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Customer Review

44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Humanity Vs Nature Yet Again, 20 July 2008
This review is from: Origin - Spirits of the Past [DVD] (DVD)
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I'd added the region one version of this DVD to my Amazon wishlist over a year ago, after I'd seen `Afro Samurai' and been so impressed that I sought out other animated features from the same studio that created it- Gonzo. I don't know why it's taken this long for the movie to be released on region two, but I was really looking forward to discovering whether or not it had been worth the wait...

Japanese cinema (and Japanese culture in general I suspect) shows an intense fascination with the ecological story, especially with the idea of Mother Nature striking back against humanity as we develop ever-evolving technologies to aid us in making our mark on the natural world. Usually the counter-attack from natural forces manifests itself in the most outlandish form possible; fantasy role-playing games and films in the Studio Ghibli catalogue are littered with examples of the natural world mutating new species as a means of combating humanity's increasing technological might. So does `Origin' manage to make it's own mark on an extremely common theme? Yes and no...

The opening music is absolutely majestic (by Kokia) and the perfect accompaniment to a gripping sequence that sets the foundation for the story about to be told. Also I'd have to comment on a superb score, it's absolutely spot-on throughout. Unfortunately the story descends into all the predictable clichés; an ordinary young boy just waiting for the chance to prove himself and a gifted young girl from another world meet under unusual circumstances, their fates intertwine and before long they're embarking on separate journeys that will culminate in their reunion as they come face-to-face with a hideously over-the-top baddie hell bent on destroying the world as they know it. Only they can prevent the utter destruction of all they hold dear, but will they be victorious? I think you know the answer already. So the plot is nothing that hasn't been seen a few dozen times before, but there's still a lot of enjoyment to be had and the occasional stunning visual to behold.

The beauty of `Afro Samurai' was that it combined a totally creative concept with an unusually charismatic anti-hero in the lead role, so for those people that were seduced out of their comfort zones and into anime due to that one-off example of the genre, I don't think `Origin' will have the same broad appeal. It's lacking well-rounded, sympathetic characters and the wooden dialogue is a shame too. The same applies to ardent Myazaki fans, but for a different reason- the subject matter is just too familiar to really entrance.

But while the character animation is not as accomplished as the unique colouring & expression in `Afro Samurai' and a compelling atmosphere isn't quite as well established, `Origin' does boast some fantastic shots involving movement and landscape with a similar kind of experimentation in camera shots, which I expect/hope will now become standard with not just animated movie features in the future, but also those that are series-based as well.

It's lacking a much needed edge, but `Origin: Spirits of the Past' is still recommended viewing for fans of anime like myself.
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