Origin: Spirits of the Past Special Edition (Viridian Collection) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, September 18, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

After civilization falls to the forests, a young woman now holds the key to restoring things back to the way they used to be.

What They Say
The rebirth of the future from the ashes of the past...

A young boy named Agito enters a forbidden sanctuary where a glowing machine resides. This machine preserves a young girl named Toola, who has a mission entrusted to her from the past. Three-hundred years into the future, the Earth's environment has been ruined by the interference of mankind, and in between the 300 years, the forest has come to life and is at constant war with man.

It is an unsteady peace in an unnatural time. Only by searching their souls and examining the past will Toola and Agito realize the origin of all things and unite mankind with the forest.

The Review!
All the extras here are done in standard definition so they don’t hold up in comparison to the feature itself, but there’s some solid material to be found here. The first and biggest extra is the making of piece which runs just over fifty minutes. They cover just about everything here and it’s something that you usually only see with movies when it comes to extras. Everything you’d want to know about the film can be found in here as it works with just about everyone involved in the production and shows numerous clips along the way. It’s very well done and even if it does have some basic things you see in every documentary like this, it’s still pretty engaging and helps to expand your view of the movie a bit. Even better, they put chapter stops in it! In addition to this we get a few of the TV commercials for the feature as well as the theatrical previews. Rounding out the special edition there’s one more piece. Running about four minutes, there’s a screening preview of footage of the film that was done for the Chinese premier which is interesting. Add in the clean versions of the opening song and the closing piece and this is really quite a solid special edition of value added material.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally titled as Gin-iro no kami no Agito, Origin is a full length feature film from Gonzo that has received some decent acclaim in its various worldwide releases. Revolving around a future controlled by the forest, it has plenty of environmentalist themes but it doesn't play them entirely as a pro-environment movie. As a standalone feature, it proves to be quite enjoyable and has a good sense of pacing and action to it while still managing to be almost all-ages friendly.

Some time in the past, a project for reforestation on Earth goes awry in a test lab in a lunar base. The result is that the forest that erupts there does so quite literally, essentially tearing the moon in half and sending massive fragments to the Earth below. On those fragments there is a good chunk of the same forest which finds itself far easier to adapt here than there. Civilization essentially ends as we know it and mankind has had a difficult time in the intervening years. Ostensibly taking place in the region of future Japan, a small amount of humanity has survived there in a precarious balance.

The forest has overwhelmed much of the land but there is an area where it has not grown much further yet along a ravine. In the middle of the ravine is a fallen city area named Neutral City where three "enhanced humans" have created a life for people who want to find a new balance with the forest. The other side of the ravine though is the realm where the people of Ragna live, people who have managed to use some amount of technology from the past to build factories and other machines to protect themselves. The differences between the two are obvious, though they make much about the way the air isn't as clean in Ragna and that there is so much noise in the factory city that we see. Some of the other differences are a bit more subtle, such as many of the clothes of residents in Neutral City are ragged while in Ragna they have much better material and clothing. It's a small thing but it can make a huge impact.

The balance of life in Neutral City is one that rides on the relationship between the humans and the forest. The forest has taken on an interesting new life in that there seem to be a pair of childlike girls that can blend with the first and are able to use it in almost magical ways. They have a large number of servants with the called Zruids that seem to be either plant-dominated humans or plants in human form that never speak. Most curious though is that outside of them and humanity, we never see any animals or birds which really throws the way you can view the environmentalism of the film. 

What tends to upset the balance is the way some of the younger members of Neutral City play around the forest. We're introduced to Agito and a friend who have raced down in a sneaky way to swipe some water for their parents. This causes a bit of an uproar among the Zruids but it has Agito escaping into an undiscovered lower layer of the old city buried underneath. It's in there that a blinking light draws him in and he unwittingly frees a young woman who has been in stasis in there. Her arrival, one of the latest from the past to do so, is something that the forest fears as she could upset what little balance there is. Toola is able to bring us some views of how the cataclysm happened but her ties are very strong to it.

It's through her revival that we learn of another survivor who awakened five years ago, a man named Shunack. He attempted to live in Neutral City before and even became an enhanced human but with his views of how the world should be, the world of the present was too much for him and he fled to Ragna. From there his plans to restore the world to the way he remembers it, the way he believes humanity should be, is all he's lived for. Toola's arrival has provided a means for it to be achieved much quicker and he's intent on bringing her back. Agito of course isn't interested in that happening for a variety of reasons but the draw of familiar civilization and the return to the past, as well as the connection she has to Shunack, all prove to be a large draw. All that the forest can do now is to respond and the film begins its full journey.

In a lot of ways this has a very simple and straightforward feeling to it that you might even feel compelled to call this Gonzo's vision of Nausicaa. The lushness of the forest, the dank depressing nature of Ragna and the simple life of those caught in between is a general theme in this kind of storyline. There are certainly some obvious parallels between the two but I think it diverges quite a bit. What fascinated me most about the film as it progressed was that I know I'm supposed to side with the lead of Agito and the way of finding a harmonious balance. That's part of the message and the way these kinds of stories go. But in my sitting here in my life and my world, I felt far more sympathetic towards Toola who is thrust into this new life that she's told must seem harsh. I was also very sympathetic towards Shunack and his worldview particularly as we learn his full origins in the past. 

The three different methods of life for humanity that are presented here are all ones that I couldn't sympathize with. The complete part of nature of the Zruids is unappealing and suggests that humanity isn't a part of nature as it is today, something that's patently false. The balance of life in Neutral City is one that has no real future and humanity having little control over its own destiny. The Ragna way of life is one that spoils everything around it and is focused on a single goal that doesn't benefit everyone. Each of the three has their positives but the negatives of each of them outweigh them all and ultimately spell doom for all involved.

The films visuals are highly appealing and unlike a lot of Gonzo's television features, it has a very smooth and luxurious feel that doesn't feel like it's had a lot of shortcuts taken with it. This stands up well against many other recent theatrical features with its production values. The computer generated segments tend to stand out a bit much at times but even those didn't feel too off considering the kind of premise the show is using. They tended to feel more otherworldly than usual and that worked to the films advantage with the heavy environmentalism mentality.

In Summary: 
Origin was a film that from the first trailer I saw at a convention had me intrigued. The film itself turned out to be quite a lot of fun and engaging to watch. The characters had me conflicted about who I thought was in the right and there aren't any true villains here really. The film has some beautiful visuals, a powerful soundtrack and a storyline that doesn't preach. With this Blu-ray high definition release, Origin is finally available in the way it was meant to be seen. Though it’s not powerful with its soundtrack, the opening sequence alone had me hooked with its creative visuals and how it tells the back story quickly and effectively. Though it may be predictable in some ways, Origin is a movie that I’ve seen several times and it always delights me in each instance.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, TV Commercials, Theatrical Previews, Chinese Premier, Making of Origin Documentary

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Origin - Spirit of the Past