The Other Side of Animation 202: The Croods: A New Age Review

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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 procedure of what goes into making an animated film is often a chaotic mess of management, talent, and simply trying to be prepared for unexpected roadblocks. That includes people leaving, directors changing, redoing certain scenes or sections, maybe redesigning or rewriting entire story beats and characters. It’s a hot mess that requires you to be ready, and that means being canceled and then brought back to life after a few years. This is what happened with a certain sequel to a DreamWorks film. So, let’s talk about The Croods: A New Age.

Directed by Joel Crawford, this sequel to the hit film from 2013 went through quite the production cycle, as it was announced that a sequel would be getting made back in 2013. It continued to be in production for 2014 and 2015, but then got canceled in 2016 after the Universal buyout of DreamWorks Animation. There were some doubts about it from Universal’s side of things, but they changed their minds in 2017, because it then went back into production. However, the original directors, Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco were replaced by Joel Crawford, which makes The Croods: A New Age Crawford’s first real directorial gig for a feature film. It was officially released on November 25th, 2020, and then got a Home Premier release a few weeks later. It had a budget of $65 million, and has raked in quite a hefty sum of cash to the tune of $115.3 million. As for its critical reception, it’s gotten pretty positive reviews, but nothing outwardly glowing. Well, at least I can add to the glowing praise of this film.

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So, our story picks up a little bit after the first film. The Croods, which include Eep, voiced by Emma Stone, Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, Ugga, voiced by Catherine Keener, Thunk, voiced by Clark Duke, Sandy, voiced by Kailey Crawford, Gran, voiced by Cloris Leachman, and Guy, voiced by Ryan Reynolds are back as the main focus of this new film. As the family travels from place to place, there is some tension within the family, as Guy and Eep are about to make their relationship official. That is, until one day, the prehistoric family runs into a large wall. They of course make it through said wall, and find a bountiful and beautiful paradise full of fresh water and food. Unfortunately for them, they get caught in a trap, and find out that there was already a family living there. These are the Bettermans. The Bettermans include the husband Phil, voiced by Peter Dinklage, Hope, voiced by Leslie Mann, and their daughter Dawn, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran. It turns out that Guy used to know the Bettermans, and shenanigans ensue as the Bettermans try to get Guy to hook up with Dawn, and for the Croods to leave. Will things settle down? Will Guy and Eep split up?

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I’ve talked to my co-host of the animation podcast I am on, that DreamWorks sequels are for the most part, better than the original. Luckily, this is the case for this film. Instead of trying to be a somewhat grounded drama/comedy, The Croods: A New Age leans more on the comedy, but it still keeps around a lot of the themes of the original film, and even adds a few new ones. On top of the themes of always trying something new and dealing with the ever reliant force of change, with the Bettermans and their walled-off way of living, you have themes and commentary about immigration, discrimination, classism, racism, colonialism, and toxic mannerisms and dynamics. It’s a much deeper film than you would think, but I give DreamWorks credit for being creative with their premises, and pulling through with most of the topics they tackle with these sequels. It makes for a more fun movie as it also avoids a lot of the typical pitfalls that the previous film and most animated films fall into. For example, there is no love triangle. They make Dawn, Eep, and Guy be themselves while also giving some fantastic chemistry between the characters. It might have the over-protective dad trope, but the dads honestly get some of the more entertaining development and some of the funniest jokes in the entire film. Speaking of jokes, The Croods: A New Age is honestly quite funny! I found myself loving the expressive animation, and plenty of the best jokes were not shown in the trailers. This was a very comfort food-style film to watch during the holidays, because I found myself glued in front of this amusing experience from beginning to end. Not just because it was funny, but it had a story that, while it could have been better in some spots, was a lot more interesting and entertaining than I was expecting from a sequel that was greenlit, canceled, delayed, and then finally released. That’s a better fate than most films that go through production troubles. 

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Speaking of animation, I don’t know what DreamWorks did to half their budget from the first film, because the animation looks fantastic. I don’t know if it’s just the upgrade in animation tech from 2013 to 2020, Universal cracking down on DreamWorks’ bloated budgets from the past films, but whatever they did, they did a good job at keeping up the quality of the visuals. It’s such a vibrant film with the continuation of the previous film’s lovely color direction. I even like that they went more cartoony with the designs of the animals and humans. They seem to be more fun to animate, because the previous film was cartoony, but had more grounded movements and expressions. I think everything in this film looks better in general in every way possible.

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In terms of the sound, I think the music is pretty good! We might not have Alan Silvestri, but we got Mark Mothersbaugh, who I think fits the tone and personality of the film. It’s a quirkier sounding soundtrack, and due to the more comedic tone, it fits! The voice cast is also fantastic, but that’s not a shock. The original cast of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman are fantastic as usual, and Cage gets to be a bit more of his “Cage self” in this film than the previous film. Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann are also delightful foils to the Croods, but my favorite performance has to go to Kelly Marie Tran as Dawn. Anytime she and Emma Stone were on screen together were some of my favorite moments, because Kelly seems to be having a lot of fun voicing the character.

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Sure, this film has clunky moments, some of the jokes don’t work, it can be a touch loud at points, and it has some old tropes still laying around, but it set out to be a substantial sequel full of laughs, and it accomplishes it. It’s one of my favorite animated films from last year and one I can see myself easily wanting to own in the future. If you have yet to watch this film, then I recommend doing so. It’s a tight film, and I’m glad DreamWorks is continuing its progress in making good sequels. Now then, it is 2021, and we have to look at new films sooner or later. This means we must start with Netflix’s Charming.

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 Check It Out!

The Other Side of Animation 201: Lupin III: The First Review

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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!)

With the state of animation where CGI is becoming more common to the medium, animated properties are slowly and surely starting to slip into the transition that, let’s be real here, the same transition that video games ran into going from 2D to 3D graphics. Remember how long it took for so many game companies to finally crack the code? Not all of them were Nintendo, and so many franchises and companies paid for their failed attempts with games that weren’t great. So, what does this have to do with animation? Well, animation has and is going through those transitional phases. If you pinpoint certain parts of animation history, you can see where certain transitions to higher-end technology led to some clunky moments. I still remember when anime went from hand-painted to digital painted animation, and how they had to work with lighting and how not to make everything look so garish. Luckily, one franchise has been able to make that leap, and I can now talk about it! Today’s review will be of Lupin III: The First

Directed by Takashi Yamazaki, produced by TMS Entertainment and Marza Animation Planet, and brought over to the states by GKIDS, this is a monumental film for the franchise, as it’s the first film in the historic manga/anime franchise to be in full CGI. While CGI animation made in Japan is nothing new, it has taken a while for some franchises to take that first step. It was shown off at Annecy 2020 Online and got relatively positive reviews. GKIDS then gave it a limited theatrical release back in October, and now, well, here we are. Does Lupin make the jump to CGI? Or should this thief have stayed in the realm of 2D?

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So, this time, our story with the lovable thief has Lupin, dubbed by Tony Oliver, wanting to steal a special diary called the Bresson Diary, something that the Nazis were looking for back in World War II. As he tries to steal it the first time around, he is thwarted by the combined forces of a young woman named Laetitia, dubbed by Joy Scattorin, and the ever committed Inspector Zenigata, dubbed by Doug Erholtz. After escaping the grasp of the police with the help of his buddies Jigen, dubbed by Richard Epcar, and Goemon, dubbed by Lex Lang, Lupin finds Laetitia’s home and makes a deal with her. The diary is important to him due to it being one of the few items his grandfather couldn’t steal, and Laetitia is the granddaughter of the original author of the diary. Can they make a deal and unlock this diary’s secrets while avoiding the grasp of an evil organization that wants to use the diary’s secrets and treasures to bring back the Nazi party? Well then, you can easily assume what happens, but you will have to see for yourself. 

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How about we talk about the CGI animation for this film? How does it compare to the director’s other film from this year, Dragon Quest: Your Story? Personally, while I think some of the same issues can be seen in terms of animation with both films, I think it looks better than Dragon Quest: Your Story. On one hand, the previous film failed because it tried to be a CGI version of the game, and used a lesser version of the game’s iconic art style. At least with this film, everyone looks like they do from the manga and anime. While it may have been more bouncy and cartoony in its movements, the characters are still way more expressive and have their little quirky movements and traits that make them stand out from one another. They honestly do look like they were translated right from the anime and into 3D models. It’s quite impressive. There was an effort to take advantage of the animation being in CGI. While it’s not Hotel Transylvania in terms of cartoony animation, it still has some pretty good comedic animation. The action is also stylish and fun, due to how it plays like a mixture of a heist and an Indiana Jones-style adventure film. It might go into the area of sci-fi in the third act, but it at least feels more cohesive than other films in the franchise that try to mix it up, and it doesn’t work 100%. Sure, I wish Jigen and Goemon got to do a little more, like maybe they have their exclusive bad guys to fight, but this film is mostly about Lupin and the film-exclusive character Laetitia. 

