Hey kids. Don't give a rat's ass about animation? Can't be bothered to go in search of cinema's hidden wonders? Like your culture assimilated into the mainstream? Then those wacky Wachowski brothers have just the thing for you! It's called The Animatrix. Nine animated shorts set in the world of everyone's favorite huge piece of crap!
Remember when Carl Macek bought Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa , renamed it 'Warriors of the Wind' and released it in the west with half an hour lobbed off for no good reason? Remember when Streamline bought the rights to Akira and released it with a dub that no one could understand, and that took them 18 years to rectify? Remember when Hiam Saban added new space sequences to Gatchaman that he drew himself, and called it 'Battle of the Planets'? Remember when it was left to Lloyd fucking Kaufman to release Tonari no Totoro in the US? Remember when Disney bought the distribution rights to the Ghibli catalog, just so they could release about three of their films really REALLY slowly, and use the rest for land-fill? No? Well don't worry - cos those wacky Hollywood fuckheads have done it again!
This time they've gainfully employed all those starving anime directors whose work, until yesterday, was relegated to limited video releases that were only ever advertised to niche markets. Having made DAMN SURE for over two decades that anime kept its filthy nose out of the mainstream, Hollywood has now given all those struggling animators a big fat pay cheque to make a bunch of adverts for them.
Up until two minutes ago, your perception of anime (if you had one at all) was that it was actually called 'manga' and that it consisted of a bunch of cheap impenetrable cartoons with very little animation, in which everyone has big eyes and in which everyone gets raped every five minutes. Then suddenly your TV started telling you that anime is actually really really good. That it's extremely cutting edge and is pronounced 'japanimation'. Why did your TV start saying this? Why the sudden change of heart? Well kiddies, it's to do with marketing executives.
If I haven't already exhausted your capacity for recall this rant, you might be able to cast your mind back a few years and remember a news story about a Japanese cartoon that gave children epileptic fits with its zany flashing colours. You will remember that much brouhaha and harumph surrounded this story and that for several weeks Japanese animation was thoroughly demonised by the media. THAT was Pokémon! Yes, Pokémon. The same Pokémon that all those Time Warner subsidiaries were telling you was evil a few years back is the exact same Pokémon that the SAME Time Warner subsidiaries have been broadcasting for five years. For so long as it was FOREIGN it provided the media with yet another one of those 'Africanised bee' style stories to stop you simple village folk wandering into the woods - but the moment they smelt an earner its all "buy Pokémon, eat Pokémon, wear Pokémon on your head"! Funny that.
Last week, your TV didn't want you watching FOREIGN cartoons because there's a chance that exposure to such things might invalidate your devotion to homogeneous cartoons and send your precious money astray. But since then there's been all these funny things happening like Spirited Away winning an Oscar. Now there's money to be made from that J-dollar!
So it is that the Wachowski's, out of genuine fan-boy enthusiasm I believe, wanted to make an anime - and big daddy Warner has let them. Lucky boys.
"So isn't that a good thing Mantis? Of Course it's only about money, but isn't the result that anime is finally getting the western exposure it deserves. Surely The Animatrix is for the best?"
No dear, it isn't. Lets look at precisely what it is that the Wachowski's have thrown together here. What they've done is collect their favorite directors together (or the ones they could get) to make one of those anime compilation numbers like Robot Carnival, Memories or Mani Mani. The difference between those films and The Animatrixis that you have already heard of The Animatrix, but you probably haven't heard of any of the others. None of the aforementioned films are particularly uncommercial, but have any of them enjoyed a high profile cinema run followed by a dual VHS and DVD release with extensive TV coverage? No. Why? Because Hollywood is only interested in embracing another culture when it can do it on its own terms. John Woo can have a job, so long as he makes Broken Arrow. Mahiro Maeda can have a job so long as he makes a Matrix cartoon. Do you honestly think anyone would ever have let Peter Cheung within ten foot of a movie theater if he didn't throw a few token Matrixisms into his film? Of course not.
"So it's to advertise The Matrix, big deal. It's getting it 'out there' right? That's good."
Oh for Gods sake. Look. Imagine if you had a lemonade stand (I hate analogies) and I came along and set up next to your lemonade stand with a MUCH bigger table. Then imagine I kicked you square in the scrotum, nicked your lemonade, and proceeded to sell YOUR lemonade from MY big table, with MY name on it, while you rolled around on the floor in agony. Then imagine if I helped you up and gave you PERMISSION to sell your lemonade from my table, still with my name on it, while I went for a piss. Would you be really grateful? Would you consider that a particularly benevolent act on my part? No.
Its called CULTURAL APPROPRIATION people! Iraq anyone? Hello?
I am going to invent a word now. That word is 'Japsploitation'. You know, like Blacksploitation, only with the nips. I am going to you use this word a lot from now on, so get used to it. With that done, lets move on to the fun part, where I take the piss out of the content.
