Most of “The Animatrix”, 9 short animated episodes (about 10 minutes a piece) that takes place within the world of “The Matrix”, is superfluous. But there are three segments that have direct bearing on the world of the Matrix, not to mention acting as prelude to “The Matrix: Reloaded” movie. And the last segment, “Kid’s Story”, tells the background of the “Kid” character that appears in “Reloaded”.
If you don’t know, the title “Animatrix” is a play on words. A combination of “The Matrix” and “anime”, or Japanese animation. In Japan, anime is a form of art in itself, rivaling even celluloid film. “Animatrix” is infused with Japanese anime production values, but each segment is vastly different from the last, and perhaps that’s the point — to get as many names together as possible and see what they can come up with. As a result, besides the segments written by the Wachowski brothers, “Animatrix” has no unified look, just a bunch of images, styles, and stories thrown into one big pot.
Peter Chung (“Aeon Flux”) contributes “Matriculated”, about human survivors trying to convert sentient machines onto their side. The animation is grotesque and weird, just like Chung’s other works. Andy Jones directs the “Final Fantasy”-inspired “Final Flight of the Osiris”, about a doomed human hovercraft that discovers the machines are digging down to Zion, and races to warn the others. It’s the Osiris’ message that inspires the humans of “Reloaded” to get ready for the oncoming machine invasion of Zion. The episode also highlights the franchise’s emphasis on African-American characters in prominent roles.
The Wachowskis also contribute the two-parter “Second Renaissance”, about the rise of the machines and the fall of humanity. The Wachowskis, not exactly known for subtlety, throws everything from analogies to the Nazi Holocaust, outcast Jews, the civil rights battles of the ’60s, and even the recent Million Man March on D.C., to show us the evils of humanity. One could even say the Wachowskis are on the machine’s side. Although I think the brothers were just showing a lack of understanding about the events they were paralleling, and in failing this, cheapened them. The Nazi Holocaust, in particular, reeks of exploitation.
Much more successful is “A Detective Story” by Shinichiro Watanabe (“Cowboy Bebop”), who gives us a stylish and good ol fashion tale about a well-worn P.I. who is hired by mysterious parties to locate Trinity. This means Carrie-Anne Moss’s Trinity shows up in a brief gunfight, with Moss doing the voice. Although the period piece (the episode has the look of 1920s Chicago) doesn’t seem to fit in with the present look of the Matrix world. Kouji Morimoto offers up the other delightful tale, “Beyond”, about a young Japanese woman who discovers a “haunted house” that turns out to be an anomaly within the Matrix. The all-too-brief episode serves up the question: “What if supernatural events were really nothing more than glitches in the Matrix?”
“The Animatrix” isn’t completely successful, but it does offer up multiple unique perspectives on the Matrix universe. One is so used to seeing Neo and company battle the machines that we forget the Matrix is supposed to be housing a complete world of humans, each one with their own sets of personal problems. If you’re a fan of “The Matrix”, then “Animatrix” is a good addition to the series. Especially if you had seen “Reloaded” and was wondering, as I was, who the hell that Kid character was, and why does he keep chasing after Neo like a lap dog.
Peter Chung, Andy Jones, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Mahiro Maeda, Kouji Morimoto, Shinichiro Watanabe (director)