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So, as we talked about the animation, how is the story? Well, while simple, and the film is more or less the same kind of Lupin III plots we usually get, I rather enjoyed my time with the plot. If I had to pick a theme that this film focuses on, it’s another feature film about family, the legacy they leave behind, and how you honor said legacy. Lupin and Laetitia both want to fulfill the legacy left behind by their families, and while it’s not going to be an incredibly deep film, it’s more focused than most Lupin plots that devolve into pure shenanigans. I found that Lupin and the gang worked off the villains and Laetitia pretty well, and that’s not always a certainty with films from this franchise. The director has said that he was inspired by what is probably the best film in the franchise, Castle of Cagliostro. Once learning about that, it is easy to see the connections there, and while that can be considered a pro and a con, it’s better than a lot of the specials and films that have come out in the past. Plus, with something like this new CGI film, you want to see a lot of the traditional Lupin elements. You want to see Zenigata get excited about capturing Lupin, you want to see Goemon be the stoic samurai, you want to see the love/hate relationship between Lupin and Fujiko, and you get the idea. It might be familiar, but it’s a good kind of familiar. This also means rehiring the iconic voice cast of the original red jacket series with Tony Oliver, Lex Lang, Michelle Ruff, and Richard Epcar as the iconic characters.

So, what do I not like about this? Well, as much fun as the overall experience is, I think the villains are the weakest part of the film. They are just typical modern-day (well, modern-day for the time in which the film takes place) Nazis that want to revive the plans and ways of Hitler. Now, it is nice the film is very anti-Nazi, and I am by no means looking for a sympathetic portrayal of one, but the villains don’t leave that much of an impression. The only kind of amusing thing about one of them is that the main bad guy looks like an anime-version of David Lynch.

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Outside of that minor issue, Lupin III: The First is a great action-adventure film that easily rises to the best that the franchise can offer. It’s digitally available right now, but you can get it on Blu-ray and DVD in January. I hope this film was successful enough to bring back Lupin to the theatrical side of things and we can see more of his shenanigans in the future! For now, we will have to travel back to the stone age as we look at The Croods: A New Age next time!

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: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 200: Soul Review

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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!)

HEADS UP: I was able to watch this film thanks to Disney via a screener. Enjoy the review!

It all started back in September 2015. I wrote my first review of Ernest & Celestine, one of my favorite films of all time, and one of my all-time favorite animated films period. I made it a goal to cover everything out there that wasn’t Disney and Pixar. I chose to exclude those two because I wouldn’t have that much else to add to the discourse. I usually love their animated features, but I tend to dislike the ones that are the obvious bad eggs of the bunch. My goal was to talk about animated films that were under the radar or talk about the other big animated films. Well, it’s been five years, and why not break some rules? From now on, I’ll drop a review of an animated film from Disney and/or Pixar from time to time on my site. Why? Because as much as I love showing off animated films from around the world, from other companies, and introducing you all to these amazing wonders that are made by hand or by computer, sometimes, I want to indulge in what everyone else is seeing. So, how about we make this 200th review the newest Pixar film, Soul

Directed by Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers, and written by Doctor, Powers, and Mike Jones, this is Pixar’s newest animated feature and the first feature film from the company to have a black co-director and a predominantly black cast. It was originally scheduled to be released back in June 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was delayed and then controversially given a Disney+ release. Luckily, unlike Mulan 2020, it didn’t cost extra. So, was there any real worry about this film hitting the streaming service? Nope! Let’s dive in! 

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Soul follows our main character Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx. Joe is a music teacher who dreams of being a famous jazz pianist and playing with one of the big players in the music world. One day, he auditions with one of the biggest jazz musicians around, Dorothea Williams, voiced by Angela Bassett. After he succeeds in the audition, he exudes his happiness across the city until he falls into an open manhole. Through some obvious denial of dying or being close to death, Joe ends up in a realm where souls are made and get their personalities. He encounters a soul named 22, voiced by Tina Fey, who has been there for who knows how long, and doesn’t want to leave and go to earth. Joe then makes a deal with 22 that if he can find her spark, she will give Joe her patch to let him come back to life. Can Joe fulfill this fairly heady and philosophical task? Will he be able to fulfill his love for jazz? Or will Joe and 22 find something new that gives their life that spark? 

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So, from every review you may have read about this film, this is Pixar’s most mature film. It’s not mature in the sense that people swear and there is a lot of violence. That would honestly be interesting to see what Pixar could do with an actual PG-13 or R-rated film. Anyway, this is mature in the sense that the film is exceptionally heady. I mean, when you are a film about life, love, death, finding your spark, and very ethereal concepts about, well, the human experience and soul, it’s going to be not the most child-friendly tone. However, while it might not outwardly be the most approachable film for super young kids, I think everyone needs to see Soul. It’s a story that juggles a lot of these concepts, and finds incredible ways to execute the ideas given to the audience. What does “before-life” look like? Are you born with that spark? What happens when you find that spark? Is it the same goal or passion you started with? What makes you, well, you? What happens when you become too stressed out or too worn out by finding your passion? What does your soul look like when this happens? It’s a film that wants to tackle some heavy topics, and I admire the heck out of that. So many animation “fans” ask and “demand” animated films to be “taken seriously”. Well, this is the film you want then. I mean, in my opinion, animated films made in the US can be any genre, but that’s beside the point. 

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This would all be for naught if the characters didn’t work, and boy howdy do I love the cast. I think while this film can be approachable by all, it’s focused on a somewhat older audience. I think it’s amusing that we have a main character who is middle-aged. I know some people think animated films that want to be seen by kids and families should have child-like protagonists, but I disagree. You can tell stories with characters of all ages. I like that we have a middle-aged hero. It feels different. The characters have great chemistry, and I loved seeing Joe and 22 together as 22 slowly finds that spark. The film is full of multiple memorable characters, from the spirit counselors to the side characters. Even characters you see in only one scene leave an impression. One of my favorite scenes in the entire film is when Joe and 22 go to the barbershop and we meet Dez, who is voiced by Donnell Rawlings. Not only does it do a good job of adding to the overall black experience and culture, but it’s also one of the most thematically important scenes in the film. The spirit counselors are also a lot of fun to watch, and have some of the best lines in the movie. I admire that there is no real bad guy. I adore animated films that do the “there is no real bad guy, but everyone is flawed” thing. 

*small spoiler talk here*

With all that said, I know one scene may rub some people the wrong way, where 22 ends up in Joe’s body while Joe ends up in the body of a cat. I think if this was handled by any other studio, it would have looked really bad for understandable reasons. What does save this scene, and I think Kemp and Pete handle this well with making souls non-binary with no real gender, race, or sex identification. I think this is the first Pixar film to have non-binary characters. Plus, this point of the film is for Joe to see life and passion from a different perspective. However, if you agree or disagree with me on this point, that’s perfectly fine, and I get if some people may or may not get rubbed the wrong way from it.

*Small spoiler talk ends here* 

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Speaking of the cast, the voice cast is pretty great. An element that I love about Pixar and Disney animated film casting is that they don’t rely on the hype of the big names they get. They do rely on big names, but it’s never the selling point, unlike some films that make it priority number one like Rango having Johnny Depp. The cast including Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga, Wes Studi, Fortune Femster, Enobia Shroff, Donnell Rawlings, June Squibb, Ester Chae, and other big names like Cody Chestnutt making small cameos, brings so much life to the story, and I admire how predominantly black this cast is. The dialogue is complex, funny, heartfelt, and real. No one is relying on hip modern lingo, or is trying too hard to stand out. 

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I’m a little shocked it’s taken this long in the review to talk about the stellar animation. It’s incredible. From the textures, the lighting, and the hair physics, the characters look incredible. I like that the design work for humans is at a point where we can make consistently good-looking humans with CGI animation. All it takes is a little elbow grease and the right art style. I love the designs for the spirit counselors, and I’m curious as to how challenging they were to tackle, due to them being essentially flat abstract lines. The worlds that they create are fully realized, and show some of the best animation and sequences out of any Pixar film. The music that is composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is full of whimsical delights, and ethereal tracks that make you feel otherworldly. Even Cody Chestnutt has a song in the film that melts my heart with love each time I listen to it. The more jazz and soul music used in the film was by Jon Batiste, and man, I adored the music from top to bottom. It’s easily one of my favorite Disney soundtracks. 

