Q&A With Lamya’s Poem Director Alex Kronemer

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this Interview!)

I am so pumped to be attending the online version of the Annecy International Online Film Festival this year, because I really enjoyed it last year. I had the honor of getting in contact with the distributor of one of the films in competition, Lamya’s Poem, and with the director of the film Alex Kronemer to talk about it! I hope you all enjoy the interview as much as I had fun interviewing the director and reviewing the film.

Q: First off, congrats on getting into the main competition side of Annecy! I remember seeing the Work in Progress video last year, and was very intrigued about the story and how the final product would unfold. How does it feel to be selected in the main competition side of the festival? If you can, can you tell us the process you and your team went through to submit it? Did you submit to both the main category and the Contrechamp category, or were you only able to choose one or the other?

The submission process was handled by our international sales agent, WestEnd Films. The film was submitted as a feature, and it was the festival who chose to invite it to be part of the competition – which of course we were delighted about.


Q: What attracted you to this project?

Several years ago, during one of the worst periods of fighting in Syria when over 12 million Syrians lost their homes and half became refugees, a story came to our attention about a group of Syrian refugees in a park in Athens who were reading Rumi’s poetry to each other. This caught our attention. Rumi’s poetry is often associated with themes of love, which seem very remote from the experiences of these refugees. But upon deeper examination, we learned that it wasn’t as strange as it might appear at first glance.

Rumi’s poetry is rooted in parts of his life story that are much deeper—and earlier—than is often understood. As a boy, Rumi was himself what we could call a refugee, as his family was forced to flee the Mongol Invasion that swept across Central Asia and over much of the Arab Middle East. During this period, he is known to have been haunted by frightening dreams of people calling for his help, which his father interpreted for him as people in times and places he could hardly imagine needing his words. Literature is a way of overcoming trauma – reading it, but also writing it. Those Syrian refugees in that Athens park needed Rumi. And through the connections he had to such people—even people living 800 years later–he needed them to have a reason to write and through that rescue his own soul. He needed those refugees as much as they needed him.

Around this time I met a family of Syrian refugees living in Cairo during a trip I took there. One of them was a young girl who shared some of her experiences of trying to be a normal young teenager in the midst of war and displacement. Her name was Lamya.

After that encounter the script almost wrote itself.

Q: At any point in the early side of production, was it always meant to be an animated film, or did you consider at one point a live-action approach? Personally, I find there are no limits in telling stories in animated form.

The film was imagined from the start as animation. Even though I never did an animated project before, the magical element of the story made Lamya and young Rumi animated characters in my mind.

Q: When crafting this story, when you and your team started out, what were the most important aspects that you wanted to nail down? Like, what were the elements of the story and the animation that were top priority?

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” This is one of Rumi’s most quoted lines and is the main theme of the film. I wanted the story to not only shed light on the plight of Syrian Refugees, but also speak more universally to the human condition. We all experience hardships and loss in our lives, even if not as extraordinary as the losses experienced by Lamya and her real-life counterparts. In those moments we are often pulled toward bitterness, anger, and debilitating self-pity. But as Rumi says, those same experiences can also open us to greater compassion, patience, and mercy toward others. “The world keeps breaking your heart until it opens,” says Rumi in another famous poem, which we include in the film along with some of Rumi’s other poetry. Suffering can seem meaningless. But it can also create rewarding connections to others and bring us to a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Q: When you all set out to make this film, to which audience did you want to aim this animated experience?

The intense situations and mature themes of the film make an older audience one of the main targets, however we avoided any depictions of graphic violence and included a younger, rascally character (Bassam) to make the film something that can also be viewed and enjoyed by families.

Q: The animation has this charming mix of visuals that remind me of a children’s storybook. What was the decision-making behind what the film was going to look like in between the different story lines and how they connected to one another?

In designing Lamya’s Poem, we set out with the goal of creating a film that would have a refined, artistic look appropriate to the topic. We drew inspiration and techniques from several sources, including graphic novels and classical paintings, to create our visual palette. Our intent was to compliment the mature nature of some of the themes of the film with the grit and texture afforded by visible brush strokes, roughened textures, and imperfect color fills.

In this classic tale of good versus evil, we used green and red as beacons of guidance for the audience in the film. Through these uses of color, as well as many symbolic visual metaphors, we were able to support the storytelling. For example, in the beginning as Lamya dreams of chasing fireflies in a beautiful garden, we opted for a subtle but peaceful green as the dominant hue in the night sky. The use of green is extended to the fireflies, which throughout the film, symbolize hope. Green is also the color of Lamya’s teacher’s sweater, whose guidance nurtures the start of her journey. In contrast, red hints at the corruption of anger and hatred which stain the dream world and even flicker within Lamya as she struggles. We see it in her eyes, which are a window into the hope and despair she feels as a refugee.

While doing justice to the tragic reality of such a life, Lamya’s Poem also evokes a sense of rich culture through classical painting techniques, bold silhouettes and large vistas. The use of a wide visual format for the film helped to further the sense of scale and adventure.

Q: Obviously with the political climate going on around about immigration and the uproar in the middle east, due to the setting and the commentary touched upon in the film, was it at all emotionally draining due to what is going on in the real world to work on this film?

It was the emotional call to address the Syrian Refugee crisis in some way, to at least try, that was the context for why the story of the Syrians reading poetry in Athens affected me so deeply. And it remains one of the goals of the film to help in some way. In fact, a humanitarian educational project using the film has already been launched. It is called “Unfold Your Own Myth,” which is a line of Rumi’s poetry and the last line of the film. The project takes its inspiration from the relationship between Lamya and the young Rumi and is a program aimed at young refugees, migrants, and Muslim youth to help them overcome dislocation and loss through writing and sharing poetry. It is a project to help them gain agency over the circumstances of their lives through gaining control over their personal narratives.

I must mention at this point our producer, Sam Kadi, who in addition to being a gifted film maker and dramatist, is a Syrian who grew up on some of the same Aleppo streets we depict in Lamya’s Poem. His experiences and connections to Syria helped center the film throughout the process. I also have to mention some of the Syrian Refugees that we consulted with regularly – most of whom wanted their names withheld out of fear of putting their families back in Syria in danger. One who we worked most closely with was nearly deported due to some of the draconian rules put into place during the Trump administration, and I lived her fears with her during much of the production. Happily, I can report that her immigration status is now secure and she will be able to remain in the US.

Q: As a follow-up, did you have to be careful with what you showed and how you portrayed it?

I wouldn’t say “careful,” but rather mindful.

Q: How did the casting process begin and end with finding the main actors for each character?

The talented Mena Massoud (Aladdin) was our first choice to voice the character of young Rumi. We were lucky to get the very gifted young actress Millie Davis (Wonder) for Lamya. And the experienced actor Faran Tahir (Iron Man, Star Trek) brought his natural gravitas to the character of Rumi’s Father.

Q: With the film being made when films like The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul were coming out or were released, is it pretty inspiring to see more animated stories focus on this part of the world?

It is inspiring, yes, but also a reminder in citing those few examples that out of the thousands of animations produced every year, a scant few focus in a sensitive way about Muslims. Except when cast as villains, Muslims hardly appear in animated features and series. I hope that Lamya’s Poem inspires others to tell more stories and grow an audience eager for them.

Q: Do you have any advice to anyone who may want to get into animation?

Storytelling through animation is limited only by your imagination. Nevertheless, like in all filmmaking, the hardest part is raising the funds. Again, I hope that films like Lamya’s Poem create an audience that opens the possibility for greater resources for new projects. It would be amazing to imagine these kinds of stories becoming an entire genre in some future date.

Q: Are there any animation misconceptions by fans or outsiders that you would like to squash?

One that I myself had at the beginning is that animation is in some way “easier” than live action. In live action films, of which I have done several, if you are filming an interior scene, an Art Director populates it with tables, chairs, carpets, etc. to match the vision of the film. Perhaps you have a choice between two or three different possibilities, but usually not, and in any case those decisions are made quickly, often after one glance. In animation, every element has to be designed: the chairs, the table, the carpet, but also the cups, the saucers, their color, the how narrow or bowl shaped they are, the shape and size of the sugar cubes, the color of the tea. Thought has to go into every element and takes time to realize. An orange appears in one key scene of the film that took hours and hours of work to get it to just the right color, shape and size.

Q: Are there any animated films at Annecy or coming out this year that you are curious about or hyped to see?

To be perfectly honest, I am hyped to see all of them. I’d say that I’m hyped to be in their company and have Lamya’s Poem part of the competition against a slate of such worthy films.

