The Animatrix

January 28, 2012 11 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

After the immense success of The Matrix, sequels and such were a lock, but when word of an anime release was mentioned, some folks were surprised. But if you’ve seen the movie, then you know it is obvious some scenes were inspired by anime pictures, such as Akira and to a greater extent, The Ghost in the Shell. And so we have The Animatrix, a collection of nine short anime films, all inside the same world as The Matrix pictures. These serve as prequels of sorts, filling in some gaps in the story, like how things got the point of such chaos. Before there was Neo, there was a war with the machines that left the world scarred & forever altered. In The Matrix, we do hear about some of the events found in these shorts, but to be able to see them come to life, especially with such vivid animation, helps put it all in perspective. In the nine shorts, you’ll find a wide assortment of animation techniques, from Square’s hyper realistic work to more traditional anime styles, but all are well crafted and designed. I liked some better than others, but all were worth a look, if just to flesh out the timeline in The Matrix’s universe. So more details and information about The Matrix are set loose here and that’s bound to please fans. I give this release a more than solid recommendation, to both fans of The Matrix and anime on the whole. Below is a list of the nine shorts and a brief synopsis of what to expect from each one.

1. Final Flight of the Osiris- The crew of the Osiris, a sister ship to the Nebuchadezzar, is pulled out of a training simulation to discover immense danger has surrounded them. But the danger is still not too close, not as close as another danger, one they have discovered that has taken aim elsewhere. But now the crew has to get word to those in danger, to warn them of what is ahead, all while dealing with problems of their own. Can they outrace the sentinels and deliver the warning in time, or will two fronts fall victim to attacks?

2. The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2- The presence of robots was first found when mankind sought to replace human laborers, but as time passed, the machines would assume control and soon replace mankind as the world’s keepers. In these shorts, you’ll see how the machines developed self awareness and enhanced artificial intelligence, the two elements that drove them to overtake mankind and enslave them. The revolution begins and as the war rages on, the fate of the world hangs in the balance…

3. Kid’s Story- A high school student finds himself tracked by the authorities, after he finds the wrong person in a chat room. When he isn’t out on his skateboard, the young man is found on his computer, talking to all kinds of folks on-line. But when the talks enlighten the boy’s mind about his own existence, it draws the attention of the authorities. But can he learn the truth in time and use it to escape the bonds of The Matrix?

4. Program- A pair of samurai warriors are engaged in a fierce battle, one a man and the other a woman. The two charge each other one horseback, with pikes drawn, but also clash with swords on the ground. The battle is intense, as both are great warriors and skilled with the swords, but one has to fall at some point. As they levitate, leap massive distances, and flash fight techniques that dazzle, the two warriors provide a stunning conflict. But who are these two fighters and what has driven them to this point?

5. World Record- A track star seeks to win at whatever cost, but his use of banned substances led to his disqualification. In that race, he shattered the world record, but thanks to his drug use, it was thrown out. This time, he is on the level and more motivated than ever before to win, which puts him in a stressful situation. As he runs, he pushes himself to levels he’s never reached before and despite setbacks, he is convinced he cannot lose. Even as his body breaks down under the stress of his intense run, his mind finds an alternate reality, one which allows him to continue. But can he win the race and if so, at what cost?

6. Beyond- As she searches for her missing cat, a young woman stumbles upon an abandon building with a large courtyard. A group of children happen to be there, playing in the area and having a good time doing so. But the woman notices something strange about the place, as some of the basic laws of existence seem to vanish there. The elements of gravity and time seem to fade out in the lot, which allows for some unusual actions. But if such a place exists, how long will it take the authorities to correct the glitches in the system?

7. A Detective Story- Ash is a private detective, but as of late, his work has been sparse and times are tough on the gumshoe. So when he gets a case that involves tracking down a hacker, he accepts without hesitation. But the hacker in his sights is Trinity, which means he is in for more trouble than he knows. His skills in detection are formidable however, so he uses all of his resources and tries to hunt down the hacker. But can he manage to find her and if so, what would come of the encounter?

8. Matriculated- As machines have enslaved most of mankind, some people resent them, but in order to survive, man needs machines. So some members of the resistance attempt to alter some machines, to have them be productive, instead of destructive. The process involves condition of the machines, which causes them to reverse their line of though, so that people are looked upon as friends, instead of mortal enemies. But even with such noble intentions, will the experiment produce results, or simply more carnage?

Video: How does it look?

The Animatrix is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As these shorts offer superb visuals, the transfer needed to be excellent and in this case, Warner has delivered and given us a terrific presentation. The animation varies between segments, but it all looks smooth and well handled here, whether traditional animation or computer generated visuals. The colors have a wide spectrum of presence, from vivid and bold to muted and dull, but whatever the intended scheme, the hues fall into place in each installment. I found contrast to be flawless also, as black levels are sharp and refined throughout the episodes. So in the end, these shorts look splendid and the visuals really shine, so fans should be quite pleased.

Audio: How does it sound?

A pair of Dolby Digital 5.1 options can be found here, with an English language version and a Japanese soundtrack. The episodes were created for American audiences, so the intended language is English, but its nice to have a Japanese option also. To be concise, this is as good as it gets for this material, with a dynamic and immersive presentation. The surrounds are put to excellent use, to enhance the atmosphere of the episodes, both in subtle and more powerful moments. So yes, there is plenty of punch in the mixes, but its not all about the power, as the more subtle touches also come through well. But when it kicks in, the power is awesome and you could several scenes as demo pieces, thanks to creative and effective presence. The music sounds great too, with a lot of surround presence and life, while dialogue is crisp and never lost in the shuffle. This disc also includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

You can listen to audio commentary tracks on four of the shorts, with those covered being The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2, Program, and World Record. The comments are in Japanese, but English subtitles are provided, so you won’t miss a single anecdote. I wish audio commentary were present for all nine shorts, but I am glad at least four have it, as the comments are insightful and well worth a listen. A twenty-two minute featurette on the history of anime is also found here, which is kind of a cool primer for newcomers. This disc also includes seven additional behind the scenes featurettes, as well as some talent files.

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