So, the Wachowski's have assembled an animation 'super team' of varying reputability, that while not a bad choice of artists is also an extremely predictable collection considering their leaning towards teenagerism - well good for them. Peter Cheung, fair enough. Yoshiaki Kawajiri? Could do worse I suppose. One get's the feeling that Tetsuo Hara was higher up their wish list than Hideaki Anno, but never mind. It is what it is - and I shall now go about damning it on that basis alone.
The first preview episode to have been squeezed out of the internet for our enjoyment is called... wait for it... The Second Renaissance. OH FUCK OFF! How fucking pretentious can you get? Cheeky fucking cunts. Well, no, in fairness, it is somewhat akin to the second renaissance - in that the first Renaissance in France was crushed by Christianity, so we had to wait another 200 years for the Italians to have a proper one. In that respect there is a certain similarity.
The Second Renaissance, is the first of a two parter that is meant to give us a back story to the whole 'baby eating spider' business in the movie - like I give a shit. Our story begins in the precise and exact manner of an episode of The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest with a journey through some mismatched eighties CGI tunnels and some husky bints voice saying "welcome to quest world".
Our CG journey takes us through the minds eye, out of a ducks arse and into the future, where robots have just been invented, and are used to do menial tasks like dropping glasses so that we can follow their fall in a pointless but precise recreation of the 'jumping off the roof' bit from the start of Ghost in the Shell.
Our sultry hostess continues to describe the course of things as we see that humanity has built cute Futurama style humanoid robots, who it strangely employs, in great numbers, to build giant metal pyramids in the manner of Hebrew slaves. This is then followed by some shit about the first robot to strike out against its masters (which goes loopy and kills some kittens). Up until this point I had been tricked into a state of comfort by Studio 4oC's fine animation work, and was thus prepared to let this ridiculous story off under the supposition that it is supposed to be ironic - a bit of a piss take. Robots building pyramids by hand is obviously a bit of a silly idea and maybe, I thought, it's meant to all feel a bit 'Osama Tezuka'.
But then the film made the mistake of keeping going and I promptly changed my mind. The very next shot, after the robot has killed the kittens, is of an incredibly gratuitous Fist of the North Star style close up a man's head being squeezed in glorious guts-o-rama. And so, once more, those sad twats the Wachowski brothers reveal their true intentions. These films are NOT a chance for the cream of anime's crop to strut their stuff - but an over budgeted homage to the crass vulgar U.S Manga Corp releases of the early nineties. Shit like Violence Jack. Maybe when they ordered Mahiro Maeda, they thought they were getting TOSHIO Maeda. Who can tell?
Fact is kids, they've only just started, and so have I. Having gotten off to an aestheticaly pleasing but highly risible start, the Wachowski's then decide that it'll be a good idea to continue in a fashion that is utterly morally reprehensible because, hey, all the big moneys in being a fuck-head these days. They decide, in fact, that it will be a REALLY FUCKING CLEVER IDEA to rotoscope (trace) over various famous footage of human atrocities, and recontextualise them into their silly fucking robot story. First they draw over that famous footage of the Vietnamese kid getting shot in the head, then they recreate the scene of that guy running in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square, and in both instances they follow up the 'recreated' shot with an incredibly gratuitous and lingering close-up of the respective robo-rebels brains spewing out. Um...
Dear Winkus and Dinkus Wachowski,
RE: that thing I was just on about. Sorry to be the one to break this to you, but THOSE THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Those events were REAL. That kid on that bit of footage was a real kid and he really got shot in the head and he REALLY DIED. Therefore, you stupid baseball-cap wrangling fat fucks, it is NOT okay for you to draw a smiley robot face over his corpse in order to flog your turgid little Japsploitation film. It is also neither big nor clever to animate an incredibly detailed slow-motion close up of his fucking brains flying out - you sick grave-dancing twat heads.
Yours sincerely, me.
What can we expect to see in The Second Renaissance Part 2? Robo-Kennedy's brain box spewing out all over Jackie-OSX's face? I can't wait.
After that the film pretty much meanders its way through some 10 year olds creative writing assignment and concludes, for lack of an actual ending, with another Johnny Quest screen saver sequence.
The second installment, Program, barely even warrants a paragraph (you'll be pleased to hear). It looks nice enough (if decidedly post-Mononoke Hime), but is fashioned in the style of Studio Madhouse' early efforts like Ninja Scroll and Monster City which. frankly, they have otherwise moved on from. But that's Yoshiaki Kawajiri for you. The problem with it is that the ENTIRE film, despite being action driven, is completely dominated by the two characters having the sort of retarded 'nature of reality' conversation that you would expect to hear from a couple of underage drunks. This ridiculous dialog, furthermore, is acted in the precise manner of a bad early-nineties U.S Manga Corp dub, despite being the ACTUAL original soundtrack. So, again the Wachowski's betray their dubious influences.
To conclude, whatever future episodes may bring, The Animatrix is nothing more than an animation brothel full of trumped up whores wearing far too much make-up. Some of the whores may looks nice from a certain distance, and some may have nicer personalities than others, but they are all diseased. If you give them your money you might well enjoy the experience for a moment or two, but at the end of the day, when you think about it, you will know in your heart that you have compromised your self - you filthy little mongrel you.
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