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I don’t know what else I could say. Soul is one of Disney and Pixar’s best films. I would argue it’s one of the most ambitious animated films of all time. Will I be shocked or hate anyone who doesn’t love the film? Of course not! However, if you want to join the discussion about it, I recommend watching this film and coming up with your own opinions and observations. Who knows, maybe you will find something that I didn’t notice for the first time. If this doesn’t convince you to support this film and watch it, then I don’t know what will. Well, I’m glad I decided to make this my first Pixar and Disney film to review. Now then, it’s time to go back to what I specialize in and also love talking about, foreign animation. Next time, we will be talking about Lupin III: The First

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: Criterion/Essentials!

The Other Side of Animation 199: Weathering With You Review

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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!)

Content Warning/Heads Up: I will be talking about the film’s ending because it needs to be discussed, so if you have yet to watch this film, do so right now. 

Well, I was going to review Hayop Ka!, the adult animated film from the Philippines that hit Netflix. Sadly, there is a problem with that, it’s not available on US Netflix. I know I could pay for a VPN and use a different region’s Netflix, but consider me lazy, I don’t feel like doing such a thing until the film gets an official US release. The fact that it’s available everywhere else on Netflix but my country is so weird. Well, that’s life for ya. Sometimes, a wrench is thrown into my original plans, and for the first time out of almost 200 reviews, I have to talk about a different film than what I promised from my previous review. Oh well, one out of 198 reviews is pretty great, huh? Luckily, I wanted to review this replacement film for a while, because it’s one of the biggest films of 2020 in the indie scene, and one of the biggest hits for GKIDS and Makoto Shinkai, Weathering With You

Directed by Makoto Shinkai, this was the famed director’s follow-up to the monumental hit Your Name. It played at the Annecy 2019 film festival in the work-in-progress section, and was the first film shown at the Animation is Film Festival 2019 Edition. It may not have been the second coming of Your Name, but it still racked up awards all over the place in both nominations and wins. If Japan took the film and made it their submission for the Best Foreign Feature award at the Oscars, then that’s saying something. Personally, while I think Your Name is a great movie, and my opinion of it has changed somewhat since I reviewed it, I prefer Weathering With You. Why? Well, you have to read the review. 

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Our story revolves around Hodoka Morishima, dubbed by Brandon Engman. He leaves his town and goes to Tokyo to chase after a sensation he saw in his home in Kozu-shima. As he gets there, he is poor, quickly running out of money, not finding a job, and in dire need of a home. He decides to take up a small gig at a small-time magazine company run by a man who saved him on the boat, Keisuke Suga, dubbed by Lee Pace. After doing a couple of weeks working with the small company, Hodoka encounters a girl he ran into when he arrived in Tokyo, a teenager named Hina Amano, dubbed by Ashley Boettcher. As the two teens bond, Hodoka finds out that Hina can control the weather by making the sun shine and the rain vanish that has been heavily pouring down in Japan. So, how will this result in the pair’s relationship? Can they brighten your day and or find happiness, and where they are going in life? 

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So, one thing I notice in a lot of Makoto Shinkai films, is that he loves to have two things, teen romance and love over long-distance being used in their relationships. What shocked me is that Shinkai pretty much ditched the long-distance part as this is one film from him that I can think of where the teen couple is with one another for a mass majority of the film. I think that helps, because I like the relationship between the two kids. I know a lot of romance stories dealing with tragedy love to kill one of the love interests early on, and well, it’s nice to see films like Weathering With You and Ride Your Wave show the characters in relationships. It carries with itself a lot of the energy of teens feeling like they are lost in life, and they need to find their way and what they are looking for. Of course, this film has other bits of commentary, like environmentalism. The actions of the sunshine girl will have consequences, due to how the film has a reoccurring theme of finding your happiness and joy in what you have going on in your life right now, and trying not to worry about what will happen in the future. I like how the main cast is handled. Many times with Shinkai films, the side cast isn’t all that memorable, due to how much emphasis is put on the two leads. Here they feel more robust with how they work off of the two teens and how their stories are woven into the overarching plot. 

So, one thing that has stuck out to people who have seen this film is the highly controversial ending. If you have yet to see this film, then please know that this is where I’ll be talking about it. If you have yet to see the film, then please watch it before reading this review. Otherwise, it’s your darn fault if you read this part. Let’s get to it! 

From what I have gathered, you either love the ending, or you hate it due to the actions of the lead character. He caused Japan to flood because he wanted to be with the one he loved. It makes him a reckless protagonist. At least, that’s one side of the argument. The other side of the overall conversation is the environmentalism angle it’s going for. Honestly, it’s a mix of both and some more emotional core elements. For example, the sunshine girl’s deeds are great, but there is a fairly selfish side to what happens in the film. All of these people get to have good days due to her actions, but the day she vanishes, everyone is like “it’s for the greater good”, and that’s messed up that a human sacrifice was a good thing in the long run. This is, of course, taking into consideration that due to what is going on with our abuse of the ecosystem, ocean-side cities, countries, and what have you will sadly end up underwater if we don’t do something about it. Yes, the male lead did cause Japan to flood due to his selfishness that he would rather be with her than have all of the sunshine in the world. I mean, yeah, it looks bad, but due to how the environment is responding to us and the recklessness of teenage love, I get why he made those actions. I understand why people love and hate it, but in the end, the film’s core seems to be that things are rough, so enjoy what you have right now, and while things are going to be tough, we will be alright. However, simply put, that is my takeaway from this, and if you agree, that’s cool! If you don’t agree, then that’s fine as well! 

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Animation-wise, I mean, it’s Makoto Shinkai. It’s a gorgeous movie with some of the studio’s best animation and visuals yet. It combines everything you would love from the rain in The Garden of Words to the amazing skylines of Your Name, and while you may not see anything unique about the character designs, they still look like characters from a Shinkai film. In terms of the dub cast, I know not everyone is always on board with celebrities doing voice casts, but from my experience, they are pretty good, and that’s no different here. It helps that it’s a mix of voice actors and big names, but the big names aren’t distracting. The cast includes Brandon Engman, Ashley Boettcher, Lee Pace, Alison Brie, Riz Ahmed, Barbara Goodson, Lexie Foley, Mike Pollock, Barbara Rosenblat, Wayne Grayson, Emeka Guindo, and if you know your Shinkai filmography, you will notice two actors from Your Name show up as their characters. They bring in strong performances, and of course, the Japanese cast is also great. Everyone feels very natural, so you can’t go wrong with watching one or the other. The overall soundtrack composed by the band RADWIMPS is quite stellar as well. It’s fun to see Shinkai have what could be his go-to-in-house music team with RADWIMPS, since this is their second time collaborating since 2016’s Your Name. I love a lot of the songs on the soundtrack. I listened to We’ll Be Alright ever since I saw the film back in October 2019. 

Now, do I have any criticisms? I think this is better than Your Name, so that means it’s a better film overall, right? Well, that’s not true. As much as I don’t mind the ending, and I get where he was coming from with how he handled it, I wish it was executed better. I know I spent a chunk of my review defending the ending, but it’s not like I don’t flip-flop from time to time when I think about this film’s ending. 

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Other than that, I think Weathering With You is a fantastic film from Shinkai and his team at CoMix Wave Films, and while I know many people will prefer Your Name, I love Weathering With You overall. Still, both movies are great, so they are like comparing one great milkshake to another great milkshake. You don’t lose in that situation. Still, I think it’s impressive that Weathering With You is still one of the most successful indie films of the year, but knowing how this year turned out, it’s a blessing and a curse. If you have yet to watch this film, please do so. Rent it, buy the normal version, the steelbook version, or the collector’s edition. You will not be disappointed. Well, we are now at 199 film reviews. Let’s then move onto something special for the 200th review. It should be something special, and 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! 

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

We Need More Companies like GKIDS

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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!)

With this year being the year of film delays and a pandemic, it has dried up the foreign film market purchases. Granted, I don’t mean to come off as no purchases have happened, but they have been few and far between this year. I mean, it’s hard to know if you want to buy the US rights to a foreign film if there is no way to watch it. While I have loved being able to see some foreign film offerings via online film festivals, it’s less than what I would personally liked to take into my eyes and writing. It’s a real first world problem to complain about this, but as an animation and film fan of foreign animated features, this year has been lacking. When my co-host and I talked to Tony Bancroft and Scott Salva about getting their animated film Animal Crackers distributed, they talked about how it seems impossible for smaller animated films to get a foot in the door with a distributer. Sure, we have companies like GKIDS, but it does seem like other distributor hopefuls like Elevenarts and Shout! Factory seem to have dialed back their support. For example, Elevenarts’ only major animated film this year? The Wonderland.  At least in 2018, they had not only the franchise films they brought over, but also Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom and Liz and the Blue Bird. The point of the matter is, as much as I love GKIDS, it can’t be the only company that’s shouldering the weight and fate of multiple animated films from overseas. 

