The Other Side of Animation 274: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners 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!)

Video game adaptations are a cursed situation as there never seems to be any true or correct formula to make them work. Some have come close like Detective Pikachu and the Sonic films have been very successful, but those are the rare films to make it work. Even when you adjust the format from film to TV, TV shows or limited shows seem to fumble in that regard as well. 2020’s Dragon Dogma was an awful show, and yet 2022 has had three really good adaptations of video games. We had The Cuphead Show, which was pretty much Looney Tunes-style antics, but with Cuphead, Tekken: Bloodlines which adapted the third game’s storyline with fantastic CGI animation, and now we have the highly anticipated combination of Studio Trigger and CD Projekt Reds’ Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix. 

Based on the infamous sci-fi RPG by CD Projekt Red, it’s directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, written by Yoshiki Usa and Masahiko Otsuka, and produced by the famed anime production company, Studio Trigger. We follow a young man named David Martinez, dubbed by Zach Aguilar. He lives within a city that’s constantly on the move with technological upgrades being the name of the game. After an incident that ends up with his mother getting killed, David goes on the offense and starts to get enhancements done to himself including a special military grade upgrade. After doing so, he ends up becoming an Edgerunner, an outlaw mercenary taking on tasks that will sooner or later get them intertwined with the major corporations that run the entire city. Can David and his team that includes Lucy, dubbed by Emi Lo make a living in this chaotic world or will he find himself short-circuiting to the dangers in which this world lathers itself? 

Now listen, the video game this anime is based on is not known for much outside of its problematic development history and its disastrous release. Do you need to know anything about the game to enjoy the show? Not really. If you have seen any major piece of cyberpunk media, then the world and its commentary should be fairly familiar to those that enjoy this type of sci-fi worldbuilding. It also mixes in the sensibilities of the late 80s early 90s OVA boom from the anime scene. This means plenty of intense amounts of violence and some titillating nudity and sexual moments. However, while those three elements were made for a very specific crowd back then, the limited series uses them here for more substantial purposes than just shock and titillation. Or, at the very least it feels more substantial than stuff like the recent reboot of a certain infamous OVA franchise that’s also on Netflix. What is refreshing about this cyberpunk story is how it doesn’t try to be like Ghost in the Shell or other anime that would use this setting to be more about the human condition and just meander around with long diatribes. Edgerunners is fast-paced, action-packed, and while it can be at multiple points stimulus-overload with the visuals, they still find a way to fit in a compelling story and great characters. While the cast is overall strong, our two leads David and Lucy are the core of this story. Even when the screen is covered in bright colors, nudity, and violence, the heart of their romance and the story of finding freedom in a world where society is basically being watched by a thousand eyes and mega-corporations. It’s also all about the danger of losing your humanity in a metaphorical and literal way. It’s a complex show, and it’s so satisfying to see that Studio Trigger keeps showing that while they can be all about the bombastic action, they can still tell a good story. It may not rise to the levels of philosophical complexity as something like Sonny Boy or Ghost in the Shell, but it’s executed in a way to make the journey and the story comprehensible with the motivations of our characters. 

It’s Studio Trigger, so you can already tell what their animation style is going to be, and the animation is, for better or worse, what you expect. It can be busy and stimulating to a degree that you need to have down time from watching the visuals on screen, but it’s so good. There is something so delightful about being able to know what a Studio Trigger anime looks like. Even though the game this anime is based on has a more boring realistic look, they basically took blockier looks on the more traditional anime visual style, and have wildly expressive visuals and character movements. It might fall under the same limitations that the anime industry put in all of their projects, but they find ways to work around it all and still give us very expressive characters. The action is on point, and let’s just say there will be plenty of moments where you see explosions, bullets, and bodies getting turned into chunky salsa. The bright neon colors are also turned up to 11, and instead of going the route of making everything grungy, drab, and or murky as heck, it’s bright and colorful. It’s very impressive with how they make this world look distinct from other sci-fi worlds. The English cast is a mix of well-known anime voice actors and a few character actors you would know from live-action stuff who pull off some fantastic performances. You have Zach Aguilar, Emi Lo, William C. Stephens, Marie Westbrook, Stephanie Wong, Ian James Corlett, Alex Cazares, Giancarlo Esposito, Gloria Garayua, Borge Etienne, and Matthew Mercer. Akira Yamaoka, a composer most people would know from their work on Sparkster, Contra Hard Corps, Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, Shadows of the Damned, and Patema Inverted provided a tech-savvy vibe with some punk and hard rock edges to the technological cityscape. Also, the anime opening for this show is by Franz Ferdinand! When was the last time you heard from that band? That’s probably the biggest surprise that this show offers. 

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix is a beautiful, bittersweet dive into the technologically driven hellscape of a future where everything is driven by cybernetic enhancements. While it is based in the world of the infamous Cyberpunk: 2077, you will not need to wait months to enjoy the world of Cyberpunk with patches or mods. It might have a moment where the story shifts to a new batch of characters that isn’t the best at going from story A to story B, and if you aren’t into the hyper vibe of the animation at points, then you may want to skip this title, but otherwise, give this video game adaptation a watch! It’s impressive how this year, we have had three great adaptations via the world of animation. It’s a stellar time. Now then, next time, we will be talking about the new film GKIDS has released known as Goodbye Don Glees

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 273: Bee and Puppycat 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!)

