THE WINTER 2023 ANIME SEASON. THE WINTER 2023 ANIME SEASON NEVER CHANGES PART 1

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Well, it’s time to talk about the Winter Anime Season…again. Honestly, Winter 2023 is kind of a mix of both Winter 2021 and Winter 2022 in terms of quality. There are a lot of really solid titles mixed with a ton of mediocre and trashy anime. It would be more shocking if there were more good, or more worrying if many of them were mediocre. Since I don’t make these until I’ve seen every anime up to at least three episodes or more, it lets me find time to really break down what to take away from them. You really can’t tell if the first episode will be stellar or not. It’s just whether it’s a good first impression or not. Sure, some are going to be just good from the get-go, but that isn’t always the case. A good opening hook can only go so far. Now then, let’s get started. 

COMEDY/ROMANCE

Onimai: I’m Now Your Sister (Crunchyroll)

Content Warning: Lolicon and underaged fanservice

Listen, it’s okay to not adapt certain stories to anime. Especially when it’s from a studio with obvious talent in its animation department. This is based on the manga by Nekotofu. It’s directed by Shingo Fujii, written by Michiko Yotoke, and produced at Studio Bind. Even with all of the faults of this studio’s other show, Jobless Reincarnation, I can at least see why people like that show. It also doesn’t hurt that Studio Bind has some amazing animators and a production pipeline to make it that way. So, why on earth would they pick a project like this when it’s such underage creepy nonsense? Yeah, it’s basically a slice-of-life comedy lolicon show, and if it was just about a brother and sister reconnecting as siblings, then that would be stellar. You can make shows about people reconnecting, but when the brother in this show is forced against his will to be turned into a middle school-aged girl by his intelligent sister, then the problems only start building up from there. You can see when the show is trying to be sweet and sentimental, but when it has to clash with the fanservice and how a lot of the fanservice is drawn to teenagers looking as lewd as possible, I hate it. I can see where more of the positive reviews are coming from, and I disagree with a lot of them, but I can safely say this one isn’t for me.  The show just isn’t good, and hopefully, one day, Studio Bind will make something that won’t make you feel like jumping out of your skin or force you to sit through terrible nonsense to get to the few scraps of good story beats.

The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten (Crunchyroll)

You know, romance doesn’t have to be boring. You wonder if the original author or the people working on the anime knew that or not. This is based on the light novel series by Saeikisan. The anime is directed by Lihua Wang, written by Keiichiro Ochi, and produced by Project No. 9. This show is just nothing. It’s harmless nothing, but it’s just nothing. I get there is supposed to be a budding romance between our two leads who happen to live next to one another and such, but with its flat and soulless animation, and the fact the build-up to whether they will get together or not is not handled well, it makes for a really dull sit. If there is a lo-fi anime romcom this season people are gonna watch, it won’t be this one. There are two that are worth watching more than this one. 

Tomo Chan IS a Girl (Crunchyroll)

It feels good to be more positive from this point on with this category. This is based on the popular manga by Fumita Yanagida. The anime is adapted by Hitoshi Nanba, written by Megumi Shimizu, and produced by Lay-Duce. While on the surface, it’s another ‘boy and girl can’t find the right way to confess to one another’ story, it helps that they go a different direction for the characters. It is annoying that the show sometimes wants to tell a tomboy to be more feminine when the problem isn’t’ that she’s too “masculine”,but it’s also the fact the two don’t have the proper brain cells and social interactive skills to actually know how to confess to one another. Doesn’t help either that the secondary cast members that get thrown into the equation cause chaos with their silly antics for the two love birds. I do wish the animation was better to make the comedy hit harder, but it looks fine, and I can see why people adore this one. I just don’t think I vibe with it as much as others do, and I feel badly about that. Oh well, not everyone is going to like every popular show and popular movie, and that’s alright. Just don’t be malicious about it. Anyway, Tomo Chan IS a Girl is adorable goofy fun with some clunky animation. 

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible (HiDive)

This is a very cute and silly show. It is based on the manga by Nene Yukimori. The anime adaptation is directed by Kazuomi Koga, written by Yuya Takahashi, and produced by Pine Jam. Alongside Pine Jam’s great expressive animation that they obviously carried over from their work on Do It Yourself, the manga’s simplistic, but emotive art style brings life to another show that may or may not be aping off of the Komi Can’t Communicate bandwagon. Recently, we have been getting many creative ways to tackle social anxiety and feeling invisible in a world where all we do is socialize. It helps here that our two leads are the cutest together anytime they are on screen, which is all of the time. They do enough with the premise to make every sequence refreshing and full of laughs. The chemistry is delightful, and while the romance isn’t fully convincing, if you are looking for a solid cute time, then give this one a watch.

The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague (Crunchyroll)

It shouldn’t feel so refreshing that an anime has young adult leads for the show to focus on, but we are in that situation here. This is based on the manga by Miyuki Tonogawa. It was directed by Mankyu, written by Tomoko Konparu, and produced by Zero-G and Liber. Once again, it feels refreshing that we have a workplace drama/romcom with a fantastical twist to how certain workers are descendants of mystical beings, and how they weave in those parts are not so upfront, and can be used in very literal and metaphorical ways. It’s really sweet and how it gets creative with said mystical powers show off different sides of our male lead. Luckily, the other characters are just as fun and likable to be around. The only downside is I don’t find the romance all that compelling, but I do like their chemistry. With a very low-key atmosphere and a lo-fi bop of an opening, there is a lot to enjoy and find appealing with this show. 

Endo and Kobayashi Live: The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte (HiDive)

It’s always refreshing when you get a truly distinct and original take on a certain type of anime series that, no matter any of the faults, you commend it for actually doing something different. This is based on the novels by Suzu Enoshima. The anime is directed by  Fumihiro Yoshimura, written by Tomoko Konparu, and produced by Tezuka Productions. So, what do you get when you take a typical Otome game setting, but combine it with elements of Let’s Plays and God simulation games? This is that anime. It’s amazing that I have yet to see something this creative and how it not only has great jokes, great characters, and a banger premise, but it also pulls back from the premise to let the characters grow. You care about both the human players and the in-game characters. This was just a really pleasant surprise and I’m all for creatives tackling and taking different spins at anime that could really use a shot in the arm. 

ACTION

The Ice Blade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World (Crunchyroll) 

Anime is just getting worse and worse in some regards with shows like this. This is based on the novel series by Nana Mikoshiba. It’s directed and written by Masahiro Takata and produced by Cloud Hearts and Yokohama Animation Laboratory. Maybe if the anime/manga/light novel industry wasn’t so hellbent on pushing everything out at a record pace for maximum profit, maybe, just maybe, we could get shows that are more interesting than this generic hodgepodge of fantasy action elements. You’ve got the school setting, you’ve got the quirky clubs and side characters, you’ve got the power fantasy, you’ve got a basic mystery plot of who our lead actually is and who the big threats might be. All it needed to do was actually either commit to something or stop trying to appeal to every single anime-goer, because when you try to appeal to everyone, then you appeal to no one. It takes a darn good team and creative to come up with something that hits all the right notes for everyone, and sadly, this sure isn’t it. I like some aspects of the show, but due to its lackluster production/visuals, some uncomfortable baiting of multiple types, and no real identity to call its own, this fantasy action show feels like an isekai, but without the isekai aspect, and without the progress of making something compelling. Also, don’t undercut the female characters you are trying to make viewers care about by making them look like lingerie models during the end credits. Makes ya wonder if they see the female characters as characters and not objects. 

Spy Classroom (HiDive)

Well, at least there is something that could have been with this show. This is based on the novels by Takemachi. It’s directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi, written by Shinichi Inotsume, and produced by Feel. We have a few anime this season that are all about a group of underdog characters who need to prove themselves, and in this case, a bunch of spy academy rejects who team up with a shady leader who trains them to be the best spies they can be. It has the spy espionage post-WW1 setting going for it, but that’s about it. Didn’t really find myself gravitating towards the story or the characters by episode three, and the plot for the first three episodes feels stretched out. There wasn’t much there, and they needed to pad out three episodes. Not that there weren’t any scenes of growth for the characters, but the characters are forgettable and that’s not a good thing due to how many there are of them. They also look more like characters you should see as anime statues than anything else. The decent action and some mystery about the world don’t really keep me wanting to come back for every new episode. Those are the breaks at times. Just wasn’t my cup of tea. 

Ayakashi Triangle (Crunchyroll)

Talk about a tonal and messy situation of trying to make this premise work. This is based on the manga by Kentaro Yabuki of Black Cat and To Love Ru (which he illustrated) fame. It’s directed by Noriaki Akitaya, written by Shogo Yasukawa, and produced by Connect. Listen, it’s ambitious and admirable that a property would love to tackle gender identity with its premises. Gender swap and identity stories are commonplace in anime. It’s not like this is breaking any new taboos or boundaries. It can work and it has happened before. Too bad it’s trying to be a million things at once. It wants to be a shonen action show, it wants to be a yuri bait show, it wants to be an ecchi fanservice show, it wants to be a comedy, it wants to tackle romance through the gender spectrum, and it wants to do all of this at once when it’s not really good at being any of it. It’s too serious to be funny, too comedy driven to be serious, too horny to be low-key, and the romance angle is shot by the fact the show wants to tackle the two lead’s romance, but also be arousing to the viewer. It’s at least trying to be more than it is, but there are simply too many gender-bent anime out there to spend time on one that is not interested in being truly great, or at least great in the non-fanservice department. You can obviously tell where the budget went into this show despite having a slightly higher-than-usual polished look. Who knows what will happen to the show, since it’s one of the few anime this season getting delayed due to the lingering pandemic. Maybe it will get better, but from the four episodes that are out, it hasn’t been impressive. 

