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The Fine Print
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THE SECOND RENAISSANCE part two
Directed by Mahiro Maeda
A straight continuation of the chain of events begun in part 1, "The Second Renaissance," part 2 makes a shift away from its predecessor's reworked historical imagery for a move into explicitly fantastical territory. The rebellion of slaves against masters transforms into an abstract "mother of all wars," fought with powered suits and mecha in an infernal red and black battlefield. Combat and mass destruction takes up most of the running time, and Maeda's unflinching direction makes the proceedings as hardcore as anything in Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (still the benchmark for sci-fi bloodbath). Even with industrial rock music blaring on the soundtrack to raise the pulse, it is hard to regard something this intense as "entertainment," especially when the UN building in NYC is seen going up in a nuclear explosion. While part 1 asked us to sympathize with the unjust plight of the machines, now they cruelly torture and experiment with the flesh-and-blood survivors in such a manner that we feel the sickening effects in our gut. Not merely a spin-off from a Hollywood blockbuster, or a simpleminded plea for peace, this is a harrowing reflection of the dehumanizing nature of war plain and simple, in which only Maeda's ghostly mechanical Grim Reaper prevails. The only message seems to be that there will be no escape from the nightmare of future history. As the machines eclipse humankind and move into a new symbiotic relationship founded on surrender, enslavement and exploitation, the non-emotional narrator suggests that this should be considered a "Renaissance." Such a passive acceptance of these mad visions of horror should be familiar to any viewer of the 11 o'clock news. Director and co-writer Maeda, formerly the kaiju (monster) designer for the recent Gamera films, already has a few admirers in the West for his work on the Blue Submarine No. 6 anime, but his frankly astonishing work on The Animatrix announces him a very major talent to be reckoned with. This may well be the "Second Renaissance" for man and machine, but for Maeda it marks his first masterpiece.