sexta-feira, 9 de abril de 2010

The Angel's Egg Symbolism

(Tenshi no Tamago, 1985)

[This text was written by an unknown author who wrote for the symbolism section of The Angel’s Egg article on Wikipedia. Later, the entire section was erased because of wikipedia NOR standards- no original research. I thank him for the enlightenment and for developing a truly thought-provoking thesis.]


Because of the minimal dialog in Angel's Egg, much of the film's intended meaning is portrayed through visuals and symbols. Because of the surreal nature of the film (and no official explanation by its creators), it is open to multiple or even conflicting interpretations, as one can see below. Many or all of the symbols in Angel's Egg can be related to religion, specifically Christianity. Mamoru Oshii also directed Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, and myriads of other works that contain Christian themes and references. He claimed to be a Christian himself and trained in seminary for priesthood in his youth, but is rumored to have renounced the religion before working on Angel's Egg.
In Japan, Angel Egg (tenshi no tamago) refers to a typical tachiguishi dinner, a stand-and-eat practice Oshii is fond of and he has explored in his 1987 debut live-action feature Akai Megane, before developing it as the central theme of his 2006 animation movie Tachiguishi-Retsuden.
However, for this film Oshii apparently adapted the idea of an egg to fit the parable of the sower and the seed, and other teachings of Yeshua-Jesus.

The egg
(1)1st interpretation: The egg can be seen as symbolizing the young girl's innocence. It is something which she protects and holds on to, but is ultimately stolen.
(2)2nd interpretation: Another interpretation states that the egg is the "spiritual seed" planted in a human soul via the Gospel of Jesus Christ - a special kind of meme which tries to take root in a person's soul. It is something she protects amidst a dark world, but it is eventually "reaped" by the Christ-like character after she had journeyed with and entrusted him. Eventually, she reaches "spiritual maturity" while passionately pursuing the path of Christ, and thus bears fruit "many times what was sown", as the parable goes. This was indicated by the production of many eggs from her mouth (her spiritual "fecundity" or "witness"). The small egg represents a "quanta", if you will, of the Gospel that was planted in her soul when she heard or saw something revelatory concerning God's Salvation. This must have happened before the portrayed story began. The egg was brought to life as a result of being "wooed" by the Christ-man, and then once it was fully released, she charged directly after the Christ on the "narrow path" (Matthew 7:13,14)to spiritual maturity. The metaphor is equivalent to a maturing plant producing heads of grain, but Oshii adapted Yeshua's parable to the production of eggs instead of seeds, possibly in order to merge it with the metaphor of the dove and the ark as expounded below.

The Big Eggs on Tree Stalks
Near the end of the film, we see organic tree-like structures holding giant eggs with unborn birds inside. These likely represent the spiritual being awaiting the realization of its true form in the afterlife- where each of these saints are "glorified", attaining angelic forms(flying birds being symbolic of Angels), as supported in the very end by: (1)the appearance of the giant eggs after her own small one had been cultivated by the Christ-figure. (2)the girl's angelic appearance as part of the Godhead (the giant eye-like thing).
The root-like growths holding the eggs were foreshadowed earlier by the Yeshua character as (paraphrased)"a great tree, sapping the ground to grow and reach up, as if to grasp... something.". The tree/egg combination, along with the Christ character's explanation of the tree of life, portrays it to be a symbol of true Christianity and its spiritual implications. He gives us the sense that the tree/eggs are the final stage of an evolving line of energy, matter, and eventually living things: initially emanating out from pure Spirit(Giant Eye descending), yet over the eons striving to return to the source... to finally "grasp the hand that feeds it", as it were. The eggs, we see, were located at the tops of the tree trunks, holding the unborn chicks. Each of the giant eggs probably represented a human soul which would be preserved through the Last Judgmenton the Noah's Ark of Christ (meaning Yeshua is a sort of spiritual ark for souls), and so become glorified as part of the Godhead, as we see in the end. In other words, the giant eggs represent the second to last step of the ultimate aim of life, the universe, and everything: dead(sleeping) saints awaiting their ultimate glorification. The very last step being the actual glorification or realization of the saints and assumption to the Godhead, as we saw in the end where the Godhead(giant floating eye) was populated by the permanent(eternal) presence of the saints, with our little girl among them.