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Thankfully, back in June of 2020, the Los Angelas Animation Festival founded a new distribution arm with the intent of distributing animated films from overseas. These include the first Iranian-animated film to be submitted to the Oscars for Best Animated Feature, The Last Fiction, and the Chinese stop-motion head trip SHe. Now, they may not have the biggest names or the most approachable films, but the fact of the matter is that they have a chance to be seen now, and that makes it all the better for animation and film fans like myself. I want to be able to support these movies, but I don’t want to support them under the table. Sadly, that may be the only way to do so until an official US release via GKIDS, Shout! Factory, Elevenarts, and or Netflix happens. 

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Due to the small and frankly, limited nature of theatrical animation discussions seen online, people seem to have very limited and sometimes flawed viewpoints on the overall animation line-up over certain years. You can talk about how underwhelming years like 2011, 2013, 2017, and to a degree, 2019 were, but when you look past all of the big films, pushing aside all of the DreamWorks, all of the Disney, Pixar, Illumination, and what have you, and in those years, you have a treasure trove of animated features. Now, that isn’t to say they are all perfect gems, because when you dig deep enough, you will find just as many or even more duds than what the US studios release. Remember, just because there are a lot of great foreign features, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their quick slap-dash productions. Still, when you expand your horizons, you get a better view of what animation can do, and what stories can be told using the medium. 

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It’s funny though, no matter how many Annie Award wins and Oscar/other award nominees a company like GKIDS gets with the films they bring over, other companies don’t even think about jumping on that hype train of being able to have some kind of foreign animation gem in their catalog. A24 is one of the most well-known indie distributors/production houses around with multiple award wins and nominations, but only recently have they finally decided to touch something animated. Could you imagine if A24 and Neon got into distributing foreign animated features? They tend to get more reach and theaters with their films. As much as I love GKids, their limited theatrical releases do hurt the number of people who can watch their work until it hits digital or physical format. Even companies like Well Go USA Entertainment have started to dip into the animation game. If they know what’s up, so should every other indie/film distributor.

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Now, if I’m being honest, I did make this editorial to partly vent that I want to see these amazing animated films from overseas as legally as I possibly can, but I did want to also talk about the fact that there is an audience for this stuff, and the fact GKIDS is the only one consistently doing this is painstakingly tiring. I don’t even care if I end up not liking the films 100%, I want to see them and make a judgment on their quality myself. To be fair, I get that the other countries will, of course, want their films to play in their homeland first, and there is a slew of legal copyright stuff with distributing it over in the states, but they must know that there is an audience for these films outside their own countries. With the success of films like Parasite and I Lost My Body, it should be a no brainer for other distributors to start picking up the slack and bringing these films over. I want to see films like CalamityWords Bubbling Up Like CiderLove Me Love Me NotThe NoseNahuel and the Magic Book, Stranger in the Spring, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, and you get the idea. Hollywood animation is only going so far as to show what kind of a world animation can create, but if you look on the other side, you will find so much more. 

 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! 

Fall 2020 Anime Season Impressions Finale

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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! We are at the finale of the impressions! If you have yet to see Part 1 or Part 2, I will hyperlink them in this sentence. Now then, let’s get started!

Good: These are the anime that may have their flaws, but are still really fun watches.

Adachi and Shimamura (Funimation)

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Impressions: Based on the light novel and manga by Hitoma Iruma of Bloom Into You fame, directed by Satoshi Kuwabara, and animated by Tezuka Productions, this girl-on-girl romance anime starts on a bumpy first impression. It comes off like it wants to tell a super intimate teenage romance story, but is constantly fighting against a director who is too horny. The first episode is covered in so many thighs, butt, leg, and bust shots that it drags the intimate genuine parts down. However, once you get past the first episode, the character dynamic between the two leads is full of realistic angst and love. It’s a beautiful-looking anime as well, and I can see myself wanting to find out if it sticks the landing. We will just have to see.

Tonikawa: Over the Moon For You (Crunchyroll)

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Impressions: Out of all of the Crunchyroll exclusives I have seen so far this season, while flawed, Tonikawa: Over the Moon For You is the best one of the bunch. Based on a manga by Kenjiro Hata, directed by Hiroshi Ikehata, and produced by Seven Arcs, this romance anime begins on a rocky start, where the lead falls in love with a woman he barely knows and then gets married. Technically, when he asks her out, she says she won’t go out with him unless they get married, and then ironically, they don’t see each other for a few years. The entire base of their relationship is odd, and I don’t know if I still understand it. Even the fact that between the marriage offer and when they finally hook up, has a three or so-year gap doesn’t help covey to me why they should be together. Still, as the show has gone on, the relationship between our leads Nasa Yuzaki and Tsukasa Tsukuyomi is cute. They do love each other and they do bond as they work their way through being a young married couple. The side characters also have a lot of fun energy and add a bit of mystery to the situation. I’m honestly invested to see where this story goes and how it makes its landing. It might not be the most visually stunning anime of the Fall season, but it has a pretty great opening song. Still, if you had to check out a Crunchyroll exclusive, I’d recommend this one over Gibiate and Noblesse.

By the Grace of the Gods (Funimation)

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Impressions: Based on the manga and light novels by Roy, the anime is directed by Takeyuki Yanase, and the animation studio behind it is Maho Film, this is another isekai where someone from our world overworked himself, died, and is now reincarnated in a fantasy world. All things considered, it’s cute and pretty laid back so far, but it also doesn’t have too much else to make it stand out from others. I do like the laid back nature of the show’s tone, and I like that this lead character helps not through fighting, but using slimes and magic to solve problems. It doesn’t have the best animation, and it’s pretty basic-looking. Luckily, the show has started to show some depths, and there was a scene in episode 4 that was heartwarming. It’s slowly becoming one of my favorites of the season.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park (Funimation)

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Impressions: This show is based on the urban mystery novels by Ira Ishida, which was then adapted into a drama series by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, then a manga written by Ira Ishida, and now an anime series directed by Tomoaki Koshida and produced by Doga Kobo. So far, it kind of reminds me of Yakuza in terms of this more urban-set series, where we follow a young man named Makoto who helps out the G-Boys, a gang within Ikebukuro with different situations. He’s more of a middle man that tries to keep everything at peace within this city between the G-Boys and other gangs. It’s fun to watch the stories unfold as we watch Makoto and the G-Boys try and solve what the problems are, and why the clients came to them and whatnot. While maybe not supporting the best animation, it still looks pretty good, and the stories themselves are interesting enough to keep you, well, invested. I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop at some point, but I recommend this one if you are into some crime-solving with an urban flair.

Fantastic: These are the anime that may have a flaw here and there, but have stories and characters worth watching.

The Gymnastics Samurai (Funimation)

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Impressions: This is fun, an original anime by Studio MAPPA, directed by Hisatoshi Shimizu, and a lot of the teams behind Zombieland Saga and Yuri on Ice about a gymnastics athlete who doesn’t end up retiring and wants to keep going for his daughter. Oh, and a wayward ninja is living with them as well, after the athlete saves him from immigration. So, yeah, this is a weird anime, but it has a surprisingly grounded and wholesome vibe with the main character being a single dad, which is something we don’t see a lot of in anime. Much of the cast is great. With that said, it is a shame that the show stumbled in the second episode by introducing a gay doctor character who reinforces toxic homophobic stereotypes. Hopefully, they dial him back and make him more endearing, because your first introduction of a character like this shouldn’t be groping the lead without his consent. It’s a shame because the rest of the show has been pretty fantastic otherwise. I love the drama, the internal battle the lead has with himself, and the other gymnasts he interacts with.