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 223: Lamya’s Poem Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, WestEnd FIlms!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

For some reason, I have seen film snobs act as though there can only be one kind of story. If you have already told this story, then you can’t have a story set in the same place or time. I guess these snobs forgot that every story ever made is built upon or around a familiar story beat. In terms of animation, this seems to happen a lot. For example, for two years straight, we had three different bigfoot/yeti animated films. A lot of this is timing and coincidence, and what helped about those three films was the fact that each of them had a different setting and story. Not everyone has the same story, and you shouldn’t be gatekeeping what stories get told, because it may sound familiar to another film that already exists. If we thought like this, we wouldn’t have had Babe when Disney already put out Gordy. I say this because today’s film will probably be interesting to people who have seen Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul. Today’s review is of the Annecy In Competition film, Lamya’s Poem

Directed by Alexander Kronemer and produced by PIP Animation Services and the production company Lamya’s Poem, this film was previously revealed to be in last year’s Work in Progress section of the Annecy International Film Festival. It then came back with a vengeance for this year’s Annecy In Competition Section. Does this film have a chance in the competition section against Lion Dance BoyPoupelle of Chimney TownJosee, the Tiger, and the FishThe Deer KingMy Sunny MaadThe CrossingHayop Ka!Jiang ZiyaSnotty BoyThe Ape Star, and Flee? Well, let’s open up that poetry book and find out. 

The story revolves around a young girl named Lamya, voiced by Millie Davis. She lives in Aleppo with her mother, and the two of them live in fear of getting caught in the civil war happening in their country. One day, Lamya gets a special book from her teacher by a known poet named Rumi. The story then splits off into telling the origin of Rumi, voiced by Mena Massoud, who, along with his father, try to survive and avoid the grasp of an evil army that has wrecked their town. The film combines the stories of both Rumi and Lamya and has a load of spiritual and symbolic elements. Can Rumi find inner peace? Can Lamya and her mother avoid becoming victims caught in the crossfire of the civil war? 

What’s inspiring about this film is its tone. It may be animated, and while I wouldn’t say it’s as adult as The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul, it still tells a story about survival, connection, and finding peace among the different people in this world. It’s a film that is aimed more at older kids, teenagers, and adults. I respect that so much because I still remember a time when studios would try to take a Disney approach to talk about stories and settings that are a touch dark for normal viewers, but then fails because the tone doesn’t work. Even when Disney tried this, they failed. This film doesn’t go as far as The Swallows of Kabul, but it doesn’t shy away from the horrors and troubles Lamya and her people go through. I am also a sucker for stories that intertwine the main characters and parallels the real events the leads are going through. It’s also a fairly quiet film that lets the characters breathe and let the actions from the story up to that point unfold. I wish more animated features were able to take a moment to let things settle down. 

The animation for this film is interesting. it reminds me of a mixture of how it is executed in hit shows like Archer, but with the art direction and visual style of a children’s book. That’s not a bad thing since it has a distinct visual style that makes it stand out from the other films. It does mix some CGI elements in, but for what it’s worth, the 2D and CGI are mixed well. The voice work is also pretty good! I enjoyed the performances of three of the actors Mena Massoud, Millie Davis, and Faran Tahir. I thought they put in some fairly compelling performances. It was also just nice to see Mena Massoud again since I thought he was the best part about that 2019 Aladdin remake. The music by composer Christopher Willis is probably one of the best aspects of the visual and audio presentation. It’s big in scale and brought an emotional note to the overarching story and the conflict that is intertwined within the stories told in this movie. 

If I had to complain about something, it’s that I think some of the sequences in the film would have been better if the animation was a touch more dynamic. While I don’t make the comparison to Archer as a bad thing, it has some of the same problems as Archer due to how stiff the characters can be. Some of the more intense and dramatic moments would have looked better if there were more dynamic poses. Maybe they couldn’t due to the time and limitation of the talent and budget they had, but it pulled me out of the moment at times. Some performances of the side characters felt wonky and not as good as the main performances. I was also a touch confused about when the stories decided to intertwine and I think it came down to pacing and when they would pop up. 

Even if you may like some films like the ones mentioned above more, I’m glad films like Lamya’s Poem exists. I think it’s important to tell stories that aren’t the typical animated fare. Animation is such a fantastic medium to tell stories, and this film proves it. It’s why I’m in love with film festivals like Annecy, because we get to see stories, good or bad, told through animation. Now then, let’s move back to something more familiar with Pixar’s newest feature LUCA.

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 222: Trese Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

We are seeing a slow and steady growth of stories and settings that are more open and inclusive to telling different experiences from different cultures. Diversity is a good thing to support due to how we get more interesting projects and characters when you let other people in to tell their stories. While the change and the push for more diverse stories can and should be moving at a faster pace, I’m already seeing plenty of fun productions unfold through the stories these creators and the teams at the studios are pumping out. For example, this new action series revolves around the Philippines and that country’s folklore. It’s called Trese

Directed by Jay Oliva and is based on the Filipino black and white horror novel by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo (the two are also showrunners), Trese was released today on Netflix and was revealed last year during the big Netflix anime streaming event showing off new series that were coming to the streaming service. It promised a pulpy grimy violent good time and, well, I think they delivered with the six episodes they gave us. Let’s dive right in! 

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The story revolves around Alexandra Trese, voiced by Shay Mitchell. She is a private detective that works the streets when crimes involving supernatural elements are involved. She is joined by her Kambal bodyguards Crispin and Basilio, both voiced by Griggin Puatu. The mystery and intrigue begin when Trese realizes that the mayor that’s looking for reelection may have his hands in some of the monstrous clans that hide beneath the surface of the world of man. Can Trese find out what exactly is going on, and why she is connected to this string of events?

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So, this show promises to have mystery, horror, violence, and action. When you advertise something to the audience/consumer, you had better deliver on those promises. Well, I liked the story of what is the first season of a much bigger story. I felt pulled into this grimy underworld setting of humans and monsters living alongside one another. It’s like a section of the world that Hellboy would take place in, but instead of keeping the supernatural elements out from the human sight, there seems to be enough awareness to not freak people out. Even the police chief is super aware of it and just rolls with the fact he knows about these supernatural elements. It makes for a show and story that can get to the point and focus on the dark underbelly of the political world of humans and spirits. It has its moments of commentary about the government, corruption of power, some comments about the police, and the consequences of certain actions, but it tells a fun story that kept me engaged from beginning to end with interesting characters, solid dialogue, and enough humor to balance out the experience to feel well-paced for six episodes.

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In terms of animation, this is where one of my few complaints come up with the show. I love the talent involved and none of my complaints come from the story, I mean, outside of wanting to see more from this world. The animation is on par with the DC direct-to-video films, and that’s a real shame because I think the animation quality does hinder the action when it looks a touch stiff and clunky. It makes some of the more intense action scenes look sillier when they weren’t meant to be. I’m disappointed because the action is quite stellar with a lot of well-executed set pieces. I also find it weird that they consider this an “anime” when it has a more American way of coloring, lighting, and designs. It’s not anime in the traditional sense. I otherwise love the designs and the overall visuals of the show. The voice cast is also strong and I love the fact that this show has both an English dub and a Filipino dub cast. I think that’s just impressive. The English cast includes Shay Mitchell, Griffin Puatu, Matt Yang King, Steve Blum, Carlos Alazraqui, Manny Jacinto, Eric Bauza, Darren Criss, Nicole Scherzinger, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dante Basco, and Rodney To. The Filipino cast includes Liza Soberano, Simon Dela Cruz, Apollo Abraham, Cristopher Carlo Caling, Eugene Adalia, Cheska Aguiluz, Christian Velarde, Bryan Encarnacion, Nica Rojo, Jo Anne Orobia-Chua, Jose Amado Santiago, Seve Dela Cruz, Rene Tandoc, Steffi Graf Bontogon-Mola, RJ Celdran, Elyrey Martin, and Steven Bontogon. The music gives off an ominous and dark atmosphere to the show with a few musical pieces of happier tunes to break it up from time to time. It’s composed by the Kiner Brothers, who composed music for CSI: MiamiStar Wars RebelsNarcos: MexicoDoom PatrolStar Wars: The Bad Batch, and did additional music for the notorious Ghost in the Shell adaptation from 2017. 

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In general, if the only thing I can criticize about the show is the animation, well, that sounds like it’s a good show, huh? I enjoyed my watching of Trese, and I hope we can see other shows and films set in the Philippines in the future if this show is successful. Again, we need to make more of a push for diverse stories by diverse creators, and the teams at Netflix, despite their flaws, are doing a better job at this than most studios. If you like more adult action-oriented shows and a dash of horror to go alongside the experience, then please watch Trese. Now then, I have one more screener to deal with, but it’s not a Netflix film, but a festival film! Stay tuned! 



Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 221: Wish Dragon Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Sony Pictures Animation has been having quite a renaissance, haven’t they? They went from a studio that people were indifferent to with most people liking Surfs Up, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They then became the most overly hated studio in the world because they *gasp* made The Emoji Movie, which wasn’t even the worst animated film of 2017 or the most cynically-made animated film of all time. Seriously, the hatred this studio got was incredibly petty and I resent anyone who fueled that flame. They then became the messiah of change in the animation scene with their more recent hits like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. With their recent release lineup of animated projects, they seem to be at the forefront of making diverse and distinct animated films that you won’t find from other studios. For example, their next film is quite a delightful experience with Chris Appelhans’ Wish Dragon

Directed by Chris Appelhans and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Tencent Pictures, Base FX, Flagship Entertainment Group, and a few other companies, the film was set to release back in 2019 but then was delayed to 2020. Of course, it was officially released in China on January 15th, 2021, and will be officially released on Netflix on June 11th. It was even produced by Jackie Chan who also provides the voice of the titular dragon in the Mandarin dub. So, how many wishes does it take for this film to be good? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story revolves around a young man named Din, voiced by Jimmy Wong. He’s a hardworking individual who has big dreams but doesn’t have the right background to reach those dreams. His main goal, while being rich and successful, is to reunite with his childhood friend Lina, voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who he hasn’t seen since they were little kids. One day, while out on a delivery, Din obtains a jade teapot that houses a magical wish-granting dragon named Long, voiced by John Cho. If Long can get Din to use up three wishes, Long can journey to the afterlife where he will be welcomed with a big parade and his many “fans”. However, an evil trio of goons wants the magic teapot for their nefarious deeds for a supposed mysterious client. Can Din use the wishes to reconnect with his childhood friend? What are the true mysteries of the teapot and the dragon? Are shrimp chips that delicious? 

