What does “Akira”, “Macross”, “The Vision of Escaflowne”, “Angel’s Egg”, “Steamboy”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Ghost in the Shell” “Perfect Blue”, “Cat Soup”, and “Cowboy Bebop” all have in common?
Staff from all of those movies worked on this amazing film collective. This is one of the most thoroughly impressive things I’ve seen in both its stories and its art. All of the shorts are very abstract so don’t expect a clean story, even the simplest short, “Boy Blue”, still was incredibly complex when it came to characters. To give the best possible review, I’m just going to give mini-reviews of all seven shorts.
The first short is simply entitled “Genius Party” and while the story completely escapes me, the visuals themselves are gorgeous and create a convincing but still heavily stylized world. I can’t recall another time where I was so engrossed in the animation that I forgot to uncover a story. “Genius Party” also does an amazing job of capturing motion blur. Just the right amount is used so it’s barely noticeable, but when you pause live action motion blur is visible. This one was directed by Atsuko Fukushima who was a key animator for “Akira” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” which I guess explains the smoothness. She also directed some lesser known shorts which are equally as abstract. (10/10)
The next one, “Shanghai Dragon”, moves more in a story direction, but still keeps the Studio 4°C style alive. This is directed by “Shōji Kawamori” who is famous for creating the “Macross” Franchise, creating “The Vision of Escaflowne”, and for his mechanical designs in “Ghost in the Shell”. Since this is more story oriented I can’t give much of a review because of spoilers, but trust me when I say it’s worth it. The main kid in this show is an amazing character and the robot designs are great. (8/10)
I would say that “Deathtic 4” is the worst short in the collection. The models and animation pale in comparison to the textures and the phenomenal background art. The only times the animation is impressive is when no one is walking or moving their mouths. Eventually you become accustomed to the style and at the 2 minute mark the short gets so much better. This is directed by “Shinji Kimura” who did the background art on “Akira”, “Angel’s Egg” and “My Neighbor Totoro”. (6/10)
“Doorbell” is the most traditional looking anime in “Genius Party”, yet it has the strangest story out of them all. For the same reason I said very little about “Shanghai Dragon” I will keep this brief as well. The short does get a little repetitive and it is extremely vague, but with a little bit of interpretation the ending makes the whole thing worth it. (7/10)
"Limit Cycle" cannot be judged. Artistically it’s amazing, but the plot makes no sense. It seems like the whole thing is a poem about existence, so all meaning is lost in translation. (--/10)
“Happy Machine” is one of my new favorite things; it’s directed by “Masaaki Yuasa” who worked on “Cat Soup” and “Mind Game”, and “Happy Machine” is everything that is great about Yuasa. The plot of “Happy Machine” is incredible and I don’t want to spoil anything, however it is not about a baby exploring his dreams (like the description claims), but more about sacrifice, loss, and connection between life and death. Another great thing about “Happy Machine” is the zero dialogue in the movie. The only lines are baby noises. (14/10)
The last one is “Baby Blue”. It’s directed by “Shinichirō Watanabe” who is famous for being the director of “Cowboy Bebop”. This one is hard to judge because the main character is completely insane. I thought it was good because it really made me feel sad, this one is the most realistic out of all the shorts and it’s a realistic romance anime. The ending is also incredibly ambiguous. (8/10)
Story (9/10): All of the stories are very strong, with the exception of “Deathtic 4”. Sometimes the stories make very little sense, but in the end everything comes together, and when it does it’s amazing.
Animation (9/10): Again all shorts have very strong and very stylized animation styles. However “Deathtic 4” has a lot of bumps in terms of quality, and “Doorbell” is so traditional it feels out of place.
Sound (10/10): The scores are all incredible and the voice acting is amazing, especially in “Baby Blue”. Even the black sheep “Deathtic 4” has amazing sound and it even uses a made up language to add to the alien feel.
