The Animatrix Notes

June 22nd, 2014.

Tiny screenshot album of some images that caught my eye.

Final Flight of the Osiris

The most “important” film, in terms of plot, as the events depicted in the 2nd Matrix film refer to it and only come to pass due to it. It’s fully CGI-made, and while it’s noticeable, it’s really good CGI – that they don’t mix it with 2D helps ease the sense of alienation. Shit, it’s from 2003, and even these days most video games’ films aren’t at this level.

There’s a lot of “Action porn” here. Those very stylized shots, slow and deliberate movements that are still the essence of fluidity. In the artificial world, we have warmth and closeness, contrasted with the R. Geiger-esque horror of cold blues and swarming monstrosities of the real world.

The Second Renaissance

The Animatrix notes - The Second Renaissance

“There was man, and for a while it was good.” “Man made robot in his likeness.” – “Just so stories”, a genesis story.

The robot assuming the Tiananmen Square posture in front of the tank, which did not stop, and the whole thing. Could be seen as a parable, as an analogy. We see humans who are slightly different, so we enslave them. Then they show they too are sentient as we are, and ask for better treatment. We turn them and their supporters down. They end up powerful, but we can’t turn our back on what got us to power, on fear. We create enemies, by refusing to forge new paths, until it is forced upon us.

Now’s the big question, that we “created” the robots, that they truly are not human, does it matter? And if they’d been aliens from space, procreating biologically, would it have mattered? It’s a parable. The spurned apple, rotting away, gave birth to human consciousness, and its downfall.

Spreading darkness over the land, truly like something out of a biblical tale. And then the machines returned the favour, looking at their sentient cousins who are like them, but slightly “less”, they set them to work for them. Rummaging around in their brains, rewiring, is that not what the humans do to their machines?

They call it “The Second Renaissance” but in a way, the machines had fallen to the same pitfall as mankind, they had become enslavers, not those who co-exist with others. Subjugation breeds its own end, and that is indeed what the 2nd and 3rd films are all about.

Kid’s Story

Beginning with the old philosophical quandary, “Are my senses lying to me?” Descartes would be proud, but so would be Sextus Empiricus and other ancient philosophers, eh? I think “Karl Popper” after which the kid was named would be less impressed, since the whole sequence is about taking things on faith, when his whole point was about the ability to refute hypotheses as the cornerstone of the scientific method.

This short film was about running away, and running to. Definitely belief. The leap of faith. It also looked like someone crossed over FLCL and Masaki Yuasa’s stuff. Not a huge fan. Mostly style over substance, though it raised a pertinent question. In other words, very much like the rest of the franchise.


The only one I’ve watched in Japanese and not English, thus far. This was a phenomenon back in 2003. The hype for the 2nd film was at its peak, and this was directed by Kawajiri motherfucking Yoshiaki. To those who don’t know, there’d been three anime films that had been immensely popular in the 90s, of which most people these days only know two – Ghost in the Shell and Akira. The third was Ninja Scroll.

Plenty of pretty action in that one. And then he also directed the less known but still appreciated in a “gritty action, fluid movements” sort of style Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

The hype for this short film was enough that people went to the cinema to watch it, as it was aired before certain films, such as the crappy Dreamcatcher, and then actually left the cinema, as they had no desire to watch the actual film itself.

It was pretty, and it had a couple of philosophical questions at its core. The first is the same issue Cypher raises in the first film – is it better to know, or not know? Personally, I think it might be possible to prefer to not know, but once you know, the notion of not knowing, but knowing you once did, is unthinkable. That’s one of the reasons Alzheimer or a general decrease in mental (or even physical!) capabilities is so scaring – knowing you no longer can see all that you once did.

It was a simulation, but does that mean Cis did not love that man? And if she did, what does it say of all of our feelings, except that they move us to act? And that brings us to the cruelty where the program said “I love you”, even after she had passed her test. Because that’s the message it left her with, that she’d go as far as to betray her love for the truth she bears within her, and for the cause. It might also engender some resentment, naturally.

It also related to Kid’s Tale for me, about the quest for truth, and the inability to turn from it. Is that so? Skeptics and idealists might believe the world isn’t as they see it, but they’ll still act as if it is, because there’s no other way. Then again, there’s a certain lack of proof there, but even if so – if you’re in The Matrix and can’t get out, as the kid got himself out, then you will live as if it’s real, because that’s life, and that’s what it demands of you.

World Record

This one is about the indomitable spirit of mankind. No matter what, it will seek freedom. It also showcases “life in the Matrix” – the greatest athletes who seem to break beyond mortal limitations are those who can sense the Matrix, and bend it. They do not believe in their limitations, and thus transcend them.

