It's hard to tell whether the Wachowski brothers were being creatively altruistic or fiscally mercenary when they hatched The Animatrix, a series of animated shorts based on their ''Matrix'' mythology. The duo have long been vocal champions of Japanese animation, and it's kinda cool that they persuaded Warner Bros. to let them hire the best creators out there to play in their sandbox. It's also shrewd marketing: Everyone involved knew that after ''Reloaded,'' ''Matrix'' freaks would be looking for something else to jack into and would pay to take that something home.
The DVD itself is something of a mixed bag. Four of the nine shorts debuted online -- and another, the CGI ''Final Flight of the Osiris,'' was in theaters -- before joining the four that premiere on this DVD. A few of the nine, like the trippy ''Beyond'' and the sketchbook noir ''A Detective Story,'' play with the Matrix in exciting ways, while others, like the beautiful but inert ''Program'' and the just plain inert ''Matriculated,'' feel like placeholders.
The supplements are consistently better than the shorts: Aside from subtitled commentary tracks from a handful of the Japanese filmmakers, the disc boasts a comprehensive history-of-anime doc that'll bring the uninitiated up to speed. ''The Animatrix'' definitely feels like a cohesive part of the Wachowskis' universe -- both ''Osiris'' and ''Kid's Story'' tie directly into the new film -- but much like ''Reloaded,'' it's an uneven ride down the rabbit hole.