Anthologies of animated shorts based on Western properties have become something a big deal. In the past two years we've seen both Batman and Halo get this treatment, as well as the videogame Dante's Inferno. However, the Animatrix is still the gold standard of such works, even going so far as to outshine some of its source material.
The secret for the Animatrix's success is the talent that was poured into it. Some of the creative minds that worked on it include Mahiro Maeda (Gankutsuou), Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll), and Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), in addition to some up-and-coming talents as well.
Matrix sequels devolved into mysticism and spectacle, the different pieces of the Animatrix give us new spins on the ideas that first made this world so compelling. Each segment gives us something completely different while still remaining true to the thematic elements of reality and identity that are at the heart of the Matrix. And these differing visions are captured in a kaleidoscope of visual styles, making the experience an enriching one for the brain and the eyes.
Of course, in an anthology work such as this, everyone will be drawn to different parts. I certainly have my favorites, but I found that each segment had some to offer - with one exception. The first segment, The Final Flight of Osiris, made by Square (who you might know from Final Fantasy:Advent Children), features remarkably realistic CG but has such a poor story that any sense of wonder is lost, and the overall effect is rather one of boredom. Fortunately, this misstep is quickly forgotten as it is eclipsed by the equally pretty and much more interesting works that follow it.
I’m not a big fan of The Matrix trilogy, one of the more mainstream science fiction spectacles of the past twenty years. When I was a kid, I loved it. It was my first R-rated movie, it was dark and edgy like any kid is bound to like, and it had neat martial arts action. But as I grew older I finally watched the second and third films and began to hate the series. Anymore, probably thirteen or so years after watching The Matrix for the first time, I think it’s overrated and I can’t see the appeal. It hasn’t aged well and that, on
top of pretty bad storytelling as the movies continued, led me to neglect the series for years…
Until now. I never watched the Animatrix, I don’t think I had any intention to after Revolutions. So now, years later, allow me to break down the pieces that comprise the Animatrix and tell you which are good and which are bad.
Final Flight of the Osiris-Written by the Wachowski brothers and animated by Square, this nine minute segment looks like the opening cutscene of a PS2 game. It starts with an entirely pointless fight where two characters cut the clothes off each other. They are suddenly pulled out of the simulation as Sentinels are chasing down their ship in the real world. What follows is a six minute sequence ending in a climax that isn’t satisfying, nor really matters. This entire short is nothing more than an introduction to the style of The Matrix rather than pulling us in early on. The writing is lame, the CG is very dated, and you’ll find nothing of value here.
The Second Renaissance Part I-The second short details events before The Matrix, namely the divide between humans and machines. What you’ll find here is an interesting background story about humans and machines having a schism that leads to animosity and violence. The machines build their own nation, wind up creating better technologies and having more valuable currency, which doesn’t make humanity happy at all. This is all visualized stunningly, with many disturbing images as well as copies of real life historical moments such as the tank running a robot down a la Tienanmen Square. A fan of the movies will enjoy this history lesson.
The Second Renaissance Part II-While containing some of the fantastic visuals of part one, part two is a lot less compelling. The humans put a dome around the Earth so the machines can’t operate on solar power leading to a war that ends with the machines realizing they can harvest energy from human brains. Thus the Matrix was born. This part was pretty stupid. While the first part set up the idea of a smart science fiction story, the second reveals how ridiculous the plot of the series really is and how much the Wachowski’s love to ruin good ideas with nonsense. If you watched the first part, watch the second, but be forewarned, it’s stupid.
Kid’s Story-The first visually appealing short from an artistic standpoint, Kid’s Story is directed by my biggest adversary in the directing world, Shinichiro Watanabe. A high school kid realizes he’s inside of the Matrix, leading to agents coming after him while Neo guides him toward escape. While not the most impressive in plot, the animation is gorgeous. For style alone, I’d suggest this segment. It’s the best of the bunch.
Program-A shorter piece, this one is another visual feast that concentrates on two people fighting over ideologies in a feudal Japanese setting. The action here is crisp, the dialogue is pretty smart, but it, penultimately, doesn’t matter. I feel that to have a good short here, you need a beginning, middle, and end, not just a singular idea that doesn’t go anywhere. Program is nice, but I still don’t see how this is enriching me any further in the world of The Matrix.
World Record-Here is the story of an Olympic racer who runs so fast he breaks the Matrix while some agents go after him to keep him locked within the program. That’s it. The animation isn’t that great, the story isn’t exciting, and I think this may have been the weakest segment so far.
