Genius Party Beyond
After watching the first selection of Genius Party shorts a couple of weeks ago, it was difficult not to get excited about the second part. Not only because I wanted more of the same, but mostly because the most promising directors were still to come. Genius Party Beyond features work by Tanaka and Morimoto, two personal favorites of mine.
Since the running time of the entire project clocked in around three hours, Studio 4°C made the right decision of splitting the whole anthology in two different parts. It's not like styles and themes of the shorts were that coherent to begin with and three full hours of Genius Party would've been a bit much I think. The first part already featured some impressive work, but the best was obviously saved for last.
The second part starts of with Gala, a short directed by Mahiro Maeda. One of the most prolific anime directors of today with some interesting titles to his name. Sadly, he is the only one to really disappoint with his short in this second act. The style is a bit bland and boring. Even though the animation is quite good, it looks a little too generic for a 4°C produced short. It picks up about halfway through, when the more psychedelic sequence starts, but even then it fails to really impress. As a whole it reminded me somewhat of the musical woods sequence in Katsuhito Ishii's Funky Forest, only not as cool or crazy by far. 3.0*/5.0*
Luckily that's about all the disappointment there is to be had in this second series of shorts. Gala is followed by Moondrive, a superb little short directed by Nakazawa. The style of animation is not unlike Dead Leaves, though the pacing and mood are a bit more subdued. The drawing style on the other hand is something else, with very static, card-like drawings. Nakazawa continuously breaks the fourth wall by showing the edges of the drawing cards and showing grid lines outlining the action. Visually Moondrive is extremely dense and detailed, the action quite extreme and the humor somewhat dirty and perverse. A perfect combination of artistic and vulgar, and one awesome little piece of animation. 5.0*/5.0*
Expecting a little drawback from the next entry, I was completely blown away by Ohira's little puppy short. Without a doubt the most original and revolutionary films of the bunch. The style is simply outrageous, mixing children's doodles with chalk-style animation and then some. In some ways, it reminded me of the drawing style used in Windy Tales, though less angular. Wanwa looks like an extremely detailed and lively children's drawing come to life. As a little boy finds its way through a wobbly world of magic you can only wonder what exactly you are looking at, but the overall effect is superb and extremely engaging. Within its short timespan it becomes completely immersive and leaves you with a sense of enormous wonder. 5.0*/5.0*
Up next is Tanaka's short. Tojin Kit is a continuation of a short piece Tanaka once directed for Digital Juice, so it doesn't feel quite as refreshing as the other shorts do. The basic style and movements are still there, but Tanaka's world has expanded and actually found a story to tell. It's a little surprising to see some cuter elements added to Tanaka's typical grey sceneries of wicked machinery, but the creature effects look amazing and the whole short just oozes style. The animation itself seems to lag behind only a little, possibly because there hasn't been too much updating since Digital Juice, but apart from that it's amazing to see Tanaka's trademark style translated to animation. 4.5*/5.0*
Finally, making sure Genius Party finishes off with a bang is Morimoto's Dimension Bomb. In many ways a sequel to Mix Juice, his entry in the Digital Juice anthology (and also featuring a shot with the same character), Dimension Bomb is an equally disjointed series of settings and characters set to a rather defining musical score. It's hard to tell what Dimension Bomb is about exactly, but the superb designs and terrific animation are simply spectacular to watch. Morimoto's creativity seems infinite, only enhanced by his keen eye, delicate animation and smart use of the soundtrack. His works as a DJ really paid off, always has. Not the best or most surprising short of the bunch, but definitely the most accomplished one. Morimoto proves yet again why he is one of the most important anime directors alive today and delivers a short that begs for a feature film. 5.0*/5.0*
Apart from the somewhat disappointing opening short, Genius Party Beyond is worthy of its title. Not only is it a collection of genius directors, they really go beyond with their collection of shorts. Studio 4°C establishes and confirms its title of best and most interesting animation house out there and dishes out a set of short films that challenge the medium in all sorts of ways. If you have an interest in animation that goes a little beyond the typical American products, you should feel obliged to give these shorts a try.