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“Which Came First The Chicken Or The Egg?” Thoughts on Angel’s Egg

© Tokuma Shoten & Studio DEEN (Via Wikipedia)

Angel’s Egg (天使のたまご Tenshi no Tamago)

(Japanese OVA 1985)

Directed By Mamoru Oshii

Illustrated By Yoshitaka Amano

Warning: Spoilers! 

Angel’s Egg is a Japanese OVA directed by Mamoru Oshii and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. I would describe this OVA as an “artsy” avant-garde fantasy film. My friend suggested that I watch it. He told me it’s a great film to fall asleep to (in a good way).

The film focuses on the art and aesthetics rather than an actual story, but there’s somewhat of a vague storyline about a girl and her egg that she’s caring for until it hatches. She encounters a mysterious man that has an interest in her and the egg.

The Aesthetic Appeal of Angel’s Egg

That’s all I’m going to say about the storyline because there really isn’t much going on and I feel like the story is told through visual and audio aesthetics rather than plot, and character dialogue.

© Tokuma Shoten & Studio DEEN

The art was illustrated and designed by the popular Japanese artist, Yoshitaka Amano. It’s incredibly beautiful as he uses shadows and dark tones to convey a wide range of emotions. The darkness in the setting gives a sense of mystery and fear. Yet when the darkness is balanced with the paleness and lighting of the characters’ skin, there’s a sense of wonder and tranquility. In addition, there’s no sense of time and space and the setting of this OVA is shrouded in mystery. While watching, I couldn’t grasp what type of “reality” or “dream” world they were in. I didn’t know what was real and what was “unreal.” For example, there were fishermen trying to capture shadowy fish on the building walls and city streets but I wondered whether or not the fishermen or even the shadow fish are real or ghosts.

The audio is also a tool to convey human emotions. There isn’t much conversation between the girl and the man. Most of their discussion involves the egg or the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. While talking about this film to my friend, I described the audio as “noise.” Some of the noises were actually calm and pretty such as when the girl is playing in the water. Yet other times, the noises were screechy and loud like the caterpillar-like machine that the man rides on. Some of these noises were familiar like the church bells and other times, the ghostly noises weren’t sounds I could recognize. I told my friend that this OVA was a “noise fest” and I blamed him for not warning me that my ears would get quite a surprise. There were several moments where the noise played with my emotions and reactions as well. The most notable ones are when we would get complete silence and then we would suddenly hear a dramatic scream or an explosion. It is at these moments one could feel terror and fear but also sublimity, as well as being aware that you are completely alone.

Overall, a viewer has to appreciate the visual and audio aesthetics as it plays on the viewers’ reactions and emotions. Personally, I think Angel’s Egg is one of the best OVAs when it comes to this type of aesthetic appreciation.

Religous Meaning in Angel’s Egg

Despite not having much of a storyline, viewers have discussed and wondered what hidden messages and themes are embedded in this film. After I watched this film, I felt a bit depressed and confused. I didn’t understand what the film was about and couldn’t really grasp what I should get away from it aside from artistic appreciation.

© Tokuma Shoten & Studio DEEN

However, viewers found the religious and existential philosophy in the film worthy of discourse. Aside from some scenes taking place in a church, there is some discussion about the boy and girl’s dialogue on the story of Noah and his ark.  The boy retells the story of Noah, a man on a boat waiting for a signal from God that he and his company can return to land. Noah uses a dove as a way to communicate to God to tell when it is safe to go on land. However, one day, the dove never returned but Noah continued to wait for it.  Soon after, they forgot their purpose for sailing. From this biblical story, we can see some similarities between the girl and the boy. The boy seems to not know of his purpose in this world and may have given up on his hope within God who was said to be a savior and can bring life back into this world which is currently desolate.

As for the girl, she could be seen as someone who still hopes and has faith in God. She is watching over an egg which she thinks is a bird or an angel and will bring back life to this world. However, at the end of the film, the boy crushed the egg and reveals that there is nothing inside it which may metaphorically represent false hope or faith into something. In this case, the false hope is in God and religious belief.

These religious symbols are one possible meaning in the film but it’s only speculation that is built on the director’s, Mamoru Oshii, possible lack of faith in Christianity.

What I Honestly Got From Angel’s Egg

Now, I watched this OVA twice. The first viewing experience left me in great confusion because I didn’t know what to make of it. However, when I watched it the second time, I came up with my own conclusions that are a bit silly and doesn’t relate to the majority’s perspective.

I honestly think that the girl is an alien who is colonizing new worlds by hatching eggs and I guess you can look at this colonizing in a religious pilgrimage since there are some biblical references in this OVA. I also think that the boy is a time traveler or a portal jumper whose purpose is to kill this girl from taking over different worlds.

With Noah’s ark story, the girl could represent the dove since she’s carrying around an egg and Noah could be the boy who is out for revenge against the dove who happens to be the girl. The dove gave him false hope and he forgot his purpose and so now, he’s out to kill the girl for making him wait for an eternity.

© Tokuma Shoten & Studio DEEN

Also, the reason as to why I say they are space traveling to different worlds is because the opening and ending scene is different. In the scene, when we first see the guy for the first time, he’s in this surrealistic world and he sees this “eyeball-like” sphere of a spaceship staring and coming down in front of him. While in the end, we see the guy staring at that same exact “spaceship” rising up and this time we see the girl with the egg turned to stone on board. However, the landscape changed from this surrealism land to a more natural landscape of a beach. Hence as to why I honestly think she’s a space alien and he’s a time traveler stopping her.

This is just my theory, which could be completely wrong and is a misinterpretation of the film because we don’t know what the director and the illustrator’s purpose of the OVA are and their interpretation of the story. Then again, the director doesn’t even know what it is all about either, so everything is fair game for interpretation.

Angel’s Egg is an “art house” film. It isn’t for everyone, but if you like aesthetics and don’t mind contemplating on philosophical ideas on religion and existence then this is your cup of tea.


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