Yashahime: Princess Half Demon (Funimation/Crunchyroll/VRV)

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Impressions: It is a sequel to the important and nostalgic fantasy action series Inuyasha, based on the franchise by Rumiko Takahashi, and directed by Teruo Sato. It follows the “next generation” storyline like Boruto, but instead of the maligned sequel to Naruto, Yashahime: Princess Half Demon is good. I honestly love the fact we have three tomboy protagonists who must save the day by traveling to the past and stop evil forces from taking over the world. It has pretty good action and animation from Sunrise, and the character chemistry and dynamics are interesting! It also has a pretty great opening song. If you have any nostalgia for Inuyasha, warts and all, I highly recommend watching this show. Just know it doesn’t make the best first impression with the first episode easing the old fans into this new batch of heroes.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina (Funimation)

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Impressions: Based on the light novel by Jougi Shiraishi, the manga by Itsuki Nanao, directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, and animated by C2C, this might be the most polarizing positive anime of the entire season. On one hand, the first two episodes have brought a different energy to the overall witch and magic world that is different enough from stuff like Harry Potter, and to a lot of degrees, better. I love the more laid back observant vibe the anime brings to the table, the lead is interesting, and I adore the less action-packed storytelling. On the other hand, after the first two episodes, the show and story go into, well, dark fairytale/Aesop stories with our lead more of a storyteller who journals her experiences in travel. I think this wouldn’t split people down the middle of it if it also didn’t make the lead look like a passive observer who could have saved some people or done something. Some of the stories are dark, and I don’t blame people getting miffed at the sudden tone change. I don’t agree with every part, of course, but I do get the divisiveness of the show. I think there is more to it than what the detractors are saying, but that’s just me. If you love and want a different take on magic and witches, then I recommend this show.

The Best: The best of the best of the season!

Dragon Quest: The Legend of Dai (Crunchyroll)

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Impressions: Based on the hit video game franchise and the manga by Riku Sanjo, this new incarnation of the story is directed by Kazuya Karasawa and animated by Toei Animation. What’s so fantastic about this show is how earnest it all is. It’s not trying to do something new, be edgy, or go the mature route with the franchise. What it does do is be a very entertaining, compelling, and charming action fantasy series. It also has a great mix of 2D and CGI animation that matches well with one another and while it might not reinvent the wheel, it executes that wheel in style.

Akudama Drive (Funimation)

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Impressions: An original anime directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, animated by Studio Pierrot, and written by Norimitsu Kaiho, this cyberpunk action/heist anime is oozing personality and originality out of every pore of its body. It also carries heavy Danganronpa vibes, which shouldn’t be a shock with how some of the team members that worked on this show, worked on Danganronpa 3. It might have characters that have one defining trait to them, but they take advantage of that one trait for each character and run with them. This ends up making the characters super likable and fun to watch, which is funny since they are all literal dangerous criminals. The character dynamics are fantastic, the action is intense, the world is fascinating, and it’s a show that knows what it wants to be and doesn’t sway from it. It’s easily one of the best anime of the Fall 2020 season, and if you have yet to watch it, please do.

Higurashi: When They Cry GOU (Funimation)

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Impressions: So, it might be a pseudo-sequel to the critically acclaimed horror franchise by 07th Expansion and is directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi, but you can easily drop into this show without seeing the previous one. Sure, you could probably get more out of it if you watched the previous series, but I never felt confused, which is more than I can say than when I watched Noblesse. Anyway, if you loved the horror/murder mystery franchise that is known for its memorable characters, unsettling scares, and an incredibly compelling story, then you should check out the newest show in the franchise.

Talentless Nana (Funimation)

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Impressions: If I was organizing these anime on a list, then this anime, Talentless Nana, based on the manga by Looseboy, directed by Shinji Ishihara, and animated by Bridge, would probably be at the top of the list. This twisted take of My Hero Academia is so much fun to watch. Very much like Moriarty the Patriot, we might be following the villain around for this story, but it’s so compelling, that you are going to be okay with that. Not every show or film needs to have a heroic main character, they just need to be interesting and worth investing in. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this series goes.

Jujutsu Kaisen (Crunchyroll)

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Impressions: Every season of anime has its shonen action show, and Jujutsu Kaisen is that show. Luckily, this anime based on the manga by Gege Akutami, directed by Sunghoo Park, and animated by Studio MAPPA is a cut above the rest. Think of it as a new generation Yu Yu Hakusho. I know some may be weary due to the fact that most anime fans were disappointed by God of Highschool, and how Kaisen has the same director, but I wouldn’t worry. Jujutsu Kaisen has more meat on its bones than God of Highschool. It’s more Yu Yu Hakusho and My Hero Academia, and less Black Clover. While both Kaisen and Highschool shows have amazing fight sequences, the characters so far seem to be way more weighted and interesting in Kaisen than most of the anime in this category of, well, anime. It has slick production values, endearing characters, great action, and if you need anything else to convince you to watch this show, it has a talking panda. I think that should make everyone watch it!

Moriarty the Patriot (Funimation)

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Impressions: One of the funniest things my co-host of the Tooned Up (soon to be relabeled Renegade Animation) podcast brought up was the fact three of the best anime this season have antagonists as the main characters, and that’s no different here. Based on the manga by Ryosuke Takeuchi, directed by Kazuya Nomura and produced by Production I.G, this murder/mystery anime follows Sherlock Holmes’ most dangerous adversary with Professor Moriarty. Like Kilmonger in Black Panther, while not someone you should worship as a “hero”, you understand his motives. The world he lives in is run by rich corrupt individuals, and the people below them suffer. Who wouldn’t want to make the people that have made your life worse pay for it? Even if this anime didn’t come out at a very volatile moment in time, I would still consider this to be one of the season’s best anime. Also, the opening song is amazing.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle (Funimation)

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Impressions: Finally, we have what is the funniest anime of the season, and probably of the year with Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. This fantasy comedy is based on the manga by Kagiji Kumanomata, and the anime is produced by Doga Kobo with Mitsue Yamazaki directing, and Yoshiko Nakamura writing. Instead of being a traditional fantasy anime, we get a comedy, where the entire plot is the captured princess going on quests around the big demon castle to get a good night’s sleep. What works about this anime is the very universal and broad style of comedy. It has clever dialogue, but it uses more physical comedy to get the jokes across. It doesn’t hurt that the princess herself is adorable and delightful. Every joke lands, every joke is satisfying, and while it might not have the best animation, the animation is still fan-friggin-tastic. It fits with what the show needs, and the execution of the comedy is sublime. If it wasn’t obvious, watch this show.

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! 

Fall 2020 Anime 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 is part 2 of the list! If you have yet to see part 1, you can go to this link!

Average: Not the best, but not the worst, these anime are, simply put, okay, but have the potential to become great.

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World (Funimation)

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Impressions: It’s a pseudo-Romeo and Juliet-style romantic war story that’s based on a light novel and manga by Kei Sazane, directed by Shin Onuma and Mirai Minato, and animated by Silver Link. It’s set in a world where military personnel fight against powerful witches and wizards. It’s kind of a unique setting, but with designs we have seen before. Let’s just say that the comments I have seen comparing the leads to characters seen in Sword Art Online are not new. I think the chemistry between the two leads is cute, and the action is solid enough, but it all feels like something we have seen before and done better. At least by the third episode, the plot is kicking in.

Magatsu Wahrheit (Funimation)

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Impressions: We have yet another anime based on a popular mobile game. It was developed by KLab. The anime itself was directed by Naoto Hosoda and produced by Yokohama Animation Laboratory. We have yet another steampunk/WW1-looking world with some fantastical elements. Unlike most anime that tend to look like this, the magic and world are more grounded, which is nice. It makes it feel more believable. However, it doesn’t stand out in most areas. It has decent action, a decent story, decent characters, and a somewhat cohesive world. I want to feel invested, but there isn’t much to be invested in that I couldn’t find in previous seasons or this season of anime. 

The Day I Became a God (Funimation)

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Impressions:  Well, in terms of original anime series, this show directed by Yoshiyuki Asai and produced by P.A. Works has some supposed baggage that comes with this release. The story of a young girl claiming to be Odin befriending a normal boy who just happens to be named after a sun goddess is an interesting premise, to say the least. While I am finding the dynamics between the two leads grating, it at least has some comedy that is legit funny. Granted, the first two episodes get close to running their best jokes in the ground, and I’m kind of curious to know if this girl is just messing with the boy or not. Still, she can be pretty obnoxious, so your mileage may vary with this show. Oh, and since this is apparently by a director of some known projects that go awry, if that is your thing, then maybe stick around to see how this one unfolds.

