The Other Side of Animation 243: The Summit of The Gods Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

Have you ever seen, “Why did this need to be animated?” lobbed at animated films that try to do something different? Why do animated films like Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles and Funan get this kind of criticism when no one seems to ask this about live-action films? Wouldn’t it be cooler to see some of the more abstract live-action films get the animation treatment? Why worry about making sure the live-action and CGI elements mix and match when you could just worry about how good the animation looks? Why did this comedy full of physical comedy need to be live-action? Why not animate it so you can take advantage of cartoony physics like in the new Looney Tunes shorts or the classic Tom & Jerry shorts? If we keep criticizing animated features for doing something different, then the medium can’t evolve. If we don’t push the envelope of what we can tell in animation, then we wouldn’t have films like Toy Story, Into the Spider-Verse, Spirited Away, and Loving Vincent. When you let art evolve in what kind of stories we tell, we get films like The Summit of The Gods. 

Based on the manga by Jiro Taniguchi, which itself is based on the novel by Baku Yumemakura, this film is directed and co-written by Patrick Imbert. The other big-wigs in production also include co-writer and producer Jean-Charles Ostorero, producer Didier Brunner, producer Damien Brunner, and Stephan Roelants. The story follows a journalist/photographer named Makoto Fukamachi, who is trying to find a mysterious climber named Habu Joji. Makoto needs to find Habu due to the fact that he has a camera that belonged to infamous climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. For history buffs, Mallory and Irvine went climbing to the top of Mount Everest, but then never returned. Makoto gets invested in learning about the history of Habu, and even gets roped into Habu’s journey to try to climb to the top of Mount Everest. 

This film perfectly captures that feeling of finding that path of pushing yourself to go the distance. What would drive people to do stuff like in the documentary Free Solo? To escape the limitations of what humans are capable of doing? To prove something to someone or in this case, yourself? While it may be at 90 minutes, they pace it out to feel like a much longer film (and one that’s better-paced than most 2+ hour flicks). Much of this film shows either Makoto’s journey or Habu’s history, and is told through normal dialogue, some narration, but a lot of silence and visual storytelling. It’s a film that treats its story and characters with substance, and is more of an adult-focused experience. They do some abstract visuals to tell some parts, but it’s played straight, and that’s what is so good about it. The team behind this film gave this as much weight and passion as some of the better dramas that are released. 

The animation might not be flashy, but it is more realistic than what we are normally given with drama-based films. From what I can tell, they did not use rotoscoping, which seems to be a more common tool for adult-animated dramas than you would think. Still, the visual style reminds me of films like Funan. Realistic designs that move as normal humans do, but without the focus on all the minute details like a lot of Bakshi’s films do. It’s a film with many obvious great landscape shots and just pure beauty capturing the city life and nature. The best and most visually arresting moments are when there is climbing involved. The way they focus on the weight of the movements and the dangers that come with climbing up some of the world’s most dangerous locations is perfect. You will be kept on edge during multiple moments in the overall experience. The voice cast is fantastic as well. The film has its original French language and will have an English dub for those that may want to not follow subtitles, but both have incredible performances. The french cast includes Lazare Herson-Macarel, Éric Herson-Macarel, Damien Boisseau, Elisabeth Ventura, Kylian Rehlinger, François Dunoyer, Philippe Vincent, Luc Bernard, Gauthier Battoue, Marc Arnaud, and Jérôme Keen. The English cast includes Darren Barnet, Rich Ting, Chris Naoki, Ray Yamamoto, Brent Yoshida, Richard K Parks, Paul Nakauchi, Keiko Agena, Keisuke Hoashi, Clyde Kusatsu, Brian Takahashi, and Paul Nakauchi. The music by Amin Bouhafa is ethereal and otherworldly as it perfectly fits the moments of natural beauty seeing the journey of our brave mountaineers traverse one of the most dangerous places on earth. 

The Summit of The Gods is a Mount Everest-sized accomplishment and victory in animation. When animation fans say they want something different, this is what you can point out to them in order to get that fix of something distinct and unique. It’s easily one of the best films, animation or otherwise of 2021, and considering how many incredible animated films have come out this year, that should tell you how amazing this is. If you have Netflix, then you owe it to yourself to watch this film. If you want to see more diversity in animation, then you need to make sure you see films like this. Now then, next time we talk, we will be talking about Disney’s newest feature, Encanto

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 242: Robin Robin Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

Aardman is one of the most prolific animation studios known to the world of animation. With their high-quality award-winning stop-motion shorts, shows, and films that have spanned multiple generations of viewers, which shouldn’t be shocking due to their multiple classic films including the Wallace & Gromit series of shorts, Chicken Run, Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Shaun the Sheep, and the underrated Early Man. Sadly, as much as we would all like to say everything they make rakes in the bank, that sure as heck isn’t what happens with the box office returns for their more recent outings. As much love as this studio and their work gets, no one seems to show up for them. It’s been said time and time again that if you want to see stop-motion films in theaters, then you need to actually show up! Granted, it didn’t help when Early Man was released right next to Black Panther, but the point remains that many moviegoers simply don’t want to see stop-motion on the big screen, and that is why Aardman has buddied up with Netflix here in the states. They get more mileage from streaming than they have had with recent theatrical success. Unless everyone puts their money where their mouths are, this is the direction where stop-motion is going to head. Now then, with a new lifeline for Aardman, and some progressive changes made behind the scenes, let’s see how they handle a new visual style for their stop-motion work where they move from plasticine to felt with their Christmas Special, Robin Robin

Directed by Daniel Ojara and Mikey Please, this charming little tale is about a Robin named, well, Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, who is raised by a family of mice led by a father mouse voiced by Adeel Akhtar. After failing another heist of getting crumbs and food for the mice, Robin is feeling complacent about her place in the mouse family and sets off on an adventure to try to get something for them while maybe learning who she is along the way. As this journey progresses, we run into a crow that loves shiny things voiced by Richard E. Grant, and a predatory cat voiced by Gillian Anderson. 

One of the new changes to their animation style this time around is the much-talked-about felt-like designs of the characters. They look like dolls or Christmas tree ornaments from a bygone era with there being very few details to show the seams or however they truly put together these character models. Stop-motion is a backbreaking and brutal form of art and animation, and that’s why it’s always so impressive to see it done, no matter who the studio is. Even with this change in designs and visuals, it still looks like an Aardman joint due to the designs themselves. You even see some smaller details like pupils that change size and other little details shown throughout the 30-minute runtime. Even how it makes snow, wind, and environment is constantly awe-inspiring, and how they tell the story of the backyard that this all takes place in through environmental storytelling is incredible. Some of it even looks like the ruins of an ancient civilization. I mean, the giant statues you see are just garden gnomes, but still. Due to this taking place during the holidays, there are a ton of warm and cozy colors that give you the feeling of being with your family or by the fireplace. They even let you know who the characters are by how they move. You can tell what’s going to happen with Robin even before the characters go into the house. 

