Posted on 14 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Genius Party gathers many different people with many different talents to create shorts. With Limit Cycle, this is monologues. It’s basically 20 minutes of monologue about religious and philosophical topics. Its director is Hideki Futamura, who isn’t really a big name. He worked on a bunch of the Animatrix shorts, did key animation for movies as Junkers Come Here, Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust and Perfect Blue, and he directed Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. He’s definitely someone with talent, and here he finally gets to prove again what he can do.

In these twenty minutes of nothing but talking however, he makes the classic mistake that you can do with these kinds of shorts: he forgets to put anything into context. What we have right now is some random guy who rambles on about life, death, immortality, religion, et cetera. I just had one question on my mind, though: “what’s the point?” Why is this guy delving into philosophy? What does he want to achieve?

You see, the thing is that right now you have a string of dialogue of a level that even I could have come up with. Just give me enough time to quote a bunch of famous philosophers who talked about life, immortality and religion, and voila! This isn’t intelligent, this is just plain random. I think that what the director should have done is that he should have looked more at good examples, in which endless strings of dialogues and monologues do work. Most notably, if he watched Mamoru Oshii’s short on Twillight Q, or Mouryou no Hako, he would have gotten a good idea of what he needed to do to put some meaning behind these words. And give them impact.

Still, a complete waste of time this isn’t, because thankfully the visuals are utterly gorgeous. Along with Dimension Bomb, Limit Cycle definitely has the best aesthetics of all the shorts of Genius Party, and that has to say something. The compositions, character-designs, use of colours, and filters, all come together wonderfully along with great character-designs. If anything, the images were much more thought-provoking than the dialogue!

Anyway, to wrap up Genius Party: it really was a great opportunity to see so many different talents and styles, together in one package. These compilation movies of different short stories have been there before, but never in this scale, with so many different movies and I can only hope that Studio 4C (or any other studio for that matter) is going to continue making more of these, because I really enjoyed sitting through even the lesser ones.

As for my favourite ones, my top three consists of Dimension Bomb, Toujin Kit and Baby Blue. These three are definite works of art and really succeeded in what they set out to do. The other shorts also all have their own merits in their own single way.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 6/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 7/10
Posted on 13 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Most of Genius Party’s animation is hand drawn or animated with cells. Deathtic 4 instead is nearly entirely CG, and feels the most like a platform to try out new CGI techniques. On top of that, the characters are all zombies and talk in some strange kind of Scandinavian-ish language that nobody can understand. The director is Shinji Kimura, a guy who mostly is involved with background art for big hitting movies as Akira, Angel’s Egg, My Neighbor Totoro, Steam Boy, Tekkkon Kinkreet and Prime Rose, and he also took care of the art of the first short of the Gotham Knight movie.

So as expected, the background art is very good. I didn’t notice it at first, but the he designed a very original city that at the same time doesn’t distract from the real art in the foreground. You can see that a lot of time went in designing every single building. On the opposite side though, the story and characters feel among the dullest of what Genius Party has to offer. It’s straightforward, there’s no real symbolism or depth to the story. It just feels flat.

But this is really the power of Genius Party: because it has directors with so many different backgrounds, there’s lots of stuff that you can see. Baby Blue had a director who is excellent at characterization, and so that short had the best characters. Instead shorts like this one, Toujin Kit and Wanwa the Doggy that are directed by animators and background artists have a very distinctive visual style instead. This is why I’m a fan of these compilation movies, and I can only hope that in the future, more of them are going to be released.

On a side-note, anyone know what happened to Le Manchot melomane?

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on 12 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Well… what can I say…?

Wanwa the Doggy is… different. It’s… I’m still not sure what it is; all I know that it was really, really weird. The one who brought us this abomination was Shinwa Ohira, an animator. He worked on the animation of various big-hitting movies, but also on stuff like FLCL, Gosenzosama Banbanzai, Gundam and a few television series here and there. But none of it really matches up in terms of weirdness to… whatever the hell it was that I just watched.

The best way to describe these thirteen minutes are as a very bad acid trip. Shinwa Ohira just continues to throw weird stuff at the screen throughout the entire 13 minutes of this short, one scene more nonsensical than the other. I guess that it was about a kid’s worries as his mother is having a baby, but even children don’t have that kind of imagination.