Beyond-A pretty good short about a group of kids discovering a glitchy area in their town and exploiting the glitches for fun. While again not telling a compelling story this one does give us an idea of the process that is gone through to repair problems in the Matrix. It has good animation and ideas, but it’s an otherwise unremarkable piece.
A Detective Story-Another piece from Shinichiro Watanabe, this one is a noir adventure about a detective who is recruited to track down the hacker known as Trinity. From the outset you can see and hear the style (of course, very typical of Watanabe). This one’s a good short with an actual plot, neat design, and it ties into the movies, making it feel more relevant.
Natriculated-This one is made by the people who gave us Aeon Flux and is another eh on my part. It’s got the trademark style of Flux but I wasn’t impressed by the story nor did I find it to be exciting in any regard. As a finale, it’s weak.
The Animatrix is a very mixed bag. There are a couple of notable segments but it’s just about as underwhelming as the actual Matrix movies. If you’re a fan of the movie series, then you’ll find some enjoyment here, but if not it’s an lame grab bag of great talents producing mostly half-assed shorts.
From a Matrix fan's point of view, I feel it's one of the weaker pieces of the collection. It wouldn't be able to really stand well on its own because there's not enough substance. However, in tandem with the rest of the shorts, I think it gives an interesting view into how the Matrix affects "normal" people's lives. It displays the extent of the Agents' and Machines' control over even the most seemingly innocuous areas of the system.
The art and animation were done quite well by Koji Morimoto, who did the art direction for Akira. The characters were a bit
generic, but they're not really meant to be the main focus of the piece, in my opinion. It's more of a look at the Matrix itself and how it shapes the lives of its inhabitants. You could've inserted different characters and still had the same story, basically. The ending of this piece is what really makes it worthwhile to watch for me. There's a sense of loss that colors it that is made more striking because of the difference in mood from the beginning of it.
Hard not to like this anime. For those not aware you have an animation sequel to the popular film The Matrix. It has 9 stories. Each story is very different from each other.
Like i said among the 9 stories the plot and art differed quite a bit. The artists did a wonderful job in blending the art to a way that best matches the story. For example, if you think of a detective movie. I mean a real good one. what comes to kind other than the trench coat? Black and white. Which is what they did and more. Sure, they matched
the story but they did not drop from character. The ride presented within each story was a virtual roller coaster ride that placed you in the seat of the action. Never once tilted you too far out of your seat.
To make matters better even though the stories were different they all came back to the anime's origin.
The first Matrix is in my opinion one of the best science fiction films ever made and a real masterpiece. The follow up Reloaded is very flawed but still enjoyable. Revolutions on the other hand is just an awful ending to the trilogy. After watching the trilogy again I decided it was finally time to watch The Animatrix which I had heard very positive things about. The Animatrix consists of nine different shorts set in the Matrix universe (two of which are a two part story) the rest are not related. They are done by different directors and studios which gives all the shorts their
own unique feel. The first short "Final Flight of the Osiris" is CG and the rest are traditional animation. The directors who were involved are: Andy Jones, Mahiro Maeda, Shinichirō Watanabe, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Kōji Morimoto and Peter Chung. While all the short films are not on the same level of quality I will say there was not one that I found I didn't enjoy. The first short was perhaps my least favorite and even it was okay. What I love about these shorts is how they add and expand upon the ideas of the Matrix universe. The two part short The Second Renaissance Part details how exactly the world became taken over by machines and why it is in the state it is in the Matrix films. Another short details how Kid from The Matrix Reloaded was brought out of the Matrix. Grading individual categories for this would be difficult as the shorts are all in different styles but I will say I really enjoyed all of them. The Animatrix isn't perfect however and there are some issues I had with it. The first short could've been expanded upon a bit more so it didn't feel like filler. Also some of the characters could've been fleshed out a bit more even though these are all shorts some definitely had better characters than others. There is also the short called Program which started out excellent but the ending ruined the themes of it for me.
Overall as a fan of The Matrix I really enjoyed this film and felt it had a great place in the universe. I do however recommend watching the Matrix trilogy before this as it you'll be able to see the ties this has to it.
It’s rather hard to talk about a show like this because it’s mostly like a range of different episodes. They may all contain the Matrix like style but there really isn’t much that connects them. From the story to the animation, each part is different and told in its own way. The movie gets more and more confusing as the stories keep going, making it hard to get what is going on. There isn’t an indication of if you are inside the Matrix or outside it. All I could understand was how pretty the animations were at points and how ‘crappy’ they were in others.
