Origins: Spirits Of The Past Review

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I have heard that every so often an anime company will try their hand at making a story that is reflective of the works of Studio Ghibli. This is apparently Gonzo’s attempt as well as Gonzo’s first attempt at making a theatrical film. Take two of Miyazaki’s greatest classics, “Valley of the Wind” and “Princess Mononoke”. Put them in a blender with choice elements of “Titan A.E”. and “Ferngully: The last rainforest” pulse a couple of times, strain and call it a film. That is pretty much about what Gin-iro no kami no Agito or Origin Spirits of the Past is.

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 Origin’s (I’m going with the English title because it’s easier) central theme is the age old man versus nature. What I found particularly interesting though, is the semi-lack of advanced technology and the steampunk-like environment of the movie’s present day, even if the conflict was initially caused by the usual advanced bio-experimentation we’re all used to. Further intriguing is the fact that the audience is not automatically expected to side with nature in this movie (as is usually the case); because the people of the post-apocalyptic world are essentially dependent on the mercy of the quasi-intelligent forest, it seems almost as if nature is oppressing humanity. The main idea might still be that humans and nature should strive to co-exist peacefully, but Origin certainly breaks out of mold for this one.

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After reading the synopsis, you would probably think this movie was something for Studio Ghibli to create. And the truth is, it’s not just obviously inspired by Miyazaki’s [early] works—it feels more like the creators were moved by Laputa, Nausicaa, and Princess Mononoke so much they tried their best to outright rehash their story and some of the characters here. Which, admittedly, was a decision that both made the movie as good as it was. t’s also worth noting that technology gives way to something like fantasy in this movie, thus straying out of genre lines. The powers that are granted to Agito are fantastical, and yet reminiscent of those given to Tetsuo in Akira (that’s so strange), except that they came from a natural source — it’s just that nature’s been mutated by technology. Makes for a strange roundabout, but interesting, yes?

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Admittedly, I wasn’t too a taken with any of the characters in Origin, but I’m more inclined to attribute that to my tendancy to be critical of characters in general rather than the idea that the characters were bad, because they really weren’t. They just weren’t phenomenal. Agito was an good character with steady development throughout the movie that allowed him to mature into a hero. He had questions, doubts, and uncertainties, but the dedication and ambition to overcome them all. My only real quip is the general goodness of his character and the spotlessness of his morality — it’s just way too easy to make characters like that. Toola was a more interesting character because of that; since she was from the past where technology reigned supreme, she had to struggle with deciding whether she wanted to preserve the status quo or return to what she was familiar with. Conflict is good.

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It was also refreshing to see that there wasn’t just one character who happened to survive the major disaster. When Toola was first discovered, alone in suspended animation, I was groaning. Japan seems to really like putting girls in boxes, just waiting to be discovered. It was great then, to see that Shunack had been discovered in a similar manner. Of course, the fact that both of these survivors happened to have been important in the past (or at least, had a relation to someone important in the past) is conveniently coincidental, but some realistic sacrifices always have to be made for the sake of story?

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Origin was a really visually pleasing movie filled with superbly detailed backgrounds and smooth animated sequences. I was especially impressed with how the forest and forest creatures were handled — details in how water was rendered and how things moved was just awesome. The machinery and pieces of technology also looked great, contrasting well with the more modest environment. Once again, I find that the beauty of the artwork and animation of a movie is one of its strongest points. Sound work was alright, but nothing to write home about. It matched the visuals convincingly and did well to represent them, but wasn’t otherwise memorable.

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OVERALL,I enjoyed Origin. It surprised me in many ways, which is always a refreshing thing. The story explored a popular theme in an interesting new way, and though the characters could have been a bit more dynamic, they played their parts well enough. And the animation is just gorgeous. If you’re a fan of the technology/humanity versus nature stuff, you definitely need check this out.

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