Is this the future of anime?

That may be a lofty question, but it’s what runs through my mind after watching Shelter. This could be the first mark of Western influence affecting what anime is made, and how anime is produced. It shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that over the years Japan has started to pay attention to overseas markets and audiences more than they have for a long time (or perhaps ever). The days of mass simulcast streaming are here, and us non-Japanese anime viewers have a growing affect on the industry. Now, we’ve got this passion project from the mind of Porter Robinson, a DJ and electronic music producer from North Carolina, and all I can think about is how this could be an important step in the future on anime. This collaboration between Porter, Madeon, A-1 Pictures, and Crunchyroll is an exciting thing in of itself, but it sure helps that the final product is pretty great.

When I heard about Shelter’s existence on Twitter a few days ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I know Porter Robinson’s name for having co-written Zedd’s Clarity, and being the brother of Nick Robinson, who I just so happen to follow on Vine, but the name that stood out to me was Madeon. I’ve followed the French DJ who I discovered back in 2012/2013 just as he was making waves online; I’d consider myself a fan of his music, and then it hit me that he released a song titled “Shelter” a few months ago. So when I started up this 6-minute video moments after its release, and that new yet familiar song came on, it all clicked and made sense. It’s a wonder than everyone involved in the making of this project have been silent for so long, because it’s a pretty big secret to be keeping.

Knowing this wasn’t going to be a full series or even the length of a TV anime episode, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the story, and just accept the pretty visuals and awesome song for what they are. But then I was once again surprised by how much was packed in those six minutes. It wasn’t the most groundbreaking premise, but the execution and overall design of Shelter meant it kept on giving more than what you’d expect right until the last second. Porter Robinson’s dedication for this original idea apparently resonated with the big shots at A-1 Pictures who hadn’t seen such fiery for so long. I kind of wish I was there to witness that sales pitch that inspired the studio to do its best to match the original concept – the story of Rin, a 17-year old girl who lives a lonely far-future life in a simulated reality that she has complete control of; it’s basically God’s versions of Sims 4, and it looks pretty fantastic. The first half sets up that sense of demise before presenting us with a fluffy bedroom, beautiful scenic shots, and a nice variety of colour palettes. Things only start to come together when Rin sees herself when she was a little girl, as her father worked on making that simulation for her to live on forever after the inevitable end of the world. The shift in the second half is sudden, crammed to the brim, but shockingly powerful given what little time we have with these characters. This could have been astounding if it were double, or triple the length, but we got the absolute most out of these six minutes, and for that I give everyone involved major credit where it’s due.

One behind-the-scenes name worth mentioning for bringing out the magic of this short film is Megumi Kouno, the once Gainax animator who is known for her dynamic sense of flow, and for being the best hair animator in the business. She’s worked on many projects, from Panty & Stocking to Kill la Kill to Love Lab, but her claim to fame is the work she put into the The iDOLM@STER anime series, which still makes sakuga fans cream their shorts to this day. She provides the character designs and all the key animation for Shelter, and the liveliness she brings to Rin in both her moments of joy and depression are a large part of what makes this so easy to watch. She’s one element of what makes this project a success, and a hope for what lies ahead for anime, as Western audiences are getting more involved in the anime production process. Opinions on whether that will lead to success are varied, but I think we can all agree that Japanese animation can’t go on the way it has for the past few years. The industry is going to self-implode if it doesn’t get itself on a more sustainable path, and even though Shelter is one little film in the midst of it all, I hope it’s a sign of exciting things to come.


    1. I personally think differently. In hindsight, I think the video was just the right length. Not too long to contain dare I say, “boring” padding. But long enough to have tension, progression, and a conclusion. If this video was longer, if it involved more talking or narration, I think it would lose it’s impact. For me, this video is perfect the way it is (minus would be awesome to see in bluray 30fps for the 3D.

      Goodwill Wright
  1. Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Loved it. This is to anime what the first few minutes of Up is to movies: maximum impact in the shortest amount of time and yet still manages to outdo many of its peers in storytelling and emotion.

  2. I don’t care if the premise is novel, the story is simple, etc. The song itself is nice as well. But with the song and this animation put together, it is a remarkable, special thing.

    One of the best 6 minutes I have spent in a very long time.

    1. Indeed. Gone is the age where making anime was exclusive to Japanese-born creatives. I predict more doors will open and more opportunities like this will come about in the future.

