Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Finale

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

Good gravy, let’s finally get this one out of the way! Here were my top 10 favorite animated films from 2020! If you haven’t seen part 1, part 2, or part 3, I will make sure to hyperlink them. I apologize that life got in the way of making this one happen so late. 

10. The Wonderland 

While Keiichi Hara’s follow-up to one of my favorite films of 2016 Miss Hokusai doesn’t quite reach that level of quality, his new film, The Wonderland is still a whimsical adventure via a coming-of-age tale. It has some truly beautiful landscapes and a creative fantastical world that may be Hara’s own take on Alice in Wonderland. The villain isn’t the most interesting, and there are some jokes and moments that irked me, but I was so happy to catch this film before everything came crashing down with the pandemic. 

9. The Willoughbys 

This dark family comedy may suffer from a majority of the children in this family being underdeveloped in favor of the oldest son getting the majority of the development, but considering how little came out during the pandemic, I’ll take an overall vibrant and funny experience. What it may lack in some story strength makes up for some of 2020’s most vibrant CGI stop-motion-style animation, some very clever jokes, a fantastic cast, and it was just another step in showing what kind of experiences Netflix, flaws and all, are going to be offering in the feature animation scene. 

8. The Croods: A New Age

While I wouldn’t call 2020 or 2021’s DreamWorks’ best year for animation, out of their four recent films that they have released, The Croods: A New Age is their best one since 2019’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Who would have thought that a sequel that was in start/stop production hell would actually result in one of the better DreamWorks sequels? They expand on the world, the new characters are likable and bring in some substance to the overall story, the jokes are more creative, and the sequel leaning into the more absurd world that the story takes place in leads to a better overall product. I don’t know what they could do with a follow-up film, but if it’s as much fun to watch as this one, I wouldn’t mind seeing a third film. 

7. On Gaku: Our Sound 

While Lupin III: The First and Wolfwalkers were going to always be the more approachable GKIDS-distributed films of 2020, I still wish On Gaku: Our Sound had received more love. It’s a truly, by the definition, indie animated feature among the bountiful animation scene in Japan. Its offbeat atmosphere, quirky humor, and laid-back approachable story stick out from the flashier big-budget fare. That many of the people working on this were first-time animators is an impressive feat and while the use of rotoscope is obvious, the fact there is no other film quite like it out in 2020 is impressive and rather fun. It’s a film that introduces a real deal shot in the arm that the animation scene always needs. 

6. Lupin III: The First 

I remember how worried I was to see the franchise’s first step into CGI, and boy howdy, they didn’t miss a beat. Not only is it a fantastic foray into CGI animation, but it’s also a Lupin story that’s actually compelling and entertaining! For those that are fans of the franchise, getting both good animation and a good story isn’t always a given or is balanced with each film and special. With the return of the iconic dub cast, thrilling action, stellar writing, and some of the best CGI from Japan, Lupin III: The First shows a promising future for the franchise and the future of theatrical CGI animation from Japan. 

5. Onward

Remember when everyone was dunking on this film, and then everyone ended up liking it? I sure do. While it might not be one of the higher-end Pixar films, this touching story about two brothers and their journey to strengthen their bond and to try to get some closure with their dead father does elevate it as one of the more intimate and personal Pixar stories. The fantasy element even has a fun way of approaching the metaphorical and literal theme of losing and finding magic in life. It’s a film that has gotten better on rewatch, and I feel badly that it became one of the first victims of the pandemic. 

4. Over the Moon 

Netflix had a tough challenge of following up their acclaimed year of animation from 2019 where they had both I Lost My Body and Klaus, so Over the Moon was such a surprise with how much I fell in love with it. It is a touching story about grief, personal change, and dealing with loss, with some fantastic music, vibrant animation, and a fantastic lead. It was directed by Glen Keane, and this was his first time directing a feature film! Over the Moon also has a very witty script from Keane and the late great Audrey Wells. It also gets bonus points for having moments of gorgeous 2D animation. With Pearl Studios now on their own, making films with a promising lineup of future projects in the works, Over the Moon was an out-of-this-world first impression of what they could do after their relationship with DreamWorks ended. 

3. Ride Your Wave 

Masaaki Yuasa is a master director. I mean, I could leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be super satisfying as this is, until we finally see Inu-Oh this year, his best and most approachable movie. It’s a romance that of course has its own Yuasa twist that makes it his take on the “Shape of Water” romance perspective about a college girl finding her way in life. It even has the tamest visuals of Yuasa and Science Saru’s work. You can tell they toned it down from the immense visual overload that was 2004’s Mindgame and his more recent work with Lu Over the Wall and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Whether you like his more out-there premises or his more grounded ones, Ride Your Wave should be in your animation collection. 

2. Soul 

Even with a year like 2020, having a Cartoon Saloon, a Peter Doctor/Kemp Powers Pixar film, and a Yuasa film in the top three spots should be a sign of how good the good stuff was. There are definitely some understandable arguments about some of this film’s execution of plot points, and I understand where they are coming from with some of them, and maybe it’s because 2020 was just an entire mood year, Soul hit many people in a way that most animated films, Pixar or otherwise, do. Until Disney and Pixar can break the chains and do more adult-tinted animated features, this is the most adult film Pixar has ever put out, with an extremely philosophical story about life and what drives a person. With earworm tunes, an incredible performance from Jamie Foxx, and a rather ethereal tone, Soul ranks up as one of Pixar’s best. 

1. Wolfwalkers 

I mean, was there any shock here that it would be number 1? While it is technically tied with Soul, there is just something extremely special anytime we get a Cartoon Saloon film. It has some of the studio’s best animation yet, with its mix of gorgeous 2D visuals and rough pencil style reminiscent of the 70s and 80s Disney/Don Bluth that looks like it was filmed on wood grain. It is a touching story about two young girls, the themes of discrimination, anti-colonialism, sexism, freedom, family, and environmentalism, Wolfwalkers stands out from the pack in a year that had very little competition for the major titles everyone was looking forward to. Now, I do wish they would simply sell Wolfwalkers as an individual release instead of holding it hostage with Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, though seriously, pay for an AppleTV+ subscription and watch this incredible flick.