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What stands out about this film is the fact that the story is really good! I think the story’s core themes of friendship, class dispute, family, and finding out what’s important to you and your life were heartfelt and compelling stuff! I know some people worried about it being too similar to Aladdin (even though the original story of a wish-granting genie was from Chinese origins), but it is pretty much the absolute opposite in terms of story and themes. I mean, yeah, some parts may be familiar, but it has an entirely different vibe and core message than what you would get out of Disney’s take. First off, the Wish Dragon in question has a more sarcastic and pessimistic personality, but Long never becomes overbearing. Long is his own character and doesn’t try to be like the iconic Robin Williams Genie. The characters all feel important and diverse in their goals and dialogue. You get why they are performing certain actions, and they feel fairly realistic. I also love that it’s not a pure romance flick. Din and Lina just want to become friends and it never turns into anything romantic. I’m so happy it’s a platonic relationship because, at the end of the day, it would be stellar if more studios realized ya didn’t need to have the two characters end up together. Even the “villain” of the film has an understandable reason for wanting to get the teapot. The film is also a real laugh riot. There was a lot of fantastic dialogue and visual gags that while maybe more downplayed than Sony’s recent hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines, I still found myself laughing out loud multiple times during the runtime. Seriously, this has some of the best jokes of the year. 

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Animation-wise, I get that some people may be turned off by the animation. The humans look a little basic, and they do rehash some character models for later purposes and gags, but in general, the animation is quite good. Long gets some of the most expressive animations out of any character this year in animation. I even love the head goon’s leg animation. It might be goofy, but the creativity of him not using his hands for a majority of the film is humorous. The action sequences may have a bit more focus on squash and stretch, but it makes it a lot of fun to watch to see the film use more cartoony physics. The music by Phillip Klein is solid as he’s the composer for The Last Measure and has worked on films like 2019’s Joker and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The voice cast is all pretty good as you have the likes of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng, and Bobby Lee. 

I will say, the one real downside I have for this film outside of the simple human designs is that the villain is a little weak. His leg thing is super creative and fun, but outside of that, he’s the weakest villain of the bunch. I prefer his henchmen over the main villain. Outside of that, I have already mentioned my issue with the human designs and the fact they rehash multiple models for a multitude of roles, and that did drag me out of the experience at points. Not by much, but it happened every once in a while. 

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Wish Dragon is the type of film I love discovering every year. Something not as bombastic as more major releases, but a film I easily prefer to the more mainstream releases of this year and previous years. Something that I wasn’t expecting and ended up loving is always a blast to find every year. I highly recommend watching Wish Dragon, and congrats to the director and his team for making a fun and enjoyable experience. Next time, I will be talking about another screener, but expect it to land soon. 

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 3

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 3 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1 or part 2, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

18 Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves 

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With all of the controversy surrounding this one, I am glad that it was a solid little gem of a fantasy/action/comedy film. Unlike a lot of these fantasy comedies that came out after the wake of Shrek, Red Shoes has a more engaging hook and does have a few good messages and morals in the overarching story. It also helps that the voice cast is pretty solid, and Jim Rash and Patrick Warburton steal every scene they are in. If it had better jokes and a more compelling villain, I think this could have easily been higher on the list, but for now, it’s a solid little oddity from South Korea, and if you can find it for cheap, I recommend checking it out. 



17 Superman: Man of Tomorrow 

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It feels like it’s been forever since I have truly loved a DC-animated feature, and Superman: Man of Tomorrow is one of those films that I love. It takes a little more time to flesh out Superman in his early days than other films about the hero. The dialogue feels a lot more nuanced and grounded, which makes me fall in love with a character I have been drifting in and out of loving for years now. The new animation style is visually distinct from the previous films. With its use of thick outlines, it’s different enough from the previous films to make it feel fresh. We also finally get a Superman film with a different villain with a three-dimensional take on Parasite. It might have some of the typical DC DTV film clunkiness, and I’m kind of tired of them doing a connected universe thing again, but Man of Tomorrow is a promising start to a hopefully better lineup of films. 





16 No. 7 Cherry Lane 

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Now, this is quite a film experience. An adult animated film that’s not a comedy or raunchy. It’s more of an adult romance that takes place in the 1960s. I know some people have criticized it for its slow pace, but it does make up for it by having some great intimate and personal moments between the lead characters. It also captures a period that I was not fully aware of in China. It might have some flawed CGI animation that isn’t as polished as other features seen on this list, but if you can find a way to watch this film, I highly recommend checking it out. 





15 Animal Crackers 

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It seems like we should have gotten this film years ago, and it was nice to finally get it. While I understand how some people may not gel with this film due to a fairly weak villain, and it could have gone further with being a full-on musical, I had fun with it. It was a very creative film with plenty of laughs and creativity that led to a rather amusing experience. It might not have the most polished animation, but it has such a cartoony look that it will age better than those films and shorts that use hyper-realistic visuals. If you need a low-key family comedy, I recommend this film!







14 Trolls: World Tour 

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Who knew DreamWorks would have a much better track record for sequels than Disney! While it has some story beats that don’t quite match up with the overall commentary that the film is tackling, and some characters regress from the first film, I’m still in awe that they pulled so much out of a sequel to the 2016 original. On top of building upon its vibrant and creative world with more troll races, it takes multiple music genres and creates a rather ambitious commentary about diversity, LGBT elements, cultural appropriation, and commentary about the music industry as well. I just wish the overall film was stronger, but check it out if you haven’t already.






13 SHe

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This is probably one of the two most obscure films I have talked about on this list, and probably the one that’s the most abstract to dive into. Here is what it is, this is a stop-motion film about how men and women are treated in society and the workplace. The catch is that it’s all done in stop-motion and instead of using humans, everyone is represented by shoes! I’m not joking, and this film exists. I saw it back in 2019, and while it may have been the wrong film to play late at night at Animation is Film, it’s a film you never quite forget about. It’s a visual experience full of some of the most distinct stop-motion and darkest visuals you will ever see. I think it’s a touch long, and unless you are paying close attention, you may lose track of the plot at points, but if you want an animated film like no other, well, you can’t go wrong with this film. 





12 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

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While I still prefer the original film, Farmageddon is still an enjoyable and charming romp from Aardman and their flock of sheep. With its more sci-fi elements, it leads to some creative jokes, a better villain, and it puts Shaun in the seat of character growth. I wish the other sheep and the farmer had better story beats, but you still get an overall charming and heartwarming story about family and responsibility. Also, the alien is incredibly adorable, and it’s yet another film that shows that you don’t need dialogue to make a film amusing. You simply need to build your story, visuals, and character movements around it. 




11 The Nose 

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Now, this is the most obscure film I have talked about, and it makes me wish we could get an official US release of it. While it takes a bit for the ball to get rolling and to get the context of the plays this film is based on, this has some of the most unique visuals seen in animated films from this year. It was a rather captivating watch that was easily the best film I was able to fully see at Annecy 2020 Online, and I hope some distributor can pick it up for a US release. 

Spring 2021 Anime Season Impressions Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Here we are with part 2! Let’s do this! 



Drama



Higehiro: I Shaved and then Brought Home a High School Girl (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on the novels and manga by Shimesaba, the anime was directed by Manabu Kamikita, written by Deko Akao, and produced by Project No. 9. I am so frustrated with this show. Not because it’s one of the worst shows this season, but because it has a decent idea. While the base idea is already a bit uncomfortable, you see how the show unfolds and it turns out to be this drama about young adults and the baggage that they carry with them. They do talk about it and interact with one another like real individuals. It’s uncomfortable, but at times, it’s uncomfortable for the right reasons with these characters coming to terms with what they carry with them and how they interact with friends and people they are close to. On the flip side, it’s also filled with fanservice and the show keeps using shots to leer at the young girl and the women in this show, and it can’t seem to balance out what it wants to be. Does it want to be this adult drama that tackles uncomfortable elements and the emotional baggage you carry? Or does it want to be a fanservice show? Granted, so far from what I have seen, it doesn’t want to entirely be about the fanservice, but it’s distracting enough to make the experience of watching the show a tough sit. I think I’m more disappointed with how it handles its themes and story than downright mad. Still, I wish it focused on just the drama. 




