The Item / Apprentice
For those of you who have been reading ANN since then, last November we reviewed "No Enemy But Time", a traditional cel animation done entirely by fans. At that time, we made the comment that this was the only time anything in America had captured the spirit of anime.
Shortly after that review was published, we got e-mail from someone from White Radish Studios. This group, lead by a man calling himself "Shawn the Touched", produced anime-style CG short films, and had been showing them at Project A-kon as they produced them.
Due to a mix-up, we weren't able to obtain screener copies of these films until we attended Project A-kon this year (where, lucky for us, they premiered the conclusion to Shawn's newest animation, "Apprentice", albeit on a sound system in desperate need of proper configuration). Well, now we have the tapes and we've watched them, and I have to admit... I'm damn impressed!
Where No Enemy But Time took its inspiration from artistic shorts such as those found in Robot Carnival, the two shorts produced by White Radish, "The Item" and "Apprentice", take their queue from the more marketable anime out there. This means, yes, an obligatory shower scene, dragons, and the occasional evil magic chick.
Each story is fairly straight forward (and at a running time of 8 and 15 minutes respectively, that's a good thing). In "The Item", three girls, one a tech-rat, one a sorceress, and one a magical girl, travel to a dangerous cavern (think "Indiana Jones") and battle fierce dragons in order to get their hands on The Item... What is The Item? That's a surprise.
In "Apprentice", a young sorcerer in training comes to the door of a rather bitchy witch, who's hell-bent on offering sacrifices to her fun chirping hell-beasts. He's hoping to learn some tricks from the evil one, but when little goats just won't do anymore, she offers HIM as a sacrifice. That's when he reveals that he's a lot more powerful than she originally thought.
Each of the two films are cell animation across a rendered background, digitally colored and composited. The two are blended seamlessly, with Lightwave digital effects abound. Some of the animation (especially in the older "The Item") is a little bit sub-par in comparison to the rest of the films, but the feeling of the Japanese shows are certainly there.
Really, the only other weak spot is the sound. While the music is great, the dialogue is poorly directed and mixed... The opening monologue in Apprentice is nearly inaudible. There's almost no dialogue anyway, so it doesn't much matter.
Overall, either of these are lots of fun, especially if you want to see just how far some computer equipment can take a fan. It's amazing how the work of just a few dedicated people can pretty much outclass 90% of the other animation produced in America.
+ Great animation and special effects. FANS did this?!
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