The Reincarnation of the Strongest Exorcist in Another World (Crunchyroll)

Can anime actually commit to the bit for once? A lot of anime these days seem unable to commit to the bit. Anyway, this mediocre isekai is based on the novels by Kiichi Kosuzu. The show is directed by Nobuyoshi Nagayama & Ryosuke Shibuya, written by Touko Machida, and produced by Studio Blanc. The one major hook the show has going for it to try and be more interesting than other isekai power fantasies, is how our lead is reborn not just from a different life, but a different region from his home in Japan’s past to a more European location. It results in him having an entirely different magic system that he uses from the rest of the world in which he has been reborn. It should have led to some pretty interesting world-building moments and political intrigue from everyone else in this show’s universe about how this one kid can wield powerful magic, but somehow not be born with the power. Sadly, it boils down to every power fantasy. The lead is stronger than everyone else, some characters hate him in a deeply absurd way, and the lead makes two female friends be the forearm candy to the lead. After watching so many anime buck the natural trend of most power fantasy isekai, you think that would mean everyone else would try harder, and who knows, this could be a bad translation of the source material. It sure as heck feels like it’s rushing to get to certain story beats faster. Anime fans tend to take what they can get even when better stuff is already available to the viewer. Oh well. I liked the demon entities that the lead has in his control, but that’s about it. 

Ningen Fushin: Adventurers Who Don’t Believe in Humanity Will Save the World (Crunchyroll)

I really hate when I feel like I’m going to like a show because of its premise, and then watch the said show and feel underwhelmed by it. This is based on the novels and manga by Shinta Fuji. The series is adapted to animated form by director and writer Itsuki Imazaki and is produced by Geek Toys and Seven. There is a real solid idea of a bunch of adventurers who were rejected by the masses forming their own party to go on adventures and save the land. Heck, there are even comedy versions of this idea with anime like Konosuba. Where this show lacks though is in the execution department. The reasons why these adventurers got rejected by society are absurd and petty, ranging from people not liking the mage for being stronger, an adventuring party thinking they didn’t need their rogue, and one badly handled case of being falsely accused of being a pest. Yeah, this anime wants you to feel for these underdogs, and you as a viewer definitely want to see them grow through the ranks and show the world they weren’t disposable beings, but the way it all unfolds is clunky at best. The dragon girl is probably the best character, which is a shame since she isn’t the lead. They also do that thing where it’s not fully a fantasy world and have things like idols, but then they don’t modernize any other element of the world around them. It’s aggravating since you can see the idea there, and like usual, it could be a bad adaptation, but the anime doesn’t really make me want to buy the manga. I might watch a bit more to see the introduction of another character, but it won’t be high on my priority. 

Reborn to Master the Blade: From Hero-King to Extraordinary Squire (Crunchyroll)

Sometimes, being simply well-made and executing its premise enough with some solid action is all that you need with your isekais to be tolerable and entertaining. This is based on the novel series by Hayaken. The anime is produced by Studio Comet, written by Mitsutaka Hirota, and directed by Naoyuki Kuzuya. What it lacks in polished animation, wanting to fast forward through so much of the story’s plot to get to the leads being older, and trying to horn up the female leads to a very distracting degree that almost cripples the entire show, it does execute its premise better than most isekais. It has solid if clunky political thriller aspects. The story of a king being reincarnated to follow his past goals of becoming a knight are a good-enough twist on the formula, the characters are fairly likable, and the action is obviously where the money was spent the most. If it just didn’t have so much anime nonsense under its belt, it would probably be one of my favorites, but due to how many other isekai or isekai adjacent animate are out this season and do its premise better, it falls short, but it wouldn’t be the worst show to come back to after the three episode rule. 

Giant Beast of Ars (HiDive)

This feels like an anime that’s based on a RPG, but without the terrible production issues of being based on a video game that usually plagues these series. It’s an original anime that’s directed by Akira Oguro, written by Norimitsu Kaiho, and produced at Asahi Productions. While it has some similar elements like humanity fighting against giant beasts and creatures, the world they crafted in the span of three episodes is full of life, personality, and intrigue., That isn’t always a given with original anime, and the action is rock solid as well. It definitely gives you a hook and a reason to keep watching, and it shouldn’t feel refreshing that this show feels like a show and not a marketing tool, but it feels great to watch this and not feel the creeping hands of merchandising yet touch this one. Granted, it’s there, but it never pulls you out of the experience like most anime do. 




Handyman Saitou in Another World (Crunchyroll)

Nothing quite like finding an isekai that is actually distinct and not really an isekai in the traditional sense. This quirk fantasy/isekai/comedy is based on the manga by Kazutomo Ichitomo. It’s directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, written by Kenta Ihara, and produced by C2C. Honestly, I went into this show blind. The fun idea of a handyman getting sent to a fantasy world isn’t really an isekai. When you think of isekai, it usually boils down to boring mediocre power fantasies aimed at a male demographic, but here, it’s not really any of that. Saitou is basically a rogue/thief who just happens to have his tool kit with him, and the show isn’t really all that interested in telling a story. There is a plot and progression of character arcs and such, but it’s honestly more interested in gags and skits that take place in this fantasy world than telling a grand story. Of course, being a comedy, the comedy can be hit-and-miss, but when it hits, boy do the jokes land. The characters are fairly simplistic, but they have their own depth to them that makes them fun characters to follow. However, sometimes it feels like they had an idea for a joke and it either didn’t translate well or has some missing context to western viewers or just ends with no real punchline. It’s a creative show that’s more along the lines of Cromartie High School and Azumanga Daioh than your typical isekai fare, and I think that’s admirable, to say the least. 

Trigun Stampede (Crunchyroll)

It’s amazing that people ever doubted this incredible studio with what they were going to craft with this new take on the franchise. This is based on the manga and classic anime by Yasuhiro Nightow. This new take is directed by Kenji Muto, written by Tasuro Inamoto, Shin Okashima, and Yoshihisa Ueda, and produced by the best CGI studio in the anime industry, Studio Orange. Yes, the original anime is a classic and should be watched by everyone, but it’s been almost three decades, and it’s okay for people to try a new take on the franchise, because unlike a lot of remakes or reboots of certain franchises, this one is actually good. First off, you get the amazing and perfect CGI animation by Studio Orange combined with the creative western/Mad Max world that the characters live in, and lovable characters. There are some aspects that I wish they didn’t change, but so far, unless this adaptation goes off the rails like the Promised Neverland adaptation, Trigun Stampede is one of the best anime of the Winter 2023 season. Also, the dub is killer with the return of Johnny Yong Bosch as the titular Vash. It’s a great show from beginning to end so far and I don’t care if the mystery from the original isn’t there.

The Other Side of Animation 289: New Gods: Yang Jian Review

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Light Chaser Animation has been a rather fantastic new addition to the animation game. Since its founding in 2013, they have made it their goal to elevate the animation scene in China after years of stagnation and questionable quality. While they haven’t made a banger every single time, their contribution to the animation scene has been nothing but positive, especially after  2019, which was just a good year for China’s film scene with three major hits with The Wandering Earth, Nezha, and Light Chaser’s White Snake. After that, they have been hitting it out of the park. They are one of the most well-known animation houses in China, and they are putting out some killer films like New Gods: Yang Jian. 

Directed by Ji Zhao, and written by Muchuan, This is the second film in the New Gods franchise that takes place after New Gods: Nezha Reborn. Our story follows Yang Jian, dubbed by Nicholas Andrew Louie. He used to be a powerful god, but after an incident that happened 1500 years ago, he is now skating on by in life as a bounty hunter, as he and his crew go from bounty to bounty so their ship doesn’t run out of fuel and they don’t starve. After taking care of a recent bounty, they are approached by a mysterious woman named Wanluo, dubbed by Christine Lin. She requests Yang to help capture a young man named Chenxiang, who has taken a precious and important artifact with powerful properties. Yang Jian takes on the task as he tries to find this individual, leading to conspiracies, murder, and finding out what exactly is going on with the incident that happened so long ago and the characters at play in this overall scheme of things. 

Who knew that they could top the world-building from the previous film? What we get in this outing is essentially a steampunk take on Cowboy Bebop, where we follow our bounty hunter and his crew through different cities and unique locations, travel through warp stations, fight criminals from the underworld and the deities that help run things, all of which is backed by some very funky jazz/blues-like tunes. Of course, all of this is mixed with the distinct identity of the architect, which is so full of life, details, and personality. It’s rather shocking how much they fit into each scene as you truly feel like you are traversing a living world with bustling crowds and beautiful landscapes that show a world ravaged by war and other cataclysmic events. There are so many neat world-building moments, like the energy Chexiang steals during the early part of the film being guarded by a multi-armed beast with eyes in the palm of its hands. They put in a lot of effort to make the world feel cohesive and sensible as we explore a world where demons and gods use ships to race across the skies. Not only that, but we also have some of the most well-executed fight sequences seen in animation. At first, you think they aren’t going to bring back the power abilities from the previous film for this one due to how low-key and grounded the fights are during the beginning hour of the two-hour runtime. Then, during an important fight sequence with an obstacle in Chenxiang’s way, the powers come back, revealing how certain individuals can unlock special powers from their past. The studio really knows how to make these powers feel grand in scale and larger than life, especially when we see Yang Jian unleash his powers after so much of the film had him be like an animated version of Jackie Chan as he tries to avoid aggressive action unless required. It makes sense, due to how Yang’s story arc is basically holding onto the regrets of his past actions, and trying to let go of them. There are many twists and turns with how the story unfolds, with it feeling so cut and dry with what’s going on until you dive deeper and deeper into the morally gray and messy history and wires that are crossed between everyone involved. Some characters are holding back secrets from others, and some manipulate and use others for their own selfish needs. It’s a fascinating journey as it goes from steampunk action to fantastical action thriller as everything falls into place. We go from Yang being a laid-back reluctant hero who would rather not get involved with the bigger picture and then seeing him push against literal gods to fix the mistakes from the past, taking down the threat that wants to unleash powerful chaotic forces to wipe the world clean. 

Animation-wise, it might feel like they are sticking close to the human designs and visual fidelity that their previous films have used, but they find ways to still have these creative touches from the combination of CGI and ink painting visuals. When they look good from the ghetto, no need to make as many improvements as you would think. Sure, I want to see them experiment like other studios doing stuff like China’s other major release this year, Deep Sea, but New Gods is doing enough to not feel repetitive. The matter of fact is that all of the designs are appealing to look at and aren’t detracting from the story and experience of the film. The cast is great and the English dub is also doing fantastic with the cast that includes Nicholas Andrew Louie, Luke Naphat Sath, Parry Shen, Christine Lin, James Sie, Johnny Young Bosch, Stephanie Sheh, Su Ling Chan, David Chen, Angela Tan, Mick Lauer, Jimmie Yamaguchi, and many others. The music, as mentioned before, is a mixture of both jazz and fantastical. It gives the film a different flavor of music compared to the last film.