The man
The man in Angel's Egg physically portrays a Christ-like figure. In the beginning he is seen standing on a chess board, facing the giant Eye (presumably representing the Godhead, especially God the Father capacity, since it was sending him out). He arrives in the girls life on a bizarre procession of mechanistic/organic(and phallic?!) machines, which most probably represent ancient Judaism, in reference to Matthew 11:12, where the "Kingdom of God" is forcefully advanced by the Law and the prophets. This explains the war-like (battle tanks) and distinctly male appearance of the machines.
He carries a cross on his back and wears bandages on his hands, both of which are strongly reminiscent of Christian mythos.
(1)1st interpretation: In this particular movie this figure is shown in a clearly negative light, first telling the girl that he would protect her and eventually stealing away from her the egg which she cherishes so lovingly. Following this line of interpretation, some have taken The Angel's Egg to represent Oshi's own fallout with Christianity.
(2)2nd interpretation: A different interpretation sees the figure in a very positive light: as being her companion and protector in a violent, illusory world, and bringing to fruition what she couldn't have done on her own. He uses the crucifix to do this, in reference to Matthew 16:24 He actually explains his motives for breaking the egg: Without opening it, one may never realize the potential of whats inside. He overcame her selfish tendency to keep the egg(gospel seed) hidden, by wooing her companionship and trust. This is probably an allusion to "walking in Christ" or "living by the Spirit of Christ".

The Fishermen and Fish
(1)1st interpretation: Fishermen and fish are popular, reoccurring symbols in Christian mythology.
(2)2nd interpretation: Another interpretation notes that in this particular case, the shifty fish shadows are those of the lobe-finned or Sarcopterygii genera, which are almost entirely extinct as a group. Thus, the shadows can be interpreted as shades of once-living things, but now dissipating from nature- becoming extinct. To apply the spiritual metaphor, the shadows most likely represent ephemeral and even demonic forms. It fits well with the concept of demonic illusions, because it is believed that demons are "fallen" angels. ("fallen", as in cut off from and thus dissipating from God's creation, yet finding some sustenance and rest in the propagation of idolatry in humanity). see Mathew 12:43-45) Supporting this idea, these mirages are zealously pursued by the spearmen, yet never tangibly grasped or attained, and thus no ultimate fulfillment is found, and no innate hunger is sated. The spears are sharp projections attached to ropes. This most likely symbolizes the human spirit(will and conscience) projecting itself onto its environment, trying to form soul-attachments and identities in ephemeral things- passions, pleasures, fears, vices, addictions, fetishes, idolatry, etc.
In contrast, the fish enshrined in the Gothic church was colorful and vibrant, and the girl radiated white in its presence. Where the lobed-finned shadows probably represent the adoption of shifty goals and ephemeral pursuits which are all moving towards extinction, the colorful fish probably represents the Body of Christ- living; thriving; growing; adapting; and steadily surviving.

The Water
The water is a subtle yet strong underlying Typology (theology) present throughout the film. In the beginning, God descends into an "ocean" and the waters emanate out from the impact in waves, signifying the beginning of creation, where Jesus Christ the Logos (the white-haired man) is sent out to perfect the creation, "glorifying God" by gathering in human souls(in reference to Isaiah 55:11), as we see in the film. The water most likely symbolizes Spirit, specifically the Holy Spirit. Initially the girl collects small amounts of it and stores it away (the best she can do on her own), but in a foreshadowing moment early in the film, while starring into a pond she imagines herself to be fully immersed (after which the man shows up). In the end, the water floods everything, and she herself is drowned in it while pursuing the man- symbolizing Baptism with the Holy Spirit while chasing the path of Yeshua.

