A collection of seven individual and unique shorts which range from touching to downright bizarre. With each story different from the last, we encounter monsters going to school, a man who has a hard time dealing with himself, and a child who learns the hard way about the circle of life, as well as many other unique characters and experiences.
A journey through the minds of the most prolific artists in Japan, this compilation truly is the setting of a Genius Party.
Genius Party represents 7 short animated films made by various talented anime directors of Japan. Unlike 1 minute long Anikuri, creators had 15-20 minutes this time, to fully express themselves and have an impact on spectators. Each episode is special in their own ways so I'll comment laconic on every of them.
Genius Party – What an amazing way to begin the series! Atsuko Fukushima, also known from makin op/ed of Robot Carnival served her job and made an excellent introduction episode. It's very surreal, full of symbolisms and graphic looks also a lot better than in Robot Carnival.
Shanghai Dragon – Yet again we
see Shouji Kawamori from the different side. I really love his sense of humour. I enjoyed watching Project Omega in Anikuri and this parody short isn't an exception either. Yea there are lots of mechas, lots of actions but still the main attention is directed to an useless brat which saves the world. Characters really manage to shine in this 20 minutes.
Deathtic 4 – My least favourite part. There's lack of story, depth and characterization. The only thing that makes Deathtic special is 3D graphic. Shinji Kimura was working on it after all. He has done a marvellous job for Steamboy as well, which is the most expensive animated film in Japanese history.
Doorbell – Very unique. First of all I must say that the Director is Yoji Fukuyama , who isn't famous with anime at all. The atmosphere is really intense whole 15 minutes long. The design isn't as strong as the story, though I mostly enjoyed it. Anyway Doorbell is another interesting version of developing Paranoia.
Limit Cycle – Philosophy is always the strongest point of anime, that's why Limit Cycle is one of the best episode. 20 minute of monologue about life, death, religion and etc. But what mostly surprised me was the name of the Director: Hideki Futamura. In most of animes where he took part in, Hideki had a secondary role. So this was his time to shine and he definitely managed to show us his talent.
Happy Machine – Another Surreal addition to Genius Party from Masaaki Yuasa.Yea, he's the one I was looking forward to most and I must admit that Happy Machine didn't disappoint me at all and remains as my favourite short. I also understand that 15-20 minute isn't enough for a build-up + satisfying result + big impact but that's what directors should resolve and Masaaki Yuasa did stand out.
Baby Blue – Baby Blue is another high-school romance with some action elements in it. What also made it outstanding was the characters and sweet soundtrack. In a nutshell Baby Blue is a worthy appendage to Genius Party collection.
So Genius Party is a great chance to get know to some remarkable Directors and their talents. I am sure everyone will find their favourite ones. As for me I think strongest ones were definitely Happy Machine and Limit Cycle. The only thing I was a bit disappointed with was the romance shorts. Anikuri within 1 minute had much more to offer. I mean the episode from Akemi Hayashi (Gainax) exceeded my expectations. Overall the shorts itself are creative, neat and although they do vary somewhat in quality, there is so much to see in such little time that it is more than worth it.
The cell is the smallest unit of life. Its mechanisms are complex, and only after many years of observation and exploration have we begun to understand their functions. Certainly, the examination of multicellular organisms warrants a much more exhausting amount of research. Even more sophisticated is the existence of life so varied and so involved that it involves taxonomical classification schemes and entire bodies of research. Plants have different organs which serve specific purposes, are able to reproduce sexually, and perhaps most interestingly, transform sunlight into energy for life. Animals consume other creatures and have a conscience, exhibiting specific social and survival patterns and are
able to learn from their experiences and transform their sensory input into wisdom. Humans go as far as to have sentience and grammar. Where does the extent of our ability to understand life lie, and what is the attainable extent of life? These questions may not be answered in our lifetimes, or ever. There may be no answers.
Genius Party is a brilliant anthology of mind-stimulating shorts which attempt to shatter modern animation paradigms. Driving the stories is the idea that the human mind is filled with unknowns, and that our universe is clearly incomprehensible. With such obvious observations, it follows that anime as an art need not have its content presented in a segmented and understandable way, for that would fail to emulate the very world we live in. Rather, life is too complex to be understood, and it is through its confusion and novelty that we must wade in order to find the answers. As human nature would have it, we can find meaning in anything as long as we believe in its significance, although whether or not anything truly has significance may be indiscernible.
Commenting on Genius Party as a whole is difficult. It is, after all, a collection of disparate stories from a diverse cast of directors. They all succeed in providing a snapshot of current anime trends and capabilities, but their goals are as varied as their plots. It is without question that all the shorts have the asset of awesome animation, motivating soundtracks and captivating stories. Even if they fail to resonate with the audience, boredom seems distant due to the sheer novelty and excitement of the works.
