The big problem that I have with anime movies is that I never get a real chance to see them in the theaters. With the exception of a lot (but not all) of Studio Ghibli, I would assume the bulk of these offerings never leave the Land of the Rising Sun. On those rare occasions that they do, it is a really limited release over the course of one weekend, in a movie theater that the bus lines don’t get to, at an outrageous ticket price (I had a chance to see “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” like this, but the tickets were $20 each!) and with a grand total of five showings.
Thus, when I do encounter a movie, I give it a look-see, and I will potentially not get another shot at a look-see. This means it is pot luck at best. Like the Mystery Bag, whatever is whatever. I had a chance to see “Rakuen Tsuihou” (“Expelled from Paradise”), a film I heard nothing about at all, even though it has been out in the US for theoretically five months.
It is the future. Most anime is about the future. Angela Balzac is an agent at the space station DEVA, whose inhabitants have no physical bodies, their minds digitized and processed into a virtual reality environment. She has a day off and is ‘lounging’ at the ‘beach’ on a ‘wonderful day’. Seriously, if this is all VR, it’s not much different than the Matrix, right? Anyway, after some Village People clone tries to hit on her, the beach scene deteriorates, as they have been hacked by some initially unknown entity.
After failing to track down the hacker known as “Frontier Setter”, during an amazing chase sequence through cyberspace, she is tasked to look for him down on Earth, now a barren planet where the rest of the humans live. This hacker had infiltrated DEVA’s systems dozens of times to gather allies for his cause with no success, but the Gods are worried that some great mayhem may befall DEVA. Oh, and I do not use the term “Gods” to indicate the higher-ups in the organization; she communicates with statues of Ganesh, Zeus and God. After being given an organic body and sent to the surface, Angela meets Dingo, her contact on Earth, who cuts off all communications with her base, in order to prevent Frontier Setter from discovering their location as well, despite her protests. Do you know how much that giant fighting robot cost? And you sold it for scrap? Crfap!
OK, so we have the start of something interesting, right? Right? Well, no. As good as Angela is as an agent, when things get physical, she has problems with the human world and navigating about. Dingo, a caliber of Han Solo, is a wise-cracking, street-smart (OK, desert-smart) rogue, who does the dirty work of the Gods. The movie is broken into two parts: the hunt for Frontier Setter and what to do once they find him. Now, the second half of the film falls apart, as it appears they ran out of plot or story or whatever, so it runs on the rims, so to speak, until we reach the conclusion.
The biggest problem is the animation. It is 3D trying to be 2D (think Legend of Zelda “Wind Waker”), but failing on both. We have that herky-jerky movement that is the bane of a lot of 3D anime films; nothing tracks smoothly and you are painfully aware of the limitations. What they should have done is kept the entire VR stuff 3D, make the ‘real world’ 2D and play up the dichotomy that way as to which is ‘more real’. But that didn’t happen. And the end of the film was a bit of a fizzle, as the ‘problem’ kinda faded away. All in all, this was a real fall-short effort. I do not know what they wanted to be, but what it ended up becoming was far less than I expected or hoped for.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 4 (Unsettling 3D approach)
Plot 6 (Interesting idea watered down)
Pacing 6 (Fits and starts)
Effectiveness 6 (Too much meddling)
Conclusion 2 (It concludes, but it doesn’t matter)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 2 ½ stars