Genius Party

Tagged: TV

A two-volume Japanese Original Video Animation (OVA) anthology series produced by Studio 4°C, who also created the Sweat Punch OVA anthology. The director/writer is shown in brackets after each segment title.

1. Genius Party (2007).

Comprising seven short films, 102 minutes in total. Colour.

Genius Party (Atsuko Fukushima). In a strange desert a shaman in bird guise interacts with egg-shaped skulls. After some interesting psychedelic imagery a phoenix-like creature rises into the storm clouds.

Shanghai Dragon (Shōji Kawamori). Original title Shanghai Dairyuu. 300 years in the future the human-led Spacetime Patrol Force battles AI-led machines: as children are rare in their era, they go to the twentieth century to find one with the imagination to use their Thought Materialization System. They choose perpetually runny-nosed Gongrong: who, remembering a Tokusatsu Superhero Television show, draws Powered Armour and Weaponry that defeats the AI's Robots. He then draws the titular dragon and the protagonists fly off.

Deathtic 4 (Shinji Kimura/Mitsuyoshi Takasu) Original title De sutikku fō. A grotesque Steampunk gothic city, set in a blasted landscape, is populated by Swedish Zombies. Here a boy finds a live frog and – with the aid of a trio of inept Superheroes and pursued by tricycle-riding zombie police – he attempts to return it home.

Doorbell (Yoji Fukuyama). Original title Doachaimu. A young man becomes invisible (see Invisibility) to those who know him, who see his Doppelganger instead: fortunately his girlfriend recognizes him, after being briefly aware of his duplicate (see Identity).

Limit Cycle (Hideki Futamura). For 19 minutes, over a succession of brightly lit images – usually from modern (Cities, Technology) or medieval (Religion, alchemy) sources – the narrator intones excerpts from Blaise Pascal's Pensées (1670) (see Metaphysics).

Happy Machine (Masaaki Yuasa). Original title Yumemiru Kikai. The artificial reality of a baby's nursery collapses and the child finds the inhabitants (see Monsters) and landscapes of the outside world strange and sometimes terrifying.

Baby Blue (Shinichirō Watanabe). The day before a boy's family move away, two friends skip school and spend what might be their last day together. This is a melancholy piece with no genre elements, but there is a hand grenade.

A varied and solid collection: the imaginative and odd Deathtic 4 is the standout, though Genius Party has some nice animation. Though visually having its moments, Limit Cycle is pretentious and too long: the remaining shorts are interesting and enjoyable.

2. Genius Party Beyond (2008). Comprising five short films, 82 minutes in total. Colour.

Gala (Mahiro Maeda). When a giant seed crash-lands near a village inhabited by characters from Japanese Mythology, they play music to encourage its growth. The seed germinates and the film cuts (or simply changes perspective) to a city apartment where a small boy is staring at a shoot growing in a flower pot.

Moondrive (Kazuto Nakazawa). On the Moon, now settled by humanity, a gang of violent, unpleasant but inept criminals seek treasure, but it all comes to naught.

"Wanwa" the Doggy (Shinya Ōhira). Original title Wan wa. Whilst his mother lies ill in hospital a young child is pursued across bizarre and increasingly surreal topographies by an ogre.

Toujin Kit (Tatsuyuki Tanaka). Original title Tō hito kitto. An officer from the Administration Bureau, accompanied by two CyborgsRobots, but with organic brains – checks up on a young woman who uses dolls to smuggle Aliens. Save for the aliens, a subdued colour palette is used throughout; which, along with the run-down industrial décor, gives a seedy Steampunk feel to proceedings.

Dimension Bomb (Kōji Morimoto), original title Jigen Bakudan. If the preceding piece seemed like an excerpt from a longer work, then this short suggests a sequence of brief but stunning clips selected from two or more films. At its core it seems to be about a girl befriending a boy from another Dimension.

Though the first two shorts are good, it is the last three that stand out; they are remarkable pieces of animation, all very different, both stylistically and in tone. However, their virtues are not those of storytelling, so seekers after coherent, complete narratives will be disappointed. Though shorter and with fewer films than its predecessor – which was by no means poor – this is a much stronger collection. [SP]

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