A post-apocalyptic anime film with a premise similar to Children of Men, but with a curious gender twist – only male babies stop being born. In the all-female society that emerges in the ruins of Tokyo, masculinity is associated with militarism and the hubris of science – the two forces that led to the unspecified natural disaster or war that has transformed the planet. Soldiers demure from using handguns, which are perceived as dangerously 'male' weapons.
On the one hand, charges of essentialism are avoided by having a villain tempted by the same 'masculine' forces her society abhors – Julia wants to use abandoned technology to remake the world again. On the other hand, both Juila and the hero Hitomi are presented as very masculine women – in terms of wardrobe, hairstyles and voice. Hitomi is much like other brooding, self-sufficient, celibate male protagonists in anime, and Julia is much like other decadent and depraved male antagonists. The 'female' female characters in the film are invariably of lower rank, less skilled, and have fewer opportunities to display any kind of agency.
The film's environmental message is rather heavy-handed. A memorable instance of body horror is used to disparage the idea of genetic engineering. There is also the rather strange conceit of Hitomi being haunted by the spirit of a girl from 'our' pre-apocalyptic world, who wakes up at the end convinced to change her polluting ways.
It is a rather weird concoction – as with a lot of anime, the plot zips along and compresses a huge amount of information at the start. The overload means you spend much of the film befuddled and unsure of why things are happening. But as a vehicle for extravagant, surreal images of the future, it's rather effective. There are some quite beautiful visual sequences in the film, not least the strange scene of birds transforming into plants and trees. At points you get that sense of future shock from seeing a completely alien civilisation comparable to something like Frank Herbert's Dune. That makes it worth seeing, despite the questionable gender politics.