With the 30-minute runtime, the special itself was able to tell a charming and compelling story about different family situations, identity, fitting in. It’s all wrapped up in a special that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the only sign of wanting it to be longer is because of how utterly charming the overall world and story is. It’s an all-killer no-filler-style special, and it was able to fit in so much of that iconic Aardman charm and wit. In addition, there are plenty of clever jokes via the dialogue and background gags to go around. 

Of course, everything is held together by a splendid voice cast that includes the names mentioned above, with Richard E. Grant being as sly and fun as ever with whatever role he is taking part in. Gillian Anderson is quiet, tactical, and always a threat as the cat, and pulls in some real 90s-era Disney villain vibes. Adeel Akhtar, while not having a lot of time on screen, is warm and loving as the father mouse. The true standout performer though is Bronte Carmichael as Robin. She brings a lovable innocence to her performance, and you do feel for her wanting to do everything to make her adopted family and her friends happy.  The music flows from the dialogue sequences, and as such, they feel natural. It’s never distracting when they move through each song, and it’s impressive to see them not take a moment to pause everything to go full-on Broadway musical. The story is constantly moving forward and so is the music. 

Robin Robin is an absolutely sweet and wholesome special that becomes another knockout classic from the famed UK studio. It’s on Netflix, so unless you don’t have it, you have no reason to not put this on your Holiday rotation alongside the amazing Klaus. If you want something extremely full of what the holiday spirit should be, then you will love Robin Robin. Next time, we will be covering the French epic, The Summit of The Gods. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 241: Extinct Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

One of the worst things you can do as an animated film is to be forgettable. When you are good or catastrophically bad, then you will at least be remembered for being really good or really bad. When you are unremarkable, well that’s an entirely different problem to have. You have left such a nothing impression on the audience that you will be completely forgotten, and then take up space on the shelf of a store or streaming service library that could be used for something that did leave an impression for a viewer. It’s important to know what kind of experience you want with your animated fare, and what you are going to have to offer to the viewers and reviewers that will get them hooked. Luckily, when you have some alumni from The Simpsons, Extinct, the focus of today’s review, is able to stand out from the other smaller animated film releases. 

The story focuses on Op and Ed, voiced by Rachel Bloom and Adam DeVine. They are these circular donut-like animals known as Flummels. They live peacefully on an island with their kind, and are not the most popular beings among the Flummels. To try and fix a mistake they caused early in the film, Op and Ed find a magical flower that results in our two leads traveling through time. They end up in the modern-day, and encounter a small fluffy dog named Clarence, voiced by Ken Jeong. Clarence tells the two that they are in the future where the Flummels are no more. Ed and Op then set off on an adventure to try and save their species from going extinct. They’ll learn about the meaning of trust and friendship, and meet a colorful cast of characters along the way. 

One of the first things to keep in mind is how there are two directors and three writers that have worked on The Simpsons behind this film’s story and script.  You have David Silverman, Raymond S. Persi helming the film. Then you have Joel H. Cohen, John Frink, and Rob LaZebnik as the writers. While the film isn’t as sharp as the famous show, Extinct’s brightest spot is that it has a rather witty script. It’s not the wittiest, but it has a snappy comedy edge that includes a solid amount of dialogue, as well as visual, and dark jokes that give the film a punchier vibe than what you would expect. So many smaller-scale films tend to feel so boilerplate because they weren’t given enough time to make the dialogue and script more interesting. Extinct on the other hand, feels like it has something more to it, even if the overall story feels a tad busy. It kept me invested with what was going on because I wanted to see what the next joke was going to be or the next visual gag. The characters are solid enough with Op and Ed both being reflections of cynicism and reckless optimism, but they work well off each other. The side characters aren’t the most memorable, but they do have a few decent lines here and there that make them not entirely forgettable. 

Animation-wise, it definitely looks like a film with a smaller budget, but the textures and compositing look good. There aren’t any real signs that the studios which made the animation have only the bare minimum with which to work. Everyone moves well and there were only a few times where the film showed its budget limitations. If you had to compare it to films in terms of animation quality, it’s on the same level as Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, Mosley, or Secret Magic Control Agency. It looks like a slew of the higher-end CGI fare from smaller releases. There is one musical sequence, and while the song itself is charming about whether you want to be safe in this safe room or die out there in history due to the many horrible things that happen in history, it’s not as much of a toe-tapper that it could have been. The voice cast is overall pretty great! They put in some more low-key comedy chops, and they deliver the jokes with some solid timing. It helps there are some fun actors involved with the cast. Ya have Adam DeVine, Rachel Bloom, Zazie Beets, Ken Jeong, Jim Jefferies, Benedict Wong, Catherin O’Hara, Henry Winkler, Alex Borstein, Reggie Watts, Nick Frost, and Richard Kind.  

The one major downfall for this film is that the time travel aspect becomes way too complicated. It starts out well enough and easy to follow, but when the twist happens, well, it starts to unravel. It becomes too much, and it’s not like it needs to be this complicated. They do their best to explain it all, but even after seeing this film a couple of times, it feels like they still skipped a beat here and there. The side characters are also mostly forgettable. What elevates them slightly are the voice performances, but there are so many side characters that come in for one or two gags that they are never brought up again or add anything to the overall story. There were some of the characters that had a lot of fun concepts to them, but there was a real struggle to remember their names. 

While Extinct is still one in a dozen of smaller film releases that normally come out to either rent or watch and are completely forgotten afterward, it does enough to actually warrant being remembered. It has some cute designs that look good in CGI, the writing is really snappy, and it will keep audiences more invested than other films of its kind. It’s more of a diamond in the rough-style hidden gem than a real bonafide gem, but if you are out of animated films to watch in between the major releases, then I personally recommend giving it a look-see. It does way more than most animated films, and I commend it for that. Even if the film fails on story and writing levels, at least it tries to make its experience memorable. Now then, we are diving into the world of Aardman with their newest stop-motion special, Robin Robin

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 240: Dogs in Space Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

The super talented teams who are making cartoons from 2010 to now are truly bringing in a new generation of stories and experiences. It doesn’t matter if they show up on Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Nickelodeon, Hulu, Netflix, and what have you, we are in a much better state of storytelling and what kind of stories we can tell now more than ever. Sure, we still get spin-offs, reboots, sequel series, and such, but that’s going to happen with every decade of TV animation. What’s so fun about the 2010s-to-now set of series coming out is that they are more committed to telling stories with themes that would have been shrugged off from the 70s, 80s, and even in the 90s. There were shows before then that dealt with heavy topics, but they were rare and definitely were not the norm. Now we have shows that deal with much more story-driven experiences and it helps make more substantial characters and experiences. Even shows aimed at little kids are becoming better, and one example we can look at for that is the new series from Jeremiah Cortez’s Dogs in Space. 