  3. It really was too short. I didn’t have time to take in any of these scenes fully. These screenshots were the only thing that allowed me to appreciate it (and boy did I appreciate it).

    With that said it would be fantastic if we got more collaborations between Japanese companies and the west. The current season is pretty good, but it really does feel like more of the same. I wonder what might be produced with some outside inspiration.

  4. A simple premise that was very well executed, they seriously got the most out of those 6 minutes. I almost teared up a little bit at the end. The magic of Megumi sensei/A-1 picture’s amazing visuals and the music of Porter Robinson/Madeon together, what a wonderful mash up. Hopefully this sets a trend for more american/international singers to collaborate with anime studios, the results are pretty cool.

  5. >us non-Japanese anime viewers have a growing affect on the industry.

    To the point where it outweighs native BD sales? I’m not holding my breath on significant change in the anime industry any time soon. Nor do I see Japanese companies putting the creative merit of original ideas over the (unfortunately) safer bet of running with cliches that have proven popular in the past. I’m pretty certain that we haven’t seen the last ‘lost in an MMO’, ‘Idolcrap #1039’ or ‘mahou shoujo grimdark’ type series yet, and that they’ll still be appearing in the 2020s. We might see a few collaborations with Western (mainly American) companies, in fact IIRC there are some in the works already, but I’d still consider them a peripheral element for the near-term future. For the bulk of anime it’ll be business as usual, and it’s not like the situation we have now is particularly unique anyway – people remember the classic anime of the 80s and 90s but tend to forget there was a lot of samecrap then too.

    I’d also like to point out that ‘Western’ covers a whole lot of ground, e.g what American and Italian fans want might not be the same thing, French and American cinema are not alike, etc.

  6. A rather unique way of telling a story…*Wild Guess Mode engaged*

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Also, the art-style helps orient the audience with how our MC is doing mentally.

    Side note: I wonder if this short story is doable to be filmed realistically…

    1. Rin is in suspended animation. She won’t be pushing any buttons, physically, anytime soon. Waking up from the virtual world (and suspended animation) for Rin would be a death sentence. The ship clearly is not capable supporting any person, not in suspended animation, for any period of time.

  7. I read the first couple paragraphs of this then decided to watch it. And watch it again. Holy crap that was good.

    About this,

    once Gainax animator who is known for her dynamic sense of flow, and for being the best hair animator in the business

    I looked up her credits to see if there’s any animation in something I watched, to see if I could recognize a signature style. She did the key animation for the first episode (only) of Love Lab so… ok then.

    It reminds me of when I watched Macross F ep. 8, “High School Queen.” That episode just had a brilliantly funny flare and style unlike those before it. I looked up the credits for the episode, and the person who did the storyboards was a key frame animator on Kimagure Orange Road. That explained everything.

  8. Personal gripe was she wouldn’t age in space like that but otherwise it was near perfect. I’ve loved Porter’s work since he released Worlds. I’m so glad his weeby self got to do this. Really opens many opportunities to the west to work on anime.

    1. She age in space, compare her “bust” when she was put in this cockpit, and then the end. You should notice her longer Hair and more

      Perhaps this Ship OS keeps her in some Koma state

  9. Impressive. But I don’t know what your were alluding to when you asked if this was the future of anime. I didn’t feel such a polarizing view when I watched the short/music video or whatever you call this thing. The first thought when you mentioned Western influence in anime I thought of HEROMAN, but of course there are other series/shorts/movies out there with obvious western influences, but I don’t think it’s as strong in this one as with other series. Still, this is one impressive short. I didn’t expect much, considering i only initially thought of this as an extended music video but having low expectations probably contributed to the jaw dropping experience Ive had with this one. Couldn’t replay this one enough. Now RIP replay button.

    1. It’s not what influenced its content that makes one wonder if this is the future of anime (because the content is pretty normal for an emotionally-centered anime production), it’s the manner in which it was conceived and created.

      Porter Robinson, a popular musician with a love for anime, wanted to tell a story and found partners to help him make his vision a reality. It wasn’t a company trying to make the next big original hit or adapt the trendiest manga or light novel, it was much more organic in its origins, and that’s a big step forward for the anime industry.

