I had the opportunity to see Genius Party last night at the Kennedy Center with Tom, who was generous enough to hook me up with his second ticket. Genius Party is an animated film anthology that made its American debut last night as a part of the Center’s Japan! culture + hyperculture Series. We arrived several minutes late, and so caught the tail end of a recorded video introduction from executive producer Eiko Tanaka, followed by a live introduction by the director of the last short in the anthology, Shinichiro Watanabe. The films:
- Genius Party (directed by Atsuko Fukushima) – In hindsight, this is is difficult to describe. The program description calls it a “unique piece [that] expands from a theme based on the birth of an image.” I can tell you there were replicating spherical mud-sphere creatures, the chasing and consumption of glowing hearts, and a profound sense of whimsy. Good stuff.
- Shanghai Dragon (directed by Shoji Kawamori) – A perpetually drooling, snot-nosed boy in a small village discovers he is the only human capable of using an alien artifact that summons into reality whatever is drawn with it. Then, giant robots attack. Yes. Very much an action-comedy piece, and great fun.
- Deathtic 4 (directed by Shinji Kimura) – Undead child superheroes go on a quest to save the only living thing in their world, a frog, from hordes of tricycle-riding zombie police. I really don’t think anything else needs to be said. Hilarious.
- Doorbell (directed by Yoji Fukuyama) – A high school student discovers that there is another him, that seems to arrive before him to his destinations. As a result, his friends and loved ones don’t detect his presence when he finally arrives. Gently philosophical and entertaining.
- Limit Cycle (directed by Hideki Futamura) – We renamed this “Intermission,” because several people around us got up and left during it. Brilliant visuals and music, but a completely nonsensical mash-up of existential monologue and imagery that was far too long, and epitomized the phrase “bad poetry.” The only poor short of the bunch.
- Happy Machine (directed by Masaaki Yuasa) – A baby discovers the falsehood behind the perceived reality of his home and mother, and the fantasy world that underlies it. And a loyal urine and defecate-consuming dog-plant. Bizarre, clever, and humorous, we both thought this was the best of the anthology.
- Baby Blue (directed by Shinichiro Watanabe) – A love story about two high school students who skip class on the eve of a life changing event, and the childhood secret they share. Very touching and funny, and an excellent way to round out the films.
This was an excellent anthology, showcasing some brilliant storytelling, with the exception of Intermission. I’m hopeful that this is made available for purchase soon, as this collection is an great showcase of the medium for general audiences, and a must-see for animation enthusiasts. On the basis of this, I look forward to catching Genius Party Beyond at some point as well (a separate anthology world-premiering tonight at the Kennedy Center, that I’ll miss due to attending Farpoint).
Rating: a high **** (easily ***** if Intermission was purged from the bunch)