Created by Jeremiah Cortez and soon to be streaming on Netflix, the story follows a group of scientifically enhanced dogs that are set into an ‘out of this world’ adventure to find a new home for the humans. These dogs include our corgi leader Garbage, voiced by Haley Joel Osment, a shetland sheepdog warrior named Stella, voiced by Sarah Chalke, Nomi, a brash excitable pilot shih tzu voiced by Kimiko Glenn, Ed, a thieving Jack Russel Terrier voiced by Chris Parnell,and Chonies, a scientific chihuahua voiced by David Lopez. We also have our scared surveillance officer Loaf, voiced by William Jackson Harper. Can they find a planet good enough for the human race? What other dogs will our crack team of dogs encounter? What aliens will come into contact with them? 

This series is the 2021 version of 2020’s The Fungies, as in it’s a series with charm, some very sharp humor, and a lot of heart. It’s essentially Star Trek, but combined with animation, and no I don’t mean like Star Trek Lower Decks or that new Star Trek Prodigy series, but more with cute dogs and a “golden age” Simpsons era wit and humor attached to it. It might be a show aimed at younger kids, but there’s a bit of a peppery kick to the dialogue and character dynamics that make this show stand out from the rest. The show is definitely more about the adventure and comedy aspect, and while there is action, it’s not the overall focus. It might even be its weakest part, but we will get there when we get there. Most of the episodes are Garbage and his crew exploring the galaxy and encountering the dangers that come with every planet and for this first season, the planet hunting is only half of the plot as our fluffy heroes deal with the inner politics of how the colony deals with spats and rebellious dogs being bad boys instead of sweet little good boys. The different personalities of the teammates from Garbage’s doofy arrogant confidence, to Stella’s stalwart bravery, Kimo’s bombastic nature, the opportunistic kleptomaniac Ed, the calm and collected Chovies, and the hyper paranoid Loaf all work well to bring in some truly great and charming laughs. It even has a few dark jokes and many dog puns for those that like that kind of humor. Luckily, the personality is spread across the many side characters from the council on the ship, to random aliens and side characters seen throughout the show’s first 10 episodes. It makes for a lived-in world as we see what kind of ship the dogs run. 

What always amazes me about modern cartoons is how, while goofy at points, a majority of more story-driven shows introduce a more serious tone or theme to the overarching story. This show’s major theme is not only about trust and that typical friendship conquers all, but the running theme of Dogs in Space is our characters dealing with distrust and abandonment. It makes sense due to how dogs in real life become attached to the hip of good owners and when the owners have to leave or something happens to them, they get worried, scared, or maybe angry for feeling abandoned. It’s the main driving emotion for one of the characters in the show, and Garbage always worries that his messages aren’t getting to his owner who’s back on earth. It makes for a very endearing and heartfelt story, as you see these otherwise adorable poof balls fight space aliens and travel across the stars. 

Art direction-wise, it’s an adorable-looking show. The designs are simplistic, but in a good way, the characters are expressive, especially Loaf, and the team making this show was able to make characters with small eyes feel very expressive. Now, is it well animated? Why, yes! It might use a simpler design style, but if you have seen shows like Atomic Betty or Star vs. The Forces of Evil, then you know what kind of animation style they are using. It definitely feels similar to how they move in both shows. While the action is not the flashiest, it gets the job done, and due to how likable the characters are, you want them to do well and make the fights satisfying to watch. The voice cast is also stellar. It’s the most stand-out part of this overall show. As mentioned previously, you have Haley Joel Osmont, Kimiko Glenn, Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, David Lopez, William Jackson Harper, but due to this being fairly Star Trek-inspired, we also have Will Wheaton and Michael Dorn. Other incredible voice actors include Debra Wilson, JP Karliak, John DiMaggio, Rena Strober, Bobby Moynihan, and Dee Dee Magno Hall. 

Dogs in Space is a cute, charming, and ‘out of this world’ animated series. It sets out to be an amusing sci-fi space adventure, and that is what you will be getting. If you like dogs, which you had better, and adorable sci-fi adventures for all ages, then you will probably enjoy this series. Animation is in a healthier place than ever, and while there are plenty of improvements that need to be done within the animation industry, if we can get more shows like Centuarworld, Maya and The Three, Kid Cosmic, City of Ghosts, and Dogs in Space, then I’m all for seeing what the animation future has in store for us. Next up, we take a trip to both the US and China with this new US/China collaboration effort, Extinction

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 239: Poupelle of Chimney Town Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Studio 4C is one of the premiere animation studios from Japan. While they might not be as well known as Science Saru, Ghibli, Chizu, or Madhouse, their work is some of the most visually stunning and impressive to be seen. The thing is, you probably have seen their work. If it’s not Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game, then it may be their shorts seen in anthologies like Batman: Gotham Knight, Memories, and The Animatrix. You may also have seen their anthology films like Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond. Their other films include Tekkonkinkreet, Spriggan, Princess Arete, the Golden Age Arc Berserk films, Harmony, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, or the visual masterpiece from 2019, Children of the Sea. Whether you gel with their experiences or not, you can’t deny the immensely talented animators, directors, and artists they have that craft some of the most distinct films out there. They are also one of the earlier adopters of CGI among the many studios in Japan. It’s not always perfect, but when you live in a world that has both Ex-Arm and Tesla Note, you can do so much worse. Plus, a lot of Studio 4C’s work is quite good! This includes their newest CGI feature film, Poupelle of Chimney Town. 

Directed by Yusuke Hirota, the story follows a young boy named Lubicchi, dubbed by Antonio Raul Corbo. He lives with his mother in a large city known as Chimney Town, a grime-and-smoke-covered city where the only lights visible to the people are from the buildings, as the smoke is so thick that it covers the sky. Before he went missing, Lubicchi’s father Bruno, dubbed by Stephen Root, told Lubicchi about stars in the sky and a world not covered in smoke. Unfortunately, anything relating to said stars or any kind of optimism is squashed by a zealous cult that gets rid of people that bring that kind of stuff up. One day, Lubicchi encounters a being made entirely of trash, who is dubbed by Tony Hale. Lubicchi learns that this trash individual may have been from beyond the smog-and-smoke-filled sky, and decides that he wants to see what the outside world is like while avoiding the grasp of an evil cult. 

A good way to go into this film’s story is that it plays out more like a fairytale. It has very dream-logic  and fantasy world-like logic, but if you try to put too much logic in what is going on, then you will probably not like this movie. Luckily, there is more than one way to tell a story, and luckily, this film has a lot of substance behind its fairytale-like story with commentary about the environment, family, connection, believing in the truth, and is scathing towards organized cults and capitalism. The entire plot and why Chimney Town is in this condition is based around someone trying to solve the problem with greed. It’s a film with an ambitious story within its whimsy, and it finds a way to properly balance out both. It takes a lot of time to let the characters bond and let them breathe within its smog-filled world. Some characters are not as memorable as our two leads, but there are enough characters that are appealing that will make up for some of the film’s lesser characters. 