While some may prefer the dieselpunk visual look of the first New Gods film, and while this film makes some small stumbles in the second half, New Gods: Yang Jian is exactly the change of pace everyone should want to go out and find if they are getting burned out by US animation. It has a lot of the best aspects from Light Chasers Animation, and with this obviously building up of an epic franchise, we will have to see where they go with this retelling of mythological epics and their continued evolution of incredible CGI animated fare. Next time though, we will be talking about the next film in the Sword Art Online retelling films with Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 288: The Amazing Maurice Review

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

You would think for such a famous author, Terry Pratchett, the creator of the popular Discworld series, there would be more adaptations of his work. His writing was whimsical, charming, and filled with delightful bits of humor and memorable characters. There haven’t been too many out in the wild and when you find them, they are not all that accessible. The most animated-related adaptation is probably Wyrd Sisters or Soul Music, which is noted for having the late great Christopher Lee who played the voice of Death. How on earth do we have a Discworld point-and-click adventure game, but not a Discworld animated series or animated feature? Still, I’m sure the estate is picky with what gets adapted, and who knows, maybe some of his work is easier to adapt than others for a feature film-length experience. This is where The Amazing Maurice comes into play and is one of the first feature films in the US in 2023.

Based on the book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, this film is directed by Toby Genkel and written by Terry Rossio, who co-wrote some of your childhood favorite animated features like Aladdin, Shrek, and live-action films like The Mask of Zorro and the Pirates of the Caribbean films. The story revolves around a talking cat named Maurice, voiced by Hugh Laurie, who works with a human named Keith, voiced by Himesh Patel, to clear any town or city of rats. Though the thing that many will not know is that the two of them actually work with the group of rats that just so happen to be in town when they arrive. These include a few named ones like Darktan, voiced by Ariyon Bakare, Peaches, voiced by Gemma Arterton, Sardines, voiced by Joe Sugg, Nourishing, voiced by Julie Atherton, and Dangerous Beans, voiced by David Tenant. As they head into town for one last con, they realize something is up when there are no rats to be had or seen. With the help of the mayor’s daughter Malicia, voiced by Emilia Clarke, can they solve the town’s mystery and take down an individual named Boss Man, voiced by David Thewlis? 

One of the first details that should be pointed out about this film is the animation. Listen, it’s going to be a bit before the major studios put out their films, and that means we are going to get a couple of smaller releases before March and April. So, you should adapt your expectations to what varying degrees of quality you will probably see on the big and small screen. What’s impressive about this is how great the character animation is. You will see where the budget was invested, since despite having a mostly empty-looking city, the character animation is the best aspect of the film. The team of animators did these little details here and there that bring so much charm into the characters we see onscreen. Doing something as simple as Sardine’s movements differently than the other rats is such a fun little detail that people will probably not see or care about when first seen onscreen. It perfectly encapsulates his character and personality without hearing a single bit of dialogue. A lot of the comedy is executed well also. Even the villain has some of my favorite character animation of the year so far, due to how ragdoll he moves, but is still immensely imposing and threatening. While stills may not do his design justice, Maurice looks great. Just a quirky and cartoony cat that has a multitude of different facial expressions. Sure, a lot of the backgrounds and environments are empty and flat, but they do look nice. It’s not like they look like first-draft rough renders or anything like that. It’s polished for what the possibly small budget for this was. 

As for the story, it’s mostly a journey of connection through our characters realizing why they are important for one another and finding their inner talent and being able to save the day from actual corrupt forces that want to do bad in the world. The fact we have a group of flawed thieves is perfect for what the story is all about seeing as how they are crooks, but they aren’t literally stealing everything from right under the town’s people’s noses. I mean, they are stealing cash at first, but not to the extent the villains are. Sometimes, it’s fun to have flawed protagonists. You just have to make them likable, and while only some of the rats get personalities and names you can remember, they are likable. Maurice is egocentric and cocky, but he gets more sympathetic as time goes on. The human characters are pretty okay. The only one who has any real major personality is Emilia Clarke’s character, who is meta and self-aware about the ways stories are told and the tropes that unfold from within them. Keith is a decent wide-eyed and likable lead, but he has the more typical route of becoming a real hero. It really helps though that it has a killer voice cast that has been listed in the top part of this review. Cast the characters wrong, and it could derail everything. It also helps that this wasn’t a film that needed to be dubbed over since the stars are big enough for their own movie. For the comedy, it is more dialogue driven with wordplay and the reliant eeriness of the meta nature of the female lead. It isn’t always consistently funny, but it’s consistently charming. That’s more of a victory than if it had the most laughs. Sometimes, being more consistent is better than being ambitious but inconsistent. Also, if you are curious, yes, a certain fan-favorite character does show up, but he isn’t in the film a whole lot. 

In general, while it probably won’t be winning any major awards, The Amazing Maurice is a delightful surprise during a part of the year that was originally a time to dump smaller films to write off as failures or for people to catch up on the award season fodder. If you can see it in theaters, then give it a watch! Seeing a mostly positive reception to the film definitely makes this the most accessible and watchable film brought over by Viva Kids, and the fact they are confident enough to give it a theatrical release is admirable. Now, how big that release ends up being is probably the usual NYC and LA release and not an actual wide release. Still, if you can find time to watch this film, then do it! Definitely recommend checking it out while we wait until Netflix and the big studios drop their big films. Now then, it’s time to go big and epic as we talk about New Gods: Yang Jian. 

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 287: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime The Movie: Scarlet Bond Review

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While the isekai genre is flooding the anime scene like how tentpole genre films have taken up theater screenings, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be great titles in the genre. There are reasons why so many light novel authors, manga creators, and anime studios/production committees chase trends and want their next big isekai hit. The problem then comes with how most aren’t willing to try hard to differentiate themselves from others. It results in productions that result in bland characters, bland world-building, mediocre animation, and just end up wasting time and space, when there could be other more interesting stories that could have been told instead. Thankfully, for shows like That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime, they do show you why isekais can be great by doing everything right. They can have compelling characters, fantastic animation, stories that are not just about a power fantasy for a male audience, and no harem so the female characters are able to shine as characters. While some of the anime tropes can be a bit much at points, the franchise has stayed near the top of the best isekai shows for a reason. Sadly, isekai franchises don’t really lend themselves to films like other action franchises in the anime world. Still, that won’t stop production committees from doing so, and now we have That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime: Scarlett Bond

This film is directed by Yasuhito Kikuchi, written by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, and produced by 8bit. We follow our main lead Rinmaru Tempest, dubbed again by Brittney Karbowski. On a rather normal day while crafting the ever-so-major road that connects his kingdom to another that has been talked about for two seasons now, the orcs get attacked by a raging ogre named Hiiro, dubbed by Jonah Scott. Thankfully, the other ogres come to help and realize that they know him as a pseudo-brother/leader of the village in which they used to live. As things calm down, Hiiro learns that his fellow ogres were okay and learns more about what happened. After hearing what was going on since he last saw everyone, Hiiro asks for help with the kingdom he was from, due to the queen being cursed and the land around them dying. Can Rimiru figure out what’s going on with the kingdom, the queen, and find out who is behind these dastardly deeds?

The biggest problem with isekais is the fact that most shows in that genre of anime can have well-told stories, but due to the lead being an overly powerful ball of destruction and invincibility, the stakes tend to be low, unless the power level, while strong, isn’t stronger than most other opponents the hero could face. When every fight is one-sided, then no one will be happy or invested with the story since we know the lead can’t get hurt. It’s why it’s aggravating that some shows still keep this up, even after franchises like One Punch Man and Konosuba have pretty much ruined those fantasies of either being able to stop any foe with no sweat or have a harem of lovely ladies who all want you because they show the flaws in those types of stories. So, making a film based on an isekai power fantasy should have some easy solutions that include not making Rimuru the lead, letting other characters shine, and or make a threat strong enough to even outshine Rimuru. It would be basic plot stuff, sure, but if you don’t take those elements into consideration, then you end up with a story that’s hard to invest in, not because of it’s confusing or hard to follow, but because our lead can just do anything and everything and that doesn’t result in a compelling arc or story to sit through that’s almost two hours long. A lot of the charm and appeal of the franchise is that while it has its power fantasy moments, it’s more about building an optimistically-fueled utopia where everyone, no matter the origin or life, can live peacefully among one another in a prosperous world. While there is a ton of action, it’s also about world-building, conversations, negotiations, and political power structures. It just so happens that all of those details are sandwiched between appealing-looking anime characters and bombastic and vibrant action set pieces. Sadly, the fact that Rimuru does take up the mantle as the lead instead of the other characters like Hiiro is a real downside to this overall product. Hiiro’s angle of seeing the actions caused by Tempest are way more interesting. The first 10 or so minutes before the misunderstanding is essentially squashed to make way for everything else are probably the best part of the film. 

Heck, any scene where it’s Hiiro being alongside his other ogre friends is genuinely fun, but there are so few of them due to the political conspiracy of what exactly is going on with this kingdom. The problems also come in with how forgettable a lot of the new characters are. The old geezers and the two guards that follow Hiiro don’t leave much of an impression. It’s a real problem when the queen is just as bland. Even adding some small personality quirks or details in their movements would have left much more of an impression. Oh, and it doesn’t stop there either. The villain? This villain might be one of the most forgettable villains in anime franchise film history. He doesn’t even appear in the film until the halfway point, and you will quickly forget his name and his antics that could have led to more interesting layers to Hiiro’s journey, but when he starts to be all one-note evil, there isn’t much else. The story isn’t entirely helpful to newcomers either, due to at this point in two seasons of the show, a ton of characters have been introduced and they don’t get a lot of screen time. Their roles within the story vary depending on who is who in the ranking of power in the world this franchise has crafted. Not that some don’t leave a fun quirk or moment for themselves, but be ready to just wing it and just assume they were shown or introduced at some point during the show’s run. The film is at one point so disinterested in the clash with Hiiro and the villain that it cuts away to another character who knows how to take down the curse, and once again, I found that plot more compelling. Maybe that’s harsh to say, but it sure feels like it wanted to focus on the other characters more, and give us exposition and backstory as to why the kingdom is as it is and or why the tiara/crown is cursed and who cursed it. Even when we do focus back on the fight with the main villain, the film has to have flimsy excuses for the lead not to end his life with the snap of his fingers. It’s aggravating to sit here and not feel immersed in the story or drama because you know in the back of your head that this could have been 20 minutes shorter.