The Ark
Near the beginning of the film we see the shadow of an ark, which presumably the girl frequented. As the very last twist, we see the ark again at the end- this time slowly panning out. This is yet another example of Typology (theology), in which the story of the Ark, regardless of its historical details, is taken as a narrative allegory. Oshii probably borrowed the idea from the epistle of 1 Peter 3:20-22 regarding the moment of salvation, where the ark represents the preservation of the human spirit(will and conscience) amidst a spiritual "flood" or baptism of the rest of the mind, while demonic influences are purged.
As the angle pans out in the last scene, we see a meta-ark, which also probably represents the salvation work of Christ on a larger scale. The entirety of the "remnant" of human souls is preserved through the Last Judgment by devoting itself to God through Christ, but not just a remnant of humanity, but also, a reconciliation of the entire universe is implied here. An idea likely inspired by Paul's epistle to the Romans in which he describes the ultimate goal of existence. Chapter 8:18-27.

The Dove
Drawing from the theme of all the 2nd interpretations above- while the ark represents Christ as a preservation of the remnant of human souls (and the universe reconciled through them in a mysterious fashion- (Romans 8:18-27)), the dove must represent all the souls of humanity, sent out by God into human bodies, but in the process of free will and sinful nature, alienate themselves from "Him" by sin. According to what is implied in this film, this severs a person's connection from Eternal Life in God-(the birds forgetting their origins, dying, and becoming fossilized). In the largest dialog section, the Yeshua character presents a variation of Genesis 8, in which the bird forgot where it came from, and probably died in the waters somewhere. He then makes an equivalence between the forgetful bird and humanity(including himself, as "the son of man"). Shortly afterwards, they find the bird dead amongst the fossils, which symbolizes concepts found in Ephesians 2:1-3 i.e. "spiritual death" because of relational estrangement from God. This idea is supported further when the girl declares to have the bird alive and growing in the egg, which the Yeshua character treats with some skepticism because, as we see later, it was only a half-truth that she had the bird, since the egg was only the seed of the knowledge of salvation planted in her, and it only became a real bird after it was brought to fruition by Christ. Thus, the bird represents the human spirit initially created by God (dove sent out from ark), fallen in sin (bird forgets God and fossilizes),but then reconciled again to God through the Son (he uses the crucifix to cultivate what was sown, and later the giant tree/eggs emerge).

The Girl
The girl, of course, represents a spiritually immature person- but possibly also an actual child, since in the end she appears as part of the Godhead in a child-like form rather than in an adult form as are many of the other statues. She holds the egg in a way which looks like she's pregnant, which follows with the analogies above in which the gospel seed grows inside of a person, taking root in their soul, eventually "birthing" fruit, several times what was sown.(Mathew 13:23)

In conclusion
While there may be a few more allegories to draw from the film, we have provided tentative interpretations of the main themes above. It is interesting to note that the deeper nature of the film has eluded the usual anime fan-base since its release. Due to the exceedingly esoteric nature of the spiritual allegories presented, having them explained by someone familiar with Christian theology still puts the viewer in a difficult position.

19 comentários:

  1. Wonderful interpretation of my favorite anime. Thank you for sharing this article. :)

  2. Very good interpretation, thanks!

  3. Well, first at all, thank you. I have just saw this movie, and I looked for interpretations and simbolism, but only found several superficial reviews. This was what I was searching for. Biblical references, or something like that. However, I realized that it's meaning, probably was a personal interpretation, proper for every single person who see it.

  4. Thanks! This movie made me feel weird, but I still loved it.

  5. Great interpretation. I hope this movie is released on DVD here in America some day with English subtitles, as it's one of the most starkly beautiful pieces I have ever seen.

    I happened to see this right after reading the gospels and Acts for the first time. I thought the white haired guy was the fallen angel, who tempts man by destroying the egg, and the little girl as a Christ figure who returns to god in the water of life. She fills her jars like Jesus filled men's souls with life. Her sacrifice brings even greater hope than she had, in the bounty of eggs. And she is turned into a saint at the end, with the halos around her head, or perhaps even better. The eye is god's heaven, and the eye is god; the holy spirit is power, which raises the eye, I think the Holy Spirit as an everpresent thing that doesn't have quite a direct symbol. The water is life.