86 (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on the light novels and manga by Asato Asato, this A1 Pictures-produced series is directed by Toshimasa Ishii and written by Toshiya Ono. What this anti-war drama gets right is what might be the biggest criticism aimed at it right now with how it handles its commentary and themes about discrimination and war with the carefulness of a sledgehammer. It’s very blunt about its beliefs and its story about a society of people who use “AI”-control mechs to fight, while in reality, the “AI” are humans that are of different races than the ones who sit back and do something. Normally, this would be a major issue since everyone loves to scream and rave about subtly while missing films and shows with subtle elements. I’m fine with them being blunt about the show’s themes and commentary. Sometimes, you need to tell them upfront what you are about. Luckily, the comradery between the 86 team members is constantly entertaining and feels like they are real friends. The action does use a lot of CGI, and while it comes with some of the typical clunkiness that is seen in none MAPPA and Studio Orange-produced CGI series, it’s a lot better here than in other anime from this season or previous seasons. However, the action is handled well and is intense. They also find a great balance in the drama, the action, and the moments of lightweight wholesomeness. It’s not subtle, but it’s a good anti-war drama that I think is one of the highlights of the season. 





Tokyo Revengers (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on the manga by Ken Wakui, this delinquent school drama with a time travel twist was directed by Koichi Hatsumi, written by Yasuyuki Muto, and produced by Liden Films. What seems like a first in such a long time, we have an honest-to-god school delinquent story. It takes a few creative twists about its setting and how the lead can go back in time to try and prevent the death of a girl he dated in the past. I think what works about the show are the character dynamics. I found the lead way more interesting than he came off at first, and when he meets one of the future gang leaders, it sets off this chain reaction of relationships that I admired. Maybe it’s because it’s been a while or what feels like a long time since we have seen a school delinquent anime, but it feels new and fresh. Now, granted, I was not fond of the first episode. I found it a bit too try-hard in showing how pathetic our main character is, his friends from middle school were obnoxious (even if they were middle school boys, they were a bit much), and it was a bummer that the girl that our lead is trying to save gets relegated at first to being an object of a goal. However, as I went through the episodes, the friends got better, the lead got better, and it has turned into one of my favorite shows of the season. I hope it can keep the momentum up. 






Those Snow White Notes (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on the manga by Marimo Ragawa, this show is directed by Hiroaki Akagi, written by Kan’ichi Kato, and produced by Shin-Ei Animation. This is hands down the best drama of the anime season with its focus on finding your sound aka your way in life through the power and mastery of the shamisen. Outside of gorgeous production values, solid comedy, and a more introspective take on the character’s arc, you have music that was supervised by the famous Yoshida Brothers, and it does make up for how much their talent was wasted back in the Summer 2020 season on 2020’s worst anime, Gibiate. The shamisen music heard throughout the show brings so much emotional depth that I was instantly hypnotized by the stand-out moments of each episode when a character would play the stringed instrument. It’s a show that truly stands out and so far, I have no real complaints about it. Now, if I continue watching the show and I find faults with it, maybe I’ll do quick little anime reviews going over the overall season of the show. 

Action/adventure

Combatants Will Be Dispatched (Funimation) 

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Based on the light novels by Natsume Akatsuki, this adaptation is directed by Hiraki Akagi, written by Yukie Sugawara, and produced by J.C. Staff. Well, it might be from the same author as Konosuba, but it is not by the same anime team that made Konosuba the smash hit that it was. This show is very confused about what it wants to be. Is it set in a sci-fi world with fantasy? or is it a fantasy world with sci-fi elements, because by episode three, they pretty much dispatched the sci-fi elements in favor of fantasy offerings. What also doesn’t have that thing that made Konosuba work are the characters. Instead of having Konosuba‘s chaotically likable idiots, Combatants has characters who have none of that energy or drive that made the other property so fun to watch. What you get here are an annoying lead, a robot girl who looks like a young child, and a harem of quirky characters that don’t have much going for them outside of their one personality trait. The jokes are also not funny. Some got a mild chuckle, but the exact kind of jokes you would find in such a show are all here and accounted for. The one thing missing is any of the major jokes being funny. It’s a shame that I didn’t like this show because it makes me wonder if the Konosuba anime just got lucky it got a director and team that understood the goal or if the author of both this anime and Konosuba were not good. Maybe the source material is better than the adaptation, but as of right now, I do not want to watch these combatants be dispatched! 



Seven Knights Revolution: The Hero’s Successor (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on a mobile game we can’t even play in the states, this anime adaptation is directed by Kazuya Ichikawa, written by Ukyo Kodachi, and produced by Liden Films and DOMERICA. It’s a real bog-standard action fantasy RPG with characters and a story you have seen before. Even the monsters look painfully generic. It’s always amusing how we get these anime for games we don’t get access to, because if you don’t know about the game, then why would you watch this show? It’s fine if you don’t play the game, but since I’ve seen this whole premise and cast of characters before, it doesn’t add anything to my experience that I couldn’t get with other action shows this season. When the action does kick in, it’s fine, but you can do a lot better this season than this anime. 


Cestvs: Roman Fighter (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on the manga by Shizuya Wazarai, this anime is directed by Toshifumi Kawase and Kazuya Monma, written by Toshifumi Kawase, and produced by Bandai Namco Pictures and Logic & Magic. While we might not have an Ex-Arm this season in terms of bad CGI animation, Cestvs almost hits that mark. While it has better CGI animation with weight behind the movements and actual lip movements, the show suffers everywhere else. The main character is way too whiny, the aristocrats are pushed to an unlikability that’s not tolerable, and the side characters are boring. However, it then also pulls the stunt of being a mix of 2D and CGI, and while it’s better implemented than Ex-Arm, the show suffers by not fully going the route of CGI. Also, this whole gladiatorial combat stuff has been debunked by historical findings, so seeing some of the inaccuracies pop up that are only there to drive the story is humorous to me. It has a few interesting characters, and it doesn’t 100% fail at brushing the horrors of slavery under the rug, but even after going 4 episodes deep into this show, I can’t find myself going back to it. The only real reason to watch this show is the combat, but when there are so many anime this season with great action set pieces, then why would you go for the weaker shows in the action category when you can get something better? I would personally skip it unless you are curious about seeing a boxing anime that takes place in ancient Rome. 





The World Ends With You: The Animation (Funimation) 

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Based on the cult-favorite video game from Square Enix, this adaptation is directed by Kazuya Ichikawa, written by Midori Goto, and produced by DOMERICA and Shin-Ei Animation. Well, it’s an anime adaptation of a video game. You get all of the cutscenes, but none of the fun of actually playing the game. It’s an extremely dense three episodes as we go from story beat to story beat with no time for stopping to take it all in. It got better by the third episode, and I would consider this to be one of the better action shows of the season. It’s not better than some of the other anime out this season, but I can see myself wanting to see how this show ends. 




Mars RED (Funimation) 

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Based on a manga by Bun-O Fujisawa, this action drama is directed by Kohei Hatano and Shinya Sadamitsu, written by Jun’ichi Fujisaku, and produced by Signal.MD. This show set in 1923 and dealing with an elite unit to take care of a blossoming vampire problem was one of the first shows of the season and one of the first to get a dub. I’m not entirely sure why, but I found myself enthralled with this vampire drama. It’s not doing anything unique, but I think having the characters be adults let the scenes that have them contemplating about their vampire nature be handled better here than most stories that deal with the blood-sucking monsters. There are some truly heartbreaking moments in the show and I was compelled and pulled into their stories. The action is more grounded, but it has some small fantastical elements sprinkled in that make for some truly great visual moments. Speaking of the visuals, Mars RED is one of the most gorgeous shows I have seen this season with perfect linework, expressive animation, and the designs and world overall feel cohesive. I can understand why some people aren’t as into this show as others, but I see myself getting back into this show once I’m done writing this article. 


Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood (Crunchyroll) 

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Joran is an original anime this season directed by Susumu Kudo and produced by Bakken Records. It’s an anime version of the Lady Snowblood films mixed with Blood+, and turn-of-the-century technology (the late 1800s maybe early 1900s). I compare it to these elements because it has a stellar female lead who slays shapeshifting demons while wondering what is going on with the shady underbelly of the organization she works for and the targets they go after. It has pretty great animation, and when the power sets are turned on, the animation takes on an entirely different visual style that is so much fun to watch. It has great characters, intriguing plot twists, and lots of creative action that has impressed me within the five episodes I had watched.





To Your Eternity (Crunchyroll) 

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Based on the manga by Yoshitoki Oima, this adaptation is directed by Masahiko Murata, written by Shinzo Fujita, and produced by Brain’s Base. Without a doubt, To Your Eternity has made one of the biggest and best first impressions out of any anime this season. The first episode would have been amazing as its own little short film. Then you realize it has more story after that first episode! They threw a lot of talent and resources into this show if they got Utada Hikaru to do the theme song. It’s an ambitious story about life and the human experience as we follow our lead character as it interacts with the characters it meets. It’s a show that has a lot of enticing dialogue, creative world-building, and the individual the story is revolving around actually does become the main focus as the story goes on. Still, if you are against shows that have a sort of passive main character that traverses the story, you might not like this, and some story beats might be a bit much. Still, I have enjoyed the story and admired the ambition that this show has. It’s easily one of my favorite shows of the season so far. Now, will it stay that way, who knows? 






