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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Teaser trailer - Enter the Matrix Game
  • 4 Audio commentary
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Scrolls to Screen - A History of Anime
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • DVD-ROM features

The Animatrix

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 88 mins . MA15+ . PAL


God-damn if anime isn't one of the coolest art forms on earth.

On a press junket in Japan to promote the opening of The Matrix, the brothers Wachowski manage a couple of whirlwind visits to the source of their most-loved animated films; films that in both style and content had a huge influence on their scifi masterwork. Witnessing first hand the enthusiasm with which their own vision has been received, they are struck with a unique idea; a collection of animated Matrix shorts produced by the biggest names in anime today.

Audacious, yes. But the fruits of their vision are here for all to see. Witness The Animatrix, a collection of nine animated short films and the collaboration between the brothers and seven of the world’s most respected animators; all of them avid Matrix fans. Penning four of the films themselves, two impacting directly on events in Reloaded, the brothers chose the other five from submissions made by the directors themselves; all covering unique perspectives of their virtual world not explored in their original film. And thus was the pop-culture cycle completed, with The Matrix influencing a whole generation of new directions in anime. Giving back, as it were, from whence it took.

The results? Some of the best anime and CGI animation you've ever seen...

Final Flight of the Osiris (00:09:11)
"I peeked." - "So did I."
Written by the Wachowski brothers and directed by Andy Jones, animation supervisor on the groundbreaking CGI epic Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Final Flight of the Osiris is one of two shorts that connect directly with the events depicted in Reloaded, and represents the most literal of The Animatrix's portrayals of the Wachowski's universe. It tells the story of the ill-fated hovercraft The Osiris as its crew attempt to get a vital message back to Zion; not an easy task given the army of bristling sentinels that are hot on their heels. With the hallmarks of classic anime - titillation and frenetic action, Osiris grabs you from the outset, throws you back into your set, and holds you transfixed for the duration. A brilliant opening to the disc.

The Second Renaissance: Parts 1 and 2 (00:17:54)
"May there be mercy on man and machine for their sins"
Written by the Wachowski brothers and directed by Mahiro Maeda, an animator known chiefly for his 1998 series Blue Submarine 6, The Second Renaissance: Parts 1 and 2 tells the mythological tale of the Matrix's genesis. From the rise of the machines and the establishment of their independent state Zero-One, to their rejection by the human race, Part 1 beautifully conveys the brutality inherent in the human condition; paralleling the atrocities inflicted during the 20th century, and filled with visual references to humanity's existing photo history. Taking up the story with the war between man and machines, and the inevitable annihilation of the human race, Part 2 sees the roles reversed; man reaping the apocalypse that was of their own making. Deftly reflecting on the inherent irony in the Matrix back-story, this brutal and disturbing morality tale rings so true that it seems more like prophecy than an imagined future. Arresting, thought-provoking, amazing.

Kid's Story (00:09:25)
"I didn't save you kid, you saved yourself."
Written by the Wachowski brothers and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the man responsible for the much loved Cowbow Bebop franchise, Kid's Story relates directly to the character of 'The Kid' that is introduced in Reloaded. It tells the story of Michael Karl Popper, another of the Matrix's troubled kids who feels that something isn't quite right with the world. Eventually able to contact the crew of the Neb, he is cornered by agents at his local high school before he is able to be freed. However, this young mind will not be denied. Featuring the voices of Carrie-Anne and Keanu (although it sounds nothing like him), and some awesome animated skateboard stunts, this simple little tale fills in the back-story of Reloaded's annoying little bastard.

Program (00:06:58)
"You wanna spar?"
Wholly written and directed by anime legend Yoshiaki Kawajiri, co-founder of Madhouse studios and the creative genius behind such popular and influential projects as Wicked City, Ninja Scroll and more recently Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Program deals with the more seductive aspects of the virtual world; a theme embodied by the character of cipher in the original film. It tells the story of Cis, a beautiful and skillful young woman forced to decide between a love she has discovered in the virtual world, and her fellow soldiers of Zion. Filled with breathless samurai action from start to finish, this is Kawajiri doing what he does best; his period piece standing in distinct contrast to the other more futuristic Matrix-bound productions.

World Record (00:08:25)
"I detect an unsafe signal..."
The second of the stories written Yoshiaki Kawajiri, World Record tells the story of All-American Dan Davis, a world-class sprinter who inadvertently catches a glimpse of the real world through sheer physical prowess and drive to succeed. In his push to break the 100m world record, Dan pushes his body to its very limits and out the 'other side'. Directed by Takeshi Koike, Kawajiri's young understudy at Madhouse, World Record is a simple story, told beautifully, and infused with a real street-sensibility. With a minimum of dialogue, the characters come to the fore; keep an eye out for Dan's coach - a sublime hip-hop exaggeration of Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden from Fight Club.

