Avalon is a game, or an artificial digital illusion in the near future, that people addicted to in order to escape the reality. The film starts in the account of people choosing to live their lives in another illusion due to disillusion, yet the film “disappoints” its audience by intentionally making both the “real world” and the “game world” equally unreal. Even though the film is shot in 2001, a time which after-effect technologies are available to easily create a dazzling real world or a fancy game world, Mamoru Oshii, the director, chooses to use sepia tone in both. Moreover, in the first three quarter of the film, the color choice is surprising as well: bruised red is matched with soil yellow, and the rest is either in black, grey or sepia: nothing is set in accordance to the setting of “the near future,” nor do it matches with the game’s name “Avalon” itself. Since Avalon is “named after the legendary island where the souls of the departed heroes come to rest,” it is supposed to be an exceptionally gorgeous and peaceful world where rest great minds. It is very likely that Oshii makes this interesting tone choice in the intention to draw his audience to think: who in this film is the hero? Which world in the film is real? Which wold is Avalon? Personally, I consider the monotonic world where Ash lives in as the real world, the world in which people become first hand shooters to complete Class A, Class B and Class Real missions as an ordinary game world, and the world in which Ashes enters after completing her Class Real mission as the Avalon world.
To begin with, Ash has such a firm believe in her ability of differentiating the reality and the game. She does not even seem confused when she is placed in Class real, a world which seems more real than that she actually lives. As a result, Ash must has a solid foundation of her belief, and Oshii establishes the foundation for her by making the real world and the game world equally suspicious. In this sense, there is no point of digging into differentiating the reality and the illusion. Ash can simply choose her reality: she makes her judgement depending on her dog. For Ash, the one in which she enjoys the accompany of her dog is the real world, and the one in which she has missions to complete, a time limit and tension to deal with is the game world. When Ash’s dog suddenly disappears from her apartment, it is the time when Ash’s interest in discovering a whole new reality arises. Her dog being on the poster stimulates her to get into Class Real and to get the “reality” back, but class Real is exactly where she realizes that she can define her own reality. The one that she chooses to recognize not because her dog, but because of her own will. Just as Baudrillard states in Password, that we are the ones who define which is reality, and which is not.
The receptionist has an impressing conversation with Ash before she logs on to the game to find class Real. “Even though it looks real, even though it feels real, Avalon is still only a game,” said the receptionist. “ But the game you cannot win is no longer a game. Why do you suppose it’s hidden on a secret level. There’s a reason why we keep it off limits.” On one hand, what the receptionist says makes perfect sense. Murphy, for instance, does not aim to win the game, and as a result the game becomes his reality. However, the receptionist seems to imply that “Avalon” itself is “hidden on a secret level” and is “keep(kept) off limits.” It may be possible that what these people have been playing is not Avalon, but the missions they have to complete before getting into the real Avalon game. If this is true, it is reasonable for the game named after an exhilarating myth is so gloomy. It also explains why posters crying to “Stop Avalon” are all over the walls but no one really stops the game.
If so, what is our Avalon?