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Origin: Spirits of the Past (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 8, 2009 by  



“ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” for the most part a film that blends action, adventure, mecha with an ecological message.   The film may not be as deep as Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” or “Princess Mononoke” and nowhere as direct or ecologically in-your-face as “Arjuna” but overall, “ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” was an enjoyable, entertaining film that captivates your attention via High Definition on Blu-ray with its beautiful, detailed artwork and immersive lossless soundtrack.”

TITLE: ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST (aka 銀色の髪のアギト, Gin-iro no Kami no Agito)

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9),  Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1, English subtitles

RATED: TV PG

COMPANY: GONZO/FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2009

Directed by Keiichi Sugiyama

Script by Nana Shiina, Naoko Kakimoto and Sadayuki Murai

 

Music by Taku Iwasaki

Character Design by Kouji Ogata

Animation Director: Atsushi Yamagata and Naoyuki Onda

Mechanical Design by Kenji Andou, Mahiro Maeda

Art Design by Hajime Satou, Masanori Kikuchi and Rei Nakahara

Mecha Design by Kenji Andou

Visual Effects by Haruhide Ishiguro

Edited by Aya Hida

Theme song by Kokia

 

 

Starring:

Aoi Miyazaki/Carrie Savage as Toola

Ryo Katsuji/Chris Patton as Agito

Kenichi Endo/Robert McCollum as Shunack

Masaru Hamaguchi/John Burgmeier as Cain

Ren Osugi/R. Bruce Elliott as Agashi

Toshikazu Fukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Hajan

Yuko Kotegawa/Pam Dougherty as Yolda

Colleen Clinkenbeard as Jessica

Kent Williams as Dr. Sakul

Laura Bailey as Minka

Luci Christian as Berui

Monica Rial as Zerui

 

Ages past, the Forest was awakened and the Moon unleashed a ravenous Beast upon the Earth. Man cowered in fear…

Three hundred years since and 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…

 

“ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” (Gin-iro no Kami no Agito) from FUNimation Entertainment is a film that underwent through a major undertaking.  The planning for the film started back in 1999 and took seven years to develop and eventually being released in theaters in Japan in January of 2006.

“ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” would be the directorial debut for Keiichi Sugiyama (who has worked on “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, “Najica Blitz Tactics” and “Saber Marionette J”) and the first animated film for Gonzo Studio known for focusing on anime television shows and OAV’s which include “Samurai 7”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Red Garden” and animation shown in America such as “Transformers: Cybertron” and “G.I. Joe: Sigma 6”.

“ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” for the most part a film that blends action, adventure, mecha with an ecological message.   The film may not be as deep as Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” or “Princess Mononoke” and nowhere as direct or ecologically in your face as “Arjuna” but overall, “ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” was an enjoyable film that doesn’t get overly technical or preachy but enough to keep you entertained and captivated by its beautiful artwork and immersive soundtrack.

“ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” revolves around Japan in the future that had face an apocalypse.  Agito and his friend Cain sneak into a water hole to take some water back home while the armed guard is sleeping.

Unfortunately, Agito and Cain are caught by the Druids who are responsible of overseeing the water which is connected to the forest.  Cain is eventually caught but for Agito, he escapes underwater and ends up in a large machine with cryogenic pods that are filled with dead bodies.  When he sees a blinking light, he hits it and out comes a girl inside a cryogenic chamber.  He manages to rescue the girl inside but the interior of the tunnels that they are in is being flooded by the druids and the two try to survive their underwater ordeal.

The girl named Toola manages to open a door to a facility underground thanks to her Raban, an electronic device that acts as a key and a communication device.  The two return to Agito’s village known as Neutral City.  We learn that Toola has been in the cryogenic chamber for 300 years and that the metropolis sporting the latest technology and skyscrapers that she once known, is gone forever. Also, the moon high above the planet has been busted into parts.

That those who survived the apocalypse went on to rebuild the lands but the planet is now mostly covered by forests ran by living trees and the Druids.  The druids control the water supply for the trees and plants but also to the humans.  Neutral City acts as the bridge between the forest and the nation of Ragna, a militaristic nation which goal is to destroy the forest in order to bring back life the way it used to be before the mutant trees invaded.

Toola is told that like her, there is another person from the past named Shunack.  But his way of thinking has led him to lead the Ragna.  But word quickly spreads about the girl from the past and now Shunack wants her to join him for a project to bring back civilization as they knew it, meanwhile the Druids want to stop Toola who they worry might try to kill them.

Needless to say, Agito tries to show Toola to his way of life, his village and let her know that despite the problems of civilization now, he is content.  But while conflicted with being alive in the present time which is in far worse shape than the modern metropolis life she once lived, she doesn’t know if she could forget the past.

But what happens when Toola agrees to join with Shunack in order to bring back the civilization she once knew but knowing she needs to eliminate the forest to do so?  Agito is entrusted by the enhanced power of the forest but will he get to Toola in time or will he be consumed by the power that has consumed his father?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

First off, the picture quality showcases the detail of artistic backgrounds. For those who enjoy conceptual art and backgrounds will enjoy the 1080p transfer as detail of trees, rocks and the overall bleek civilization with the buildings and destruction that had took place in the world is really detailed. A very colorful and vibrant anime film but its definitely enhanced by the films lossless audio.

