Overview: Now that Matrix Revolutions is out, fans
worldwide have the whole story laid out before them to pick
apart. And yet, while Revolutions is the end of the Matrix
movies (or so swear the Wachowski Brothers), so many people
are left with so many questions. Now I won't say that Revolutions
wrapped everything up, but I've been pointing out a lot of
things people didn't seem to remember. Then I found out it's
because they didn't watch The Animatrix. Remember The Animatrix?
Collection of short story anime that came out right before
Matrix Reloaded? Well, if you're going to really get the whole
Matrix story, you've got to watch The Animatrix.
There are eight anime, three written by the Brothers themselves
(including one so long it's broken into two parts.) They each
have a different creative team and different feel to them,
so I'll review them separately.
Final Flight of the Osiris: This is a visual feast,
and the only story done completely in CG (computer graphics).
Written by the Brothers and animated by the same studio
that produced Square's amazing Final Fantasy: The Spirits
Within, this story is the direct precursor to the events
of Matrix Reloaded and is referred to in the opening scenes.
The crew of the ship Osiris discovers a terrible secret
and must risk everything to get news to Zion.
The Second Renaissance Part I and II: Also written
by the Brothers, directed by Mahiro Maeda (famous for the
½ CG ½ anime Blue Submarine #6), and animated by Studio
4*C (topnotch work on films like Spriggan). This story is
vital to getting Revolutions, as it shows how everything
started: artificial intelligence, 01, the war, the matrix,
everything! The centerpiece of the bunch, it doesn't fail
Kid's Story: The last of the pieces written by the
Brothers, this is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy
Bebop, Macross Plus) and animated by Studio 4*C. This is
the origin of The Kid, who pops up as Neo's first disciple
in Reloaded. The story is brief, but has certain nostalgia
as we're taken back to a familiar situation: a guy in the
matrix, a hacker, who knows that something is just not right,
and has his suspicions confirmed. The animation is the real
star here. It's done in a sort of roughed-in, A Ha video
sort of way. Some people might hate it, but most will love
it. Either way, like the rest of the Matrix properties,
it injects something refreshing into an area that's getting
Program: This is a seemingly simple action piece
written and directed by the phenomenal Yoshiaki Kawajiri
(Lensman, Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust)
with animation by industry veterans Madhouse Studios (Ninja
Scroll). In this story, one woman is put in Cypher's position…if
she could go back, would she take the other pill? The animation
has a great style and action scenes in 'feudal Tokyo' are
World Record: Animation by Madhouse, story by Kawajiri,
directed by his prodigy Takeshi Koike. This story is about
a runner who is on the verge of inadvertently breaking free
of the Matrix through sheer willpower. A thought-provoking
story about life in the Matrix with highly stylized animation…it
has to be seen to be appreciated.
Beyond: Written and directed by Koji Morimoto, animation
by Studio 4*C. Morimoto has worked as an animator for years
on such films as the original Macross and Neo-Tokyo, and
has done miscellaneous jobs as assistant director, producer,
or writer over the years between directing for anthologies
like the seminal Robot Carnival or the new classic Memories.
In this story, he tackles an interesting premise that was
brought up in Reloaded, that of the supernatural. Neighborhood
kids play at a haunted house while Agents are sent out to
take care of some bugs in the system….
Detective Story: Written and directed by Watanabe,
animation by Studio 4*C. This story will seem a little familiar
as it apes and extends the classic noir premise and style
seen in some of Watanabe's Bebop episodes. Shows one of
The Matrix's main heroes as seen from the point-of-view
of a guy embedded in the Matrix. A private dick is contracted
by a secretive government agency to track down a mysterious
hacker. Also tackles the idea of those who are too embedded
in the Matrix to free their minds...what happens when they
learn too much?
Matriculated: Written and directed by Peter Chung
(Aeon Flux, Reign), animation by relative newcomers, studio
DNA. An interesting and trippy mix of Chung's trademark
animation combined with CG, this story tells about a sect
of humanity trying to win the machines over instead of dominating
them. Strap yourself in for this mind-bending telltale precursor
So there you have it, eight (or nine depending on how you
count) stories from the Matrix varying in length from about
five to fifteen minutes. Crisp and clear video, English or
Japanese audio, subtitles, a great soundtrack. All the shorts
are good for one aspect or another, and all have great talent
behind them. It's hard for me to pick personal favorites,
as it depends on what mood I'm in, but I tend to like the
ones with really different animation from the other anime
out there (although really all the animation is a bit different
from short to short.) This is really a high-quality product,
well worth the money, essential for Matrix fans. About the
only names missing from here are Otomo (who couldn't contribute
due to scheduling conflicts) and GAINAX, or maybe CLAMP depending
on what you like. So if you don't like The Matrix, but you
love anime, you might want to check this out as well.
Suitable For Kids?: Not really. A little bit of harsh
language, a fair amount of graphic violence, and some sexual
innuendo. Besides, the general direction of the collection
is a little heady for most kids to be into.
DVD: This is a great DVD, especially for anime, as
it has considerable extras on it. First off, a pretty damn
good feature about the history of anime, plus making-of features
for each short, director commentaries with Maeda, Kawajiri,
and Koike, talent bios, a trailer for the Enter the Matrix
video game, and DVD-ROM features! Jackpot!
CD: There are two packages of this DVD, and I sprung
the extra five bucks for the one that came with a CD soundtrack.
This is a separate CD with ten songs used in The Animatrix
on it, some of which are exclusive remixes, as well as two
techno tracks incorporating some of the score and dialogue
from the Matrix films. These tracks range from pretty good
to excellent, and if you like trance, house, techno, drum
'n bass, and the like, you should definitely spring the extra
cash to get this package, if you can still find it.
For those who've seen the trilogy and are disappointed, disillusioned,
or just feel dissed, pay attention. I'm a big fan of The Matrix,
and was pretty happy with the films when all was said and
done. However, I have the nagging feeling that the whole thing
could've been resolved a little better. Of course, you can't
please everyone all the time, and that's what the Brothers
were trying to do. Still, I made up a list of things that
just bugged me about the trilogy, and I've included it here
for those who are interested. Feel free to e-mail me with
questions, comments, or concerns.
- Jeff Light