    The most direct symbol has to be the hunting for fish. It directly symbolizes faith. But the men never catch them. They cannot have their faith shown directly by god. The shadows are their faith which they cannot pin down. The bird from the ark, which never found land but was fossilized, is man's hope sealed in rock. As the fallen angel, the white haired dude who doubts faith and the ways of God, supposedly sees how God never redeemed faith, how the bird represents Godly hypocrisy. Likely he is frustrated by the ways of God and destroys the egg, out of anger, out of frustration. He tells the little girl of how these men's faiths were never rewarded, he tempts her into believing her faith is destitute, or pointless, and when that ultimately doesn't destroy her faith, he breaks her egg to boot, to push her to the final line, the limits of her faith.

    I think it's interesting that she destroys herself, but the way she does it is pure. She believed in the water of life that god had given her, so without her task of faith she goes directly back to god, flinging herself in the water. Like the self sacrifice of Jesus--as we all know, Jesus had the power to extricate himself from that situation--the girl's self sacrifice rents faith in bounty, in the many many eggs that lift up to the surface of the water.

    The staff things that hold the eggs, I suppose they could be like the tree of life, Jesus allowed us to partake in the tree of life with repentance, through baptism, through his teaching, word, and gospel, he gave man the perfect path to the kingdom of heaven and God. The tree of life was withheld from Adam, and especially Eve. Man sins through the tree of knowledge. That's why Jesus was the Messiah, he washed us of our original sin and gave us the opportunity to live rightly and justly and reach the kingdom in the most efficient, straightforward way possible, he is the word of God that directs our path straightforwardly to the tree of life.

    I'm reading Genesis right now, so perhaps that will change my interpretation of this movie yet again? This movie is a freaking masterpiece and every Christian or bible reader should see it, I think.

  6. Without knowing the maker of this film and his background, I would have guessed that Angels Egg is about loss of innocence. The egg in almost every culture represents fertility, and even literally a female carrying an egg could express when she is ovulating and most ready to become pregnant.

    As far as the male character carrying a cross? Japanese had of course a very long history of warrior class individuals carrying swords and fighting evil (similar to the Knights in Western lore). Any sword is going to resemble a cross just by its design, and Japanese animation has always had a tendency to exaggerate the size and shape of this weapon.

    I certainly do not claim to have any more insight into the vast amount of symbolism this film holds, but I do think at face value it is a stretch to apply so much religious dogma to this mysterious gem.

    1. Well, there's very clearly an ark at the beginning of the film, and the man in the story directly quotes Biblical scripture. So I don't think it's at all a stretch to conclude that other elements of the story might also be allegorical references to Bible lore.

      That's not to say there aren't other themes also at play, but it seems pretty clear to me that the film does, indeed, explore the Genesis flood and Christianity.

  7. This analysis was a little bit overly complex for my tastes. With some of your comparisons, you clearly seem to be stretching things (especially the whole things about fish somehow representing demons). You also seem to heavily prefer faith affirming interpretations of this movie, you do give some brief mentions to faith denying interpretations (for instance, the negative interpretation of the boy as representing cynicism, doubt, and realism in the face of the girls blind faith), but the framework of your article is clearly built around the faith affirming interpretations. I think the overall tone of the movie, however, is clearly faith denying, and about loss of faith, not about a Christ like figure providing salvation (although I will admit that in certain instances this interpretation does fit the movie better than the faith denying one - especially the whole ending sequence after he destroys the egg and the girl falls in the ravine).

  8. This analysis was a little bit overly complex for my tastes. With some of your comparisons, you clearly seem to be stretching things (especially the whole things about fish somehow representing demons). You also seem to heavily prefer faith affirming interpretations of this movie, you do give some brief mentions to faith denying interpretations (for instance, the negative interpretation of the boy as representing cynicism, doubt, and realism in the face of the girls blind faith), but the framework of your article is clearly built around the faith affirming interpretations. I think the overall tone of the movie, however, is clearly faith denying, and about loss of faith, not about a Christ like figure providing salvation (although I will admit that in certain instances this interpretation does fit the movie better than the faith denying one - especially the whole ending sequence after he destroys the egg and the girl falls in the ravine).