The Other Side of Animation 249: Flee 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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Neon. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Neon for this opportunity.

When you watch the film festival scene, there are always going to be films that take up the spotlight. It doesn’t matter if the end product is actually well received outside of film festival circles, once they catch the hype bug, the hype doesn’t stop, no matter what films they compete against in any other festivals in which they are played. It’s a shame, because it does seem like film festival reactions tend to skew the reactions of the film, and once it shows up in one festival and wins the main prize, it’s going to do so over and over again until it gets its full non-festival release. It even happens if a lot of the films were better received outside the festival circuit. Anyway, this isn’t an editorial talking about the dread and nauseous issues with film festival reactions, but instead about one of the films that have swept awards left and right as it journeys across state and country lines to become one of the biggest films of 2021, Flee

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, this story follows Amin Nawabi, who tells his recently untold history of fleeing Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. The documentary and interview follow the challenges, the scares, the life-changing moments, and the journey of who he is throughout the voyage. 

Let’s talk about the film’s animation first. This has been a real contingent point for viewers and critics about how the animation is not up to par with other animated films. Yes, the film’s animated visuals are mostly higher quality animatics for the movements with fewer frames and some are very much just storyboard stills. If you had to compare it to another film’s animation style, it’s similar to how Josep executed its visuals.That’s why many prefer it as a documentary rather than an animated film. Honestly, the animation has such an atmosphere and is drenched in such emotional vibes that it works more in its favor than if it had something akin or similar to a more traditional 2D animated feature. People seem to forget that many of these projects from overseas don’t always get the biggest budgets. Plus, if the visuals still give you the intended mood, then who cares if it doesn’t have super crisp Akira-style animation. The acting is pretty solid, but the best parts are where Amin is talking with the interviewer or his boyfriend about the story, and it has a lot of shades of the Story Corp discussions since those are all animated shorts and stories about people with a story that is important to them. 

Plus, this is a dark story. The fact that all of this stuff about people just struggling to survive from war and violence is still going on today. It’s a film that really gives you a reset about what you are dealing with as you watch our lead’s journey and the hoops they had to jump through, the horrors that they have seen, the violence, and you get the idea. The story even follows the aftermath of his journey and the psychological and emotional turmoil that has affected his relationships and his current mindset. It’s a documentary that has a more human side to the overall story, and it reminds you that the people who are dealing with these horrific incidents and their journey for safety are human. It’s a story that hits hard, due to everything that is going on these past few years. 

While the hype for this film is mostly worth it, the film itself would have been great even without the hype from its many wins during the festival circuit. It’s a powerful and intimate journey through one person’s survival and the experience that led him to become the person he is now. It’s an extremely touching film that whenever Neon decides to expand its wide release, everyone should go watch it. It’s not the flashiest animation-wise, and you will definitely feel uneasy about the world and how some of these horrific events happen, but sometimes, you just need a good dose of reality and to remember that this is going on in the real world and beyond your TV screens. Now then, next time, we are going to talk about the Netflix mini-series, The House

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

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 248: Bob Spit: We Do Not Like People 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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Kelly Hargraves for this opportunity.

Do you know what’s a bummer of a review? It’s reviewing a film you are mixed on. Some critics have cited that films they found boring or middling are tougher to write about. You try to wring out any thoughts or personal observations from said boring experience, but there is a dose of anger with a film. Your experience was almost incredible, and yet, something or a couple of things about the film drags the overall enjoyment down, and that’s not fun to watch in real-time. Not to say that the film is terrible, but you always hope for a film to be good from start to finish. This is the journey and the outcome of watching a truly distinct and unique film like Bob Spit: We Do Not Like People

This movie is based on the comics and characters by famed Brazilian comic book artist Angeli. It’s directed by Cesar Cabral and written by Angeli and Cesar. The story follows Angeli as he is being interviewed about his career and his approach to his art, where he reveals and talks about the characters he famously killed off. This includes the notorious punk rock green humanoid Bob Spit. In another realm, Bob Spit finds himself in a completely abandoned wasteland full of survivors watching something off special orbs, small demonic critters that look like Elton John’s version of Critters. When he finds out his creator is going to kill him, he goes on an adventure and journey to find his creator and stay alive. Because, as Bob Spit says, “Punk is not dead!”

This is a very fascinating film, and you love to see these very distinct films in the animation scene. Sure, you may not be able to see this one in a readily available way, but hopefully, that will change in the future. This is partly an interview with the real-life artist talking about his life via his personal ongoings and how he approaches his characters and art. There are other scenes seen throughout the experience of other individuals in the lead’s life that influenced his personal life or his work. The film takes up a majority of the 90-minute runtime to really focus on the artist who is also his own character within the film, and exploring his current mindset of where he is right now, being all retrospective of his career. Now, how does the Bob Spit’s arc fit into all of this? Well, when a specific line is said about the art having a life of its own, well, you can probably put two and two together with how that unfolds, as Bob then goes on an existential journey about him and his world’s own existence. There is even a pinch of commentary about the evolution of music, with the slow demise of punk and the rise of pop. There are some action set pieces and brief nudity, but it’s more of a story-driven experience that’s more of the creator’s retrospective look at his life and his art than some stop-motion Mad Max action flick. 

Animation-wise, the stop-motion quality is top-notch. If you need a companion piece in terms of similar-looking stop-motion films, then the film’s animation is close to 2015’s Anomalisa. It even does a surreal sequence where part of the artist’s face slides off to show the puppet inside when he is whacked by Bob Spit. It might not have the cinematic feel of Aardman or Laika stop-motion film, but when we live in a world where very few stop-motion films are being made, you take what you can get. Still, the designs translate well to stop-motion and the action is well executed. The acting is also splendid, and even the real-life artist is in the film as his own character. The music is also rather punk and full of rock and roll tunes, as you would expect of an artist and his creation from a very specific time period. 

