Wow. Could a movie try any harder to be Princess Mononoke? I don't know, but Origin: Spirits of the Past is up there with the most desperate of them. The story is strictly speaking no less sophisticated than a Miyazaki feature (in my opinion, his core ideas are simple enough) and the themes, details of the world, and overall feel of Origin are similar to Mononoke. However, the delivery is half-hearted at best, with mediocre plotting marring the entire process. Moreover, the actual writing suffers from lack of any real tension and the characters are as flat as a wall (and roughly as interesting too).
I found a scene often began with great promise, but then reigned in the tension just before it could build to an engaging level. Every time a problem arose, it would be dealt with in an efficient manner, as if the film was more concerned about reaching the end than taking the journey. For example, Agito eventually develops in an interesting way, but what should have been a cool idea comes off rather poorly simply because he never earned that development. Most heroes go through some trial or other, something to mark their passage from green youth to determined adult, yet Agito has his ‘maturity' handed to him. Even worse, the end battle is not exempt from this affliction - it is so easily resolved, with such lacklustre build-up, that it made me question whether the story was worth telling in the first place. For all the sincere promises Origin makes, for all the greatness it tries to reach, it really doesn't deliver. Let's just say that by the end, I really wasn't that bothered.
The production values are of the highest quality, which is to be expected of a 2006 feature. Origin presents the kind of world where the backgrounds are everything; I was wholly impressed by the intricate shadings, the crisp textures of the moss and rocks, and the CG water effects. In fact, the opening sequence of tree-dragons rushing towards a planet is a good example of the kind of graphics you can expect. Unfortunately, the humans are treated with less affection, even to the point where they are rendered less sharply than their backgrounds. When Agito stands still in front of a mossy wall in broad daylight, the difference becomes stark. Also, for some reason, Shunack has awfully drawn hair compared to the rest of the movie; it looks like someone dropped a bucket of white paint on his head.
The concept of extraordinary plant life existing alongside humans is done quite well, although not as inventively as in series like Jyu Oh Sei. You'll find a lot of lush greenery, but most of it doesn't look that different compared to the ordinary stuff we find in real life. Also, the idea of Toriyasdy, Shunack's usual haunt, being juxtaposed to Neutral City in the sense that it's packed with fumes, bland, cold, and industrial (a bit like Iron Town was to the forest in Mononoke) wasn't explored in enough depth to make an impact.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned, Origin has two good moments; the first is the haunting opening theme, and the second is the melodic ending theme. They aren't fantastic compared to other singles on the market, don't get me wrong, but they do stand out more than the other Origin tracks, which are suitable but not noteworthy. Shunack's gravelly voice was the most unexpected in a positive way while the rest were neither awful nor brilliant, just average. I can't say much else, really; they all had that soft spoken tone that you find a lot in Ghibli films.
Agito is your very typical adventurous boy hero with simple prospects and simple concerns. Of course, by the end, all that youthful exuberance has matured into genuine strength, so he speaks with more assurance, wears the determined frown more often than the wide-eyed gaze etcetera, etcetera. He's not memorable in the least, not in looks, not in temperament, not in terms of voice, not in actions. The only thing I could say intrigued me about him was the problem he had with his father, which was truly a unique situation, but one which was not expanded on because the story had no ambition. At one point, Agito actually started to get irritating - when he runs around in search of Tula shouting her name over and over again - because his intense concern for her comes pretty much out of nowhere. The movie doesn't give the two enough chance to build a particularly deep friendship, never mind a romantic bond, so his life-risking behaviour comes across as rather illogical.
Tula is kind and quiet and passive, and just everything you'd expect from a mysterious girl woken up by an urchin boy. I have seen characters like her so often that I now foster outright distaste for them. Usually they have blue hair, are non-human in some way, and need to be taught like babies how to live in ordinary society. They're often cute with massive eyes, linked directly to the central mystery, and speak in insipid voices that are like rasps to my ear drums. Well, leave out the blue hair, and you have Tula in a nutshell. Bland and predictable, there was nothing worth learning from her. The most she contributed to the story was to be the daughter of someone important.
Even less can be said about Shunack, Yolda the Neutral City leader, and the rest of the minor cast. They all fulfil their role dutifully, with no real enthusiasm, no ingenuity, and certainly no originality. Shunack does get a twist to his past (of course) but it adds nothing to his (lack of) personality. Lastly, the biggest disappointment of the movie is the way it skims over the forest people who appear to dominate the lives of the humans in the beginning. We learn that they don't like humans taking their water and that they have great powers, but what about their culture and how it fits with that of the humans? What about their beliefs about the world? Where do they get these magical powers from when they're supposedly, well, plants? Here we have a rich source of ideas which was left frustratingly untapped.
