One thing that I love about anime is its diversity, it range in style in both visuals and the stories it can tell, unlike what tokyopop would like you to believe anime is diverse. Nothing helps represent this fact then anthology pieces, things like memories, neo Tokyo, Genius Party, and of course my favorite Robot Carnival.
Robot Carnival is a collection of short films with the common theme being robots, put together by Katsuhiro Otomo the creator of Akira, maybe he hasn’t made anything better than Akira, but I’d say he has great success with anthologies. Robot Carnival is seen by many as the anime equivalent of Walt Disney’s Fantasia, comparing the two is a good way to show the difference between American animation with Japanese animation.
The opening segment is directed by Atsuko Fukushima and Katsuhiro Otomo, it shows us a desert barren city, similar to a star wars setting. When this desert sand dune looking contraption shows up and destroys everything, killing and maiming everything in site. A horrifying concept but it’s a big carnival with giant letters spelled out in English “ROBOT CARNIVAL” showcasing extraordinary animation, we see a tone of cool designs, and fluid complex animation, from robot conductors robots playing music, robot ballerinas, that explode, and a shit tone of confetti and fireworks. What we see is beautiful destruction, mixing mayhem with whimsy and a beautiful iconic score. This segment is what I would say separates anime from Disney, by way of we would never see something like this in American animation.
This segment was directed by Koji Morimoto, he worked with Satoshi Kon on Magnetic Rose segment from memories, and some cool studio 4C stuff. Franken’s Gear is sort of a robot Frankenstein story, it’s a crazy scientist making a robot, and the robot imitates the scientists movements, the scientist trips and falls, and the robot falls on the scientist and kills him. That’s it. These segments, fraken gears in particular are more of an animation showcase, then anything else, and the animation for Franken’s Gear is phenomenal, the intricate movements all of the weird robotic mechanical parts, moving around is a blast to look at. This segment isn’t one of my favorites but it is pretty cool and fits in realy well.
Robot Carnival isn’t what I would call timeless the way fantasia is, but when you’re the 80s you don’t need to be timeless, and Deprive is one of the most 80s things I ever seen. With our Go Nagai like hero, The Dunbine character designs, and the shiny robot action. Deprive is directed by Hidetoshi Omori, who aside from this did mostly key animation, he’s a great animator but when put in charge of directing a series we get Zaizen Jotaro. This segment is really good, but not to memorable, I like it when its on but then I forget about, it’s like a short popcorn movie.
Directed by Yasuomi Umetsu the creator of Kite, kite is polarizing, I say the R rated cut is definitely worth watching, but he hasn’t made anything worthwhile as of late. However Presence is easily one of the best things he’s ever made. It’s one of 2 segments that features dialog. It’s about a toy maker in a loveless marriage, who wants a feminine women. In a secret barn of sorts he’s building a robot girl, and finds she starts to gain human emotions. This one is one of my favorites, it has this really eerie and haunting feeling, a part of this is the great score its with, and the eerie dialog spoken by the characters, its almost hypnotic in its delivery and execution. The insane detail in this animation is crazy, the folds in clothing the rotoscoping uses make the character movement very, very fluid. Like just about all of these segments the concept works as a short but probably wouldn’t sustain itself over a feature length movie or tv series, but it works as a fascinating 15 minutes.
Star Light Angel:
Directed by Hiroyuki KITAZUME, the character designer for Gundam Char’s counterattack. This segment is easily my favorite out of all of the robot carnival shorts, the story is about these two teenage girls going to a robot themed amusement park, one of the girls is waiting for her boyfriend to show up, but when he does it turns out he was dating the other girl, broken hearted she runs off, when o boy her age in a robot costume goes after her to give her the charm she dropped. They go through a flight simulator ride that reflex the emotion of the person riding it, it seems scary but soon becomes fun when the robot catches her. However she gets angry when she sees the star shaped charm he tries to give back to her, so the ride turns into an evil robot, and the good guy blows it up. This segment has a whimsical fun nature to it that is representative of what I love about anime, it has this wonderful nostalgic 80s feel, without any cynicism. It feels like a mix of Macross, and Ghibli, with flight sequences, 80s fashion, and a fun whimsical nature. It’s a showcase of how good 80s anime was.
Directed by Mao Lamdo, who made……uhh I never heard of this guy, and after doing research the only thing he did was this segment from robot carnival, Im gonna guess he’s an airbrush artist. This segment I cant say I realy like, I mean I’m glad it exists, but it feels inappropriate and not a good fallow up of Starlight angel. Its basically a Tezuka looking robot boy walking, and walking, and……………walking, while clouds in the backround form weird shapes. I appreciate it, but I got to admit I usually fast forword through this one.
A Tale of Two Robots
Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, hes mostly an animator, but worked on things like Golden boy, FLCL, Roujin Z among others. This one is a strait up action comedy, a parody of the brave Japanese youths fighting off foreigners. It’s a weird steampunk feudal era japan story. The other segment with dialog, it’s a great fallow up to the rather boring Cloud segment, so its nice to have it right after. Its like spending an hour in a hot tube and jumping into a pile of snow.
Directed by Takashi Nakamura, an animator whose been around long enough to work on Yatterman, hes also chuck from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. I like this segment a lot, its got this cool eerie Magoras Mask, ekibob krane feel to it. With weird robot demons, and mischief destroying a city, as we fallow a character that Im told is a characture of Rintaro, but looks more like ikibob Krane. This segment is a cool showcase of designs and animation that works as a great final for the film.
Directed by Atsuko Fukushima and Katsuhiro Otomo. The Robot Carnival is stopped by a little hill in the desert, and soon falls apart, we then see flashbacks showing it was at first used as entertainment but then whent crazy on its own and started blowing things up, all while the credits go by until the epilog shows up
Years later a man discovers an orb in the desert and takes it home to his kids, it’s a small robot ballerina playing the robot carnival song and dancing and shining. The kids are amazed with a look of wonder at the whimsy of this small toy…..THEN IT EXPLODES!! And a giant the End appears where the house was. Oh otomo you sick basterd
And that’s Robot Carnival, a tone of fun to watch and definitely something to show people who are on the fence about anime, or at least older anime, no region 1 dvd exists and the region 2 is out of print, but theres a great torrent to download, so check out this movie, and make sure you watch it in Japanese since the streamlinbe dub thought it would be cool to rewrite all the dialog in the 2 segments with dialog.
Where to get it http://www.bakabt.com/142087-robot-carnival-ssp-corp.html