The whole mix of samurai to space age, to computer simulations that look so real that it could be live action, all of that just seemed a little overboard.
Question, why does it start out with a man and women undressing each other with katanas? Is it just for sexual looks or is there actually a reason for it? Can someone answer this part for me?
The animation was all over the place from CG to Cartoon, to whatever. I felt rather bombarded by all the different art styles just as it happened in ‘Dante’s Inferno: An animated epic’. The only thing that saved this a little was that the stories were not all linked to one storyline like Dante. When I say Crappy artwork, I don’t mean bad artwork. I just mean stuff that really doesn’t look right in my eyes. The style that is so loaded with detail that you can see almost every line in the face right next to stuff that is very simplified. I may not be using the right word for it but I have no other idea what to use for it. Now the detail work pretty much is nice in the CG part, but I thought it never worked in the cartoon part of the show.
The voices are actually pretty well done and one of the only fluid parts of the show. They have voices that work out rather well for the mood that the ‘scene’ is trying to show. If it’s intense, it sounds intense, if it’s slow, it has that feeling. Some of the characters sound like they were voiced by some of the voice actors that were even in the matrix itself.
The episodes of this series are completely irrelevant. They add nothing to the Matrix franchise and have no relation between them. The name "Matrix" was used to sell this thing that looks like filler or a very disappointing spin-off. I lost time of my life watching it.
The Animatrix consists of 9 completely different shorts so it's hard to review in one go but let's try.
I can only say that I really wished that the original sequels to the first matrix movie were a bit more like these shorts. They are much closer to what I loved about the first movie than the sequels.
To everyone new to the matrix I always use to say: "Don't watch Reloaded and Revolutions. They are bullcrap. Watch the first movie and animatrix and be done with it."
Before taking a short look at each episode I just want to say that this collection is a must
have for people who like high quality anime productions.
The Final Flight of the Osiris 9:
The Final Flight of the Osiris tells a story about a crew of a rebel ship in the real world. The animations and fighting scenes are breathtaking (measured by the standards of 2003). The story is well made and has the typical dark matrix atmosphere.
The Second Renaissance 7
Explains how the Matrix and the rule of the machines came to be.
Visually well done.
Kid's Story 7:
Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop) contributed this weird looking movie to the OVA. It's not very "pretty" because they left the drawings "raw" on purpose. Looks kinda cool though.
World Record 7:
Nicely done short about a man crossing the boundaries of the matrix by his own willpower. Nice idea but I don't like the art that much.
Beyond gives a good perspective on errors in the matrix. Not that action packed but nice to watch.
A Detective's Story 10:
Strongest short on the DVD in my opinion. A film-noir style short about a detective. It's dark, badass and clever.
I don't like Peter Chung's artstyle that much. In my eyes Aeon Flux looked horrible. This one is different though. The after-effects look nice, and the story is sad and beautiful.
SHORT 1 - Final Flight of Osiris (dir. Andy Jones and prod. SQUARE USA)
So, this short only really exists to set up Matrix Reloaded as well as Enter the Matrix (greeeaaaattt), and in spite of a well choreographed opening fight scene, it quickly devolves into gray mush with muzzle flashes. It suffers slightly from Star Wars prequel-itis, yes it is tying directly into events of the film I like and yes I do recognise the iconography, but the reason these shorts exist is to expand the universe beyond what was seen before. FFoO meanwhile does very little to expand the universe, stylistically ressembles a Matrix
themed Second Life server, and is a boring slog to begin with. This short should've been called The Blue Pill because it sure as hell put me to sleep.
SHORT 2 - The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2 (dir. Mahir Maeda and prod. Studio4oC)
Now this is where we should have started, detailing the conception and subsequent rise of machines, it's an interesting expansion of this world. The visuals are interesting with overall fine designs, the main focus are the machines and they look great, but the humans all look very bland bar a few close up shots with some interesting shots with a portrayal of them being extremely animalistic. It's also one of the more intense and mature execution of the robot uprising idea, with neither the message of "human bad" nor "technology bad" it shows the conflict without bias with both sides being given a part to flesh (or metal) out their motives.
SHORT 3 - Kid's Story (dir. Shinichiro Watanabe and prod. Studio4oc)
Whilst The Second Renaissance showed a larger conflict as whole, this short shows the personal stakes of a Neo-like character living in the Matrix whilst questioning his reality. The sketchy visuals with the fluid almost jittery movements is an amazing portrayal of the characters perception of the Matrix. Although an extremely simple short it's effective in its execution with a brilliant soundtrack to couple some interesting animation and it really does a good job at justifying this collection's existence as a whole since it and the previous short have already displayed the diversity of Matrix as an IP.
