Ah, the YouTube anime post - a perfect invention for a fast Saturday evening post.

*Best piece of animation I've seen recently? That would be Yasuhiro Aoki's Kung-Fu Love, a short film from the 2006 Studio 4°C dvd anthology Amazing Nuts!, which compiled four shorts which I believe were all intended to act simultaneously as stand-alone works, music videos, and promotional 'trailers' for prospective longer works, should financial backing be somehow finagled.

I'd sure love to see the full-blown theatrical feature Aoki (a key animator and occasional director on assorted 4°C/Beyond C projects) has planned - supposedly he's already storyboarded much of the movie in his spare time, and the short does indeed have the overstuffed feel of someone packing in ideas he's probably had for years and can't wait to get out. Excellent animation, odd-looking characters, lovely fights, funny gags, vintage teenage the-world-is-against-me worries, young love, young sex, sly digs at traditional gender roles, tooth-rotting pop music - just about everything is here.

*Yes, Studio 4°C has released several fine dvd anthologies. But it is Genius Party, their upcoming two-volume theatrical anthology, that shall revolutionize the world and cure many challenging diseases. Please dip your mind into this extended trailer for Vol. 1 (out in Japanese theaters this summer), which intersperses footage from the shorts themselves with production footage of the directors at work. An awful lot of time is spent with Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) and his Baby Blue short, but we also get to see Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game) zipping around alongside a camera, and Hideki Futamura's Limit Cycle manages to somehow look exactly like how I pictured the world of William Gibson's Neuromancer in my head while first reading it many years ago.

Also, if you happen to have a short animated film sitting around anywhere, you can enter it in the Genius Party contest on MySpace, and maybe get your entry included in the official dvd, or possibly critiqued by one or more of the Genius Party directors. I'd certainly be up for Shoji Kawamori spending 800 words on how much I suck, so it's too bad I can't even animate my body out of bed in the morning half the time!

*Second best piece of animation I've seen recently? The prolonged opening sequence to the first episode of Re: Cutie Honey, a 2004 three-episode OVA series created as a sort of accompaniment to the (also 2004) live-action Cutey Honey movie directed by Hideaki Anno (of Neon Genesis Evangelion). Anno also 'directed' the OVA series, but much creative control was supposedly handed to the individual episode directors, episode one's being Hiroyuki Imaishi, who is now best known as director on studio Gainax's currently-airing, much-hyped television series Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, the production of which has already seen Gainax co-founder Takami Akai resign as producer (and indeed, step down from his position on Gainax's board) following a series of online controversies and heated message board exchanges with fans over various issues concerning the show. Anime News Network has details ("Akai, under the name Magi no Suke, responded that personally reading the comments on 2channel was 'like putting [his] face next to an anus and breathing deeply.'").

Anyway, Imaishi (a Gainax veteran and animation director on FLCL) has a highly energetic style, which loans itself well to the gradual building action of this introductory sequence, climaxing in the proper OP of the series, complete with the famous Cutey Honey theme song (vintage original here).

I've also recently seen Anno's live-action film, which was recently released on R1 dvd. I should note that I haven't seen the original 1973-74 Cutey Honey show, created by anime/manga legend Go Nagai, which apparently served as a major formative influence on a generation of Japanese youths, possibly through its innovation of the 'nudie transformation scene,' in which the show's heroine zaps away whatever clothing she happens to be wearing, resulting in a few fleeting seconds of nudity before her magical action outfit forms around her and she's ready to battle evil.

I suspect Anno was one of those youths (born in 1960, he'd be just the right age), because much of the Cutey Honey movie is spent building a universe of innocent fanservice, somewhat self-consciously naïve love-will-save-us-all rhetoric, and candied slam-bang costumed action. It's all somewhat reminiscent of a Troma film in its total dedication to turning its limited resources into giggly entertainment, as well as its loud sense of humor. Lots of broad actors parading around in gaudy supervillain costumes (designed by anime/manga luminaries like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Moyoko Anno) while CGI and models explode everywhere. The usual Anno theme of the individual's torturous relationship with society is present in the form of artificial human Honey's comical desire to fit in, although everything is kept as light and fluffy as possible; even an 'intense' red-lit battle scene highlighting Honey's capacity for rage and the obligatory ponderous-spiritual endgame seem more concessions to genre expectation than anything else.

It's pretty fun, though, provided you don't get easily irritated with 'knowing' camp or plotlines pausing for a villain to introduce himself through a song-and-dance number. There's some behind-the-scenes footage on the dvd, and the famously depressive Anno looks like he's having the time of his life - the enthusiasm does manage to show in the film, at least.