Sorry if this review sounds very negative so far, but there are aspects to adore. The animation looks great and the dynamic fight sequences are thrilling to watch unfold. The voice cast is as good as usual with Ricco Fajardo doing some stellar work as Benimaru, alongside Jonah Scott. Not to say the others don’t have their moments, because the dub cast for this franchise tends to hit it out of the park with names like Mallorie Rodak, Tyson Rinehart, Michelle Rojas, Tia Ballard, Chris Rager, Ken Williams, Ryan Reynolds (the voice actor, not the Hollywood actor), Charles Campbell, Daman Mills, Kristen McGuire, Cherami Leigh, Cris George, and Caitlin Glass to name a few. The composer is Hitoshi Fujima, who has composed for anime before including 2021’s Visual Prison. 

It’s a shame because what this film ends up ultimately being is just another action franchise film, but an isekai franchise film. I’m sure this will maybe be connected in some way to the rest of the franchise, since having films that actually take place within the continuity of the show are more popular than ever, but the fact is that Scarlet Bond is a sadly forgettable romp. It’s not a terrible film, and if you love the franchise, you will love the film, but if you are looking for more substantial stories in Japanese animated features, you are better off going somewhere else for them. Still, if you want to see more Japanese animated features, you should see as many of them as you can in theaters. Who knows, maybe you will love this one more than me. Now then, next time, we will be tackling the CGI feature based on the beloved work of Terry Pratchett. Next time, we will be getting a visit from The Amazing Maurice

Rating: Rent it

The Other Side of Animation 286: The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2 Review

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Critical Role has made itself known as one of the most popular and best DnD adjacent series to watch nerdy voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons. In three major campaigns for almost 10 years now, Matthew Mercer and his cohorts have crafted some of the most iconic fantasy adventuring parties. While Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast higher-ups and execs are trying to put out the fire they have put out with the situation with the Original Game License as of writing this, it doesn’t detract that Critical Role is one of the series that has revitalized  interest in the gaming. All the while, the owners of said franchise are trying to burn the fanbase to the ground right when a new film is about to come out. Anyway, that doesn’t and won’t stop people from loving Critical Role, and this new season is worth all of the hype. 

Created by Matthew Mercer, based on his own personal Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and produced by Titmouse. Directly picking up after season 1, our group of heroes that includes sibling elves Vex and Vax Vessar, voiced by Liam O-Brien and Laura Bailey, Grog Strongjaw, voiced by Travis Willingham, Percy, voiced by Taliesin Jaffe, Pike Trickfoot, voiced by Ashley Johnson, Scanlan Shorhalt, voiced by Sam Riegel, Keyleth, voiced by Marisha May, now must take on an epic journey to save not only the kingdom, but the realm from a group of dragons called the Chroma Conclave. This is a group of ancient dragons led by a red dragon named Thordak, voiced by Lance Reddick. The other dragons include Umbrasyl, voiced by Matthew Mercer, Vorugal, voiced by Liam O’Brien, and Raishan, voiced by Cree Summers. Our motley crew of adventurers realizes they are not strong enough to take down any of them and decide to find some special magical items to help them take down these dragons. Along the way, they will go through their own personal story arcs and encounter personal roadblocks that will get in their way of killing the dragons that want to rule the world. 

So, what does season 2 improve upon and add on top of the stellar first season? Because, this is the story arc that takes up a mass majority of the first Critical Role campaign and while we all love listening and relistening to the video versions of their adventures that go on for a few hours, there is no way they could fit all of that into each episode. What’s interesting is how they have pretty much had to rewrite the entire backstory for some characters to fit an entirely new origin story. Now, it isn’t as dramatic as it sounds, because many of the characters you love in this quirky crew of dragon slayers keep their origins like Vax, Vex, and Grog. The only one who ends up getting any major change to the story is Scanlan, but you will find out what happens when you get to that point in the show. Still, they make some changes to how certain side or guest characters from the original campaign play into the respective arcs. From the trailer for season two, you will see the animated incarnations of fan-favorite campaign 1 guest stars Zahra Hydris, voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (who is also a major part of the behind-the-scenes side of production for this show) and Kashaw Vesh, voiced by Will Friedle. Not much has truly changed about their personalities, but since we skipped the original arc where these two were introduced, they reworked their first arrival to the show as pretty good foils to the team with some backstory and some of the details and interactions intact and or changed for the better. At the end of the day, you have to recraft a lot of this show to fit a TV series that’s more story-driven than a streaming series. Not that it’s a bad thing, because while fans of the franchise will know or recognize certain story beats that will be tackled in this season, you would worry that out of 12 episodes, they are going to shove in too much and be a bundled mess of trying to get through as much story from the original campaign as possible. Luckily, every main character gets about two-three episodes to have an arc, and they tend to keep the most important story beats and moments from the start of the arc to the first encounter with one of the dragons. 

It’s a nice change of pace to see everyone else get some time in the spotlight. Not that the first season didn’t have any moments where everyone got to shine, because it did, but let’s be real, a lot of the first season is the Percy show due to how it becomes about his dangerous journey to get revenge on his family. Everyone had their moments to shine, but you wouldn’t say they got the most focus. It helps the new season feel more like it was all about the entire team. It helps everyone have more focused plots and they weren’t rushing to get to the end of this arc. That’s what happens when ya get renewed for a third season before the second season airs. Still, seeing everyone show off different shades and sides of their characters is a real high point of this season. 

Animation-wise, this is a vast improvement from the first season. The backgrounds look better, the movements look better, the compositing looks better, the dynamic action feels snappier, and its use of CGI is vastly superior to its use from the first season. The dragons especially look amazing. The way they craft their bodies and textures makes it look less like a cel-shaded CGI creature than the first season’s dragon looked like, compared to everyone else. It seemed out of place, but these dragons in season 2 felt like they were in the same shot as the 2D characters and backgrounds. The voice cast is as stellar as usual. When you base your entire DnD show with some of the industry’s best voice actors, then you know you are going to get stellar performances, and the new actors they brought in for the new cast members include Henry Winkler, Billy Boyd, Lance Reddick, Cree Summers, Will Friedle, Alanna Ubach, Cheech Marin, Troy Baker, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Ralph Inerson, and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. 

Critical Role’s The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2 is how you do a second season right. You up the stakes, you don’t slow down the pacing, you expand upon the characters, you build up the world around them, and for those that don’t watch the video form of the first campaign, feel welcome into jumping into this world that will probably get them interested to see the original campaign. It’s a win-win for everyone because both are a great way to experience solid storytelling and fun character interactions from some of the industry’s best voice actors. The only difference is that while the video form of campaign 1 is great, season 2 cuts a lot of the fat and streamlines it. Since everyone who is a major part of season 1 has creative control over how they tell the story, and how to tell it the best, this is how you do perfect adaptations. It’s a shame that Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast were or still are trying to burn as many bridges as possible by trying to make Dungeons and Dragons as monetized and hostile as possible, please don’t take it out on the people working on the game when the higher-ups are at fault there, and don’t let their antics take away from enjoying Critical Role and this new season of Vox Machina. Definitely give it a watch on Prime Video and it’s doing the usual three-episode-a-week release strategy. You will definitely be down for some dragon slaying with this party. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a particularly self-titled “amazing” cat with The Amazing Maurice

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 285: Puss in Boots The Last Wish Review

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A lot can change for a franchise when it is now over 20 years old. The Shrek franchise is one of the most influential franchises in the world of animation. With all that said, it is interesting to look back and see what has changed from 2001 to now. Animation and storytelling in the medium of filmmaking have evolved and while you can’t take away the impact the first film had, it’s easy to see how the franchise has moved away from Shrek to the other popular character of the series, Puss in Boots. It has honestly outlived the rest of the franchise due to having a popular Netflix animated series years after there were any talks or plans to really bring the brand back to life. Sure, there were talks about how a new Puss in Boots film started all the way back in 2012, but they didn’t really get the ball rolling until six or so years ago. This was probably due to being on and off in development because of what was going on with DreamWorks at that point in time before and after they got bought out by Universal, and Illumination’s Chris Melandandri taking up the job to executive produce and help helm both Illumination and DreamWorks. Obviously, it got a boost in getting put back in production after 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s interesting to see how one character has become its own franchise within a major franchise. I guess you can call it “franchiseception” or some other outdated pop culture joke. Either way, this film got audience-goers wondering what direction this film would go in, and how it might or might not be a testing ground to see if people still cared about the franchise. There was also the push of the development of a fifth Shrek film, resulting in one of 2022’s best animated films and one of the best films from the studio. 

This film is directed by Joel Crawford, written by Tom Wheeler and Tommy Swerdlow, and created at DreamWorks Animation. The story follows the titular brave, fearless, and heroic individual we all know and love named Puss in Boots, voiced once again by Antonio Banderas. After having a party that results in the slaying of a giant, he’s about to perform another toe-tapping tune, when Puss ends up dying. After being told by the town’s doctor/vet/jack-of-all-trades that he only has one more life, Puss stomps out, mad that he was told to basically hang up his boots and live a peaceful life. After having an encounter with one of DreamWorks’ most imposing antagonists, voiced by Wagner Moura, and losing against this dangerous foe, Puss goes into hiding at Mama Luna’s for the remainder of his days. Upon meeting a dog that’s hiding at Luna’s named later as Perrito, voiced by Harvey Guillen, the house is ransacked by a group of bounty hunters that force Puss to jump back out of retirement to find this wishing star to gain back his nine lives. Along the way, Puss and Perrito join back up with Kitty Softpaws, voiced by Salma Hayek, and try to avoid the grasps of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, voiced by Florence Pugh, Way Winstone, Olivia Colman, and Samson Kayo,  and Big Jack Horner, voiced by John Mulaney. Can Puss realize what’s important in living a good life? Will he avoid the grasp of this new dangerous foe? Will Perrito not have some of the darkest humor in the film? 