SHORT 4 - Program (dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri and prod. Madhouse)
Kid's Story was more about animation in motion, meanwhile Program is extremely picturesque and beautiful with a further exploration of small scale conflicts found within the resistance groups, it was extremely effective in both tying familiar iconography with unique ideas, the use of paper doors as an obstacle was a cool moment, the simulations bleeding code was very nice, and overall the samurai setting is a brilliant set up that gives this short its own identity.
SHORT 5 - World Record (dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri and prod. Madhouse)
And it's a sports anime now, no but seriously as expected from Madhouse it's got some amazing animation, my main description would be "Redline - except my car broke down" and you can really see those aesthetics in this short almost 4 years prior. It's an interesting addition to this collection and also a very unique spin on a sports story like this, I probably would've preferred if Matrix Reloaded was about this guy instead. My only real complaint is it's placement, we just got a Kawajiri/ Madhouse short, so it somewhat nullifies the complete variety displayed prior, that being said the style is still different enough with more exaggerated faces as well as a larger emphasis on movement and a more naturalistic environment that breaks into some unique visuals in the sequence with the Smiths (Agents, not Morissey).
SHORT 6 - Beyond (dir. Kouji Morimoto and prod. Studio4oC)
It wasn't at all surprising when I checked Morimoto's page and spotted Tekkon Kinkreet inhabiting his body of work, this is definitely my second favourite stylistically and in motion it's an absolute treat. I see why Thor: Dark World directly ripped this scene into their movie (yeah Marvel, I fucking noticed). There isn't really much else to analyse with this short, I adore the aesthetic, it fully utilises it's format as a short to tell a concise yet realised story.
SHORT 7 - A Detective Story (dir. Shinichiro Watanabe and prod. Studio4oC)
Watanabe is back and hey look, it's my favourite! I love how it blends the Matrix universe with a film noir/ manga aesthetic, it was definitely a smart choice putting this towards the end seeing as it seems to tie directly into the films somewhat with the appearance of main character (okay, yeah Neo and Trinity showed up in Kid's Story, but Trinity is like the central focus). The writing is sharp, the soundtrack is amazing and the mystery while small is still very fun. My only complaint is it seems t be cut a tad short, but when my complaint is that I want more, that's not really a complaint. I would love to see Watanabe do a detective series sometime since this style very much suits him.
SHORT 8 -Matriculated (dir. Peter Chung and prod. DNA)
I was awaiting a short to explore the spirituality of Matrix, sadly they saved it for last, conceptually the short has interesting themes with the humans somewhat reprogramming a machine by making it feel like a human almost. Aesthetically in its backgrounds it is gorgeous and the sequence wherein they explore this weird space within the machine is rife with Buddhist imagery and interesting ways of bending the reality. Aside from that, this short is ugly as sin, the awful proportions, the nauseating use of CGI that just doesn't meld well with the rest of the scene and good lord the outside world is so mind-numbingly dull, sadly we visit there often.
IN CONCLUSION: If the first and last shorts were cut, this would be amazing, but with those two bad apples I would say this is just pretty great, I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to just about anyone, but not without a "skip the first short and the last short, they kinda suck" prefacing it. Definitely a perfect companion for the Matrix and a much preferable addition to the series than Reloaded or Revolution.
Japanese animation had forever left it's footprint in the world of science fiction by the late 90s. Works like AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL were just the kind of stylish, cool, violent, dystopian, and thoughtful visions of the future that would land them squarely within the favoritism of American pop culture, impressing Hollywood titans like James Cameron. Nowhere are these influences more noticeable than in the Wachowskis' hit trilogy THE MATRIX. The merging of stylish action, philosophical themes, and a futuristic setting provides a unique cocktail that is heavily indebted to anime. It only makes sense for the Wachowskis to give it back to
the animation their success has been built upon.
THE ANIMATRIX is a collection of nine animated shorts set within the universe of THE MATRIX, each with a different director and production studio. Released in the short six month period between RELOADED and REVOLUTIONS, it's easy to see this collection as the typical sort of transmedia promotional material for the movies. But a lot of real talent has been brought on board with this project and some of the shorts contain ideas more interesting than anything that was invented for the sequels. Like any collection of stories however, the quality can be mixed. Thankfully, THE ANIMATRIX is more good than bad.
