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Here is a simple -but a bit crazy- idea from Kazufumi Nomura: put together the best Japanese animators to make a set of shortfilms about one unique subjects: robots. Yes, it's a simple idea. But a great concept.

The Rising Sun country has always been fascinated by robots. The Japanese animation produced tens, hundreds of works dealing with those fantasies from the future which are sometimes more alive than our imagination. So, here is a 90mn long video that really should be better known. Streamline Pictures did a lot when they released the English version, on video but also on a superb LD where you also can find the original version (wow!).

Robot Carnival is made of eight stories, which are very different variations about a subject indeed very wide: Astro, Giant Robo, Lady (Armanoïde), the bad guys from Gundam and the Super-Boomerscan prove it. You can find the same diversity in this movie:for instance, there are no links between Franken no haguruma, a version of the Frankenstein myth that Kôji Morimoto revised with a lot of dark humor, and Starlight Angel, a very classic sketch by Hiroyuki Kitazume where two young girls are attacked in a theme park by a fantastic and frightening giant mecha, a crossbreed between Bubblegum crisis Boomers and Mazinger Z. It's the same thing about Deprive, from the designer of Guyver, which was made to be the perfect commercial anime, in the good meaning. It's a success, with especially the wonderful "villain of the story".

If we are close to the sublime with Cloud, which is more than a mere anime; it's a real, new age, living artbook (you have to see it to understand), the perfection is achieved with Presence, from Yasuomi Umezu (who could be seen on Casshan and Gatchaman OVA), that can be considered without a doubt as the most beautiful short animation file ever made in Japan. That 20mn long sketch takes place in a parallel world like in Honnêamise. A man who feels bad (his wife does good in business and rules over the household) does odd jobs in the forest to pass time, and builds little by little a robot porcelain doll who has no name. His own doll. The wife he'd always dreamed of. But when the doll comes to life, tells him about her dream to fend for herself, and eventually admit her burning love for him, the man who didn't even programmed her to have feelings, he gets scared and destroy it.

Then we'll join him years later, feeling remorse and haunted by the ghost of the woman he would have liked to join. His release only occurs the day of his death, when he can join her and go along with her into Light - a superb ending which somehow reminds us of Jeannot Swarcz's masterpiece, Somewhere in time . The whole article wouldn't be long enough to describe with accuracy all the wonders in invention and animation you can find in Presence. Some dare saying the faces are ugly and wrinkled, but the purpose is to emphasize the unreal beauty of the Young Girl's porcelain face that haunts our hero's dreams.

Robot Carnival is, such as Presence where each very word is meaningful, a movie with few dialogs, even completely mute on most stories. Perhaps it emphasizes still more the splendid soundtrack composed by the great Jô Hisaishi (Porco Rosso, Arion). The animation is also excellent, sometimes as good as in Akira, which was released one year later and on which the four authors of Robot Carnival (Katsuhiro Ôtomo, Atsuko Fukushima, Kôji Morimoto and Takashi Nakamura) where already working. Besides, one can smile seeing Tetsuo and Akira's performance in Starlight Angel ! Whether you discover Robot Carnival because of your love for Akira or for mecha, it's because of the very quality of the movie that you'll see it twice, tree times, four times..

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