A set of animated short films in the director's showcase mould.
Eight brief animated films with the robot as a common theme, commissioned by the A.P.P.P. company, make up this film festival style offering. Six are primarily set to music but none, with the possible exception of "Nightmare", is really orchestrated, making the inevitable comparisons to Disney's Fantasia misleading as ever. The end product, unfortunately, is rather uninteresting and comes across more than anything as an attempt to demonstrate the maturity of animation as a storytelling medium with vanity pieces for a few talented directors.
The "Robot Carnival" segments proper, which make up the opening and ending, seem little more than cruel as one might expect from director Ohtomo. "Clouds" and "Presence" are quite opaque; "Starlight Angel" and "Deprive" are rather run-of-the-mill anime stories, albeit slickly executed and lacking dialogue; "Franken's Gears" is an amusing take on the Modern Prometheus theme; and "Nightmare" riffs entertainingly on life in modern Tokyo. The real standout of the group is "A Tale Of Two Robots", which manages to parodise simultaneously battling-robot shows, adolescent science-team shows, and period adventures, three of the mainstays of anime. It is extremely enjoyable, but does little to take the wooden feel out of the production as a whole.
The "Robot Carnival" and "Presence" segments betray something of a French sensibility; "Starlight Angel", "Deprive", and "A Tale of Two Robots" are very much the usual anime style, the first one in particular being quite glossy; "Clouds" is extremely spare and hardly even animated; while the remaining two offerings display an atypical but definitely Japanese sense of ink and paint on acetate. Not surprisingly for short subjects, limited animation, stationary shots, and reuse of footage are the exception rather than the rule.
The soundtrack is mostly a mixture of instrumental music in various styles, most of it markedly superior to the usual anime BGM. Sound effects and, where present, dialogue are as idiosyncratic as the films themselves, but more than competent.
Recommended principally for film students or those seeking something out of the ordinary.
An English translation is provided for the two segments which have any particular amount of dialogue, "Presence" and "A Tale of Two Robots". Of course, being Macek's work, the adaptation is less than perfectly faithful.
The sound in places is tinny and distorted, and the ending credits have been recut although the original set is provided. The video transfer is somewhat dark and muddy, except for the trailer which is too bright. The big fault, however, is the alteration of the aspect ratio. Some passages appear to be open-matte, while others seem cropped, and only the Japanese credits are letterboxed to the theatrical ratio. This release is therefore strongly disrecommended.