I like the post-apocalyptic genre and thats why the story got a 6. I really disliked the story-line. I wanted the world to return to it's former self the whole movie. I mean seriously, who wants a world where humans are ruled by trees... I know I sure don't.
On another note, I felt that half of Agito's lines were, "TOOLAAA!!!!!!" As well, I felt that Agito was a Poser who couldn't do anything even with superpowers. And Toola was a super fickle character (or "dynamic" as some of you critics will say), I mean, 90% of the movie she was dead-set on restoring the past world and sharing it with everyone, but the last 10 minutes of the movie, she suddenly realizes it's bad when Agito turns into a tree.
The soundtrack wasn't bad, it just doesn't suit my taste.
Overall I give it a 5/10. Maybe because my expectations were high. But maybe because the bad script writing and bad plotline.
P.S. I want those shoes Agito has. Apparently they allow him to run over molten lava. =P
I've recently decided to expand my list of anime movies watched and unfortunately I've come to realize that anime movies may not be the best idea. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of anime movies that kick ass and for the most part if the movie is in conjunction with a series it tends to do better in my eyes, however this anime movie fell prey to what I like to call Cram and Suck Syndrome.
The whole concept of this movie actually had great potential. It's a pretty standard post-apocalyptic nature vs. humans storyline which normally amuses me most ardently. The problem with this one is that this gigantic plot concept was smashed into what, an hour and a half or so and simply didn't have any time to develop. A cute, fuzzy caterpillar that could have turned into a beautiful butterfly was rushed and morphed into a disaster. The characters were rushed and never properly introduced and I didn't really feel any hatred towards the antagonist who was supposed to be destroying the world and all the characters that you had "fallen in love with". It just wasn't there. I NEED to be emotionally involved with the characters I'm watching to really get anything out of a story and by the time the movie started wrapping up we were still in the "just friends" stage. Simply put, it was all there but definitely not played out right.
Pretty good, or at least not bad. Standard animation that needed a really good story to pull it through. I probably would have been more impressed if I had like the movie as a whole better but it is what it is. Again, I feel like the potential was there with the plants and magic and stuff but it just didn't like up to my expectations I guess.
Truly the best part of this movie is the first four or five minutes that the opening theme is playing. I had read a few reviews before watching and everyone kept talking about the intro theme and how ridicicool it was...it was pretty ridicicool. Also, the rest of the tracks played as background or what not were good as well. It's rare that I rate sound above all else, but honestly that's pretty much all this movie had going for it.
So again, it simply fell short. This characters had potential, a young guy and a young girl from different times have to ban together to save the world...picture perfect anime plot yes? The problem again was that there was simply no time to develop the characters and you didn't feel anything for them or against them. The magic users could have been cool, the not annoying girl could have been not annoying and the druids...well they could have done more than just stand around, but they were an interesting concept and nothing happened with them.
A little harsh? Perhaps. Worth watching? Meh, sure. If you have an afternoon and feel like expanding your anime movie list like me, sure good ahead, just don't expect much. If you're like me or have a similar reaction you'll probably feel sad by the end and mourn another potentially great idea wasted.
Another time, another review.
Secret Santa Review!
I didn’t know a thing about this one before setting down and watching; I suddenly had loads of time on my hand after finally having handed in semester project (AWWW YEAH), so I just got to it. I should do that more often – it was a good, relaxing experience.
Origin: Spirits of the Past
Sometimes, you watch a movie and have a certain feeling about it without being able to explain why. This is how I feel with Origin: Spirits of the Past.
It’s a well-known theme, the plot develops without any major surprises and, of course, we’re rooting for the main protagonists throughout the whole movie. So, I’m not really sure if this is especially good compared to other movies or not – all I know is that I simply liked watching it.
There are so few important people to the movie it seems kind of lonely, Toola (female protagonist) seems overly confident in a person she’s just met, and the villain seems to “suddenly understand everything” way too easily :p All these things might be the reason I felt it was such an easy-going movie, but at the same time, when you’re used to watching anime-series, you sort of expect thorough explanations on everything before the plot starts developing.
However liking it the first time, I’m fairly sure I won’t enjoy watching it the second time as much: I might get bored. This mostly says something about the style of the movie, but it shouldn’t scare off anyone.
Give it a try! :)
what a terrible anime, more to be discussed in video review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-SCNS3lLMM