Tuesday, September 22, 2009

[Animation Nation 2009 Prelude] Genius Party Beyond

The first Genius Party anthology from STUDIO4℃ was screened during last year's Animation Nation, and provided an excellent platform to showcase what those visual geniuses from the production house were capable of. Originally conceptualized as one extremely long collection of shorts, a split in having 5 of them showcased separately in a followup simply meant that we'll be treated again in this year's edition to other creative directors' in the Studio's fold.

Gala - directed by Mahiro Maeda

One of the rare few in this collection that has a semblance of a narrative storyline, where chaos begins when a huge rock descends from the skies and pummels itself firmly in an environment where strange, fantastical creatures (some looking suspiciously like gods too) reside. The natural reaction would of course be to try and break it down, and ultimately this led to a group of chosen ones being granted special, larger than life musical instruments for combat. The visual assault with the numerous characters croweded on screen reminded me of Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, where you’ll probably require multiple viewings to capture all the movement of each background character onscreen.

Moondrive - directed by Kazuto Nakazawa

Not since Aachi and Ssipak had I seen an animation that combines edgy, angst-ridden teenage characters extremely full of naughty, cheeky overtones. Moondrive follows a bunch of gang robbers who are hot on the trail of what promises to be a wealth of treasure. It’s essentially having the characters visit site to site, the visuals bordering on stylistic rawness and incompleteness, full of rough, unpolished pencil lines staining its slickly designed landscape deliberately. Pay attention to the thematic designs of the shops these riotous gang visits, accompanied by plenty of noisy visuals almost like the earlier short. Loud, Wacky and Comical sums this up nicely.

Wanwa the Doggy - directed by Shinya Ohira

This short proved to be distinctly different from the earlier ones, where the narrative structure gets thrown out of the window, mainly because you’re in for a trippy ride into the imagination of a child. The camera rarely holds still, and is full of continuous movement with nary a pause in its fluid motion, combining plenty of child-like fantasies and favourites, from gigantic sized candy to even Lego blocks. It’s doesn’t make much sense of course, though full of colours with artwork resembling output from crayons. Oh, the titular dog plays a supporting cameo, just in case you’re wondering.

Tojin Kit - directed by Tatsuyuki Tanaka

My first impressions of it was that we’re in for a Fifth Element styled short, observing the protagonist’s slice of morning life in a cramped quarters called home, before the authorities come raining down and wrecking havoc because of the harbouring of something illegal. The animation styled plenty of wonderful ideas, such as the psychedelic looking blob-like aliens which are inhabiting man-made dolls, for reasons unexplained other than what I am guessing as safe refuge from extermination. I liked the light-bulb heads of the robotic security forces, which provided some sense of vulnerability over a mean-looking exterior. I can’t say that the story’s great as it’s pretty straightforward on the surface, probably inspired by Men in Black, but with some cyberpunk influences as well which begs to be expanded.

Dimension Bomb - directed by Koji Morimoto

Morimoto himself was present last year during the inaugural Anime Festival Asia in which he discussed about, and presented a short preview of Dimension Bomb. My appetite had been whet for almost a year now, and the final product is nothing less than mind-blowing. Sure it doesn’t have a coherent plot to make sense of its sci-fi / fantasy elements, but who can deny the animation genius that unraveled to the tune of a hypnotic, pulsating soundtrack? Clearly it’s one to be experienced and savoured with an open mind, akin to watching a trailer full of best bits and sequences, leaving you with an air of anticipation that there could be more just around the corner.

Genius Party Beyond screens at Animation Nation, Singapore's premiere animation film festival, on 18 October (Sun) at 2100hrs, and on 20 October (Tue) at 1900hrs. Click here for ticketing details.

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