A picture showing the unnamed girl.
(Tenshi no Tamago)
|Original video animation|
|Directed by||Mamoru Oshii|
|Music by||Yasuhiro Nakura|
|Released||December 15, 1985|
Angel's Egg (天使のたまご Tenshi no Tamago?) is a Japanese original video animation released by Tokuma Shoten on December 15, 1985. It was a collaboration between popular artist Yoshitaka Amano and director Mamoru Oshii. It features very little spoken dialogue. Its sparse plot and visual style have led to it being described as "animated art rather than a story".
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Angel's Egg follows the life of an unnamed young girl living alone in an abandoned city. She cares for a large egg which she hides under her dress, protecting it while scavenging the decrepit Neo-Gothic/Art Nouveau cityscape for water and food. In a prologue, an unnamed young man watches as an orb-shaped vessel, decorated with thousands of goddess-like sculptures, descends from the sky. Awakened by the orb's alarm, the girl begins her day of scavenging, but soon crosses paths with the man on a wide street traveled only by roving tanks. Frightened by the man, who looks like a soldier and carries a threatening cross-shaped device over his shoulder, the girl runs off down an alley. When she returns to investigate, the man has left. She resumes searching for food and glass bottles, avoiding the ominous figures of men clutching harpoons which scatter the cobbled streets.
After a moment of respite to eat her findings, the girl spots the man and approaches him. He turns and surprisingly produces her egg from underneath his cape; she had unthinkingly abandoned it on the plaza where she was eating. He instructs the girl to "Keep precious things inside you or you will lose them," and returns the egg. When asked what she believes is inside the egg, the girl asserts that she can't tell him. The man then suggests breaking the egg to find out, which incenses the girl and drives her storming away, only to be diligently pursued by the man.
Eventually the chase gives way to the pair bonding, as the stoic fishermen figures spring to life and frighten the girl. The fishermen race after enormous shadows of coelacanth-like fish that swim across the surfaces of streets and buildings, lobbing their harpoons at the brick and stone. As the shadows swim away, the girl explains that while the fish are gone, the men persist in hunting. The pair wait out the commotion within a vast, church-like theatre decorated with stained windows of fish.
Leaving the city and heading towards the girl's settlement, the pair stop within a massive structure which appears to be the carcass of a beached leviathan. Noticing an engraving of a tree on a pillar, the man describes his memory of a similar tree which grew to hold a giant egg containing a sleeping bird - an image shown at the start of the film. When the girl inquires as to what the bird dreams of, the man flatly asks if the girl still won't tell him what's inside her egg. The pair ascend a staircase arrayed with bottles of water, like those the girl collects, on each step. Adding her newest tribute to the line of bottles, the girl and the man reflect on their amnesia as to their identity and purpose. The man begins to recount the biblical tale of Noah's Ark, describing the flood, its survivors, and their search for land by awaiting the return of a dove. The tale deviates down a fatalistic turn when the man claims that the dove never returned to the ark, and thus its passengers forgot why they were sailing, forgot about the civilization drowned below, and lost all connection with who they were.
The man pensively asks the girl if they themselves or any of the strange world they live in really exists, or if it is merely a memory like his image of the sleeping bird. The girl suddenly insists that the bird does exist, and leads the man down corridors of ancient fossils to arrive at a chapel-like alcove. The man looks on aghast; against the far wall is the fossilized skeleton of an angel. The girl explains her intent to hatch the egg and return it to the "bird" she'd found. The man solemnly explains this was what he had suspected all along.
Later, the pair warm themselves within the girl's settlement, which is revealed to be a large ship propped up by pylons. As the girl drifts off to sleep, she speaks to the creature inside her egg of their future together. Outside, the heavy rain consumes the city and floods the streets. While the girl is turned away from the egg in her sleep, the man takes it and raises his cross-shaped weapon high to smash it. Awaking the next day, the girl discovers the broken shell of her egg and shrieks out, utterly heartbroken. Intent on confronting the man, she runs from the ship and pursues him through the woods, but suddenly plunges into a deep ravine and drowns. Beneath the water, the girl transforms into an adult woman before releasing a final breath, which rises to the surface as a multitude of bobbing eggs.
