Animatrix, The

The entire series, which will debut on home video on June 3, deserves to be seen on the big screen, but will still thrill audiences even with the most basic home video equipment. The segments, as shown as the press screening I attended:

The Second Renaissance, Parts One and Two (D: Mahiro Maeda, 8 minutes and 23 seconds per part): Together, these two shorts tell the story about how the ignorance and arrogance of man allowed the machines to take over the world and enslave humanity in a new way. With its visual allegories to the World War II, the Vietnam conflict and Tiananmen Square, this two part story gets the series off to an emotionally devastating beginning. Rating: A

Program (D: Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 7:04): This most traditionally drawn anime title in the series finds a young lady, in samurai dress during a training session, being seduced by the image of a former lover, who wants to go back to the Matrix. The shortest entry in the series feels much like a replay of Cypher’s big speech in the first film, but finishes with a pitch-perfect right hook of an ending. Rating: B+

Beyond (D: Koji Morimoto, 12:40): Those who have experienced the astonishing 1987 anime anthology “Robot Carnival” know What Morimoto is capable of, and here he delivers the best overall entry in the series. In a city not unlike a large metropolitan Japanese city in the late Twentieth century, a young lady who has lost her cat receives help from some neighborhood children, leading the group to a strange house in which the laws of physics do not always apply. Can agents in Hazmat suits fix, or at least erase, the problem without any of the citizens noticingr Breathtaking on a big screen, the impact should be little diminished on video. Rating: A+

World Record (D: Takeshi Koike, 8:29): This strange little ditty, from the pen of Yoshiaki Kawajiri, finds a dreadlocked sprinter competing in an Olympic-style championship event breaking through the Matrix to get a fleeting look at reality due to a moment of absolute physical force, which brings him to the attention of the nearby agents. While beautifully drawn, this segment is rather confusing. Rating: C+

Kid’s Story (D: Shinichiro Watanabe, 8:55): The director of “Cowboy Bebop,” in the first of two stories he handles here, introduces us to The Kid, who will later become a part of Neo’s team in “Reloaded,” as he becomes aware of what the Matrix really is as agents become aware of who he is. Armed with only a skateboard, The Kid does his best to escape the agents, who have him trapped within his school. Imagine an anime Tony Hawk and you have a general idea of what to expect, but it sure is a lot of fun. Keanu Reeves makes a brief vocal appearance. Rating: A-

Matriculate (D: Peter Chung, 16:00): The creator of “Aon Flux” flips the Matrix rules around, when a group of human mercenaries risk their lives to entrap a sentient robot, so they can hook it into their own version of “virtual reality” and hopefully seduce it to their side. A stunning psychedelic work which exceeds on all levels, hopefully convincing MTV Films it’s time to give Chung the chance to make a full length movie. Rating: A+

A Detective Story (D: Shinichiro Watanabe, 9:23): Watanabe’s other entry is “Bebop” meets “The Matrix” during the heyday of the noir period. A private investigator named Ash is hired by an unknown client to find Trinity for reasons unknown to him, accepting the job when he finds he has already been paid in advance. Only when it’s too late does Ash, and Trinity (voice of Carrie-Anne Moss), discover it’s a trap. A beautiful evocation of a long lost period. Rating: A+

The Final Flight of the Osiris (D: Andy Jones, 9:00): I am not that much of a fan of photorealistic animation for cinema. I can understand creating CG actors for otherworldly creatures that do not exist, or creating CG sets for worlds that would be too cost-prohibitive to create on a set or sound stage. But this whole “so real, yet unreal” revolution brought forth by the likes of the makers of “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” takes me completely out of the action, as I am unable to focus on anything but how fake the unreal actors look. Story wise, “Osiris” sets up both the first act of “Reloaded” and the majority of the plot of the “Enter The Matrix” videogame, as the crew of one hovercraft discovers a phalanx of sentinels burrowing towards Zion and must get the warning out to Neo before it is too late. The sexy swordplay ballet that opens the short is gratuitous, distracting from the main thrust of the story, which does work exceedingly well as long as we’re not focused on the synthetic actors. Rating: B-

Overall, “The Animatrix” will make a fine addition to your video library.

”The Animatrix” Techincal Specs
Format: VHS, Dual Layer DVD
Sound Track Language: English Dolby Surround 5.1
Packaging Type: VHS Slipcase, DVD FLP snapper tray
Program Running Time: 88:57
Closed Captioning: Yes
DVD Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: Original Aspect Ratio – 2.35, Widescreen [16:9 Transfer]
DVD Bonus Features: Audio commentaries (4), Biographies (7), DVD-ROM Features, “Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime” documentary, featurettes with director profiles (7), Interactive Menus, Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of each of the films, “Enter the Matrix” videogame trailer

Rating: A-