Anime Review: Genius Party – 7 Directors, 7 Very Different Animes

Some of my favourite forms of media are “compilations”, where a whole bunch of different directors and artists get together to create a short story each, about anything they wish, and mash them all onto one DVD for your enjoyment. Examples of more well known ones would be “Memories” and “The Animatrix”.

Recently I discovered, quite out of the blue, a new addition to the compilation mayhem: “Genius Party” is a collection of seven surreal and unique animes, done by an assortment of directors that had a hand in many well known stories (Cowboy Bebop, Akira, Perfect Blue, and Steamboy to name a few).

Sounds good in theory… but as I’m sure we can agree: not all creations are a work of genius. This collection, while containing a few imaginative pieces, proves to be a tad hit and miss at times. But you never know. Different things appeal to different people, so as I go through each one, you’ll probably be able to tell for yourself which of them would appeal to you.

“Genius Party”

Director: Atsuko Fukushima (Akira)

This five minute, speechless opening film takes place in a weird, abstract world filled with odd creatures and bowling balls that just want to love. It sets the mood for the strange things to come, and is quite clever despite being nothing more then a series of random happenings.

The art style is interesting; rough, sketchy backgrounds highlight the more detailed creature models, and the colours are brilliantly done. The animation itself is amazingly smooth, especially with the character movement, and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into it. All this is accompanied by music that’s a mixture of base beat and tribal vocals, with the sounds of a live concert audience.

Story wise, there really is none. A bird stalks an arid desert in search of food, and comes across some bowling-ball shaped beings that show affection for things by growing love hearts out the tops of their heads.

After the bird eats the heart of one of the balls, the others struggle to help their brother regain the ability to “love” again. Or at least, that’s my take on it. It’s all pretty crazy, involving storms and lightning, eventually ending back through the eyes of the bird, and the bowling balls orbiting a Cineplex with the words “Genius Party” on it.

So begins the show, some might say in the more appropriate way possible heh. In the very least you’ll raise your eyebrows and think “Huh. Well that was different…”

“Shanghai Dragon”

Director: Shoji Kawamori (The Macross Saga)

Things take a turn for the more normal, as we arrive in China “late years in the previous century”. Here we focus on Gonglong, a mucus prone boy who loves to draw on things in his daycare facility. Fleeing his mean school mates, the group is surprised when a strange blue shard drops from the sky; even more-so when Gonglong uses it as a pencil, and the drawings become reality.

What follows is a brief, action packed adventure involving a galactic war, cyborgs, mech soldiers and the sheer hilarity of the things a child’s mind can dream up, even in the most dire of circumstances. It’s a lot to be packed into roughly seventeen minutes, but its fun, sweet and light hearted. If you can’t giggle at this, you need to go back to frag videos and hissing at sunlight
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The art style in Shanghai Dragon is superb and detailed, from the characters, to the warships, to the snot dangling from Gonglong’s nose. I personally prefer this level of quality, though I know the expense that’s involved so not all films and series can do it. This one should impress even the most sceptical of anime-art critics.

The sound is also of a high standard, although for much of the films character interaction there’s no music at all. Music is saved for more action oriented scenes, and varies between fast paced electro and chinese-sounding vocals.

It ends cheerfully in a flurry of juvenile art, and we are left with a distinct feeling of “Awwww cute.” Of the seven films, this one is probably the most fun and will appeal to the widest audience. It’s a clever tale of Ghost-in-the-Shell-level technology being thwarted by childish innocence, all stuck together with boogers.

You’ll love it.

“Deathtic 4”

Director: Shinji Kimura (Steamboy, Tekkon Kinkreet)

Now we venture into perhaps the most unique addition to this collection. “Deathtic 4” takes place seemingly far below ground, in the land of the dead. The zombie residents live out their deaths like any other; going to work, cleaning the house, going to school. However, when a once-a-year cyclone dumps a live frog into the path of one Zomb-boy, all hell breaks loose.

Enlisting the help of three “super zombies”, the youngsters embark on a twelve minute trip through the city, pursued by bicycle riding police that ‘baa’ like Alvin’s sheep. They must use all of their “super powers” if they want to return the frog back to the cyclone, and the land of the living.

The most noticeable aspect of Deathtic is definitely the art. Undeniably macabre, it could easily be likened to “Salad Fingers”, and uses both CGI and hand drawn animation in its scenes. Backgrounds are gothic and dark, the zombie characters are all unique and, occasionally, grotesque. Even if the story itself doesn’t intrigue, the art style definitely should.

Strangely, the director chose what’s described as “pidgon Swedish” as the language for the zombies. Hmm. That’s definitely different. Doesn’t really add or detract from the experience, but interesting all the same heh. Other sounds, like the baa’ing police and squelching zombie flesh, are all done well and give it a distinctly undead feel. The soundtrack consists of the usual netherworld music: randomly pressed pipe organs and out of tune string instruments . (Don’t worry, it’s pretty quiet)

Deathtic 4 is weird, but in a good way. If you like dark, macabre adventures, you’ll probably enjoy this. After all, there’s more to zombies then just the desire for brains.

“Doorbell”

Director: Yoji Fukuyami (Night Walker)

Somewhere in a quiet Japanese suburb, Yu is on his way home from school. Except when he gets there, he discovers a problem. Another Yu has already beaten him there, and now his family can no longer see him.

“Doorbell” is another odd anime that would be pretty confusing if the back cover didn’t kindly explain it too us. Yu has a doppelganger (clone, mirror image), that races him to every intended destination. The first one to reach it is the one to be seen. The second Yu then turns invisible to everyone but the clone.

We’re not told exactly how long this has been going on for, but it’s implied to have happened before. Yu doesn’t attempt to vainly attract his friends and families attentions, merely moves on to the next place and hopes he’ll be the first there. We also see multiple doppelgangers of other people as Yu wanders through the city, suggesting the strange curse affects others too.

As a concept, it’s very unique and cool. Watching Yu chasing himself through traffic and over train lines is amusing, and you can’t help but feel for him when arrives at his destination, too late, and the clone gives him a smug, knowing smirk.

As a thirteen minute animation, it’s actually a little slow and vague, and the ending a little flat. Dialogue could have been much stronger. The art is described as being “shojo”(girl) manga; it’s very fine line, with little extra detail, and very bright, washed out colours. Daytime looks very pale, but the night time scene is nice.

I also had issue with the way the characters move: certain scenes will show Yu walking, but his feet appear to “slide”. He’s taking steps, but not moving the correct distance for the size of his strides. Almost like he’s moon walking forwards. Some might see that kind of criticism as insanely picky, but it really was a bit off putting. Makes it feel more like a cartoon then an actual world… meh, people will get what I mean.

So overall, a film that’s cooler in concept then execution. Still worth a view though.

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