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After premiering in 1987 the film had its first wide release in its native Japan on video, on October 10 that year. It was only after the success of Akira (1988) that Tôhô gave it a general theatrical release, on April 15, 1989. See more »
Before X, before Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, before Akira, there was Neo Tokyo, a fine blend of high-end animation and artistic expression, as well as experimentation. This is far from the typical "big eyes, small mouth" anime with big guns, big robots, and girls with big, um, "talents". In other words, this is not your younger siblings' anime.
The first selection, "Labyrinth" by Rin Taro, is a child's imagination run wild. If Cirque de Soleil was animated, it would be this. A little girl and her faithful cat cross over into a bizarre world via a mirror and are entertained by a mime-like clown, a traveling circus, and a surreal world of high walls and mindboggling imagery. Much like the imagination of a child, this is not a short to be analyzed, picked over, and dissected. "Labyrinth" is meant to be simply enjoyed. Other than the basic storyline, the short bounces around at a moment's notice from one scene to another and doesn't seem to fit together at all, but in the end it does. This piece is what I like to call "moving artwork". Several of the scenes could be plucked from the screen and hung on a wall.
The second short was a favourite of MTV's "Liquid Television" in the early 90's. Yoshiaki Kawajiri's "The Running Man" tells the story of a driver who has been surviving death-defying form of racing for ten years. It's a brilliant accomplishment and unfortunately, one that's been wearing on him, since other drivers are dead in a year. A reporter begins covering the driver's unstoppable career and accidently discovers why this man always wins. Finally, the stress of tempting death night after night breaks him and in an instant, all hell breaks loose. The design of the characters is very realistic, atypical for early to mid-80's anime. The speed and look of the racing vehicles is fluid and the piece is never boring, even sticking around with you after the very end. Despite the morbid nature of this short, I honestly believe that "The Running Man" should be part of Speedvision's Lost Drive-In collection.
The finale could easily be subtitled "The Akira Experiment Project". Three years before he would reshape the world of anime forever, Katsuhiro Otomo wrote and directed "The Order To Stop Construction", the tale of a hapless Japanese executive sent to shut down an overblown project in a tropical rainforest powered by robots and void of humans. Unfortunately, what stands between him and his orders is a foreman robot on a strict work schedule that it is hellbent on keeping, so much that the last human sent to supervise the place has disappeared without a trace. Despite the fact that the worker robots and the machines they operate keep exploding day in and day out, the foreman is convinced that if the others work just a little bit harder, it can meet the ever important deadline and nothing is going to stop that, including the human sent out to do so. Every element of "Akira" can be seen here, from character and vehicle designs to pipe movements and mud bubbles. It's like watching a mini-version of "Akira" without any psychic goings-on. Also like "Akira", "The Order To Stop Construction" is also a bit of social satire, making fun of the important and somewhat overbearing work ethic of the Japanese. My only complaint is the dubbing. The original Japanese language with subtitles would have added a bit more to this instead of the weak English voice-acting. This short would have been a fun addition to the "Akira" special addition recently released, as well as an important one.
This fine, yet brief, collection of mid-80's animation from Japan is definitely worthy of DVD consideration and it's a shame that it hasn't received one as of yet.
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