By Jonathan Wojcik

Spooky Video: Robot Carnival's "Nightmare!"

   Unlike most of the internet, I'm old enough to remember a pop culture scene pre-anime. The word didn't even exist in our vernacular. The only cartoons we recognized from Japan were referred to as Japanimation, extending only to a small handful of movies whose most mainstream exposure was via the Sci-fi Channel. Among this limited, rotated selection was a film sadly forgotten by much of today's anime-addled youth: a compilation of short stories known collectively as "Robot Carnival."

Robot Carnival featured several different stories and all were fairly interesting to some degree, but it was the final short, "NIGHTMARE," which always had me glued to the screen. Drawing heavy inspiration from Walt Disney's Night on Bald Mountain, Nightmare is one of those rare and special instances where robotic beings are as creepy and kooky as any of Halloween's gremlins and poltergeists, with gorgeous art direction and an amazing soundtrack, to boot:


   Much of the action centers on a character only known as "the drunk," an Ichabod Crane lookalike who awakens in an alley to a Tokyo suddenly and mysteriously devoid of human life.

   Our primary antagonist is this mysterious, red caped mechanoid whose electrical beams unleash metal monsters from mundane machinery.

   Zapped by one of Red's bolts, a parked steam shovel begins to spew forth hundreds of these spidery devils.

   Soon, the slumbering city is crawling with the legions of robot hell!

  I usually prefer organic monsters over robotic beings by default for reasons even I can't pin down, but whatever robots are usually "missing" for me, it's definitely here.

   I always got the impression that these things aren't even "naturally" mechanical, but are simply manifesting into our world through our technology. Maybe they're genuine demons. Maybe they're aliens. Maybe they're incomprehensible beings of raw energy.

   I can't say I really understand what's supposed to be going on with the giant steam-satan building his own woman; it doesn't seem to sit well with Red hat guy. Anyone care to interpret for me?

   Steam-satan's early attempt at a bride doesn't go so well.

   QUESTION TIME: Have you ever found a robot character "creepy?" Did you ever get to see Robot Carnival and other Japanese animated films on the original Sci-fi channel? How do you personally interpret the events of "Nightmare?" Don't be shy, leave comments below! Go back and leave comments on previous entries! I answer practically all of them!

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