Warlords of Sigdrifa (Funimation)

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Impressions: So, we have a multi-media franchise entry with this one. It has two light novel series by Tappei Nagatsuki, two different manga by Kanari Abe and Takeshi Nogami, and this anime series directed by Hirotaka Tokuda, and animated by A-1 Pictures. It’s Evangelion mixed with Raiden, and for some reason, this world’s art direction isn’t working for me. Normally, I would be fine with old-fashioned customized fighter planes fighting angelic-looking monsters, but it’s not gelling with me. I think it’s mostly because of the cast. Outside of the whole debate of using teens as child soldiers, the designs clash with the overly serious aspect of the show. It also makes a terrible first impression with an hour-long first episode that drags out what seems like a single episode-level story. The animation is pretty great, but the dialogue isn’t all that memorable, and some of the dynamics between the characters feel a touch uncomfortable for me. There are some genuine solid moments of levity, but they are few and far between. It has the potential to maybe be one of 2020’s hidden gems, but it’s not gelling with me so far.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear (Funimation)

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Impressions: This quirky isekai anime is based on a series of light novels and manga by Kumanano. The anime is directed by Hisashi Ishii and Yuu Nobuta. It was produced by EMT Square. Its one gimmick of a young 15-year-old getting zapped into an online VR MMO RPG with a special over-powered set of items is nothing all that new to the genre. Its cutesy art style is the only real thing that makes this show stand out. So far, it seems to have one real reoccurring gag with how strong the main character is, and it has gotten tired by the third episode. It is nice to get an anime in this genre with a female lead this time, but outside of that fun little addition, the fantasy world she inhabits is not all that interesting. There are some interesting aspects to her character, but they are her real-world self, and since she’s stuck in this fantasy world, we might not see them again. It’s a show that is struggling to keep me invested in its story, characters, and world.

DJ4D First Mix (Funimation, Crunchyroll, VRV, and HiDive)

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Impressions: I feel badly for this anime that’s based on a multi-media project by Bushiroad, because it had to come out almost a month after Hypnosismic Division Rap Battle Royale, and I worry that viewers are going to constantly compare the two due to their focus on rap and pop music. Sure, they are different projects and are entirely different setting-wise, but you know how the internet tried to make a drama fight last year with Fire Force and Promare? The petty nature of fandoms will never die. Anyway, this anime is directed by Seiji Mizushima and was produced by Sanzigen. It’s a cute premise of a girl wanting to be a famed DJ, and the CGI animation used is pretty alright. It’s expressive and snappy, so that’s more interesting than what that Berserk reboot had going for it. The music is popping, but otherwise, the anime is generic overall. You know what’s going to happen by the base set-up of the anime and the opening. I could see it may be getting better as the show goes on, but it’s an okay first impression at best.

Hypnosismic Division Rap Battle (Funimation)

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Impressions: This anime is based on a multi-media project by King Records, has a slew of manga written by Yuichiro Momose, a game developed by Idea Factory, and an anime series directed by Katsumi Ono, written by Shin Yoshida, and produced by A-1 Pictures. On one hand, this show’s premise of a world where weapons are abolished outside of specialized mics made for rappers is so dumb. I have no idea how this would work in real life. However, on the other hand, they commit to the silly premise, and you will laugh when you see someone rob a bank and hold a mic up to someone’s neck like it was a gun or knife. The rap battles are also fun, and it has even driven a lot of curiosity in the rap scene in Japan, which is pretty cool. The four rap groups the show follows are also distinct in their designs, personalities, and dynamics among one another. 

On the other hand, this show is so flippantly sexist with how it treats female characters, that it also takes away all of the goodwill that the show commits to its goofy premise and sometimes decent comedy. There are barely any female characters worth caring about, and I’m so worried about how they are going to handle the fact that the government is run by a woman. I was okay with it being mildly sexist at first, but now I’m worried about how sexist it’s going to go. The show has also lost the plot. We are about halfway through the first season and there has been no battle royale or big rap event. The rap groups know of one another, but so far, the battles have all been one-sided. I’m hoping the rest of the season picks up the pace.

Check in the part 3 soon!

Fall 2020 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!)

For many anime fans, the Summer 2020 anime season was a bit of a letdown. Due to the ongoing pandemic, multiple shows were either delayed to the next season set of releases or pushed to next year. It left us with not much in terms of new anime, and the new anime we did get was not all impressive. There were some standouts like Deca_DenceGod of HighschoolThe Misfit of Demon King Academy, and so on, but outside of those, everything else was either okay, forgettable, and/or mediocre. Luckily, the Fall 2020 anime season has been super bountiful, and rather entertaining. Honestly, I gave up on watching seasonal anime for a good decade or so, because of time and losing interest in anime. While this year has had many lows, one of the high points was becoming interested in anime more often, and the Fall 2020 season has been my first time getting to watch new anime from the start of the season. While I will be going more in-depth with some of these titles in an upcoming podcast at Renegade Pop Culture, I wanted to give my thoughts first. My only rule is that I will be covering only new long-form anime. No short-form or returning anime. I will also be looking at the anime from a span of two to three episodes, because if you can’t grab your audience’s attention at that point, then you had better get good later on, or your viewers won’t stick around. By the way, the order in which they are lined up doesn’t matter. I threw them into each category that I felt fit their quality. Let’s get started!

The WorstThe anime I consider completely skippable and make the worst impressions out of the season. 

Assault Lily Bouquet (Funimation)

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Impressions: Based on the light novel of the same name by Kasama Hiroyuki, directed by Hajime Otani and Shoji Saeki, and animated by Shaft, this action anime is stuck in a tough spot, because it wants to be like the studio’s previous smash hit Madoka Magika, but it can’t be bothered to stand out in any real way with the first three episodes. It takes up too much time introducing the viewers to the many, and do I mean many, characters in the first episode, and then hands us an extremely boring villain group. It doesn’t help that the characters all run on one character trait that is mistaken for a personality. It’s a show that’s also more invested with its girl-on-girl romance and fanservice. Because, why would these teenage girls carrying giant weapons wear anything other than gothic French maid-style outfits into battle? When your first impression of the first episode is that there is a shot of the girls’ thighs approximately every minute, then that’s a bad sign. It’s starting to show some story growth and has decent action, but it’s easily one of the shows that I am willing to drop without hesitation. Still, at least it’s not our next show…

King’s Raid: Successors of the Will (Funimation)

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Impression: Based on the free-to-play South Korean mobile RPG, directed by Makoto Hoshino, and animated by Oriental Light & Magic and Sunrise Beyond, King’s Raid might very well be Fall 2020’s most generic anime, not even the most generic fantasy anime, even though it is, but overall. Out of the three episodes shown, this anime does nothing that you couldn’t find in better fantasy anime from previous years, and even in the Fall 2020 lineup. Seriously, do we need yet another discrimination allegory with dark elves as the victims of this discrimination? With dull animation, forgettable character designs, and a story that takes some very “out there” turns, King’s Raid fails to leave an impression worth remembering. Even as I was writing this all down, I’m forgetting what this anime offered me that was worth noting. 

Maesetsu! Opening Act (Funimation)

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Impressions: Arguably, while I think King’s Raid: Successors of the Will is probably the most forgettable anime of the Fall 2020 lineup, Maesetsu!: Opening Act is by far, the worst of the Fall season. It’s an original anime that was supposed to come out during the summer but was delayed due to COVID. This anime, directed by Yuu Nobuta and animated by Studio Gokumi and AXsiZ, made probably the worst first impression of any anime this season outside of Noblesse, but we will get to that bad boy soon. A premise of up-and-coming comedy duos sounds like a very unique and promising project. The problem is that it’s not funny. Every joke falls flat, even when the punchline is that the joke falls flat, and that’s a huge deal. Going into the ins and out of making jokes should be fun, but it’s shockingly not. What may be as bad as the comedy and the story is the art direction. While the characters look like they are all 12 years old, they are actually college age, and the adults look just as bad. The designs are incredibly distracting, and the animation is just okay. Maybe there is some cultural difference of the comedy spectrum missing in translation, but there are already anime this season that have a wider array of comedy that lands consistently and makes Maesetsu look even worst in comparison. No doubt about it, it’s by far the worst show of the current season so far. 

Mediocre: The anime series I thought were not great, but not bad enough to be the worst ones. 

Dropout Idol Fruit Tart (Funimation)

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Impressions: Based on the manga by So Hamayumiba, directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi, who is also helming this season’s Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou, and produced by Feel, this is a slice-of-life comedy about a new idol group made of girls who were rejected in other fields of entertainment. It’s a decent idea, and unlike a lot of the anime on this list, the animation is expressive and pretty. However, it doesn’t have that much else going for it. The premise is cute, but it leaves a lot of story elements open to criticism. It has some decent comedy, but it also results in some comedy aimed at a character who is uncomfortable showing off her body. Of course, the first episode makes this a major deal. I do like the story beat of a wide-eyed hopeful realizing that Tokyo isn’t the glamorous city that she was led to believe, but I don’t think it has much else when an already popular idol franchise this season of anime is out. When viewers can get a better alternative, they will take that alternative. 