The animation was as good as usual : there was a lot of movement, and you can see that the creators used lots of imagination for nearly all of the visuals here. Just don’t ask where the hell this inspiration came from…

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 7/10
Posted on 11 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



While there are other quiet shorts in Genius Party, Toujin Kit definitely feels to be the most down-to-earth no-nonsense movie of the bunch. At the end of the thirteen minutes, there is no doubt what the story is about: there’s hardly any deep symbolism, there is no over top action, and instead Toujin Kit is what it is, and because of this it definitely has its merits.

The director for this one is Tatsuyuki Tanaka, who is one of the lesser known names to participate in Genius Party. He’s one of Studio 4C’s key animators, and also worked on a few random other series. In Toujin Kit however, he definitely demonstrates that he belongs among the big guys. I remember Anonymous’s comments on the animation of Eden of the East versus Dimension Bomb, and after Toujin Kit I’m really starting to understand what he meant. Because of the attention to detail in today’s animation, animators are forced to cut a lot of corners in animation.

Toujin Kit has none of this: here characters are animated: they move realistically, and hardly ever stand completely still. The frame-rate is incredibly smooth, and the rest of this short is on purpose kept very simple and down to earth, in order to not have any cheap distractions from the animation. In fact, there isn’t even a soundtrack: just some background noises.

The characters and story however aren’t dull in any way either. Because they’re so well animated, they’re easy to connect to and well likable, despite the fact that none of them are really nice people. Some of their motivations are well explained, the others are easy to guess or imagine and together they form a very complete little story.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on 10 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Moondrive is the oddball of Genius Party. It’s a full fledged comedy, much more than Shanghai Dragon was. It is really silly, and I got a great laugh out of it. The director of this one is a genius of aesthetics: Kazuto Nakazawa, who people may remember as the director of Comedy, one of the biggest visual masterpieces of the past decade. He also did the key animation for the OP of Ergo Proxy and the second OP of Blood+, the character-designs for Ashita no Nadja and was the animation director of Samurai Champloo. This is one guy who knows how to make things look good.

And it shows in Moondrive as well. The visuals in these fifteen minutes were absolutely fantastic. Don’t expect anything like what you saw in Comedy, but instead this time he went for a dark and gritty setting set on top of the moon. The character-designs are full of style and incredibly imaginative, and the animation is incredibly quirky: it knows exactly how to capture the comedic tone of this series, it’s quirkish and made to make you laugh at the black humour of this short movie.

So yeah, in terms of story and symbolism this short doesn’t match up to the other parts in Genius Party and a few of the jokes are rather predictable or repetitive, but the rest of the jokes and quirky characters really make up for it. This is another reason why I’m such a big fan of these collection of short stories: you’ll never know what’s going to turn up next, and you’ll never know when a short is going to make you roll on the floor laughing.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 7/10
Posted on 9 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Yeah, don’t mind about the order of these posts. I found out a bit too late about the real order of the shorts, so I’ll just label them accordingly and review the individual movies alphabetically… for as far as it’s possible. Gala was done by Mahiro Maida, the guy who founded Gonzo. This guy is basically a jack of all trades in the anime business: he animates, directs, designs, produces, draws mecha, writes screenplay, he’s tried out all sorts of stuff. The series he directed are also have no similarities at all, and range from incredibly bad (Final Fantasy Unlimited) to incredibly good (Gankutsuou, The Second Renaissance).

Yeah, that’s pretty much Studio Gonzo in a nutshell. ^^;

Anyway, Gala again is a great little movie of fifteen minutes long. It’s about a strange village with all kinds of weird and uniquely designed people living in it, where suddenly a giant seed drops from nowhere. First they want to destroy it, but gradually their attempts to destroy it turn into something completely different. For what happens next is something that you’re going to have to find out by watching it, but I’ll just say that there is a lot of symbolism in it, and leads up to a very good conclusion.

Music also plays a very big part in these fifteen minutes, but my one complaint is that the soundtrack nearly totally overshadows the music that’s played by the characters themselves. And don’t get me wrong, it really is a wonderful soundtrack, but this is a pitfall very common for anime, as it simply isn’t able to properly synchronize such complex moves as playing an instrument. Even a movie budget doesn’t turn out to be enough to get it right.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on 8 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Sorry for the lateness, but I’m finally ready to review the second batch of Genius Party shorts. Dimension Bomb features an all-star cast: it’s directed by Koji Morimoto, animated by Jamie Vickers and voiced by Yoko Kanno. Now, if this isn’t a recipe for success, then I don’t know anymore. And indeed, Dimension Bomb is by far the best short of Genius Party I’ve seen so far. And also the weirdest one.

