Amon Saga is classic sword and sorcery in anime form that is definitely up front about its influences – obviously via tropes common to the genre, but this revenge story might also bring to mind Schwarzenegger-era Conan too.
Elsewhere, there’s an interesting mix between what I think of as hints of Elric of Melniboné and ‘D’ from Vampire Hunter D.
And maybe that’s partly due to the character designs by Yoshitaka Amano?
The OVA also has a few exciting sequences and some memorable moments and characters (for me, it’s Alcan who almost steals the show) yet what I think I enjoyed most was the visuals – especially the use of colour and shadow.
Some older films, especially those that pre-date modern CGI techniques, spend a lot more time on composition, on shadow or colour, and while my screencaps probably don’t back up my claim, it’s definitely there.
I really enjoyed Amon Saga but it’s probably not one I’ll watch annually, despite the visuals.
There’s a lot to like there but the story didn’t match it, I think, whether because of a bit of missing world-building or the sense that Amon rode off into the sunset simply ‘because’, or the fact that I didn’t really get to know him enough.
However, if you like retro anime, fantasy and adventure, then this is still going to satisfy on some levels at least, even if it probably won’t end up your new favourite.
I definitely enjoyed Lily C.A.T but I think if you want terror in space, then you will invariably be more satisfied by the film it owes the most to, which is of course Alien.
However, that doesn’t mean this longish OVA is not worth checking out if you’re interested in the genre. Or that it doesn’t have moments of tension. And for me, there were also parts that definitely ‘explored the human condition’, to borrow a phrase from literary fiction circles.
And as a bonus, I actually wanted some of the characters to survive!
As an aside that is actually a couple of paragraphs long, when I use the ‘Toys in the Attic’ episode of Cowboy Bebop in my classes, we talk a lot about the influence of Alien on the ep (and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others) but I think Lily C.A.T should get a mention too.
It feels like part of that famous homage episode (especially the blob itself and the blowtorch) are close enough to what you’ll see here, to warrant a mention at least. Certainly, my obsession with connecting texts to one another is something I might one day cut back on, but it’s out of my system for the rest of this review at least!
There’s plenty about the film that uses the typical ‘crew dies one by one’ structure, but the menace itself is something a little different. And when you do catch glimpses of a certain thing, you might recognise creature design by Yoshitaka Amano, with a Vampire Hunter D style, if a little more muted perhaps.
Actually… it turns out that I lied about the intertexual references, as I do have one more that I’ll get to in a moment:
So, there’s a nice layering of mystery in Lily C.A.T that I also enjoyed.
Generally, the crew is trying to figure out what went wrong to interrupt their ‘hypersleep’ flight. However, at the same time they learn of imposters aboard, and so while folks are trying to determine who they can trust amongst the humans, they’re also having to deal with increasing threats from the non-human.
It does add an extra dimension to the suspense, which I really enjoyed but if you’re looking for a really slick, vividly animated film then you might find Lily C.A.T a bit dated. However, that’s not to say it’s bad – for instance, the hanger door sequence was ace.
But back to the reference I mentioned – parts of that sub-plot seemed to echo They Were Eleven (an earlier space flight themed manga/anime) though obviously the idea of false identity is not new.
Worth it if you’re interested in ‘retro’ anime, I reckon.
[This is the first entry in a challenge (that I hope to one day finish), where I have set myself the goal of watching something for each letter of the alphabet – you can see the list over here if curious].
Mamoru Oshii is quoted as saying that Angel’s Egg “kept [me] from getting work for years” and that makes me kinda sad to read even now, years after his career skyrocketed.
Angel’s Egg (Tenshi no Tamago) 1985
I do see why it freaked out the studio suits – but it’s a beautiful film that deserved to be made, I reckon. And in an utterly non-controversial way, I reject the idea that something is only good if it is wildly popular and makes a lot of money – but that’s an aside, I guess, let’s get back to the movie.
Angel’s Egg is fascinating to me and I found it deeply immersive; there’s so much atmosphere built in to every moment, from the dissonant opening to the way the rest of the movie builds and reveals detail about the dystopian-like setting and its lonely characters.
If you’ve read much about the film you’ll know it’s not praised for its narrative but that isn’t to say that Angel’s Egg is without story or events; there’s a lot going on but so much rests in subtext, leaving us to infer things like motivation, consequence and purpose. In a way, the film is almost a study in animating water, light, shadow, in visual storytelling.
Of course, it’s more than those things but Angel’s Egg is also so much like traditional visual art. The composition and framing of so many shots as the Girl moves through the seemingly empty city with her egg, is relentlessly striking. It’s also exceptionally minimalist (dialogue-wise especially) in terms of palette – covered in blues, greys, blacks and whites for the most part. It’s ghostly, moving.
The sound design is equal parts haunting and dissonant – from metallic sound effects to softer rain, to the unearthly choirs, there’s a darkness there too. In fact, shadow is probably the key element to Angel’s Egg, how it moves, conceals or contrasts is constantly explored by Yoshitaka Amano and Mamoru Oshii. The closest comparison I can make to the style is probably the way German Expressionist film can be said to focus on the following:
Mise-en-scene and heavy atmosphere
Long shadow effects
Details of sets used to evoke emotion or provoke thought
Camera set in unexpected angles
A slower pace than other movies
Expressionism does explore other things in different ways too but I think that Angel’s Egg is what you’d get if Anime met Expressionism, and it had me enthralled – glued to the couch, as it were. And while it all sounds bleak perhaps, I think the movie does explore hope (and maybe offers some too), though that can be a bit buried – at times the darkness and even the surrealist touches take charge; there’s even echoes of the Venice seen in 1973’s horror classic Don’t Look Now.
Related to above, there’s an aspect that I don’t want to spoil and which somewhat sums up the idea of surrealism in the film – it’s both moving and kinda sad, purgatory-like in a way – but again, I won’t mention specifics in case those of you reading have never seen the movie. In a similar way, I won’t ruin the final, chilling shots but I will circle back to my word choice of ‘purgatory’ because Angel’s Egg does have a strong focus on Christian symbolism, even if it’s not a film anyone would call ‘preachy’. Lots of room for the viewer to decide what they felt about the movie and the characters here.
Once more, I’ll repeat that I don’t think everyone will enjoy Angel’s Egg (which is normal and valid of course) but I think it’s worth watching at least once for the visual elements alone, and for how very non-typical the film was for the anime world.