The Laws of the Sun
In the beginning, there was the first 9th-dimensional entity El Miore. Having built a spacefaring civilization on Venus billions of years in the past, he renamed himself to El Cantare and turned to Earth to build the foundation for humankind's evolution. This film follows the travails of mankind over billions of years of spiritual evolution, and urges the viewer to follow the path of El Cantare through understanding of transcendental consciousness and spiritual enlightenment.
Context is everything: if this were a fantasy / sci-fi anime, this would probably be pretty great! Unfortunately it's being packaged as "the real truth about the history of mankind" ... and oh BOY what a doozy this is.
Not only did the first great lifeforms apparently arise on Venus: Laws of the Sun would also have you believe that mankind had a global civilization on Earth 400 million years ago, during the Devonian period, and that Satan's fall occurred 120 million years ago, during the Cretaceous. No amount of "spiritual enlightenment" can fix the blatant disregard for actual scientific evidence that pervades this film, which is vaguely reminiscent of all that wacky weirdness you've ever read about Scientology, except you don't have to spend beaucoup bucks on audits to get there.
A lot of times, we talk about when a film or series jumps the shark. In the case of this film, consider this shark pre-jumped, unless you are either extremely callow and willing to believe anything you see is real, or are a Happy Science true believer (in which case I highly recommend you hit that back button right now because the rest of what I have to say isn't necessarily kind). Part of the main problem is that Happy Science loves to throw numbers around without any actual concept of scale, like, for example, saying mankind numbered billions of souls over 200 million years ago. You can't tell me there were over ten times as many "souls" on Earth during the Triassic period than today (note: a time *before* flowering plants and mammals) and somehow they failed to leave behind a single trace of their civilization?!? Heck, if modern archaeology can find traces of Stone Age dwellings underwater and undersea, then it beggars belief to claim a global hightech civilization that occurred 400 million years ago (before the first fish became amphibians!) with absolutely no shred of evidence to support it except the "holy visions of El Cantare". It gets really hilarious the moment they bring in Enlil's space elves from the Great Magellanic Cloud to keep the dinosaurs in check (yes, this really happens in the film). And that's just the "Genesis" segment.
Happy "Science" indeed.
(PS: So if El Cantare is the 9th-dimensional entity in our sun, then what explains sunburn? Too much of your god's glory causes melanoma?)
What's incredibly frustrating is that this film is drop-dead gorgeous. The settings are somewhat based on some sort of reality - the Lost Continent of Mu segment feels like something out of Borobudur or Prambanan in Indonesia (albeit with solar pyramids for added pizzazz), and the Inca Empire segment is actually more authentic than other treatments of that topic in anime (I'm looking at you, Nazca!) And naturally, Happy Science explains away the "gods" of ancient civilizations as ancient astronaut messengers of the Word of El Cantare (remember Enlil's Magellanic Cloud Space Elves?). It's all so hokey and preposterous that it's very, very hard to watch in one sitting, because I have to stop every five minutes from laughing so hard. And the moment you think this couldn't get any weirder, BAM REPTOIDS!
I almost feel sorry for all the folks taking this seriously, because damn this takes the cake as the most consistently bizarre religious experience I've encountered.
Making matters worse is the dub, which I'm assuming was produced by the church's faithful, because I can't imagine a professional ADR director being quite this inept. Even the narration is overacted; villains have over-the-top voices straight out of 70s cartoons, and the good guys sound like Sunday morning televangelists (PRAISE THE WORD OF EL CANTARE!). This is easily the worst English dub I've heard in years - this film is every bit as awkward to listen to as it is to watch! And note: that's almost two hours of horrendous dubbing.
About the best thing I can say is that at least this is a "new religion" apparently aiming to do positive things about people's lives -- there's absolutely nothing wrong with urging people to avoid narcotic drugs, to seek inner peace through meditation, and to support peaceful interaction with your fellow voyagers on this planet we call home. That's a message I can support. If only these folks had practiced moderation with Ryuho Okawa's wacky, narcissistic dogma - by the way, Okawa is supposed to be the earthly incarnation of the aforementioned El Cantare! If this had been an American new religion instead of a Japanese one, this would be precisely the kind of material that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would have lampooned. About the best thing I can say about it: they're pretty much the opposite of Aum Shinrikyo (in fact Okawa was the target of an attempted assassination attempt by that cult).
I'm sure The Laws of the Sun made a lot of money from the Happy Science faithful (likely inflating its box office numbers in the way that Scientologists buying up copies of Dianetics jacked up its bestseller list statistics) but I don't see any reason for anyone else to watch this, unless, I guess, you're looking to experience the lighter, friendlier side of charismatic Japanese cults.
Like apparently every film in this series, this is a beautifully animated, but hopelessly overwrought and horribly dubbed mashup of every religion and myth you've ever encountered. Of course, true believers will give this a five, but that's clearly not the audience I'm writing for. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: There is some violence and substance abuse, mostly depicting the suffering of those who turn from the path of El Cantare. Thought I honestly can't see anyone outside Happy Science enthusiasts and morbidly curious anime reviewers willingly subjecting themselves to this film.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, English dubbed
Review Status: Full (1/1)
The Laws of the Sun © 2000 Kofuku no Kagaku (Happy Science) / IRH Press
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