The big thing with DreamWorks is that they are never in one spot in terms of tone with every film they make. Some of them are more story-driven. Some are more comedy-driven, and leave plot and emotional connections to the side. Some even try to balance it out in both drama and comedy. Sometimes, it doesn’t really work. You have some films that are all jokes, but no cohesive story, or the story wasn’t good enough to walk alongside the jokes that were being thrown a mile a minute. Sometimes, they struggle with keeping a tone that feels consistent, and it has only worked a couple of times. Mostly in their Kung Fu Panda films has it worked the best. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish though? It has reached that point where its humor and drama are perfectly synced with one another. Who would have thought that a legacy sequel to a spin-off of the franchise would go this hard with its story, themes, action, animation, and characters? It could have easily lapped up the nostalgia from people who have made the franchise live on by having it be a part of their childhood and through the internet culture of memes. Instead, they didn’t make a film until they had a story to tell, which follows Puss’s arc about him realizing his own morality and what’s important in his life. It also tackles elements of found family and dealing with things like death. Oh, and shout-out to the small story-important moment of introducing viewers to what panic attacks look like and what Perrito as a service dog’s job is to do. You will rarely see a studio tackle something like that and we can only hope more studios are willing to tackle some difficult topics or show some things that happen in real life. 

It’s a shockingly complex film despite it also having some of the best comedy in it, not just relying on making references to real-world things or doing a simple flip or take on a pre-existing fairy tale trope. It all comes from the characters, and at every point, it almost becomes too much with how much the entire cast steals the scenes when they are the focus on the screen, or when they banter with other characters. While many are talking about our mysterious wolf friend for being one of the most realized villains DreamWorks has ever put on screen, Jack Horner is an absolute scene stealer and such a distinct villain idea that it’s amazing that the previous films didn’t try something like a nursery rhyme character with a severe case of inferiority. They could have easily done that for the third and fourth film, but instead, we got the third film rehashing one of the villains from the second film, and the fourth film using another fairytale character as a villain. Nothing feels undercooked or throwaway. 

The other element that people have adored has been making buzz in just about every review and word-of-mouth discussion of the film, the animation. Yes, every studio is taking notes from Spider-Verse, but who cares anymore? The animation industry has needed a kick in the butt to evolve and expand upon its visual horizon. It might only do the lower framerate thing during certain action beats, but the painted look of the world and designs are gorgeous. We can finally make concept art into reality, and all it takes is for the team to do it from ground zero when the film is in production. DreamWorks has some of the best character animation in the industry and the humans have finally moved away from the realism route the previous Shrek films took and are way better-looking. It makes you wonder what DreamWorks could do with previous releases if they were able to go all the way with the stylized looks of things with films like Monsters vs. Aliens. DreamWorks is also incredible with their action set pieces, and that is no different here as this has some of the most exciting action in animation history.  Heitor Pereira crafts the exciting and atmospheric soundtrack and worked on franchises like Despicable Me and films like Madagascar 2, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron, and Pearl Harbor. The voice cast is stellar. Not only is it apparent that Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek do not skip a beat with their characters, but everyone else feels more immersed within their characters. You can probably pick up who they are, but they are never being as distracting as certain films that have star-studded casts.  Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, Harvey Guillen, Samson Kayo, Joh Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Florence Pugh, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph do a great job with their roles and put in some of the best voice performances of 2022. 

No matter how many lives you have, no matter how you slice it with this new iteration of the Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a triumph, not only for the studio or the franchise but animation in general. It might have some of the usual clunky DreamWorks tropes and ideals, but they are overshadowed by a fantastic script, the most endearing characters in the franchise, and some of the most stunning anime from 2022. Now then, next time, we will talk about the new season of a well loved animated series from 2022. Sadly, it is coming out when the higher ups of Wizards of The Coast and Hasbro are trying to be really scummy about Dungeons & Dragons. You will see what I mean soon. 

Rating: Essential

My Favorite Animated Films from 2021

Now then, the original plan was to do a list for My Most Disappointed Animated Films of 2021, My Runner-Ups for Best Animated Films of 2021, and My Favorite Animated Films of 2021, but we will just cut it down to My Favorites, due to how it’s a new year, I am so far behind, and I want to get this list done. I’ll try to do more of these varied lists for 2022. I hope you understand, and if you want to see the entire list of films, here is a hyperlink to my Letterboxd list. Let’s get some honorable mentions out of the way! 

Honorable Mentions: Luca, New Gods: Nezha Reborn, Seal Team, Josep, Raya and The Last Dragon, and Flee.



Now then, let’s get started so we can talk about 2022’s films next! 



10. Fortune Favors Lady Nikkuko

I know some people weren’t happy with this film due to how it wasn’t a big ambitious follow-up to Watanabe’s previous film with Children of the Sea, but this coming-of-age dramedy about a mother and her daughter in a small sea-side town, finding connection with not just life and the people around them, but each other is a charming experience. It might not feel as grand on the big screen, but it sure looked nice up with Studio 4C’s amazing animation and Watanabe’s detailed directing of a fairly offbeat kind of story. It has its moments where the jokes fall flat, but the heart is in the right place.

9. Poupelle of Chimney Town

CGI animation in Japan, whether its use is in anime series or films, has evolved. That they can now craft a vibrant and distinct dieselpunk world in this film shows that the medium of CGI animation is still evolving. The medium is used to tell a rather sweet coming-of-age tale about a boy and his friendship with a mysterious robot in a capitalist and smoke-covered world. It might be a little clunky at some points, but it’s a fun little story that is visually distinct and a thrill to see from beginning to end for film lovers of all ages. 

8. Calamity

It’s a real shame this got such a small US release and one that was so barebones. It’s a crime it only has a digital-only release with no extras or an English dub for people who prefer a dub over subtitles. The director of Long Way North’s follow-up is a rip-roaring western adventure with some beautiful visuals that really show the western landscape throughout every scene with some of the best character development of any animated film from 2021. 

7. The Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily 

Do you know what else is a crime? This gorgeous and incredible animated film still doesn’t have a proper US release for some unknown reason, when it’s one of the most visually stunning features in animation. You could literally frame every frame as a painting and get something out of it due to this film’s striking use of CGI and 2D animation. It definitely uses emotional and fairytale logic to tell its story and presents its themes of colonialism, greed, and discrimination to the audience, but not every film needs to be logical to be enjoyable, and it’s more of a crime that a company like GKIDS has yet to pick this film up. 

6. Words That Bubble Up Like Soda Pop

People worry too much about creativity and originality in storytelling, and are willing to overlook films that are just straight-up rock solid and charming as all get out. It’s a bit of a bummer this film is stuck on Netflix, but the fact they brought over this adorable rom-com between two teens who feel like outcasts due to one thing or another is also a runner-up in 2021’s most visually stunning animation seen on screen. Sometimes, all you need is a well-executed experience in storytelling that will carry you through to the end credits. 

5. Encanto

It sure does feel like it has been a hot minute since Disney had a huge worldwide hit animated feature since 2016, right? While the film might be entering its backlash phase due to how it was always in the public eye since its November release on Disney+, there is a reason why this film became beloved due to its soundtrack and its focus on familial drama instead of your typical Disney good vs evil formula. Sure, the music might have some of the typical aspects of Lin Manuel Miranda’s music-writing quirks, and I get why people felt divided by its ending, but I give Disney kudos that they want to make animated films that deal with topics that were not seen in a lot of US animated fare. Granted, by now, we have had a few, and we could use some shaking up, but the fact is that Encanto is still a fun charming musical adventure that was a refreshing take after a couple of years of making non-stop sequels. 

4. The Summit of the Gods

This film that Netflix sadly buried on their service was a beautiful journey of human ambition and what you are willing to sacrifice to reach your goals. When people want more “adult” animation, it’s not more stuff like Paradise PD, but stuff that tells a story that you don’t normally see in animation, which shows what you can do with the incredible medium of animation. With stunning landscapes, interesting characters, and some of the best animation from 2021, The Summit of the Gods is a film that sadly should have had more people watching it. 

3. Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish

With the current trend of every film needing to be big and bombastic in the tentpole area of the film-going experience, it’s always good to remember that story, writing, and character are more important than big flash visual effect shots. This is a coming-of-age story about dealing with the trials and tribulations of life and overcoming hardship and challenge, all wrapped up in a very nice romcom setting with some of Studio Bones’ most visually lush animation that has ever come from one of the top-tier animation houses in Japan. It might have a few story beats that are predictable, but the overall journey is important, and if I enjoyed it from start to finish on a consistent basis, then it did its job. 

2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Honestly, these next two could basically tie for first place, as Sony Pictures Animation somehow raised the bar in stylized animation with a quirky family dramedy about the disconnect between a father dealing with his daughter moving out for college that just happens to line up with a robot apocalypse. With some of 2021’s most stylized visuals, there was a reason why this film took the world, Netflix, and animation fans by storm with its complex and intensely hilarious themes and comedy. Just a delight from start to finish, but if we had to pick a film that could beat it by the slimmest of margins, it would be…

1. Belle

I know some people find this film too overly ambitious and unfocused, with its combination of a coming-of-age story, a musical, a drama, a romance, and commentary about the social media age which is what we are dealing with in this day and age, but you know what, the emotional throughline of a girl dealing with the loss of her mom and becoming a stronger individual really pulls it all together. With jaw-dropping visuals, bombastic and powerful musical numbers, and some of the best storytelling from the director himself, there is a reason why this film beat out The Mitchells vs. The Machines by the slimmest of margins.

The Other Side of Animation 284 – Scrooge: A Christmas Carol

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)



One of the biggest problems with having a timeless classic is how it branches off into a multitude of different adaptations of the said classic. You will see them take one form, and then another one, or maybe a musical! And then, you will see that musical get adapted into a film, and then people want their crack at that version of the timeless tale. It’s tough, because you don’t want to radically change anything that makes the original amazing, but not every adaptation needs to fully be a 1 on 1 comparison. You need to have some kind of fingerprint that makes your take distinct due to how many versions of something like A Christmas Carol there are in the world. You can usually find one that has stuck with you whether it has Mickey Mouse, The Muppets, or the film adaptation of the Leslie Bricusse Scrooge starring Albert Finney, which is my favorite version. So, this year’s Christmas review will be of Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, a CGI animated feature that is an animated take on the musical. 

