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Film: Origin – Spirits of the Past

For most of the film it seems like things would have been better if Agito had never done this.

In some ways Origin: Spirits of the Past almost functions as a counterpoint to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (which it isn’t connected to in any way). In the latter the sci-fi elements were almost incidental compared to the story of Makoto and her friends, her time travel putting a new spin on her life without it being the core of the film. In this film it’s all about the sci-fi.

Origin: Spirits of the Past takes place in the future, after a disaster creates a conscious forest entity that is actively hostile to the few remaining humans. The biggest human opposition to the forest is the military nation of Ragna, who actively attack the forest and take the resources they need. Sitting between the two factions is Neutral Town, a peaceful place that attempts to co-operate with both, accepting water they need from the forest and trading with Ragna. This tenuous balance is shaken when teen Agito accidentally awakens Toola, a girl from the past who has been kept in suspended animation and possesses a piece of technology that could be used by the Ragna army to annihilate the forest.

For the most part the story follows a very familiar path (indeed, it could have come straight out of a Japanese role-playing game). Toola is tempted by fellow past-dweller Shunack’s talk of restoring the world to how it was and ultimately it’s up to Agito to try and save her from the competing factions and herself.

In some respects the film almost moves too quickly where Agito and Toola are concerned. They spend a little time together but once things get moving Agito goes to incredible lengths and sacrifices a lot to try and save her, abandoning his friends and his life for her without the film really forging that kind of bond. The villain’s main plan, ridding the world of a forest that actively seeks to harm humanity and withholds water on a whim, doesn’t actually come across as a bad thing. In fact, the writers seems to add Neutral Town as a necessary sacrifice to the villain’s plan to make it unambiguously evil.

It’s a well animated film (some bits are clearly computer animated and stand out a little), and some of the art itself is excellent, with a lot of visually distinct characters even if most aren’t actually fleshed out as such. Origin: Spirits of the Past is a good film, but not a very surprising one.

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