Girl: I can't tell you things like that. Besides, I don't even know who you are.
Man: You have to break an egg if you are to know what is inside.
Angel's Egg (天使のたまご / Tenshi no Tamago in Japanese) is a surreal 1985 animated film which was directed by Mamoru Oshii and featured art designs by Yoshitaka Amano. The film centers around a young girl protecting an egg in an abandoned gothic city who meets a mysterious man with a cross-shaped rifle.
The film shows a number of art film inspirations, with Oshii himself mentioning Andrei Tarkovsky as a major influence. While Angel's Egg was a financial and critical flop on release, it would be rediscovered by Western anime fans in the 1990s, becoming a Cult Classic, which in turn influenced later opinions on it in Japan. It also had a notable impact on other animators of the time, partly because several of the animators who worked on it would later go on to work for Studio Ghibli.
In 1988, it received an Importation Expansion in the form of In the Aftermath: Angels Never Sleep by New World Pictures, who had acquired the distribution rights in a package deal, adding 45 minutes of live action footage.
This film contains examples of:
- After the End: A strange example, but the world is clearly empty and dying due to God abandoning it in despair.
- Animal Motifs: There's much imagery relating to birds and fish. Both are important animals in Christianity; the dove was the first animal to depart from Noah's ark in search of land, while the Greek word for fish, ichthys, was used as an acrostic in the first century — Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, meaning "Jesus Christ, God's Son, is Savior."
- Arc Words: "Who are you?" (Anata wa dare?)
- As the Good Book Says...: The man quotes a passage from the King James Bible describing the destruction of life on earth during the Great Flood, with a deviation of the story of Noah's Ark.
- Bad Future: According to the man, the story of Noah's Ark didn't end well in this universe. The ending, which reveals them to be on an ark's capsized hull, seems to confirm it.
- Barefoot Poverty: The girl wears no shoes throughout the entire film, which is used to reflect her status as a hermit.
- Beautiful Void: The setting is completely deserted, dark, and worn out, but damn if it isn't lovingly designed.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The "dove", as represented in art around the city, looks more like some horrifying winged humanoid.
- Crapsack World: While it's not clear what is going on, it's clear that this world isn't an inviting place to live.
- Creepy Cathedral: The man and girl go to a huge, deserted cathedral to get away from the statue fishermen while they chase the fish shadows and destroy the environment with their harpoons.
- The spaceship/eye being is also some kind of living cathedral/graveyard.
- Downer Ending: The girl breaks down crying because the man destroys her egg, then she runs off, drowns, and turns into a statue. It's further implied that the ark will continue to gradually sink until all life is definitively eradicated from the world.
- Dub-Induced Plotline Change: The earliest release of the film in English was in the form of In the Aftermath: Angels Never Sleep, which is more or less a different film entirely, roughly half of which made up of Angel's Egg footage, and the other half was newly-produced, live-action footage, which attempted to weld a more conventional post-apocalyptic story onto the very enigmatic plot of the original.
- Egg MacGuffin: The titular egg which is carried around by the girl and the man wants to open. It's empty...or, was it?
- Faceless Eye: The gigantic eye made out of statues of people appears going down to the island at the beginning and floats up at the end of the film, this time the girl is shown amongst the statues.
- Faceless Masses: The statue fishermen.
- Flying Seafood Special: Giant flying coelacanth shadows, to be exact. The statue fishermen try to hunt them anyway, though, seemingly oblivious to the damage they're causing to the city.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: A bell starts tolling ominously when the statue fishermen first appear.
- The first time the audience sees the girl gathering and drinking water, she sees a bizarre dream of her slowly sinking into the water, which is how she dies at the end of the movie.
- Later in the story, a few references to Noah's Ark can be seen such as the girl's home looking like a huge ark in the distance. The man and the girl also pass by what looks like a huge chamber of cages filled with humongous animal skeletons before he recounts the story of Noah's Ark to the latter.
