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 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.
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.