Genius Party and its sequel Genius Party Beyond collect a baker’s dozen anime short films by a company called Studio 4°C. Released in 2007 and 2008, the more surreal and stylistic films take advantage of the latest technology, blending 2D and 3D graphics to great effect. Others mix traditional media like pastels and crayons with traditional cel animation. The majority of the shorts are very good, and wonderfully diverse in subject matter. Lasting between 15-20 minutes each, some of them feel like primers for full-length movies.
Given the number of films in these collections – and for fear of spoiling the better ones – I’m not going to go into much detail about them other than to say you should check it out. Even if you don’t normally watch anime, these are sure to make for an interesting viewing. The only short I think you’ll probably want to skip is called “Limit Cycle”, which stars a James Dean lookalike droning on incoherently about God and spirituality for 20 minutes. It does have a cool layered techno-mandala background going on, but something was lost in translation. Some of the others are equally baffling in their own way, but are at least entertaining to watch in spite of that.
Hot on the heels of The Animatrix, Genius Party and Beyond continues the anime omnibus tradition of Robot Carnival, Neo Tokyo, and Memories, but with one crucial difference. There is no connecting thread, no central theme binding the films thematically or stylistically. Instead the directors were given total freedom to explore their own visions, resulting in what feels like a collection of art college students’ thesis films (but with much higher production values). A Fantasia for the 21st century; highly recommended.
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