Animation-wise, this was going to be one of the interesting elements to the film. The original picture book has such a vibrant style that would be a challenge to bring it to life in film. The film and studio decides to go the route of using CGI animation, which to some animation purists is a sin when it’s really not. Sometimes, CGI is the only way to properly bring certain visual styles to life. While Japanese animation studios are still getting used to working with CGI, the visuals are really good here! The animation is snappy and expressive, the world around the characters is oozing with small details, and the world they have crafted feels fully realized. The music is also whimsical and even has a random Halloween dance number. It’s all composed by Yuta Bando and Youki Kojima. Voice acting-wise, the English dub is the first time I have seen Eleven Arts dive into the world of bringing on celebrity voice actors. At least they brought on great character actors with Tony Hale and Stephen Root having some of their best performances not only as voice actors, but actors in general. Antonio Raul Corbo is also good as our child lead. For one of his first voice overperformances, he does an excellent job. You also have Misty Lee, Hasan Minhaj, Ray Chase, Kari Walghren, Aleks Le, Mick Wingert, James Mathis, Laura Post, Greg Chun, and Fred Tatasciore. It’s a cast that does a fantastic job with their roles. 

Now, it might get overshadowed by the other foreign features being released during award season, and sadly, we might not be seeing this in limited release until 2022, but when you can find a way to watch the film, please do. It’s one of the most charming animated features from 2021 and one of the best and most visually stunning films from the acclaimed studio. It’s great that Eleven Arts is bringing over more animated fare and we can all hope they do more of that. Now then next time, we will be talking about another Netflix original series as we are diving deep into a few screeners. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Fall 2021 Anime Season Impressions Part 1

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

We have been on record talking about how the 2021 summer season was full of a ton of mediocre titles. It was a result of an anime industry that’s going to be burning itself out and not doing what most companies and industries should be doing. By that, I mean properly paying their animators, not taking on so many projects at once, and choosing original and adaptive work that aren’t pointless like Koikimo, Ex-Arm, Redo of a Healer, The Detective is Already Dead, Platinum End, and Itaden Deities. Fall 2021 seems like an apology for that season and the overall year, but I still stand that the anime industry needs to change its tune and actually do what would actually be helpful, and not constantly burn out animators due to bad working conditions. Luckily, a ton of anime this season was really good! Much of it was bad as well, but that’s more than Summer 2021 that had a smaller list of good or even great anime. Now then, let’s get started!

Slice of Life

Blue Period (Netflix) 

CW: a lot of Transphobic comments and commentary

This huge disappointment of an anime is based on the manga by Tsubasa Yamaguchi. The show is directed by Koji Masunari and Katsuya Asano, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by Seven Arcs. I was honestly excited to see it at first, because who wouldn’t want to see an art school anime? That sounds like it could lead to some great moments and story arcs. Sadly, what drags this entire show down is our lead in question. He really shouldn’t be the one we focus on, since he has the least interesting drive and story arc of the characters in the show. Every time Yuka would come on screen, I would want her there since our lead keeps deadnaming her multiple times. Why should we follow this unlikable passively mean spirited jerk when we could be following everyone else. The show also has some shoddy production values. It never looks consistently great, and even when the whimsy kicks in, the flat characters look awkward and inconsistent. Storywise, so many characters are introduced and you don’t get a lot of time to gel or vibe with anyone who isn’t our two leads, and one of our leads is terrible. It’s like the story justifies the lead’s transphobic comments about Yuka every step of the way, and that’s terrible. If this was given to KyoAni, Yuka would have been the lead and it would have been a much better experience. It could also be that Blue Period isn’t that great of a manga, since the writer of this anime, Reiko Yoshida, has worked on one of the best anime this season with The Heike Story, and Yoshida has worked with Naoko Yamada heavily in the past. I don’t know how many art-based anime are out there, but I feel like you could find much better shows about painting and drawing than Blue Period

Taishou Maiden Fantasy (Funimation) 

Based on the manga by Sana Kiriorka, this anime adaptation is directed by Jun Hatori, written by Hiroki Fukuda, and produced by SynergySP. What started with a slightly questionable relationship with a 17-year-old male lead and a girl who you only find out is 14 in episode three, turns out to be this low-key charming slice-of-life romance anime that really does invest time into our two leads bonding. The setting is as depressing as it could be with the male lead being banished from his family due to an injury and the death of his mother. The female lead is offered to our lead as a wife to pay off her family’s debt, and with all the combining elements, it finds a way to balance out the drama and the love these two characters have for one another. It has a few uneven moments where the drama overtakes the love, but I found myself loving the series as the episodes went on. Just keep in mind that you have to look at all of this through a historical lens. Maybe it could have been better told and they could have told us the lead’s age in the first episode instead of episode three, but if you are looking for a, so far, sweet and caring anime, you should give this one a watch. 

My Senpai is Annoying (Funimation) 

Based on the manga by Shiro Manta, this delightful anime is directed by Ryota Itoh, written by Yoshimi Narita, and produced by Doga Kobo. It was surprisingly refreshing to see not one, but a few anime this season have adult characters. My Senpai is Annoying, while having a few clunky elements here and there, really hit a spot I was missing with a lot of anime. Not only is it well animated, sweet, and funny, but it was nice to see an anime about adults doing adult things. No teen dramas, no power fantasies, no edgelord power wish fulfillment, and you get the idea. It’s all about the connection between our short leading lady and a giant wall of a man as they venture through working in their office and dealing with their cohorts. The overall execution of laughs, laid-back atmosphere, story, and relatable character dynamics make it one of the more compellingly watchable anime of the season. 

Komi Can’t Communicate (Netflix)

Based on the massively popular manga by Tomohito Oda, the anime adaptation is directed by Ayumu Watanabe and Kazuki Kawagoe, written by Deko Akao (aka Hitomi Mieno), and produced by OLM. I knew this property was super popular, and when you have a rockstar of a team and studio working on translating it, then you have a real deal gem of a slice-of-life comedy anime that so far has been one of the best anime, not only for this season, but of 2021. It might have a very straight forward gimmick, but how they take advantage of Komi’s severe case of social anxiety is clever! So far, she is never the punchline and is more of the instigator of the joke, while everyone reacting to her ends up as the punchline. It makes her a constantly interesting character, and the cast of shenanigan-filled students only add on and reinforce the strong comedy chops. Like I said though, when the show is able to slow down and let the characters have their moment to shine, it is just as well executed as the jokes that came before and after it. It’s easily an anime I will gladly keep up with, and as long as this team is working on it at all times, well, you can count on me to be back every episode. 


Platinum End (Crunchyroll/Funimation) 

Content warning: A child dies, and a whole lot of the setting is based on people who were committing suicide. Oh, and the villain lusts after middle school girls and is a highschooler. 

Based on the manga by the duo behind Death Note, Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba, this anime adaptation is directed by Hideya Takahashi and Kazuchika Kise, written by Shin’ichi Inozume, and produced by Signal MD. So, it’s a death battle anime with a twist using angels and the goal is to become God. What could possibly go wrong with this one?

 I mean, it’s the Death Note duo, so everything can go wrong. Not only is it not visually interesting, the animation quality is lackluster, the dialogue is terribly written, the pacing is all over the place, and for a show that’s all about contestants who were chosen due to almost committing suicide, the show is really not wanting to be careful about treading those waters. It’s needlessly edgy, the action is mediocre, the characters that are the focus are the wrong ones, and the villain was the most interesting character until they revealed a creepy plot point in episode five. Platinum End is an extremely slapdash anime that seems to really want to be done with itself. Maybe if the anime industry wasn’t such a wreck, it could have been in better hands, but due to how, from my research, this manga wasn’t popular, why the heck did they adapt it? It truly became one of the worst anime of the season and worst of the year for me. 