First up is "Flight of the Osiris." This short, the only one to be done entirely with CG, was directed by Andy Jones, a notable special effects artist who has since gone on to win several Oscars. But it was his work on FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN that probably brought him here, especially considering Square Pictures also get production credits. Written by the Wachowskis and set before the Machines assault on Zion in RELOADED, "Flight of the Osiris" is the least inspired short in the collection both visually and narratively and serves as a weak start. It's basically an amalgamation of ideas and images familiar to anyone who has seen the original 1999 movie: a simulated dual (with some cringe-inducing eroticism), fighting off Sentinels in a hovercraft, plugging into the Matrix's urban landscape, romance, and self-sacrifice. This is more or less a tech demo for the CG work. And while the animation is impressive enough in its photorealism to hold up pretty well today, it just doesn't add anything to our understanding of this universe.
"The Second Renaissance" is a step up. This two-parter is a narrated overview of the origins of the Machines, their war with humanity, and their enslavement of humans. Mahiro Maeda (GANGKUTSUOU) and Studio 4°C are up to bat for this one. The mechanical designs and their gradual evolution are great and the scenes of gory violence against both robots and humans is glorious and unnerving its parallels to our own history, giving us the perspective that humanity's suffering under the heals of the Machines are a product of its own foolishness. Some CG work was used in the larger-scale moments can be a bit iffy though.
The legendary Shinichiro Watanabe (COWBOY BEBOP) directs the next short "Kid's Story," also produced by Studio 4°C. However, it's Shinya Ohira and Shinji Hashimoto's sketchy and expressionist animation that really makes this short a visual treat. Kid's gradual awareness about the fictitiousness of his reality culminates in a frantic evasion of Agents inside of his school. The blurry skateboard chase is a favorite in sakuga MADs everywhere.
Yoshiaki Kawajiri is an obvious choice to write and direct a short as WICKED CITY and NINJA SCROLL are noted sources of inspiration for the Wachowskis. Like "Osiris," "Program" also features a simulated dual, this time with the theme of feudal Japan. It's not the strongest short. The colors are great and Madhouse's production is solid, but the story and dialogue aren't particularly compelling.
On the other hand, Madhouse's other production "World Record" (also written by Kawajiri) is the real deal. Takeshi Koike brings his avant-garde sensibilities to this fantastic segment, an inspiring story about one track athlete's final shot for glory and redemption bringing him to awareness about the Matrix. Sweat and muscles have never been rendered in such slow-motion glory. This is definitely the strongest short of the bunch.
"Beyond" gives it a run for its money though. This time, Studio 4°C's own co-founder Kōji Morimoto is at the helm exploring a part of the Matrix that was introduced in the trilogy but never saw any elaboration: glitches. Set in a modern Japanese city, several youth investigate an abandoned property subjected to a glitch where the rules of reality begin to break down. Takeshi Honda's colorful designs and Morimoto's skillful direction result in a gorgeous and playful piece that is dense with atmosphere and an eye for the surreal.
"Detective Story" is an obvious crowd-pleaser. Of course Watanabe would get to direct two shorts. The overtly noir style is much more to his familiarity than his previous short, although perhaps a bit too pastiche. The short more or less parallels "Kid's Story" with its framing device and focus on individuals engaging with the leads from the trilogy. It's attractive, but not as much of a standout compared to some of the other shorts.
Unfortunately, THE ANIMATRIX ends on a note that is about as weak as the one it came in on. Peter Chung's MTV series ÆON FLUX is enough to justify his inclusion in this project. "Matriculated" has an interesting enough conceit as well: Machines getting a taste of their own simulated medicine INCEPTION-style. But the whole thing long overstays its welcome and the trippy visuals during this sequence are too garish to look at for any significant amount of time. It's just weird, and the ending is too understated to leave much of an impact.
1) "World Record"
3) "Kid's Story"
4) "The Second Renaissance Parts I & II"
5) "Detective Story"
First of all, you need to watch the Matrix movie. Then you can watch this anime.
The show bring us some other stories from the Matrix universe, some of them before the war with the machine (something as a prequel of the Matrix first movie) and other tell parallel stories... but all of them are really interesting.
If you liked as least the first movie, then you'll probably like this. But I should warn you: the animation is pretty bad. Really bad, even if you consider the time it was made.
So, if you're a Matrix and an anime fan, it will worth the bad
animation, cause the stories are really awesome!