    1. In an old interview with Mamoru Oshii, he mentioned about the man being the one who accepted reality and the girl the one who still chases after dreams. The egg represented the dream, and the man broke the egg to show that there's nothing inside, bringing the girl back to reality. So your theory about everything representing loss of faith sounds probable.

  9. The fishermen depict the age of pisces.The fishermen are ghost-like figures and remnants from the past.You can see a coelacanth(A prehistoric fish they thought it was extinct)Jesus's symbol is a fish.That particular scene shows us the transition of the age of pisces into the age of aquarius or the age of Jesus into the New Age.The water bottle she is carrying and all the references to water depict the age of aquarius.This movie is about the occult.New Age stuff which is becoming very popular right now.Especially in the music industry,artists are showing occult symbols in their videoclips.Almost like they are promoting it.

    1. Thanks for this explanation! I was thinking the same put just couldn't put it into words. It seems clear to me now that it's about a transition between the age of pisces to the age of aquarius, the christ-like figure representing its very insatisfaction of purpose.

  10. You are the person who chosen to live this life by God. Why God choose you? Because you have the strength to cope with any difficulties that given. Domino 99, Agen Bandarq, Domino Qiu Qiu, Capsa Online


  11. fuckin Weebs think they're smart LOLOL

  12. Thank you so much for this explanation. I love everything about this movie, it's such a shame only few people know about it.

  13. My take on the characters and elements of the film is that the girl represents the believer/ faithful, the egg she carries symbolizes faith, hope for new life and, ultimately, a mystery. The man carries the cross associated with such faith, however which is actually a weapon (the cross used to kill the son of god), the way this man speaks in a skeptical perspective constantly opposes the girl's beliefs about her faith (the content of the egg). At the end he uses the cross/weapon to crush the egg (shatters the girl's faith while she was sleeping, oblivious to reality), when the girl wakes up she despairs and fall into an abyss, and the man remains alone. This interpretation can include the idea that both the girl and the man are part of a same individual in spiritual crisis, the girl being the faithful facet that lives according to religion, the man being the reasonable one that keeps doubting such beliefs. Following this reasoning, the film represents a rupture with God and the adoption of a skeptical view of life. This is reinforced by the final sequence in which the man ends up alone in front of the many statues of idols, while also on the hull of the ark that supposedly would be his salvation. There are of course aspects of the narrative that might not corroborate with this view, but given the intricate and personal nature of the film, closed and limited interpretations always seems to ignore certain details.

  14. Based on the cross & scarred hands, the man represents Jesus playing devil's advocate (I think he was, towards old Jewish practices/beliefs in the Bible). The girl depicts an immature person. Selfish as she is, who is reluctant to share the egg (symbolizes her dream) to the stranger/man & everyone at first. Finding the egg shattered & only hollowness inside the shell. She chases the man for consolidation & takes a leap of faith then acknowledges her narrow-minded self (mirror scene). She gradually become a woman (maturity) in the water through baptism & following him. Her newfound faith/dream creates & multiplies the egg that symbolizes hope & salvation for many (unlike her old dream). And the man watches the scene where the mechanical eye starts to fly away. It all takes place in the Ark then away from it.

    The mechanical eye (Eye of Providence) contains the people who turned to stone, who haven't really been saved & acts as a transportation to their appointed destinations. We could see in the first sequence that the mechanical eye is about to land in a desolate place, meeting the man after the bird's awakening. The last sequence, it takes the girl & others away from the place. My take is the Ark/place is some kind of a limbo or purgatory. I love how the man is being asked "Who are you" repeatedly. It adds up to the mystery. Watching this anime makes me sleepy as hell yet the story is very intriguing.