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Monday, January 21, 2013

Origin, Spirits of the Past. Keiichi Sugiyama (Director) Manga (2006)

The beautiful animation compensates a great deal for a thin story. 300 years previously a disaster struck Earth from the Moon and a humanity is isolated, divided and vastly outnumbered by the great encroaching forest that has taken over the planet. In the outpost of Neutral City which acts the buffer between the forest and the militaristic human nation of Ragna, the people survive by scavenging in the ruins of the human past. Agito accidentally finds a cryogenic chamber and releases Toola who had been frozen inside. Toola crease intense interest in the forest and in Ragna as well as disrupting lives in Neutral city. Ragna has plan to launch a military assault on the forest to reclaim the Earth and Toola's knowledge from the past is vital to their plans. Agito bonds with the forest to gain the power to rescue Toola and the struggle for the future of the Earth is set in motion.
The story is slight and does not have a great deal of force or originality, the plot mechanics are genre staples and the conclusion is unsurprising. Happily the story is by far the least part of the film, it really is a structure on which to hang stunning animation. The cast are a step or two above genre stereotypes, they come have wandered in from a lot of other films without any alternation needed. They serve their purpose well and that is all they have to do, they provide a reason to explore the mind boggling detail and astonishing lushness of the world itself.
Neutral city with is layers of skyscrapers being scoured for salvage, the broken bones of the building poking up from the encroaching greenery joined by a hair raising network of wires, ropes and horizontal ladders is the most exciting adventure playground imaginable. Ragna is a bit more muted, the military machine city is sleek, metallic and futuristic. When the astonishing war machines are unleashed, gleaming with the love and attention to detail lavished on their construction they are a thrill and a delight. There is an unabashed joy in the mechanical and technological possibilities that radiates from each glorious creation.
The forest is the hands down winner for beauty, depth and atmosphere, there is a forceful naturalness to the forest that grounds the whole project. The forest breaths with a life that sits easily within it, the shadows and texture give it force and depth so that the breakout to a mystical expression of the forest mind is not whimsical or cloying. It is delicate and ethereal, a contrast to the solid force of the physical presence of the forest.
There are many aspect to hugely enjoy in this film, great ideas are well used, the mechanics of the scheme to reset the world to defeat the forest have a wild James Bond super-villain grandeur and scope. The story does the minimal task it has to providing an excuse for the joyous art.

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