Seven short films from different directors. Atsuko Fukushima's intro piece is a fantastic abstraction to soak up with the eyes. Masaaki Yuasa, of MIND GAME and CAT SOUP fame, brings his distinctive and deceptively simple graphic style and dream-state logic to the table with "Happy Machine," his spin on a child's earliest year. Shinji Kimura's spookier "Deathtic 4," meanwhile, seems to tap into the creepier corners of a child's imagination and open up a toybox full of dark delights. Hideki Futamura's "Limit Cycle" conjures up a vision of virtual reality, while Yuji Fukuyama's "Doorbell" and "Baby Blue" by Shinichiro Watanabe use understated realism for very surreal purposes. And Shoji Kawamori, with "Shanghai Dragon," takes the tropes and conventions of traditional anime out for very fun joyride. Written by
Rupert Bottenberg for Fantasia Film Festival
It can get pretty depressing, being an anime fan with taste. You force yourself to sit through the latest season's pablum, thinking that it's alright, but also something you've seen a thousand times before -- especially the bland, repetitive art style. And then along comes something like Genius Party, which takes some of the best young* animation directors and turns them loose with no limits to their creativity.
Genius Party is a short film anthology, without much of an overarching theme. Most of the shorts are quite good, with the navel-gazing "Limit Cycle" being the only real misfire. Predictably, Masaaki Yuasa and Shinichiro Watanabe provide the anthology's best material, with Yuasa turning in a terrifying look at the world from a child's point of view and Watanabe doing an uncharacteristically naturalist high-school story.
More than any of the plots, what you really get with this film is pop-your-eyes-out animation, with every piece using its own unique style to sweep you off your feet. Other than the standard anime stylings of "Doorbell", what you get is very unique, personal styles, in both writing and art.
Given how disconnected these shorts are, it may be worth watching the better ones individually, but as a collection they also hang together pretty well. Genius Party comes thoroughly recommended for the anime lover looking for something more artistic, or really anyone who's interested in the possibility of animation. Just feel free to fast-forward through "Limit Cycle", or maybe mute it.
*Okay, Watanabe isn't really an up-and-comer, but he still provides a nice capstone to the collection.
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