Romance/Comedy



It’s Too Sick to Call this Love aka Koikimo (Crunchyroll)

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Based on the manga by Mogusu, this anime adaptation is directed by Naomi Nakayama and produced by Nomad. This is an age gap romance where a man who is obviously in his 30s, is falling for a teenage girl, and the anime only seems half of the time aware of how creepy this premise is. You can spew all of the “well it’s a different culture and age of consent” comments as you want, but when one side of the party is not okay with the guy hitting on her constantly, then any defenses become null and void. The show only calls out the fact the guy is a creep half of the time! The other half is everyone gaslighting the high school girl that “hey maybe he’s not that bad” when all he does is stalk her, send her presents, and then does the bare minimum of a guy being nice and kind. Maybe this anime adaptation would have been better if it was leaning more on the dunking on the male lead and the animation was better, but it’s not. Alongside Burning Kabaddi and that Battle Athletes reboot, this is one of the cheapest-looking productions this season. The designs might be okay, but the animation is downright mediocre. It’s stiff and lifeless, and that’s saying something when you can say “Hey, The Way of the Househusband, a motion comic, is better animated than three of the shows in this anime season”. The opening and ending songs for Koikimo are okay, but that’s about all the kindness I have for this show. If I were ranking these shows, this would be right at the very bottom. I can’t see myself wanting to see how they gaslight the girl into loving the guy twice her age. 


The Romcom Where The Childhood Friend Won’t Lose (Crunchyroll)

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Based on the light novel and manga by Shuichi Nimaru, this adaptation is directed by Takashi Naoya, written by Yoriko Tomita, and produced by Doga Kobo. This might be the one anime this season where I don’t honestly don’t know where I stand on it. I enjoy it way more than Koikimo, but I don’t know if I downright love this show. On one hand, the first episode has a lot of ideas that rub me the wrong way. A high school boy is getting revenge on a girl because she is going out with another guy, and a girl who was crushing on our lead teams up with him to get revenge on the girl. But then you get to episode 3 and so many twists happen that it turns into less of a revenge fantasy with some rom-com elements, and more of a dysfunctional rom-com of teenagers who are in love and have no real idea of how to handle these emotions. The production values are okay, and so far, the cast is only okay, but something about this show grabbed me as I went on through it. Maybe I’ll pick it up again, but I will have to see if I do want to return. 




Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagataro (Crunchyroll)

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Based on the manga by Nanashi, this series is directed by Hirokazu Hanai, written by Taku Kishimoto, and produced by Telecom Animation Film. Who would have thought about a rom-com with a bullying fetish would be good? It’s not something I’m personally interested in, but the comedy is well-executed. Now if you aren’t into bully fetishes, then you won’t enjoy the titular character’s antics with the male lead. However, Nagataro herself is a sadistically delightful character who has some of the most expressive animations out of any character this season. While some of the teasings can lean a little too hard on being mean, there is this sincere kindness and teenage awkwardness under it all that makes it a delightful show to watch. You can tell she isn’t meaning to be a jerk, and she’s being more of a doofus crushing on the lead character who doesn’t get how to approach him respectably. The male lead isn’t the most interesting character at first but becomes more interesting as the show goes on. It’s a show I was wary about with how it would turn out, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot and I can see myself wanting to finish it up alongside Dragon Goes House Hunting as my two comedies of the season. 

And there you have it! The Spring 2021 Anime Season watch is complete. I am burnt out on anime, and I need to take a small break before I can fully dive in and enjoy more anime when the summer season heats up. Still, even if most of these shows didn’t pan out, I was happy enough with the ones I loved. 

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 220: Dog Gone Trouble Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I have talked about plenty of studios and over my time of seeing the work from multiple studios, you always wonder what exactly happened behind the scenes. Something I always think about is what is going on with Vanguard Animation. For a few reviews now, I have been encountering their work more and more with Charming and Fe@rless. They are a studio known for some pretty infamous films like ValiantHappily N’Ever AfterSpace ChimpsGnome Alone, and something called Get Squirrely. Their main goal seems to be a studio that can churn out animated films on the lower side of budgets and make something. They don’t go into straight-up mockbuster territory with their films, but I wouldn’t call them high-quality films either. Whether it’s making an obvious Shrek ripoff or something that’s kind of like The Secret Life of Pets, I haven’t found anything of theirs that I would say I like. I don’t know if it’s a rushed production or the fact they don’t have the best writers, directors, or time to polish out more engaging stories, but their lineup of films is completely and consistently lackluster. I’m always rooting for studios to put out good films, but with Vanguard, it seems like it hasn’t happened yet, or cynically speaking, won’t happen. I say this because at least in the US, their last four or so films have been sent directly to Netflix while being in release limbo. That’s no different here with their film Trouble aka, Dog Gone Trouble.


Directed by Kevin Johnson, this film was released elsewhere around the world in 2019 but only got a US release recently with the help of Netflix. As you can tell, Netflix had faith (not) in this being a major release because they had it come out after The Mitchells vs The Machines, and have given it no real marketing or support. It comes off like they release these animated features from the studio because they are easy to pick up for cheap. Either way, I chose this film not just because I got a screener for it, but because it was a real turning point as a studio. It’s like an encapsulation of what I find frustrating about the studio. Let’s dive in! 

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So, we follow a small dog named Trouble, voiced by Sean “Big Sean” Andersen. He is the small puppy that is owned by a wealthy older woman voiced by Betty White. He lives a life of luxury. Sadly, one day, he finds out that his owner passed away. On that same day, the old woman’s niece and nephew, Claire and Norbert, voiced by Marissa Winokur and Joel McHale, arrive to claim their inheritance. Obviously, with a film like this, you know the two are greedy and unlikable to the max, which makes them non-threatening villains and annoying to follow. As they go around and start selling everything inside the mansion (so they are just going to sell all the furniture and live in an empty mansion? okay), they accidentally get rid of Trouble in the back of a moving truck and he is taken away by accident. Trouble falls out of the truck and finds himself lost and alone. He is now a stray and tries to find his way home. What happens next is hard to explain because so much happens. Trouble encounters a young girl who wants to be a singer voiced by Lucy Hale, the two terrible nephews of the old lady realize they can’t have the money if they don’t bond with the dog, and so they hire a hunter to find him named Thurman Sanchez, voiced by Wilmer Valderrama. Trouble encounters a few other dogs named Norm, a bulldog voiced by Seth Rollins, Gizmo, a conspiracy nut Whippet voiced by Damon Wayans Jr., Bella, a nervous Corgi voiced by Olivia Holt, and Tippy, a poodle voiced by Carlos PenaVega. Trouble also befriends a pitbull named Rousey, voiced by Pamela Aldon, and yeah, there is a lot in this story. 

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 So, when I watched this film, I was kind of enjoying elements of it, because it does capture a dog’s confusion of not understanding what happened, and Sean Andersen does put in a few decent moments in the beginning. With that said, this film comes off like so many movies made by Vanguard Animation, they made it because they needed to do something. The story itself doesn’t do a good job capturing elements of the dog and human relationships, or the mannerisms with dogs and other animals. It’s a boring film to watch because the characters are all flat and not that interesting. It’s also really distracting to hear non-voice actors perform alongside professional voice actors. The performances by the celebrities become lackluster compared to the voice actors who, you know, voice characters for a living. The story seems to not know where it wants to go as it meanders a lot after the first act, and it keeps adding in either more characters or keeps breaking the rule of three with other characters like these squirrels in the film voiced by Dee Bradley Baker with one of his more annoying performances. Not because of him, because Dee Bradley Baker is a voice-acting god, but because the squirrels are obnoxious to keep running into. The human subplots also get barely any attention or any development throughout the film. I kept forgetting Lucy Hale’s character wanted to be a singer due to how little it all plays into the overall story. I was either frustrated at the inconsistent acting, bored because of the predictable story, or finding myself wanting to watch other talking animal movies. There are so many that I could recommend over this one. Ya got Lady and the TrampOliver & CompanyIsle of DogsThe Secret Life of Pets 1 & 2Marona’s Fantastic Tale, and Bolt to name a few.  Dog Gone Trouble only offered one thing and that was that Netflix for some reason changed the title from Trouble to Dog Gone Trouble. What does this film offer me that I couldn’t get somewhere else? That’s the problem when you get into animation. I want to see something that I can’t get from anyone else, and if you are offering me something familiar, I want it to be executed enough to not remind me of other films I’m watching or have seen. I’m coming down harsh, but I am getting so tired of watching these films by this studio, and feeling like they made something just because they needed to make something. I feel like that’s a fair argument to make.  