Characters (10/10): Again everything is amazing. Little Fire from “Happy Machine” is amazing, the bird from “Genius Party” is probably my new favorite creature design, and the secret zombie police from “Deathtic 4” is one of my favorite villain designs.
Overall (9.5/10): There are a few hiccups throughout the collection, but overall it creates one of the greatest animes of all time. I cannot stress enough how important it is to watch this movie.
Genius Pary is a strange anime. This was a very deliberate choice made by Studio4°C as they gave the seven independant teams total freedom with the goal of being "avant-garde". The product is seven unrelated short, 10-20 minutes long pieces with truly huge differences in style, content and quality. The work is difficult to evaluate and this isn't supposed to be a review as much as a piece of information to help you decide if you want to watch it. I didn't like it at all, however I can easily see someone else loving it.
I will refrain from explaining the content of the seven shorts, the reason not being avoiding spoilers, which I don't think would be too much of a problem here, but rather the fact that any description or synopsis I can think of would be a misrepresentation. In particular the whole work is the exact opposite of what one would call "story-driven". Most of the parts can easily be called "abstract" as they use visual styles reminiscent of abstract paintings without there being dialogue or what one usually expects in the category "Story".
With abstract paintings in general, a topic I do consider myself interested in, I often find myself judging them very subjectively with any explenation for my verdict being made up just to offer some justification. Avoiding any kind of posh discussion of things like "artistic conceptuality" I will confine myself to saying just this: Most of the visuals are quite interesting, but for the most part I didn't like them. If you decide to watch this, you should see it as what it is - 7 shorts - and try each one of them individually. Chances are, if you don't like the first 10 seconds of one you won't like the rest of that particular one either. With anything "abstract" looking don't expect changes in art style throughout the shorts. Among these "abstract" ones none really made an impression on me.
Three of the 7 shorts I wouldn't call "abstract", as they frature human protagonists. I only liked the last one; mostly for the visuals, the story being a bit disappointing.
In the end you're going to have to try it yourself. If there is a chance you'd like things without a coherent plot, 10 seconds to see if you're into each of the 7 episodes is surely worth a try.
Genius Party is a good watch because of the sheer variety and artistic freedom each short holds. They are all very unique in art style, characters, and presentation.
It’s hard to give this anime a proper rating because of the fact that each story is so different within it.
Personally I found the first and sixth short to be artistically pleasing to watch even though they didn’t have much else to offer in terms of plot or characters. They were mostly just random, but still pretty.
Short three was just weird and immature to me. Fart jokes and bland, uninteresting characters. The only thing I liked about it was the scenery in which the characters lived. It was complex and fascinating.
Number four was interesting but nothing exceptional. I tend to forget about it when I think of this anime, that's how unexceptional it was.
I hated number five. It was incredibly boring. Basically just some man’s voice rambling on nonsensical things in an attempt to sound profound. The art was lazy as it was just a bunch of old European images being flashed across the screen with light vectors and occasionally some hologram looking people.
I tried to get through it but it was painful to watch because there was nothing to look at, nothing to hear, just a whole lot of nothing. Except for one part where there were boobs. The boobs were nice. They weren’t enough to make me hate number five any less. It was like listening to that friend who’s tripping out high as balls and thinks he’s so deep and intellectual when really he’s just vomiting out words that sound smart but mean nothing.
Which brings me to numbers two and seven. These two shorts are what make Genius Party truly worth watching. Without them, the anime is just meh.
But these two were brilliant!
Number two was able to have likable characters, beautiful artwork, interesting plot, and fun action all in under twenty minutes. I loved it! It was my favorite short by far.
Number seven was beautiful in a different way. It was melancholy and sentimental, and reminded me of a Japanese short anime version of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” (One of my favorite movies btw!)
I really liked the two characters and how they were so connected despite not speaking all that much. There was heart put into this one, and I loved it.
So yes, I would recommend this anime. Just not all of it.