Friday, February 3, 2012

Space Firebird 2772

Hi no Tori 2772: Ai no Kosumozon; animated science-fiction, Japan, 1980; D: Suguru Sugiyama, S: Kaneto Shiozawa, Katsue Miwa, Hiroshi Ohtake

Earth in 2772. As a baby, Godo is raised by computers in order to suit the demands of the society and make him a future candidate for a space pilot. As a little boy, he is given a female android, Olga, who helps to educate him. As a grown up, Godo rebels when he refuses so kill living creatures during his training and when he falls in love with Lena, the fiance of his brother, Rock. Godo is sent to a labour camp that exploits the energy of the Earth's core, but escapes together with Dr. Saruta in order to find the mysterious space bird, the Phoenix, that could heal Earth. In the process, Olga is destroyed, which causes Godo to realise he loved her all the time. In order to save the decaying Earth, Godo sacrifices his life in order for Phoenix to rejuvenate the planet.

Just like "Metropolis", Osamu Tezuka's earlier cult anime "Space Firebird 2772", based on his own manga, is an unusual experience: the opening science-fiction act still gathers universal critical acclaim for its audacity and sharpness, but the second part, which suddenly switches to a fantasy fairytale, is far less harmonious and at times almost seems like patchwork. The first part amazes due to its clever depiction of "A Brave New World" kind of society: in a grandiose 10 minute montage, without any dialogue (!), it encompasses the whole childhood of hero Godo who is bred in test tubes and raised without parents, by computers, whereas inside this sequence there is another grandiose scene, a groundbreaking animation stunt where Godo is driving in his car, but then the camera "flies" up for a hundred yards in order to show him and the whole city from the "bird perspective" and then, in the same take, "falls" down on the road again in order be at the same height with his moving car. Some bitter observations about that doomed future where human greed exploited Earth to the brink of collapse have weight, neatly incorporating ecological themes and the loss of emotions. The second part, though, makes, just like "Up", an uneven leap towards infantile that does not seem natural: while Crack, a pink mole like creature in a dice (!), and Pincho are cute, they often seem just like silly attempts at humor, similar like R2D2 and C3PO - more so, the scene where they sing using a flute in order to cheer up Olga seems as if it fell from some kind of Disney cartoon. The whole Phoenix chase sequence is uneven and bipolar, yet the finale does indeed offer some thought-provoking, genuinely contemplative ideas about life, karma and Buddhism.



Christopher M. Sobieniak said...

Certainly the film is pretty hard to get through at first glance but I enjoyed some of the visuals in it myself. I typically call it "Phoenix 2772" as it's a tad easier to say than "Space Firebird" (a title often used internationally I see).

Marin Mandir said...

Yes, it's strange and alien, and yet, it somehow has a unique narrative. I somehow wish the whole film would have been revolving just around part 1, though the firebird gave the finale a metaphysical-esoteric (and even a little bit of religious) touch.

Valérie said...

Come on, didn't you perceive the very japaneselike sexuality of Olga? Read my review if you want!

Marin Mandir said...

I just read your review, Valerie, it is fantastic, you really explained it in a very detailed way.

It was obvious that Olga was suppose to be a robot that fulfills many of his needs, from being a friend and a teacher when he was a kid to a lover (implied) when he grows up.