Noblesse (Crunchyroll/VRV)

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Impressions: You know what’s fun? A show that punishes you for not watching an OVA of the same property before you watch the actual show in question. This series is based on a South Korean manhwa by Son Jeho, produced by Production I.G, and directed by Shunsuke Tada and Yasutaka Yamamoto. The show’s story starts after the OVA that was released back in 2016. If you do not watch the OVA, then be prepared to be confused as the show assumes you remember or watched the OVA in question. Also, be prepared to be underwhelmed by the animation downgrade. So little happens during the first three episodes, and while it’s now picking up, it’s a dull vampire anime as well. I liked some of the more low key moments between the characters, and some parts were funny, but it’s a little too late to get people invested in if it’s only becoming interesting by episode 3. You can tell Production I.G has their hands full with Moriarty the Patriot and the acclaimed Haikyu series, because Noblesse is yet another disappointing Crunchyroll Exclusive. 

Iwakakeru – Sports Climbing Girls (Crunchyroll)

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Impressions:  I was honestly looking forward to this one due to the premise. We already have a gymnastics anime this season, why not wall climbing? Out of all of the anime this year, I think this one got the shortest straw in the budget department. It looks the cheapest, has the most limited animation, and relies heavily on strong posing and effects to make it look more exciting. It wants to be taken seriously and be this shonen female-driven anime, which isn’t a bad thing, but outside of the lead, the rest of the cast is generic. It also has moments of fanservice, which isn’t bad, but since the show doesn’t look great at points, it falls flat. It’s also basic fanservice, so don’t expect something on the level of some of the other shows in the season. I dig the lead character using her gaming experience to learn how to tackle different climbing puzzles, but I’m not entirely sure how much of a fanbase or viewership this one is going to pull. 

I’m Standing on a Million Lives (Crunchyroll) 

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Impressions: With every anime season, there is going to be some “edgy” version of some genre of anime, and here we have the “edgy” isekai anime. It’s based on the manga by Naoki Yamakasa, directed by Kumiko Habara, and produced by Maho Film. Sadly, it’s a teenage boy’s definition of edgy, with a fairly insufferable lead character and female characters who feel more like accessories than actual characters. Even by the third episode, I found my patience drying up for how obnoxious the lead was. It has a cool idea with the whole respawning lives gimmick, and the random class wheel adds a somewhat humorous spin on what classes the lead boy ends up with. It’s a shame that the video game fantasy world they inhabit is so boring, and with okay animation to bring it to life, there isn’t much there to enjoy on a visual level. I’m hoping the story and characters get better, but I can see myself dropping off of this show fast if it doesn’t get going. 

Check out Part 2 in the near future!

The Other Side of Animation 198: Lupin the 3rd: Fujiko’s Lie Review

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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!)

Parental Warning/Heads Up: There is brief nudity and some heavy violence in this movie. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Yes, it’s once again time that we set our eyes on the Lupin the 3rd franchise. I have stated my opinions on the franchise as a whole in the past, and today, I’m going to talk about the last special from the A Woman Called Fujiko Mine series. As a fan of Lupin the 3rd, Fujiko Mine has been one of the more interesting and more infuriating characters to watch over the decades she has been around. While most of the main cast has changed very little, Fujiko seems to become more wildly inconsistent with who she is as a character, depending on what show, special, or film in which she appears. At some points, she’s nothing more than the token sexy female character, sometimes she’s incredibly competent like in Castle of Cagliostro, sometimes she is just crazy for Lupin, and sometimes, she doesn’t have much of a character outside of sex appeal. Now, I’m not saying she has to constantly evolve and be fleshed out in every film, special, and show, and whatnot, but at times, she becomes the least interesting character out of the entire core cast. So, since this is the last special from the A Woman Called Fujiko Mine series, where do I stand on Lupin the 3rd: Fujiko’s Lie

Once again, it’s directed by Takeshi Koike, written by Yuuya Takahashi, and animated by Telecom Animation Film and North Star Studio. The special was originally released in May 2019 in Japan, and was then shown in the US in July 2019. Discotek Media then released the Blu-ray in March 2020. It got pretty positive reviews, but it seemed to go by the wayside, unlike the previous specials Jigen’s Gravestone and Goemon’s Blood Spray. It was interesting to see this one go under the radar, especially since these last few specials have been pretty unique in the Lupin the 3rd franchise. Did it deserve to fly under the radar, or were we distracted by Fujiko’s charms and wits to miss something great? 

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So, even though this is a Lupin the 3rd special, the main story focuses on the femme fatal of the gang, Fujiko Mine, dubbed by Cristina Vee. She is currently working with a scientist and his son as a maid. Unfortunately, this scientist is being targeted by a major company for apparently taking $500 million from the company. Usually, when you steal money, they tend to care about that. So, that means Fujiko, the scientist, and the kid are targeted by an assassin named Bincam, dubbed by Billy Kametz. Can Fujiko avoid Bincam’s cursed ability, or will she fall under his spell and end up in a grave? 

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So, the first special focused on Jigen. The second special focused on Goemon. If it wasn’t obvious, this one focuses on Fujiko and her task of taking care of the kid and avoiding Bincam. When Fujiko was at her best, she was manipulative, using her ways to get an upper hand against the scumbags and even her own teammates. Now then, with all of her tricks in play, what happens when she is pushed to her upper limits of pulling the kid’s leg, wanting the money, and wanting to make sure the kid is okay? Well, it’s an entertaining, if slower-paced watch. It’s not as action-packed as the previous specials, and it’s more about how Fujiko adapts to the situation as she flows in and out of actually caring about the kid. 

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I’ll admit when I first saw this special, I did not like it. I found the pacing too slow, the villains weren’t interesting, Fujiko wasn’t consistent as a character, and the kid was an annoying individual. After I watched it a second time, I started to notice the more intricate story beats with Fujiko. To be clear, Lupin does show up in the film, but even then, he and Jigen take a backseat while Goemon and Zenigata don’t show up at all. It’s interesting to see Fujiko grapple with being who she is, but also letting down her guard. Sure, there are scenes of her using her promiscuous ways, some nudity, and a scene with her in a bathtub, but it’s more like cat-and-mouse, as Fujiko tries to get the location of the cash first before the villains get it back, while Lupin pops in here and there to help her out. I liked seeing Fujiko take the spotlight for a story and have some substance to her. Like I mentioned above, it always seems like she’s there to just screw Lupin over for her own personal gain. It’s a wild guess on whether you will see her be more nuanced or not, depending on who’s directing and how she fits into the overall story. Luckily, unlike Jigen’s Gravestone, Fujiko does have some pretty sweet action sequences and is the one to take down Bincam in the end. As for villains, you get fairly generic corrupt business individuals, so a lot of the quirkier Lupin villain shenanigans end up falling on Bincam. In terms of the cast, Bincam has the more interesting aura surrounding him. His lean lanky design, his snake-like looks, and his ability to hypnotize people by eating special nut-like seeds, and supposedly being able to summon sandstorms make him the stand-out character outside of Lupin and the gang in the film. In terms of themes that I noticed, I only caught a few, but I could have easily missed some. To me, the film tackles themes of love, personal and intimate connection, and growing up with love, and growing up with abuse. You can see this throughout the film when Fujiko is with the kid, and when Bincam is being pulled around by a chain and a Hannibal-style mask. While I think films like The Boy and the Beast handle these topics better, I’m always down when the Lupin franchise decides to go a little deeper into the development of their characters. 

Animation-wise, it’s kind of hard to talk about this one and offer something new, because it’s as well animated as the previous specials. You can tell they added in a bit more money to the budget for these films, with their striking dark-lined designs and more fluid movements. It’s maybe a bit more expressive at points than the others, but it’s nothing new overall in the visual presentation. The voice cast is also as good as the previous specials. Again, while I prefer the Geneon dub of the gang, I have warmed up to this cast. Cristina Vee is quite good as Fujiko, and I have always enjoyed her performances. Billy Kametz is also an enjoyable addition, and it’s amazing to see his range when you have seen him in other roles like in Promare as the lead. The rest of the cast is quite good with Keith Silverstein, Dan Woren, Rick Zieff, Erika Harlacher, Katelyn Gault, and Jake Eberle to name a few who put in solid performances. 