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Animation-wise, this film looks fine, but the fact that this is from Vanguard Animation, 3QU Media, and Cinesite Studios makes me think Vanguard didn’t have as much to do with the film’s animation production. It looks like a higher-budgeted direct-to-video feature, but it does have a lot of what Fe@rless was lacking. For example, it has decent designs, the animation is fairly smooth and expressive, and there are actual textures, shadows, and lighting. It’s jarring to try and understand what exactly happened between this film and their more recent feature. It is competently made. For whatever small budget this film had, the animation is solid. I think the one character who gets the best animation is the hunter Thurman Sanchez. He is the character who, while not perfect, had the best attention given to how he moves and is animated. He almost teeters into the realm of being out of an entirely different animated film compared to the other humans. However, even if I am not intensely critical about the overall animation, there are still a few wonky areas like the fact they rehash one dog model three times in the entire film, but with a different fur texture. I had to double-check to make sure that wasn’t a thing, but it was! The human designs are also okay. They look simple, but that’s the only criticism I have about them. Now, as for the voice work, I am wondering how they got these people. This might be one of the most extreme cases of having celebrities who could have easily been replaced by traditional voice actors. I mean, it’s not like they spent all the money on the celebrities, but they didn’t need about 95% of them. Joel McHale, Sean Andersen, Conrad Vernon, Wilmer Valderrama, Damon Wayans Jr., Seth Rollins, Olivia Holt, Snoop Dog, Betty White, Jason Mraz, Cesar Millan, Ludo Lefebvre, and you get the idea. Most of the actors are character or TV actors with only a handful of major voice actors like Lucy Hale, Pamela Adlon, Dee Bradley Baker, Michelle Ruff, Keith Silverstein, to name a few. They didn’t need some of these celebrities, especially because they only have one or two lines in the entire film. I think Wilmer Valderrama is one of the few having fun alongside the voice actors. Sean Andersen aka Big Sean is fine as the lead, but he’s very wooden. He captures some of the puppy nature at the beginning of the film, but he has a mostly flat performance. The music is also fairly bog-standard and none of the songs add anything to the experience. It makes me wonder if Snoop Dogg, who was a music supervisor for the film and Jason Mraz have any thoughts about the film’s music. 

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I’m coming down hard on this film, and if the team that made this had fun making it, then so be it. I’m not going to rain on that parade. At the end of the day, Dog Gone Trouble is harmless. It’s not great, but I’ve seen so much worse this year. It’s competently made and it’s nothing more harmful than a bargain bin direct-to-video animated film that you would find at Walmart or the checkout line at a grocery store. It’s on Netflix, so it’s not like I paid anything that wasn’t already the prepaid Netflix subscription fee. If you just need something to watch on Netflix since you watched The Mitchells vs. The Machines 100 times already, I guess there is no harm in checking it out. I hope one day, Vanguard gets to make a film that I can sit down and say “hey, I liked it.” For now, it’s just another Vanguard film that is not all that interesting or fun to watch. How about next time, I look at an animated film that’s got quite a fun history and production behind it? Well, it’s hidden behind a screener so you will have to wait and see what happens! I promise I will talk about stuff like Magic Boy and Twice Upon a Time in the future I swear. 


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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Lackluster!

Spring 2021 Anime Season Impressions Part 1

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

The Spring 2021 anime season decided to come back swinging with even more anime than the infamous Winter 2021 season. It was almost exhausting to watch so many, but there was a lot of anime that was quite fantastic! It will be some of the best anime we will be seeing this year. Even the worst anime of the season aren’t worse than Ex Arm and Redo of Healer. That’s why I’m going to split this one into two parts due to how many shows there were to cover. As usual, this is only covering the new anime of the season. No returning series and I’ll only cover anime reboots if they are important in some way shape or form. No rankings this time either. I’m giving my 3+ ep impressions on these shows in terms of what genre they are in. Animation is a medium of storytelling, and anime is very good at going in different directions with their stories. Let’s start, shall we? 


Sports


Battle Athletes Victory Restart (Funimation)

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Based on the manga by Yuki Nakano, this new iteration/reboot of the fan-favorite series is directed by Tokihiro Sasaki and is produced by Seven. Let me ask you a question. Remember in the Fall 2020 season there was that great Higurashi sequel reboot thing that got people to talk about Higurashi again? Well, this one will get people talking, but for all of the wrong reasons. This reboot is not good. It’s not only bad at setting up what kind of plot we are getting into, but the characters are also flat, cookie-cutter, and the animation is easily some of the worst this season has to offer. For a show that’s going to be about intense athletic challenges, the animation is very basic. No weight is put behind the movements and you think they would make the sports stuff look exciting and thrilling. It comes off like a show that was made because they made a deal to make it to keep the rights of the property more than any real passion behind it. Also, while this show may aim at a female audience, it sure loves to have a ton of male gaze elements like looking at character’s butts, and it is more interested with the yuri baiting than telling a more followable story. Also, since one character has prosthetics, couldn’t they have made it appear like something that wasn’t looking like they pulled some pantyhose over one arm and leg? Oh, and this show doesn’t earn its political space drama either. No one gives a rat’s behind about this world or the main story. Eh, either way, Battle Athletes Victory Restart is easily one of the weakest shows of the season, and the only thing it will get people talking about is the original anime from the 90s. 







Burning Kabaddi (Crunchyroll) 

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Burning Kabaddi is a sports anime based on the manga by Hajime Musashino. It’s directed by Kazuya Ichikawa and produced by TMS Entertainment. I always look for a sports anime with a unique hook. For example, this is a sports anime where the sport in question is Kabaddi, which is full-contact tag. That sounds great! Too bad that this is one of the cheapest-looking anime of the season. It doesn’t have the best animation and for a sport that I said is a more aggressive tag, then that’s a huge problem. It doesn’t help either that this is by a studio and director that are busy with other projects. Unless said otherwise, it sounds like this anime got the short end of resources. The voice acting is decent, and some of the leads are amusing, but it doesn’t stand out. It makes me wonder if this project went to someone like Studio Mappa. The animation would have been better. Even then, it has a severe case of “been there done that” in terms of its story and characters. I was honestly looking forward to this anime, so it makes me sad that it wasn’t better. It’s, at the very least, earnest in its execution that I can’t fully hate it as much as some other anime this season. 





Farewell, My Dear Cramer! (Crunchyroll)

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Based on the manga by Naoshi Arakawa, this anime adaptation was directed by Seiki Takuno, written by Natsuko Takahashi, and produced by Liden Films. Unfortunately, this is yet another sports anime this season that suffers from major production issues. It’s a show where the visuals are at some points decent, but keep leaning into the wholly mediocre territory. For a sports anime about running and kicking a ball, it all feels so stiff and lifeless like Battle Athletes. The character designs look so wonky. A friend of mine described it as if they were given the eyes and lips of a fish, and I can’t unsee it that way now. At first, it looks like they were going for a more retro-inspired design for the characters, but it’s not gone far enough to warrant the “retro” vibe, and then there are some weird inconsistent designs. It doesn’t help that it’s hard to know who is the real main character of the show. Due to it being a team of girls, it keeps shifting between the ones who play a more important role in the story. I get why they keep focusing on so many, but with how slow-paced the progression of the story is going, it doesn’t seem like we are going to know anytime soon who is the main focus, and the story isn’t good enough to care about who wins, and that’s a shame. I love the drama angle of how popularity is dropping for women-driven soccer, but that needed to be the focus, not watching the team of the story fail and deal with intensely smug champion teams. I’m so bummed that this one isn’t better, because I was hoping to find a soccer anime that I could love, but this sure ain’t it. 

Bakuten! Aka Backflip! (Crunchyroll) 

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Oh my goodness! We have an actual good sports anime this season! This original anime is directed by Toshimasa Kuroyanagi, written by Toshizo Nemoto, and produced by Zexcs. This is the sports anime of the season that has everything the other sports shows are lacking. You have beautiful animation that masterfully matches fluid and expressive 2D animation with CGI, likable and hugely memorable characters, and a story with stakes that are just big enough to keep the story moving forward, but doesn’t treat the experience like it’s the end of the world. It has incredibly wholesome energy with the story, music, and character chemistry that makes for easily one of the best shows to watch of the Spring 2021 season. 






Fantasy/Isekai

Full Dive (Funimation)

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Based on the light novels and manga by Light Tuchihi, this anime adaptation was directed by Kazuya Miura, written by Kenta Ihara, and produced by Studio ENGI. This was advertised as a dark comedy take on the VRMMO anime series like Sword Art Online, but this one has a devilishly solid gimmick. The VRMMO in this anime is so realistic that there are no traditional game gimmicks and so on. It’s pretty much a game that drops you into a hard mode crafted by From Software and the teams behind those obtuse adventure games. Sadly, for as great as the first episode starts, the rest of the show, so far, has failed to live up to that first episode. It seems more comfortable explaining the more “realistic” elements of the game itself than doing something fun with them, and the characters aren’t that interesting. It also loves to slide into mean-spirited dialogue and interactions, but not balance it out to where we are rooting for anyone. The main character is dull and has every right to be mad at how he got conned into buying this game, the female lead is irredeemably awful, and it doesn’t have that flow or execution that makes anime like Konosuba work. It’s trying very hard to reconcile the game with the real world, but it’s neither fun nor interesting to be in this game world. Maybe it will get better, but when you start with such a strong first episode, only to flop hard in the second and third episodes, it makes me not want to watch the rest to see what happens. Maybe I will give it an episode or two more, but so far, it’s easily one of the biggest disappointments of the anime season. 




