"Seeing is Believing" – The Animatrix (anime) – 8/10 Pools


I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world. ~Albert Einstein

Genre: Action/Sci-fi

Review Status: Complete (9 Episodes/9 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: Different for each short due to them all having been created by different directors. I have detailed this in the reviews for each because of it.

Dub Vs. Sub: Both are perfectly watchable. The sub is very decent- a few voices might sound a little deep for the character, but nothing terrible. The dub has some very excellent acting, though the lines tend to be stilted in some due to trying to match lip flaps that were obviously created for Japanese words and sentences.

Summary: Detailed in the reviews for each.

Review: Each episode of the Animatrix is approximately 10 minutes long, and within those ten minutes, each director had to create a story that either built on the world that was presented in the Matrix movies, or stay true to the themes and ideas that are in it. This creates some very interesting scenarios.

The Final Flight of the Osiris
Just so you know, the title says it all in terms of what the story is about. This has some of the best CG I’ve seen in a while- in certain scenes, the people looked very real. The effects were very flashy, and it had some good pacing for most of it. Unfortunately, this segment was perhaps the weakest of them all. The opening would do nothing to dissuade someone that anime wasn’t all violence and sex- two characters are engaging in training, which involves a lot of swordplay that gradually is stripping them of their clothes. For something that’s about to be very tragic, it doesn’t set the mood very well. Neither does it add to the story. It takes far too much time, which could have been spent adding to the actual fight and destruction of the ship. The pacing also goes off near the end, with a conversation with an old woman throwing a wrench into the intense action scenes that it’s spliced with. It left me a little less than impressed, with some of the scenes that were supposed to touch me leaving me feeling cold.

The Second Renaissance Part 1 and 2
This title is used ironically- the Renaissance was a time of enlightenment, when people expanded their worldviews. Instead of doing that and embracing or engaging the robots that have gained souls and emotions, mankind rejects them and- out of fear- end up bringing about their own destruction and the rise of the machines. This falls into a more traditional 2D art style, with some CG thrown in. This is a very direct story. How did the machines rise in the first place? How did the earth become like it is in the movies? It’s a fairly typical sci-fi premise, and yet is pulled off with a few twists. There’s a lot of symbolism to the story, most of it aiding the flow and pacing, but also enriching it. And as people who have seen the trilogy know, this doesn’t have a happy ending for us. It’s a very good piece, one that really can draw the viewer in.

Kid’s Story
While this OVA was done in traditional animation, the art itself has a sketchy and surreal look to it. I’m indifferent for what it does to the plot. This ends up being perhaps the most uplifting piece of them all, which can be considered a surprise. This echoes the first movie’s premise, and will feel very familiar to those who’ve seen it. A young teen, dissatisfied with how he feels towards life, sends out a question- “Am I alone?” The answer is that he’s not. But to find out the truth, he must escape his school and the reality constructed for him. Because I have seen the movies, this felt a little too close to Neo’s own awakening to really stand out.

Program
In a scenario that blurs the line between CG and traditional stylized animation, a woman is put to the test: Will she follow the man she loves into the arms of forgetfulness and the machines as Zion is threatened? Or will she keep forging ahead to the future and the truth? Almost the entire ten minutes is made of the debate between them and the literal fight between them. How far would they go once the decision has been made? Again, this hearkens back to the first Matrix movie and a scene within it. Overall, I can’t say much about the ending- it was conclusive but rather unsatisfying as a whole.

World Record
In a style of animation that hearkens back to comic books or visual novels, this story has the most potential to be uplifting and heartbreaking- a man who is charged with drug use must fight to win his medals back… but through his running, might be able to break the slumber that keeps him from the truth of the Matrix. With dramatic shading and dark but vibrant colors, each step of his downfall to his rise again is documented, from training to the personal issues that he must surpass or fight against to be considered the best. All the while, the machines are keeping watch on him. What happens when he comes close to awakening? This was perhaps my personal favorite due to the unique style in how it approached the Matrix and how it leaves the viewer interpreting the ending as either hopeful or not.

Beyond

While searching for her cat, a girl discovers a place that the children of the neighborhood have known about- one where things are a bit stranger than normal. Defying gravity, strange weather patterns, all of it takes place in a house that the machines have marked out as having errors. The art is bright and colorful, closer to the traditional anime style that most are familiar with. As the computers realize that there’s an issue with the system and rush to fix it, she realizes that there’s something more out there, something strange about this world, and when it’s over, is only left with the memories of having glimpsed something more. This I would rank highly since it speaks to all who have had an experience that leaves them wondering- but have been unable to recapture it.

A Detective Story
Film noir is the order of the day in this black-and-white, incredibly realistic-looking OVA. A detective is hired to find the hacker ‘Trinity’, and delves into the Alice in Wonderland themes that brought Neo back to reality. He discovers that others that have followed the trail have been lead to horrible fates. However, one is still alive- and there he discovers the Red Queen, and makes a plan to meet her. Sometimes, being told the truth about your reality isn’t good for your health. It’s true that no one who has followed Trinity’s trail has had a good fate. Will his be any different? The anachronistic style of the detective’s POV with the technology and weaponry that is around him is well-known to the detective, and he makes a decision that changes his own world and the path of his life forever. I think that this is perhaps the best of them, as it is true to the style and tone of the Noir films that it is an homage to. It also manages to be an incredibly interesting story, even if the action seems to be lacking.

Matriculated
If you can’t get them from without, get them from within. This is the policy taken by a group of rebels against the machines. They choose ones with above-average inteligence, capturing and hooking them into a program designed to show them that they could live together, that humanity is more than something to be detroyed. This follows one such machine as he is taken through stylized worlds designed to show him humanity. Too bad things aren’t all sunshine and flowers- the place comes under attack. What will their fate be? This one is highly depressing, but very well-executed. Using great CG and stylized art, this shows that sometimes humans can’t fight things they have aversions to… and being alone is a terrible thing for anyone. Definitely one of the better shorts in the series.

Overall, this was an interesting look into different perspectives on what’s happening within and outside of the Matrix.

Recommended: 18+. Some of the images presented here are very violent or disturbing, from people being gruesomely impaled to heads being crushed and exploding. Not every OVA has something violent happening, or has blood being spilled, but you can’t tell which ones will beforehand. Some have sexual undertones- in one, a woman walks around in little more than her undies, in another the couple are cutting off eachother’s clothes during training, turning it into forepay (he eventually is in nothing while she in nothing more than underwear, though you never see any genitals), and in a third, a couple are engaging in similar sexual teasing. In that same one, the characters are stylistically nude- that is, they are floating people-looking things made of different colored lights, and the nudity is like Barbie-dolls.

The nice thing is, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the movies to enjoy the ideas and concepts presented in most of them (though you would want to watch The Second Renaissance beforehand to get a background on what’s happening). However, I think that for maximum understanding of what’s happening would be for those who have, since there are various concepts that would only be understood by doing so (who Neo is, what the significance of putting a letter into a mailbox is when inside the Matrix).

Other titles you might enjoy:
Ghost in the Shell (movie, SAC, 2nd Gig, manga)
Dennou Coil (anime)
Serial Experiments Lain (anime)
Ergo Proxy (anime)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. beneaththetangles
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 16:00:17

    I barely remember the Animatrix. I was really excited when it came out, and remember that I only really liked 2 or 3 of the shorts. Your review makes me want to check it out again…

    Reply

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