The only real downside is that the film is very slow-paced. You wouldn’t expect that from the 90-minute runtime, but the pacing itself can be slogging at points. It might be due to how quiet the overall film is. The third act also feels like the film is trudging to get to the finish line. Granted, the finale is satisfying, but it was easily the weakest part of this experience. 

Bob Spit might not catch and entice everyone with its punk rock aesthetic and surreal storyline, but it’s a film that animation fans and animation critics should feel happy exists. It’s another adult-focused animated film that doesn’t fully rely on the adult animation tropes that most adult animation suffers from. It’s a distinct experience that comes highly recommended to check out if possible. You may like it more than others, but as Bob Spit would say, “Punk is not dead!” And neither is this movie’s experience. Now then, next time, we will look at the awards darling of 2021 with Flee

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

Rating: Rent It!

The Other Side of Animation 247: Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night Review

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

Sword Art Online is one of the most popular and depending on your own personal viewpoint on the franchise, one of the most infamous. And to be clear, it’s infamous among anime fans and not something you would hear outside of anime fans. It’s one of the most profitable franchises around, and is a punchline for being popular and profitable. Granted, a lot of the franchise is not well-written or well-made, but hey, if people enjoy it, so be it. Just don’t be malicious or toxic about loving or hating it. Anyway, you know what also made a lot of money and got a ton of acclaim? The Evangelion Rebuild films. Do you know what industry took note of that? The anime industry. You know what franchise is attempting to do what the Evangelion Rebuild films did to the Evangelion franchise? Sword Art Online! Sure, most franchises do recap films, but Rebuild is different, as it is telling the overall story in a different way. Will Sword Art Online The Movie – Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night do the same? We will have to see. Oh, and before any of you hardcore fans of the franchise get at this review, yes, this is technically a film version of the light novels of the same Progressive name, but since they are essentially a retelling of the original story that expands upon some things, the film is pretty much doing that with recapping the story up to a certain point of the original experience. So, yeah, still a recap film. 

Directed by Ayako Kono, written by Reiki Kawahara, and produced by A1 Pictures, this film retells the story arc of the first floor within the VRMMO Sword Art Online. Our main story for this first film, however, follows Asuna Yuuki, dubbed by Cherami Leigh. She’s an honor student who loves to spend time with her friend Misumi Tozawa, dubbed by Anairis Quinones. One day, Asuna decides to log on to the newly released Sword Art Online, and ends up discovering that her friend Misumi is in the game as well! Sadly, the discovery comes at a cost as every player logged on to the game can now not log out. The game’s apparent creator arrives and explains that he has made sure no one can leave, and if they try to log out and take off the VR helmet, it will fry their brains and kill them. Everyone is now stuck in the game and is tasked with beating the entire game and the main world’s dungeons. The only other catch is if you die in the game, you supposedly die in real life. Can Asuna make it to the top with her friend? Who is this mysterious insert male power fantasy character they run into? What’s his story? 

So, if they were going to go the route of the recap/Rebuild-style retelling of the anime, where do you start? For the first half, they went with building up Asuna and her friendship with Misumi. It’s rather impressive to see a show that is known for not having the best characters in anime, taking its time to really build up the friendship, the betrayal, and the heartbreak between these two. Most recap anime try to get through as much of the show as possible. Usually, they tend to cover the first major arc of the show and then call it a day. They sacrifice the smaller character moments so they can get to the big moments that you all know and love, but hopefully have some of that theatrical animation budget to make them all look good. By the time the first major shift in Asuna and Misumi’s relationship happens, you are heartbroken with what happens, and that helps drive a little bit more of the drama. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve seen the original series, but the film definitely shifts the focus away from the franchise’s male lead Kirito, to Asuna, and it’s for the better. They pretty much make Kirito the side secondary character until the first major raid/the third act when he sadly steals the driver’s seat and takes over the film. 

The problem with making male power fantasy characters your lead is that unless you are careful with how you tackle the power fantasy by either making the characters themself massively flawed in some way or go the One Punch Man route and do some meta commentary on the power fantasy trope, they make for bad lead characters. With how many VRMMO and fantasy anime tend to make the leads ‘boring as tar’ power fantasy for male viewers, why wouldn’t you shift focus to someone else who could actually carry the story, and the story not suffer due to having to contort to the whims of the power fantasy? What also helps here is that they don’t try to do too much at once. With how much focus the relationship between Asuna, Misumi, and Kirito unfolds, they only cover the first two episodes, while filling out those two episodes with the time to have the characters bond. It also lets the stakes rise when the story needs them to, and we aren’t forcing our way to get from point A to point B to point C to point D at a rapid rate. It makes perfect sense for the film to make the first floor raid the third act conflict. It’s not a perfect journey to get from the beginning of the film to the end, but considering what this could have been, it should be admirable with how the director and writer took to retelling the story of the famous franchise. 

Animation-wise, this is where it starts to fumble a little. Not that the animation is bad, because it’s not. It just doesn’t look as good as other anime franchise films. It’s not its fault it doesn’t reach the visual overload and drip of Evangelion Rebuild, but when you are going from show to film, there should be a much more noticeable upgrade. Still, the animation is mostly smooth, there are a few very pleasant shots, and when the action kicks in, it ranges from action-packed to intense, depending on where you are within the story. It’s not the biggest upgrade from show to film, but it looks solid enough. You can turn back the clock and look at much older anime recap films and see how they just didn’t do a dang thing with going from show to film. If you need proof, go find the old Cyborg 009 recap films or the Tatsunoko stuff. In some ways,we are in a much better place than we were back in the day with anime franchise films. The music by Yuki Kajiura is good with some pretty rocking fantasy RPG beats from the training montage to the raid battle having the accurate musical tracks. It sounds a lot like Dot Hack and or something similar to the Demon Slayer series, but that’s also because Yuki helped compose music for both series. The English dub is rather good as usual, and any issues I have with the story are not because of the English voice actors or the Japanese voice actors. Bryce Papenbrook returns as Kirito alongside Cherami Leigh as Asuna, and they do help elevate some of the rougher parts of the script. The other actors are strong as well, and if you are sad other characters and their respective voice actors don’t make an appearance, don’t worry, they will probably show up in the next film. Still, Cherami Leigh and Anairis Quinones carry a lot of the drama on their shoulders, and they do a good job at making you feel connected to their friendship. 

