"Coming Back To Haunt Us" – Origin: Spirits of the Past (anime) – 8/10 Pools


The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it. ~Anonymous

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed within the US

Art/Animation: Very nice! The art is consistently good (in some places, stunning), with lush forest scenes and stark valleys. While the CG might not always be well-blended in, it still looks very good and not entirely out-of-place with the world and scenery. The animation is also very good quality, with smooth, fluid motion, even in the most action-packed scenes.

Dub Vs. Sub: Both are equally nice. While you do have some line changes due to the differences in language, they don’t try force the Japanese lines into the equivalent English, making other, similar lines that flow more naturally with the lip flaps. I’m not fond of Toola’s voice in the dub, for the most part, though when the VA isn’t trying to make her sound high-pitched, it’s rather pleasant.

Summary: 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 remains 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… (from the back of the DVD cover)

Review: After viewing this movie twice, once by myself and the other with my family, we decided unanimously that the rating for this movie comes in several parts:

Art: 10
Music: 10
Story: 8

The first thing that this anime did was showcase the art and music. In one of the most interesting, well-done openings to a movie I’ve ever seen, the events that preceded the events of the anime (the destruction of the moon and travel of the Forest to the earth) is set to a very interesting, beautiful song. The visuals as well as how great the music is, are consistently high quality. The world seems rich and vibrant, and the music draws you in, never seeming inappropriate for the scene.

The story, while still very good, doesn’t quite hold up to the promise that the rest of it gives.

What do you do when you are one of the last people who remember what Earth was like before an apocalyptic event? For Toola, the answer is to seek out others who might remember- others that were also put into suspended animation and survived. She is thrust into circumstances very different from what she knew, and believes that things before were far better. Agito attempts to bring her around to seeing that things really aren’t so bad. Life can be hard, but they have a steady supply of water, have food, and are generally happy.

It’s easy to see how lonely Toola is- there is a haunting, memorable scene that impresses that deeply- but we never see how life from Before really is better from life After. The case is never properly made. In fact, the one thing that really seems to drive her over the edge and into the hands of those that would destroy the forest is the idea that a person can bond with and borrow energy from the forest. With genetic mutations and enhancements a common thing in sci-fi and fantasy stories, this doesn’t seem as outrageous or scary as she makes it out to be.

Failure to really compare why things in advanced cities are better than the life they have in the ruined city also makes the drive of the main protagonist seem unrealistic and overzealous, especially when the main goal to return things to the way they were wouldn’t bring back the technology that they lost or the loved ones that have died- it would merely make the vegetation less likely to attack someone.

However, even with that uncertain logic, the story still flows well and is well-told. The characters are likeable, if a little stereotypical. The action is exciting and draws the viewer in. You can’t help but root for Agito to be able to find the ability to bring Toola back and convince her to not destroy the forest, and Shunak makes a good, fairly convincing antagonist. While the environmental message might be there, it’s no stronger than anything you wouldn’t see in a Ghibli movie, and ends up being fairly well-integrated and not overbearing.

Overall, the production values may have outshone the core story, but it was still a fun movie to see.

Recommended
: 8+. There are some comedic injuries- early on in the movie, one of the boys manages to fall pretty hard onto a sharp rock… on his butt. Obviously very painful and played for laughs, but it’s no more violent than the Looney Tunes. You do also have some fighting where the injuries caused are more serious, however no blood is spilled and all the characters are perfectly fine afterwards. There is implied death, and you do see skeletons for a few moments near the beginning. When Toola’s medical scrubs get wet (and they look like a short dress) you do get some skin-tone showing, but nothing detailed. This only happens once near the beginning. In one scene where you see the forest spirit ‘avatars’- two young girls- they are portrayed in a very stylistic way though they are nude in it. It’s like looking at a classical painting for dryads or nymphs. There is also a scene where the girls ‘meld’ into one being- this is not graphic, nor is there any blood or gore.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (anime and manga)
7Seeds (manga)
Seirei no Moribito (anime)
Princess Mononoke (anime)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (anime)
Please Save My Earth (manga)
King of Thorn (manga)

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