18 Aug 2008
Set 300 years into the future, the remnants of mankind live in a harsh environment populated by "the forest", a living and conscious organism that regulates the flow of water and therefore the lives of those that remain. In the settlement of Neutral City, the people work as farmers and commune with the will of the forest through druids. The young Agito, along with his close friend Cain run wild in the city, stealing water and shirking duties where they can - of course the village elders keep an eye on them and they get away with little.
On one of their errands to the well, the energetic pair are caught red handed, and Agito escapes underwater - sucked into a torrent of raging water, he ends up in front of a giant cryogenics machine, and the girl he awakens, named Toola, holds the fate of the planet in her hands.
Origin may sound vaguely familiar - in fact it borrows heavily from other sources, and in particular the sentiments of anime master Miyazaki, hammering home it's eco-message with little subtlety. But if Origin's tale has little innovation, the same cannot be said for the animation, which is as crisp and smooth an effort as Gonzo has ever produced. The giant mechs which litter the film are impressively huge, and the action set pieces are extremely well executed.
The script isn't bad either - most of the characters are likable, and have believable motivations. The English dub is very good - plenty of emotion where it's needed, and the right amount of restraint where it's not. Similarly the pace is about perfect - I wasn't sat bored at any stage of the film, and the spectacle on offer kept my interest even through the most talkative stages.
If the film has one fault, it's that it's almost too familiar. My mind did occasionally skip off to figure out what each scene reminded me of - Metropolis in terms of design, Miyazaki in tone and Samurai 7 in terms of graphics, it was a very mixed bag, and although I enjoyed the film (and the uplifting ending, we don't get enough of those) it is a little disappointing that I can't wholeheartedly recommend Origin entirely on its own merits.
The soundtrack which accompanies the film ranges from very interesting (the opening and ending themes) to the formulaic - there's a lot of forgettable orchestral music blaring away in the background, but I couldn't hum it back to you.
Taken as a whole, the film is well worth a watch. It's a pleasing drama, with plenty of action and some interesting characters. It also has an interesting and cautionary lesson in messing around with nature, and how trying to do the right thing can often go very badly wrong.