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window (Crunchyroll)

CW: A lot of metaphorical assault, abusive language, gore, and lack of consent. 

Based on the manga by Tomoko Yamashita, this anime adaptation is directed by Daiji Iwanaga and Yoshitaka Yasuda, written by Ayumi Sekine, and produced by Zero-G. There is a market for boy love series, and this one sounds interesting with the supernatural thriller element mixed in with the romance angle. What has and does bother me is the power dynamic between our two male leads. One of them is extremely possessive, abusive, and does a lot of metaphorical assault to the other lead. It wants to come off as titillating, but when one side of the dynamic is not enjoying it every single time, and is treated like garbage by everyone around him, it’s an issue. Even without the problematic dynamic, the show’s story is not interesting. You would think there would be more focus on the mystery killer, but that’s not really the case from the three episodes I watched. It’s more interested in getting to the “titillating” elements than anything else. It’s not particularly animated well either, with it mostly being just on the borderline of “okay”. As the show went on, it started to drop some interesting lore and story beats, but after a while, I realized I wasn’t hooked or invested either way. It’s at least trying to be compelling, but it’s not winning me over. 

Visual Prison (Funimation) 

Content Warning: slight incest between two brothers

This original anime was directed by Takeshi Furuta and Tomoya Tanaka, written by Yukie Sugawara, and produced by A-1 Pictures. I was really rooting for this anime to be this year’s Hypnosis Mic. All it needed to be was fun dorky vampire rock, and just enough story and world-building to make it decent to sit through, but sadly that’s not what we get. While the music and visuals are overall great, something is missing with this show’s premise. 

It has an unbalanced way of pacing out the story, characters, and music. For an anime that’s all about the music, the music seems like the least important part. The writing is also extremely drab and doesn’t warrant the fun nature this premise promises. I don’t care about all of the characters or their drama and backstories. It delivers on the fanservice of hot male characters being hot male characters and touching each other, but even that unravels when there is metaphorical incest involved. There isn’t much else that is going to gravitate you to it. If you like very vapid anime trying to push idols and rock music, you will probably like this show, but I just can’t seem to really want to watch future episodes. Maybe I will see how it ends, but I can’t see this one finding a long-lasting audience. 

Mieruko Chan (Funimation) 

Content Warning: Lots of high school girls undressed and or sexualized in this show

Based on the manga by Tomoki Izumi, this adaptation is directed by Yuki Ogawa and Takahiro Majima, written by Kenta Ihara, and produced by Passione. This is one of the most frustrating anime I have ever watched this year. On one hand, you have a very creative and interesting horror-comedy about a girl who can see the most diesel-grade nightmare fuel, and has to avoid acknowledging their existence in order to live a normal life. At the three-episode mark, they introduce some very interesting story beats and world-building elements with how ghosts are connected to certain people and how they portray a person’s true nature. These story beat introductions continue throughout the currently released episodes. It just sucks though that getting to those good parts means sitting through so much gross horny stuff that it almost becomes not worth the trouble. I heard that it gets less horny as time goes on, but I wish the show was more about the horror comedy elements instead of the ecchi fanservice. If that stuff doesn’t bother you, then that’s fine! It’s just my impressions of the first six episodes. 

Pride of Orange (Funimation) 

This anime is based on the mixed media project of the same name by EXNOA. The anime is directed by Takebumi Anzai, written by Touko Machida, and produced by C2C. This is absolutely an odd anime when you first look at it. It’s a sports anime and possibly the first hockey anime (not to be confused with the first hockey manga because there are a few), and it’s not just a sports anime, but also has elements of idol anime and cute girls doing cute things. I know some people have criticized this show for not getting the point fast enough and that it’s just another cute girls doing cute things show, but you know what? I honestly like that the show is trying to be its own thing. The story-telling execution maybe could have been a bit tighter with certain story beats, but I like that they are taking their time a little more with getting the team together, the drama that unfolds, and everyone learning how to play and be good at hockey. It is consistently endearing to watch. I don’t honestly care if there are better versions of this show or this type of story as long as the one I am watching is doing something that is keeping my investment time justified. It’s a gorgeously animated show that almost made me think if this was actually made by KyoAni, but it was not. With a solid cast of cute anime girls wanting to learn the extremely fast and sometimes violent world of hockey, there will be days where I can drop everything I’m doing and watch it! 

Selection Project (Funimation) 

This is yet another anime based on a multimedia project. It’s interesting what kind of projects end up in every season of anime. Anyway, this is based on the manga by Koji Azuma. In the directing chair is Daisuke Hiramaki, Yuya Takahashi is piloting the writer’s chair, and the animation is being handled by Doga Kobo. The first thing that you will notice is how gorgeous this show is. I know idol anime are popular, and I shouldn’t be shocked, but considering how mediocre some idol anime look and are, this one has some stellar visual production values, and a more film-like way of executing shots and atmosphere. The other solid hook is that while we will be getting to know our future idols, the competition itself will be putting them all against one another in an American Idol or The Voice way of competition. Even with the likable anime girls and our lead’s weak heart story that is not new in idol anime, the tone doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to dip into more comedy beats, and the dialogue flows more naturally and casually between our characters bouncing off of one another. It’s an idol anime that has gotten me hooked on what is going to happen to these girls and that hasn’t happened since last year with If My Favorite Pop Idol Makes it to The Budokan, I Would Die. That’s saying something due to how many idol anime come out every season. It feels good to say that. 

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut (Funimation) 

This distinct sci-fi drama is based on the light novels and manga by Keisuke Makino. The anime adaptation is directed by Akitoshi Yokoyama, written by Keisuki Makino, and produced by Arvo Animation. When the first episode was playing, I was not really hooked on this huge alternative history setting. At least to me, it was pointless to make an entirely different alternate and fictional world. Once I got over that personal hurdle, when they put away the alternate world and history books, the training of a vampire to go into space and her reactions to other humans led this to be one of the most fascinating anime of the season. The training sequences were easily the highlight, and the moments where she and her handler get to talk and shoot the breeze with the world around them and the discrimination against vampires were always interesting. While the training and the risk of the government meddling behind the scenes due to this being the space race era of history is there, no one would care if the characters didn’t match the rest of the show and this ends up becoming one of the best anime of the season. 

The Heike Story (Funimation) 

Adapted from the stories of The Tale of the Heike, this anime is directed by Naoko Yamada, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by Science Saru. I never knew I wanted a period drama with a slight supernatural angle and the pacing of a slice-of-life story. What an incredible experience. You would think it gets confusing at points with how many characters are introduced and how time flies in this show, but it was very easy to follow. It’s because the main focus on the characters and the internal family politics are compelling and they keep you watching the show. It’s never too bogged down by its own history and world and focuses on the characters. I shouldn’t be shocked since Yamada is a top-tier director. It’s easily one of the standout anime of the year, one of the best of the season, and one of my favorites of the season. If you have Funimation, please do watch this show.  

