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Robot Carnival (1987) is an anime anthology film comprised of a collection of nine short films by a variety of directors, all featuring little or no dialogue. Many of the film's segments are directed by people who are primarily character designers or animators, not directors.

The bookend segments, "Opening" and "Ending", feature a huge machine, the titular Robot Carnival, chugging along over the landscape unheeding of any obstacles in its way. Once a magnificent showcase of mechanical prowess, the hulk is now a decayed, rusting, malfunctioning engine of destruction.

During the early 1990's, this anthology was shown frequently on the Sci Fi Channel and later on the Turner Network, often paired with other feature-length anime films such as Vampire Hunter D, Demon City Shinjuku, and Twilight of the Cockroaches, making Robot Carnival one of the first tastes of anime to many American viewers.


This film contains examples of:

  • Art Shift: Between each segment. Meta-justified by each segment having a different director.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The segment "Deprive" takes your stereotypical Shonen-action series and boils it down to the barest essentials without missing a beat in the story and without a word of dialogue. It still works.
  • Become a Real Boy: The segment "Cloud".
  • Bridal Carry: Starlight Angel has a flying scene with a robot and a girl; Deprive has a cyborg and a girl, etc. etc.
  • Circus of Fear: The titular carnival. It was once a normal circus, but years of disrepair have turned it into a mechanical nightmare that turns the people of the towns it encounters into new performers... or makes them explode.
  • Costume Porn: The Robot Girl in the "Presence" segment.
  • Deranged Animation: The "Presence" segment. The animation for the characters is so smooth that it makes it incredibly eerie.
  • Expy: Hiroyuki Kitazume’s involvement in "Star Light Angel" seems to have resulted in a number of characters from the Gundam franchise (Gundam ZZ in particular) being utilized for the segment. The main character appears to be a composite of Leina Ashta and Elpeo Ple, her friend is highly reminiscent of Elle Vianno, and their two-timing hypotenuse bears more than just a passing resemblance to Char Aznable. A young lady with the likeness of Roux Louka also makes a walk-on cameo appearance early in the segment.
    • This has led to a couple jokes on youtube about "Char breaking (more) young girls' hearts."
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Franken's Gears, natch.
  • Giant Mecha: The segment "A Tale of Two Robots — Chapter 3: Foreign Invasion" feature two giant robots battling over Japan, the Western invader in his giant robot opposed by some kids in a robot designed for a parade.
    • The English dubbing of this particular piece drew some criticism because the voice actors put on thick Japanese accents when they delivered their lines.
    • The piece itself is a parody of the Japanese propaganda films before the occupation era following World War II.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes
  • Mood Whiplash: Franken's Gears.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Averted big time in the opening and closing segments where the massive destruction caused by the titual "Robot Carnival" is shown front and center.
    • Also averted in the segment "A Tale of Two Robots" where a battle between two Steampunk Giant Mecha in the middle of Japan causes more devastation than either one could probably cause on its own. This is hilariously lampshaded by one of the "heroes" at the end when he looks out over the city from atop their Giant Mecha and laments all the destroyed buildings. He then runs to the other side of the mecha and comments that "but this side doesn't look too bad".
  • No Export for You: The anthology won't be making a legitimate DVD release in the west anytime soon.
  • Robot Girl: The segment "Presence".
  • Rock Beats Laser: Played with and possibly subverted in the "A Tale of Two Robots" segment. While both Giant Mecha seem to be at the Steampunk level of technology, the robot belonging to the foreigner is definitely more advanced, having real cannons (as opposed to the fireworks used by the heroes) and having brick and mortar "armor". While the heroes win, it was likely just dumb luck, and their Giant Mecha is definately the worse for wear.
  • Scenery Porn: Mainly the "Presence" segment.
  • Shoujo: The "Star Light Angel" segment.
  • Shout-Out: The "Chicken Man and Red Neck in Tokyo" "Nightmare" section makes obvious references to Disney works such as the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment from Fantasia and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
    • Because Katsuhiro Otomo worked on this be sure to watch out for the cameos of Tetsuo, Akira and the Colonel - a year before Akira was released in cinemas.
    • The male protagonist in "Deprive" seems to be based off 8Man.
  • Silence Is Golden: Only "A Tale of Two Robots" and "Presence" have any spoken dialogue.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The segment "Star Light Angel" features such a duo enjoying a trip to a theme park.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: The Opening sequence. The movie starts out with a bland black title card with "Robot Carnival" on it. Then the titular Robot Carnival shows up with grand music and on the front of the Base on Wheels spells out "ROBOT CARNIVAL."
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