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Program is the fifth of the Animatrix animated shorts concerning different interpretations of virtual reality. It opens on a field of blowing reeds, very samuraiesque as a charge of Japanese warriors on horseback ride up from the distance and plough through, flaming arrows mounted in their bows, ready to be loosed at a moment's notice.

The arrows take flight, four from each bow, a firestorm in the night's sky. Pulling back across the reeds, ahead of the formation of arrows, which are slowly spreading out, reveals a young woman on horseback, stopped in the middle of this seemingly endless field, looking up at the missiles streaming towards her.

Lifting her polearm, she rapidly spins it and deflects every single arrow into the dirt at her horse's feet.

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The rushes catch fire from the arrows forming a wall of fire. She goads her horse to leap it, and charges at the onrushing mounted warriors. Hefting her polearm, she thrusts it into the dirt, leaping off her horse and using it to fling her to one of the onrushers. Bringing her weapon down she slices cleanly through his body. Green motes spin out from both sides of the cut, and the body dissolves away.

She slices again and again. Each time one of the warriors is cut down, and each time he dissolves into a green particulate cloud of code. She leaps back onto her horse as the last one falls, then turns the horse round to look at where she's been. A single samurai warrior stands there, someone who was not there before. No other warriors are in sight.

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The samurai speaks "Your favourite simulation."

To which she replies "Just killing time."

She asks him if he would like to spar, and he agrees. She smiles, and as she does so, the world blinks out, replaced with a white infinity. Japanese gates zoom in from behind the camera at high speed, passing the pair like a freight train as the new simulation builds itself.

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The new simulation finishes constructing itself as bridge sides arrive and random foliage grows. It's a causeway, covered by an infinite number of pagoda rails, stretching off into infinity in either direction. An endless path with no possibility of escape all laid out for the duel.

With a "yah!" they are off. He has conjured a horse out of somewhere, black to match his armour, where hers is white. They race, two abreast, down the narrow causeway, their weapons clashing together savagely, as each fights to damage the other, holding nothing back.

She is knocked from her horse, and he chides her, assuming the role of teacher as he discovers what was wrong. He tells her that maybe she regrets taking the red pill, the one that freed her from the Matrix, and that is why her concentration is so off.

She sighs and says "Maybe" as she gets up. He rides off and she follows. As they pass behind a pillar, she is suddenly back on her horse, and the pillar is not a pillar any longer. It's a tree. The two of them ride through the forest the causeway has seamlessly turned into, with snowy tree covered hills stretching back as the eye can see. The causeway has completely vanished, turned into this infinite forest, as they try again.

He is still going on about the red pill. "It crosses everyone's mind at least once. The wish to return to an ordinary life. A carefree life in comfort. The life we had before knowing all this."

"Even if that life, was just…an illusion?"

"Its ironic that one can be more at peace, in a virtual world."

Discussion over for now, the two leap off their horses as the horses themselves leap over a ravine, and land, horse-less on a ledge on the other side. Their weapons clash again, hard. This time the samurai's facemask splits open from one of her blows, and his naked eyes see the point of her polearm stop just short of them.

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He asks her to listen to him; he'd like to talk to her about something, but its ok, he's blocked the signal output. No one outside the simulation can hear them. He tells her that he is going back to the Matrix, and he would like her to go with him.

She tells him to be serious and stop teasing her. Going back to the Matrix is not possible. He replies that he is serious. He is asking her to come with him, and thought, really thought she'd want to come. Still he says, it's too late. He reaches for his blade, drawing it in one smooth motion and severing the tip of her polearm.

She scoots back, and out of nowhere, Japanese screen doors slam shut between the two of them.

He states that he took the red pill because he wanted to know the truth. He opens the screen doors. Behind them, is a second set, and a third, fourth, fifth, it goes on forever. The trees are gone, so is the snow. Nothing but rooms bordered with screen doors, stretching on for infinity.

He states "But I don't care what's real any more. The truth doesn't matter. What's important is how we live our lives."

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He breaks through door after door, slashing them with his sword, and suddenly there are no more ahead, just a window. He slashes through it and emerges on a rooftop, part of an infinite sequence, staring her down. They fight, sword on sword, and she retreats, continually giving ground in the endless simulation, leaping from roof to roof under a blood red sky.

She tells him that that is enough; she has had enough, and meets his full charge on her sword, refusing to give any ground. He says that there is no time. He killed the others of the ship's crew whilst she was in the first simulation. The machines are on their way. All she can do is accept that.

Her sword shatters as she realises he betrayed them all, and she leaps clear as his downswing takes out part of the roof.

She tells him she will never go with him, she cannot look away from the truth. She can't. He charges, and swings with finality, meaning to cleave her avatar, shatter her spirit, and take her life. She stands there, closes her eyes, reaches up, and clasps her hands together over his blade, stopping it cold.

Twisting them, she snaps the end of the blade off, and turning it, thrusts it into his neck. His residual self-image shattered, his body really begins to die. With his dying breath he whispers "I wanted to go back with you. I… Love you." Then, he expires.

She screams out in horror, at what she has done, at what he has done, at all of it. Then the plug is removed from her neck, and she sits up on board the ship. The crew's alive. It was all a test. Her brother is there, telling her to calm down. The man she thought was her friend Duo in the simulation wasn't real. He was an AI coded to trick her, to make her believe he loved her and he would reinsert her.

By killing him, she passed the test. She reaches up to her brother, pulls him down to her then socks his jaw hard, sending him to the deck. "I feel a lot better now."

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Running time: 7:15

Written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


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The Animatrix

The Animatrix is a collection of nine short animations, a mix of CG and hand drawn animation, starting with this one, and moving through eight others, each with a unique point of view. Some are deeply philosophical , some wax poetic. All are filled with information on VR, on what it could and can quite easily be, beyond the matrix series itself.

Ironically, Flight of the Osiris is the odd one out, as it is the most plot-canon of the nine, and has the least to offer in philosophical or technical musings about VR. That said, the CG still gives us a great deal to muse over visually, but the others too, are well worth a look.

Review also links to all nine short films.

The Ultimate Matrix Collection

The 'Ultimate Matrix Collection' is actually rather less than ultimate, since it does not include the Matrix philosophy books, and other add-ons. However, what this bumper DVD collection does include, is all three films, and the Animatrix.

Other Links

Resource List: Everything Matrix

A resource list held on VWN, attempting to index everything we have, Matrix related. It continues to grow steadily over time

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