The Vampire Dies in No Time (Funimation) 

The shockingly funny horror-comedy anime is based on the manga by Itaru Bonnoki. Now, on the anime side of things, the show is directed by Hiroshi Kojina, written by Yukie Sugawara, and produced by Studio MADHOUSE. Instead of an epic action adventure series starring a cool confident vampire slayer taking down a powerful vampire lord, the two characters are complete dorks! The supposed vampire lord is actually not all that powerful and turns to sand the moment you spook him accidentally. Our vampire hunter is short-tempered, impatient, has an intense fear of celery, and is stuck with making new books of his exploits or else his publicist will lock him in an iron maiden until he does. This concoction results in a ton of laughs with premises that would work well with these two and running with them. You would think the sand element of the vampiric lead would be extremely tiring extremely fast, but they have somehow found a way to make it work and gave me a laugh every time he turned into sand. The side characters are also a colorful cast of vampire hunters, higher-ups, a human/vampire hybrid, and everything in-between that makes this one of the most amusing series of the season and of the year. In a year full of really solid comedies with great hooks, that had me by episode one. Also, John is the best pet in the world who is adorable. I love him, and will hurt anyone that dares say John isn’t cute or cuddly. 

Sakugan (Crunchyroll) 

Directed and written by Jun’ichi Wada and produced by Satelight, this anime is based on the novel by Nekotaro Inui, which also had a manga adaptation by Keisuki Sato. While the name might be similar to the term Sakuga, which defines when anime goes all out with its animation, what we have is a wildly entertaining sci-fi journey following a father and daughter duo as they explore an underground world to find a legendary location. It has some of the best production values around, and it reminds me of the vibes and experiences that anime from the mid to late 90s had that were joyful and not nihilistic and terrible from the late 80s/early 90s OVA boom. It’s also one of the few shows that knows how to balance out its CGI and 2D animation, and one doesn’t get neglected over the other. Both styles of animation mix well with one another, and the writing and world-building is also on par with the series. I went over my three episode limit because I was enjoying the show that much with its characters and action. It’s easily one of the stand out series of the Fall 2021 line-up.

Let’s Talk About That Boss Baby Oscar Nomination

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

I was on a podcast recently talking about what the award season looks like for animation. One of the companies that came up with just a brief mention was DreamWorks. We discussed how it really doesn’t have a leg in the race this award season with two films that aren’t all that stellar. When you are competing against heavyweights like Belle, Encanto, Luca, Where’s Anne Frank, Flee, and Summit of The Gods and all you have is Spirit Untamed and Boss Baby: Family Business, well, that doesn’t look great. 

Now, some may argue that it is possible, due to how the first film was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and it was a financial success that spawned a Netflix series and the sequel. Yes, there is a chance for it to maybe slide in and get a nomination here or there, but in the grand scheme of things, Boss Baby: Family Business will not be nominated. It has a lot of elements to love about it, but it’s a film that would have maybe done better in a weaker year than this one. A lot of people seem to think just because one film made it, it means the sequel will make it when that isn’t always the case. 

What many seem to forget is everything around a film’s release matters. It’s important to know what the time period is, the political climate, the release window, what else was getting released during or around that time, what kind of year was it for animation and film, and what have you. I know many will groan at that listing of things that can and will absolutely affect a film’s release, but I don’t know what else to tell you.All you can do is to get over it. You do need to take in what was going on at the time, so let’s break it down bit by bit. 

First up, the theatrical animation climate for 2017 was a vastly different climate than what we were dealing with back in 2016, which many would argue was an incredible year for animation. 2017 on the other hand was sparse and mostly filled with US-based animated features that were middling to lackluster with a few that were really good. This was the year we got The LEGO Batman Movie, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, The Nut Job 2, The Emoji Movie, Ferdinand, Coco, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and you get the idea. If you wanted your art intake, then you had a much better time following what was getting released by the likes of GKIDS, Elevenarts, and other distributors that year. That way, if you felt burnt out from the US animation scene, you could watch films like Mary and The Witch’s Flower, A Silent Voice, In This Corner of The World, The Breadwinner, Loving Vincent, Window Horses, Birdboy and The Forgotten Children, and The Girl Without Hands. 

With that out of the way, you know what also happened in 2017? You can probably guess what happened since what happened in 2017 was a result of something that happened in 2016. Due to that world-changing event, shows like SNL decided to parody the infamous person of interest by having Alec Baldwin play him in skits making fun of the person in question. As you can tell, due to a multitude of events that are political and entertainment-based, the fact there was a movie about a baby who may or may not be inspired by a multitude of characters fictional or real voiced by the guy doing the impression of the president at the time, well, it was going to have some kind of appeal. 

With the US-based animation scene feeling a touch lackluster, the academy and most award season groups were allergic to overseas animated fare. The one film that, while not the most critically well-received, was part of the pop culture zeitgeist for the year, so it’s not a surprise that the film was nominated. Online film fans and snobs constantly talk about how award shows should nominate the “best” but also, the most important films to that year. That means that a film like The Boss Baby, in the world of animation and film in 2017, is important. It sure does sound like your brain is going to explode with thinking that, but talking about the most influential animated films means including films like Despicable Me, Minions, Hotel Transylvania, The LEGO Movie, and you get the idea. 

Context is everything, and now we must ask the question about the sequel. Normally, since the first film was nominated, that would mean the second film surely has a chance, right? Since this editorial doesn’t need to be longer, let’s break down why Boss Baby: Family Business will not be nominated. 

1. Too much competition from other studio distributors like Disney, Pixar, Netflix, Sony,  GKIDS, and Neon. 

2. It wasn’t received that much better than the last film. 

3. It very much left the pop culture zeitgeist as quickly as it arrived. 

4. Did you remember there was a Boss Baby sequel this year? 

While there were plenty of other films that were worthy of being chosen in 2017 for the Oscars, looking back at everything going on during that chaotic year, it’s not a real surprise it was chosen. Even if the Academy wasn’t allergic to all foreign animation, what other US animated film would you have chosen? Cars 3? I doubt it. Despicable Me 3? It made a billion, but Illumination was never in the running for awards. What about the two LEGO Movies? They were pretty neglectful of the first one, and there was no changing that fact with the voters. So, you either go with the films that were chosen or you risk the academy choosing lesser films. You COULD pray to whoever will listen for the other foreign features, which they won’t do unless they make a huge splash or were festival favorites. At the end of the day, award shows don’t truly show our personal preferences of what we find to be the best films of the year, and you should like whatever you want. Just know that sometimes, the most important films of every year, or what you would consider important, are not the most acclaimed films of any given year. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 238: Fortune Favors Lady Nikkuko Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

2021 seems to have brought up a debate about directors and studios, and the quandary about how they go from grand-scale philosophical struggles about life and being human, and then go to making an experience that’s smaller in scale. That’s not really fair to expect directors or studios to keep one-upping their latest projects. The animation industry is already a really taxing career even if it can be fun and produce amazing films and shows. It does seem a touch silly to say a film is a downgrade from the last one because it’s a different type of story. As long as the film is good and the context of the production is relevant, it shouldn’t matter what came before or after a certain film release. Plus, when you are a director like Ayumu Watanabe, who has a ton of great work behind him, it should be no surprise that his newest film, Fortune Favors Nikuko, is quite good. 

