Genres: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
Director: Keiichi Sugiyama
Licensed? Yes (FUNimation)
When FUNimation claims a gem from Gonzo, they put their heart and soul into doing a great job. Origin: Spirits of the Past is a great anime for new fans or people waiting for the next Miyazaki flick.
Origin's post-apocalyptic storyline is easy enough to follow. Years ago, "the forest" became a dragon and attacked from its secret base: the moon! Now, the remains of mankind live in the overgrown ruins of toppled-over cities, trying desperately to coexist with a very dominant and sentient forest. If they do not respect the forest’s authori-tah, the forest will go Swamp Thing on mankind’s ass and steal back the remaining water. Our protagonist, a young boy named Agito, discovers a girl from the past sealed in suspended animation, Toola. Together, they will learn what caused Earth’s drastic shift and discover a way to bring the forest and man together. For hardcore environmentalists, this is yet another film that caters to your self-righteous dogmas.
Origin is a bit of Princess Mononoke without the animals, a bit of Nausicaa without the flying, and has a walking volcano fortress. Thus, something for everyone. It follows a perfect three-act structure, though several scenes and character choices and seem unearned and rushed for the sake of preserving an hour-and-a-half runtime. The visuals are astounding, from tidal waves to the vehicle designs to the encompassing forest, which is as gentle as it is hostile. This film really captures the beauty of a skeletal sky-scraper sheathed beneath a mossy skin. The soundtrack has the heartfelt ambiance you’d expect from an anime aimed at Japanese teenagers. Which is fine for me considering I still think of myself as a teenage Japanese girl.
The American voice acting is superb, and the script matches very well with absolutely no awkward translation errors, so kudos to John Burgmeier’s work. Burgmeier also provides the voice of Shunack, the film’s very believable and sympathetic villain. Great performances also spring from the well of talents in Christopher Patton (Agito) and Carrie Savage (Toola).
Where Origin really succeeds is in creating an original world of decay and growth, destruction and creation. It is particularly effective as a cautionary tale about the corruption of power (both by the forest and man’s technological drive for success.) Frankly I wasn’t expecting such a well-constructed argument. The philosophy of Origin lies somewhere between Transcendentalism and Buddhist detachment from past desires; and oddly enough the difficult dramatic decision lies with both Agito and Toola. Still, in the end, forest equals good, fire equals bad, and drop-kicking a flaming hunk of magma equals badass. This was an all-around excellent visual romp that planted its seed in my heart and took root.