Saturday, October 02, 2021

The Laws of the Universe: The Age of Elohim

Religious parables used to share a thematic affinity with the fantasy genre, with all the swords and sandals. Increasingly, they are shifting to science fiction—and it isn’t just Battlefield Earth. The controversial Japanese religious fusion movement Happy Science has become a regular producer of anime features. The Mystical Laws happened to be a pretty entertaining sf-geopolitical-conspiracy thriller, but the conflict plays out on a more galactic scale in director-chief animator Isamu Imakake’s The Laws of the Universe: The Age of Elohim, which screens tomorrow at the Laemmle NoHo 7 (and opens October 22 in New York).

This is Earth, but you wouldn’t recognize the place 150 million years ago. Elohim, the God of Earth (formerly known as Alpha) benevolently rules over the planet, which offers sanctuary and the potential for reincarnation to all races of the universe. The Dark Side of the Universe does not appreciate such values, so the malevolent titan Dahar manipulates Evol, the ape-like military leader of Centaurus Beta into waging war on our planet.

Yaizel, the champion of planet Vega is dispatched to rally Earth’s defenses, just in the nick of time. As the forces of evil (and Evol) mass for an invasion, Sagittarius also sends reinforcements to Earth in the form of seven archangels, including Amor (who looks a heck of a lot like J.C.), Michael, and his brother Lucifer, who does indeed seem to be rather arrogant.

Frankly, it was hard to tell what
Mystical Laws was proselytizing, which is why it was so watchable. In contrast, it is easy to pick out the precepts and principles in Age of Elohim (how could you not?). The narrative, written by Sayaka Okawa, but based on the ideas of Happy Science founder Ryuho Okawa, is not exactly an origin story, but it is definitely an explain-how-things-came-to-pass parable. However, the animation looks first-class and there is still a lot of action.

In fact, Elohim’s grand, vaguely classical Grecian-looking capitol city is quite striking. The Elohim-aligned Andromedan Army, who basically look like panther-men are also really cool. Same for the apes of Centaurus Beta. We could just watch an entire film of them fighting each other. Yet, throughout
Age, the constant prospect of a literal higher power sweeping in to protect innocence and vanquish evil undermines any sense of suspense. (FYI, there is sort of a post-credits stinger, but it doesn’t amount to much.)

Imamake’s visuals and world-building are just as impressive, but this time they are serving a heavier story that is much more laden with symbolism. It is interesting, but the lack of subtlety is sure to rub a lot of viewers the wrong way, with reasonable cause. Recommended mostly for fans of Imamake’s work (and obviously those receptive to the message),
Laws of the Universe: The Age of Elohim screens tomorrow (10/3) at the Laemmle NoHo 7, October 29th at the Laemmle Playhouse 7, and it opens 10/22 in New York, at the AMC Empire.