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Origin: Spirits of the Past Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Origin Spirits of the Earth Special EditionAfter civilization falls to the forests, a young woman now holds the key to restoring things back to the way they used to be.

What They Say:
In Origin, it has been 300 years since mankind left Earth in ruins. The remnants of humanity are divided, and the crumbling remains of vast cities are threatened by the encroaching forest. Humans live on both sides of this brewing conflict. Young Agito, the son of an aging hero, sets a series of events in motion when he wanders into a forbidden zone of the forest.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in 5.1 as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded with the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The feature doesn’t have quite as strong a soundtrack as it should, but it’s very solid throughout with a lot of great placement and an enveloping mix overall. The feature has a lot of quiet moments but the opening segment as it builds up with the song continues to be very haunting and even more so in this format. Dialogue is well placed throughout and the big moments are very much so, though they aren’t completely over the top. This is a solid mix and a good presentation, but it doesn’t have the impact that I thought it would.

Originally in theaters in 2006, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 at 1080p and encoded using AVC codec. Origin really shines here and is a very beautiful film, one I begged to see in high definition during its original review. The feature has such beautiful colors and background designs, a good flow of animation that it really stands out well here. Outside of a few gradients visible in the blue sky backgrounds on occasion that are in the source, this is a lush and very appealing film. There’s so much detail in so many scenes and having it without a soft and fuzzy look on a large setup, having it look so sharp and clean throughout, really makes it stand out all the more. This is the visual I wanted to see a couple of years ago.

This Blu-ray edition of the film uses some decent artwork to it as it focuses on the dark side by having Agito and Toola together amidst some destruction of civilizations past. The split buildings, the bits of fire floating about and the overall darkness really gives it a foreboding feeling and sense of danger. It also works nicely in my mind because the character designs are streamlined and have a simple yet inviting look to them in the middle of all of this. The back cover is much brighter with two-thirds of it given over to a solid background of soft yellows on which we have the summary and a great breakdown of the extras. They make good use of the space with shots from the show along the right as well as clearly listing the length of the feature and the length of all the extras included. The technical grid is laid out clearly as well, though I’m a bit unsure about splitting the special features off to their own grid. The reverse side cover artwork is simple with a close-up of Toola on the right and a bit of machinery on the left. It’s simple and clean and works nicely when you open it all up and look at it.

The menu design for the feature pushes the “green” view of the content itself as it has a full-screen panorama slideshow of various settings from within the feature but with a heavy green filter over it as some of the haunting vocals plays over it. There’s a brief flash or two to surprise you, but overall it’s a very mellow piece that keeps you relaxed and sets the stage for the film. The navigation bar along the bottom is done in the same shading, though the unselected text is in a shade of white to let it stand out a bit more. Submenus load very quickly but I wish they had included a button to turn off the menu navigation sounds as we see in Hollywood features. The pop-up menu uses the green filtered navigation strip during playback and works just as nicely, but again it would have been nice to have been able to remove the sound from it. While not a huge standout menu, it’s a solid piece that fits the feature well.

All the extras here are done in standard definition so they don’t hold up in comparison to the feature itself, but there’s some solid material to be found here. The first and biggest extra is the making of piece which runs just over fifty minutes. They cover just about everything here and it’s something that you usually only see with movies when it comes to extras. Everything you’d want to know about the film can be found in here as it works with just about everyone involved in the production and shows numerous clips along the way. It’s very well done and even if it does have some basic things you see in every documentary like this, it’s still pretty engaging and helps to expand your view of the movie a bit. Even better, they put chapter stops in it! In addition to this, we get a few of the TV commercials for the feature as well as the theatrical previews. Rounding out the special edition there’s one more piece. Running about four minutes, there’s a screening preview of footage of the film that was done for the Chinese premier which is interesting. Add in the clean versions of the opening song and the closing piece and this is really quite a solid special edition of value added material.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally titled as Gin-iro no kami no Agito, Origin is a full-length feature film from Gonzo that has received some decent acclaim in its various worldwide releases over the years. Revolving around a future controlled by the forest, it has plenty of environmentalist themes but it doesn’t play them entirely as a pro-environment movie. As a standalone feature, it proves to be quite enjoyable and has a good sense of pacing and action to it while still managing to be almost all-ages friendly.

Sometime in the past, a project for reforestation on Earth goes awry in a test lab in a lunar base. The result is that the forest that erupts there does so quite literally, essentially tearing the moon in half and sending massive fragments to the Earth below. On those fragments there is a good chunk of the same forest which finds itself far easier to adapt here than there. Civilization essentially ends as we know it and mankind has had a difficult time in the intervening years. Ostensibly taking place in the region of future Japan, a small amount of humanity has survived there in a precarious balance.