As for character designs, the character designs are from Kouji Ogata, so if you enjoyed his character designs in anime such as “Boogiepop Phantom”,you pretty much know what to expect in terms of simplified detail but how he’s able to communicate emotion through the eyes of his characters. Mecha design is courtesy of Kenji Andou (known for his monster/mecha designs from “Karas”) and Mahiro Maeda (“Gunbuster”, “Visions of Escaflowne” and “Blue Submarine No. 6”).

The film does a good job combining CG with its artist backgrounds but I was impressed by this world of where modern technology is reduced to a living gravesite, while those in the living try to live the way they can and rebuild.

The audio track is actually quite interesting because both the English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio tracks show a major difference when I tested it. For the English lossless track, the dialogue comes through your central speakers much louder than the Japanese dialogue. Also, comparing the battle scenes which just sound incredible as surrounds and the LFE are utilized quite well but on the English soundtrack its much louder than the Japanese soundtrack.

It’s obvious that the soundtracks were not treated equally and although I can’t confirm this as 100%, I do see from a variety of Japanese sites that the December 2008 Japanese Blu-ray release of “ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” aka “Gin-iro no Kami no Agito” was released in Dolby Digital 5.1 and not Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  In the US, the Japanese soundtrack is lossless but a much different, lower bitrate from the English lossless track.  Evenso,  the Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack may be at a higher bitrate than the soundtrack offered on the Japanese release.

I was impressed by the sound effects and also the music from Taku Iwasaki (“Gurren Lagann”, “R.O.D.”, “Now and Then, Here and There” and “Witch Hunter Robin” to name a few) the Warsaw Philharmonic and the theme song from KOKIA really created a mood for the various scenes throughout the film.

Voice acting for both Japanese and English are well-done. For the Japanese side, it was great to see live action film stars Aoi Miyazaki (“Nana”, “Tada Kimi wo Aishiteru”) as the main female talent Toola and Ryo Katsuji (“Battle Royale II”, “Mirai Koshu Meguru”) as Agito. (note: A lot of anime fans in Japan are not as supportive of anime films utilizing film or drama actors as anime voice talent and this is one film where anime fans in Japan disliked the film for not using professional seiyuu talent).

English counterparts Carrie Savage and Christoper Patton did a magnificent job. Although, a pet peeve of mine in English dubs is when the main voice actor has to do a flashback scene when they were in child and try to sound like a child. Would it be too hard to hire a child actor to say two lines? Nevertheless, as much as I listen to mostly the Japanese vocal tracks, I did enjoy the English dub track a lot (and it helps the English lossless track was a bit more pronounced or just louder).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” comes with the following special features in 480i Standard Definition and Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0 audio:

  • The Making of Agito – (51:36) A very in-depth featurette featuring interviews with Producer Koji Kajita, Director Keiichi Sugiyama and many of the crew who were involved with the making of the film.  From the mechanical designs to the editing, there is an interview with a staff member.  Also, interviews with the cast, the importance of music and KOKIA’s involvement in the project and the China premiere of the film.  A very informative and enjoyable featurette.
  • Screening Event Special Preview – (3:56) Interviews with Aoi Miyazaki and Ryo Katsuji in regards to their characters and the screening of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailers – (1:58) Several of the Japanese theatrical trailers.
  • TV Spots – (2:49) A collection of TV spots for the film.
  • Textless Songs –  Textless songs for KOKIA’s opening theme “Chouwa to – with reflection” (2:49) and closing theme “melody of love” (7:10).
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers for upcoming or currently released series or films.

“ORIGINS: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” was an enjoyable film that combines a lot of elements of action, adventure, mecha vehicle battles but also the serious ecological message.  As mentioned, the storyline is not as deep as a Miyazaki film, nor is the message as in-your-face as the ecological anime series “Arjuna” but I really enjoyed this film.

The film was released in 2007 and 2008 on DVD from FUNimation Entertainment, so for those wondering if the double dip is necessary, I would have to say “yes”!

The amount of detail that went into creating this anime, especially with the artistic backgrounds is amazing.  I would think the High Definition transfer brings out the vibrancy of the lush green forests, the brown and black details of the rocks and it’s overall colorful pallet.  As for character designs, I’m pretty much used to Ogata’s “Boogiepop Phantom” style and although characters may not be hyperdetailed, I’ve always enjoyed his use of communicating emotions through his characters from their eye movements.

And along with its vibrant picture quality, the sound (although mostly more pronounced on the English dub) is outstanding.  Again, I’m not sure why the English dub is given a better and higher bitrate than the Japanese audio but nevertheless, if the Japanese edition only sports Dolby Digital 5.1, the Japanese soundtrack on this Blu-ray is Dolby TrueHD 5.1 but a smaller bitrate and not as punchier and loud as its English soundtrack counterpart.

And for the “making” of the film, this is one of the most in-depth featurettes in which the whole crew it seems took part in the featurette which was quite enjoyable and informative to watch.

Overall, “ORIGIN: SPIRITS OF THE PAST” is a beautiful, entertaining animated film.  And it’s an anime definitely worth having in your collection.  Highly recommended!






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