a.k.a. Magical Egg of the Angels
a.k.a. Mystical Egg of the Angels
a.k.a. Masul an wi Chonsa
a.k.a. Tenshi no Tamago
Company: Tokuma Shoten
Format: 1 movie
On a strange and barren world, a young girl living in the shadows spends her days collecting water in jars and protecting a large egg. A passing man carrying a strange cross is curious about the girl’s egg. They begin traveling together, their quiet dispositions only interrupted by their own worldly musings.
summary by Eek
Highs: Pure animation; reaches for the sky…
Lows: … and falls flat on its face
Those who have seen Angel’s Egg fall into two categories: enthralled by such an existential film, or almost put to sleep by sheer boredom. I’m sure you can already tell where I stand with regards to this anime.
For a movie released in late 1985, the animation will put you in a trance. Pure as newly-fallen snow, the hand-drawn cels are gorgeously painted in dark and sobering shades with painstaking detail. It’s mesmerizing to watch even a soft, fleshy hand grasp something and squeeze because it looks very real. This brings to life the two nameless characters of the movie, both who whisper to each other in metaphors. One scene in particular finds the man retelling the story of Noah’s Ark from the Old Testament, and combined with other pieces found throughout (the egg, the cross, the bird), it’s easy to see that there’s a greater puzzle yet to be solved.
However, don’t expect to find any hard answers. Each metaphor spoken and piece of symbolism shown only helps to further deepen the mystery behind the film. Theories abound, and I believe that director Oshii Mamoru was trying to question mankind’s existence as an absolute truth, but he pulled it off so much better in Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer, even when it was just summed up in the question, “Am I dreaming of a butterfly or am I the butterfly’s dream?” The deadpan look on the character’s faces and the mysterious action shown here only create more questions, forcing the audience to devise their own idea of what it all means.
Despite the love-it-or-hate-it quality, this art house-style movie gently flies on by in its 71 minutes. Still, anyone would have to paint with a wide brush to find a rational theory that explains everything here, and I gave up lest I lose my sanity.
Highs: Haunting soundtrack; consistent melancholic theme
Lows: Unrelenting melancholic theme
Angel’s Egg is in love with an idea. Screenwriter and director Oshii Mamoru (Jin-Roh, Ghost in the Shell) is in love with a dark, desolate atmosphere that would become his signature in subsequent films. Both work together to create a dream-like trance that’s pretty inviting… and yet closes the door in your face as you’re just about to walk in.
The big reason for this is that the idea that this movie so wants to show its audience is never fully realized because of Oshii’s infatuation with placing cold characters in even colder environs. He spends far too much time maintaining a distance between the viewer and the two protagonists with surreal backdrops and utilization of floating camera angles. The good that comes of this is a feeling of watching a Salvador Dali painting in motion, minus the vivid colors and kinetic energy.
Dialogue is kept to a bare minimum, with the two characters exchanging terse phrases that dance around issues without coming to any resolutions. A biblical reference to Noah’s Ark (I swear, someone should toss Oshii the Koran so he has some different source material for once) gives us a mere inkling of where the story is going but never runs with it.
Angel’s Egg is a fringe anime if there ever was one. Many viewers have been put off with the surreal visuals and scenes of elongated nothingness. But those same qualities will appeal to others who like their anime off the beaten path, and the tranquil melodies certainly enhance the experience. There just wasn’t enough of a working story to transcend it.
Highs: Extraordinarily beautiful; prime example of anime as art
Lows: Style-over-substance turns away some viewers
After seeing what Mamoru Oshii managed to do in the first Ghost in the Shell movie and Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer, I was anxious to see more of his work and Angel’s Egg has always been at the top of my list. An anime known for its bizarre symbolism and gorgeous artwork, Angel’s Egg appears as nothing less than a mysterious masterpiece.
For the most part, it delivers. Shots in the film constantly flit between a number of different art styles: the doll-like delicacy of the main female character, the harsh realism of the male characters and the buildings, lush landscapes, a curiously marbled sky. During numerous points in the movie, I felt more as if I were walking through an art museum than watching an anime. Very few times have I ever seen such poignant artwork in an animated film.
Part of me feels bad for spending so much time talking about the artwork in Angel’s Egg, but the fact is that Angel’s Egg is more of an objet d’art than anything else. It is a prime example of treating animation as an art form, pure and simple.
However, those who walk into this film expecting anything other than art will come out of the experience sorely disappointed. The two main characters are enigmas, and their dialogue is purely metaphorical. What little plot that exists in the movie is heavily draped in religious allegory. Events happen with little or no explanation and some even seem to be thrown into the plot simply for the fun of animating them. For some anime fans, these faults are so flagrant that they overshadow better aspects of the movie. Others, who are more willing to be experimental with their tastes in anime, may be more accepting of Angel’s Egg‘s unorthodox attributes. In either case, Angel’s Egg remains in a state of love-it-or-hate-it fandom.
If you don’t mind experimenting with your anime, Angel’s Egg is a good short flick to blow your mind away. Those with more traditional tastes may only find themselves lost and confused. In any event, it’s a great anime for fans who feel they’ve already seen everything, just to keep them on their toes.
Angel’s Egg can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.