Beyond (00:12:33)
"They say that house is haunted…"
Written and directed by Koji Morimoto, co-founder of Studio 4°C and best known for his work as animation supervisor on Akira, Beyond is a sublimely visual tale of those who happily exist in the virtual world, not so much naively, but playfully accepting the little quirks and glitches that they come into contact with. The story revolves around Yoko, a teenage girl who stumbles upon a bug in the Matrix; a rendering anomaly in which objects float, rain falls, dogs change colour and many other bizarre happenings are commonplace. Rather than being feared, the abandoned mansion in which the anomaly resides has become a playground for the local children. But the authorities are wise to the bug, and the exterminators are soon on hand.

Detective Story (00:09:30)
"You've stepped to the edge of the looking glass, Mr Ash."
The second of the episodes wholly written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, Detective Story is the tale of a hard-boiled detective ‘Ash’ and his search for the elusive hacker "Trinity". But the closer he gets to his elusive vinyl clad target - a girl who has left a string of his predecessors babbling and broken in her wake - the more he begins to wonder just who his uptight client with all the money might be. Told in a distinctly ‘50s noir-thriller style, this piece of classic Watanabe features a substantial performance from none other than Carrie-Anne herself.

Matriculated (0015:39)
"Better to let them join us by choice..."
Written and directed by US-based animator Peter Chung, best known for his series Aeon Flux produced for MTV, Matriculated tells the story of a group of rebels living in the desolation of the Earth’s surface, and whose stock and trade is the capture of machines and bringing them over to the human cause. Rather than reprogram them, their captives are convinced to join up, using a human collective consciousness, an ‘anti-matrix’ if you like. Amongst all the Animatrix shorts, this is by far the most experimental and most demanding of its audience. Even after repeated viewings the jury is still out on this one.


How do I begin to encompass the various animation styles that have contributed to this project; some of which are entirely new to me? The characterisations? The depth of detail? There's just so much to take in here that a single sitting just isn't enough to do the wealth of material any justice. Even now my head is swimming with a thousand conflicting and utterly different images, all popping like flash bulbs in and out of my mind's eye.

Not that there isn't a certain amount of common ground. In terms of transfer, all episodes are absolutely pristine, sharp, detailed, flawless. This is a Roadshow release after all, and they aren’t often associated with trifles such as MPEG artefacing, incorrect colour balance or black level. Suffice to say the anamorphic (beautifully 2.35:1) image afforded The Animatrix is perfect in all respects. In terms of animation quality too, all nine present beautifully fluid images. Indeed there's no nasty cost cutting here; each artistic vision seems never to have been constrained by budget; with stylistic choices alone affecting the look and feel of each episode.

Yes there is a lot that is common, and yet I feel compelled to relate at least a quick visual impression of each episode, being as they are disparate pieces of a visually enthralling whole. Nine different films, nine different styles, nine different images…

Osiris: You thought Square Inc.'s Final Fantasy looked good? Think again. These photo-realistic 3D images could have stepped straight from the frames of Reloaded. They haven't quite mastered the facial expressions yet, but what exquisite attention to detail.

Renaissance Parts 1 & 2: An impressive hybrid between 3D and 2D cel animation, the disturbingly beautiful images of battle and cruelty leave an indelible imprint on the back of your retina. A very Metropolis-like feel to its robots and cityscapes, and filled with beautifully orchestrated, faux hand-held archival news footage. Stunning.

Kid's Story: Watanabe has gone for a very distinctive, hand-drawn style that descends into wibbly-wobbly, Mondo Bizarro (one for the Ramones fans) as the action heats up. With many cues taken from real performances, there's a distinctly rotoscopic feel to the final product.

Program: A very classic anime look and feel, taking characterisations and visual cues from Kawajiri's beloved Ninja Scroll; the aim being to recreate the style of traditional Japanese scroll paintings. Beautiful CGI environments, and one fluid, frenetic action sequence from start to finish.

World Record: A young animator finding his voice, Koiki's characterisations are slightly deformed - almost caricatures - and his distinctly cel-based techniques feature an abundance of character shading and shadows; resulting in a very low-tech, 'earthy' style. Original and visually striking expect big things to come from this young man.

Beyond: Colourful, slightly hyper-realistic images of Japanese suburbia bely a surreal underbelly; all created from a beautifully subtle, yet seamless blend of 3D rendering and traditional cel animation. Simulated hand-held camera moves are mind-blowing - contrasting with the rather simplistic character designs. Tone is quite reminiscent of Boogiepop Phantom.

