Wednesday, October 29, 2008

[Animation Nation] Genius Party

As with all anthologies, Genius Party by Studio 4C thankfully contain more hits than misses, and I enjoyed most of them featured in this package,, except for Hideki Futurama's Limit Cycle, which at first could be striking in its brainwashing visuals of psychedelic colours, before the shortcomings got severely exposed in what would be disguised and hiding under the label of being experimental. It tried to be intelligent with its take on people, God's grace and miracles, but ultimately turned out to be an over indulgent piece of psycho-babble nonsense. I joined the audience in sarcastically applauding at the end of the short, that it's finally over and we could get on with the better stuff.

The anthology actually opened with a bang, with Atsuko Fukushima Opening Credit Sequence contributing some mesmerizing visuals to the beat of pulsating music. It's a highly imaginative piece that set the tone for a myriad of subjects to come, and Shanghai Dragon delivered what would be a general crowd pleaser. Set in the titular city, its a science-fiction mecha fantasy tale with good natured humour and well thought action sequences that plays on the notion that a child's imagination knows no bounds. Chief to the story is a young boy Guonglong with a perpetual runny and mucus dripping nose, who found a galactic “system” which is essentially a magic pencil that can transfer images to reality, and becomes a legendary messiah prophesied to save the world.

Shinki Mimura then continues with a grotesque stop-motion piece called Deathic 4, where Tim Burton fans would be right at home with. Set in the land of the dead, it tells of some adventures in Zombie-land where a group of children venture to return a living frog back to its proper realm. Something akin to Monsters, Inc, it's filled with deliberately ugly looking characters with plenty of humour to go around in this action adventure. Along similar veins, Masaaki Yuasa's Happy Machine explores a baby's thoughts about his new surroundings, and is a very highly imaginative piece taking on the point of view of a toddler.

What I really enjoyed in this showcase, is Yuji Fukuyama's Door Bell and especially Shinichiro Watanabe's Baby Blue. Two contemporary tales, the first one contains a rather abstract storyline that I liken to the film Multiplicity on one hand with possible clones settling in, and on the other hand, it could be one man's surreal story of self, and in coming to terms with leaving his old self behind for a new life. Baby Blue is as equally photo realistic in its artwork, and the story is full of poignant moments that might bring a tear to your eye.. For a romantic story, it steers clearly away from cliches with a couple of unexpected moments in its narrative, but contains the usual sentimentality of the unsaid relationship between two childhood friends, which I thought was very well done. Added plus points include its moments of spontaneity like in Before Sunrise, and of setting a significant part of it on Japan's subway and rail systems, which I've come to love (it's not as complex as on paper).

A good balance and mix of different animation styles and techniques into one showcase.

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