Expelled From Paradise

At some point in the future, a disaster known as the “Nano Hazard” devastates the earth, rendering the planet largely uninhabitable. In response, the bulk of the human population digitises its consciousness and uploads to mainframes in earth orbit. There, humans effectively become immortal, able to live relatively secure, settled lives via aesthetically pleasing avatars operating in computer generated simulations. However, this utopian reality has a down side – the total available memory space on the mainframes is limited, so the amount of memory each consciousness is allocated – effectively, its digital quality of life – is determined by a privilege system masquerading as a meritocracy. The whole is overseen by an elite known as the DEVA Council, its rule enforced by the Security Agency. Two hundred years after the “Nano Hazard”, a hacker known as Frontier Settler starts disrupting the world of the mainframes, inviting those digitized humans with small memory allocations to participate in a voyage of deep space exploration. In response, the DEVA Council sends Security Agent Angela Balzac to the surface of the earth with instructions to stop the hacker’s broadcasts. Uploaded into a cloned prosthetic body, Angela meets an operative known as Dingo and travels with him to one of the shanty cities where the earth’s remnant population lives. But when she and Dingo finally track down Frontier Settler, she discovers that the hacker – an AI who has developed sentience –  isn’t the threat portrayed by the DEVA Council; and that it may in fact be the Council themselves who pose the longer term threat to human survival…

Developed by Toei Animation (a subsidiary of games developer Toei Corporation) and gaming company Nitroplus, with animation by 3DCG studio Graphinica, “Expelled From Paradise” is a feature-length anime first released in 2014. A visually powerful mix of 2D and 3D animation and CGI techniques, the story proceeds at a brisk pace, punctuated by nicely choreographed mecha combat scenes and philosophical discussions about the pros and cons of corporeal versus digitised existence. The narrative unfolds without any great surprises – except for the nice twist at the end that challenges conventional notions of what a “representative” of humanity might “look like”  – but along the way does offer nods of homage toward William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic “Neuromancer”, as well as other anime series such as “Ergo Proxy” and “Cowboy Bebop” (the character Dingo is even voiced by the same actor who voiced Spike Spiegel).  If you can ignore the absurd proportions assigned to the female lead’s prosthetic body – think of the bad old days of Tomb Raider and Lara Croft – as well as her equally ridiculous outfit and creepily young age, “Expelled From Paradise” is nonetheless a mindless bit of engaging fun with an entertaining story and interesting if undeveloped characters. Ideal for brightening up a slow afternoon.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.