"Welcome to the Zion Archive. You have selected Historical File #12-1: The Second Renaissance." So begins the short film of the same name by Mahiro Maeda [Flash: 1 2 - QuickTime: 1 2] -- a devastating yet beautiful work of animation. Originally produced to explain the backstory behind the Matrix trilogy, Maeda's project ended up telling a story far darker and more affecting than any blockbuster. Using a blend of faux documentary footage and visual metaphor, his serene Instructor relates in biblical tones the saga of Man and Machine, how age-old cruelty and hatred birthed a horrifying, apocalyptic struggle that consumed the world. Packed with striking imagery and historical allusions galore, this dark allegory easily transcends the films it was made for. But while "The Second Renaissance" is arguably the best work to come from the Matrix franchise, it's hardly alone -- it's just one of the projects made for The Animatrix, a collection of nine superb anime films in a wide variety of styles designed to explore the universe and broaden its scope beyond the usual sci-fi action of the movies. Click inside for a guide to these films with links to where they can be watched online, along with a look at The Matrix Comics, a free series of comics, art, and short fiction created for the same purpose by some of the best talent in the business. [more inside]
Last of the free Animatrix episodes released! I've been waiting for this for a long time (in fact, ever since it was discussed here). Set to be released on DVD June 3rd, four of the nine animated shorts were made available to download, one released every month since February. The last one, The Second Renaissance Part 2, has finally been released, much to my anticipation [Note: Quicktime required]. This one is directed by Mahiro Maeda, famous his Blue Submarine no. 6 series. Other directors include Shinichiro Watanabe, known for his work on Cowboy Bebop, and Aeon Flux's Peter Chung.
What is the AniMatrix? A direct-to-video release of 9 animated shorts (comic book style, pure CGI, etc) by 7 directors looks at possible visions of the world pre-Matrix. Looks like it could be an interesting collection.