Expelled from Paradise, which plays more like a Hollywood action-adventure blockbuster than what Americans think of as an animated feature, was named Best Animated Film of 2014 at the Japan Movie Critics’ Awards. The film also scored a commercial success, earning more than ¥160 million (about US $1.3 million—a substantial sum in Japan, which has about one-tenth as many the screens as America). It’s now available in the US on blu-ray from Aniplex.
In the future, most of humanity has abandoned the devasted surface of the Earth to live in the cyberworld of Deva. Third Security Officer Angela Balzac (Wendee Lee) is assigned to find and take out the mysterious entity known as Frontier Settler (Johnny Yong Bosch), who has been hacking into the Deva system, attempting to recruit crew members for a mission to explore beyond the solar system.
As the assignment requires working on Earth, Angela’s data is entered into a body cloned from genetic material gathered before she became a cyber-entity. (The resulting body suggests she’s descended from a long line of Las Vegas show girls.) The planet is now a bleak desert dotted with crumbling ruins inhabited by flesh and blood humans, whom Angela regards with disdain. Arriving on Earth, she remarks that now she understands how Adam and Eve felt when they were expelled from Paradise.
Her first duty is to make contact with a contractor who’s worked with other Deva agents: Zarik “Dingo” Kajiwara (Steven Blum), another of the noir-inflected rogues Blum always imbues with ironic, understated charm. Dingo plays by his own rules, making a profit wherever he can. His attitude infuriates Angela, who fusses with him until she discovers that his street smarts can get her information she’d never be able to access on her own. Any number of anime films have used the set-up of a fussy new martinent vs. an irrerevent old-timer. So have many live action properties.
As Angela and Dingo follow clues and sort through data, they discover Frontier Settler isn’t who or what they supposed. He’s not a human hacker bent on the disruption or destruction of Deva. Angela is horrifed to discover that Deva is not the idyllic promised land she believed it to be. That knowledge leads to the climactic battle-confrontation that goes on for most of last 20 minutes of the film. As everyone in the audience expected from their first meeting, Angela and Dingo end up together, tooling through the desert to explore a new life together.
Expelled from Paradise is a not particularly original film. The premise and the characters borrow heavily from Ghost in the Shell (both the original feature and the Stand-Alone Complex TV series), Appleseed, Samurai Champloo and Arthur C. Clarke’s “The City and the Stars.”
Director Seiji Mizushima effectively stages the many battle sequences, occasionally juxtaposing the high tech mayhem with fan service shots of the pneumatic Angela. At times, he gets carried away with the CG special effects, like a kid who’s been turned loose in a toy store with his mom’s VISA card. The eye candy ranges from fights between elaborate, metamorphic mecha and semi-abstract patterns for Angela’s journeys through cyberspace to myriad explosions and shots of the main characters driving through the desert in Dingo’s dilapidated all-terrain vehicle.
Fans of action-packed anime will find plenty to enjoy in Expelled from Paradise; less exhuberant viewers will be curious to see what the obviously talented Mizushima can do with material that has a bit more depth.
The Limited Edition comes with a disc of special features, a pin-up card and a booklet of artwork that includes an interview with screenwriter Gen Urobuchi.
Expelled from Paradise Aniplex: $49.98