ManieManie: Meikyuu Monogatari or Neo Tokyo its Western release title has no relation to Katsuhiro Otomos Akira. It is a film collection of three shorts of little relation the last short being directed by Otomo was the source of the alternate name an attempt to capitalise on Akiras success. Naming aside the shorts Labyrinth Labyrinthos directed by Rintaro Running Man directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Construction Cancellation Order directed by Otomo are each wildly different. They are tales of intrigue each presented in a completely different world with a different vivid art style. The thread that holds them together is that each story is loosely adapted from Japanese Science fiction writer and poet Taku Mayumura. Each story depicts a setting and characters that exist outside of the audiences and provides the viewer a window into their respective worlds as a stranger permitted to observe and interpret what they wish from what they see. These stories do not anchor the reader to a relatable protagonist or strongly suggest what one should feel and make of an event. Considering their narrative disconnectedness Ill break down each segment individually. Labyrinth Labyrinthos: Labyrinth Labyrinthos is an arthouse short with no defined storyline or direction instead portraying the bizarre ethereal journey of a girl and her uniquely named cat Cicerone in their game of hide and seek which happens to occur in a... you guessed it labyrinth. Despite lacking a story there are numerous interpretations to made from the surreal and creative imagery the short presents. This alone results in a high rewatch value as with each time the short takes you on a different chain of thoughts and interpretations. Similarly their is no real characters present only a girl and her cat. We follow their journey but their is no character development nor should there been anything of the sort in this type of story that focuses on style and aesthetics. But again it can be fun to speculate as to what drives the girl how many layers of metaphor the setting is under and what on Earth does it all mean? And that is ultimately up to you to decide which can make or break your experience. The art and direction naturally is this shorts strongpoint. The animation is smooth dynamic and lively the character and weird creature designs are all hypnotic whilst the backgrounds are fantastical and often eerie. The emphasis on red is incredibly engaging and makes the short a marvel to look at and the sound design is suitably atmospheric and dreamy. Labyrinth Labyrinthos is vibrant enchanting and just really weird in a great way. It serves as a framing device for the other shorts in the collection establishing a brilliantly bizarre tone. Running Man: Kawajiri creates an ethereal and bizarre short too yet its plot and starkly different artstyle crafts its own identity. The short follows Zach Hugh the immortal veteran racer who participates in the infamous Death Circus a not so shockingly deadly race. We explore his fragile and volatile mental state as his years of racing has sent him to the brink of insanity. Secrets surrounding his victory are revealed and an explosive climax to his career unfolds. Structurewise Kawajiri tended to intersperse flashbacks from fairly recent events into the short which were ultimately a little messy. The content itself was upon rewatching was important but the delivery was a little too obscure. Despite having the most straightforward storyline of the three shorts I found Running Man to be the most incoherent requiring a rewatch. Despite this Hughs desperate manic and endless desire for first place was highly engaging and left room to think about his motivations by the end. A reporter character is inserted into the story to provide sparse exposition and act as a stand in for the viewer the events of the race unfolding before him. He has no personality of development and is merely a tool to advance the story. His expository was a little distracting detracting from the deeply grounded story Running Man establishes but his perspective as an outsider looking upon the mangled mess of a man that is Zach Hugh aids Hughs sense of mysteriousness and insanity. We see Hugh at breaking point the weight of the countless deaths he directly and indirectly caused crushing him his everpresent drive for first place overriding all logic and reason his spiritual journey and conflict tells an interesting story of ego lust and reliance one which is incredibly rewatchable. The production of Running Man is arguably the best of the three. Dripping in 90s style even the way the light raced across a set of iron bars brought myself immense satisfaction. There is not much not to love in regards to animation art and sound. The racing is kinetic the numerous explosions were a joy to look at and the roaring or the engines were satisfying. As for music their was none only an amalgamation of numerous HUD beeps engine roars and glass shattering which really grounded the race and enhanced the tension. Running Man is a spectacle on both in production and is the sad conclusion to the unbreakable Zach Hughs career one that should be viewed. Construction Cancellation Order: At last Construction Cancellation Order the short directed by Katsuhiro Otomo from which the series Neo Tokyo originated. With no relation to Akira the short is the goofiest of the three marveling in its worlds hopelessness and foolishness. We follow our ignorant protagonist a salaryman Tsutomu Sugioka who perfectly embodies the shorts theme our overdependence on technology. Deep in the South American jungle a megacorporation mindlessly inserts itself into the ecosystem with an army of automated robots the short explores the potential consequences and sequential horror that such robot dependence may bring about. The plot is linear loopy and mostly just fun to watch nothing much more to want. Considering the simple storyline the fairly obvious message and lack of other ideas present could be a negative but not much else. As for characters Sugioka the dumbfounded and desperate replaceable employee is probably the biggest detractor of this short. As the embodiment of human reliance and a lack of autonomy he is understandingly annoying but that doesnt make it any less frustrating to watch.. his exaggerated overbite doesnt help either. Contrarily the leader and manager of the robot workers Robot 4441 was incredibly memorable and charming. His innocent jittering and mannerisms conflicted with his sadistic corrupted motives making for an incredibly entertaining enemy. Both characters the only characters function very well as respective embodiments for humanity and robots Sugioka a little lame but Robot 4441 charm ensures most annoyances recede into the background. The production as with all of the shorts is fantastic. The animation is smooth bombastic the artstyle is peak 80s and 90s wonderfulness and the character designs mostly the robots are quirkily memorable. The sound is a unique cacophony of construction noises clangs dings and thuds the tempo gradually speeding up increasing the tense and distressing atmosphere. Otomo crafted a fun dynamic short with a strong core message that will surely become more and more important as time goes on. Whilst not as technically impressive as Running Man or whimsical as Labyrinth Labyrinthos its certainly the most comedic fun and perhaps enjoyable. ManieManie Meikyuu Labyrinth was enthralling. Not perfect and certainly a hit or miss for some but its charm shone particularly strongly for me.
90 /100
17 out of 17 users liked this review