Tenshi no Tamago / Angel’s Egg (1985)

Director: Mamoru Oshii
Starring: Jinpachi Nezu,Mako Hyōdō . Japan . 1h 15m

This avant grade collaboration between Yoshitaka Amano and director Mamoru Oshii is like a waking dream, the film has very little dialogue and what is said is as fragmented as the action within the film. The sparse plot, while linear, doesn’t really suggest a solid straight forward narrative but, but instead has a hazy, “make of it as you will” atmosphere. It’s very easy to sum this up as “Animated Art House” rather than a film with direct meaning and purpose, but it continues to inspire with its unfamiliar themes and dark visuals.

There are two main characters, a young girl who lives in an abandoned building near an abandoned town, a man appears on the shore watching a temple like orb raise from the ocean, and he descends silently into the town. Meanwhile the girl collects her giant egg, an object she protects each day by stuffing it under her dress, and heads into the eerie neo gothic town to scavenge for food and bottles to collect water in. She wanders around looking through windows and only gets startled when the man arrives on a biotechnical tank their silent glare results in the girl running away and the man slowly following after her.

A lot of strange things being to happen from now on mostly surrounding the girls protection of her giant egg and her companions poetical inquiries as to why she’s protecting it and strange biblical tales so old that much has been lost to memory. The girl is weary of the many statues of fishermen littered around the town, as the two share a few words, the man is intrigued by the egg and what might be in it, the girl is furious at the man for daring to suggest that she should break it to find out what’s inside, and still they wonder the ghostly town. At some point she announces that the fish are coming. This leads to the most action you’ll see in the movie and for me one of the most imaginative and beautifully haunting animation sequences possible. The fishermen race after enormous shadows of coelacanth-like fish that swim across the surfaces of streets and buildings.

The duo continue a playful cat and mouse chase though this midnight Baroque opera, it’s not until the final act does some semblance of a narrative come into play, it’s dark, massive and biblical, and while the director doesn’t even know what the film is about, you’ll be excused for making up your own theories, where nothing can be disproved, for me it seems to come from desperation caused by the collapse of one’s belief system. The dreamlike quality of the film is enough to reel in it’s audience, a prime example is Belgium director Carl Colpaert who remade a few scenes into an apocalyptic movie with live action scenes which made a story of new hope in an impossible future, and was my introduction to the great Anime.

Rating: 9/10

Related: In the aftermath Angels never sleep (1988)

L: My top 30 Anime films, A-Z of Anime, Baroque and Rococo


2 thoughts on “Tenshi no Tamago / Angel’s Egg (1985)”

  1. I’m still mesmerized by this dark gem, having seen it not long ago.

    Visuals are incredibly beautiful, really the best the Japanese animation has to offer, the movement, the atmosphere, the unique style of Yoshitaka Amano… each little frame tells you something which you cant really fully grasp (an unreachable mystery makes for a captivating tale – or better, shadow of one).

    The amount of theories around this movie is insane as well, wouldn’t be surprised if the setting and narrative inspired the Demon/Dark Souls games, which are also very enigmatic.

    1. Hey there, thanks for reading!

      It’s been a huge influence for a lot of directors, I really wish that more people took the initiative to make something which is just stunning without trying to be obvious or trying to make a point of shoving their ego into the project, I guess that makes me love this more, it really sticks in the psyche..

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