Shangri-La (DVD) Review
From the creative minds behind Last Exile comes a new animation centered around the struggles of citizens of a futuristic Japan that is slowly being engulfed by an out of control forest. Shangri-La was released by FUNimation Entertainment on August 21, 2012 as a two part limited edition set. The series was previously simulcasted on streaming sites such as Crunchyroll. Director Makoto Bessho, writer Hiroshi Omogi, and character designer Range Murata all contributed to this sci-fi animation.
In a post-apocalyptic Japan, where forests have engulfed the earth and the economy is ruled by a Carbon market (due to rampant growth of the world's forests, carbon is heavily regulated) there is one place where all citizens wish to live, Atlas. However, the city is not open to all and access is only gained via lottery. While citizens in Atlas live a peaceful life, those who live outside its walls face many hazards such as hail that rains down with the force of missiles. The group called Metal Age, lead by Kuniko Hojo, aim to make it so that everyone can live safely within the walls of Atlas.
Shangri-La's plot is intriguing, however, as the story went on I was extremely confused with the constant plot changes added to the story. Most of the questions that pop up as you watch the episodes go unanswered or have vague answers. While I really liked the setting and the characters, it was a bit of a challenge to discern what exactly was going on in the anime, especially when it came to the Carbon market. Since the earth's resources are dwindling, a new market has replaced the stock exchange. Aptly named the Carbon market, each country's well-being is measured by the amount of carbon they produce; the less, the better. Karin, a Carbon market analyst, specializes in the market, but it is very hard to follow her terminology.
The series explores somewhat complex topics such as global warming, and they are to draw older fans and others who are interested in these types of storylines. Thankfully the pacing of the series is still decent despite the massive amounts of information that you receive throughout Shangri-La. The series' first episode contains plenty of action, which is expected of an anime that includes rebels fighting a dominant power. Shangri-La's ending was decent, although somewhat disappointing given how much action is in the series.
Shangri-La's character development was quite impressive. Many of the minor side characters actually get a decent amount of screen time and development which really impressed me. Sadly, the most impressive character development in the series was Miko's. Miiko is a transgendered individual who wishes to live lavishly in Atlas, but is thrust into the role of Mikuni's, a young royal girl who is somewhat sadistic, caretaker upon arrival. She grows from being selfish to a warm-hearted and sincere individual. Karin's transformation from a secluded little girl to a slightly more outgoing individual also is a nice development. In contrast, Kumiko, the main character, has a less dramatic character arc that goes from being a rebellious girl to a rebellious rebellion leader.
As far as special features go, Shangri-La offers a nice selection of episode commentaries featuring a few of the voice actors from the English dub as well as a bunch of previews for upcoming releases by FUNimation. Also included are your usual selection of clean opening and ending animations.
Overall, Shangri-La is great for fans of Gonzo's previous works though its storyline definitely is more complex than Last Exile. Those who are more interested and able to fully understand concepts such as world markets and the effects of global warming will enjoy this series. Unfortunately, the fast pace at which you are given copious amounts of detailed information and the lack of clear answers to big questions makes Shangri-La an anime that probably will not have a wide audience.
-voice actor commentary
-complex storyline, interesting setting
- main character doesn't have much character development
- too much information given to you at once and unclear answers to questions
-carbon market concept may be a little too complex for younger audiences to understand or take interest in
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor
Images copyrighted: FUNimation/Gonzo