Sadly, the problems keep coming up when you remember that this is Sword Art Online, and 2013 was almost a decade ago now when the original series came out. When Kirito shows up, the story does then turn into more of the typical fantasy/video game action anime that you would expect. The third act falls flat due to a few storybeats that don’t feel properly executed with how the major fight unfolds, and it’s not fully Kirito’s fault that he’s the poster child for boring power fantasy characters, but he sure did reinforce the tropes and how many anime after the original show came out would want to be like Kirito. Asuna also suffers after his introduction to the story, because she becomes less interesting. It’s also a shame that they didn’t change too much else with the story up to this point. They may have cut out some filler pieces, but it sure does feel like this franchise is stuck in the past, figuratively and literally. It’s hard not to dread how little the franchise has changed going forward as well, due to how it all unfolds within this movie. Will the next film not change much? Nostalgia is a very sinister force right now in how our media is crafted, going right back to pandering to the most common denominator. Sorry for the snobbish side of this review coming up, but when you watch the Evangelion films and how much they changed and improved upon the overall story of the original, you can pick up how this one might not go the distance, but we will have to see. It’s not really fair to judge this film due to how we don’t know how the upcoming sequel will turn out, but it’s also fair to point out that while some major changes happened within this film’s take on the original story, not much else has changed either. Like, how did no one at the game studio not know about this creator basically doing a Battle Royale experiment without them knowing? Yes, the game industry is in a really bad spot right now in real life, but if your drama is going to revolve around one individual causing the ruckus, then there better be a good reason he was able to make all of this unfold and happen. 

Listen, it’s not this film’s fault that it came out the same year as the final Evangelion Rebuild film. It’s not its fault that it’s not as good as that last movie. It’s not its fault Sword Art Online is an overall flawed franchise where the spin-offs were more interesting than the main series. However, it is its fault with how this film feels like it’s only going halfway with its retelling of the story. What would have been interesting is if they pulled a Marvel What If?, and killed Kirito in this film or didn’t have him to let it focus solely on Asuna. Sure, that wasn’t going to happen, due to how the creator of the franchise wanted to make sure their vision was going to go as planned and any major changes needed to be decided by them, but when Sword Art Online has been out for almost a decade now, times have changed, and the anime scene is much different for both good and for bad with this film being released. It’s not the worst animated film of the year, nor is it the worst anime-related film of 2021, but when your competition is Evangelion, Demon Slayer, and My Hero Academia, then you had better come to the front lines with something worth investing into. It’s a shame, because the first half of this film was really compelling and interesting. Once the film is available to watch, maybe give it a rent first, but if you are a huge fan of the franchise, you will probably want to buy the blu-ray when it comes out. Now then, we come around the corner to the end of 2021 and next time, we will be talking about Bob Spit: We Do Not LIke People

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

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 246: My Sunny Maad 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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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

When the Oscar submission list reveals the 20+ animated films every year, there are the obvious front runners that are probably going to take up those five spots at the major award shows. Personally, I think they should do more than five, but that’s just me. You will then see many films that are there to fill the list up, films that have no chance, and some of these films that are sadly a mixture of everything. There are a few gems in this year’s lineup that should have a chance but are sadly not going to have the chance to make much of an impression, due to incompetent film voters that aren’t going to vote for anything other than what are the safe bets. Imagine a year where none of the major studios got nominated and all of the films that were nominated were from smaller studios and distributors. Sadly, that won’t happen, which sucks because films like My Sunny Maad, despite some hiccups here and there, deserve to have been seen by more voters and viewers alike. 

Directed by Michaela Pavlátová, the story follows Herra, a Czech college student in Prague, who is looking for something more fulfilling in her life. That all changes one day when during class, she meets an Afghan man named Nazir. After a little time passes, Herra and Nazir get married and move to Kabul to live with his family and start a new life of opportunities during the late 2000s. This includes dealing with living under the Taliban rule, inner personal family and political drama, and adopting a boy. Will Nazir and Herra be able to make it through the hurdles through which they will have to jump? 

So, within the past few years, we have had a slew of animated films that have taken place within Kabul or the middle-east like 2017’s The Breadwinner and 2019’s The Swallows of Kabul. Funny enough these three films are all based on books, and all three are directed by women. So, what does this film offer to the animation and film-going experience? One of the film’s biggest strengths is that it has a slice-of-life approach to a story that has our characters dealing with discrimination, racism, personal family, and societal problems, all while being under the rule of the Taliban. The characters themselves are complex, and although there is no real traditional three-act structure in the more familiar sense, you are invested with the characters and their plights. While the film is about 80 or so minutes long, they find time to let the entire family be the focus up until the very end, and that really helps keep the pace going and for the audiences to feel like they are getting to know the individual family members. The film itself takes place during the late 2000s and will reference multiple incidents during that time period, including the death of Osama Binladen. Even when the film got dark and depressing at points, there were still plenty of scenes of love and everyone living their lives. The film absolutely gets that the combination of happiness and getting over tough hurdles is what comes with life, and it doesn’t revel in the cynical or the misery like some films would. 