Genius Party comes highly recommended not only for the anime enthusiast, but for anyone who has even the slightest interest in cinema and entertainment. The audience is certain to pick favorites among the stories - which stories you find interesting may depend on your life experience and perspective. It may serve as an interesting exercise to contemplate why those stories click with you; you just might learn something about yourself.
Since Genius Party is a compilation anime with no overarching connection, I'll post what I thought about each one in the order of my favorites.
7. Limit Cycle
This one was really bizarre. This is the longest short at about 18 minutes, but struck me as the worst of the whole thing. Basically a man made out of static and moving motifs goes on a very long, fast paced speech about.... literally nothing. Usually if I see someone say something attempted to sound complicated but falls under its own weight I don't believe them, but I see this as one of those cases. The man talks about
a variety of philosophical, religious, sexual, and biblical topics with absolutely no context, all in one stream. This must have been a nightmare to sub, it was almost a nightmare to watch as well. Maybe the point of this short went completely over my head, I wouldn't put it past me, but if you are expecting any kind of explanation of what is going on or any kind of basic premise on which your interpretation can be based on, you will not find it in this short. If I had to guess optimistically, the point was to be as chaotic and nonsensical as possible, in order to make some sort of "sentence-art" phenomenon to go on. This would work out well with the visuals, which are extremely spectacular, both technically and creatively speaking. A variety of colorful motifs and symbols take up the screen most of the time, and it is cool to see. Not enough to make the short itself fun though, unlike in the Genius Party opening short.
This short also struck me as weaker than the rest. The premise revolves around college student looking man, who finds himself unable to walk into places or houses because a specter of himself is already in the house, and no one can see him. This sounds strange on paper, its also strange on screen. Although this short is about 13 minutes, it still felt a bit too long. At least half of the short revolved around the nameless main character walking around town, which isn't exactly a technical marvel or art style or animation I might add. In the end it was rather boring because of this, as well a premise that didn't interest me. The climax obviously carries some deeper meaning, and I won't reveal exactly what it is just in case some are reading the review without seeing it. My interpretation is that the young man is either bipolar, or it has something to do with how people put on different faces and sub-personalities based on their environment. Definitely not strong on that though, as it was an ambiguous climax. I wouldn't watch this one a second time.
5. Shanghai Dragon
The theme of this short is the imagination of children, and the premise is a young chinese boy acquires a futuristic device that allows him to create basically anything using it like chalk, that is he makes a drawing out of something with it on the ground and it comes into reality. Overall I was mixed with this one. Unlike Doorbell or Limit Cycle, I never got bored while watching it, but I wasn't stunned by anything either. The theme of children's imagination conquering the evil robot overlords was cool but, when you think about it, all of these Genius Party shorts already have a theme on imagination to begin with. The visuals definitely had a style to them, but it wasn't a very unique style like the one used in Deathtic 4. The action and chase sequences were both very fun to watch, as well as the finishing scene were the boy powers up into his imaginative toku suit of armor to fight evil. Again, didn't blow me away but its just another addition to the compilation, and is good variety in retrospect. Cool crayon art stuff on some scenes. Salute to Sai and his cuban cigars.
4. Baby Blue
This short is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the well known director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. A high school student asks a girl to skip class with him and go somewhere. The girl agree and they head off, all the while small talking and reminiscing a little bit. It turns out they don't really know where they are going, but eventually decide they want to make a turn for the beach, and off they go. Baby Blue features very hushed voice acting, which gives off a subtle feel compared to the rest of the compilation, and the banter between the two really complimented the atmosphere well. This isn't one of those shorts that tries to hit you over the head with symbolism, its just kind of a simple story that I can't really describe much further without spoiling, but it works well. There were some funny scenes too, most notably the part where they were intercepted by the bike cop. Bike cop had a cool voice too, good audio experience indeed. I liked the ending too. Another good short and a nice quiet anime to compliment with the crazy action of some of the other shorts. Besides that, not much else to say about this one.
3. Genius Party (short)
This is the titular short of the compilation, the first of the pack in order, and also the shortest at around 5 minutes. It is similar to Limit Cycle in where, you really don't know what the hell is going on. That is to say the events that transpire are without any form of context are background information. Big difference though, it isn't 18 minutes long and full of monotonous nonsense. Instead, its an explosive piece of animation, with awesome art style and spectacular choreography to boot. Everything is colorful and complimentary, it is a huge visual and audio presentation and a great way to start off the short. An animation explosion is what it is. It's so short you could watch it on youtube in a few minutes so I won't say whats going on in the short besides theres these really happy rocks and they love to dance. Great anime.
