Hidden Gems of Anime Anthology

July 12, 2010

Aside from Genius Party, there were other excellent anime anthologies made in the past that showcased some of the finest works of animation in this medium. This post is a list of hidden gems of anime anthology, hoping to shine some light to the underrated shorts and movies of the past. If you ever feel like watching more artsy and experimental works, perhaps you will find a pleasant surprise from the catalogue. Feel free to also add any other worthy titles I have missed, as I’d certainly like to try more.

Memories (3 movies, 37 min each)

Produced from the ever so creative Studio 4C, Memories remains one of my favourite anime titles because there are two brilliant movies here that are like no other. Simply put, the opening piece Magnetic Rose is a masterpiece (put together by all-star cast pf Koji Morimoto, Satoshi Kon, Yoko Kanno). A brilliantly directed science fiction tale of loss and regret, which can be so powerful that they trascend time and space, forever existing as haunting memories. I can not recommend it enough. The second piece Stink Bomb is what you could call Dr. Strangelove of anime, a rare gem of black humour related to Weapons of Mass Destruction. I guarantee you this will be one of the most clever comedies you will ever watch (Sorrow-kun agrees). And although the last piece Cannon Fodder is a little weak in comparison, it still manages to be an artsy depiction of the lives of those brainwashed by military propaganda.

Twilight Q (2 movies, 30 min each)

Twilight Q aims to get you feeling hypnotic presence of twilight, and Part 1: Reflection somewhat succeeds…but the real beast you should stay to watch however, is Mamoru Oshii’s Part 2: File 538. Not only will you find Oshii’s usual trademark work of intense atmosphere, surrealistic and symbolic imagery, but also the best 20 minutes of Oshii’s monologue you will ever see. Watching this brings whole new meaning to the word ‘Twilight’ and comes highly recommended.

Animatrix (8 shorts, 10 min each)

I suppose Animatrix isn’t exactly obscure enough to earn ‘hidden gem’ label, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it’s full of amazing works. In my opinion every single one of these shorts are worth watching, with a strong exception for the terrible opening episode Final Flight of the Osiris. Each short offers an unique perspective of the computer-generated dream world we know from the Matrix Trilogy, adding new dimensions and colours through different animation styles and mode of story telling. For example, The Second Renaissance is a chilling documentary that tells the history of men’s fall to the machines through narration and heavy symbolisms, while something like Matriculated is Peter Chung’s (Aeon Flux) gritty focus on the feelings and perceptions of AI. Beyond is a particularly beautiful work featuring absolutely mesmerising scenes animated by Studio 4c, and is my personal favourite from this collection of highly stylised works.

Sweat Punch (5 shorts, 11 min each)

You are free to watch all five shorts but I personally want to recommend only two: Kigeki (Comedy) and Garakuta no Machi (Junk Town). Where do I even begin with Kigeki…it’s simply one of the most beautifully poetic 11 minutes of animation you will ever see. I especially liked the use of monochrome palette, which infuses that aged gothic presence to this fairy tale and makes animated violence that much more bloody red. A must see for all. Junk Town is not as brilliant, however it still manages to be very engaging through delightfully creative designs and animations by, again, Studio 4C.

Robot Carnival (9 shorts, 10 min each)

Not everyone’s going to enjoy this 1987 vintage anthology. But it has aged well, and it you don’t mind dated animations, Robot Carnival is an excellent collection of shorts that brings many perspectives to the subject of artificial intelligence, and our relationship with them. It’s hard for me to recommend separate works because I believe they all come together as one big movie, but there are a few that were particularly memorably for me, including Frankeinstein-like tale of Franken’s Gears, touching character study of Presence, AMAZING (and I stress AMAZING – a priceless gem) artistry of Cloud, and a hilarious robot-action (set in 16th century Japan!) comedy of A Tale of Two Robots. There are true treasures of animation to be found in Robot Carnival, but you have to be willing to sit through other not so impressive works and be able to appreciate its dated look and feel.

Anikuri15 (15 shorts, 1 min each)

Running at one minute each, Anikuri15 doesn’t really have what it takes to generate memorable experience. It is however a worthwhile look at various stylistic experimentations done by leading directors like Mamoru Oshii, Satoshi Kon and Makoto Shinkai, so check out to see what they can pack in a mere minute of animaton.

Neo Tokyo (3 shorts, 15 min each)

This is another obscure gem of good old days that not everyone’s going to appreciate. If you like artsy anime however, you will find the opening episode Labyrinth Labyrinthos an absolute pleasure. Its artistry is one of the finest in anime with some amazing perspective views, art, and even comes with chillingly eerie soundtrack. Running Man is another sensory experimental piece that I personally didn’t find as good as the first. You will enjoy the last segment The Order to Stop Construction if you liked Stink Bomb episode of Memories, although again, it isn’t as brilliant (but still funny!).

Amazing Nuts! (4 shorts, 10 min each)

By now I believe you have way more than ideal amount of anthologies to check out, so I’ll just recommend one segment you should check out from Amazing Nuts!. If you watch the above 4 minutes of youtube clip, you’ve just watched by far the best part from the series and can move on.