Animation-wise, it does look good. While there will be a few moments that got the least amount of time put into it, and sure, it doesn’t have the same artistic beauty as The Swallows of Kabul and The Breadwinner, it has its own beauty in how much you get out of the character’s animation and acting. Even if you don’t see the many micro-emotions and details that you would see in major studio productions, you still get what the characters are thinking about and what’s going through their head, which is due to great directing and whoever was in charge of the shots’ execution. The pseudo sketchy look might have more of a digital 2D look, but it definitely has vibes of what you would normally see during Disney’s 70s era that had a more sketch design to the visuals. The voice acting is great. This film may or may not get a proper dub, but one thing that is more noticeable than most foreign films I have seen is that some parts are bilingual. There are a few stretches of the film where they do speak multiple languages. It’s rather impressive since from an observation of the credits, the actors in question did everything themselves. Special shoutout to Zuzana Stivinova, who is fantastic as Herra. That’s very rare when productions have actors who can be bilingual. Music-wise, it’s composed by Sacha and Evugeni Galpherine who bring in a very atmospheric vibe to the overall film. 

If there was one thing to criticize the film for, it’s that the overall story ends rather abruptly. The film has a great story and final act, but the way it just ends is fairly underwhelming. The problem with these types of “no recognizable story structure” is that they are always going to find themselves with an ending that is either rough or undercooked. Granted, a lot of this film has intentionally uneasy answers and decisions, so in many ways, the ending does make sense. You simply want to see the people in the film be okay. Also, on a personal note, I wonder how the ending plays out now, especially with what has happened in recent events in the world outside of animation and cinema. 

While it might not be the major award contender during the upcoming major awards, My Sunny Maad is an absolutely touching and intimate experience that once again proves why animation is such a powerful form of storytelling. So far, as of writing this review, My Sunny Maad has no real US distributor but is being distributed overseas via Totem Films. Let’s hope it gets some kind of US release because it’s one of the better films of 2021. If you can find some way of watching this flick, do so. Now then, next time, we will be talking about Sword Art Online Rebuild. Oh, wait, sorry, I meant Sword Art Online The Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night

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

Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 245: Back to the Outback 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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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

Netflix has been making a name for themselves with the teams and talented individuals they hire to craft their animated work. Streaming has opened up a much wider field for there to be differences within the animated medium. We have gotten shows and films that would not fly within the big studio scene, and it leads to a much healthier artistic freedom. Not to say there aren’t huge improvements to be made behind the scenes, because there absolutely are with how animators, writers, and entire teams are paid and treated, but you can still appreciate the work that they have made. Hopefully, things become better behind the scenes, because the products these talented individuals are making have been really fascinating. For example, this new animated film called Back to The Outback. 

Directed by Clare Knight and Harry Cripps, our story revolves around a group of “dangerous” animals at a zoo in Australia, because if you are going to have a film about dangerous animals, you might as well go the route and place it in a country with some of the deadliest animals around. Moving on, we are following the story of a Taipan snake named Maddie, voiced by Isla Fisher. She lives in a glass cage in the area of the zoo that has “dangerous” animals. These animals include a funnel-web spider named Frank, voiced by Guy Pearce, a thorny devil named Zoe, voiced by Miranda Tapsell, and a scorpion named Nigel, voiced by Angus Imrie. They are treated as the worst things ever, compared to their zoo counterpart, a koala named Tom/Pretty Boy, voiced by Tim Minchin. Pretty Boy is the star of the Zoo while everyone else is treated like garbage. After a crocodile is taken away after scaring a kid, Maddie and her friends decide to escape the zoo to head back to the outback! Unfortunately for them, they have to take Pretty Boy with them and are now on the run! They are being hunted down by a handler at the zoo named Chaz, voiced by Eric Bana, and his son named Ben, voiced by Diesel La Torraca. Can our gang of animals outmaneuver the humans and make it back to the wild?

Listen, this film is getting stuck between so many big releases and releases that aim for a more adult audience. It’s a real shame, because while it is a smaller story, the film itself is still creative with how it handles its themes. There is a lot of subtextual commentary with how the “dangerous” animals are portrayed, and how the zoo handlers get them ready for the show. There are so many little moments and details that you can pick up from the film’s animation beats, that the cutesy designs are almost there to really catch you off-guard with the subtext underneath the cuteness of the visual style. Even the villain, while nothing super memorable, follows through the themes of the film. There is nothing better than watching a film taking full advantage of the themes it lays out on the table for everyone to see. Throughout the entire film, the story itself has all of these little creative jokes and moments that play up the themes of the film in clever ways. Sure, on the surface this looks like a lot of smaller-scale animated films, but when you look past its cute designs and past the somewhat familiar trappings of most family-focused animated features, there is a lot to find admirable about how it talks about the subject matters. Even the comedy has a lot of wit via its dialogue and visual gags. If you are at all familiar with the history of animals in Australia, then some of these gags are going to be a laugh riot. 

Animation-wise, it gets the job done. The designs of the animals and humans are good. The animals themselves are expressive and they mesh well with the human characters. The voice cast is delightful, and they are all going at it like how most actors should be doing voice work. You know, like actual acting gigs. They all capture their characters perfectly. The cast is stacked with plenty of big names that include Isla Fisher, Tim Minchin, Guy Pearce, Miranda Tapsell, Angus Imrie, Eric Bana, Rachel House, Keith Urban, Celeste Barber, Wayne Knight, Jacki Weaver, Aislinn Derbez, and Diesel La Torraca. The soundtrack has the proper Australian vibe composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, and there are a few songs that are sung by the characters in the film. It will definitely remind you that Keith Urban has a great singing voice. 

While the film suffers from some familiar story beats that we have all seen in road trip films, some characters are better fleshed out than others, and not all of the jokes hit, Back to the Outback is a wild romp that sets out to be a fun little animated adventure, and at the same time, deals with themes of discrimination. It’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse to miss out on it. Plus, Netflix, despite their many faults, was willing to let these directors and their talented team of writers and animators make a movie that was a surprise. Rarely do many films result in a positively surprising reaction. Now then, it’s time to dive into some screeners with My Sunny Maad. 

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

Rating: Go See It!

Fall 2021 Anime Season Impressions Finale

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

Honestly, I had a difficult time going through this next batch of anime due to how many were just absolutely terrible to sit through, so let’s get right down to talking about them. If you have yet to read the previous part, then please do so. Let’s get started! 


