Origin: Spirits of the Past (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Eriani
Review Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Release Date: Monday, February 05, 2007

What They Say
Three hundred years since the landscape of the world has been drastically rewritten. The remnants of humanity are divided as never before. Half seek a tenuous coexistence with the Forest, half seek to dominate and subdue that which they cannot understand. Agito, the son of an aged hero, inadvertently sets in motion the destruction of all that is left when he revives the young Toola from her timeless slumber. Unable to reconcile life as she once knew it from the world as it is now, Toola calls forth ancient technology to reshape the future from the ashes of the past. With the blessing of the Forest, Agito must first save the girl from herself in order to rescue them all...

The Review!
Origin: Spirits of the Past, originally titled Agito the Silver-Haired is Gonzo's first foray into theatrical anime and for the most part it is a great first entry.

I watched the show in its original language of Japanese and spot checked the English dub during certain scenes. The 5.1 surround sound has lots of great directionality with the opening chase and Forest scenes being true highlights. The music also sounds fantastic in both versions all the way through thanks to the 5.1 sound. The dub is your standard FUNimation fare but it does the job admirably.

The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced with anamorphic widescreen. This film has a lot of contrasting colours, from vivid green forests to bland deserts and the grey that is used in the city everything looks crisp and this comes through nicely in the transfer. It also appears to be a true PAL transfer as there are none of the normal issues such as interlacing and softness. The only problems I could see were there was a fair amount of edge enhancement in most scenes and a lot of compression artefacts.

The artwork for this release is something I really enjoy. With lots of bright blue from the sky, the red of a broken tank and the green of the forest the primary colours used match the look of the film exactly. In the centre we see Agito already enhanced by the Forest holding or pulling Toola's hand as she is about to get up. The only downside is that they both seem to have the exact same expression so it looks like a simple head swap for each character. The OFLC logo while another primary colour (yellow) still looks out of place against everything else. The back cover has an image of the forest twins in the top corner of a sky scape with one of the large Ragna tank legs coming in from the right, a few images from the show are down the side and it all looks great but it has a problem in that the text is almost too small to read and I had a hard time reading it. All the other technical aspects are listed as standard on the Madman technical gird. The cover is also reversible with the exact same artwork.

The Main menu opens up to Toola's Raban device spinning through the forest and the scene is played from when Agito becomes enhanced. It then shifts to the Raban on a bed of grass moving with the menu options becoming available in the small screen the Raban creates and animation is played behind this while still inside the Raban. The menu is set out almost in a leaf like pattern and this is accompanied by the opening theme playing in the background. All the other menus are static shots from the film itself or the artwork seen on the back cover.

There aren't many extra's on the disc except for a 50 minute making of documentary that covers all part of production from the music to the animation to the cast. It goes it all facets of what went into making the film and fans will enjoy the behind the scenes look. The only other extra's on the disc is a selection of Japanese promotional trailers some of which have scenes that are not in the film and even have a different art style which is rather interesting. There are also the standard Madman trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Origin is something I hadn't heard of before until I saw a banner ad for it on this very site, after looking into it a little more and checking out the trailer it intrigued me. A story about a future where the forest is angry and encroaching on what is left of the human race had been done before. Obviously the idea seemed to be very reminiscent of Nausica of the Valley Wind and Princess Mononoke but what intrigued me the most was the apparent powers the main character receives from the forest and how he uses said powers to save a girl from the past.

The plot of the film starts with something horrible attacking earth and shattering the moon, while we only get a few glimpses of this a song is played that narrates what we are witnessing with a little poetic license. 300 years later the cities that we knew are gone and the forest is everywhere. We are introduced to our hero Agito as he sets of to collect water in a playful race with his friend Cain. After a rather fast paced introduction the two are discovered by Zruids, beings that appear to be half tree and half human. They seem to be the ones that have all the power in this new world and the city that Agito lives in has an agreement with these creatures.