I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level (Crunchyroll)

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Based on the light novels by Kisetsu Morita, this anime adaptation is directed by Nobukage Kimura and was produced by Revoroot. Yes, it’s another isekai, and yes, it is about an individual who died of being overworked. That’s why I was curious to see how they take the “I maxed out my level and now have god-tier powers, but all I want to do is be left alone.” angle the marketing made it out to be. On one hand, I think it is a smarter show than its very obvious all-woman harem elements offer. It does dive into how the lead makes sure none of her now newly adopted family members (who are of course cute monster girls) don’t make the same mistakes as she did back in the real world. It also does its job of being a cute fantasy-comedy as it has some very solid jokes. I’m just not pulled into the overall story yet. I think it’s because it feels like they took the premise and halted it for cute harem shenanigans, and while we now have two spirit girls, a dragon girl, and a clumsy elf girl, I have seen better versions of these characters before. I think it’s not hitting it out of the park fully, and maybe I’m just thinking about how Taoteba Last Dungeon and Konosuba took more advantage of their premises by the first episode. Still, I don’t hate this series, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I decided to drop it after another episode or so. I at least think the characters hold up the plot more than most isekai shows. It’s cute and harmless, and sometimes, that’s all you need. 

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent (Funimation) 

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Based on the light novel series by Yuka Tachibana, this adaptation is directed by Shota Ihata, written by Wataru Watari, and produced by Diomedia. I was first hooked on the premise of a regular working-class woman who gets swept to another world, only to find out she was swept to this world by accident with the real “chosen one”. It’s something I haven’t seen tackled in a lot of isekai, and I fell for this show even more once she decided to sit back and do her own thing. She didn’t want to save the world or deal with some demon king, but instead, she wanted to make potions. Sei Takanashi, our lead character, ends up making the world she is in a better place by simple actions of healing and helping out the individuals that would otherwise get looked over in other isekai stories. It does have a male harem element with three guys that may or may not be crushing on her all at once, but it doesn’t feel as skeezy as other anime with these types of setups. It’s a slow burn, but it’s a burn that has been worth it. 

Dragon Goes House Hunting (Funimation) 

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Based on the manga by Kawo Tanuki, this adaptation is directed by Haruki Kasugamori and is produced by Signal. MD. You would think with a premise about a dragon wanting to find his own home with the help of a demon lord real-estate agent it would have a limited range in humor and writing, but it’s a show that knows how to expand on its setting and isn’t stuck on the elevator pitch of a premise. It’s got a great dynamic between the dragon and our real estate agent, and it uses every situation with getting the dragon a new home to have some kind of expansion on the world, the characters, or the story. It might not have the best animation since it feels like it wants to stay heavily on model due to how detailed the characters are, the show does do a good job transitioning to more comedic animation, and the jokes are funny! It’s a show that was an early favorite this season, and I’m so glad it feels like a fully realized comedy and fantasy anime. It’s probably my favorite comedy this season since shows like Combatants Must Be Dispatched have underperformed. 




Other 

Blue Reflection Ray (Funimation) 

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Based on the game developed by Gust, this video game adaptation is directed by Risako Yoshida, written by Akiko Waba, and produced by JC Staff. It’s boring. It’s supposed to be this dramatic battle royale anime with powers that revolve around girls teaming up with other girls and being defined by emotions. It does a really bad job at explaining how it all works, the characters are pretty forgettable, and I had a hard time remembering the names of the two leads. The art direction looks nice, but there is a real lack of movement. Characters will stand around to drag out scenes, and I know this is typical for anime shows, but it feels so restrictive and with such a distinct visual style, it only makes the stiffness stand out even more. There could have been a really interesting way to tackle this story and world, but I gave it the three-episode rule, and well, I won’t be watching any more beyond that.








Pretty Boys Detective Club (Funimation) 

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Based on the novel series by Nisio Isin, this anime adaptation is directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, Hajime Ootani, written by Akiyuki Shinbo and Shaft, and produced by Shaft. Well, with a name like Pretty Boys Detective Club, you have to assume it’s going to be a very pretty show, and boy howdy does it have some of the best visual eye candy in terms of this show’s visual presentation. Great designs, fluid animation, and stylish visuals carry this entire show. The impressive visuals also carry into the writing of the show that is fairly dense with the first three episodes’ storyline of helping a girl find a star in the sky. It turns from a solid mystery of a heartbroken girl to the girl having the eyesight to see something she wasn’t supposed to see. It takes a huge leap, and while the dialogue is a bit much and some of this is familiar ground, if you are looking for something like a mix of Ouran Highschool Host Club with some bonkers detective work, then this will easily be the show for you! 




Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song (Funimation)

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This is an entirely original anime by creators Tappei Nagatsuki and Eiji Umehara. It’s directed by Shinpei Ezaki, written by the creators, and produced by WIT Studios. Vivy is a wildly ambitious sci-fi story about time travel, the commentary about man and machine, and morality. The story about a futuristic AI being sent back in time to prevent a robot uprising that kills the human race in the future is some truly compelling stuff when you realize who this AI has to team up with to save humanity. The other side of the equation is the first AI android who the future AI goes to find doesn’t believe this super AI from the future is telling the truth. The real drama and driving force are the different ideals of the two AIs as they try and fix the past so the future doesn’t unfold into bloodshed, but then small wrinkles come up from time to time that throw a wrench into the situation, and it makes for an extremely compelling story. I wish it was dubbed because the future AI talks way too fast and it’s hard to keep up with the subtitles at points. Otherwise, it’s one of Spring’s most intriguing anime. 






Odd Taxi (Crunchyroll)

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This is a very cool original anime this season. It’s directed by Baku Kinoshita, written by Kazuya Konomoto, and produced by OLM Inc, and P.I.C.S. It does have a manga, but it was an original series first and foremost. This is a mix of a drama, a thriller, and a slice-of-life anime about the world that revolves around this lone walrus taxi driver and the storylines that spin-off of his encounters with both familiar faces and new individuals. It’s an anime I can’t quite compare to many that are out these days or not right off the top of my head. It’s like someone took the tone of something like The Wire or Fargo and mixed it up with Zootopia and Beastars with the designs from Animal Crossing. It’s an anime that truly stands out among the pack from not only its visuals, but its low-key story and perfect writing. I want to see what happens with all of these characters to see how the mystery around this missing girl unfolds and how these stories interact and finish. It’s an anime that was made with my kind of sensibilities. If I was ranking these anime individually and not by genre category, it would easily be in my top five. I highly recommend people check out this show because it hooks you within the first episode and doesn’t let go. 



Slice of Life

Super Cub (Funimation))

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Based on the light novel series by Tone Koken, this anime adaptation was directed by Toshiro Fujii, written by Toshizo Nemoto, and produced by Studio Kai. So far, from what I have seen, there is a real polarizing reception to this show. You either love how low-key and slow it is, or you find it too much of a slow burn to get through. I’m in the middle. I do like it due to how low key it is, but it is a touch too slow. The writing can also come off as making the lead character, Koguma, a touch dafter than she is. The CGI is also hit and miss as it doesn’t always blend well with the 2D characters or backgrounds. However, something about this show just clicks with me. I love the low-key vibes, I like the 2D visuals, the interaction between the leads, and the calming music. It reminds me of an indie game where all you do is drive around and listen to the music and just have a no-stress time. It won’t be for everyone, and I wouldn’t consider this a top 10 anime of the Spring season, but at least it is what is advertised and it doesn’t fall apart like Full Dive and Combatants Must Be Dispatched




Fairy Ranmaru (Crunchyroll)

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Hey, look, another original anime this season. This one is produced by Studio Comet, written by Jo Aoba, and directed by Kosuke Kobayashi and Masakazu Hishida. At first, I was enjoying the abstract dumbness of this one. A bunch of hot men who come from different fairy clans comes to earth to help clients expel the toxic and negativity in their lives via abstract combat. Within the combat encounters, the men transform in extremely horny ways into their fairy forms. It’s a dumb trashy anime that could have worked. I love the music, the transformations are delightfully horny to give the middle finger to male-focused fanservice. And yes, this isn’t the first anime to do such a thing, but it’s so rare, that it’s delightful to see it when it does happen. I like a lot of the little ideas about the leads and how the rules work. However, it’s a hot mess and it doesn’t always blend. It seems like it’s always at the edge of going down the right direction with its content but then doesn’t go far enough. I wish it went full dumb, but it also wants to be about something. I don’t know if I want to see what happens next after the three episodes I watched. If you like dumb but sincere anime, then, by all means, watch this one, but I can easily list a few other shows that go all the way with their fun dumb premise that do it better than Fairy Ranmaru



Shadows House (Funimation)

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Based on a manga by Su-mat-to, this adaptation is directed by Kazuki Ohashi, written by Toshiya Ono, and produced by CloverWorks. Okay, before we continue, let’s get the joke out of the way first, this is where all the resources that were for The Promised Neverland Season 2 went after the Neverland committee simply gave up on the second season. Anyway, Shadows House is a great show! I love the mystery behind this world of shadowy individuals, living dolls, and the commentary that can be picked from not only the environment but the dialogue and the ideas at play here. The dolls are rather complex characters, and their dynamics with the Shadows are really interesting to watch in motion. It has nice animation, the designs are distinct, and the writing has kept me invested in this show, which is why I’m going to so far, stick with it. 