As the rain suddenly abates, trees holding eggs like those described by the man are shown to be scattered throughout the landscape. The man stands on a vast shore, littered with white feathers, as the orb-like vessel rises from the ocean. Among the thousands of statues adorning the orb is a new feature: a figure of the girl, sitting serenely on a throne and caressing the egg in her lap. The screen slowly pans out to reveal that the land of the beach, the forest, and the city is part of a small and lonely island within a vast sea, appearing not unlike the hull of an overturned ship.
Prior to the production on Angel's Egg, Mamoru Oshii lost his faith in Christianity. Senses of Cinema opined that the film "seems informed by the existential desperation caused by the collapse of one's belief system" Oshii himself has stated he does not know what the film is about.
Production and release
Angel's Egg was a collaboration between Oshii and Amano. The animation was produced by Studio DEEN, with Hiroshi Hasegawa, Masao Kobayashi, Mitsunori Miura, and Yutaka Wada working as producers. Oshii and Amano collaborated on the script, and Yasuhiro Nakura composed the music.
Angel's Egg was released direct to video on December 15, 1985 by Tokuma Shoten. The 71-minute OVA would be later used as the skeleton for the live-action film In the Aftermath (1987) directed by Carl Colpaert. Colpaert's film occasionally intercuts with footage from Oshii's Angel Egg with dubbed over dialogue which does not appear in Oshii's film.
Angel's Egg did not do well with critics on its release, and Oshii stated that "it kept him from getting work for years". However, it is considered "one of the highlights of 'artistic' anime and [his] career as a director." Brian Ruh, a critical analyst of Japanese popular culture, stated that it was "one of the most beautiful and lyric films in the animated medium."
Helen McCarthy called it "an early masterpiece of symbolic film-making", stating that "its surreal beauty and slow pace created a Zen-like atmosphere, unlike any other anime". In his book Horror and Science Fiction Film IV, Donald C Willis described the film as "a haunting, poetic melancholic science-fantasy film, and–for non-Japanese-speaking viewers at least–a very cryptic one." Willis also included the film in his list of most memorable films from 1987-1997.
In an article in Senses of Cinema on Oshii, Richard Suchenski stated that the film was Oshii's "purest distillation of both Oshii’s visual mythology and his formal style". The review noted that "Patlabor 2 is more sophisticated, Ghost in the Shell is more important, and Avalon is more mythically complex but the low-tech, hand-drawn Angel's Egg remains Oshii’s most personal film."
- "天使のたまご" [Angel's Egg] (in Japanese). Stingray - AllCinema Movie and DVD Database. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- Ruh 2004, p. 47.
- "機動警察パトレイバー２ the Movie" [Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie] (in Japanese). Stingray - AllCinema Movie and DVD Database. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "スカイ・クロラ The Sky Crawlers" (in Japanese). Stingray - AllCinema Movie and DVD Database. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- Suchenski, Richard (July 2004). "Mamoru Oshii". Senses of Cinema. No. 32. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Cavallaro 2006, p. 75.
- Ruh 2004, p. 46.
- Cavallaro 2006, p. 225.
- Haraguchi, Masahiro, ed. (March 10, 1999). ビデオ編 た [Video Releases: Ta]. Animage Pocket Data Notes 1999 (in Japanese). Tokuma Shoten. p. 130.
- Cavallaro 2006, p. 81.
- Cavallaro 2006, p. 82.
- Ruh 2004, p. 51.
- McCarthy 2009, p. 39.
- Willis 1997, p. 20.
- Willis 1997, p. viii.
- Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Cinema of Mamoru Oshii: Fantasy, Technology and Politics. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786427647.
- McCarthy, Helen (2009). 500 Essential Anime Movies: The Ultimate Guide. New York: Harper Design. ISBN 978-0061474507.
- Ruh, Brian (2004). Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-6334-5.
- Willis, Donald C. (1997). Horror and Science Fiction Films IV. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3055-8.