Groundbreaking Anime Anthology

Some of the most acclaimed directors and animators in anime came together in the 2000s for Genius Party and its follow-up Genius Party BEYOND. Animated by Studio 4°C (Mind Game), they were given free reign to tell a unique short story built around “the spirit of creativity.”

The result was a genuinely fascinating collection of twelve animated shorts by famous Japanese animators. The groundbreaking animation pushes the very idea of the medium with an eye on daring creative freedom.

Missing for years in North America, GKIDS and Shout Factory release both anthologies for the first time here on home video in one collection. Animation fans have been waiting years for Genius Party to hit Blu-ray and their prayers are now answered.

The line-up of directors reads like an anime all-star team. Masaaki Yuasa (The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl), Shinichirō Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, and Shōji Kawamori (various Macross projects) are probably best known in the West for their crossover hits.

Genius Party is a showcase for animated creativity from famous directors

Each short is completely unrelated and is the pure vision of its director. That leads to a wide range of topics – high school romance, bizarre alien invasions, and philosophical musings are covered. Genius Party embraces kinetic visuals and trippy storytelling. This is an anthology in every sense of the word, there is no continuity or connections shared between the shorts.

Often bizarre, the more experimental shorts will leave you struggling for answers. Hideki Futamura’s “Limit Cycle” is a stream-of-conscious delivery of weird philosophical tangents, delving into vaguely mathematical and religious subjects. The accompanying visuals are a never-ending stream of random imagery from the perspective of a Japanese salaryman. Points for style, but definitely a case of style over substance.

Those looking to see normal anime shorts familiar to mainstream viewers are likely to end up disappointed. Genius Party is a showcase for animated creativity and famous directors testing the limits of conventional animated storytelling. The shorts are made for animation enthusiasts looking to stretch their conceptions of animation itself. Genius Party and its sequel are built for exploring the medium’s untapped potential beyond commercial considerations. On those terms it’s an unqualified artistic success.

Video

Originally released respectively back in 2007 and 2008, Genius Party and Genius Party BEYOND looks fairly nice for Japanese animation made back in the 2000s. Below the quality of high-end theatrical animation, it compares favorably in key frame rates and fluidity to garden variety television anime.

Studio 4°C has always pushed the animation medium with experimental works that transcend normal anime boundaries. Each short in the two anthologies have a completely distinctive animation style dictated by their director, sharing no common elements. The twelve animated shorts vary in their visuals, ranging from the traditional anime style seen in Shinichirō Watanabe’s “Baby Blue,” to the utterly strange “Moondrive” by Kazuto Nakazawa.

Most of the shorts could be characterized as tests for experimental animation in some form. Showing boundless imagination doesn’t always necessarily produce winning picture quality. Palettes vary from grimly muted to simple primary colors.

The 1.78:1 presentation for both movies arrives on Blu-ray at 1080P resolution. Primary colors pop when present and black levels are perfect. Genius Party runs 102 minutes and Genius Party BEYOND runs 81 minutes. Both are included as separate options on a single BD-50, encoded in transparent AVC. The video encode has no issues with the smooth animation, avoiding banding.

The visuals are hypnotic, occasionally dazzling. This is definitely smart animation testing the boundaries of conventional anime, employing a mix of different techniques from CGI to regular hand-drawn art.

Audio

The Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio has a lackluster surround mix. Some shorts are better suited for dynamic audio than others. A couple have minor dialogue issues, mixed fairly low in volume. Authoritative bass and a few dense bursts of musicality are the best sonic attributes. The front soundstage has decent separation and imaging.

Optional English subtitles play in a yellow font. The English translation is seamless and doesn’t take liberties with the Japanese dialogue.

Extras

Distributed by Shout Factory for GKIDS, this double feature for Genius Party and Genius Party BEYOND offers no special features. A menu pops up that does enable one to directly select a short from either movie.

A glossy slipcover is included. The Blu-ray is coded for Region A.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Genius Party
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Twelve disparate animated shorts by acclaimed anime directors make for an eclectic anthology that pushes the limits of traditional animation.

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User Review
4.5 (2 votes)

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