Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond are a pair of anthology films from Studio 3°C. Anime anthology films often open up a lot of opportunities for experimentation and exploration of the craft, and Studio 3°C in particular is a studio who likes to nurture this degree of experimentation. I’ll be discussing both of the two films together, as the films were originally planned to be released together.
The Genius Party duology, unlike Robot Carnival and Neotokyo, doesn’t have a common thematic underpinning for the work. Nor does it have a common writer for each of the shorts, like with Katsuhiro Otomo’s Memories. Instead each work is effectively written and directed by the same person. Consequently, the stories in each film go across the board from a philosophical spoken word essay accompanied by animated imagery, to a story about adolescent loneliness and separation, to a mostly wordless tone-poem about isolation and social ostracism scored by Juno Reactor.
Some of these shorts, like “Baby Blue” & “Doorbell” from the first anthology, and three of the five shorts from the second anthology feature more, for lack of a better term, conventional anime character designs. Many of the other shorts have more surrealistic visuals, some more grotesque than others. The first anthology also tends toward more unconventional narratives (or no narratives at all), while Beyond has more works with actual narratives, either of a conventional variety, or ones that operate through dream logic.
As far as recommendations go, these anthologies definitely fall into the category of “Art for art’s sake,” and if the idea of watching an anime anthology for that reason, with the strong likelihood that you’re not going to get much of a conventional narrative is a turn-off, you may want to skip this.
This had been licenced for US streaming by Netflix, but as of this writing, those rights have expired. Hopefully, someone like Discotek Media or, hell, the Criterion Collection will pick up rights for these films, as I think modern anime fans, especially with the current rise of interest in “Sakuga” could get some interest out of this.