There are different processes in work in complex systems, the way in which they are regarded often dependent on the perspective from which they are viewed: when does a hybrid become a chimera? What is the difference between cultural diversity and cultural appropriation? And what is In the Aftermath supposed to mean?
Released in December 1985, Angel’s Egg (天使のたまご, Tenshi no Tamago) was an ambitious and abstract work of Japanese animation, a collaboration between director Mamoru Oshii and artist Yoshitaka Amano, but this was a time before anime and manga had become a ubiquitous cross-cultural presence and the international opportunities of such were limited.
Enter American-based Belgian film producer Carl Colpaert, a graduate of the Roger Corman school of filmmaking, whose directorial debut In the Aftermath would make use of the cheaply obtained animation of Angel’s Egg merged with newly shot live-action footage to create a new film of greater international appeal.
Now restored and released on Blu-ray by Arrow, Colpaert’s bizarre and inexplicable artistic folly is now available to perhaps a wider audience than has ever had access to it before, and certainly never in such quality, alongside some informative special features, the most useful of which is anime expert Andrew Osmond’s appraisal of the artistic and commercial cultures which gave rise to the oddity.
Osmond emphasises that In the Aftermath is not unique, that there had been previous similar attempts to adapt Japanese cinema for the west, perhaps most notably Ishirō Honda’s 1954 Godzilla (ゴジラ, Gojira), released in America in 1956 under the name Godzilla, King of the Monsters! with additional footage shot by Terry O Morse featuring Raymond Burr as a focus to link the redubbed footage.
Crucially, where Godzilla was a relatively straight-forward action film with a linear plot whose re-editing was supported by a major studio, Angel’s Egg is abstract to the point of obscurity, a sequence of beautifully rendered but disjointed hypnotic images; this could perhaps have provided broad opportunity to sculpt the landscape had the talent and resource been available to make full use of it, but sadly it is apparent the live action frame was shot at bargain-basement rates.
The original animation weird and wild, composed of grand landscapes and celestial objects descending from the sky before shifting to a darkened cityscape of classical European architecture, it is inhabited by a young girl, Angel, and her silent elder brother, who hide from cloaked figures who stalk the streets.
Superimposed on this is the post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by hazmat suited soldiers Frank and Goose (Tony Markes and Kenneth McCabe), wandering the ruins in search of resources before their oxygen runs out. Frank seeing visions of Angel in the dust, unlike Tom and Jerry’s underwater shenanigans with Esther Williams in Dangerous when Wet there is no romantic-comedy levity to ease the disconnect between the two film stocks.
Alice falling through the rabbit hole to Les Miserables, Yellow Submarine as designed by Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Pan’s Labyrinth with the urban grit of China Miéville, the footage of Angel’s Egg is worth viewing purely for the astonishing design despite the meaningless dialogue which has been enforced on it, while the clumsy framing story should have been cleansed with nuclear fire.
Also included in this new edition of In the Aftermath are The Path to Aftermath, an interview with producer Tom Dugan who discusses the shoot in the same abandoned steelworks where Terminator 2 had previously taken up residence, and Apocalypse Then where former child actor Tony Markes confirms the impression that he had no idea of the context of the footage during filming.