Post-Apocalyptic Shenanigans Abound In Origin: Spirits of the Past

Clinging too fiercely to your past

can bring ruin to any future.

Today’s offering is a film that I’d been meaning to check out since I first got into anime (oh so many [five] months ago…) and once again thanks to Netflix I finally got the chance.

Beware the trees! Wait, isn't this already an M. Night Shyamalan film?

Origin: Spirits of the Past centers around a pretty classic conflict in anime: nature versus industry. However, this time it’s the mutated plants who are in charge of things in a post-apocalyptic Earth, and messing with them means no water for the remaining humans, which equals certain death. There are two main views on the current state of things: Neutral City is full of citizens who believe in co-existing with the highly developed plant life, and Ragna is a militaristic city whose main goal is the domination of the Forest in order to have human beings calling all the shots again, just as it was three centuries ago.

Come with me if you want to live!

One fine day two kids from Neutral City, Agito and Cain, have a race to the water supply that is controlled by the Zruids (creepy plant guys). During their boyish hijinks they get separated, and deep within the underground caverns Agito finds a pod containing Toola, a girl who has been in suspended animation for three-hundred years. She awakens all freaked out (naturally, since her world was literally ending all around her when she went under) and Agito takes her home to meet the ‘rents. Yet a warrior from Ragna named Shunack finds out that Toola is awake and marches over to Neutral City with a huge military posse to convince her to switch teams.

So if I join your side, do I *have* to wear this dorky hat?

You see, Toola wears a Raban, which is a fancy necklace from her time that can be used for communication, mapping terrain, you name it (like an iPhone in a necklace, basically). It can also unlock a secret weapon from the past that could destroy the Forest, so naturally the Forest gets pissed off and wants Toola taken out. Agito, however, has developed a sense of kinship with Toola and wants to protect her as well as help her make the right decision and adjust to this new world instead of tearing it apart. Which side will Toola choose? Will the secret weapon be activated? Will plants or humans reign supreme? Watch and find out!

Looks like this dude could use a shower and a shave, STAT.

I enjoyed this anime feature quite a bit. The artwork is gorgeous, which one would expect coming from Gonzo. The humans are done well, but I think that Gonzo really excels at creating lush backdrops for their stories and bringing them to life. The soundtrack was great, very orchestral and dramatic, and actually brought to my mind the soundtracks to all those excellent Don Bluth films from the eighties. And the theme song, “Chowa Oto -with Reflection-” by Kokia is so beautiful and soaring that it puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it.

JNCOs and half-shirts, why'd it have to be JNCOs and half-shirts?!?

On the not so great side, the characters could have been developed a bit more. I wanted to feel more sympathy for Toola, but it just wasn’t there. Agito was probably the most likable character, and well done since he’s one of the main two. There was a fair amount of mecha, which is not my bag at all, but luckily it didn’t dominate the story to an obnoxious degree (and the cool plant people helped even things out.) The brisk pacing was excellent and kept the story rolling right along. Like several anime features that I’ve watched, Origin throws you right into the action and rarely lets up. The film’s running time of one hour and thirty-four minutes really did fly by.

I don’t know how much rewatch value this anime has for me personally, since I really need to fall in love with the characters to want to enter her or his world again and again, but I was thoroughly pleased with my first viewing and would certainly recommend this film. Perhaps some day in the distant future I’ll long to watch it again.

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