What They Say:
With Earth now left in ruins following the “Nano Hazard,” most of humanity has abandoned the planet they once called home along with their physical bodies and rebuilt their digitalized minds into a society within the cyber universe of “DEVA.”
A.D. 2400, DEVA’s central council detects an incident of unauthorized access into their mainframe. Someone on Earth was trying to hack into the system. The only information DEVA was able to retrieve was that the hacker referred to himself as “Frontier Setter.”
To investigate the mysterious hacker’s motives, the high officials of DEVA dispatch System Security Third Officer Angela Balzak to the Earth’s surface. Equipped with a prosthetic “material body,” Angela attempts to make contact with a local agent Dingo, but what awaited her instead was a swarm of Sandworms now infesting the Earth’s surface. Angela intercepts the gruesome pests with her exoskeletal powered suit Arhan.
Will Angela and Dingo be able to find Frontier Setter on this devastated planet? Their journey to explore the secrets of the world begins now…!
The audio presentation for this release is very solid as we get the original Japanese language track done with a 5.1 mix (and a stereo mix as well) and an English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The film is one that works the overall soundstage well when the action hits and makes the most of it, with some solid bass along the way and good directionality in order to immerse you into the action itself. The film layers things well here with what it wants to do in this area as it moves across, especially with the way the action shifts in several ways with the suits and then digital side as well. The dialogue side works pretty well too with most of it across the forward soundstage, putting in some good placement from time to time and some elements of depth to it as well. The mix is a very solid theatrical design and the end result suits the film very, very well.
Originally in theaters at the end of 2014, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Graphinica, the feature has a very bright, vibrant and distinct look about it as it works the 3DCG side of the animation world, though sticking to most of the designs familiar to anime fans for years. The result is a very smooth and engaging looking film with a lot of great detail to it. The fluidity of the animation itself is certainly a big selling point and the transfer really captures it well here with some beautifully solid results. With some high bit rate material throughout it, it’s the kind of presentation that just leaps out at you, especially on a big screen, and you feel very immersed in it because of the overall quality of the animation and the way the transfer brings it out. This is a very clean looking release that is pretty much close to flawless from what I can tell.
The packaging for this limited edition release is pretty decent overall with what it includes, as we get a standard sized clear Blu-ray case housed within a thin cardboard slipcase that holds it all. THe slipcase is really well designed here with a beautiful image of Angela on the front of it within her mecha while hovering over the world. The mix of the colors from her outfit and the planet combined with the blackness of space ties it all together well. The back of the slipcase goes simple with just the white background, a look at the film’s logo and the name itself, kept simple but effective. The wraparound on it provides the technical information on the back while the front brings out some of the name dropping of who all was involved in it as well as listing the bonus and first press material. The case itself goes for a traditionally simple Japanese approach with a black and white character image of Angela on the front cover underneath a small block with the features name, while the back cover is the same as the slipcover in that it goes all white with just the text of the film’s name and the logo. The bottom brings out the production credits in a clearer fashion, though the font is small and thin, making for a slightly tough read. Within the slipcase we also get a nice single postcard with one of the main promotional images from the film as well as a booklet. The booklet is a full color piece with some beautiful promotional artwork, lots of character design breakdowns and some interview material as well, making for a very good additional read.
The menu design for this release is one that just screams Japanese, as we’ve seen a lot of this very barebones types over the years of importing. The main menu is simply a blank white background that has the feature name along the top in a small font and a little nod to things within the film at the bottom on top of some of the copyright information. The middle has just the navigation itself in a larger font in black done vertically. There’s no visual design here, no character pieces or animation material, just a white screen with black text. Which does work well and is very functional, but there’s not much here otherwise to really latch onto.
The main disc has no extras to it and instead we get a bonus Blu-ray disc to hold them. There’s only two extras here, but it’s pretty solid. The “trailers” selection is actually pretty extensive as there’s seventeen minutes worth of trailers and promos for the feature film there that are interesting to watch and see how it was marketed over time. The big extra though is the thirty minute making of piece, that goes into the creation of the film with the production team behind it in a really good way. It’s got time sitting down with the key players, showing how it was put together and delving into the production cycle overall in an interesting way to bring to life what was involved here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original work with a screenplay by Gen Urobuchi based on the story from Nitroplus and Toei Animation, Expelled from Paradise has been an interesting production to watch come together prior to its theatrical release in Japan. Directed by Seiji Mizushima, we were treated to a lot of 3DCG modeling in the year or so before it debuted and it was definitely fun to watch all these little non-traditional bits come out. Granted, it likely appealed to the animation design fans more than those that wanted to dig into the film itself, but Japanese filmmaking and marketing has always been such an odd beast compared to the highly polished Hollywood machine. After following the film for so long in its production, it’s wonderful to finally sit down and watch it in full now. And it’s a film that, while familiar to be sure, is one that is executed so beautifully that you can’t help but to be engaged by it.