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story follows a young girl named Kikuko, voiced by Cocomi. She lives with her mom, a woman of size and full of positive energy and spirit named Nikuko, voiced by Shinobu Otoke. They go about their lives in a small town while living in a boat house by the shore and grill where NIkuko works. There has always been this tension between Kikuko and Nikuko, but Kikuko hasn’t really been able to figure it out. Will she be able to find happiness with her life in the town and with her mother? 

So, this sounds like another slice-of-life film that focuses on small vignettes rather than having an actual three or five act structure. Normally that would make a plot feel aimless, but there is a throughline with the small story beats shown throughout the film. If you had to find an arc that keeps the experience together, it’s Kikuko’s journey of who she is, and what she is looking for in life and her relationship with her mother. It’s a story that focuses on themes of family and connection. The film delves into the connections between our leads with the other townsfolk and teenagers. It’s a very laid back movie, as it’s more focused on the smaller character moments and the comedy sprinkled throughout the film. While there are some unfortunate fat jokes at the beginning of the film due to how they make a point to focus on Nikuko’s weight, they back down from them and what is nice is that Nikuko is a fantastic character. While life has been rough for her, she has an extremely upbeat vibe and is probably the most expressive and the speediest individual in the entire town. Everyone loves her, and she’s a real bright spot to many of the people in town. It’s a film that takes its time with its story and the way it builds its bonds with the characters. 

Animation-wise, this is Ayumu Watanabe and Studio 4C, so the animation is topnotch. They take the same approach with Children of the Sea with lucious backgrounds, color usage, and smooth movements. The character designs come from Kenichi Konishi who did character designs for Tokyo Godfathers, Tale of Princess Kaguya, My Neighbors The Yamadas, and Bokurano. The music was composed by Takatsugu Muramatsu who also composed the music for Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall. The acting is great with Cocomi, Shinobu Otake, HIro Shimono, Ikuji Nakamura, Izumi Ishii, Matsuko Deluxe, Natsuki Hanae, and Riho Yoshioka. 

The one downside to this film is that, like most episodic stories, the third act conflict comes up fairly abruptly. Yes, it’s a way for the story to wrap up, but it always seems like the tone suddenly changes and then everything is in trouble at this point. It works some of the time, but you can always tell when a film is about to start wrapping itself up. It’s a shame, because the rest of the third act is so delightful and heartwarming with a real emotional gut punch at the end that really solidifies the film’s theme of motherhood and family. 

It’s a surprise that this film hasn’t been picked up by anyone, which is impressive, because Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko should have some fortune for it. GKIDS will probably pick this film up for a 2022 release, and when you can find a theater to play it or when it hits on demand, give it a watch. Animation is a beautiful medium of storytelling, because you can tell any kind of story, and space it however you want. If we limit how stories and arcs are told, then we are only limiting the art of filmmaking. For now, we shall move on to another Japanese film that was at Animation is Film that Elevenarts is releasing with Poupelle of Chimney Town

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 237: Maya and The Three

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Jorge Gutierrez is one of the most visually distinct artists in the animation scene. His distinct Hispanic/Lantinx inspiration has made him a fan-favorite artist for his work on El Tigre and 2014’s The Book of Life, to name a few of his incredible works. When we talk about artists with visually distinct styles, he is one to be on the lookout for. There is something so incredibly charming and appealing about his work, and hearing that he was one of the original artists picked up to make something original for Netflix was thrilling to hear. Luckily, his newest project, Maya and The Three, a nine-part limited event series, is quite possibly his best work and one of the best new shows/event series of 2021. 

The story revolves around a young lass named Maya, voiced by Zoe Saldaña. She lives with her family who are mighty warriors that include her father King and queen Teca, voiced by real-life couple and creators of the show Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua. On her 15th birthday, the underworld gods tell her that she must come with them to pay for her sins and past actions made by her family. To try and prevent her fate, Maya goes on an adventure to try and uphold the prophecy that her parents told her, about how a mighty eagle warrior and her allies will take down the God of War and save their people. 

The best part about this limited series is how well it fleshes out its characters. The creators tend to take an admirable amount of time to set everything up, and it never feels awkward or unnatural for the plot to snap back from giving each of the backstories of our characters to going back to the main plot of the episode. It’s a straightforward story as Maya encounters her three allies while taking on Gods of all shapes and sizes. It makes for a fun watch that never skips on what needs to be told and the stellar action sequences. While there are goofy and silly elements to the overarching story, it’s one that can get dark, and there will be character deaths. It’s a tale that has themes of death, dealing with loss, family, discrimination, and dealing with legacy. You may assume this is for kids only, but be ready to turn into an emotional messy blob with how difficult the story beats will impact you in the feels. If you have loved the stories from films like Kubo and the Two Strings, then you will feel right at home with this show’s tone. There are some that may say it would have been cool to see as a movie, but the nine-episode runtime gives everything enough room to develop. Sure, there could be some downtime for the characters to breathe, but it’s a show that knows where it wants to go with its story. 

One of the goals for this show from Jorge and Sandra was to make Maya a series with a theatrical look and budget, and boy howdy, they got it down. This is one of the best-looking tv/event series you could find on the streaming service. The CGI is top quality from the animation studio Tangent Animation, Mexopolis, Maya Entertainment, and Netflix Animation. The designs carry Jorge and Sandra’s iconic visual flair with the designs with Jorge translating extremely well into CGI. Characters have a ton of detail to them, but it never feels too busy. You can tell what kind of character each individual is by the look of their designs. They even throw in some 2D sequences to add a little flair to the overall polished package. The world they craft is so creative. Rooster-shaped magic schools, lunar moon islands, mist-covered temples, colossal golems, neon speed lines, upside-down pyramids, gods that can cause tornadoes, gator-headed gods, and you get the idea. They went all out to make a fantastic world in which everyone thrives. 

The voice cast is fantastic, with a Hispanic/Latinx cast that has a ton of amazing actors and some of them get to play against type, which is really refreshing to see when you sometimes only see these actors play one type of character. You, of course, have the incredible  Zoe Saldaña who is fantastic as our lead heroine. You also have Diego Luna, Stephanie Beatriz, Gabriel Iglesias, Alfred Molina, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Trejo, Allen Maldonado, Cheech Marin, Rosie Perez, Wyclef Jean, Queen Latifah, Carlos Alazraqui, Eric Bauza, Joaquin Cosio, Isabela Merced, Rita Moreno, and other incredible voices. They put out some of their best work as these characters, and the voice acting is matched by an incredible score composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed the music for The Last of Us series, Brokeback Mountain, The Book of Life, and Narcos: Mexico. Tim Davies, who also helped with music for Darksiders, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Batman: Arkham City, The Simpsons Movie, Ant-Man, Crimson Peak, Frozen II, and many other shows, films, and games also composed the show’s score.

