Shortstember: Program

Studio: Madhouse

Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Yutaka Minowa 

Writer: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Wha’ happen’?

A woman named Cis is training in a samurai themed simulation. She effortlessly defeats some cavalry and finds herself face to face with this Darth Vader lookin’ motherfucker…

This is Duo, who challenges her to a sparring session.

They battle and Duo tells Cis that there’s something he wants to tell her and that he’s made sure no one else can hear them. She thinks he’s going to propose but instead he tells her that he’s returning to the Matrix and that he wants her to come with him. She refuses and Duo regretfully tells her that it’s too late and that the Machines are on their way to destroy their ship.

Cis and Duo battle across the simulation until finally she’s forced to kill him.

The program ends and Cis wakes up in shock only to be told by her captain that none of it was real and that the whole thing was a test. Cis is understandably pissed and punches him out and is told that, apart from assaulting a superior officer, she passed with flying colours.

How was it?

If you can’t tell from the screenshots, this is an absurdly, jaw-droppingly beautiful piece of animation. The Vampire Hunter D vibe is strong with this one and the opening shot of bamboo swaying gently in the wind is one of my favourite moments of animation in…anything. Program shows the nearly unlimited but rarely tapped potential of the entire concept of the Matrix. Now that I’ve seen the Matrix as a Kurosawa Samurai film, how about a Sergio Leone Western? Or a Peter Jackson Fantasy? Program also has a stellar voice cast, with Phil LaMarr, Hedy Buress and John DiMaggio all doing excellent work.


It’s not clear what exactly Duo is. Is he a program based on Cis’ real life lover? We never see him when she wakes up. And if he doesn’t exist in real life, why does Cis recognise him and think that he’s going to propose to her? Have her memories been altered for the test? That’s pretty messed up.

Whatever, you’re not here for the story. Program is all about the visuals, and on that measure it’s hard to imagine how it could be more of a success.


  1. Mouse, I dearly hope that your Batman reviews are as good as I suspect they will be – I, along with a considerable chunk of Great Britain (and Northern Island), could seriously use a pick me up.

      1. Thank you for the kind words – this must seem terribly feudal, I know.

        On a more cheerful note, we can now really, REALLY tick off the Jacobites by wilfully misinterpreting “Charlie is my darling” (and if there’s one thing I do enjoy, ‘tis to see the Jacobites hopping mad).

  2. Mouse, you may be hearing a little racket over the border – don’t worry, we’re reasonably sure that that 100-gun salute is firing blanks even in Northern Ireland.

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