The forest has overwhelmed much of the land but there is an area where it has not grown much further yet along a ravine. In the middle of the ravine is a fallen city area named Neutral City where three “enhanced humans” have created a life for people who want to find a new balance with the forest. The other side of the ravine though is the realm where the people of Ragna live, people who have managed to use some amount of technology from the past to build factories and other machines to protect themselves. The differences between the two are obvious, though they make much about the way the air isn’t as clean in Ragna and that there is so much noise in the factory city that we see. Some of the other differences are a bit more subtle, such as many of the clothes of residents in Neutral City are ragged while in Ragna they have much better material and clothing. It’s a small thing but it can make a huge impact.

The balance of life in Neutral City is one that rides on the relationship between the humans and the forest. The forest has taken on an interesting new life in that there seem to be a pair of childlike girls that can blend with the first and are able to use it in almost magical ways. They have a large number of servants with the called Zruids that seem to be either plant-dominated humans or plants in human form that never speak. Most curious though is that outside of them and humanity, we never see any animals or birds which really throws the way you can view the environmentalism of the film.

What tends to upset the balance is the way some of the younger members of Neutral City play around the forest. We’re introduced to Agito and a friend who have raced down in a sneaky way to swipe some water for their parents. This causes a bit of an uproar among the Zruids but it has Agito escaping into an undiscovered lower layer of the old city buried underneath. It’s in there that a blinking light draws him in and he unwittingly frees a young woman who has been in stasis in there. Her arrival, one of the latest from the past to do so, is something that the forest fears as she could upset what little balance there is. Toola is able to bring us some views of how the cataclysm happened but her ties are very strong to it.

It’s through her revival that we learn of another survivor who awakened five years ago, a man named Shunack. He attempted to live in Neutral City before and even became an enhanced human but with his views of how the world should be, the world of the present was too much for him and he fled to Ragna. From there his plans to restore the world to the way he remembers it, the way he believes humanity should be, is all he’s lived for. Toola’s arrival has provided a means for it to be achieved much quicker and he’s intent on bringing her back. Agito, of course, isn’t interested in that happening for a variety of reasons but the draw of familiar civilization and the return to the past, as well as the connection she has to Shunack, all prove to be a large draw. All that the forest can do now is to respond and the film begins its full journey.

In a lot of ways, this has a very simple and straightforward feeling to it that you might even feel compelled to call this Gonzo’s vision of Nausicaa. The lushness of the forest, the dank depressing nature of Ragna and the simple life of those caught in between is a general theme in this kind of storyline. There are certainly some obvious parallels between the two but I think it diverges quite a bit. What fascinated me most about the film as it progressed was that I know I’m supposed to side with the lead of Agito and the way of finding a harmonious balance. That’s part of the message and the way these kinds of stories go. But in my sitting here in my life and my world, I felt far more sympathetic towards Toola who is thrust into this new life that she’s told must seem harsh. I was also very sympathetic towards Shunack and his worldview particularly as we learn his full origins in the past.

The three different methods of life for humanity that are presented here are all ones that I couldn’t sympathize with. The complete part of nature of the Zruids is unappealing and suggests that humanity isn’t a part of nature as it is today, something that’s patently false. The balance of life in Neutral City is one that has no real future and humanity having little control over its own destiny. The Ragna way of life is one that spoils everything around it and is focused on a single goal that doesn’t benefit everyone. Each of the three has their positives but the negatives of each of them outweigh them all and ultimately spell doom for all involved.

The films visuals are highly appealing and unlike a lot of Gonzo’s television features, it has a very smooth and luxurious feel that doesn’t feel like it’s had a lot of shortcuts taken with it. This stands up well against many other recent theatrical features with its production values. The computer generated segments tend to stand out a bit much at times but even those didn’t feel too off considering the kind of premise the show is using. They tended to feel more otherworldly than usual and that worked to the film’s advantage with the heavy environmentalism mentality.

In Summary:
Origin was a film that from the first trailer I saw at a convention had me intrigued. The film itself turned out to be quite a lot of fun and engaging to watch over the multiple times I’ve seen it across the years. The characters had me conflicted about who I thought was in the right and there aren’t any true villains here really and that makes for some additional fun. The film has some beautiful visuals, a powerful soundtrack and a storyline that doesn’t preach. Though it’s not powerful with its soundtrack as it should be, the opening sequence alone had me hooked with its creative visuals and how it tells the backstory quickly and effectively. Though it may be predictable in some ways, Origin is a movie that I’ve seen several times and it always delights me in each instance and this one is no exception.

Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, The Making of Origin, Screening Event Special Preview, Theater Previews, TV spots, Textless Opening and Closing Songs, and Coming Attractions

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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