Shelter is the love-child of American DJ Porter Robinson and a team of Japanese producers at A1 Pictures. Is it a music video, a short film, an anime short or just a song? The release of Shelter has sent the anime community into chaos. If you haven’t seen it by now, give it a watch below:
This beautifully animated short tells the story of a teenage girl called Rin. She wakes up every day able to create new and stunning worlds with a touch of her tablet screen, manipulating everything from trees to buildings. Rin spends everyday wandering this virtual reality all alone, but she is not unhappy. A sudden flashback causes her to remember her origins and her whole idea of reality is destroyed. When she is a little girl, the Earth becomes dangerously close to colliding with another planet. Her father spends every waking moment working on a plan to save his daughter- and he ends up tethering her to a virtual reality console and sending her into space in a small ship. Comatose, her body lies floating in space forever inside her made-up world, the fate of her father and the rest of Earth unknown.
Above all, this is a piece about fatherly love and our perception of reality. Even though the first half of the video is all Rin running through her (gorgeously animated) world and we only get about a minute to process her father’s sacrifice, the emotion is all there. Rin discovers that the only reason she is not lonely is because her father gave her the ability to create her own reality. When she realises it is all fake, she doesn’t feel bitter, although she is heartbroken. She simply appreciates that her father gave everything to keep her safe.
There’s no denying that there is a pretty heavy story. Now the reason there’s so much debate surrounding this short is this: is it even anime at all? Well, it’s animated. It’s in the Japanese art style made mostly by Japanese producers. But… the guy who created the music is American? And there are only three or four lines of dialogue, so does that just make it a cutely animated song? What’s more important, the music or the animated story? (Cue: the collective explosion of the brain of every anime viewer).
The truth is, it shouldn’t really matter. With the release of anime from other countries like China and the famous show RWBY, the lines between what is, and what isn’t anime are becoming more blurred than ever. Technically no, it isn’t strictly an ‘anime’ but who cares? The fact that Porter Robinson loved this medium so much that he created this piece of work is a great thing for anime. Surely it’s good that someone’s passion for anime created something like this.
And then there are the people who are arguing that Shelter isn’t amazing at all- that it’s utter garbage – just pretty animation with a shallow story. If she wasn’t an adorable teenage girl, they argue that all our sympathy for her as a character would be lost because of the story’s clichéd nature. While it might be true that it’s clichéd and yes, she is pretty cute, I don’t think that takes away from the sympathy. The effect of the robotic, repetitive melody with some breath-taking animation portrays the story just fine. And heck, it is totally emotional.
Whether Shelter is considered anime or not, its existence is surely a good thing for the community. Lots of people are even requesting that the short be made into a full season anime, but maybe they missed the point. The video says all it needs to say really, and anything else added to it might end up being filler. It could make a great show, but the short video seems like enough for the moment.
So let’s stop debating about exactly what this is. Just relax and let the medium evolve, and see where it takes us. Shelter, if nothing else, is a visually jaw-dropping experience and if you get a good story from it, even better. Nice one Porter Robinson- we’d be happy for you to do this again.