Shortstember: Detective Story

Studio: STUDIO4°C

Director: Shinichiro Watanabe

Writer: Shinichiro Watanabe

Wha’ happen’?

Ash is a down on his luck Private Eye (and seriously, is there even any other kind? Have you ever read a detective story that began: “Business was great. We’re opening three new branches of the agency and just hired thirty new staff. Consumer Magazine just voted us “Best Detective Agency” for the second year running. I love my job”?)

Just as his money is about to run out and he has to consider whether or not pet cats are edible, Ash gets a job from a mysterious caller who hires him to find Trinity.

Ash discovers that three previous detectives have taken this case; one killed himself, one vanished and one went crazy, so he goes to talk to the crazy one (obviously).

The detective gives Ash a clue, telling him to “find the Red Queen”.

Ash starts looking in chatrooms for someone with that handle and makes contact with Trinity. She gives him a reference to Alice Through the Looking Glass which he’s able to deduce means she’s about to get on a train. He races to the train station and finds her in a carriage.

She tells him that this was a test and that he passed but suddenly agents manifest in the carriage. Ash and Trinity try to run, but the agents try to take control of Ash, forcing Trinty to shoot him. As he dies, she regretfully tells him that she thinks he could have handled the truth.

Trinity runs and Ash covers her escape, training his gun on the agents and noting that it was “the case to end all cases”.

How was it?

Detective Story is goddamned beautiful.

I love this aesthetic so much, these mid-century black and white photographs brought to life it is just so gorgeous. The mood of this piece, the music, the visuals, if you love film noir you will be in heaven.

Unfortunately, while my soul loves it, my stupid brain can’t overlook that there isn’t much of a story to Detective Story, or indeed much detecting.

First things first, gorgeous though it is, this short is impossible to reconcile with the Matrix films. The clothing, the weird diesel-punk computers, this simply is not the same world we see in the movies. I’d say it was set in an earlier Matrix but the presence of Trinity (voiced by Carrie-Anne Moss) would indicate that it’s in the “present”.

Then there’s the plot, which makes not a lick of sense. Why the hell are the machines hiring bluepill detectives to find Trinity? Why would they do a better job than the beings who literally run the world? Then there’s leaps in logic where Trinity gives Ash a clue that she’s about to get on a train which is enough to let him find her because apparently there’s only one train station in the entire world.

Ultimately, Detective Story is a beautiful, atmospheric mood piece let down by threadbare storytelling.


  1. I’ve been going back and forth on watching the Animatrix. Some of them sound like a good time, some of them sound like a good way to lose eight minutes of my life (And besides, I’ve been eating up all my TV-watching time with TOS Star Trek.)
    My point? The screenshots in this post had me reenacting your old Edgar-from-Aristocats spit-take reaction. I said out loud “THAT’S ANIMATED!”

    So once again Mouse, you’ve convinced me. How do you do it?

  2. Yeah, this is one I just watch as its own thing as opposed to a part of the Matrix universe. I know that’s made harder by the more overt references to the live action films, but I just tell myself it’s a weird AU and move on. With that mindset, it’s probably my favorite in the whole collection, but that’s mostly because I’m a massive fan of noir, especially with a sci fi twist.

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