      Independently-produced projects are becoming more and more mainstream in western culture these days, and this is a good sign for the industry at large if A-1 realizes that they can find ways to incorporate their brand into little startups like Shelter. It shows that there’s at least some part of the anime industry that wants to be progressive and adventurous by appealing to the ever-shifting mindset of media consumers. It means that they understand their audience better than most of us thought, particularly their western audience since the domestic audience still supports and consumes anime in traditional ways.

      1. I’m in the same boat, only swimming in a bigger sea. I dont consider animated movies to be “proper” anime. There is something quintessential in the progressiveness of a TV show that is completely gone if something only exists as a lone installment.

  10. I’d go on record and say that “Clarity” is probably one of my favorite songs in a very long time, so that alone makes me VERY curious about this whole thing. I will have to check it out. 🙂

  11. Having watched Shelter… Am i the only one thinking that the father is a moron doing this? I mean all of humanity is dead, your daughter is alone by herself until she dies in dark cold space. If i were the girl i’d happily die with my family…

    Will there be an explanation? Did any1 spot anything, positively of course? Will there be any person left to save her? I need an ova right now :((

    1. in the end you get to see, that this Little Child grown bigger. So, she is in some sort of Coma and 7 years must have passed, so this Space Capsule has enough Life support, and also in the end you see that it is moving, the Autopilot is setting a Path or is calculating it

      But for this Girl, time has been frozen, yes

    2. The very logical part of my brain agrees with you on asking what the point of having her survive this way is.

      But I personally have been carrying around a short story idea very similar to this for nearly all my adult years. The premise comes from the sheer emotional determination and desire to see life continue and innate urge to seek survival even in unsurvivable conditions. We’ve seen that urge in all forms of life and it’s hard to imagine humans can resist it logically. (my story has similar elements to this one, but continues with the struggle of the emotional need of reproduction vs. logical ability to recognize a complete end; i.e., what would it be like to be a hormonal young person growing up as the last living generation in a end-of-all-things situation?)

    3. This is more of an MV than anything, trying to make sense of specifics won’t get you anywhere. Try looking up the lyrics, or a translation of the message from her faher she gets at the end. Look at t from a thematic/artisic standpoint, not in the details…

    4. I think he did the right thing. He didn’t left her to die alone in space. He built that space capsule with a goal in mind. Based on the visual details, the place that they are from may not be Earth. It might be a colonized moon of Jupiter. When the world ends, he sent her back to Earth and onto other colonies. In the meantime that she sleeps, he gave her a world of her own.

      Even if she would died in space, I am sure he would put in an euthanizing program that would make her death as painless as possible once it runs out of resource/fuel. Rather than suffering a painful death with her father, she gotten a beautiful world to live in and chance at survival. While he may not be there, he still watches over her in spirit and in memories. The space capsule itself is the embodiment of her father.

    5. Well, if anything, the father likely was gambling that his daughter will run into a friendly alien civilization; naturally, even in this future setting, alien existence has yet to be proven. Of course, any anime father would always have intentions to make their child survive, even if loneliness is involved

  12. Nostromo vibes:

    Get “Nostromo – Binary Overdrive” AMV set it +3 secs
    Now press Start on “Shelter” and the AMV, where the Shelter is muted of course

    And voila!

    1. The Memories begin to drop back when 2578 Days have passed (7 Years), perhaps it is build in in the Ships OS…

      More i could not read out of the Pictures.. well yes, but i begin fall back to my old habit. because now i stop here

  13. I ran into an article about this got people arguing over what anime is. I won’t go into that but I did watch immediately after reading that title so I can read the article.
    Shelter was really amazing and I agree wholeheartedly that it did the most with its short time.
    But to something I can actually contribute to the discussion: Japanese studios working with western parties. Wakfu is perhaps my second or third favorite animated series (and 5 OVAs). 3 of the OVAs wrap up the main story. It’s the other 2 that are interesting:
    In both, we learn about important characters – in the first about the villain of season 1, in the second about the catalyst that began a new era for their world. The prior was animated by Madhouse and the latter by Ghibli. I couldn’t find anything about how or why these cooperations came to be, and have only watched the latter OVA of the two, but it was immediately obvious to me that was the case (that Ghibli animated).
    So yeah, the more the merrier (and watch Wakfu, it’s flipping amazing).

  14. I liked it well enough. It’s a nice idea and the video and music go well together. Though it falls apart and way too many what-ifs and why-didn’t-theys start coming to light when you actually think about it and realize the whole plot and sequence of events wasn’t really thought out well.