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Now, in terms of criticisms, I do have a few. I don’t hate this film as much as I previously did, but I still stand by my criticism of the villains being weak. They are simply corrupt business people, nothing more, and nothing less. Bincam is the most interesting of the villains, but he is easily the weakest of the villains seen in the special. I think I wanted to see where and how he came to be who he is. It also leaves on a major cliffhanger, and so far, there hasn’t been any talk of a fourth special, so this cliffhanger ending is way more annoying to me than it should be. Don’t build all of this up on where the assassins came from, tease the return of Lupin’s first major film villain Mamo, and then, well, not announce that a final special will wrap it all up. It leaves a bunch of dangling wires all out in the open, and that’s a real shame. 

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Still, while it might not be my favorite of the specials, I think it’s still better than something like Green vs Red or Bye Bye, Lady Liberty. If you have loved this iteration of the iconic thief, and want to complete it for now, I recommend getting this one, or at the very least, giving Fujiko’s Lie a rent. I originally wasn’t going to talk about this film, but since I needed something to review between my next film and Over the Moon, I wanted to finish my time with the current specials of this particular Lupin timeline. Now then, next time, we will be traveling to the Philippines as we tackle their first adult animated film with the help of Netflix called Hayop Ka! 

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 197: Over the Moon Review

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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!)

Heads up!: I was able to watch this film before it’s release due to obtaining an advance screener from Netflix.

As I get closer and closer to reviewing 200 animated films, I hope it’s clear that, as many of these are non-Pixar/Disney, I do not hate Disney or Pixar animated films. Honestly, they can be some of my favorite films from the years they are released. I don’t have some deep-seated grudge against them. Now, I don’t like a lot of the business side of things with Disney as a whole, but in terms of what we are talking about right now, I enjoy and even love the animated films they make. However, taking out the Pixar gems, I do think something changed right around the time after Moana was released. I like Ralph Breaks the Internet and to a degree, Frozen II, but they were missing something that I think is filled by the foreign/indie scene of animation. They missed a very genuine heart, and while their last two films do have some great elements, would you consider them the best of their 2010s output? I wouldn’t. Even with the Pixar gems like Inside OutCoco, and so on, my attention and love for animation has gone into supporting what everyone else is doing. Making money and making art is a balancing act, so if you want to make it in the industry, you have to do both. I’ve seen the worst of both the money and art side, and it makes me more thankful when I get to see films like Over the Moon.

Directed by Glen Keane in his first feature film gig as a director, co-directed by John Kahrs, written by the late great Audrey Wells, and animated by Pearl Studios and Sony Pictures Imageworks, this is the newest film in the push for the streaming service Netflix to have exclusive animated features. Last year, we saw that come through with Klaus, and this year, we have The Willoughbys, Animal Crackers, and now Over the Moon. Not going to lie, if this is the level of quality a streaming service is going to be putting out in top-shelf animated features, then everyone else needs to step up after this and Wolfwalkers

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Our story revolves around Fei Fei, voiced by Cathy Ang. She lives with her mother, voiced by Ruthie Ann Miles, and her father aka Ba Ba, voiced by John Cho. Unfortunately, in animated film fashion from an ex-Disney veteran, the mom passes away while Fei Fei is young. After a few years pass, she finds out that her dad is seeing someone else, and meets a young boy who may or may not end up being her brother-in-law. His name is Chin, voiced by Robert G. Chiu. After a blow-up one night when the entire family is over, Fei Fei decides to make a rocket and head to the moon to meet the Moon Goddess that her mom told her stories about! The only catch is that her stepbrother, her rabbit, and her stepbrother’s frog get roped in, and they crash on the moon. Luckily, they are safe, but are then taken to the Goddess of the Moon named Chang’e, voiced by Phillipa Soo. Fei Fei wants to get proof that she exists, and the Goddess is willing to give her that proof. However, the catch is that Fei Fei needs to get a gift for her, and she needs to get it before the entire moon is dark. Can Fei Fei get this supposed gift and bring back proof that the Goddess is a real entity? 

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So, for Glen Keane’s first directorial feature, I think he overall did a great job with his team in crafting this film’s story. If I had to say what the film is about, in terms of story and themes, I think the film is about family, love, dealing with loss, loneliness, and pushing forward. I think one of my favorite aspects of the writing is that there are fun little symbolic elements thrown into the mix, but they have layers to them. The more you invest your time into paying attention to the story, there are satisfying payoffs. For example, Chen says he can go through walls, and anytime that he does try to, he yells “No Barriers!” Well, sure there is a payoff to that aspect of his character, but you can also see it as a way of saying ‘there are no barriers between us as brother, sister, and family”. Even during the big family dinner sequence, the grandfather will throw out a line that may be about his obsessions with hairy crabs, but it matches with what is thematically going on with Fei Fei’s character at that moment. Even Fei Fei’s hair has little story elements to it, and I adore this much detail that Glen and Audrey Wells put into the story beats. I bring up these story beats because I think the trailer undersells the actual maturity and depth that the film offers. It’s very much a Smallfoot and Abominable situation, if you catch my drift with how the marketing made the films look sillier than they are. Don’t get me wrong, this film can be silly, and not all of its jokes land, but it’s still pretty funny with a fairly universal style of humor. Still, a lot of Over the Moon reminds me of how Moana and Studio Ghibli have handled antagonistic forces in films. Chang’e might be a goddess on the moon, but she isn’t evil or wants to wreck the world or the universe. She’s alone, and bitter about what happened in her past. There is more nuance to Chang’e and Fei Fei’s connection as characters, and it reminds me of films like Song of the Sea, where it plays around with the themes of emotion, love, and connection. Even if I think some characters could have had better connections or maybe a little more plot or scenes together, I can’t think of a character that was truly superficial to what was going on in the story. I know some people cringed when they saw Ken Jeong as Gobi, and they were dreading him being the comedic side character, but I found him pretty tolerable, and his scenes with Fei Fei are cute and earnest. He even gets some lines that help the story move forward. 

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Everything feels cohesive in this film, and that includes the animation. With Pearl Studios doing the previous year’s Abominable in 2019, and Sony Pictures Imageworks helping out, the animation in this film is high quality. The humans look great, their animation is expressive, and when we get to the kingdom of the moon, it’s a rainbow of colors. Seriously, when I saw the teaser back in June, and the new trailer recently, I loved the colors. It’s very unique compared to much that has come out this year. The simplistic designs and vibrant colors remind me of Yayoi Kusama or something Science Saru would do. It even has a little bit of the online world Summer Wars has. Now, since this is directed by an ex-Disney animation legend, of course, the movie is a musical. The music has a little bit of the magic that The Little Mermaid had, and that shouldn’t be a shock, since Keane was also an animator in that movie. The songs themselves are quite good. I might like some more than others, but I couldn’t find one that was pure filler or felt out of place. The team of Steven Price, Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park deserves a major shoutout for making some amazing music that captured that old Disney spirit that I think was missing from many of their recent output. It’s funny how ex-Disney animators have been able to be more Disney on top of their own identity than Disney themselves. The voice cast is also pretty strong, with a cast including Cathy Ang, Robert G Chiu, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Sandra Oh, Kimiko Glenn, and Artt Butler. It’s a great cast, and I felt their genuine chemistry between the characters. I think my favorite moments are the scenes with the family. It reminds me of a time where we could get together for a big family meal around the holidays. 

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Now, while I think this is a very cohesive film, I do have a few complaints. I think I would have liked at least one more scene of Fei Fei and Chun bonding, because they are separated for the majority of the film, and I think it would have helped make their bond at the end stronger. I know this film was more about Fei Fei’s personal growth as an individual, but still. While I am probably more on the side of loving Ken Jeong’s character than hating him, I wanted a stronger outcome for his character. He came back after being exiled, so wouldn’t the goddess have some kind of comment about that or something? I don’t think he was added for the sake of having another animal sidekick, since the film already had two with Bungie and the frog, and even then, the frog is barely in the film. My point is, I wish there was a little more of a satisfying ending to Gobi’s arc.

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Outside of some of the secondary and minor characters getting criticized, I love Over the Moon. It’s a touching film about love and family. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the year, and in a year where animation has taken front seat even though most of the big players have delayed their releases to next year, Over the Moon would still be in my top five animated films of the year. Once it hits Netflix later this month on the 23rd, I highly recommend everyone check it out. If you need a pick-me-up for what has been going on throughout this year, Over The Moon will be that pick-me-up. So, let’s move on from our trip to the moon, and back down to the world of Lupin the 3rd. Since his newest film is coming out in the states (better have some virtual screenings of it), I think it would be fair for us to check out the last special in the trilogy of specials from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine with Lupin the 3rd: Fujiko’s Lie

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!