I really enjoyed this. It had everything that Robot Carnival didn't – vibrancy, humour, charm, originality, and something interesting to offer. It also doesn't make the mistake of being too long. Though I wouldn't really call the majority of this OAV "experimental", this style of films with quirky, avant-garde direction tend to get boring and repetitive over time. The three shorts that make up this collection keep it snappy, and sacrifice none of their brilliance for doing so.
The opening feature, directed by the infamous Rintaro, sets the scene for a child's fantasy, only to twist in a morbid direction near the end to present the following two, darker tales.
What is it about cats and anime/manga? They must surely be the most common animal/sidekick. The fat black example in this piece reminds me of the bad-ass star of the Legend of the Galactic Pirates, not to mention the brilliant What's Michael manga by Makoto Kobayashi. The piece presents a dreamy neko-fantasy world of childhood imagination and modern art. I was reminded of more of Rintaro and Madhouse's work, for example Doomed Megalopolis or CLAMP's Tokyo Babylon. I liked it a lot, though it did almost seem out of place in light of the second two episodes.
The middle piece is easily the weakest, though not without it's charm. A well-used scenario in manga and anime forms the basis of Yoshiaki Kawajiri's (The Cockpit, Barefoot Gen) effort – high-speed, deadly races. Think Battle Angel Alita/Ashen Victor, Venus Wars, etc. It is good, however. In fact it is almost terrifying in places. The plot revolves around a seasoned pilot of superstar status. He has stayed alive longer than most, and suffers terrible stress as a result. He also just happens to have extraordinary mental abilities. The idea is stupid and the plot is tired, but bear in mind that this is more than 20 years old now, and the scenery designs are poetic Japanese visions of the future at their best. Characters resemble the best aspects of The Legend of the Four Kings or Golgo 13, and the music is fitting, and good.
Katsuhiro Ōtomo's short finishes the OAV. A lot of people go mental about this film from what I've read. It is indeed good, but comments like "a shorter Akira!!!" are wrong. The only real similarities are in the designs, and that's what happens when an anime director makes two films, dumbass.
The Order to Stop Construction, as it is called, concerns another well used concept in Japanese media – the tool becoming independent. Robots are employed to construct an immense complex in inhospitable climes, but someone gets their wires crossed (get it?) and the robotic interpretation of commands is not up for negotiation. Again, the scenery designs are fantastic – intricate and gritty in typical Ōtomo style, and the characters and robots also carry his trademark blocky look. Scenes of rainforest are not often featured in Ōtomo's work, preferring as he does visions of the concrete jungle, but here they are beautiful, and sit comfortably with the huge structures of the project as the endless process of growth and regrowth characterized by the dumb robots as well. So beautiful, in fact, that I'm reminded of Kunihiko Yuyama's awesome Windaria. No small praise indeed.
I was reminded of the existence of Neo Tokyo whilst researching Robot Carnival. Both are supposed to be "experimental anime" of a similar variety. That is wrong. The only thing the two anthologies have in common is the involvement of Katsuhiro Ōtomo. Robot Carnival sucks.
Something else which Neo Tokyo achieves which Robot Carnival cannot, is that it hasn't aged. Whilst Robot Carnival had a soundtrack of 80s disco and designs of frumpy 80s Japan, Neo Tokyo has managed to avoid such rubbish, despite being made before the former. One thing it didn't get right, or rather we in the West didn't, was the dubbing. It's bloody awful, and I was thankful for the dual-language file. The acting is bad, and the actors are miscast. Douchebags.
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