SHELTER tells the story of Rin, a 17-year-old girl who lives her life inside of a futuristic simulation completely by herself in infinite, beautiful loneliness. Each day, Rin awakens in virtual reality and uses a tablet which controls the simulation to create a new, different, beautiful world for herself. But all is not as it seems…
SHELTER is a story only six-odd minutes long and set to music, which isn’t what I expected when I sat down thinking I was about to watch some feature-length film. It’s a very short, beautifully-drawn story that is set to music – almost like an elongated music video. There are also a lot of questions you want to ask a the beginning. Is Rin alone? Can she interact with others? Just where is she and how did she get there?
But then as the story progresses, you begin to see just why she is in this virtual world and this is where things get a little heavier. Within the span of 90 seconds, you are taken through an intense roller coaster of emotions as you watch Rin experience her dwindling memories while drifting aimlessly through her virtual world, and you see the reasons behind everything. It’s rather saddening to behold and the initially bright and vivacious Rin becomes a sympathetic character. The reality sets in and you are shown the intense gravity of her situation.
A-1 Pictures are the animation geniuses behind this one, and I can help but be very impressed. They continue to do good work. When A-1 uses CG in combination with art, it often at times looks pretty and sharp as in the case of Sword Art Online or some of the openings we saw from the 2014 season of Fairy Tail. However, in this case, the entirety of the short was just jaw-dropping from start to finish as the production was measured, careful and totally spot-on. The soundtrack to this show consists of only one song, aptly named “Shelter” by Porter Robinson and Madeon. It’s actually a beautiful upbeat techno song that really provides a relaxed and rather happy atmosphere, which is odd once the stark reality begins to reveal itself. Despite its happy nature, the music also serves to enhance all the emotions you experience at the end. The effects of the song convey a duality of purpose and it’s really hard to create music that would fit a piece such as this, but they seem to have pulled it off.
Anime shorts have always intrigued me. Some can be very hit-and-miss, using the very short space of time they have for slapstick humour, physical comedy and silly jokes whilst all the while using the silliness of it all as an excuse to skimp out on design and animation. On the other hand, some anime shorts have the ability to rise high above the expectations of a great deal of full-length shows in the same anime season. These are the ones that really stand out to you and have you almost incredulous at the quality of what you have seen. So much so that you watch it again and again, because you see new things and it’s only a few minutes long each time. SHELTER is definitely one of the latter.
This was written by Porter Robinson, who is not, in fact, Japanese. So many people do question whether or not this should be considered an anime much like other shows such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. While the latter two borrowed the anime style, people don’t consider these shows as true anime. SHELTER, on the other hand, while written by a non-Japanese native, was developed by a Japanese studio, thus blurring the line again. I think that is should be considered an anime for many reasons which I’m not going to dilute this post with but, in the end, does its definition really matter?
I did not get what I was expecting with SHELTER, and I am glad, for I ended up watching something that was much better. It is one of those rare anime shorts that proves that you can do so much with so little. The storytelling was perfect, portrayed in a way that was unique an enigmatic, leaving just a few things up to interpretation which continues to engage the audience long after the story has finished. If you ever find yourself with six minutes to spare, I would recommend sitting back and watching – you won’t regret it.