The film takes place in some relative near future, a few generations at least after the end of the world, as it’s largely turned into a barren wasteland. While there are people that have survived in the ruins and found some modicum of living to be had there, a lot of people escaped into space to be digitized and live within DEVA, an orbiting platform that provides a wide range of experiences for everyone. There’s a lot of smaller layers to examine here in how living in this kind of world would be, such as the ability to do anything providing you have enough memory allotted to your “account” in order to do it, but mostly there’s familiar class levels. Not that we see much of it. The film focuses on three distinct groups from DEVA in general; the basic low rent types that enjoy low quality resort area sims, our main character of Angela, who is essentially the police/authority figure here, and the gods of the system that run things as the administrators. They’re presented as massive religious icons and the like that don’t move and are just voices playing out in their echo chamber while talking with Angela during a pivotal scene.
What sets things into motion here is that there have been repeated digital hack attacks on DEVA from some entity called Frontier Setter. Angela is tasked to head down to the planet’s surface to find out who it is and stop it from happening, since it exposes weaknesses in the system as Frontier Setter has proven more capable than DEVA in a lot of ways. Since Angela is a digital being, she’s placed into a clone body that allows her to head to Earth and interact with people there. What’s interesting is that the body is based off of her original birth body, which is kept for 1300 days and then clone bodies can be grown and aged as needed should a physical body be needed. So what we see of Angela is perhaps an idealized version of her, but it’s based on her cor genetic blueprint. There’s some simple fun in seeing her adjust to being in something with weight to it after living the light digital life for so long, but also later on when she ends up disconnected from DEVA through communication as well, and has to approach life and her mission in a different way.
The film is one that plays to familiar terms when it comes to this kind of mission, as once she’s down on Earth she connects with a man named Dingo, who works with the operatives from DEVA from time to time for information that leads him to mining material that he needs to survive. While Angela is in her late twenties or so it seems, her clone form was unleashed a bit earlier, so she’s in her mid teens here. Dingo, being in his mid thirties, provides for some decent contrast between the two even though they’re closer in age than their bodies are. Their interactions are certainly quite familiar for this arrangement, as we’ve seen it in countless movies, but it helps to establish more about each of them and the environments they come from, filling in the blanks while the search gets underway, the mystery revealed and the big third act action sequence gets underway.
Yet for all the familiarity, Expelled from Paradise is just a very, very good time. There are interesting ideas throughout that could easily be explored – and often are in science fiction novels, things that could populate an entire thinking piece film. The time aboard DEVA doesn’t really get its due until we meet Frontier Setter and understand why he’s up to and why, which is a shakeup for Angela as one would expect, and naivety plays a factor into things. But there’s so many fun things that happen along the way as we see Angela adjust to what life is like on Earth, the lack of a constant connection, and then a greater understanding of the past, that you want to see her grow and engage more. It’s also good to see her looking a bit askew at DEVA, though that’s a familiar angle as well. But the ideas used here, the approach, the polish of it all, that’s what sells and it makes it both fun and memorable.
Expelled from Paradise may be something that plays to familiar themes, but it’s a film that left me very much engaged with it. Both for its story and presentation. The blending of the two made this a very fun experience overall, showing some beautiful action sequences, some great quieter sequences and a good bit of fun science fiction elements that just tickle my fancy just right. The film’s visual design is what will attract a lot of attention and I love seeing the evolution of the 3DCG filmmaking out there. This is a slick and appealing production with fantastic production values applied to it and some solid storytelling with what it wants to do. You could easily expand on pretty much every area of it and build something more out of it, but it also stands strong enough on its own to be a complete work. Aniplex USA has given this a solid regular and limited edition release that will please fans with its quality. Definitely worth checking out.
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA Language, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Making Of, Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: June 5th, 2015
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.