The Fruit of Evolution: Before I Knew It My Life Had it Made (Crunchyroll) 

Content Warning: Outside of just being a bad anime, it’s extremely misogynistic, sexist, and hugely problematic. 

Based on the light novel, novel, and manga series by Miku, this anime adaptation was directed by Yoshiaki Okumura, written by Gigaemon Ichikawa, and produced by Hotline. At first, Tesla Note was going to be my worst of these shows, but The Fruit of Evolution is hot rancid garbage. Outside of the fact that the anime industry is so fixated on adapting every isekai ever when they absolutely do not need to, this is hands down one of the worst isekai that I have ever seen. There is no reason why this one had to be adapted. When you see the title, you think this could very well be something creative and interesting, but it is not. It’s every bog standard power fantasy isekai with harem elements that they don’t even do a whole lot with said power fantasy elements. The anime feels fixated on the harem elements, there is rampant misogyny in the anime, and it hits hard with some characters like a donkey girl. Yeah, I won’t get into how off-putting the whole gorilla and donkey girl characters play into the overall show and tone. On top of just unlikable characters, bad writing, and bad storytelling, the animation is downright awful. It’s some of the cheapest anime of this year, and we’ve had stuff like Ex-Arm, Tesla Note, and other shows that also have really bad animation. It’s a power fantasy isekai that’s not interested in its own setting, it goes by the ebook, and its attempt at comedy falls flat at every. Single. Turn. While there are morally worse anime this year, this one is one of the worst on a quality standard. It’s easily one of the worst anime I have ever seen. If this is what the anime thought was a good idea to adapt and bring over, then the industry needs to be gone and be brought back as people who won’t adapt stuff like this. 

Tesla Note (Funimation) 

Based on the manga by Masafumi Nishida and Tadayoshi Kubo, this animated adaptation is directed by Michio Fukada, written by Masafumi Nishida, and produced by Gambit. Listen, the anime industry needs to change, because if your option of getting a studio to make anime is to go down the route of Ex-Arm, which means hiring studios that have never worked in anime before, then the industry is truly beyond broken. While it has slightly better CGI than Ex-Arm, and at least seems to be more competently made than Ex-Arm, the CGI is poorly implemented and it doesn’t contrast or composite well with the 2D elements. The story about how Nikola Tesla left a bunch of strange powerful shards is silly enough for a trash anime, but not strong enough to recommend on that level alone. The action is lackluster, and again, the 2D and CGI are easily some of the worst this season has to offer. It’s a hot pot of everything wrong with the anime industry and adaptation as a whole. Even if this turns into the next bad anime to watch, it’s still a bad anime, and I really can’t condone hate-watching stuff anymore. We already have so much TV, movies, and other pop culture stuff to take, we don’t need to take time to watch something bad intentionally. We can not let more shows like Ex-Arm and Tesla Note exist. The anime industry needs quality control and better working conditions. 

Amaim: Warrior at the Borderline (Funimation) 

Content Warning: Very nationalistic viewpoints. 

This original anime is directed by Nobuyoshi Habara, written by Hiroki Komatsu and Yoshikazu Beniya, and produced by Sunrise Beyond. I’m all for original mech anime, and this season is bountiful with them, which is rare in this modern anime landscape, but if the only thing holding this show together is its bonkers setting, then we are going to have a problem. The mech action is really solid stuff, and there is potential for more interesting arcs for our characters, with some of them getting a few decent lines, but the setting is what makes this such a chore to get into. Listen, most mech anime have very dense political worldbuilding, but the extremely nationalistic view of how this all unfolds is really gross, to say the least. While it might not be as bad, as say, that infamous cult in Japan’s political propaganda, it hits those marks. This sucks because when it’s just mech anime nonsense, it’s decent. Now, you can make politically charged mech anime since Gundam has been a constant since its arrival in the 70s, but even so, I found my patience wearing thin with AMAIM, and I can’t personally recommend it when Sakugan is better in every way imaginable. Plus, a lot of AMAIM, when it’s not problematic, is overtly familiar mech anime nonsense. So, yeah, this is not a worthwhile recommendation. 

Ancient Girl’s Frame (Funimation) 

This original net animation is a Chinese/Japanese collaboration that is directed by Gong Zhenhua, written by Osamu Yamasaki, and produced by Seven Stone. It’s everything you could possibly want with mech anime. It’s got decent mechs, an alien invasion, cute girls doing cute things, familiar tragic backstories for certain characters, and, wait, doesn’t that sound like a lot? That’s because it is! Unlike Pride of Orange, there is nothing really all that distinct about this show, and that’s usually fine. Not everyone has to be 100% original, but when the execution is lackluster within the writing, story, and animation, then that’s a problem. It really feels like that Pilot Candidate anime from way back in the day where it had a lot going on, but here there is nothing done that’s interesting or for it to stand out from other anime that have done better, or at the very least, are more interesting. It’s a title that only stands out from the rest due to it being a Japanese/Chinese collaboration, and that is honestly interesting! However, the show itself needs to be interesting in and out of the production history. And no, having distinct mechs and cute anime girls is no longer enough to be interesting. Again, too much anime is getting made these days, so instead of adapting whatever or following a checklist, do something that will make you stand out! At least the opening song is solid, but that’s about it. 

Shikizakura (HiDive)

This anime is directed by Go Kurosaki and Shinya Sugai, written by Naruki Nakagawa, and produced by Sublimination. Out of all of the anime I have seen this season, this one is the most aggressively okay. It has average CGI, the action is better than most shows this year, but the story and characters are familiar and generic. It’s just inoffensive. The characters don’t stand out, but they aren’t awful. The CGI is not great, but it’s not the worst of the season or of the year. The action is good, but there is much better action this season and year. The music is fine, and the opening song is decent enough. If it was able to stand out more, I would have a stronger opinion, but it’s another victim of there being too much anime and not really expanding on its premise, as well as not being executed well enough to be impressive enough to stick out from the rest. I hate that, because it just shows how bad the industry is right now with putting out too many shows with very little time to invest time into all of the shows being made.  

