PictureOrigin: Spirits of the Past comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p image, encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
From the outset, it is clear that the presentation of this film is going to be one of great beauty. The opening sequence of a planet amidst the darkness of the starry skies of space, is breathtaking. The sense of the orb being a three dimensional object is quite a spectacle and quite unparalleled for an anime feature. The blacks of the vacuum the planet sits in are deep and inky, yet the globe itself is picked out without a hint of blooming, portraying the strong contrast this image can offer.
The texture detail is immense, with the brief race that introduces us to the character of Agito having numerous backdrops that contain a myriad of subtle differences. The filmic quality to this feature doesn't end there though, with the shadowing appearing almost brushed in rather than clearly marked by lines, and the fine shift in focus from foreground to background being almost impeccable in its execution. This blurring technique isn't held back for long vista shots as it also includes pushes between faces in different parts of the frame. When intended to be in focus, the characters themselves are perfectly delineated, with only the minutest instance of less than stellar performance visible in this area.
The colour palette is well handled, with the lush green and brown tones of the forest shining richly, whilst the red and darkened hues of the industrialised and militaristic Tria City of Ragna balances against this with ease. The one minor criticism that I could pick up on was a small instance of banding which only showed up in one particular shot, but was noticeable nonetheless. This though is minor when compared to the subtle detail, exquisite light diffusion effects and crisp clarity on offer.
SoundOrigin:Spirits of the Past comes with two significant sound options, both lossless - Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. For the purposes of this review I focussed mainly on the English language option.
As with the image, the opening sequence with regards audio is suitably impressive. The high frequency of the vocals contains great detail and when accompanied by the piano's crisp sharp notes emanating from the surround speakers, gives a result that is universally pleasing. The myriad layers of this musical piece are integrated so finely that picking out individual instruments is a delight, with the drums in particular that coincide with the vision of a planet crumbling bringing a deep rumble of bass that creeps up on you.
Perhaps unfortunately, the rest of the film is not as reliant on complex musical orchestrations, with much of the run time of the first act preferring to focus on scene setting effects rather than musicality. These are always clear and add great depth to the experience. The English voice acting is generally of the higher end of the spectrum and the centre channel does a fine job of delivering crisp and clear speech though I did note one instance which appears to be something of an anomaly where the sound became slightly muffled.
I tend to prefer to listen to Anime and the like with the original Japanese language option but due to the slightly Americanised stylings of this piece I changed my routine and I'm glad that I did. Unlike so many Blu-rays/DVDs, this one appears to have prioritised the English option over its original Japanese mix. The bit rate of the latter has been noted by some to be lower than its counterpart and the balance of the track is distinctly off. If you judge this by way of overall quality of sound options then it has to be considered average but as there is certainly one stand out offering in the options then I feel I have to score it by this high water mark, which is extremely capable and adds to the viewing experience by some degree.
ExtrasThe making of Origin - 51:38
A very extensive and well laid out glimpse behind the production of the film. Virtually every subject is covered, from the pacing and direction, to the music and animation, as well as everything in between. Cast and crew give interviews and let us know their practices for working and how they managed to bring such a large project together. There are a few too many talking head shots for my liking, as the wealth of production and conceptual art would have made a nicer screen filler, but at least there are a few instances where we get to peek at individuals' computer screens and learn of such intricacies as the colourisation process and the varying layers of light within any one frame. This piece also gives a good indication of where the pitfalls of such a production lie and perhaps goes some way to explaining why the end result is uneven.
Theatre previews - 1:59
Two previews which will only likely be of interest for the fact that they contain a couple of shots not seen in the final feature film.
TV spots - 1:38
Four mini trailers that were made for television.
Screening event special preview - 3:57
This consists of a few key shots being played followed by the cast members saying a few words each at a screening and culminating in some more scenes from the film being played in a “coming soon” style ending.
Consisting of two songs from the film without their corresponding opening and closing credits. The first is titled Opening Song - Chouwa Oto - With Reflection (2:49) and the second Closing Song - melody of Love (7:10). What was a nice idea designed to show off two of the stunning musical arrangements of the film, is mired by the huge drop in volume (as per the Japanese language track of the main feature).
Trailers for: Heroic Age (1:01), Fullmetal Alchemist (1:02), Romeo and Juliet (1:32), Dragon Ball Z (0:32), Jing: King of Bandits (1:02), Air (1:02), xxxHolic (1:02) and One Piece (0:32).
Overall a slightly imbalanced set of extras which crams all the meaningful information into one large feature rather than spreading it evenly over several shorter bite sized featurettes. The making of is certainly one of the better examples of the type and will doubtless please not only fans of the film but also those with a keen interest in anime in general.
VerdictOrigin: Spirits of the Past's foray onto the Blu-ray format is a fairly resounding success. The film itself is uneven and will split many an opinion over its first and second half transition. Unless we ever get to see some kind of extra footage, then the film will only ever be a flawed piece that showed great potential but fell apart under the weight of too many ideas and a lack of real substance when it really needed it. The disc however is an entirely different matter.
If you are able to look past the underwhelming Japanese language option, you'll be presented with a Blu-ray that holds to the highest standards for much of its running time. The image is sparkling and draws the eye further into the frame with its subtlety of texture and lighting as well as the crisp clarity of the characters themselves. The English lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is of a similar standard, containing some of the better voice acting the anime genre has to offer. The rushing of water and the whistle of the air gently suffuses the surround channels, whilst the speech remains perfectly intelligible and well integrated into the mix. The extras may seem a little scarce in numbers but once you discover that the vast majority of them have been compacted into one giant making of feature then you'll soon see why this isn't the meagre offering it may at first appear. In short, if the film satisfies and you're not an anime snob with an irrational dislike of English dubs then this disc should please you no end.
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