Directed by Seiji Mizushima and scripting from Gen Urobuchi, Expelled From Paradise is an original science fiction anime collaboration and theatrical production conceived between Toei Animation and Nitroplus. Besides gathering much of its attention through the partnership of the two aforementioned figures, it’s also due to the movie being touted as exclusively made through 3DCG by Graphinica. Now available for official home release along with an English dub to boot, does this film manage to live up to the lofty expectations it sets?
Title: Expelled From Paradise
Studio: Toei Animation, Nitroplus, Graphinica
Runtime: 1hr 49 minutes
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. After failing to track down the hacker known as “Frontier Setter”, who had infiltrated DEVA’s systems dozens of times to gather allies for his cause with no success, she is tasked to look for him down on Earth, now a barren planet where the rest of the humans live. 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.
If anything, I can say that say that the world-building for Expelled From Paradise serves the science fiction premise well: most of humanity giving up their flesh and blood bodies to live through the pleasures of virtual reality provided by DEVA, a meritocratic ruled space center under a utopian guise. While the audience only gets a glimpse of this paradise, when compared to the technological regressed Earth, the former does appear to be a better way of life – people still struggling to keep their lives in tact on ground thanks to nature’s permanent and barren visage caused by an incident known as the “Nano Hazard”. Being sent to Earth to track down an illegal communication signal via hacking by an entity called Frontier Setter, Angela Balzac as an authorized System Security representative teams up with an Earth contact named Dingo to find out the identity and purpose of the hacker. From there, the film moves along at a smooth clip as the majority of the first half sets up the relationship between Angela and Dingo, one where the latter tries to introduce the former to life outside the virtual prison and living for something more than her duty. Where Angela is the headstrong and uptight personality type, Dingo is carefree and uninhibited – creating the perfect foil and character chemistry between the duo. Of course, for the hopeful romantics out there wanting to see some sparks fly in the other direction – love is an absent party member. No, you are sort of looking at an older brother to younger sister relationship or oddly enough, parent and child. Given Angela’s physical appearance and temperament, the latter seems more appropriate.
Besides establishing the relationship, much of the beginning and later parts of the film also deals with setting the tone on a thematic level – many of the concepts centering things such as: humanity, freedom, and the tyranny of technology clouding reality. Sprinkled around the story in small doses, the philosophical waxing is nice as a footnote, but never reaches its full potential or for that matter, goes toward great excess. For a title with the runtime of an hour and some change it’s actually a very well-written screenplay on Urobuchi part with the exception of one major aspect: dialogue. Knowing full well that I’m watching a sci-fi based title, the characters and their incessant technobabble don’t need serve as a reminder – a constant one at that persisting for a good 75% of the movie’s duration. Used more for aesthetic purposes rather than trying to cover any plot holes (a few minor ones do exist), the conflated language provides no aid whatsoever and just makes it slightly more difficult to take on the chin. Given the backdrop and setting for the story I can kind of understand the reason for it, but in a larger context just very unnecessary.
Once the identity of Frontier Setter is uncovered during the second half of film, things do begin to take a slightly more fascinating turn, and also where most of the action sequences come into play showing off the full extent of the 3DCG at work. Being far too extravagant for a regular anime series, but fitting perfectly in place for a medium-sized cinematic release, the animation actually works out as a great benefit to the entire movie – everything from the eye-catching backgrounds and characters designs to superfluous visual presentation – nothing is slighted by the style. Still nowhere near a match for Production I.G, but comparable to Knights of Sidonia by Polygon Pictures, the animation and overall cinematography has no problem holding its own. However, to shift a small amount of focus back to the contrived plot holes mentioned earlier…they are simply just a byproduct of the movie feeling somewhat rushed. One example centers around Angela’s clone body that is produced from a sample of her former self. If it takes up a great deal of resources to store the digitized life of DEVA citizen why even bother keeping the data for clone body and not have them be transferred to smaller robotic body akin to the Arhan? That would seem more…logical? Another point centers around Frontier Setter and his obviously negligible hacking attempts to contact DEVA. If he was much of problem in the past why didn’t DEVA increase it’s security like near the denouement? And don’t even get me started about Frontier Setter’s method to get all of DEVA’s willing citizens on the shuttle if they are all digital bodies. There are a lot of cool ideas and concepts going on under the hood, but again, they sometimes don’t add up when it come to the realm of contextual sense.
With the home release containing an official English dub, I would have to say that I’m overall impressed with it. Being very similar to the Japanese track, there is little in the way of changes to the scripting or nature of the story. So whether you like to hear Angela voiced by the “Queen of Tsunderes” known as Rie Kugimiya or peppy vocals of Wendee Lee, you are adequately covered on either front like the rest of the casting choices. Ranging between a few techno inspired tracks and even incorporating other genres like Rhythm and blues, the musical composition by Narasaki is all over place and not as good as prior works such as Un-Go. If anything, the two vocal themes seem to get the most due care and even they still comes up short when it comes performance.
Having little to no expectations going into it, I can least say that Expelled From Paradise did certainly make a moderately positive one. Falling somewhat short in terms of the narrative and details that surround it, the concepts, creativity, and presentation easily does make up for the missteps. It might not appeal to the more insatiable crowd seeking the “cutting edge”, but for the rest of us just wanting to whisked away to world and enjoy the journey – it at least has that going for it. Either way, I could think of more ill-advised ways to waste time and glad to say that Expelled From Paradise was well worth mine.
Pros: Unique concepts and ideas, the 3D animation style works well throughout the movie’s duration, entertaining cast of characters, well-written screenplay.
Cons: Some insufferable lines of dialogue, some concepts not fully realized or explained well.