2. Deathtic 4
CGI oh no! The CGI is really cool though because it has something many CGI anime lack, and that is detail to the art. Usually because CGI isn't meant to look like art i.e drawings in the first place, thats for the modern traditionally animated anime. This short features a bunch of zombie dudes trying to send a frog who fell into zombie land through a tornado in the sky or something (Uzu Uzu.) They get embroiled in some shit on the way. Plot is straightforward. Fantastic art though seriously, its like some kind of woodcut style thing. I usually hate CGI but I really loved the style of the background and the art. The style was particularly cool, everything is dead and zombieish, character designs fit the bill and they are all very unique. Props to the zombie police and Posse. This was one of the most entertaining shorts for me, mostly due to the reasons above, I really like when the shorts feature experimental animation or art or cool design, this one has all three. Details on the CGI, its basically like the characters themselves are computer generated, but they have a caricature style that you usually don't see in CGI anime, although you see it in western CGI alot. The backgrounds were mostly drawn in though. Anyways its a short with a simple premise but its unique because of some really funny scenes and cool style. Also all of the characters speak in some kind of bizarre, incomprehensible Scandinavian/Russian which only adds to the out of worldness of the environment.
1. Happy Machine
This was my favorite short in the compilation, and is directed by one of my favorite directors, Yuasa Masaaki who directed Kaiba, Kemonozume, and The Tatami Galaxy. If you had to relate this short to anything complete he has worked on, it would be Kaiba. In a sense, Happy Machine is a visual prototype for the style and the atmosphere featured in full on Kaiba. The visuals and the design of characters, creatures etc. are very unique, in fact they are my favorite of the entire short, even more so than in Deathtic 4. I love how chaotic and enjoyable the director can make a short with such a simple premise that it goes without words, but will go with words for the sake of the review: A baby is taken care of in a bizarre machination of a day care center, only to leave it on a combination of impulse and accident, and ends up venturing out in a world that really doesn't have any laws of physics to speak of. The short is made up of several main scenes, like parts where the baby encounters a flame who burns his crackers, and riding a gigantic horse plant thing. It is not reliant on detail to add to the experience, instead more so on really cool atmosphere, music, and funny scenes. This is a kind of anime that you can just turn your brain off too and go wide with wonder, kind of like the baby. I wonder if this was the intention. Happy Machine has a theme about the cycle of life that only really makes sense at the end of it. It is really entertaining, an animation and style experiment that eventually matured into Kaiba, which was also one of my favorite anime. A great one to watch with friends.
I'm not sure if I wasn't a big fan because I like storytelling or because I'm too stupid to understand it. I'd pick the former but I'm sure people will tell me more of the latter. What I do know however is art. I know storytelling and I know it can be considered art, but I like it for the catharsis it gives through picking apart its creation. Genius Party however is hard art. Much like hard drugs (possibly the reason this film exists) it's pure, not cut with storytelling or character development, it's art for the sake of itself. It's art that's there to
be a dazzling creation, make you think, and leave you with the biggest gray area you've ever seen that you'd think the world's gone to black and white. While I enjoyed the anthology, the diversity, and art for art's sake, I couldn't help but think that this is a Genius Party I didn't get invited to. Or rather, I got invited but I'm just a wallflower looking into his simple unmixed beer and I'm not pretentious or smart enough to handle the hardest of multicolored Kool Aid.
The stories in the shorts either aren't really there, too vague to explain, or so simple that it directs you toward the art. The only stories I could wring anything from were Shanghai Dragon, Deathtic 4, and Baby Blue. They all tell stories but are simple enough to the point where you accept the message and let the marvelous landscapes, setpieces or character design do the talking. The only thing I can say about characters were the ones in Baby Blue that I grew attached to, and while I was confused by the ending their plight was tragic and heartfelt. That or I needed a contemporary setting so badly after the last six just so my headache would go away. The 'story' and all the elements would go with it in the other film are driven by the art and while they didn't do much beyond weird me out I loved the fact that they were diverse and just moved. The other shorts' stories were more dreamlike than anything.
But again, it's the art that really shines. Every short knows what it wants to do aesthetically and it does it good. Genius Party the short is a great intro to the kind of crazy shit you'll be seeing for the next hour forty five, inaccessible, trippy, moving, and oh so intruiging. The other shorts I can say all did the same thing, to some degree. The music pieces were strange and moving, and much like the art, very off the rails and different. While I wished I knew what the hell was going on, each short consistently featured some of the best animation it could. If there was a short that I liked the least it would be the fifth one. Limit Cycle however gave you so much information at an unrelenting pace I felt I was going down a rollercoaster; balls firmly packed against my pelvis as I was pounded over the head with a philosophy dissertation. This short gave you so much to experience, so much to take in that I couldn't even enjoy it for its own sake.
But if there is anything to take away from the anthology is that it's not a conventional series of stories. I don't think you could call them that. It's a celebration and a challenge. A challenge that pushes the limits of its animation who's only goal is to celebrate it for its own sake.
If you are an avid anime fan, you are sure to be familiar with the likes of Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. But there's another extremely talented animator and director who isn't as well known, but deserves to be - Masaaki Yuasa! Discover his wild, ultra-stylized animation!