Origin: Spirits of the Past is a 2006 movie by studio Gonzo, and just like most stuff they made it turned out nothing more than another rookie work with tons of wasted potential.
Let's have a look at the premise first:
- a post-apocalyptic world covered with sentient forest that was created during a scientific experiment and later went out of control and spreaded across the Earth, wiping out most of human civilization;
- three factions: the forest and its inhabitants; Neutral City, where people put lots of hard work into building a new society and try to find some compromise with the forest; and Laguna, a militarized group that wants to solve the problem fast by destroying the predatory & dangerous forest (which, however, will turn the Earth into a desolate place with no clean air & water);
- finally, a heroine who awakens from slumber in a cryogenic chamber located in an abandoned facility left by her father, the head of that forest project. She becomes the key to the future of the world as Laguna try to pull her at their side while Agito (the main character) tries to stop them.
Although the premise has some very strong vibes of both Miyazaki's Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke which takes some points off the originality, it still promises an exciting story because the crossover between fantasy and post-apocalyptic setting is interesting by definition and because one may clearly see the potentially impressive action & adventure this movie could offer (not to mention the environmental themes). However, it's studio Gonzo we are talking about, and those guys are experts at trashing up almost everything that comes into their hands:
- first, this show displays some unbelievably silly examples of the so-called "anime science". You see, the aforementioned forest experiment was held on the Moon (!) to produce trees capable of growing in harsh conditions. One day, the forest went out of control, cracked the Moon into pieces, flied across the space to the Earth (!!!) like a bunch of giant lianas and somehow penetrated the atmosphere without getting burned down. No kidding: the movie actually opens with the sequence showing all that, and if it makes no sense to you - congratulations, you aren't a Gonzo scriptwriter! Perhaps, they really think plants can grow on the Moon and fly... IN SPACE; or maybe they just had some grass added into their tobacco. Anyway, it looks unacceptably ridiculous for a supposedly serious & ambitious work, not to mention even more WTF moments taking place in the latter part of the movie;
- second, the story is very rushed which means you neither have an opportunity to explore the interesting setting nor get any substantial plot complexity as everything happens in the most primitive and superficial manner. This gets especially bad when dealing with the central dilemma of the story (whether to destroy the forest or to live with it): unlike Princess Mononoke where you could observe both sides of the conflict, understand their viewpoints and see the outcome to make your own conclusion, this show provides very little view from Laguna's perspective and portrays them as typical militarists, factually making them wrong from the very beginning;
- third, when Agito unites with the forest to retrieve the girl from Laguna, he becomes insanely overpowered, and you watch him stop bullets and projectiles, crush trains and rip mechas into shreds, take no damage from explosions, walk on volcanic lava, scream the most shounen way possible and meet people appearing out of nowhere right when he needs them. Again, that looks absolutely ridiculous and boring at the same time because the guy can't lose or even get hurt no matter what;
- finally, instead of a tragic ending that would be logical here you get an ultracorny happy ending [SPOILER] with the protagonist getting magically resurrected, which completely depreciates the sacrifice he supposedly made when accepted the forest powers in return for his life. [SPOILER END]
Overall, the only good thing about the story is the premise which is executed in a rushed, unexciting and nonsensical way.
ANIMATION & SOUND
When watching an environmental fantasy, one obviously expects it to look natural & alive. Here, it looks cold & artificial due to Gonzo's traditional heavy reliance on CGI no matter how unnecessary it is. Aside from that, the movie is quite pretty and even impressive at times, so the animation is very good overall.
As for the sound, I liked the ethnic chants at the beginning and the end. The rest of the music & voice acting is decent yet unmemorable.
Since the story is rushed and superficial the characters also don't get any memorable traits, depth or development, remaining bland & soulless puppets that just do whatever the plot commands in the most convenient way. For example, when Agito obtains the forest powers it's not like he goes through a trial and matures into a hero - rather, he simply has god mode handed to him and then crushes everything in the way. Eventually, the cast is impossible to care about, and you'll hardly remember any name except for Agito's only because it's in the title.
The show's value is close to zero as there are other environmental titles that cover the topic infinitely better; and while the movie's setting & themes are interesting indeed, the premise alone can't possibly warrant a watch when the execution is obviously subpar. So, not recommended.