It’s not often that I venture into the realm of “oldies” anime, but after hearing and reading some comments about Angel’s Egg, I just couldn’t resist. Released back in 1985, Angel’s Egg is a film written and directed by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame, and produced by Tokuma Shoten.
As far as I could tell, the story is about a girl that is taking care of an egg and a man that befriends her. They live in a dark, seemingly post-apocalyptic and watery world. The only other people around are stone statues that go hunting with “fish” appear in the city. There is almost no dialogue in the film and it relies heavily on imagery.
I enjoy deciphering challenging anime that use metaphor and symbolism, such as Mawaru Penguindrum and Bungaku Shoujo, but those series are rooted in literature whereas Angel’s Egg is rooted in religion. More specifically, Angel’s Egg is heavily influenced by Christian belief, which I am not very familiar with. This put me at a huge disadvantage; I was a huge bookworm in my childhood so literature-rooted anime are easy, but I grew up in an athiest household and know next to nothing about holy scripture.
So what was I able to garner from this movie without a strong grasp of Christianity? Well, I interpreted the stone statues as the common folk, chasing after shadows that they can never catch. In my view, it’s a reflection of modern society: people are constantly trying to grab ahold of something, it could be a promotion, better grades, fame, or money, but few are ever satisfied with what they have and continue reaching.
The little girl was different from the rest. She wasn’t concerned with chasing after shadows, but cherished life, and what better way to represent life than through an egg, the place where a new life begins. On the other hand, there are those that deceive and destroy, represented by the man that befriends the girl. Allusion to the man’s role as a destroyer is present in his first meeting with the girl as he rides on top of what appears to be a tank. He earns her trust and once she has full faith in him, his actions revealed his true nature.
That was my interpretation of the series, so I was surprised to read that most people saw it in a completely different way: that the man was a representation of Christ and was the girl’s saviour. Regardless of who’s correct (or if there even is a correct interpretation), the fact that people can arrive at opposite conclusions should give you an idea of how confusing Angel’s Egg is.
In terms of visuals, the film was absolutely stunning. Extensive usage of shadows and reflections on the water really bring the animation to life. The overall darkness in the film also allows viewers to use their imagination to fill in some of the gaps, but it never felt like anything was missing. This was enhanced with the background music which either helped to enhance the visuals or invoke deeper thought and greater attention through silence.
Would I recommend this anime? Yes and no. It’s definitely not for everyone, and if you’re like me and have little understanding of Christian symbols, then you’ll miss a lot unless you read a dozen interpretations while watching it. On the other hand, it is a visual masterpiece that anyone can enjoy. Unlike most anime of today with rainbow-coloured high-pitched everything, it really makes an effort to set the perfect atmosphere. I think Angel’s Egg most appeals to anime-as-art buffs, so if you’re one of those, then go for it. As for me, it was a nice little film to watch during lunch, but I wouldn’t actively seek to watch it again.
If you’re interested, you can watch the whole thing below:
A translation can be found here: http://www.cultivatetwiddle.com/angelsegg/angelscript.txt
So there’s my monthly post. I’ve gotten a few rejections so I’m still working on getting into a good school. Like I said earlier, I’ll be back to regular blogging in the new year.