Winter Days (35 shorts, 90 sec each)

Click here to read more about Winter Days.

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15 Responses to “Hidden Gems of Anime Anthology”

  1. Martin Says:

    I found the Animatrix a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. Some were brilliant, while others didn’t do much for me. As a collection of works that were experimental and clearly had a lot of hard work and creativity poured into them, I can’t not respect it though. If nothing else, it’s one of the very few opportunities that UK fans have to sample 4 Degrees C without resorting to fansubs. ‘Crossover appeal’ is an important aspect of it I think.

    Ah, Memories. Loved it. Cannon Fodder was the weakest of the three, but it’s interesting visually. Magnetic Rose is stunning on every level, but Stink Bomb’s pitch-black brand of satirical comedy clicked with me somehow. I’ve been an admirer of Tensai Okamura’s work ever since.

  2. escapistolero Says:

    >CTRL+F Watanabe
    >no result

    Oh, I would have expected to see his name mentioned expressis verbis. I felt that Baby Blue was somewhat underappreciated in your last post (though I really can’t put my finger on any reason), but Watanabe’s segments in Animatrix, namely Detective Story and especially Kid’s Story, felt exceptionally well done both due the unique animation style (well, at least compared to the bulk of Japanese animation) and the fantastic narrative; easily the best parts of Animatrix for me. He’s really one of my favorite anime directors of all time; too bad he didn’t direct anything since, eh, Samurai Champloo in 2004, Baby Blue aside… man, sucks.

  3. Jack Says:

    By virtue of having seen half these anthologies it seems I’m at least partially familiar with hidden gems.

    I really enjoy the anthology format, for fairly obvious reasons, so I should really get around to checking out the rest of these collections.

  4. kadian1364 Says:

    Memories is sublime. Too bad Cannon Fodder was a bit of a let down as its concluding piece.

    Comedy is outstanding. I was first exposed to it via AMV, which condensed an 11 minute short into a 6 minute short (w/ different music). Suffice to say that was unnecessary >_>

    I was hoping the recent anthology Halo Legends would be like the Animatrix as far as experimenting with an established franchise universe, but most entries went for more conventional stories and animation styles. Probably only for Halo fans.

  5. gaguri Says:

    @Martin

    I think Animatrix is received by most as a mixed bag (which is fair) though I really, really like it myself. And glad you liked Memories =D

    @escapistolero

    Oh, Detective Story is my 3rd favourite from Animatrix after Beyond and 2nd Renaissance! Yea…it sucks to see him not directing as much now, I was hoping Michiko to Hatchin to be directed by him, since its premise looked similar to Bebop and Champloo but o well.

    @Jack

    You’ve already seen half? I’m impressed =D. Do check the others out if you’re interested.

    @kadian1364

    LOL halo lengends. I didn’t bother to watch that but I did watch Dante’s Inferno, which is another game-to-anime adaptation in anthology format. Well to be fair, it wasn’t ‘bad’ per se, since it was animated pretty well (in that fusion of western and eastern style) but the diversity in style was so narrow, and the atmosphere unfortunately felt less like diabolical poetry of Dante, and more like a video game it was adapted from.

  6. Shinmaru Says:

    I watched Robot Carnival a while back and loved it. What struck me most is how well it uses visuals to tell stories; most of the shorts don’t even have dialogue, and they’re all so gorgeously animated!

  7. gaguri Says:

    exactly my sentiments

  8. omo Says:

    Gotham Knight was not bad…


  9. [...] would go for long? At least that is commercially viable, besides the occasional compilation or anthology projects. I think things are going this way already in the past 10 years, so you have people yearning for [...]

  10. gaguri Says:

    Gotham Knight wasn’t ‘bad’, but..I decided to snub it from this list!

  11. GW Says:

    The anthologies I like the most are Memories and Genius Party Beyond. I’ve gotten around to everything except Winter Days, Ani Kuri, and most of the Sweat Punch shorts.
    Robot Carnival and Neo Tokyo are very beautiful, but I cared for only two of Neo Tokyo’s segments and Robot Carnival’s segments held varying appeal for me. I know of one compilation film from AniPages, Otogi’s World Tour, but it’s nearly impossible to find and I don’t know if it would count as an anthology.

  12. gaguri Says:

    Yea I didn’t like running man segment from neo tokyo, and not all of Robot Carnival were in my taste. I tried looking for Otogi’s World that you mention but to no prevail…


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  14. Sky Says:

    I actually quite liked Cannon Fodder, possibly more than Stink Bomb. It’s got a sense of bleak insanity that I liked. I also thought that portraying the conflict as an impersonal one between people who barely know anything each other is really interesting. It’s almost Orwellian in that sense, with people being marched toward a goal they don’t understand by forces beyond their control. It’s also very visually interesting… I won’t say the most visually interesting because the imagery from Magnetic Rose is hard to compete with, but it’s still very unique and I enjoyed that aspect as well.


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