Posted by psgels on 25 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Ah, of course. Robot Carnival had Robots, the Animatrix had the Matrix and Genius Party has imagination. Every short movie is about imagination in one way or the other. Shanghai Dragon is the work of Shoji Kawamori, the guy behind Macross, who is currently directing Macross Frontier. There are indeed plenty of grand mecha-battles in this one, but I don’t think that you can predict what this one will be about, just by looking at Kawamori’s other series.

First of all, Shanghai Dragon is about a pair of Chinese kids (who also speak Chinese), but it’s also a satire, parodying the trope of the useless kid who suddenly finds the ultimate weapon. It’s just this time, the ultimate weapon is more ultimate than ever, and the kid also couldn’t be more useless. And yet, these have been some fun 20 minutes of airtime, mostly thanks to an adorable cast of characters, which manages to be dynamic, despite the short length of only 20 minutes.

It’s strange, though: the space-soldiers in this short speak Japanese, while the kids are Chinese, and they seem to have no problem understanding each other. The biggest flaw of this short, however, is the rather intrusive CG that sometimes doesn’t flow well with the other animation at all. Shoji Kawamori obviously couldn’t get the same budget for this episode as for an average Macross Frontier episode, and this shows. And it’s a shame, because the other graphics look pretty interesting.

Overall, Shanghai Dragon nothing special, but without a doubt a fun way to spend 20 minutes. Like Genius Party (the first short of Genius Party), it’s also full of symbolism. It may not be the most subtle storyline, but it’s both a parody and homage to an overused cliché in anime. It may start out like a joke in the beginning, but it ends strangely heart-warming.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10

6 Responses

  1. omo says:

    I really like this clip…but I don’t know if your estimate on budget is true or not. It seems as if most of the background in the show are CG to begin with, and they added that extra fuzzy CG to differentiate it from the others.

    Given how fluidly this is animated compare to your average Macross Frontier episode, I would think the budget (and resources spent in general) was much higher in it than anything from MacF.

  2. senerikfred says:

    Subbed version assists well for details-they DID have trouble understanding each other at first, but then the guy who wasn’t Sai (Chinkuro, I think?) activated some sort of translation device thing he had.
    I actually liked the use of CG here, and didn’t find it intrusive. So many awesome fight scenes. Meh, opinions.
    How is everything ‘imagination’ related? Several are, strongly, even Doorbell as a stretch. I have a hard time saying that for Baby Blue, though.

  3. Denizen says:

    I loved this episode so much, it felt like an epic movie crammed into 20 minutes, which was nice.

  4. Reiter says:

    What an awesomely epic and cute story! The little kid is pretty adorable (geez, just how much snot can come out of that boy’s nose?) and the part where he draws his own Ultraman/Power Ranger suit to fight off the evil mecha was both funny and made of pure win. Another great scene was when Sai (the bald cyborg) drops in to save the day with nothing but a cigar and his six-shooter.

    The premise behind this one short episode seems like light years ahead of what many of today’s mainstream anime shows have to offer. I for one wouldn’t mind at all finding out what happens to the kids and their futuristic guardians. The cute happy ending certainly leaves it open for that.

    I also really liked the fact that kids actually spoke Chinese as opposed to what other shows have done with characters speaking supposedly different languages but still manage to revert to Japanese or some really bad Engrish (Black Lagoon is guilty of this). I’m fairly sure the creators were also trying to make some sort of commentary by equating the kids with innocence and imagination and the adults with soulless technology that’s grown out of control.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this ep of Genius Party!

  5. Ilsa says:

    for me, this was one of stories that leaves nice and warm feeling inside. and i had a good laugh, too. also, hearing kids speak in chinese (it took me a while to believe my ears:)) was added bonus!

  6. Silverya says:

    They understand each other because one of the guys (non-bald, not the guy called Sai) set up a two-way translation with the device on his arm :)

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  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:33 AM)
    @Ninja: it’s a generational thing. In a world where Akame ga Kill! is argued to be Seinen the whole demographics are deemed meaningless. Back then when people started reading manga they followed up on finding the more intellectual and artistic ones, now the kids mostly want wish-fulfillment and ostracize the “pretentious artsy ones” like Mushishi.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:32 AM)
    Historical set series are probably some of my favourite genres/series in the medium. But while Vagabond is a beautiful manga, after about 7 volumes or so I found it running its course. Vinland has its greatest peaks when Askelad was around but after that the pacing weakens but its gotten back on track lately.
  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:23 AM)
    @Bam I dunno, I feel like Samurai manga have definitely become a lot less popular in the past decade or so. Ten years ago, LWAC was like Akira or Nausicaa, in that almost everyone who counted themselves as a serious manga fan had read it. Nowadays, most manga fans haven’t even heard of LWAC let alone read it. I also agree that Vinland Saga has slowed down, in the same way that Vagabond has, but I think it's because both manga have been embroiled in long pacifist arcs for quite a while now. But I love that both manga advocate pacifism, or at least focus on it as an alternative to violence.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:23 AM)
    *Vinland Saga is
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:19 AM)
    @Vincent: Vagabond is also in my top three “can’t wait to update” list. It has lost some steam since the 2nd act tho, but that might be partially due to the slow release schedule (a la Berserk).
    I’ve been reading both since they premiered, but that’s beside the point. whether now or back then, there was never too much spotlight placed on Vagabond, outside of niche seinen circles that is.
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:16 AM)
    @Aidan Could you assign tags to the series you’re reviewing? It’s for the convenience of the readers and for my own meticulousness.
  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:10 AM)
    @Bam For my money though, Vinland Saga is the best running historical/seinen/action manga. Vagabond is the more impressive artistic feat, but I think Vinland Saga is just written better. Both mangas are absolutely essential reading for historical/seinen fans.
  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:07 AM)
    @Bam Not to be a hipster but I’ve been reading Vagabond since 2007 and from my perspective it seems like the manga has gotten less popular over time, not the other way around. Back then every seinen fan worth his salts had read Vagabond as well as all the classic Goseki Kojima Samurai manga. Both mangas have fallen out of popularity.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 06:58 AM)
    I just want to say that Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue is one of the most badass manga of all time. It’s crazy how many avid manga fans never even heard about this well-told and incredibly-drawn manga. I mean seriously … this is criminally under-appreciated.
  • Vincent
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 06:52 AM)
    Damn, none of my manga are updating. ;( Time to read a book I suppose. Or look at planes. I’ll look at planes.

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