While escaping from the Zruids, Agito discovers a large collection of cryogenic stasis pods using technology called stayfields. While most appear to be empty or the occupant dead there is one still functioning and as Agito investigates he awakens Toola; a young girl from 300 years ago. After almost drowning they make their way back to the city where she is allowed to live there by the elder of the village known as Yolda. It seems that Toola is not the first one from the past to be awakened and someone else five years ago also came along but it appears he caused some trouble after learning what had happened to the earth and left for the rival city of Ragna.

The City of Ragna deploys some troops to capture Toola and it turns ou that the man who awoke from the past 5 years ago is also part of this group. His name is Shunack and seems to know who Toola is and convinces her to join him to try and put the world back the way it was. Toola is much more important than she realises as she posses the only working Raban around and Ragna wants this as part of their plans. Rabans are small bands that can only be used by their owner for various things such as opening doors and comminucating. Agito belives that Shunack is wrong and wants Toola to come back with him and stop clinging to the past, to this end he decides to become enhanced by the Forest.

The founders of Neutral City are all enhanced, with silver hair and possesing great strength but at a price, if they use their powers to quickly or too much they risk becomming part of the forest that gave them their power. Agito's father is one such being who has reached this point and has almost completely become a tree. Agito cares for him as best he can and chooses to go down the same path to save Toola from Shunack's plans to change the world that his father and friends had struggled to build.

After some wonderful battles Agito finally catched up to Shunack and Toola as they enter a place known is Istok; a place that will make the world the way it was 300 years ago with people being dominant and plants being simple lifeforms once again. From here we see revelations about how this new world came to be and the true relationship between the Forest and the enhanced people it grants its powers to.

Identifying with the characters on both sides is rather easy but at the same time it's hard to see either's viewpoint being a bad one. At first I could really only identify with Toola and Shunack because if I was in their shoes flung into the future I would want to set things back the way they were. But seeing Agito's love for the world as it is now I started to understand that you can't always go back and moving forward is the better option. I was still a little disappointed when Toola makes her final decision but I guess that's what made me enjoy the film so much, I feel conflicted just as the characters in the film did so the whole experience was extremely real for me even if it is an anime about tree dragons and silver haired forest powered people.

There are many messages in the film such as our environment depends on us and we depend on it; we give them life and they give us life and you can't cling to the past as change is something we must all deal with in our lives.

The animation does the fantasy setting justice with the beautiful scenery and all the different primary colours of green red and blue make watching the film a joy to behold. The CG while obvious to spot and sometimes out of place also looks well done, particularly the water effects in the forest (the water inside where Toola meets Agito is hand drawn). The characters designs themselves remind me a little of Hayao Miyazaki work at but I don't see that as a bad thing. The music is composed by Taku Iwasaki and is one of my favourite things about this film, from the chanting main theme song and the more sombre end theme sung by KOKIA to the more instrumental themes throughout the film I was enthralled by every tune.

I did have one small problem with the film. Mainly it is that although a lot of characters are introduced early some of them have about 5 minutes of screen time in total and sometimes you're left wondering what the point of that character was in the first place. It's only a small complaint but it's something I still can't shake even after watching the film a few times.

In Summary:
While another recent release in this futuristic style A Tree of Palme was confusing, Origin is much easier to follow with likeable characters wonderful animation and music that combines it all into a truly enjoyable 95 minutes, its not a very deep film and it doesn't try to push its own message on the viewer but it works well and I will definitely revisit it for repeated viewings Although there are video issues the additional extras over the region 1 version makes this makes a better option for fans. Definitely recommended

Japanese 5.1 Language ,English 5.1 Language ,English Subtitles,The Making of Origin Featurette,Japanese Promotional Spots,Clear Reversible Cover

Review Equipment
LG 32LX2D 32" HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 4 - Australia / South America
Released By: Madman Entertainment
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 95
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Origin - Spirit of the Past