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.
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.
Angels Egg is the most beautiful and profound anime I've ever seen. It may seem random and confusing to some viewers, but it contains a very powerful message. From the reviews I've read it seems Mamoru Oshii gets most of the credit. But there is a certain charm and "warmth" to this film that is only possible due to the style of co-creator Yoshitaka Amano. Although there is little dialogue, the atmosphere and pace of the story carry it along wonderfully. Though, there will be many viewers who see the movie as "slow" due to the lack of "action". Everything in this film works together in harmony. It is a very haunting film - one of the few animes that I have seen multiple times and will see again in the future.
*This review contains spoilers, though I'd like to acknowledge that I personally don't think it matters at all when you see a movie like this*
Fundamentally speaking, Angel's Egg is a movie with such an abundance of eccentric metaphors and symbolism that every individual will make his own subjective interpretations based on the minimal amount of clues that are given. In the end, realizing that there are no true answers to be found is as frustrating as it is sorrowful but, admittedly, I have a profound feeling that the plethora of varying theories regarding its true nature becomes Angel's Egg true beauty.
In a gloomy and desolate city, a little girl wanders throughout the abandoned streets with a mysterious egg neatly placed underneath her clothes. She runs into a swordsman traveling in solitude and they end up visiting a bizarre and gothic place where the girl seems to live. Many questions are raised, most prominently regarding the contents of the egg, but also what has happened to their flawed memories and conceptions of identity.
Mamoru Oshii has created a story that progresses at an almost alarmingly slow rate. Several frames are present on the screen for more than a minute each without any form of dialogue or change to speak of in a fashion that's far from as annoying as it should be. Where the infinitely abstract story momentarily fails to impress you, these moments are where the true narrational strength lies. Said strength can be defined with the use of one single word: mood setting. The pacing is extremely slow, and the lack of a concrete story may strike some as unappealing, but few will deny that Angel's Egg exhibits a gloomy and ominous tone that few other titles can match.
This is the first time I've seen anything produced by Studio Deen differ so fundamentally from the norms of Japanese animation. Angel's Egg does not only boast high production values, but also a fluidity as well as a visually splendid tone that excels at staging gothic streets in an abandoned and lonely world. This benevolent creativity as well as the beautiful character designs results in a memorable ride that outshines most modern titles, not objectively but artistically.
Just like the characters themselves, the voice acting for each role is of complete irrelevance. Angel's Egg relies heavily on facial expressions to express the relatively muted amount of feelings and thoughts the characters may have, and dialogue is rarely put to use.
As dull as it may sound, this reluctance to rely on verbal communication is actually one of the movies' greatest virtues that acts in accordance with the otherwise melancholic touch of the narrative and visuals. With music of such extravagance, and a plethora of suggestive sounds though, you don't need to worry at all; the soundtrack is haunting and creepily effective.
One word can sum up the characters; irrelevant. Besides the metaphorical parallels one might draw from the non-existent characterization, the story follows a girl and a swordsman. That's all there is to it, and as such, giving a rating in this section seems both futile and impossible.
Personal interpretation (entirely subjective):
The swordsman recites the story of Noah's ark for the girl and radiates a curiosity to know what's inside the egg. In the gothic depths of the mysterious building that the girl seems to inhabit, a tree is carved into the wall and strikes him as familiar. He then proceeds to say that he remembers the tree from somewhere but acknowledges that it's been so long that he cannot remember where and how it was. He even states that it might have been in a dream but mentions that the tree grows by consuming the life within the earth. At the top of the tree there is a mysterious bird that is directly linked to it, and in the same building there is a huge skeleton of a bird that the girl presents to him.
Later on, the girl mentions that she found the egg and believes that it contains a bird (that might be the direct reincarnation of the bird from the legend of the tree) and this causes the swordsman to steal and destroy the egg from her, despite having promised not to harm it. Why does he do this? I have two theories:
1: His intentions are merely to find out the contents of the egg. He mentions earlier on that one cannot know what lies inside it if one does not break it.
2: He believes that the bird in the egg is a direct reincarnation of the bird that shared a connection with the life consuming tree. He believes that if it is allowed to hatch, the tree will once again begin to consume the life of earth.
When the girl learns of his betrayal she runs out and ends up falling from a cliff in either a suicide or an accident. It's possible that the egg represented child-bearing, as the girl used to carry it around underneath her clothes which made her look pregnant. As she falls from the cliff she spots another version of herself that resembles a woman more than a girl. This might indicate that the egg represented her childlike innocence which was crushed by the then antagonized swordsman. This allowed her to perform a process of maturity that ends up producing a huge number of new eggs that gives further credit to the thought that the original egg might symbolize the virtue of child-bearing.
This is all I've got right now as I really need to think more about the ending and eventually re-watch it.
I was skeptical at first since these animated eccentricities usually attract the love of art-house lovers but fail to provide a more broad appeal. I ended up loving it though, thanks to the excellent production values as well as the surprisingly captivating story that opens up possibilities for an endless number of personal interpretations. This is absolutely a movie that gives birth to discussion, and I'd love to see what other theories might exist out there. If you're in the mood for something thought provoking and perplexing, I suggest you go watch it right now!