This is the first time I write a post partly related to non-anime subject but to me, Avatar feels, technically, thematically and emotionally, closer to anime than life-action movie. What inspires me to write this post is the conspicuous similarity of Avatar’s theme to two anime I’ve recently watched, Real Drive and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
This is not a review article so I will not go into much plot details. Hence, there will be no spoilers.
In Avatar, Pandora is the planet full of life unstained by technology and is the home of the Navi, the blue humanoid alien whose way of life is inseparable from the spirits of the planet. The Navi has an organ that can directly connect with other living things both animals and trees. According to Dr. Augustine’s theory, the tree roots connect with each other and form an enormous network of energy and by bonding oneself with the trees, the Navi can directly communicate with every living soul on the planet including the Mother Nature herself. It’s a network of spiritual and biochemical energy.
A network? The idea reminds me of the theme in Real Drive (RD Senno Chosashitsu) which I’ve just finished. RD sets in the near future of planet Earth, in the artificial island build by men. In that time, a cyber brain is as close to daily life as a cell phone is today and people’s minds can serve through the pool of consciousness at will. There’s a new technology called the Meta-Real (the Metal, in short), a network that aggregates people’s consciousness and memories or, ultimately, a network of souls. The trees and the Earth in RD are also connected by forming a global network. Haru, the protagonist in RD, is a Metal diver. In one episode he dives and find the spirits of trees in the metal leading to the assumption that everything, human, animals, trees are connected. The only difference between RD and Avatar is that in RD, the water or the ocean is the media that forms the network, not tree roots.
Another noteworthy thing is how nature responds to the intrusion of men. In Avatar, the planet responds by trying to drive the invaders away by force. In RD’s case the trees grew unusually fast and large trying to reclaim the wounded lands. This point leads to Nausicaa. Although Nausicaa shares no obvious theme about the network of life but the anime clearly presents the way nature reacts to the disaster caused by men. The trees in Nausicaa absorb poisons from the ground and emit the gas into the atmosphere in order to purify the land.
Is it just me or western movies rarely contain such environmentalist ideal? The idea that all things are connected and the idea that Mother Nature do exist are regularly seen in anime even the older ones, though it may be presented in more subtle ways. The closest movie I’ve seen that share this theme is Final Fantasy: Spirits Within but that movie is not even half western. Just in case you wonder, yes, I like Avatar a lot for its wild imagination and strong environmentalism (not to mention countless eye-popping action scenes).
Ps. Since I’ve already brought RD up, I will post its full review very soon.