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Jin-Rô * Hiroyuki Okiura * 1998

Animation has never been really my cup of tea, yet I do like the “Animatrix”. This film was on MTV a while ago and I decided to record it. “The Wolf Brigade” is an animation with quite life-like images and it plays in an apocalyptic future where the Brigade is a para-police-unit to avoid terrorists from disturbing society. The masses are not too happy with the reign, so anti-governental groups flourish. When one member of the Wolf Brigade sees a teenager girl blowing herself up in front of him, he has second thoughts about his occupation. Then he runs into an almost identical girl.
“Jin-Rô” has a nice, quite typically Japanese, dark atmosphere and a story critical to our nowadays society. The images are quite realistic and the makers sure had an eye for detail. All this makes “Jin-Rô” almost like watching a ‘normal’ film. I enjoyed it, maybe I should see some more “anime” to get to know the genre better.

Casshern * Kazuaki Kiriya * 2004

However this film may be ‘the Japanese Sin City’ (it is also a film made of a comic), the approach is quite different. Still, also in “Casshern” there are computer stages, weird colours, etc., but the persons look more human than in “Sin City” and “Casshern” is a lot darker (yes, a lot darker than “Sin City”), but also a lot more ‘bombastic’. I don’t quite follow the logic in the film (do Japanese have another sense of logic?), but the story is something like this: in the future Asia has conquered the European lands and formed a big empire. There is rebellion in one of the European parts of “Eurasia” and an ongoing war. A professor discovers a new gene-technology that should make it easy to ‘repair damaged soldiers’, since he can breed hands and limbs, etc. This experiment runs out of hand and mutants walk out of the laboratory. These mutants call themselves ‘neo-sapiens’ and decide to take revenge on the human race. A massive war with some ‘supernatural’ elements is caused.
The film begins a bit dreamy with bright colours and a strange atmosphere that reminds me a bit of the Japanese film “Dolls” (reviewed elsewhere). The war scenes are very grim and depressive (but not too good) and especially when the war between the mutants and mankind begins, the film gets very dark. The director obviously wants to show the crazyness and futility of war and to show that the battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is not as black-and-white as you may think. As in other Eastern films there are long ‘philosophical’ scenes about why mankind always makes war, etc. The film is sometimes quite realistic, here and there you get 2-dimensional comic scenes, but most of the time there are over-the-top stages with bright colours, comic action and weird characters. The film is overwhelming, but with the grim atmosphere not a pleasant watch. Also with the confusing story (who is who, what is happening?) I definately need to watch this film again, maybe it will make a bit more sense. But “Casshern” (which means ‘guardian angel’ by the way) surely isn’t the average film and also I think it is not (like “Sin City”) for the big audience. Watch it and be surprised by the weirdness of Japanese filmmaking!

The Animatrix * various * 2003

I have had this DVD in my hands several times and I was not the only one doubting whether or not to see this film. I can tell you: I don’t regret I did!

Already a nice surprise was that before I started to watch the films, I quickly jumped through the extras menu and heard that it were the brothers Wachowski themselves who had these films made. No cheap spinoff without consulting the creators of The Matrix trilogy. The brothers Wachowski wanted an animated version of their stories and asked nine prominent Japanese “anime” artists to make a short film. The brothers wrote the stories and came with suggestions, but still left the artists very free to fill in the rest. The result is nine animation films of about 10 minutes each, in different styles and treating different aspects of the world of The Matrix. The first film is an extraordinary realistic part much like the first film. The rest is quite typical Japanese “anime” with a lot of Buddhistic and “Matrixal” symbology. You will get the story of the time before the first film and different aspects of the concept of The Matrix. The extra information is very nice. Also you will get insight into the “Enter The Matrix” computer game, but that is not really my cup of tea.

So, if you like The Matrix, just have a look at this. The atmosphere of the animations is very close to that of the first film and they are done by the best artists and this definately shows. Also if you (like me) normally do not watch “anime”, this “Animatrix” is still a pleasure to watch.