This version of the classic tale is directed by Stephen Donnelly, co-written by Donnelly and the original writer of Scrooge, Leslie Bricusse (which is probably more of a royalty/rights situation due to Leslie passing away in 2021). The animated version of the story obviously stars Mr. Ebaneneezer Scrooge, voiced by Luke Evans. As the story goes, Scrooge hates Christmas with a vengeance and how everyone delights in partaking in it, including his employee Bob Cratchit, voiced by Johnny Flynn. That night on Christmas Eve, Scrooge goes home with his dog Prudence only to have the arrival of the ghostly spirit of Scrooge’s last partner, Jacob Marley, voiced by the High Sparrow himself, Jonathan Pryce. Marley puts the fear of the afterlife in Scrooge and tells him that he will be visited by three spirits. These include the candle wax-like Ghost of Christmas Past, voiced by Olivia Coleman, the bombastic and lively Ghost of Christmas Present, voiced by Trevor Dion Nicholas, and the ghoulishly evil-looking Ghost of Christmas Future. Can Scrooge change his ways? 

So, not to get personal with this review, but the 1970s Scrooge is one of my, if not my favorite Christmas movie. I watch it every year with the family on Christmas Day, and it’s the adaptation of the book I watch the most. So, if I sound more critical, it’s because this incarnation is basing itself on a film that’s close to this critic’s heart. What was one of the fun aspects of the original story is how it’s a cautionary tale, but also gothic horror. It was a dark story, and to be frank, this film does seem like it wanted to have its gothic horror, but their main focus was making a family-friendly version of the tale so it would be in that roundtable of A Christmas Carol viewings for families, alongside the Disney and Muppet version. It leans a bit too much on the family-friendly side, as they do what a lot of Toei animated films used to do all of the time back then with the small animal mascots. Scrooge gets a dog, and The Ghost of Christmas Past and Future share these little sprite-like beings that have no real reason to be there. Sure, depending on the version you watch, Christmas Carol can get dark, but it’s a fun dark, and not intensely stressful like Smile, Nope, or Hereditary. They expand upon Scrooge’s past and show more scenes of his slow turn from a kind human to who he was in the present time period. It just seems like they didn’t need to do this because you get the idea of what happens when the “Happiness” sequence happens, but they shorten that part to make room for more scenes and original song sequences that are exclusive to this version of the film. 

Oh, right, there are original songs in this film, and they are a mixed bag. This wouldn’t be so distracting if they didn’t remove songs from the original musical to make room for these new ones. They feel too modern and really detract when they do use music from the original musical. Not that they aren’t sung well, but the first song used in this version of the film is very forgettable. That being said, you can tell that the animators by Timeless Films did a lot of great work during this opening sequence, and make sure to give this film its own distinct visual flair. It has a lot of bright vibrant colors that do detract from the original’s more somber atmosphere. The other new songs are fine, but they feel out of place with the other ones including Luke Evan’s rock opera song that he sings before Marley arrives. It just has a ton of different story decisions that really do hamper the original tone that, while having its own moments that work, don’t compare to the original. The one song sequence I did like was between Luke Evans and Jessie Buckley, but when push comes to shove, the original version of Happiness is still the best version of that moment in the film when Scrooge sees his past. They even push the side characters even more to the side and don’t leave much of an impression unlike the live-action film. The rest of the humans look great and while they come close to looking like they are from something from either advertisements or some of the more well-known mobile games, the film looks fine for what was assumedly not on a large budget. They throw in a lot of Christmas flair and visuals, but personally, the ghosts got the best design boost by being in animation. The Ghost of Christmas Past and Jacob Marley have probably my favorite visual designs. Marley’s more ice/blue flame look is awesome to see unfold when he arrives and Christmas Past is inspired by a candle and made of wax has some of the best animation in the film. You can tell the animators had a ton of fun making her work. Even if Olivia Coleman is maybe hamming it up too much. Ghost of Christmas Future has the least interesting design, and what makes some other adaptations work is how they handle this specific ghost in general. Even Jim Carrey and Robert Zemeckis’ take on the ghost does some truly spooky things by making it a shadow along the walls, and that’s great. Sadly, the animation isn’t consistently well done when you get to the Thank You Very Much scene, the animation took a hit and is way too robotic and stiff when it is one of the more darkly comedic and lively scenes from the original musical. The one thing this film doesn’t fully mess up is the stuff with Tiny Tim. I mean, it’s hard to mess up one of the most adorable kids in fiction. If you mess that up, then you aren’t a good director. 

It sounds like this isn’t a very good adaptation, but there is stuff to like. A lot of the animation looks good, and at moments, it really captures the somber and eerie tone of the film even when it’s aiming for a more family-friendly version. The voice cast is pretty good with Luke Evans, Johnny Flynn, Jessie Buckley, Olivia Coleman, James Cosmo, Fra Fee, Rupert Turnbull, Rebecca Gethings, and Giles Terera to name a few of the major actors they got for the film. When it does slow down and show some of the plot beats from the original, it does do those scenes well. The music is composed well by Jeremy Hollen-Smith, and while I’m not super fond of the new and old songs in how they are executed, they are sung well. When you have a guy who was the Genie on the Aladdin Broadway show, you know you are going to have a fantastic Ghost of Christmas Present. 

It’s a solid adaptation, but if it didn’t try to feel so modern and family-friendly, even compared to other more family-friendly adaptations of the source material, it would leave a more lasting impression. It has some solid visuals, a few decent musical numbers, and good voice performances. It’s a fun time, but I wouldn’t call it one of the better films of the year. If you have yet to see this version, then there is a reason to give it a watch. It’s different enough to stand out, but even with my underwhelming impressions of this version, I bet this one will make the rounds every Christmas. Most people will watch more than one version of A Christmas Carol every year during this time period. Either way, see it for yourself and come up with your own thoughts about it. For now, it’s time to relax, work on some editorials, and enjoy the holidays. 

Rating: Rent it (well, it’s a streaming-only film, but still.)

Chainsawing Through the Fall 2022 Anime Season

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

The fall 2022 season was a pleasant upgrade over Summer 2022’s anime season. It doesn’t reach all of the same heights as Fall 2021, but with its cast of new and returning anime, it still unleashes to the anime-loving audience a batch of amazing shows. Sure, some were bound to be new classics like Chainsaw Man, but there are other great shows this season and with Winter 2023 around the corner, let’s drop some impressions of a pretty solid season of anime. 

COMEDY

Love Flops (HiDive) 

(CW: assault and harassment jokes in the first episode)

One of the few original properties this season by Kadokawa Pictures. It’s produced by Passione, directed by Nobuyoshi Nagayama, and written by Ryo Yasumoto. Consider this one of the most middling mediocre harem anime to ever exist. Probably one of the worst anime of 2022 as well with the fact that the five girls and one woman who are fawning over this teenager, have no reason to fall for him. The way they are introduced to one another is laughably terrible and conceived, and the second episode’s reason behind them falling for him is yet another take on the vibe that they want anime viewers to start getting married and make kids. If it didn’t have Passione’s higher-than-usual production values, this anime would have fallen flat due to one-note love interests, and how it’s mostly interested in being male-wish fantasy nonsense. You all know you can not watch bad anime because it has cute anime girls right? You can go to other anime for cute anime girls that have more substance and personality to them. Heck, this season is full of them. You can do so much better than this one. Oh, and it dares to have a twist and become super meta when it doesn’t earn it or deserve it. 

The Little Lies We All Tell (Crunchyroll)

Man, it must be tough to be a comedy/gag anime that comes out the same season as Pop Team Epic’s triumphant return. This show is based on the manga by Madoka Kashihara. It’s directed by Makoto Hoshino, written by Megumi Shimizu, and produced by Studio Flad. The marketing for this show is weird. One poster and the title make it sound like it’s going to be some dark teen drama, but it’s a gag anime. It feels like it was put together by random or thrown-out ideas, and it is at least trying to be absurd and have that same high energy take as classics of the subgenre, but it never quite feels as cohesive or as absurd as others. It’s trying, and it has a laugh here and there, but it’s never as consistent as other shows like Cromartie High or Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. The four, well, three girls and one cross-dressing boy who was forced to go to the school all have something to hide, and the different gimmicks never feel like they mesh. It’s a weird show, because I personally don’t think it’s good, but I can see someone vibing with this show. It needed to have a bit more balance or focus on making the characters have actual personalities rather than just relying on the gimmick and some tired anime tropes. Still, you can do worse with anime comedies. 

Urusei Yatsura (HiDive)

Well, if it’s not broken…. This is based on the influential manga by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s directed by Hideya Takahashi, Yasuhiro Kimura, and Takahiro Kamei, written by Yuko Kakihara, and produced by David Productions. No exaggeration here, this new adaptation of the manga basically kept everything set in the 1970s without changing much outside of a new visual coat of paint. So be prepared to see somewhat tame by today’s standards mean-spirited gag stories with a somewhat overarching plot being weaved into the episodes. It can be loud, absurd, and funny, and whether its more heartfelt moments clash or not with the over-the-top and well-animated comedy, will be up to you. For me, I enjoyed the batch of episodes I have seen so far and it will at least be way better than that Inuyasha follow-up. 

More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers (Crunchyroll) 

I feel so betrayed and frustrated by this show. It’s based on the manga by Yuki Kanamura, directed by Takao Kato and Junichi Yamamoto, written by Naruhisa Arakawa, and produced by Studio Mother. If you don’t hear about the setting this story takes place in, it sounds like a real rock-solid rom-com. Two students who don’t care much for each other team up to actually hook up with the people they want to crush on. Now, if you have seen these romcoms before, you know our two leads are actually gonna fall for each other. The story focuses on their insecurities as individuals and, while it can be a bit horny since it’s anime, the show really does invest a ton of time to progress the story arcs between our leads. What makes this show fall flat is the premise. Our two leads are together because they are in a mandatory school course where they must learn to become good future husbands and wives. Oh, and the dorms the couples stay in, are wired with cameras all over, watching their every step. It’s intensely creepy and it’s maddening because this would be really cool if the premise didn’t sound like some weird conservative wet dream of the ideal school course students should be taking. I know some of the anime made every year will have some underlying political commentary about modern political topics in Japan, but no school should have a mandated “get a grade by being a married couple” course. You could easily have a better setting, because everything else is pretty okay! I wish I could recommend it full-heartedly, but there are better romcoms this year that don’t pull weird settings like this. 

