Something went terribly wrong with the world 300 years ago and now the Earth is separated into three defining groups. First we have the forest, which has rebelled against the humans and is now protecting itself, using its own “druid” inhabitants and crazy plant dragons. Next we have NeutralCity, a place where humans have decided to try to live with the forest in a more peaceful and archaic lifestyle. Finally, we have the Nation of Ragna where the humans are fighting back against the forest, using machines and technology to take back control of the Earth. Agito, a boy living in Neutral City, gets caught up in a struggle against the Nation of Ragna when he finds a girl that has been asleep for over 300 years that is the key to the victory of humans over the forest. Knowing nothing of this new world and being terrified of it, will she be the one to destroy the forests and possibly everything else along with it or will she be able to accept this new world and coexist with the forest?
Anime titles preaching to us about the importance of the environment are a dime a dozen. While this is supposed to be a main point of Origin, the nice thing about it is that the message actually gets lost about halfway through. I found this to be one of the movies assets, as the environment taking a back seat to the actual movie was a much better route than hammering home the environmentalist message. This does serve to focus the movie on the characters actions and situations, rather than trying to tell us about how everything relates back to the environment.
Moving on from the ecological aspect of the movie, the basic setup of Origin is not much different from most other anime titles either. We begin with Agito fooling around with one of his friends with complete disregard for the truce setup between Neutral City and the forest. Breaking one of their pacts by taking a swim in the water supply, the forest retaliates by draining the water away, taking Agito along for the ride. In the process he finds a girl named Toola that has been asleep for hundreds of years. She is actually the key to whether or not the forest will be destroyed by the Ragna forces and will thus have to choose which path to take. The setup and story are not very original, but since when do things have to be original to be good? Most things in the world today are not original; it's more about how well they execute the material they have, as compared to similar material that came before it. Even though the story may not be original, it is still fairly coherent and entertaining. With regard to the two main characters, I was really able to sympathize with both Agito and Toola's conflicts throughout the movie. Agito was trying to save Toola from making a horrible mistake in possibly destroying the forest and everything else along with it. Toola was new to this "ruined world" and just wanted to do whatever she could to make the Earth how it was before the forest attacked and destroyed everything. Overall, story wise, Origin does pretty well, but not great. However, technically,Origin is sublime.
Done by Gonzo, the animation is simply wonderful. One wishes that more anime titles were up to this level of quality, since it rivals that of its Ghibli counterparts. The art is beautiful as well, but more-so in terms of the environment rather than the character designs. That is to say, I am not really a fan of how Agito looks, especially after he gets his silver hair. Toola is hot though, especially in the scene when she just got out of the water, the far left screenshot below.
The music is quite good as well, with a number of powerful scores that really stand out while you're watching the movie, adding power to the scenes at hand. Here's hoping for a soundtrack release!
Both English and Japanese dubs are fine. I had no problem with either really, especially since Agito was voiced by one of my favorite voice actors, Chris Patton (Sousuke in Full Metal Panic!). I am more of a dub fan than not, so if you usually prefer Japanese language tracks you may here as well, but the dub is certainly competent and comparable in quality. My only complaint with the English dub is that Toola sounded a little too feminine.
All in all, Origin is an enjoyable movie to watch, though somewhat disjoined and slightly lacking in overall story quality. The movie sadly seemed better at the beginning than at the end. As I said before though, the technical merits of this movie are all very high, making it quite good in the face of a rather passable story.
A certain scene towards the end of this movie really reminded me of A Tree of Palme, though luckily this movie doesn't have such a sad ending.
It may be similar in message to Nausicaä, but at no point during the film was I comparing the two. Each has its own pluses and minuses, but I do not view Origin as some sort of Nausicaä rip off. Just saying this since I have read so much concerning this debate online.