Last Saturday, December 13, American anime fans had their first chance to see Gen Urobuchi’s highly anticipated Expelled from Paradise.
Urobuchi, famous for the twisting plots of Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, appeared at Japan-Expo 2014 in San Jose to excite his fan base who have high expectations for his writing. The production pulled in other big names, including Director Seiji Mizushima, best known for Full Metal Alchemist and Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Rie Kugimiya (Kagura in Gintama, Happy in Fairy Tail, Alphonse in Full Metal Alchemist) plays the heroin, Angela Balzac, while her costar Shinichiro Miki (Roy Mustang in Full Metal Alchemist, Takumi in Initial D) voices her guide to post-apocalyptic earth, Dingo. They’re joined by Hiroshi Kamiya (Natsumi in Natsume’s Book of Friends, Levi in Attack on Titan), Megumi Hayashibara (Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop, Rei in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Lina Inverse in The Slayers), Minami Takayama (Conan in Detective Conan), and Kotono Mitsuishi (Sailor Moon in Sailor Moon), for an all-star cast.
Aniplex USA promoted the film, named Rakuen Tsuihou in Japanese, through a series of screenings in 15 cities across the US. 26 showings played on December 13, 15, and 20 with attendees promised an exclusive movie poster.
To build up the promotion, Aniplex USA brought Producer Koichi Noguchi to the sold-out Los Angeles show on December 13. Though not known for any particular production other than the showcasing film, Noguchi kicked off the event with a short speech and a group picture.
A short pre-recorded clip played before the film featuring Director Mizushima. Mizushima enthusiastically asked fans to enjoy the film, especially its state-of-the-art 3DCG animation technique.
Then the film began with a brief glimpse into the virtual world of DEVA, a futuristic paradise where humans live unrestrained by physical bodies. The 3DCG animation created a unique quality that seemed to emphasize the surreal virtual setting… but as the story cascaded into the real, post-apocalyptic world, the animation was the same, losing its potential for the Wizard of Oz black-and-white to color contrast.
Once in the real world, unexpected twists build up the relationship between Angela and Dingo. But the depicted earth was far from original, a desert wasteland filled with stereotypical characters. The last twenty minutes of story was entirely predictable, and Hayashibara, Takayama, and Mitsuishi collectively had less than a minute of scenes and lines. While well crafted fight scenes kept the audience entertained and occasionally drew some cheers, the predictable aftermath left viewers with a specific type of feeling: Fun to watch, but no desire to re-watch.
Would I recommend it? If you’re an anime fan, especially an Urobuchi fan – while not his best work, you will feel entertained. But for the general movie goer, if you’re interested in anime, skip this one and watch Paprika, Red Line, and Summer Wars instead.