Rumble Garanndoll (Funimation) 

We have yet another original anime this season. This one is directed by Masaomi Ando, written by Makoto Uezu, and produced by Lerche. This is another anime where otaku and pop culture have been outlawed, and personally, I can’t get behind these settings since I don’t think even in the direst situation, would there ever be an outlawing of some of the most profitable outlets in the entertainment industry. The evil government that is outlawing otaku and pop culture is also using mechs that people would absolutely buy models of. Why on earth would you make the villains have the same visual look of the things they are outlawing? 

The anime also feels like it wants to have the same fiery passion as a Studio Trigger anime, but without the execution and commitment to going that route. It comes off like an anime that’s more about the homage to shows and anime made with the spirit of Studio Trigger and Gainax. Otherwise, it’s just another rebel group that fights against the tyrannical government that uses anime-inspired mechs and power sources to fight back. For the most part, it’s fine. I have some admiration for the passion that is in this anime and the love of otaku culture, but I feel like there have always been more interesting anime that explore otaku culture than anime that is set in a world where otaku culture is banned or gone. It’s not the worst anime of the season by any stretch of the imagination, but considering the original anime we have gotten this year, there are better ones out there. 

The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated (Crunchyroll) 

CW: sex trafficking, violence, child nudity, and murder.

Based on the light novels by Rui Tsukiyo, this anime adaptation is directed by Masafumi Tamura, written by Katsuhiko Takayama, and produced by Silver Link and Studio Palette. On one hand, this show is extremely edgy schlock with its focus. Granted, with that schlock, comes an isekai with a great premise about an extremely powerful hitman hired by a fantasy world’s goddess to take out the hero of their world. It does take its time to build up the relationships and dynamics between the characters. It explains how the world’s magic works and the lore in which the setting is drenched. It sure does love to show fanservice from time to time, but it’s not the 100% focus, which is the failure of most isekai power fantasies. On the other hand, it indulges in many little elements that are uncomfortable and gross, and when it does become more about the power fantasy, it then becomes dull. It’s disappointing, because I do want to see what happens with this show, but I don’t know if it will be able to balance itself out for me to continue to see how it ends. Once again, when anime decides to indulge in anime tropes, it becomes disappointing. 

Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside (Funimation) 

This fantasy adventure anime is based on the novels, light novels, and manga by Zappon. It’s directed by Makoto Hoshino, written by Megumi Shimizu, and produced by Wolfsbane and Studio Flad. What’s aggravating about this show is that I really love slice-of-life shows. I think seeing the lead character help out a small town is such a fun idea and the hook of the show is fantastic. I even like the cutesy if generic character beats with our lead and the obvious love interest. Sadly, the love interest is designed like she is meant to sell anime figurines with her ridiculous figure and attire. There can sometimes be a good joke, but most of the time it’s too low-key, and then they rehash certain jokes multiple times during some episodes. 

Muteking: The Dancing Hero (Funimation) 

Honestly, these next four shows are easily my favorite of the season and year. What makes this anime unique is the fact that it’s based on an old Tokusatsu show from the 80s. It’s directed by Ryosuke Takahashi, Hiroshi Sasagawa, and Yuzo Sato, written by Yuji Kondo, and produced by Tezuka Productions and Tatsunoko. What’s so fascinating about this show is how it has been modernized in some ways, but it keeps a lot of that retro anime charm with its vibrant neon color palette, charming designs, and is more of a fun entry anime to recommend to someone who hasn’t watched anime. It might have a tone that’s aimed more at a younger audience, and the setup for the episodes gets a little repetitive, but the show is a delight to watch. It didn’t try to reboot the hero as a dark and gritty story, or try to go the mature route for such a goofy-looking character and setting. It knew what it wanted to be from the get-go, and since most anime can’t seem to know what they want to be, it’s good to give kudos to anime that do. Also, the opening song by Orange Range is fantastic, and the show’s balance of 2D and CGI is rock solid. 

The Faraway Paladin (Crunchyroll)  

Consider this one of the biggest surprises of the year. This anime is based on the light novels by Kanata Yanagino, is directed by Yuu Nobuta, written by Tatsuya Takahashi, and produced by Children’s Playground Entertainment. When you hear ‘light novel adaptation’, you normally think of the most bottom-of-the-barrel power fantasy schlock you can think of. Rarely do these types of adaptations ever elevate themselves past most checklists of features. Luckily, like ReZero, The Faraway Paladin is easily one of the best adaptations and one of the best isekai of the year. It shouldn’t feel surprising that a show like this, about a young man who was reincarnated into a fantasy world, is not really a full-on power trip. Instead of skeezy harems taking up most of the screen time, we get extensive worldbuilding. Instead of bland awful characters, we get dynamic characters and one of the most likable leads seen this season. It’s like the industry was telling us that they are sorry for adapting so many awful isekai, and decided to treat us to one that was great from top to bottom. 

Ranking of Kings (Funimation) 

This incredible show is based on the manga by Sousuke Toka. It’s directed by Yousuke Hatta and Makoto Fuchigami, written by Taku Kishimoto, and produced by Studio WIT. Yet another Studio WIT production that hits it out of the park. They are two for two this year, and that shouldn’t be a shock. You have a complex story about legacy and what it takes to become a strong king, have unlikely friendships, and family. It’s a fantasy political adventure wrapped up in one of the most disarming art styles of the year. I’m so impressed with how they are able to balance everything out with some of the best animation of the year. It shows what happens when you let your teams work on something great and respect their time and talent. We already have a few contenders for the best anime of the year, and this is one of them. 

