In "Armitage: Poly-Matrix," anime fans were introduced to Naomi Armitage, a robot with honed fighting skills, and a woman whose feminine characteristics were masked by her toughness and no-nonsense approach to keeping criminals in their place. Now, years later, the highly anticipated sequel is on its way to store shelves, thanks to Pioneer Animation. Appropriately named, "
Dual-Matrix" shows the two aspects of Naomi. On the one hand, she is a ruthless fighter with skills that are virtually impossible to beat. On the other hand, she is a loving mother that would risk her life for the safety of her child, Yoko, and her husband, Ross Sylibus, who changed his name to Kevin Oldman in order to bring more security for his family. The two emotional sides of Naomi bring a welcome touch to the movie, pleasing both action fans, and those who enjoy scenes of heart-warming love and self-sacrifice. There were some scenes that played on the emotion card so well that they might induce a mixture of heartache, sorrow, and despair in even the most jaded, deadbeat viewers. Portrayed especially well was the changing and adapting relationship between Naomi and her daughter. Although few words of actual mother-daughter dialogue are spoken between the two, the scenes are depicted so well, with such well-drawn facial expressions and strategically placed physical movement, that the viewer is able to sense the deep, complex relationship between the characters without any words being uttered.
Pioneer did an amazing job on the special edition of the DVD. It's loaded with great extras, and is guaranteed to please every fan of Armitage anxious to see the sequel. The disc itself includes a featurette entitled "Assembling Armitage" which is a behind-the-scenes look at how the movie was made, the steps that went into producing it, and other background information that give viewers an additional look at the motives and inspirations behind the film. There is also a option that allows the viewer to access 5.1 Surround Sound music selections of Armitage's theme, an orchestral version, and another piece. Granted, the pieces selected aren't the best ones from the soundtrack, it's still nice for people with a surround sound system to be able to pound out music from the film. Another great feature on the disc is a character design gallery. This extra showcases some of the pencil sketches and finished illustrations of the characters, as well as backdrops and accessories. It even includes the minor characters, such as flight attendants and lawyers. (Even though the flight attendants are Seconds, they offer more of a comic touch to the film than a robotic interest; they sport thongs as part of their uniform, and have the words "Don't Touch!" Written precariously on their butt-cheeks.) Although the disc has many great features, one of the nicest parts of the DVD is the packaging. The DVD slip case is printed on foil, which gives it a shiny, metallic lust that is extremely pleasing to look at. In addition, the DVD comes with a sixteen page character guide that gives background information on the characters, as well as their relationships to one another. This is extremely helpful as sometimes the characters and their importance to the movie get confusing at times.
Although the movie is well written and exciting to follow, it also carries some negative aspects. For one, the first several minutes of the movie are extremely confusing, and don't make sense until well into the second half. Even then it's helpful to watch the movie at least one more time. Luckily, this is no hard task, as the movie is enjoyable and easy to sit through. However, there are a few scenes that were slightly cheesy. Hopefully not done on purpose, there are a few scenes that are too reminiscent of the Matrix for comfort. Among those was one where, after Naomi shoots a few rounds of bullets, the scene is slowed down, allowing viewers to see the airwaves around them, while the victim leans back in an attempt to avoid being hit. In any case, this scene, and a couple of others, are probably just coincidences and nothing to worry about. However, they are still slightly disconcerting at the time, and may inadvertently induce the more cynical viewers to make fun of them.
One of the refreshing parts about the DVD was the voice acting. Both the Japanese and English tracks were done especially well, with the actors of both languages expressing the feelings of the characters flawlessly. Naomi herself, voiced by Ryoka Yuzuki (Japanese) and Juliette Lewis (English), was portrayed excellently, allowing both her motherly side and hardened fighter side to shine through, giving the Dual-Matrix name the full implications it implies. Surprisingly, the actors were cast so that both set of voices sounded surprisingly similar. One minor annoyance, though, was the way that Pioneer overplayed the "featuring the voice of Juliette Lewis" advertising schtick. Counting all parts of the DVD packaging, and the contents of the disc, those five words are mentioned at least four times, which is a little excessive. Other than that, Pioneer did a good job of the language on the disc. Especially commendable were the subtitles, which were large, yellow, and easy to read, which is a great relief to fans of subtitled anime that are probably sick of squinting at the screen. The only minor complaint with the sound authoring was that at rare times, the background music would cut out when a sound effect, or a brief flash of dialogue was interjected. Although this may have been done on purpose, the choppy combination of the tracks was awkward enough to seem like an editing error. Luckily, this only happened a few times throughout the entire movie, and when it did happen, it's not obvious enough to notice unless one is analyzing the sound tracks.
Regarding the film itself, the staff did a great job with the art and animation. The art is extremely detailed, with beautifully rendered bacgkrounds and detailed props. In the multiple city nightscapes that are shown, the view is so detailed that the viewer can even see furniture and other objects within the lighted windows of the buildings. Inside the hotel elevators, the grain and patterns can even be seen on the wood doors, which are done so subtly that they seem natural. The animation itself is smooth, although sometimes the 3D rendered objects clashed a little with the 2D characters. In one of the car chase scenes, for example, the cars were rendered in 3D, which made the scene itself very exciting and fluid to watch. However, when the camera zoomed in on a character's face, the sudden appearance of 2D art seemed out of place for a split second. The use of 3D for the cars also made them not as realistic as the other objects in the movie, which was a little disappointing. Trivialities aside, the art really is something to admire. The backgrounds are done with care and detail, as are the interior props, which create a realistic air in the movie.
Overall, the movie is a must-see for any fan of the first Armitage. In fact, though sequels usually get progressively worse as they are produced, this one is an exception, Dual-Matrix has many aspects that place it high above Poly-Matrix, mainly the emotional outbursts and Duality that make up Naomi's character. The name of the movie itself matches the film content itself, as the movie really does showcase the motherly nature of Naomi. It could even be argued that the appeal, and even the purpose, of the movie is not the action packed storyline, but rather, the emotional motivations and revelations behind it. Truly, this is a movie that can be enjoyed by almost everyone. Even if viewers haven't seen Poly-Matrix, the sequel can still be appreciated. Packed with action, emotion, and a racing storyline, "Armitage: Dual-Matrix" is definitely not something that can easily be dismissed.