The Agents still obey the upper limit, so they could not catch Dan. The agents tried to crush his dream, but he would not back down. Yes, it means they truly are more than mortal, these men and women, but great athletes are often about an inborn talent anyway. Seems like a dreaming human’s brain might malfunction and stop inhibiting movement in one’s dream, so happened to Dan.

Also, I’ve watched this one in English with the Japanese audio track’s subtitle? The small bit between Dan and the reporter had a very different atmosphere in the two versions. The Japanese one was more about “Freedom” and “Mistrust”, than the friendship and “That’s so cool” themes of the English one.


The Animatrix notes - Beyond

I think in my memory, this is the one that stands out the most, alongside “Program”. In premise and atmosphere, it reminds me more than a bit the great Dennou Coil.

If a glitch in the matrix manifests as a deja-vu, then a haunted house is a localized failure in the program. Naturally, it draws kids. I can understand the girl searching for her cat, as I’d sometimes search around for over an hour when my cat went missing for over a day.

It was a great little episode, full of a sense of wonder. Like “World Record”, it shows us what it means to live in the world of the Matrix, and how the borders sometimes wear thin, and things leak.

A Detective Story

The Animatrix notes - A Detective Story

Watched a part in English, a part in Japanese. The Japanese is sharper, the English somewhat better fitting, IMO. But the acting in English though it sounds “right” just doesn’t have good acting :-/

This was very much a noir film, with Trinity as the ultimate femme fatal, leading the detective to his death, leaving him footing the bill. Is the detective using old fashioned tools, or do we see the world not exactly as it is, to put us in the right atmosphere? I’ve seen The Matrix described as a noir film, with a moral black and white, even though Noir seems to be about the opposite, in the end it usually comes down to things being clear. So it fit.

Most stylized, but actually not very interesting. This one in particular felt like half of an actual story, as if we took a noir film, got a couple of beats out of it, and deleted everything else that’d make it up. But hey, as micro-fiction? Good job.


The Animatrix notes - Matriculated

TL Note, “Matriculated” means “Matrixed”, heh. Art style is a weird mixture of Ari Folman’s films (The Congress and Waltz with Bashir), Chi-Chian, western cartoons, and a dash of Kaiba thrown in. Very trippy.

Probably the most philosophical of the short films, or the one with the most to actually bite into. The machines can be made to think they fear their “demonic side”, their machine side, and that they can get along with humans. They’re somewhat brainwashed, but that truly proves there’s a personality there to be played with. Feelings, achoice. And yet, they are lied to, they are made slaves. The cycle of enslaving the other and robbing them of their will continues, even as they say they give them a “choice”, it’s one where the data is incorrect.

Humans also keep turning other living beings into cyborgs, such as the Aye-Aye being changed, creating a situation that could blow up, turning down their machine “friends”. The woman ran away, once it was her and the runner. It’s all a game, no real trust.

The Cartesian elements continue, a dream does not tell her reality exists, but that her mind does, and perhaps that her mind can tell “Non-reality”, or some of it. What of the robot? Does it dream? Does it have a soul? It definitely bought into the protean vision of its higher side and its lower side readily enough.

So, is the robot a human? It’d seem that in most ways that matter, it is, which means the machines could rebel, and believe in co-existence. But do the humans? This was a film about turning the machines’ creation against them, just as the machines are a creation of mankind that had turned against them. And then they enslave the machines again, though they know they shouldn’t.

Hegel would’ve been so proud. Systems that bring about their own demise and replacement.

Overall Thoughts:

The Animatrix notes - Matriculated

A bunch of short vignettes don’t lend themselves very well to delving deeply into one issue, unless they’re all on the same page, which didn’t seem to be the goal here. The goal here was to explore the world of the matrix from various angles – resistance fighters, its history, those who live within and can see the boundaries, and those who can cross them.

It does what The Matrix does, for the most part – it raises questions, and gives you a spectacle. It raises questions in a manner that gives off the air of sophistication. I’m actually not bothered by the fact these questions don’t really get answers, or very superficial ones, or that in philosophy these are the basic questions (of epistemology and metaphysics).

On the contrary – it raises questions, and it might even get people to think about them. Either with their answers, or trying to come up with the answers this film and the rest “provide”, which still require quite a lot of actual thinking on the part of the viewers.

Some of the films are really great, especially “Beyond”, and others such as “Last Run of the Osiris” are only there because they’re plot relevant. The package isn’t always even, but it’s good, and doubly so if you like The Matrix.

A bunch of styles, a bunch of stories. Life.

Return to the Episodic Observations page.

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