I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss (Crunchyroll)

When you watch a terrible anime like Shinobi No Ittoki, coming back to watch a show like this one really shows how good some of the shows this season are. This is based on the novels by Sarasa Nagase. The adaptation is produced by Maho Films, written by Kenta Ihara, and directed by Kumihiko Habara. While we are about to slowly get flooded with isekai titles about characters playing the villain from a popular or just any random otome game, if they can keep differentiating themselves from My Life as a Villainess, then they are good to go. Here, the rom-com plot of our lead trying to propose to the demon lord has resulted in a rather delightful and quirky journey, as we see our lead break the game and shift reality around her beck-and-call and use her knowledge of the original game to her advantage. It focuses on a lot of diverse character interactions, and it’s an adorable show with so many characters being rather lovable. It might have wonky animation and CGI compositing, but this is an otherwise charming show that will warm its way into your heart. 

Do It Yourself! (Crunchyroll)

What a wonderful original anime we have this season. It’s directed by Kazuhiro Yoneda, written by Kazuyuki Fudeyashu, and produced by Pine Jam. What’s so delightful about this show is how it works on so many levels. You not only have the fun of seeing an anime about the joy of Do It Yourself projects, but it’s a show about rebuilding and repairing friendships old and new. It’s not just another “cute girls doing cute things” show. It also has a visual style that looks like the result of Cloverworks and Science Saru having a child. Pine Jam has truly crafted a fantastic watercolor visual style and some of the most expressive characters of this season of anime. It’s one of those shows that is a great gateway anime to introduce to newcomers, and it stands out as one of the best this season. 

Bocchi The Rock (Crunchyroll) 

While Chainsaw Man is probably the most obvious show this season to be popular, it’s nice to see a show like this stellar piece of rock and roll get popular. It’s based on the manga by Aki Hamaji. It’s directed by Keiichiro Saito, written by Erika Yoshida, and produced by CloverWorks. You can basically call this a combination of coming-of-age, music, and extreme cases of social anxiety. The journey of our nervous wreck of a lead character to join a blossoming band and to expand upon her social skills is one of Fall 2022’s biggest surprises. It also has some of the most expressive and vibrant animation seen all year. Not a big shock from CloverWorks, but just in general. It’s some of the most interesting visuals you will find in a year full of anime with distinct visuals. It’s also really funny and crushingly accurate as to how they capture social anxiety, and how it can feel for some people in certain situations. Just a splendid anime around, and it’s no wonder why it has become one of the fan-favorite anime of the season. 

ACTION/ADVENTURE

Shinobi no Ittoki (Crunchyroll)

Well, at least it’s trying to do more than most middling ninja anime. This is another original anime of the season that’s directed by Shuu Watanabe, written by Minato Takano, and produced by Troyca. This show has an odd balance of tones. On one hand, the story of a boy who’s suddenly forced into being trained in order to run an entire clan of ninjas is understandably compelling, but lordy, is this some of the worst written dialogue and storytelling I have seen all year. Yeah, let’s follow this one character who was never told until he was in high school about his ninja ancestry, never train him, and then throw him into a school full of other ninja clans that want him dead and not give him at the very least a rundown or heads up of who to avoid or what to know. This show wants to be this thrilling ninja story and it isn’t just due to how the characters are terribly written, and what could be interesting or fun with the rather solid action animation, is dead weight and stuck with a story that’s not fun to sit through. Just a really boring and unbearable series. It’s not a bad show because it’s poorly animated or problematic. It’s a bad show because at no point is it thrilling, at no point is the story compelling or giving you a reason to root for its characters. It has story beats that happen that aren’t earned, and it’s a sign of how bad certain original anime can be. 

The Eminence in Shadow (HiDive) 

(CW: Sexual Assault in the first episode)

What is with anime productions that want to botch their first impressions with anime-only first episodes? I swear these production committees never learn. This is based on the novels by Daisuke Aizawa. It’s directed by Kazuya Nakanishi, written by Kanichi Katou, and produced by Nexus. So, this show is weird, because the first episode is an anime-only story that sets itself up as an edgy power fantasy show, but when you watch past episode 1, it feels like it’s supposed to be a parody, or it’s goofing on the tropes and story beats of mediocre isekai. I would normally be all for that with how they crafted certain moments from the episodes I watched, but after a bit, I felt like I fell off on whether this was supposed to be a parody or they were just being very tongue-and-cheek with it when it comes off like every other power fantasy anime that comes out every year. I guess at least it has a sense of personality with how it’s trying to lay out its jokes, but I couldn’t personally vibe with this one. I get why a lot of people do, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. 

Chainsaw Man (Crunchyroll)

I mean, we all knew this was going to be one of, if not the best new show of the Fall 2022 season right? It’s based on the hit manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto that has taken the manga world by storm. The anime adaptation is obviously produced by MAPPA, it’s written by Hiroshi Seko, and directed by the duo of Ryu Nakayama and Nasato Nakazono. This show is just a bit of everything. It has fantastic action, incredible film quality level animation, dark comedy, and it doesn’t just fall back on its popularity or the gore to keep you invested. It has everything an anime fan or a newcomer to anime could want with how it balances everything to pretty much perfectly. There is a reason why this is considered one of the best shows of the year and season. You can’t get any better than this in terms of anime, and hopefully, MAPPA is treating its animators well to craft such an exquisite experience. 

FANTASY/ISEKAI

I Somehow Became Stronger By Raising Farming-Related Skills (HiDive)

CW: Episode 2 has a really tasteless male getting assaulted joke. 

Is anyone else getting really sick and tired of shows having a solid elevator pitch, but then completely bailing on it for no reason? This show is based on the light novels/manga by Shobonnu. It’s directed by Norihiko Nagahama, written by Touko Machida, and produced by Studio A-Cat. A super-powered farmer in a fantasy world where he doesn’t want to be the hero sounds like it could lead to a really creative comedy about a farmer who just wants to farm. The first episode has the lead character literally throwing a carrot at the speed of light and killing a dragon with it. That’s so funny and yet, the rest of the show is actually not about that. It’s about a farmer who just gets roped up into being a hero because he’s got really good stats. It’s a really boring watch that doesn’t do anything new or really fun with the formula, gets way too dark for a show that isn’t advertised as such, and of course, it will slowly have a colorful cast of female love interests and some non-threatening male friends that don’t get in the way of our lead and his forced-together harem. If it focused less on being just another power fantasy with a harem with really shoddy animation, there could have been something special. Still, alas, it’s another mediocre fantasy anime in a year full of them. 

Management of a Novice Alchemist (HiDive)

Well, at least it isn’t boring. This is based on the novels/light novels/manga by Mizuho Itsuki. The show is directed by Hiroshi Ikehata, written by Shigeru Murakoshi, and produced by ENGI. I mean, it’s a “cute girls doing cute things” alchemy/fantasy edition. It doesn’t do anything truly unique outside of focusing on the crafting side than the magic, but it also has to fit in stuff like action and possible romance baiting between the four characters. It’s got a solid visual look with some better-than-usual animation, but it’s mostly just okay. If it looked a bit worse, I would rank it lower, but its aesthetic is what’s saving this run-of-the-mill anime. Not that originality is the end all be all, but after a bit with how much anime is coming out, doing the bare minimum while other shows are hitting it out of the park is going to bite some on the backside in the long run. 

Beast Tamer (Crunchyroll)

Some of the toughest anime to give impressions on are shows that are just so committed to being down the middle in terms of quality and story execution. Beast Tamer is kind of that show but with enough charm to it that makes it hard to be hateful or angry towards it. This is based on the novels by Suzu Miyama. The anime adaptation is directed by Atsushi Nigorikawa, written by Takashi Aoshima, and produced by EMT Square. The funny thing about these “I got kicked out of the hero’s party” fantasy anime is that the reason for getting kicked out is so petty, and that might be the intention, but it’s never believably done. What’s more interesting is despite it being what will essentially be a harem anime with multiple cute fantasy girls, the show as of what I have seen, was not interested in fanservice. Or, at least not to a distracting degree where the show halts in its tracks to give you some cheesecake. The main cast has decent chemistry with how our lead is gonna save the day with kindness with his monster-taming skills, but it’s just okay. Nothing super obnoxious, but nothing all that stellar either. It could definitely fill the void of comfort food anime watching, but your tolerance for certain harem tropes will be the deciding point, or if you can truly utterly believe the igniting point of the overall story in the first place. 

Raven of the Inner Palace (Crunchyroll) 

Well, we have our The Heiki Story anime of the season, and I mean that in the way that we have a period drama that’s really fascinating. It’s based on the light novels by Koko Shirakawa. It’s written by Satomi  Ooshima, directed by Chizuru  Miyawaki, and produced by Bandai Namco Pictures. It’s a shame the first major story arc is split between two episodes because this is one of the rare few anime that would have been better as a one-hour premiere. It’s really slow to start out and build up the world-building, politics, and supernatural elements with the first episode, and by the second episode, it fully kicks into what the first mystery of the show is. By the third episode, you will be intrigued and compelled to see what the requests the Raven Consort get and how they unfold. It unwraps into a beautiful story of love, loss, and is full of political and royal drama/thriller elements to keep you in this gorgeously prepared world. Doesn’t hurt either that Queen Bee does a fantastic theme song for the show, and if you are down for something a bit different from your typical shonen action romps or the big league titles, then consider giving this one a shot. 

Reincarnated as a Sword (HiDive)

This is what happens when you make a familiar, but compelling isekai. This is based on the novels by Yuu Tanaka. It’s directed by Shinji Ishihara, written by Takahiro Nagano, and produced by C2C. While the lead being reincarnated as a sword doesn’t seem like it leads to a very compelling story, it actually stands on its own as one of the better isekai this year. The sword’s interaction with our cat girl lead that so far, the anime has tried to avoid sexualizing, is nice since anime is so bad at not making young characters look lewd. I get ya want to sell merchandise, but instead of doing most anime nonsense, the show does focus on the growing bond between our leads and it makes for a more pleasant experience when you are able to enjoy the show without so much nonsense getting in the way. With a fun premise, great animation, and well-executed action, Reincarnated as a Sword was a pleasant surprise in a year full of mediocre isekais. 

