Trent: You hear “Robotto Kanibaru” and you think: “About time that Cannibal Robots got their due! Way to go, Japan, always catering to the weirdest nooks of geek depravity!” But it actually means “Robot Carnival,” and it’s a cult anthology of anime shorts from 1987, book-ended by director Katsuhiro Otomo’s vision. That’s still cool (Carny Robots!), and Otomo is the dude who gave the world “Akira,” so expect incomprehensible eye candy.
Tracey: Just beautiful to stare at, overall. As in “Akira,” bombastic explosions dominate. “Robot Carnival”’s nine cartoons are scored by Joe Hisaishi, the composer who gives Hayao Miyazaki’s classics that additional ambient layer of gentle whimsy. Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Prologue / Epilogue” sees a desert town shake, rattle and roll as the Robot Carnival marches through, in futuristic manner.
In “Starlight Angel” (by frequent “Gundam” animator Hiroyuki Kitazume) two friends go for a romantic theme park ride with lovers that are less human than advertised. (These shorts are naturally very progressive about trans-species love.)
In Hitoshi Omori’s “Deprive,” when a robot gets “deprived” of his human girlfriend, he goes to war against the girlfriend thief, who looks like a mix between Gene Simmons and Boy George.
I was less of a fan of the overlong “Presence” (by “Kite”-creator Yasuomi Umetsu), a ghostly “Pygmalion” tale in which a man uses a doll to escape from his “feminist” wife.
This is 80’s anime that sets up animation bars that modern shows still struggle to reach. Just look at “Franken Gears,” another cautionary re-telling of Mary Shelley’s classic by Koji Morimoto. Morimoto has had brilliant bits included in just about every major anime anthology (this one, “Memories,” “Short Peace,” “Genius Party,” etc.)
Equally well-animated is the lengthy, and lengthily-titled, “Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion.” There, Meiji-era wooden mecha resists an attack by Victorian-era metal mecha. This segment is directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, of “Blood” The Last Vampire” fame.
Anthology-filler includes Mao Lando’s “Cloud,” a wispy, cloud-centered Pinnochio tale; and Takashi Nakamura’s “Chicken Man and Red Neck,” about the pleasures and perils of being drunk in a post-industrial post-apocalypse.
Beatricia: Is this one of those posts where Blurbarella hacks Trent and Tracey’s programming in a devious plan to force the rest of us to watch robo-indoctrinating cartoons?
Hank: Blurbarella must be in Heaven watching this, but I had a headache going into “Robot Carnival,” so I felt like I was in the other place that starts with an H.
Cousin Franz: Fine animation throughout, but I would only recommend the “Meiji-Era” one to the uninitiated. Not that anyone will learn any Japanese history based on giant robot showdowns.
Grandpa Felicius: So now WE are the ones invading Japan with OUR steampunk robots, as “Strange Tales of Meiji Machine Culture: Westerner’s Invasion” would have us believe. RIGHT. It’s not THEM hurling their Gun-damn Voltron Transforming “mechas” at us. I suppose if I was breathing a cloud of atomic fall-out, I might have a similar, distorted view of reality!
Blurbarella: “My Carnival– Will Have– Its Merry Day– Upon the Mass Grave of Mankind.”
3 out of 6 Cherries