While in recent years the amount of anime coming to the U.S.
has -- to speak in language appropriate to ANGEL'S EGG --
grown from a trickle to a torrent, there are still classic,
cult works left inexplicably untranslated. ANGEL'S EGG,
directed by Mamoru Oshii (GHOST IN THE SHELL), is such a
work; dreamlike, symbolic, and bad at the box office, it was
only released in the U.S. in a "post-apocalyptic" version,
IN THE AFTERMATH intercut with live action by none other
than Roger Corman. However, the phrase "post-apocalyptic" is
inadequate to describe the melancholy and alienation of this
story, a story even Mamoru Oshii himself claims he does not
have an explanation for.
To quote Oshii, the movie
begins at sunset and ends at sunrise; between these periods,
two characters wander through an empty world. The landscapes
consist of forests, leaning Gothic buildings, and strange
alchemical structures made of fish skeletons, all in shades
of green, purple, and blue. Through the damp night walks a
little girl holding an enormous egg with warmth and care;
later she is joined by a young man, perhaps a soldier, who
follows her and tries to win her trust. Fountains splash.
Water gurgles. Very little happens, though the beginning and
ending are clear.
The film is carried along
by the beautiful artwork of Yoshitaka Amano (FINAL FANTASY,
VAMPIRE HUNTER D), whose subtle and baroque style has never
been so well-captured. The 30-second scene of the little
girl rubbing her eyes and getting out of bed is enough
animation for most movies. Lacking action scenes to cut
their teeth on, the animation staff use experimental methods
to suggest shadows, flowing hair and running water -- the
latter being an omnipresent image which Oshii has suggested
may relate to Noah's Ark.
In its dreaminess and religious content, the closest thing
to ANGEL'S EGG is the more accessible NIGHT ON THE GALACTIC
RAILROAD, but ANGEL'S EGG's extreme simplicity makes
interpretations almost superfluous; everything is simply the
visuals and the sound of rain. The dialogue is minimal;
little is lost by viewing the film in Japanese, though
compulsive watchers will want to know the translation in
hopes of gleaning some elusive clue. Images reappear
suggesting a strange, potentially religious meaning:
churches with carvings of fish and birds; the man's staff,
which may be either a gun or a cross; giant fetuses in
blasted landscapes. Does it all add up? Is it meaningless?
In the end, is it apocalyptic or redemptive? Beyond the
strangeness of seeing Christian symbols as interpreted
through non-Christian eyes, and the puzzle-box challenge to
find the 'true' meaning, ANGEL'S EGG stands as an evocation
of a mood and world which is powerful in spite of -- perhaps
because of -- not being consciously understood.