingenious film from one of the masters of anime.
I was not enlightened enough to understnad and enjoy this anime. So, from the viewpoint of one who simply went "the hell is going on?" throughout the entire anime, enjoy this review.
Story: I think it's supposed to be an allegory for Noah's ark, but it could be dissing the fishing markets of Japan. Or it could just be the story of a girl with a magic egg. All I know is the story didn't click with me, I felt bored for the first half, and my brain still feels a bit fuzzy.
Animation: This is some truly lovely animation. I enjoyed the contrast between the main character's white hair and pale pink dress, and the dystopian dark blue that shades her world. Some of the animation parts don't make a lot of sense, but that's more of the story's fault than the animators'. The only issue I had with the animation is that the characters' eyes look like they are either stoned or as done with the story as a bored teenage girl.
Sound: Sweeping music, matches the tone of whatever the story was trying to cconvey. The voice acting comes in short bursts, but I didn't have much issue with either seiyu.
Characters: There are two of them, they are unnamed, and for the most part, they are only instruments of whatever story the anime was trying to convey. They, as characters, are unimportant. A lot about them goes unexplained.
Is this worth watching? Not really. It's pretty and all, but there are much better movies to watch.
This Review brought to you by the DAMC
What I Liked: The attention to detail in the animation that shows off Yoshitaka Amano's artistic mastery. Sound design is absolutely perfect, and the score is impressive. The eerie mood that seeps into everything. The character and set designs. There's a lot of symbolism and metaphors to interpret.
What I Didn't: It's a very slow movie, even at 70 minutes. The score can sometimes be a little overbearing. Characters are nothing but simple passive vehicles for moving the plot along. Some facial animations look a bit...goofy. There's a lot of symbolism and metaphors to interpret. Plot is left (deliberately) sparse.
Final Verdict: There's quite a bit to unpack from Angel's Egg, and to take it at face value is to dismiss the wealth of detail hidden within. While its ambiguous nature may come off as pretentious to some viewers, there's no denying that this is an visually immaculate and aurally stunning piece of arthouse animation - even if it is a little slow and somewhat hard to digest.