Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
The Animatrix consists of nine animated shorts that revolve around the Wachowski Brothers' trilogy of The Matrix films. Seven of the nine shorts are considered to be anime; "Final Flight of the Osiris" and "Metriculated" are the two shorts that are not considered to be anime. Madhouse, one of the major animation studios in Japan, was involved with almost all seven of the anime shorts. The names involved with the seven anime shorts are Mahiro Maeda, Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, and Koji Morimoto.
The first anime short is "The Second Renaissance Part I." This short tells the story about robots serving humans, and how the robots rise up against their human masters. There are some gory images in the short, as well as a shot of nudity. It should be noted that some of the riot sequences are modeled after real-life riots (such as Vietnam protests and Tiananmen Square).
This is followed by "The Second Renaissance Part II," which is the war between machines and mankind. The shots of the humans in the trenches evoke some World War I imagery. This short also contains gory imagery, and both parts of "The Second Renaissance" provide the backstory for The Matrix trilogy.
In "Kid's Story," we see the backstory for a character that comes into one of the later Matrix movies. In "Program," we see a woman going through a simulation program, and there is some blood during the fight sequence. In "World Record," we see a runner trying to defeat his own speed record. He ends up being one who "gains wisdom about The Matrix through different means."
In "Beyond," a girl and some local kids go to find her lost cat; the cat is at the haunted house that no one is supposed to go to. It turns out the house is a place where the kids are able to do things that shouldn't be possible, and agents come and chase them away. In "A Detective Story," a detective is hired to track down Trinity. However, it should be noted that this short is in black and white, and evokes the atmosphere of the old classic detective stories.
While all seven of these stories are done in an anime style, the animation style is different for each story (with the only exception being the two parts of "The Second Renaissance," which have the same animation style). Each director brought their own style to the short they were working on. While most of these shorts are not inter-related, you can still tell that they are part of the same whole unit of The Animatrix.
The DVD release includes some bonus features. There are audio commentaries for "The Second Renaissance Part I," "The Second Renaissance Part II," "Program," and "World Record." There are subtitles provided, because the audio for the commentaries is in Japanese.
There is a documentary titled, "Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime." This 22-minute documentary talks a little bit about The Animatrix, and then goes on to tell the history of manga and anime. Anime footage from Akira, Grave of the Fireflies, Space Battleship Yamato, Gatchaman, Vampire Hunter D: Blood Lust, Ninja Scroll, Cowboy Bebop, and Wicked City are included in the documentary.
There are text-only biographies for the directors and the segment producers involved with The Animatrix. There are also "making of" mini-features for the various shorts, and each mini-feature runs for roughly seven minutes. There is also a DVD-ROM link.
I would recommend The Animatrix to anyone over the age of 18, due to the violence included in the shorts. I would definitely recommend this DVD to a fan of The Matrix films, so they can acquire some backstory for the films, as well as see some additional stories for The Matrix universe.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband and I purchased.