    As for what actually happens, I mean really. Blasting your daughter into space to spend the rest of her presumably long life alone, trapped in an impressive but still rather dull virtual reality without any cities, people (even AI ones would’ve been a tremendous contribution to longevity), other lifeforms in general or any sort of in-depth ways to entertain herself, all whilst being strapped to unsettling machinery and kept alive by tubes (where’s the food coming from? What about waste disposal etc?) instead of spending their final days together in quiet piece and a very comfortable looking home and neighborhood is most certainly not what I’d commend any father for, no matter how much he wants to keep her alive.
    He is thinking more about himself rather than her.

    It probably tried to send some message. To appear hopeful, even. That there is some positive aspect to it in trying to preserve this life. But I honestly can’t see it as anything other than profoundly disturbing. She’s bound to get tired of such a limited reality, she already shows signs of it in the video, and she has (presumably) still many, many decades of loneliness and boredom ahead of her.
    She couldn’t even kill herself in this state. It’s horrifying.

    1. They have six minutes to make things work and they don’t have any second to waste disposal tubes talk (and frankly, I wouldn’t want to know the detailed solution either, it would ruin the mood). As for what the father was thinking, that will take a separate AMV, depicting the thought process he went through as you just did.

      Anyhow, she said it herself and she said it twice that she wasn’t lonely. The whole flashback was just a timed message her father set to trigger on her 14 years old (which is the age of consent in Japan) birthday. And even after reading the message, she said the memories made her stronger. The final scene also showed a trajectory projection, indicating the craft was heading to the Goldilocks zone (third planet) of a new solar system so there’s a hint of a new start for humanity here (and please, I don’t want to know the reproduction plan he had in store for her).

      As you can see, there’s no Fridge Horror here, I personally see only Fridge Brilliance. The starting age on the blueprint, the number of days, the age of consent, the Goldilocks zone, etc. There is an incredible amount of attention to details! Kudos to the production team.

      1. As you say, there’s only so much you can dig into plot-wise with a 6-minute film like this. There’s certainly some interesting questions of morality which should definitely be discussed, but personally I wouldn’t put as much emphasis on it compared to some others.

  15. Samu I can’t believe you follow Madeon, but not Porter! He’s a living legend of eletronic music in pop culture, and his Worlds album is required listening for anybody living in the 21st century. He has such a clear and strong artistic vision for everything that he does and it shows so much in this MV/short.

  16. I urge everyone to pay attention to the lyrics to the song as you watch. There’s so much to unpack, thematically and emotionally. It’s incredibly powerful, and I may have shed a few tears doing so myself…

  17. Awesome video! Of course there’s more questions than answers, but it’s a 6 min video with limited dialogue.

    The debate on what the father did is a tough one. I’m a mother with an almost 2 year old daughter, so I go back & forth on what the right thing to do would be. I guess it depends on various factors. Were there other people possibly sent up into space as well? Did they maybe already inhabit another planet? There’s most likely no more earth, but is there a slim chance? Are there known other lifeforms somewhere else? I think it’s instinctual that you want your children to survive. However, at what cost? It’s hard to imagine & heartbreaking to think about my daughter in either scenario honestly. To stay on the planet waiting for the inevitable death looming or alive hooked up to wires & cords completely isolated for possibly the rest of her life. After watching it the first time I thought I would probably pick her staying with me, but then again who knows what would happen if you had the means & were in the same situation.

    Overall, it gave me quite a bit to think about after it was over.

  18. Had this sitting on a firefox tab since it came out and didn’t start it up until today. Listened to it about 20 times now, and have seen the short 5 times.

    That last part with Rin talking and the last shot of her just completely destroys me, bringing so much emotion in so little time is truly amazing work.

  19. Just imagine how Father was torn between building a complex shelter ship and spending precious moments with his daughter with little time that was left before the world came to an end. Truly a tragedy.

  20. this type of storytelling is what make anime worth while. I feel anime works best when it does its own thing with a story instead of trying to people please with everybody like most of the fall season shows are doing. Pandering is never a good idea it is like spoiling a child rotten the more given the more wanted. this is why I think the 80’s and 90’s era of anime are fondly remembered and regarded as classics; there was no pandering or catering to whims back then a creator could do what he or she wanted and we the audience had to accept it as is instead of whining and complaining about how certain things didn’t happen the way we thought.

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