「楽園追放」 (Rakuen Tsuihou)
“Expelled from Paradise”
Man against nature. Man against man.
The instinct to survive is what has made us who we are.
—Titanium Rain Vol. 1
When it comes to describing humanity, there are few quotes more apt than the aforementioned. A lot of things had to work out for us to even exist, and even though many of us are living comfortable lives, it’s a notion that betrays the truth of our circumstances. Whether directly or not, we’re constantly fighting against nature (and occasionally ourselves) to survive, and we’ve managed to survive due to our instincts, our intelligence, and our ability to exert a measure of control over the environment. The question is, how far can we go?
Put broadly, that’s Rakuen Tsuihou‘s thematic focus in a nutshell. With the Earth now almost completely covered in desert, 98% of humanity’s population is now living digitally—still alive in a cyber paradise known as DEVA, a mainframe in space made to ensure humanity’s survival. In the world of Rakuen Tsuihou, humanity has evolved to a point where it has abandoned the need for physical bodies, and it’s a story that not only highlights the ability of humanity to survive, but the duality behind many things—including the fact that abandoning the physical body exchanges one set of limitations for another and the notion that a paradise for one could be hell for another. Like a coin, there’s almost always two sides (or more) to everything, and it’s this kind of perspective that gets emphasized in the narrative here.
Combine that with a small cast in DEVA System Security Agent Angela Balzac (Kugimiya Rie) and her earth guide Zarik “Dingo” Kajiwara (Miki Shinichiro), and the end result is a story notable for its singular focus on their interactions—ones that tie in character development and give a view into their respective worlds and perspectives. When it comes to exposition in Rakuen Tsuihou, almost all of it is constantly tied into relevant conversations and events happening concurrently, and it’s laudable how the movie manages to touch upon a fair amount about the world without ever going on extended narrative dumps. At the same time, it does a good job not being bogged down trying to explain specifics (such as how DEVA came to be and what happened to the Earth) that we didn’t actually need to know—something many series could learn from.
Adding further to the positives are the fact that interactions within the movie are filled with light-hearted moments and internal references that really can give you a chuckle—a necessary balance to thematic and ideological foci that aren’t all fun and games. The fact that Frontier Setter—the hacker who infiltrates DEVA and leds to Angela’s deployment—ends up being anything but what we expected was also a nice twist, the value of the moment complemented by the always awesome Kamiya Hiroshi at his helm. I mean, how can you not smile at the guy? And how can’t you break out a smirk at the whole “we regarded rock as useless so we discarded it” joke they were going on about the whole time? (That’s blasphemy by the way.)
That said, this is an UroGen work through and through. For all the positives I’ve felt regarding UroGen’s works and all the solid execution on Mizushima Seiji’s (Full Metal Alchemist, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, UN-GO) part, I did feel somewhat less positive about Rakuen Tsuihou being a re-hash of themes from some of Gen’s prior works. Its inclusion is understandable to the degree that this is his thing, and the premise jibes well with that focus, but there’s something to be said when all I thought about was PSYCHO-PASS and its Sibyl System at some points throughout the movie.
Rakuen Tsuihou uses the latest in 3DCG… I believe we made a good piece of entertainment.
For those of you that watched the movie in theaters, those lines (not exact, but close) were part of a prologue recorded for audiences by Mizushima Seiji, and I think it does a good job in ultimately summarizing what Rakuen Tsuihou ended up being.
For entertainment purposes, Rakuen Tsuihou is indeed a good work. It’s action packed, includes some awesome mecha fights, and it was extremely fun to watch (especially in theaters) when considered from that perspective. The overall plot leaves some things to be desired from a novelty standpoint, but it’s counteracted by the nice soundtrack by the rarely seen NARASAKI, the great main theme from Elisa, the brilliant jobs done by the respective seiyuu on their characters (especially Mr. voice behind Kaiki), the open to imagination portions, the compelling questions it presents, and the fact that the future of 3DCG looks extremely promising.
Compared to recent works such as Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Sidonia no Kishi, and this season’s Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete, one could hardly tell they were even using 3DCG here, and that’s likely only because we were told so before hand so we knew what to look for. A vast majority of the janky motion and jarring contrasts between the 3DCG and the hand-drawn backgrounds are nowhere to be seen, and with it, comes the perspective future of productions that look great while also being easier and cheaper to produce. The 3DCG is worth the price of admission alone here, and although not everything here will rock your boat, Rakuen Tsuihou is a solid movie that’s worth watching if you have the time.
Special thanks to Xumbra for providing the caps!
ED: 「イオニアン」 (Eonian) by ELISA connect EFP