Dimension Bomb is a visual masterpiece. Not in the way that there’s an extreme amount of detail in everything like in Eden of the East, but instead it’s like every single shot kicks ass: every single scene speaks to your imagination and is visually stunning and creative. The character-designs are amazing, and just about everything is a gorgeous visual feast. The characters are incredibly expressive and just about everything in the art is made to provoke a reaction from the audience.

Don’t expect the story to make a lot of sense, though. There is a general storyline, but without looking it up you’re going to have no idea what the heck is going on in this short, and instead the stuff that happens is open to all sorts of interpretations, depending on whoever watches it. Dimension bomb makes excellent use of its limited time by not just showing a story from A to B, but instead it tells a vague story with lots of symbolism. In order to like this one, you’re obviously going to have to like experimental animation and storytelling, otherwise you’ll feel incredibly lost.

It’s because of things like this that I keep saying that Studio 4C should make another full-length television series (one that takes itself seriously, not a silly one like DMC). If they do, it’s going to be an incredible amount of kickassness. I’m not sure if that’s a word, but it should be.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on 27 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party


It’s back to the surreal with Masaaki Yuasa (Kaiba, Kemonozume, Mind Game)’s addition to Genius Party. He probably wrote this before he started working on Kaiba, and it’s very apparent that he wrote this in a stage where his distinctive sense of style was maturing. Happy Machine can be very well seen as “Kaiba’s testing bed”, where Masaaki experimented a bit with different ideas and animation techniques (you can see his fascination with strange toilets here as well).

Happy Machine is the strangest addition to Genius Party so far, aside from perhaps the first movie Genius Party. It’s again a short story that knows its length and tries to play with it. What really stands out is the storytelling: it’s basically an adventure of a boy, of only two years old in a fantastic environment, and it’s very interesting to see the detailed ways that the creators come up with to keep this baby busy.

The problem with this movie is the titular character, because he doesn’t really feel like a two or three year old boy. He misses the feeling of loneliness and the hopelessness of being away from trusted people, even though throughout this short movie, he’s got more than enough reasons to feel lonely. Nevertheless, this movie has succeeded in creating an impact, which was exactly what I’m looking for with Genius Party’s short movies.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party


Call me crazy, but Baby Blue has been the best of the short movies from Genius Party for me so far, but then again, with such a stellar storyteller behind the direction (Shinichiro Watanabe, who directed Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop; the guy really should release another series), this was to be expected. Watanabe also directed Detective Story and Kid’s Story in the Animatrix, so he knows what it takes to make a good short story, which he shows in these fifteen minutes.

Baby Blue is very much away from all of his other works, and it’s basically like Doorbell a tale about high-schoolers. This one went right where Doorbell failed, though, by providing adequate background for the two central characters, and at the same time there’s this continuous down-to-earth atmosphere. All movies of Genius Party have a message, and the message of this one works out really well when it gets revealed.

The characters really shine, despite the very quiet mood, backed up by some lovely guitar-solos. There is a small hint of romance, I guess, but it smartly stays away from being a Makoto Shinkai rip-off/wannabe with its daring storytelling, but the thing that really shines in this series is its characters.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on 26 July 2008 with categories: Genius Party


Since the third episode of Genius Party isn’t out yet, I went on to number four: Doorbell. This one may seem like the odd one amongst the different movies, as it’s been directed by a manga-artist: Yoji Fukuyama. The only thing the guy is famous for is for doing the art of a part of the very first “nouvelle manga“. This guy could be the total opposite of Shoji Kawamori, in a way.

In any case, Doorbell is a very quiet movie, combining slice of life with a “what’s going on”-mystery type of story. There’s not a lot that happens, and the fifteen minutes in this movie will be over before you know it, but its message is an interesting one when it gets revealed in the end. The art style is very plain, which fits the movie perfectly.

The problem with this movie is that the Yoji Fukuyama tried a bit too much to make this guy look like your average Joe. Through the movie, I found no reason to care about the guy: we hardly lear anything about him or his life. Heck, it takes ages before we even get to hear his name. It’s rather hard to identify with someone like that.

There’s also a strange minute wasted on a random old lady who doesn’t add anything to the storyline. I guess that if this short would have had just a couple of more minutes to establish its characters properly, it would have been much better. There’s a huge contrast between Doorbell and the first two shots of Genius Party that I’ve seen so far, which is always a good thing. The quality has been surprisingly consistent so far: the three shorts I’ve seen so far have all been nothing special, with a few things missing here and there, but interesting in their own way. I’m interested to see how the rest of the shorts will turn out, because there still are lots of talented directors left.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 7/10

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