Introduction to Anime Anthology: Genius Party
July 9, 2010
An anime anthology usually refers to a collection of animated shorts that approaches a common theme or subject matter from varying perspective. Take Studio 4C’s Genius Party for example. Consisting of 12 shorts (15 minutes each) in total, each work is directed by some of the most recognised geniuses in the industry, including Shinichiro Watanabe and Masaaki Yuasa. Through different styles of animation and direction, these shorts are aiming to find their own unique approach to expressing one unifying theme; that our world operates in a wonderfully strange and mysterious ways.
Anthology series usually lack the depth of singular development of plot/characters due to their short length, but they more than make up for it with rich variations in style, approaching the same subject matter from satire/action/introspective/sensory/dialogue-heavy angle. This post is a brief guide to selecting which shorts you may want to watch from Genius Party (although watching them as a whole is preferred), and I hope it serves well as an introduction to anime anthology.
1. Genius Party (Atsuko Fukushima) – Often the first piece in any anthology will be an opening, introducing the viewers to its theme/subject matter/world. In this case, Genius Party is an electrifying 15 minutes of sensual extravagance that does not utter a single word of dialogue, but letting wonderful colours and movements do the talking instead; that an art is like a rain to barren wasteland and divine is its power to give birth to stimulating ideas. A must watch for all.
Rating: **** / Accessibility ****
2. Shanghai Dragon (Shoji Kawamori) – Mechas, super heroes, seiyuus speaking Cantonese, this action-packed sci-fi story set in rundown China town is exciting and heart-warming enough for any fan of animation to enjoy. Choreography is its game, as you will find yourself glued to extremely satisfying and thrilling scenes of car chase, mecha battles, and riding golden dragon. Highly recommended!
Rating: **** / Accessibility: ****
3. Deathtic 4 (Shinji Kimura) – Some may dislike Deathtic 4‘s decidedly non-animish look. Dialogues are spoken in swedish and character designs are awkward, but the background art is well-designed and the integration of CGI to 2D cells is seamless. And look at the great texture of that timber, clay, hair, wrinkled skin for example in above screenshot. Very expressive. Deathtic 4 can be a very fun and visually pleasing piece for those who want to venture into non-Japanese animation.
Rating: *** / Accessibility: **
4. Doorbell (Yuji Fukuyama) – I found its concept involving a doppleganger to be fascinating to say the least. There is depth to the story at the end, but the journey leading to that conclusion may prove too tedious for some, as its overall quality is inferior to other Genius Party shorts. Not the best work from the series but still recommended if you also fancy ambiguous endings.
Rating: *** / Accessibility: **
5. Limit Cycle (Hideki Futamura) – Terrible. 15 minutes of talking and talking about the most pretentious things. Some engaging abstract work of animation but not enough to save it. Do yourself a favour and skip this.
Rating: * / Accessibility: *
6. Happy Machine (Masaaki Yuasa) – Look of this movie lies somewhere between the rugged energy of Kemonozume and ethereal feel of Kaiba. The story is wonderful, involving a man choosing to enter a machine that makes him dream of being a baby, searching for everything that’s warm and bright in a strange world, until darkness devours everything dear to him. Happy Machine is perhaps the most emotional work from the collection and is sure to please any fan of Yuasa.
Rating: **** / Accessibility: **
7. Baby Blue (Shinichiro Watanabe) – Baby Blue is smooth. Seiyuu performance is more natural than sensationalised, there is patience in its pacing, everything looks neatly drawn and rendered, and Yoko Kanno’s acoustic guitar keeps you humming in tune with the story’s rhythm. Its slice-of-life focus can prove to be mundane and slow for some, it however manages to be very rewarding for the patient.
Rating: *** / Accessibilty: ***
8. Gala (Mahiro Maeda) – Gala is all about music. Well that isn’t completely true, it’s more about the harmony between music and animation. There is always something exciting happening on the screen, underscored by great orchestral music with an oriental flavour, so why not give Gala a try? It also has one of the most satisfyingly explosive climaxes in this series!
Rating: *** / Accessibility: ****
9. Moondrive (Kazuto Nakazawa) – Oh this is just cool. Here we have a cast of badass rogues on a treasure hunt trip, ruthlessly sodomising any fool who so much as gets on their sensitive nerves. The visuals look rugged and sketchy, dialogues are crude, and the characters know how to get down and dirty. This is the badass tale of Black Lagoon layered with Studio 4C’s aesthetics, and is guaranteed to enthrall any fans looking for gratuitous thrills.
Rating: **** / Accessibility: ***
10. Wanwa the Puppy (Shinya Ohira) – This hidden gem is recognised by many fans of animation as the most innovative and brilliant work of art to come out of Genius Party. That’s because its visual aesthetics is totally out of this world. It may look like bad drawings done in crayons and pastels by a 3-year-old at first glance but once you get used to its bizarre look, you can start to appreciate sheer level of intuitive creativity that has been poured into creating this wonderfully childlike dreamscape of innocence, fear of the strange and unknown, and that glowing warmth of mother’s embrace.
Rating: **** / Accessibility: *
11. Toujin Kit (Tatsuyuki Tanaka) – Toujin Kit is an extremely atmospheric work of great artistry. The choice of grey colour palette is interesting in that it makes its Huxleyesque setting that much more sterile and lifeless, together with meticulous and almost machinic attention to details for background art. This generates a great deal of tension, which then snaps like a rubber band when we are introduced to an organic, colourful creature that brings life and movement to what used to be very static experience. Perhaps this short was bit longer than necessary, but those who appreciates how Madhouse’s handling of atmosphere will find this more than worthy of their time.
Rating: *** / Accessibility: **
12. Dimension Bomb (Koji Morimoto) – The best thing about this short is moe seiyuu performance by none other than Yoko Kanno. The next best thing is Juno Reactor’s electronic sound. The third, its visuals (ok I got the order mixed up). This is perhaps the most abstract and experimental piece in the entire collection, inexorably assaulting our senses with ever-changing colours and movement, in addition to symbolic imagery oozing with surrealism. My take on Dimension Bomb is that it’s about velocity. There is an incredible sense of speed and direction here, where one feels a kind of relentless energy forcing one towards something, somewhere. Approach with care, as it is undoubtedly the most exhausting out of its other artsy companions. But I guess you will all have different take on it.
Rating: *** / Accessibility: *