Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Origin: Spirits of the Past (which is known as Gin-iro no kami no Agito in Japan) was directed by Keiichi Sugiyama, and was released to Japanese theaters on January 7, 2006. The film was released on home video by FUNimation Entertainment.
The film is set in a dystopian society, 300 years after genetic engineering done on trees at a research facility on the moon destroyed the moon and essentially obliterating the societies on Earth. The forest on Earth is ruled by a tree-like race called Zruids; they control the water supply of both trees and humans. Agito is the main character; he, his father, and friends live in Neutral City, which is a city carved out ruined skyscrapers. The city serves as a buffer and a bridge between the forest and a nation called Ragna. While the people of Neutral City co-exist with the forest, Ragna wants to destroy the forest and reclaim the Earth.
One day, Agito and his friend, Cain, race each other to see who can reach the water hole at the bottom of the city first. The boys anger the Zruids, and they separated when they try to escape. Agito finds a large machine with cryogenic pods, and frees a girl named Toola who has been asleep for 300 years. Agito brings Toola to Neutral City, and the Zruids are angered by her awakening. The Zruids are afraid sheíll fall into the hands of Shunack, a Ragna soldier who is also a person from the past. Toola has a connection to the genetic experiments being done on the trees 300 years earlier, and the film explores what happens to Toola in regards to this secret.
In the early part of the film, I was being reminded a bit of films produced by Studio Ghibli. The most obvious similarity is the environmental message that is prevalent in Origin: Spirits of the Past. There were some character expressions that showed up early on in the film that also made me think of the look and feel of a Studio Ghibli production; this was especially evident when one of the characters is grinning mischievously.
As the film progresses, however, the similarities that this film showed with other Studio Ghibli films diminish. One of the biggest differences between Origin: Spirits of the Past and films produced by Studio Ghibli is the fact that Origin utilizes much more blatant computer animation. The computer animation looks decent at the beginning of Origin: Spirits of the Past, but by the time of the final battle, the CG mecha has little to no detail; in fact, the mecha in this scene tend to look more like ďblobsĒ than anything resembling mecha. I can only guess that the studio was running out of money or time for the computer animation, and had to rush this portion of the production process.
Overall, I thought that Origin: Spirits of the Past was a decent film, but I wasnít blown away by it. Itís not a film Iím a rush to watch again in the immediate future. In fact, if Iím in the mood to watch an anime film with an environmental message, Iíd be more likely to choose to watch Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind over Origin: Spirits of the Past.
I watched Origin: Spirits of the Past on the first DVD that FUNimation released for the film in 2007. The first pressing of the DVD only includes the film and trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD was released.
Personally, I would only recommend adding Origin: Spirits of the Past to your anime library if youíre already familiar with the film and enjoyed it enough to want to watch it multiple times.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband and I purchased.