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

By:Christoper Homer
Review Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Release Date: Monday, August 25, 2008

Gonzo delve into the movie scene with a majestic visual and audio spectacle which the years of work is put into 90 minutes and you just wished it could have been more…

What They Say

The Review!
The rebirth of the future from the ashes of the past... It has been 300 years since mankind s interference with the environment left Earth in ruins. Now, the remnants of humanity are divided as never before. The crumbling remains of vast cities stand in tenuous coexistence with the encroaching forest, and humans live on both sides of this brewing conflict. Young Agito, the son of an aging hero, inadvertently sets in motion a series of catastrophic events when he wanders into a forbidden zone of the forest. He stumbles across a cryogenic stasis tube containing Toola, a girl who has a vital mission entrusted to her from the past... It is an unsteady peace in an unnatural time. Only by searching their souls and examining the past will Agito and Toola understand the origin of all things and unite mankind with the forest.

As this movie had both a 5.0 English and Japanese track, I listened in both languages (hence the slightly delay of the review). To say it’s one of the best audios I’ve heard ever on DVD is an understatement. The moment you hear the fantastic opening song by Kokia, you are won over by a blaze of majesty and strength as the audio breaks the barriers in terms of transition, consistency and such sheer force. The clear background effects and noises of the forest and the industry combined with the power of the Warsaw Philomonic Orchestra makes Origin a spectacle force in either language. Clear as crystal and if you’ve got even a half decent speaker system, prepare to be wowed.

A fully fledged Gonzo production, combining elements of CGI with full flowing animation on the scale of a Miyazaki work. The transition of Origin is nothing short of majestic. The vibration of colours combined with a widescreen format shows this was intended to be watched at the movies, a splendour of work within many scenes (you learn during the ‘Making of’ featurette how little was actually CGI work) with no problems within how it linked with the sound and the timing of the movie. Near perfect transition and Manga have to be commended for treating this spectacle with the respect it deserved.

No packaging was supplied with this test disc.

The menu is fairly standard, with beautiful orchestral music in the background combined with clips from the movie in the centre shown on a green forest background. The selections are easy to picks below the clips between Set-Up, Japanese Promos, Trailer and Origin Trailer. There is a little lag between selection and it coming up the screen which would be the only complaint I would have for this – all menus are fairly standard and easy to navigate.

On the first disc, there is a fairly basic set of extras, a number of promo spots for the Japanese showing of Origin, as well as an English trailer, and a standard as per Manga releases of their own trailers.

The big extra is on the second disc supplied, which provided you with a 45 minute featurette on the Making of Origin. A number of shows have these type of things but the process in making a movie is always welcome, and this is no exception. Commentary supplied by producer Koji Kajita and director Keiichi Sugiyama we meet many of the minds and bodies behind the work of Origin, on how it took 7 years to complete, the combination of hand drawn work vs. CGI, the crew’s travels to Poland to conduct the music, the discussion of what Origin is supposed to be about, the artist’s visions coming to life, the voices behind the characters and the stunning opening song and the preparation for the finished article before shown to the Japanese public. Truly drawing in and makes you appreciate what type of work went into this before completion.

Origin is one of those things that hits you in a way you don’t expect. Positive or negative, there is SOMETHING about it that draws you in. Whether it’s the neo-apocalyptic opening sequence with that serene operatic opening, or the theme of nurture vs. nature, or the romance aspect, something will affect you watching this movie.

The opening explains about how genetic engineering altered the physical nature of the world’s forest life, namely the trees, on the Earth’s moon. They became true beings and nearly choked out the Earth in revenge – now, they control the flow of water and earth on Earth, making them the ‘rulers’ of civilization so to speak.

We then cut to our main character, Agito, a resident of Neutral City, a ruined city set as peaceful as possible against the Forest and it’s Druids, trying to steal some water along with his friend Cain, but ultimately are caught. However, Agito taking a chance, escapes and is taken through the water in a visual spectacle of waterfalls and ebbing flows, but crashes into what appears to be cryogenic pods from the past – and one is active. This leads to him releasing the girl in the pod – a beautiful young lady named Toola – who has been asleep for the past 300 years. The two escape thanks to Toola’s Raban, a device created back in her time, and are eventually found and given a talk to (and wondering about Toola’s past) by Yolda, who eventually allows Toola to stay with Agito’s friend Minka (and apparently love rival later on)…

However, the forest gods are angered by the release of Toola, thinking she is a danger to the forest, because her Raban has the ability to trace something called Estoc, which could wipe out the forest. This leads to the explanation of the city of Ragna, who are intent to destroy the forest, specifically the only other person with a Raban and possibly from the past, a man named Shunack.

Toola, not comfortable with her current situation, is eventually found by Shunack, and convinced to join him. He reveals his powers, enhanced by the forest, and is believed he wants to restore the world back to the past before the forest became what it was. Agito however is upset Toola wouldn’t give this world a chance – with help from his father Agashi (and the subplot of how using the forest’s power to save the city caused to change from humanoid to near-tree) Agito makes a decision to also gain the powers of the Forest gods to stop Shunack and return Toola to Neutral City.

The scenes after that reveal a lot, like how Toola’s father was part of the project which caused the forest to become as it is, and what Shunack’s motive is and why he’s really attempting to destroy the forest. It comes to a head with a forest powered battle between Agito and Shunack, which combines some of the best animation I’ve seen ever with a fantasic music score and the solution to the unity between human and forest is definitely an interesting one to say the least. The problem is that it’s hard to write too much because despite the incredible work and valour put through the movie seemed to be too short and rushed through because there were questions, and they were answered, but I felt that at times if this was a 6 episode OVA, it would have worked so much better. With the budget and animation I know that’s impossible, but a lot of times with the explanations and the solutions I felt disappointed.

However, what I did see was still very good. The battle sequences were excellent and the combination of hand drawn and CGI worked very well for the movie. The characters are all unique, but Agito, Toola and Shunack are the only ones who you can really focus on considering the timeframe. The movie is captivating, if a little rushed, and you wish you could see more. And it was nice to have a happy ending as well, even if it was a little surreal.

GONZO goes into Miyazaki territory with a spectacle of sound and scenery which has to be seen once just to be appreciated. An excellent film whilst it lasts, the disappointment of various solutions and explanations is nullified by the excellent characters, battle sequences and music – the fact they went to Poland and sought out the Warsaw Philomonic Orchestra to bring the best they could is a testament to this film’s appeal – definitely worth a rent if nothing else. Recommended.

Japanese 5.0 Audio, Japanese 2.1 Audio, English 5.1 Audio, English 2.0 Audio, Japanese Promo Spots, Origin Trailer, The Making Of

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12+
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 94
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2