5 January 2007
Gin-iro no Kami no Agito (which is probably going to be released to Western audiences renamed as 'Origin: Spirits of the Past') is one of the more recent original anime filmic ventures from Gonzo. And while it is a good movie, it can't quite manage to break into the realm of the great for many reasons, some of which sadly could have been avoided.
The story for Gin-iro (ah, screw it, it's going to be a pain writing out the full title again and again, so it's just being referred to as Gin-iro henceforth) is simple enough. It's set in a post-apocalyptic world where in a bizarre twist thanks to some screwed up bio-engineering, forests have run rampant and have become dangerous, semi-sentient beings. Fortunately, the people of this future have managed to achieve an uneasy co-existence with the forest, and some individuals can be granted super-human abilities by entering a pact with it. The unfortunate sife-effect, however, is that the overuse of those powers will slowly turn that person into a tree. Cool, yes?
Rest assured, though, that this is not another one of those environmentally-friendly anime films that strives to make you feel guilty about enjoying the convenience of a light bulb. The focus of the story is primarily on Agito, a boy who stumbles across a girl who'd been sleeping for 300 years, from the time before the disaster that changed the forests struck. He awakens her and brings her back to his town, but soon she is taken away by forces that seek to defy the forest and return the world to its former glory, but, as is typical with these sorts of stories, need her to do it. I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that Agito goes into the forest and acquires the power that slowly turned his own father into a tree in order to chase after her, because you see that coming from a mile away.
In the end, that was the biggest problem with Gin-iro. The story had a solid premise and interesting setting, but it fell prey to standard cliches and poor characterisation. It was also hard to believe that Agito developed such fanatical love for a girl he barely knew so as to chase after her and risk his own life. Not to mention that the only thing he really seemed capable of towards the end of the film was yelling out her name in a long, drawn-out fashion, which made him seem sort of retarded. No, scratch that. It made him seem VERY retarded.
The action sequences were at least somewhat cool, and even though not nearly enough time was spent developing the characters, the film was well-paced and remained interesting. And where the story fell short, the Gin-iro made up for it visually and aurally. It was a stunning film to look at, and there were some excellent production values in the animation. The backgrounds in particular were lavishly detailed and proved to be a veritable feast for the eyes.
The soundtrack was also beautiful, and well-used to boot. The opening sequence alone is enough to make you want to sit through the rest of the movie. I don't think that the OST for it has been released yet (or perhaps it is just difficult to find), but if you do happen to stumble across it, it's worth checking out. The sound effects were good as well, though given the production values it sported, there would have been no excuse for anything poorer. The voice acting was really the only area where the audio fell short, and in the end I'm more tempted to blame that on a mediocre script than anything else. It seems to be a reoccurring issue in anime recently where the characters and dialogue are strong yet the story is weak, or the premise is fascinating yet the characters utterly uninteresting. If we could somehow find a way to marry the two types, then we very well might have the perfect story.
All of that being said, Gin-iro is definitely worth a watch. For all of its many flaws, and the unbelievably convenient occurrences in the plot, it's still a far sight better than most of the excretions being fed to us from Hollywood these days. If you don't feel like sitting through the entire hour and a half, you can watch the first five minutes (which I do believe is in the trailer anyway) and you'll have seen the best bit anyway. Though you will miss out on the part where Agito cleaves a tank in two WITH HIS BARE HANDS. If that doesn't convince you to watch it, I don't know what will.
Overall score: 689,547/1,000,000.
I should add that you'll probably not be able to resist making smart ass comments throughout watching this. People who hate talking in movies: watch this one alone.