- Gainax Ending: The girl apparently dies after losing her egg and becomes part of a spaceship (?) as the man looks on. But with her death, lots of eggs emerge from the water. The camera zooms out, revealing that they were on a capsized ark all along. The End.
- Ghost City: The city is completely deserted, save for the two main characters, and the fishermen who may or may not be alive.
- Gothic Punk: The film's general aesthetic.
- Hand on Womb: An abstract variant. The girl often carries the egg by stuffing it under her dress and holding it protectively with her arms. Her gentle posture mirrors a pregnant woman cradling her large belly. Whatever is within the egg, she takes a maternal attitude toward it.
- Have You Seen My God?: It has forsaken the world and left all remaining life to die on Noah's upturned Ark.
- Identity Amnesia: Both the man and the girl have forgotten many things about their pasts and their motivations, leaving the man to wander aimlessly and the girl to pointlessly gather water without any idea why she is doing it.
- Importation Expansion: When it was brought to the US, 45 minutes of live-action footage was added in an attempt to release it as a post-apocalyptic thriller. This version, called In the Aftermath: Angels Never Sleep was released in 1988 to mixed reviews.
- Le Film Artistique: Often considered to be an art film, and it definitely has hallmarks of this trope such as the lack of dialogue, the slow, static shots, and the surreal, mostly symbolic story.
- Leave the Camera Running:
- The scene just before the man breaks the egg has the girl asleep and the man sitting beside her bed while the fire burns. This lasts for about 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
- The ending consists of very long takes fading from one another as the camera "flies" away from the ground, showing that the body of land is the capsized hull of an ark.
- Messianic Archetype: Depending on your interpretation, both main characters could be this.
- Mind Screw: When even the goddamn creator throws up his hands and admits he has no idea what the film is supposed to say, you know you're in bizarro land.
- Minimalism: It has only two characters, neither of whom have names, and less than a pageworth of dialogue, most of which is contained in a single scene. The anime focuses more on the girl's devotion to her egg than anything else.
- Minimalist Cast: The only people we ever see is the little girl with the egg and the young warrior with the cross-shaped rifle. Apart from them and a number of ghostly fishermen who can't really be considered characters, the highly detailed world the two inhabit is completely deserted.
- Mystical White Hair: Both the girl and the man, which hints at them possibly being Godsent.
- No Name Given: Neither the girl nor the man are named.
- Our Angels Are Different: Apparently, they lay eggs and/or destroy them, or something. One is shown as a skeleton.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The fishermen appear to be the ghosts of the city's former inhabitants. This may be the case with the fish shadows and the statues on the spaceship as well.
- The Reveal: At the end of the movie, the camera slowly pulls out to show that the city is built on the capsized hull of Noah's Ark.
- Riddle for the Ages: The egg is destroyed without revealing what was in it...if there was ever anything inside to begin with.
- Rule of Symbolism: There's lots of heavy Christian symbolism everywhere.
- Scenery Porn: This is Yoshitaka Amano's and Mamoru Oshii's visual poem. With only about five minutes of dialogue in its seventy-minute run time, the absolutely gorgeous visuals carry the film's elegant, surreal, and poignant "narrative."
- The Scream: The girl lets out a bloodcurdling scream when she finds the destroyed shell of her egg.
- Silence Is Golden: There's less than a page of dialogue, and most of it is in one scene. The second line of dialogue is said a full 24 minutes into a 71-minute film.
- The Stoic: The man has a jaded, emotionless demeanor. He does, however, seem shocked when he sees the angel skeleton.
- Taken for Granite: The man says that everyone in Noah's Ark, which they are on, turned to stone and they later pass through a chamber full of animal skeletons. The fishermen might be part of that. This also happens to the girl after her death, joining the other statues on the Faceless Eye space-orb.
- Wham Shot: When the man finds the skeleton of the "angel"/dove, which means that it died on the Ark an age ago and never found a sign of land.
- World of Symbolism: Arguably the point of the movie. There's tons of Christian symbolism, both overt and subtle, throughout the film.