Shortstember: World Record

Studio: Madhouse

Director: Takeshi Koike

Writer: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Wha’ happen’?

Sprinter Dan Davis is looking to reclaim his world record after being disqualified for failing a dope test in a previous race. A group of agents watches him from the crowd as the race begins.

The race starts and we see, in flashback, Dan’s interactions with various people in his life. He talks to a journalist who tells her that running at his top speed is like being in “zero gravity”. Later, his trainer begs him not to race because his muscles are “about to explode” and see, this is why I don’t run. The possibility of exploding.

Sure enough, Dan’s leg pops a gasket but he powers through the pain and is about to cross the finish line when runs so fast he breaks the Matrix.

So, basically, Dan Davis is like Cyberpunk 2077 and the Matrix just can’t run him. He wakes up in a pod in the Real World until a machine comes along and puts him back in the Matrix.

“GO BACK TO BED.”
“Can I have a drink of…”
“NO YOU MAY NOT HAVE A DRINK OF WATER.

He arrives back just as he crosses the finish line and and sets a new world record. However, he’s been rendered near comatose by what he’s seen.

At the hospital, an agent reports in and says that Dan will never walk again, let alone run. Dan rises out of his wheelchair through sheer force of will and then begins to levitate into the air. He mutters the word: FREE.

How was it?

How was it?

It’s another “ordinary person discovers the Matrix” story and as such demands comparison with Kid’s Story. And it’s definitely the better of the two, with a far more compelling protagonist. And I say that despite this short’s narration going weirdly out of its way to dunk on the main character. I mean, this is what the narrator says. Just read this and tell me it doesn’t come across as really dismissive of Dan:

“Only the most exceptional people become aware of the Matrix. Those that learn it exists must posses a rare degree of intuition, sensitivity and a questioning nature. However, very rarely some gain this wisdom through wholly different means.”

“Most people who escape the Matrix are geniuses with a keen insight and incredible perception. Not this dumbass, though.”

The animation is certainly striking and makes the short stand out, even in the incredibly eclectic mix of styles that makes up the anthology. I do have criticisms though. Mostly, that the mouth animation is terrible. I don’t mean bad lip synching. I mean these characters are flapping their lips like fish on the floor of a boat. There’s one scene where Dan’s trainer is begging with him not to run and all I could think was:

As a piece of Matrix lore, World Record raises some interesting questions. Kid’s Story established that Popper was the first person to “self-substantiate” but…how is that different from what Dan does here (other than the fact that Dan didn’t need to throw himself off a building)? You could argue that Trinity and Neo just didn’t know about Dan (and true, he was plugged back into the Matrix immediately). But the narrator of this story is The Instructor, the same character who narrated The Second Renaissance, which would imply that this story is from the Zion archives meaning that Trinity should know about it. Also there’s the curious matter of the agents looking quite different from their movie counterparts. Less “Pissy Secret Service” and more “Bono in the seventies”

This, and the fact that the Matrix code Dan sees is red and not green, has led some fans to speculate that this story actually takes place in one of the earlier Matrixs Matrixes Matrices the Architect told Neo about.

Or maybe the dude’s just colourblind.

4 comments

  1. Wow, I actually remember this one. Not without your prompting, but yeah, unlike the rest of Animatrix, I can actually bring this sketch to mind.

    So… Cool? I guess? Actually, there is one other sketch that I remember watching, but we haven’t come to it yet, and I’m not completely sure it was part of Animatrix at all. I guess I’ll see. 😅

  2. This is the other one in the anthology I always really liked, mostly due to the idea that sometimes regular people just do something the Matrix can’t handle, like when you do something in a videogame that the devs didn’t see coming and glitch through the walls.

    The Kid kinda has that, but that one required intervention from outside the Matrix. This one just has a guy being better at something than the machines thought possible.

  3. This short did nothing for me back then. Still doesn’t today.

    The art style was one reason. It’s distinctive, yes, but it didn’t really work for me. It has its fans I guess, but I didn’t like it – too exaggerated, too … I don’t know, rubbery? I didn’t find it appealing.

    The other reason was that this does make even less sense than the others. He breaks free because he was so focused on running, he was better than the machines anticipated – at a simulated physical activity. I guess you could argue it was his focus that helped him break out (and yeah, wouldn’t that make him superior to the kid, or even Neo, for that matter), but that doesn’t come across here. It was good peak physical performance that broke him out. A physical performance in a simulated dream world performed by someone who in the real world spent his entire life submerged in a tank…

    Sorry, I guess I only can suspend my disbelief so far.

    1. One might argue that The Matrix had much the same reaction, hence it’s difficulty coping with someone whose self-belief was so unwavering as to make the literally Superhuman seem within the scope of his capabilities?

      In other words The Matrix can handle Human logic and Human arrogance and even Human passion, but Faith seems to be much more difficult to compensate for.

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