Detective Story: In keeping with the episode’s film noir elements, the largely black and white image has purposely low shadow detail and a lot of added grain. Charaterisations are classic Watanabe, and combined some richly detailed, retro-tech production design. Lives and breathes ’20s Chicago (with the exception of Trinity’s black vinyl that is!).

Matriculated: Starts with very angular characterisations reminiscent of Vampire Hunter D and some cool CGI generated machines. Moves into what can only be described as trip-out city, and ends in bleak desolation. Wonderfully fluid animation bookends colourful, totally bizarro images. One for you acid freaks.


As Neo so aptly put it - "Whoa."

For those of you who have religiously downloaded the first four Animatrix episodes from the web; doled out excruciatingly slowly as they have been over the last few months, you are no doubt gagging to finally experience the episodes you have endlessly pawed over in all their Dolby Digital 5.1 glory. Well, I am here to tell you, the sound production that has been applied to each and every episode in this animated mélange is, in a word, superb. No, on second thoughts superb doesn't cut it. Superlatives fail me. Segmentation fault…

With audio accompaniment supplied by the team involved in mixing the original Matrix film as well as its two-part sequel, The Animatrix features a soundtrack that is every bit as impressive as The Matrix itself; production values that are virtually unheard of for anime productions. And containing all the distinctive audio signatures that appear in the Wachowski’s feature films, the soundtrack for each episode brands it unquestionably a part of the Matrix mythology. With each episode scored by original Matrix composer Don Davis, many of the dramatic music elements that made an appearance in the original film are carried over here, again adding to each that unmistakable Matrix signature, and are combined with a new raft of thumping techno beats. From these thumping beats to the most understated sonic peculiarity of its titular virtual world, the Animatrix lives and breathes its impressive pedigree.

I won't bore you an endless stream of technical details and superlatives to match; rest assured it's all here. Fantastic channel separation, sweeping directional effects, impressive fidelity, pounding subwoofer; basically a beautifully immersive soundstage from the buzzing cicadas of a suburban Japanese summer to the world-shattering apocalypse meted out on the human race. Amazing.


If the stunning content wasn't enough, The Animatrix comes packaged with a comprehensive set of extras that, accessed via a set of nicely animated menus, will answer any conceivable query you may have about anime, each of the episodes themselves, or the talented people involved with the project. First cab off the rank is a set of four thought-provoking director commentaries; each presented in their original Japanese and accompanied by English subtitles. Specifically, we are treated to the musings of

  • director Mahiro Maeda on The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2,
  • director Yoshiaki Kawajiri and producer Hiroaki Takeuchi on Program and
  • director Takeshi Koike and producer Eiko Tanaka on World Record

Each commentary provides a wonderful compliment to its respective short; providing a fresh perspective that, in my case at least, spawned a whole new round of viewings. A 22 minute featurette, Scrolls to Screen - A History of Anime follows. Produced specifically for the DVD, it presents a comprehensive and engrossing history of the anime and manga art forms as they developed in post-war Japan. With footage from groundbreaking anime titles, interviews with scholars, geeks and gurus great and small, this is a fantastic documentary for anyone with any interest in anime.

Following in logical progression, some filmmaker bios, information on the key directors, producers and animators that brought The Animatrix to life is presented in the form of text pages. Launching back into the video material, a set of making of documentaries follows. Totalling nearly an hour of interviews, clips from the films and behind the scenes footage from bowels of Studio 4°C and Madhouse, the combination of these featurettes and the commentaries leave no stone left unturned.

Lucky last is an advertisement for the upcoming video game Enter the Matrix. Featuring footage shot just for the game, it looks pretty bloody awesome. But beware - the ad contains spoiler footage from Reloaded! Those yet to see the second Matrix episode watch at your own peril.

All in all an enthralling collection of supplementary material that will expand your appreciation of both the time and effort that went into making The Animatrix a reality, and the skills of the filmmakers involved.


Unfortunately, no one can really be told what The Animatrix is, you have to see it for yourself. A release that may well signal the mainstream embrace of anime in the West, The Animatrix is groundbreaking in every sense of the word. With amazing audio and visuals, and accompanied by a great bunch of extras, this exclusive to DVD release is one title that every Matrix fan, be they man, woman or machine, will want to own and cherish. Compulsory viewing.

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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Groundbreaking in every sense of the word. The Animatrix may finally see anime embraced by the Western mainstream. Compulsory viewing."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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