Takt Op. Fantasy (Crunchyroll) 

This anime part of a multi-media project is directed by Yuki Ito, written by Kiyoko Yoshimura, and produced by Studio MAPPA in collaboration with Studio Madhouse. The setting is essentially an anime take on The Quiet Place. There are unknown creatures that instead of being attracted to just loud noises, are attracted to music, and the only defense against these powerful threats are individuals called Musicarts and their conductors. It has some clunky worldbuilding elements, but there is definitely something more interesting and creative about this show than most anime released this year. It’s got a fantastical visual look with radically dope-looking animation. I mean, all things considered, this is not excusing the bad working conditions of MAPPA, and there could be some implications via its collaboration with Studio MADHOUSE that could be an earnest collaboration or the fact that the anime industry is losing animators left and right due to bad working conditions. Well, we won’t know if any of those parts are correct until they say so, but Takt Op. Destiny has easily set itself up as one of the more ambitious shows of the season, some of the best action of the year, and one of the more memorable shows of the overall year.

The Other Side of Animation 244: Encanto 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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Only counting their canon-animated films, from the beginning to now, The Walt Disney Company has made 60 animated films. That’s incredible, and the fact so many of them are influential classics, award-winning staples, and pop culture fixtures is impressive. Not all of them are great, and some are really bad, but considering the context of the time period they were released, you can understand what was going on behind the scenes with them.  Still, to have a pretty good overall batting average is what a lot of animation studios hope to have. While the number of amazing films doesn’t wash away a lot of the problematic and troubling elements the company has, I’m glad to have been able to see the different generations of Disney films be released and see how things have changed for the studio for better or for worse. How about we see how well their 60th animated feature turns out? Let’s dive into the world of Encanto

Co-directed by Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, and Byron Howard, and co-written by Charise Castro Smith, and Jared Bush, the story stars Mirabel Madrigal, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz. She is one of the many children of the Madrigal family in Colombia, a family who has been blessed with many of the members having their own “miracles” that make them special. One sibling can shapeshift, another is super-strong, or can hear from miles away, and you get the idea. Mirabel, on the other hand, has no powers and feels like a disappointment among the family members. One night, after the celebration of a new sibling getting the power to talk to animals, Mirabel gets visions of the house falling apart and the magic leaving the family. What is going on exactly? Why does no one talk about Bruno? What is going on with the house and the magic? 

The first thing to really notice about the overall story is how smaller-scale and personal it is. There’s no “this will be the end of the world as we know it.” plotline or something that could change the face of the earth as we know it. A mass majority of the film takes place either within the magical house or adjacent to it. It doesn’t turn into a globe-trotting adventure, and instead becomes a more intimate story about family and legacy alongside the stress and pressure brought upon by the previous generations. The “miracles” you see within the film are not just a creative quirk given to a majority of the family members. Instead, the powers represent the different struggles of certain members of the family. For example, Luisa is super-strong, but her gift is also causing immense stress of having to carry the weight and legacy of the family on her shoulders. Pepa and her ability to control the weather via her emotions create so much pressure to always be sunshine and peachy and never sad. Isabela has to be constantly perfect, and while she looks like she does it effortlessly, there is some real turmoil under her facade. Camilo can shapeshift, but you can look at it as a perspective on both finding out who he is and having to have a certain look to help with the image of the family. The execution here reminds me of something you would see in something via Pixar or in something akin to a film from overseas. While they could have spent a little more time expanding or exploring some of these ideas, I love that they went in this direction with the powers and the main conflict being the bond between the family members. 

It’s also, simply put, nice to see the team make a film that’s entirely focused on a family. It’s not Mamoru Hosoda’s level of focus, but the fact that they keep the family as the main focal point and don’t really leave some of the members out as secondary characters is great. They have done this before, where they introduce a whole family, but most of them get sent to the background. Here, while some family members get more focus than others, the overall family still plays an important part to the story. The igniting point still might be Mirabel and her relationship with her grandmother, but how many animated films have you seen that keep the family as the focus? Even Pixar has been hit-and-miss with the family dynamic in their films. 

Animation-wise, Disney is always going to be showing off how much they spent on their animated films. The time and care that goes into their animated films show why they are at the top of their game. The gorgeous color palette makes this one of the most visually stunning animated features of the year. The designs are also improving from the usual Disney look, and while some of the typical Disney designs are there with the eyes, the fact the main cast has so many different body types is impressive. The voice cast is also great. You have a film full of Latinx and Colombian representation, and for the heck of it, one cameo from Alan Tudyk. Still, outside of that, we have an incredible cast that includes Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Diane Guerrero, Maria Cecilia Botero, Rhenzy Feliz, Carolina Gaitan, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Ravi-Cabot Conyers, and Maluma. Of course, this is a musical, with a score by Germaine Franco, and songs by Lin Manuel Miranda. Out of his two animated offerings this year, Encanto has the better song list than Vivo, and I enjoyed Vivo a lot for its music. 

Now, there are a few nit-picks that build up over time. Personally, the film should have been longer. Disney is gonna Disney, and for some reason, most of their animated fare is always 100 minutes. Not to say there needs to be a regular runtime for certain animated films, but they could have easily expanded upon the story and themes a little more to really dive into the story. It would have also helped pace out the songs due to how many there are and how close they can be to one another. It might be the fact that Disney, even though they are pushing themselves a little further now than in previous films, is still feeling like they are held back by their own identity as a brand. It’s going to start hurting them once other studios start going outside of their own boundaries as Sony has. There is much more competition these days, and Disney needs to remember that they can be beaten at the award game if they are not careful. Hopefully, they can, but this is just the animation critic side of me coming out. 

Even with the small complaints, Encanto is quite possibly the best Disney animated feature in ages. It, at the very least, might be my favorite animated film from Disney in a good long time. It doesn’t quite beat a few other animated films of the year, but it’s going to be in the top five. That is, unless some other films come through my animation-loving targeting. Now then, next time, we will be covering  Back to the Outback, the final Netflix animated feature that they are willing to tell you about. I mean, there is also Green Snake and the other animated films they are bringing over, but unless you hear it from them, you won’t know. Either way, we have some animated films to talk about this month! 

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

Rating: Essential.

The Other Side of Animation 243: The Summit of The Gods 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 keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 242: Robin Robin Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Essential