OTHER

My Master Has no Tail (HiDive) 

This was a sweet little title. It’s based on the manga by TNSK. The anime adaptation is produced by Liden Films, written by Touko Machida, Kei Shimobayashi, Aya Satsuki, and Yuho Togashi, and directed by Hideyo Yamamoto. What starts off as a cute little fantastical take on a period piece where our little tanuki lead goes into the human world to see what is going on, turns into a friendship drama about her wanting to work under a storyteller’s wing in a changing world. No longer can a tanuki thrive in a world with carriages, cars, and at the time, modern devices. It’s a show that tackles themes of dealing with the fear of the unknown in an ever-changing world, respecting the past, and finding that ambition to push through the tides of change. It’s well-animated, the characters are likable, and while there may be some cultural barriers that will get lost in translation, the show is easy to follow and only has a little bit of that anime nonsense that hampers it from time to time. 

Bibliophile Princess (HiDive)

This is where I wish this had a dub, due to how talkative it is. This is based on the light novels by Yui. This period piece drama/romance is directed by Taro Iwasaki, written by Mitsutaka Hirota, and produced by Madhouse. Listen, this show’s first episode is really slow, and you will only get the crumbs of what the drive of this show will be between a lovely prince and a bookish princess. Luckily, by the second and third episodes, the chemistry blossoms into a rather lovely romance with some gorgeous visuals. This is one of the few light novels where it’s not just an edgy male power fantasy isekai nonsense. Granted, even though I have watched plenty of episodes, I am worried about how much our princess has in terms of agency and how much development she gets from the story, since a lot of it is told from her perspective. Still, if you are in the mood for romance, period dramas, and something more slow and low-key, then you will probably like this show. 

Blue Lock  (Crunchyroll)

The one sports anime of the season comes in the form of one of the best sports anime of the year. It’s based on the manga by Muneyuki Kaneshiro with illustrations by Yusuke Nomura. The adaptation is written by Taku Kishimoto, directed by the duo of Tesunaki Watanabe and Shunsuke Ishikawa, and produced by Eight Bit. Instead of being another familiar but well-executed typical shonen-style sports anime, Blue Lock brings a more aggressive and sinister vibe to the sports formula by pitting teams against each other to become the best. With a more assertive and menacing art style to the players and the world itself, Blue Lock sets itself apart by being different and truly stands out among 2022’s mostly generic batch of sports anime. 

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury (Crunchyroll)

Never thought I’d see the day I talk about and love a Gundam series that wasn’t G-Gundam or the other series that Toonami and Adult Swim played back then. This is directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi and Ryo Ando, written by Ichiro Okouchi, and produced by Sunrise. Who knew that what we needed was not a group of angsty teenagers in yet another anti-war story that clashes with the sole money-making side of the Gundam franchise of selling a multitude of models and action figures? Yeah, war is bad, but look how cool the robots and action beats are. Thankfully, what ya get with this one is Gundam crossed with Revolutionary Girl Utena, which is already at this point, a tired and worn joke since one of the writers of Utena is writing the script for this show. On a more serious note, this show is just fantastic. It’s got its political upheaval and war is bad messages for sure, but instead of that stuff being in your face at all times, it focuses more on the characters and they are delightfully diverse and complex. It still weaves in themes of discrimination and corruption, but they are characters first and foremost. It also helps that they are pretty likable, on top of the fight scenes being pretty stellar. It’s the shot in the arm that this franchise needed and it just needed to have more LGBTQ+ elements. Who knew?

Akiba Maid War (HiDive)

Well, I found it, I found the most ideal trashy anime that I don’t have to feel guilty for watching. This original anime is directed by Soichi Masui, written by Yoshihiro Hiki, and produced by P.A. Works. Yeah, the show is basically John Wick, but here every woman wears a sexy maid uniform. It’s more of a trashy action flick mixed with some territorial crime/gang war drama where all of the maid cafes are actually competing against one another with shady underbelly stuff that you would find in most crime thrillers. It’s over-the-top and schlocky, but with how much personality is in this show and how it 100% commits to its premise of drama and over-the-top action, if you were a fan of Lycoris Recoil, then you will absolutely love this show. HiDive this year has gotten some of this year’s best shows and Akiba Maid Wars is one of them! 


And there you have it. If you had to know the anime I’d recommend before the Winter season starts, please check out these titles: Chainsawman, Reincarnated as a Sword, Do It Yourself, Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, Akiba Maid Wars, Bocchi Rock, Raven if the Inner Palace, I’m The Villainess so I’m Taming the Final Boss, and honorable mentions go to Not a Married Couple, but Not Lovers and Urusei Yatsura

My Least Favorite Animated Films of 2021

(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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial/list!)

2021 in animation is definitely a step up from 2020. Not only did we have more to discuss, but films actually got released. I mean, granted, whether we should have been doing so during the pandemic is up to you, but it was nice to have a staggering number of animated films last year. It also helped that there was more competition among the different distributors, and while the best films of the year were the obvious entries, the fact that even the smaller films attempted to and won over some of the major releases is truly impressive. Sadly, we are not here to talk about the best films, we are here to talk about the ones I liked the least. The ones that infuriated me while watching and found to be lacking the heart and soul the medium of storytelling has given multiple stories life. 

1. Lava

If there was truly a film that made me more upset than any other film released in 2021, a film that made me feel like I wasted my time watching it more than any other film, then it would be Lava. While it was fully watchable during Annecy 2020, it got a small on-demand release in 2021. It fails on every level, from the story, writing, characters, themes, acting, and the dub might be one of the worst dubs I have ever seen in a time period where people are able to record from home. This is a film that would have only survived in the festival circuit scene and even then, there is a reason why no one knows about this film or cares about it, and the few that did give this a review, were not favorable. I never want to see a film be this big of a waste of time again. 

2. Xico’s Journey

While its experience as a feature film was not as insulting, with a few decent designs and one sequence that was very well animated, there isn’t much else that you can find here that hasn’t been made by better studios or teams that are in Mexico. There are some truly talented people in Mexico and South America, but this kind of film will not convince you otherwise. It’s harmless, but most viewers will be left bored and unimpressed with the lackluster animation that is more akin to Dora the Explorer in quality than have any real visual flair that will wow viewers looking for animated films from around the world. You can do so much better than Xico’s Journey

3. Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

This was probably made to capitalize on the success of Monster Hunter World and its expansion, but that doesn’t excuse it from being a boilerplate story with nothing to really add to the mythos. It focuses on a character no one cares about, the rest of the cast is forgettable, and the action and animation are not up to snuff with CGI that has been used for TV films. Only die-hard Monster Hunter fans will ever want to watch this, but you might as well just play the video game or watch a playthrough of it online than give this special any time of the day. 

4. Night of the Animated Dead

This honestly might be the most pointless remake of any movie of all time. While you could maybe see the inspirations of trying to look like cartoons from the 60s and 70s, and it has a decent cast, this remake ruins every aspect of its groundbreaking horror, and doesn’t do or offer anything different from the original or the 90s remake. It’s absolutely pointless. It might have a few performances that are fine, but you won’t find any meat on this remake’s bones. 

5. Dog Gone Trouble 

I feel badly for not really liking any of the films by Vanguard Animation. Who knows exactly what kind of production pipelines they have, but the fact is that they make boilerplate films with middling plots. The bummer part about this one is that it has a decent set-up, but then falls apart. It doesn’t do anything super offensive, but the fact I’m sitting here struggling to remember the multiple plot threads or the cast of forgettable characters is saying something. At least it’s animated decently. 

6. Firedrake: The Silver Dragon

Once again, while not every film needs to try and look or structure their stories like the bigger studios out there, it doesn’t hurt to have a compelling narrative in a world mixed with fantasy and modern-day elements. This German animated film based on the Dragon Rider book falls flat with some truly uninteresting characters, a been-there-done-that style plot, and lacks any flare or surprise for audiences checking this film out. It has a few decent lines and Patrick Stewart as the villain will always be a high point in any film, but you will be much better off watching a film like How to Train Your Dragon than checking out lackluster and mediocre-looking films like Firedrake: The Silver Dragon. 

7. Spirit Untamed

DreamWorks didn’t have a great 2021, and leading the year with one of their lowest-grossing and poorly received animated features didn’t help things. While there was definitely more critical whippings against this film due to its target demographic of young girls that definitely made this film sound worse than it was, it still falls flat compared to the studio’s other offerings. Some nice morals and a solid dream sequence don’t cover up a miscast list of big names, and a too straightforward plot that doesn’t offer much for the fans of the original film. It’s fine. It doesn’t look as good as other films due to its animation being outsourced to another studio, but it didn’t feel as insulting as others made it out to be. The only question is who was this made for, since it doesn’t really cater to fans of the original or the Netflix series? So, yeah, I wasn’t a fan of this one. 

8. Space Jam: A New Legacy

I hate to sound like a snob, but the fact people were looking forward to this one is a sign of how profitable and predatory nostalgia has become. Instead of rolling their eyes at yet another nostalgia-riddled cash grab that tries to be meta about its entire existence but fails, people were excited about it. Like, it’s neat to see some lovely 2D animation and a lot of the cast be played by actual voice actors instead of it all being 100% celebrities, but the story is poorly written, it feels self-congratulatory about its own IP library, the mix of CGI, live-action, and CGI animated characters are not well executed. The ending loses any emotional weight it could have had, because of one terrible story decision after another. 

9. Bigfoot Family

It’s impressive to note that Son of Bigfoot was a huge success. While I personally didn’t like the film, I get why people found it appealing, even if there are so many other animated films to give more love and support to than this one. I was surprised to see the sequel hit Netflix with such little fanfare, and well, no one talks about it now. Just a really dull and slog-worthy flick that is just a boring ‘save the environment’ plot, and about half of the cast and forgettable villains have some plot points that don’t quite hold up. The animation is nothing special, and overall, it’s just not all that noteworthy. 

10. Charming

The problem when making a film that is based solely around the appeal and pull of a real-life celebrity couple voicing the leads is releasing it years after the fact. That’s not a good sign of why it took forever for this film to come out when everyone else got it years before. It’s a shame because it seems like this was Vanguard’s major attempt to try and get with the mainstream crowd, but then real life comes into play and changes everything. It doesn’t help either when the rest of the film is a very middling take on the fantasy parody genre Shrek made popular 21 years ago. It has some decent moments, but its inclusion of some problematic celebrities in its voice cast, a formulaic plot, and flat animation that didn’t quite push the visuals it needed to, results in the most harmless mediocre film I have seen this year, but definitely, one that’s more interesting to discuss the production and release history of over something like Lava.