The Animatrix is a compilation of 9 anime segments based in the world from the Matrix Trilogy by the Wachowski brothers. It was released in 2003 and though the Wachowski brothers wrote 4 of the segments, The Animatrix was basically the product of a couple of well-known anime artists in Japan.
Though some of the segments seem to be studies for the movies, or almost deleted scenes, they are all essentially situations that could occur in the world of the matrix. Segments like Final Flight of the Osiris and Kid’s Story give background stories on some of the more minor characters, such as the kid that follows Neo everywhere in the second movie. The Second Renaissance on the other hand tells the history of the war between the humans and the machines. This gives fans information that they could not access from the movies alone. Program, World Record and Beyond are more general segments depicting possible stories that could take place within the world of the matrix. And A Detective Story more precisely depicts a direct scene from the movie but through a different angle. This is the moment that Neo is recruited by Trinity, though in this version, Neo is a hired detective.
1. The Final Flight of the Osiris
This segment, written by the Wachowski brothers and directed by Andy Jones, is the only one to rely entirely on computer animation. In this segment, two characters, Thadeus and Jue swordfight in a dojo, losing clothing as they do so. As they get to their underwear, the virtual reality program they are in gets interrupted as their ship is attacked by sentinels. Jue decides to go back into the matrix to warn Zion of the large number of sentinels located above the city.
2. The Second Renaissance Part I
Both Second Renaissance shorts examine the events that lead up to the machine rebellion in the form of a documentary.
3. The Second Renaissance Part II
4. Kid's Story
The Kid is a high school student who is contacted by Neo on his computer. The Kid has come to realize the nature of his "reality" and seeks to escape it. After being chased by Agents in his school he jumps off the roof of the building and wakes up in the real world and is wlecomed by Neo.
Cis is praciticing in a simulation of feudal Japan. She spars with Duo, with whom she appears to be romantically involved with. Duo reveals he wants to return to the Matrix and forget the real world. He has killed the crew of their ship and wants Cis to return with him. The two battle and Cis manages to kill him. She is woken up and it is revealed that Duo was just part of a training program. Cis passed.
6. World Record
Dan Davis is a sprinter with the world record of 8.99 seconds in the 100 meter. He intends to break that record. In pushing himself beyond his "body's" limits, Dan briefly wakes from the Matrix and outruns several Agents to win the race with a time of 8.72. He is later seen catonic before rising from his wheelchair, muttering "free."
A group of kids discover a "haunted" house. The house is a glitch in the Matrix, which causes gravity to function oddly and other such occurrences. Agents arrive in the guise of exterminators and later the glitch is fixed.
8. Detective Story
PI Ash is assigned to track down the hacker Trinity. He meets her on a train and they have a shootout with Agents. Ash is wounded after an Agent tries to hijack his body. Trinity leaves without him, but Ash manages to get the drop on the Agents pursuing them.
Humans in the real world capture a Sentinel and reprogram it to help humans. Just as they succeed the base is attacked and the humans are killed. The Sentinel tries to save one by plugging her into a simulation, but she rejects it and the "enlightened" machine is left alone.
The Anime Influence
All of the segments represent very different styles of anime. The first segment, Final Flight of the Osiris, is most like the movies in style. It is characterized by very realistic animation that almost leaves the viewer feeling that the characters are real people. They also use the technique seen in the movie of slowing down in the middle of battle sequences and having the camera move instead, around the character, a technique known as bullet time. This segment leaves me wondering why the rest of the movie wasn’t done like this. Some of the scenes in the movie did use animation similar to it, but the Wachowski brothers preferred to have most of the movie be live action. I suppose this is so because though the characters may look very real and the movement is impressive, it is also slow and thus not completely believable. For such an action packed movie, speed was an essential, so perhaps live action was a better choice for that purpose, as well as to make it more impressive to the viewers. As the movie deals with themes of illusion, using live action helps to not detract from the message the movie delivers, that the world we live in is an illusion, a very good illusion.
The Second Renaissance uses a lot more anime-like animation as humans are less made to look real. However, there is an interesting imitation of TV reports as this segment aims to be a documentary of the war between machines and humans. The images jolt as they give the impression of the camera being jostled by the events and are interrupted by commercials to imitate news coverages seen on TV.
Kid’s Story looks rotoscoped and similarly to Waking Life deals with the relation between dreams and reality. Because this segment focuses a lot more on speed, the animation allows itself to be sloppy in order to allow the rapidity needed.
Program is the most obviously influenced by Japan. It begins with a Japanese style painting of simply silhouetted plants. The mysteriously strong female character that is then depicted, bares a strong resemblance to a Hayao Miyazaki character, such as in Princess Mononoke. The antagonist is in samurai attire and they are fighting beneath red gates of Japanese temples.
World Record is less anime-like but the characters from Beyond, especially the protagonist, are very much in the typical style of the more modern anime characters, with crazy colored hair and a tattoo on her face. However, A Detective Story is a lot less like an anime and more like a film-noir. It is in black and white except for the flame at the beginning, and makes direct allusions to famous literary detectives such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.
It is interesting that a number of segments were made in the anime style and in the matrix world as the Matrix Trilogy have many elements that can be seen as taken from anime. The near impossible fighting scenes as well as the slow motion technique that takes place during these scenes could be the results of an influence from anime. The character designs are also very much in the style of anime, with very futuristic clothes. More precisely, the makers of the films admit to influence from Ghost in the Shell for the green computer code. “Producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowski brothers first described their intentions for The Matrix by showing him that anime [Ghost in the Shell] and saying, ‘We wanna do that for real’” (Wikipedia).