Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled from Paradise – Review
Dingo has it all figured out in this movie: He ALWAYS knows what to do when and how in order to be successful. I don’t think he makes a single mistake in this movie.
Now that the season has started, I guess, I should figure out what I want to blog. Right now, my plan is to blog the following series: Yuri Kuma Arashi, The Rolling Girls, Aldnoah.Zero, Cross Ange. I didn’t write a review for the second episode of Yuri Kuma Arashi because… yeah, a little bit of stuff happens and the rest is just stylized repetition. Hopefully the third episode will be more interesting. As for the Rolling Girls: That first episode was great! Except… I’ve read the synopsis and… the story that’s described there is TOTALLY different from what the first episode tackled story-wise. So, I guess, the series truly starts with the second episode…? Anyway, that’s my plan so far. As for this review… That movie didn’t interest me at all when I first read its synopsis and saw a few screenshots but then I found out that Gen Urobuchi had written the script for it.
Release-Date: November 2014
Running Time: 105 minutes
A woman named Angela is enjoying a day at the beach when suddenly Frontier Setter, an infamous hacker, is disturbing the simulation. She immediately chases after him (in a virtual sense) but fails to catch him. Turns out: She’s working for the “government” as an agent. Said “government” (consisting of three different god-statues) orders her to go the real world in order to find this hacker. She does, she hates it and it’s up to some plucky dude to save the day.
Gen Urobuchi will never tire of telling us that with his stories, I guess.
You might wonder what Gen Urobuchi has been up to recently. Clearly it hasn’t been writing scripts for Psycho-Pass’ second season or Aldnoah.Zero’s second half. Sure, there’s still the Psycho-Pass movie coming out with his script but beyond that? What else has kept Gen busy? And this movie is the answer to that seemingly. Nitroplus and Toei-Animation produced and planned this movie – but didn’t animate it actually, one should note. The visual stuff of this movie came primarily from Graphinica and Bihou, Inc. which are one of those many studios that get hired by the big ones to do stuff for them. Another noteworthy thing about the movie is its director Seiki Mizushima who directed Eureka Seven Ao, Fullmetal Alchemist (the first one), Gundam 00 and Ungo. An experienced director and a good scriptwriter are present so you can at least hope that this movie will be somewhat decent.
This movie clearly belongs to the sci-fi-genre and that isn’t only because of its futuristic setting but more than that it’s the way how the movie fusses over the future of mankind. Story-wise you can clearly split this movie in half. One half shows Angela and Dingo trying to solve a mystery and the other half shows them dealing with the answers they find. There aren’t a lot of quiet moments in this movie due to its writing. In typical Gen-Urobuchi-fashion he employs some high-concept-worldbuilding here and the themes of the movie are as much about the story as they are about general philosophical questions.
Due to the lack of actual quiet, the movie ends up feeling very dense. This doesn’t mean the movie is fast-paced or that it has a ton of plot to get through. What makes this movie so dense is a mix of plot and exposition. You either get a scene where things are happening or you get a scene where characters explain stuff (or they discuss said exposition). The movie never seems to calm down or stand still. Either on a physical level or on a mental level the movie just keeps moving.
The effect of this storytelling-style is a noticeable lack of relief for the tension this movie is trying to build up. Since the movie never comes to a standstill, there aren’t any moments where the characters can take stock of the stakes at play. The movie has little moments that could work as a relief for the tension but they are too short and mostly are just used again to deliver more worldbuilding and exposition. The whole subplot of music is a good example of that. It’s utterly unimportant and so would be a nice way to relieve the tension. Even though the metaphorical connection to the themes of the movie are clear this scenes would’ve worked just fine on its own. And yet the script goes out of its way to spell out the connection to the themes of the movie and a dialogue between Angela and Dingo makes the topic sound more philosophical than joyful. The movie just can’t rest and enjoy the moment. It always needs to ponder why things are happening and the only times this movie doesn’t do that is when things are actually happening.
The worldbuilding feels just a little bit too weighty for this 100-minute-film which ends up feeling burdened by it every step of the way. Its only saving grace is that it’s a genuinely interesting setting. The DEVA-setting seems similar to the Psycho-Pass-Sybil-System in how it’s about using an entirely rational idea in order to create a “utopia”. But the DEVA-system isn’t entirely derivative. After all, the DEVA-system is more of a transhuman solution which is far more sci-fi-ish than what the Sybil-System represents. Anyone who has read a sci-fi-story of this type may find the conclusions the characters arrive at regarding DEVA a tad too predictable and ultimately the idea of the DEVA-system is more interesting than what the movie has ultimately to say about it. The ideas itself are interesting enough, though, to make those discussion not too boring to sit through.
I think this idea would’ve been easier to convey if the movie would’ve actually had good rock-music to play in these scenes.