The fact of the matter is, Maya and the Three is incredible. This is one of those event series that you get hyped for, and the hype is 100% worth it. It’s incredible to see a creator like Jorge and his amazing team put together something truly inspiring, grand, and beautiful. You have one of the best stories told in animation this year, and if you are in the mood for something truly distinct, then you will need to watch this epic series. Now then, I’m going to keep what’s coming next under wraps. You will just have to check in next time to see the next review. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 236: My Little Pony – A New Generation Review

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There is always this hurdle that fans of a new film or show based on a beloved property has to go through whether they like it or not, the new iteration of said property. With something like My Little Pony, the last incarnation of the show had a decade worth of seasons, DTV specials, and a feature-length film. Like, that’s a ton of stuff for one generation of a show. It’s time for a change of pace and that’s going to happen for any long-time running series. At the end of the day, what it all adds up to is that the new incarnation of the franchise adds something distinct to make it stand out, and the execution of said new entry in the franchise is entertaining. Luckily, My Little Pony: A New Generation has put its best hooves forward for a rather magical time. I promise you, the horse puns will be as minimal as possible in this review. 

Our story follows Sunny Starscout, voiced by Vanessa Hudgens. She is an earth pony that lives in a nice oceanside town known as Maretime Bay, a community full of only earth ponies. In this incarnation of the franchise, it takes place after a rather long length of time from the last show, and now the earth ponies, the pegasi, and unicorns are segregated and live separately from one another. Sunny is the only one to believe that there used to be a time period where they all lived in harmony, and is constantly laughed at for believing in something as optimistic as living together in peaceful harmony. One day, as she is almost forced back to her place, a unicorn shows up and causes the entire town to crumble into chaos. This new unicorn is named Izzy Moonbow, voiced by Kimiko Glenn in her second horse/pony appearance this year alongside the amazing Centaurworld. Sunny soon realizes that something is amiss in Equestria due to the fact that unicorns can’t use their magic. Sunny and Izzy then go on a journey around the land to try and reunite the three races and bring the world together. Along their journey, they meet two pegasi ponies named Zephyrina Storm and her sister Pipp Petals voiced by Liza Koshy and Sofia Carson, and Sunny’s friend from Maretime Hitch Trailblazer, voiced by James Marsden. Can our heroes find a way to unite the world and bring metaphorical and literal magic back to the world? 

With this being a brand new batch of characters and a new setting, is there enough here to make the film and world feel different from the previous show? The world feels a little more technologically advanced with certain pieces of tech like phones and HD screens being noticeable, which doesn’t fully take away from the magic and timelessness of the previous show, and honestly adds a bit more to the overall theme of how the world has metaphorically and literally lost all of the magic. It still has its fantastical details, but the setting helps bring the film up to date in a better way than the 90s version did where they took out the magic and just placed the ponies in a “50s era/Happy Days” setting. It takes a pseudo similar approach to how Onward handled its lost magic approach, but without the discrimination and themes of segregation and propagandistic campaigns. 

Oh yeah, while this is a film based on a toy line of multi-colored ponies, the film is unapologetic with its themes and commentary. The overall world in this film is split up, due to the works of discrimination and propaganda fueled by racism and it’s also mentioned in the songs as well. Sure, this is nothing new in the world of My Little Pony, but it’s nice to see them not regress in terms of world-building and storytelling. This has happened before where the previous incarnations had some substance to them, but then the more recent one was just “sell toys who cares about plot and substance”.  While the story and characters do feel like this is a pilot film for an upcoming series, the characters are likable. They are distinct within their designs and personalities even down to subtle animation quirks that they are given due to this being a film. It’s also nice that they aren’t going full tilt with “they are the previous generation, but 2.0” with the cast of characters. They all feel distinct, and this is the first time in a while where a male lead is introduced into the core cast. Some of them could have had a bit more time to be fleshed out, but again, this is probably a pilot film and their personalities are going to be expanded upon in the main series. 

Animation-wise, while it won’t be competing against some of the bigger CGI films of the year like Luca and the upcoming Encanto, A New Generation does look attractive. It has good character animation, the texture compositing makes for a rather lovely film, the color palette is pleasing, and it’s pretty much a better-looking version of the other toy and show-based film of this year, Paw Patrol: The Movie. Boulder Media, the Irish studio behind the first season of The Amazing World of Gumball, and many other productions helm the animation here, and they did a fantastic job. You don’t need to spend millions and millions of dollars on theatrical/feature animation, you just need to know how to work around the budget and make it look satisfactory. Having the highest-end animation doesn’t always mean the film is going to be good. 

The voice cast is quite strong with actors that include Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Sofia Carson, Liza Koshy, Elizabeth Perkins, Ken Jeong, Jane Krakowski, Phil LaMarr, and Michael McKean. And yes, the original cast of the previous incarnation of the franchise does make an appearance with Tara Strong, Tabitha St. Germain, Andrea Libman, Ashleigh Ball all playing their respective characters for a humorous and lovely 2D animated sequence. The songs are also another mainstay from the franchise and they are quite good in this film. They were composed by Alan Schmuckler and Michael Maher, while Heitor Pereira composed the overall score of the film. The songs are diverse in tunes and the singing is actually on point for a lot of the characters, but there are going to be songs you will like more than others. 

There are only a few criticisms to be found with this film. The first one is that the story and its overall execution does feel like a pilot film for a TV series. The pacing feels a touch repetitive in terms of how the story unfolds, and like previously said in the review, not all of the five main characters get development. The later they are introduced, the less time they have on screen. They are likable, but if you were a fan of these characters, then you will have to wait and see how they turn out in the upcoming TV series. There are also some mixed feelings overall to be had with how the final act unfolds. It’s like when you go from Bayonetta 1’s final boss, which is this deity that throws literal universes at you, and you finish it off by throwing it into the sun, to Bayonetta 2’s final boss who is this human-sized boss when the previous bosses were gigantic individuals. It feels like a step backward to go from a powerful demonic pony from the first season of the previous show to a mama’s boy that uses something that you would find in a Super Mario game piloted by Bowser Jr. He fits the overall theme of the film, but still. 

A New Generation is, well, a new incarnation of the franchise that hits it out of the park with an overall fantastic first impression. It has a solid core theme, the animation is quite lovely, and it’s an enjoyable time with a solid soundtrack to boot. The fact that there was a lot of obvious effort put into the film is incredible. This could have easily been some slapdash film put together to get the new series off the ground without doing anything different, and yet here we are in a period of time where even some films made with a license in tow can be rather delightful experiences. If you are hesitant to check out this new film because you were such a huge fan of the last show, well, it’s understandable, but you should also get over it. Embrace both the old and the new. It’s on Netflix for free, so you have nothing but time to waste in that regard. Next time, we shall journey back to Netflix for a limited series that is such a delight! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!