Blu-ray Review: Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond

Whenever you have a party at the house, it’s nice to be able to put something on the TV set to act as cool visuals since it’s so awkward to have a turned off television in the middle of the living room. There’s clearly a system for what you put on the screen. You don’t want something too popular or engrossing so that your friends just camp out on the sofa and refuse to mingle. You want short elements so that people can watch a little, ask what it is and go back to talking or even dancing. You don’t want something extremely boring because that will make people think your party is boring and head out to the next stop. You want something cool. But what? Luckily Studio 4°C made the perfect party Blu-ray that’s perfectly titled Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond. This double feature contains 12 animated shorts that will be as essential to your party as a Red Solo Cup.

Studio 4°C made a deal with 12 animation directors back in the mid-00s to each make a short film with the only requirement being that the films feature “the spirit of creativity.” That’s a pretty expansive requirement that easily inspired a lot of creativity for the directors and their animation teams. Even though this wasn’t a competition, the 12 animated films seems to be competing with each other to see who can push the bounds of characters, motions, images and story. The 12 films were split up into two movie. Genius Party was released in the summer of 2007 with the first 7 short films. The short films weren’t given any sort of frame work. The first film is Atsuko Fukushima’s “Genius Party.” This has someone in a ragtag crane costume sneaking up on strange shell creatures hoping to feast on hearts that exude from them. It’s a mind trip. Shōji Kawamori’s “Shanghai Dragon” features a boy discovering a device that can make illustrations come to life. Turns out there’s more to this toy than the imaginative trick. Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game & Night Is Short, Walk On Girl) brings us “Happy Machine” with a child discovering the truth of his world. Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy BeBop) gives us the tale of two students skipping school for one last adventure in “Baby Blue.”

A year later saw the release of Genius Party Beyond with the other 5 movies. They are as equally creative and visually intriguing as the first batch. Mahiro Maeda’s “Gala” has a giant object from space smash into a ground near a town. The locals find a unique way to communicate with the visitor. Maeda worked on both Kill Bill Part 1 and Mad Max Fury Road. Kazuto Nakazawa’s “Moondrive” has thugs tear apart an island looking for treasure. Nakazawa worked on The Matrix‘s Animatrix special. Tatsuyuki Tanaka’s “Toujin Kit” has a woman smuggling strange lifeforms inside stuffed animals. Koji Morimoto’s “Dimension Bomb” is a love story that’s about a boy and girl from different dimensions. Along with directing a segment in The Animatrix, Morimoto co-founded Studio 4°C so it makes sense to have him wrap up this amazing double feature.

Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond is a double feature that doesn’t hold back. Each animator is pushing their limit in the short time span. The artistic and animation styles are divergent so you don’t feel like you’re watching just one movie. Each 85 minute film moves swiftly with kinetic energy bouncing off the screen. If you’re a person who likes to keep the TV on while hosting, Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond will keep your party rocking. Since the films don’t feature an English dub, you don’t even have to mess with the volume as those keeping up with the action can read the lines off the screen. Although you can also enjoy the 12 shorts the next morning when you’re stuck on the sofa.

The video is 1.77:1 anamorphic. Even though the films are over a decade old, there’s no wear on the Blu-ray transfer. The lines and colors are sharp. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1 in Japanese. The sound mixes will put the surround speakers to work. The movies are subtitled in English.

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory and GKIDS present Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond. Directed by Mahiro Maeda, Kôji Morimoto, Kazuto Nakazawa, Shin’ya Ôhira, Tatsuyuki Tanaka and others. Starring: Tomoko Kaneda, Rinko Kikuchi, Lu Ningjuan, Taro Yabe and Yûya Yagira. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 1 Blu-ray Disc. Released: October 15, 2019.

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