With a challenging setting and good world-building, one thing comes short: the characters. The movie is basically focused on Angela and Dingo (and Frontier Setter in the second half) with a wide array of side-characters that are more or less cameos in terms of how much screentime they have. Still, I wouldn’t even say that the movie focuses on Angela and Dingo. Sure, they are often the only two characters on-screen and they talk to each other. Well, it’s like that: More than talking to each other, they talk about something together. Weighed down by the need to make the plot happen and to deliver exposition, the movie falls short in terms of characterization. Dingo’s and Angela’s rapport is easygoing and very straightforward – but frankly it has the inspiring depth of a frigging puddle. While the characters are clearly defined and avoid really annoying stuff like fanservice and moe, the characterization only happens on a surface-level. Rather than having a story that is created by the characters, it feels like the story is utilizing these characters to talk about the setting and the themes of the movie. This is a movie that really could’ve used another 20 minutes to give these characters more depth. And it becomes really obvious when an essential part of Angela’s personality (her desire to excel) ends up saying more about the DEVA-system than her as an individual. The characters end up feeling more like archetypes than actual individuals.
Dingo especially feels like a well-known character at this point. Many of Gen Urobuchi’s stories have a character which I would like to call “The Rational Man”. It’s always super-smart dudes who are more perceptive and knowledgeable than everyone else around them – but despite their rational prowess they are plagued by an inner emotional conflict that leads to them becoming pariahs in society. Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero, Kogami from Psycho-Pass and now Dixon from this movie: They’re always there to tell the audience what’s wrong with whatever supposedly great ideological system they interact with. With Kiritsugu it’s the mages, with Kogami it’s the Sybil-System and with Dixon it’s the DEVA-system. Well, I guess, you could also draw a line from Kyubee in Madoka Magica to the Sybil-System in Psycho-Pass and then to the DEVA-system in this movie. Gen Urobuchi is without a doubt one of the best anime-scriptwriters working these days but… well, at some point, his works will either become repetitive or he will actually start to explore his chosen themes (like Satoshi Kon’s works for example which have very strong thematic connections for the most part). What I’m saying is: It’s time for Gen Urobuchi to do a little bit more than just write a script. He should start directing as well. I’m certainly more interested in seeing what he would do with another person’s script as a director or what he would create if he would direct and write something at the same time.
The third important character of the movie is Frontier Setter, of course and personally I found his identity not to be very surprising but your reaction might be different depending on how many sci-fi-stuff you’ve read. It’s his character-introduction that opens the second half of this movie which shifts its focus away from solving a mystery to making a thematic statement about the setting. It’s noteworthy how this second half is less a confrontation between specific characters but more a discussion of how humanity should live. The three options are basically to remain on the old Earth, explore space for a new home or to live in a digitized paradise. And that is the biggest problem of this movie: It lacks emotional depth. When it’s finally decision-time, Frontier Setter ends up being the most compelling character of the three. The other two are just stuck with their superficial characterizations and seem more sentimental than relatable in the final moments of this movie.
Expelled From Paradise is a movie that distinguishes itself more with its ideas than its characters and while the movie isn’t emotionally detached, it’s noticeable how little time the movie invests in making the audience care about the characters. Meanwhile, the ideas supporting the setting may be interesting but the discussion of the whole thing ends up being sentimental in nature and lacks an ending that’s as interesting as the setup of the story.
- The movie did a neat job of explaining why Angela was a 16-year-old. It was only weird that when she then came back to the DEVA-system she still looked like her 16-year-old-self and not like her older self.
- Why were all the mecha-pilots at the end girls? I mean, there’s an obvious answer – but that one has nothing to do with the story.
- What was also a neat idea was to neutralize Angela’s mecha immediately after arriving on Earth. Usually the mecha becomes a lazy plot-device in stories where a “more evolved society” is visiting “barbaric lands”.
- The name of the “DEVA-society” basically means “God-society” (deva is Sanskrit for a god). That’s why there were three gods present, one of them was Zeus, the other Ganesha and the third one, I’m not sure, to be honest.
- Also, wasn’t it a bit contrived how the DEVA-system got turned into a villain? Those three gods were a tad too forceful in wanting to be evil all of a sudden.
- With that in mind, wasn’t it a waste of time for Angela to try talking with them. Sure, the movie tried to explain it away but one has to remember: Frontier Setter had already deduced that he would have more success with his project if he wouldn’t talk with the three gods who control the DEVA-system. It was a bit of a foregone conclusion how then Angela’s meeting with them would turn out. I guess, that part was only there to show Angela who the true good guys are in this story.
- In terms of animation, the battles were okay. The long battle-sequence at the end was somewhat entertaining, too. But CG-Animation still is inferior when it comes to portaying characters and subtle movements. I guess, at this point it’s only a matter of time until non-complete-CG-animes are an exception instead of the rule. But right now the technology really only works for action-heavy series. I can’t imagine wanting to watch a standard slice-of-life-series with this animation-style.
- The movie came out a few days earlier at anime-conventions and selected cinemas in the US than in Japan itself. Apparently they really want this anime-movie to sell overseas as well which would explain why the movie holds back on fanservice and moe-stuff.
Posted on January 15, 2015, in Anime, Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled From Paradise, Reviews and tagged Anime, expelled from paradise, Rakuen Tsuihou, review, 楽園追放 -Expelled From Paradise-. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.