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

27 Kill it and Leave this Town 

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I always respect the fact that we still get animated features that stay true to the original ambition and idea created by the director. I think that’s always a good goal to have in mind with making animated features. However, if that director wants to make a film that’s extremely slow, hard to follow at points because of the heavy emphasis on dream logic, and only appealing to a certain niche group of animation and film fans, then you shouldn’t be shocked if someone ends up not liking it and not recommending it. I do get what this film is about, but the meandering pace and focus on surreal dream-like images, designs, and a very morose tone make for a fairly dull watch. I love the art style and the music, but it shouldn’t be a shock when a film like this doesn’t find a wider audience. I know this was the director’s passion project, and that’s fine! I get why some critics do love this film, but again, if you want to make a film that’s as far away as possible from the films that come out from big studios, then don’t be shocked if you don’t catch many fans. 


26 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge 

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We have yet another video game movie, and while it’s low on the list, it’s one of the better films in terms of video game adaptations. When it’s actually about Scorpion’s Revenge, it’s a compelling story, and the action throughout the overall film is fantastic for a direct-to-video film. However, the film wants to be a universe starter and a traditional Mortal Kombat plot with a tournament set up. It’s too busy trying to focus on making a franchise and giving Johnny Cage a predictable story arc. It’s a fun film, but easily one I can see not coming back to. 

25 SCOOB

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What is with WB and their fetish for wanting universe starters? Even taking out the above-average CGI animation, some decent casting, and a few clever jokes, references, and side characters, the film is not a Scooby-Doo film. It’s a Hanna-Barbera universe starter, and that’s it. It’s uninterested in being a film about the iconic dog and that’s a shame. When it does have some of that charm from the franchise, it’s a decent watch. Like everyone else, I wish some of the concept art that we got to see after the film was released was what we got instead of this lukewarm universe starter. 

24 Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

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Speaking of universes, we now have the finale to the previous cinematic universe of DC/WB direct-to-video films. Outside of an opening sequence that made me unintentionally laugh for days, I was glad this was the last film in a franchise I wasn’t a huge fan of. It had great action, some endearing moments between certain characters, and I think the ending was pretty good! I just wasn’t a fan of this storyline and I’m glad they are moving on. 

23 Summer Days with Coo

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This was one of the few foreign films in 2020 to be a carryover from a long time ago. I mean, a long time ago in terms of 2007. We finally got this film in the US, and while I do like seeing one of Keiichi Haara’s first directorial efforts, it is flawed. It has a weird time balancing more child-like whimsy and the darker tones of what it wants to tackle. While it has some very hit and miss animation overall, it does end on a rather nice note that I wish carried the overall tone of the film. It’s a cute film, but I can safely say his later films are miles above this one. 

22 A Whisker Away

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If there was a real disappointment from 2020, it would be this film. While it has gorgeous animation, some truly great visuals, and the villain is fun, the main character is what breaks this film. Her constant stalking and harassment of the male lead are uncomfortable. It bogs down a film with some very mature themes and ideas. It’s just a reminder that not every original film that comes out is going to be good. 

21 A Dog’s Courage

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This is another film that we finally got from a previous year in the US. While I’m not fully familiar with South Korea and its animation scene, I was aware of this director’s previous film and was excited about finally checking this one out. It uses CGI animation quite wonderfully. It is also an effective experience of a group of dogs trying to find a better life. Its use of 2D animation isn’t as good as other films, and it is yet another animated film with a tone problem. Still, I always admire a film that has a strong emotional story, and I’m glad I got to see it. Just don’t expect this film to be very kid-friendly. 

20 My Favorite War

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This is such a unique movie. While we have films in this similar fashion with Another Day of LifeMy Favorite War tells a more intimate story of the director growing up in Soviet Latvia, and it has a very distinct visual style when the animation beats happen. It might not be the best animation, and it does look a little wonky at points, the personal story and the history behind that country are way more than enough to carry the rest of the film. 

19 Twilight

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Yeah, we finally got this film. I remember there was a lot of hype for it due to being crowdfunded, which is not uncommon with Japanese animation, but then everything went silent, and it stayed in Japan for a few years. Crunchyroll then finally brought it over, and well, it’s a solid little teen drama. While it’s not revolutionary or better than other teen dramas or coming-of-age dramas, it’s still well animated and earnest in its execution to warrant at least one viewing of the film. 

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 219: Yasuke Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz 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 patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

You know I love propping up the creators, directors, writers, composers, and the people who work on the films and shows I review. It’s good to know who makes what, because it’s not just Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Netflix, and what have you. People make these films, not just the studios. It’s worth noting them as well when it’s something like LeSean Thomas who is bringing his distinct style and vision to anime. Yes, he has worked on shows like Black Dynamite, Legend of Korra, and The Boondocks, but those shows are anime adjacent. I wouldn’t directly call them anime. He has, however, been able to make more traditional anime with the help of Japanese studios and visuals with two shows for Netflix. The first one was Cannon Busters, which I think is a pretty good gem that you should all check out, and his newest mini-series for Netflix, Yasuke

Directed by LeSean Thomas and Takeshi Satou, written by LeSean, Nick Jones Jr., and Alex Larsen, and produced by MAPPA, this anime is a fantastical retelling of the historic black samurai. However, it adds in more fantasy and sci-fi elements to make for a unique experience. How does it unfold? Well, read on to find out. 

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The story follows, well, Yasuke, dubbed by Lakeith Stanfield. He is an African slave who was brought to Japan and was picked up by Oda Nobunaga to be his right hand. After some history passes, Nobunaga’s reign falls, and Yasuke is now a drunk boatsman haunted by his past actions who helps ferry people on the river. One day, he is requested to take a small girl named Saki, dubbed by Maya Tanida, who has a mysterious illness and powers attached to her. Yasuke soon finds out that she is being hunted down by not only bounty hunters, but an evil force that wants to use her powers to rule the world. 

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Let’s talk about the setting and story first this time. If you are narrowly thinking that you are getting another Afro Samurai situation where it’s set in a world where it is in Japan’s past, but it somehow has hip hop and sci-fi elements,you would be wrong. I mean, yeah you do see mech suits, but the more fantastical elements are more in the background than in the foreground like you see in Afro Samurai. It leans more on the magic and supernatural elements, and I think that might be one of the issues I have with this show. It has all of these elements mixed into the old world, but until the second half of the three episodes happens, they don’t add anything outside of flare to the world. They could have taken out the sci-fi elements and you wouldn’t miss a beat. I know one of the bounty hunters, who I liked, is a robot, but he could have been a magical set of armor. In general, I wonder if I would rather have it lean more on these elements or if the show was more in the vein of something like Sword of the Stranger. I wonder this because the show pulls a lot of its runtime into telling flashbacks when Yasuke was with Nobunaga. I liked these story beats because this is such an interesting historical story and a fascinating individual, but then the story pulls me back into the modern-day and into another “I must protect this powerful small individual from bigger forces out there.” It means that Yasuke can’t be the main focus, because the focus is not him, it’s the kid. Overall, I didn’t find the world and characters to feel consistently cohesive. I enjoyed the characters themselves with a special shout-out going to the bounty hunters and Yasuke. If you are curious, they do tackle some small themes of Yasuke finding his place in Japan, and they do comment on some elements of racism, discrimination, and nationalistic pride, but again, it’s not the real focus of the show. 

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Animation-wise, this is where the show shines and where MAPPA, the studio behind anime like Jujutsu Kaisen, shows off their talents. While the CGI can be janky at points, the action is on point with some of 2021’s best action set pieces. The action is so fluid and intense that when I was watching some of the episodes on a bus, I had to tone down my reactions to some of the action beats. As I said above, don’t go expecting this to be an Afro Samurai-style show, but do expect plenty of blood and gore. It’s a fairly violent show. It can be pretty brutal at points, but it doesn’t go too overboard into nihilistic blood fests. The voice cast is pretty stellar as well. Of course, the main draw is hearing Lakeith Stanfield as the titular character. I think he does an overall great job in the lead role since he’s a strong actor. The rest of the cast is also pretty impressive with Takehiro Hira, Maya Tanida, Ming-Na Wen, Gwendoline Yeo, Paul Nakauchi, Dia Frampton, Don Donahue, Darren Criss, Julie Marcus, William Christopher Stephens, and Amy Hill all putting in good performances. The music by Flying Lotus is stellar! The overall synth vibe the show gives off lends itself to a unique atmosphere along with a few moments of hip hop. The opening song is a real banger, and I hope you sit through the full song. I can easily see myself downloading that song and listening to it in the background as I work on writing some reviews. 

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While I don’t think it’s as good as Cannon Busters, which I hope gets a second season at some point, Yasuke delivers a different experience than what we will get with most anime this season. Even if I don’t fully gel with a series like this, I always admire and enjoy the vision they put out with these types of projects. Plus, it’s awesome that we get to see an anime based on one of the most interesting people in history. Next time, It will be the 220th review, and I feel like I need to find something special to cover, but you will just have to wait and see what it is. 

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 patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




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