2022 in TV animation has been underwhelming. With 2020 and 2021 giving us great and unusual shows that sound like disasters, but are not. With 2022, well, there’s Vox Machina, Super Giant Robot Brothers, The Cuphead Show, and that’s about it. There should always be this push to have more original shows that help keep the creative landscape of animation alive, since IP-driven projects and continued seasons of already existing shows can’t be the only thing that keeps the landscape of animation vital. You need to be able to stand out from the pack and not be just a variation of something else that exists. You need to be something like today’s show and review, Bee and Puppycat on Netflix. 

Based on the original shorts by Natasha Allegri, which were then rebooted into the version you see on Netflix, this show is chiefly directed by Joji Shimura, created by Natasha Allegri, and produced by Oriental Light and Magic aka OLM Inc. We follow our lead Bee, voiced by Allyn Rachel, a young woman who lives on an island and works at a cat cafe. One day, after some shenanigans that result in her getting fired, she encounters an unusual puffy cat thing known as Puppycat. While wondering where her next paycheck is going to come from, Puppycat warps her to a place where she can get a multitude of temporary work gigs that will take Bee and Puppycat across the universe and into the possible hands of some unknown entities that are looking for our heroes. 

With it being 2022, we have now had a good 12 years of how cartoons of this current era have been handled. Instead of having thicker outlines and sharper corners, we have thinner outlines and rounder designs. What has helped make these shows stand out is how abstract and unusual they are. Instead of having one genre or one type of set-in-stone story, they cross the streams and become genreless due to how they are a multitude of different genres. Some are more adventure-focused ala Adventure Time, some have more of a dash of sci-fi to them like Steven Universe, and some had more references or vibes of an 80s cartoon like The Fungies. They also tend to have a more modern and low-key tone and humor to them. Even when things get zanier, the humor is still more universal or has a quirky side to it all. The point I am trying to make is that after more than a decade of shows like Amphibia, Infinity Train, The Owl House, Steven Universe, Adventure Time, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, and so on, you have to do well to stand out from the rest. So, what does Bee and Puppycat do that differentiates them from the pack? Have you ever dived into the deep end of the indie game scene? Do you know those indie games that have an art direction that’s more akin to modern cartoons and have lo-fi beats, and are usually more story-driven ventures? Or maybe they are visual novel-like experiences? This is kind of like that but in a more concentrated form. Everything here is so lo-fi and chill that even down to the voice performances, everything is relaxing and soothing. It has its moments where things get twisted and dark, but even then, the music doesn’t change to anything intense or extreme with its execution. Even when the show is showing you rather mature or shocking moments and plot twists, you will still feel as though you were wrapped up in a cozy blanket with a hot cup of tea on a cold winter morning. It’s honestly refreshing. Even when the shows get grander in scale and stakes are now cataclysmic, the show never feels like it changes all that much. 

Another aspect of this show that’s really surprising is that, despite its cute visual look, there is a lot of cursing. So, yeah, this isn’t a show that’s really aimed at kids. They only bleep out some of the curse words, but they will be there out in the open. If your children aren’t bothered by that, then the rest of the show’s tone and the journey will feel similar to most modern cartoons.Maybe it’s because this individual didn’t watch the original shorts, but seeing what looked like another fun family show turn out to be more for teens and young adults was a pleasant surprise. It honestly results in this being another great example of an adult animated show that doesn’t try to be like Family Guy or South Park. It’s a show that tackles themes of depression, love, dealing with loss, grief, relationships, abandonment, the challenge of change, and dealing with lingering unkempt emotional baggage. It’s always the most innocent-looking cartoons that decide to scar you with intensely emotionally-driven themes and trauma. However, that is what is fun about shows like this. They aren’t just goofy characters in a goofy setting and hitting the reset button after every episode. The people in this show are diverse and have different personalities and story arcs and relationship dynamics with one another. Every character interacts with another differently. It’s also a weird show for the sake of being weird, and much of the time, that’s okay! You can still be a layered show, but also just have an oddball character for the sake of it tying in with some of the themes sewn together throughout the plot. The action when it happens is flashy and fun, but it’s never the most impressive part of the show. What’s fun is watching Bee and Puppycat take on multiple odd jobs on surreal and weird planets that feel reminiscent of stuff like Super Mario Galaxy and seeing how they unfold into the story and connect the main plot with the overarching narrative. It’s you finding out who exactly Puppycat really is, the drama between the humans, Bee and her relationship with her father, and to whom these giant demonic hands that are chasing after Puppycat are attached. 

On the animation front, the show looks like Science Saru made a show that stuck to a more American-made mindset. Personally, Bee and Puppycat feel much more like a vibrant Science Saru show than this year’s Yurei Deco, and that’s saying something. With its combination of soft-looking humans, the muted and mostly pink and purplish-hued color palette, and the sporadic energetic movements of the characters, it doesn’t move or flow like a normal US-made cartoon. Maybe it’s because of the art direction or the studio that produced this show, OLM inc, but it has more of an anime sensibility to it as well. It’s an odd mix of western and eastern animation philosophies that match up in this oddly satisfying way. Then again, with the shows that OLM have had a hand in producing, weird and odd are not too far out of their wheelhouse. The voice cast is great, but once again, the fact they all softly speak their lines shows a real commitment to the calming tone of the overall show. It must have been a hassle to keep all emotions and line reading on one level. You would think this would get grating, but you get used to it, and it makes the comedy land better. The cast is small, but it has a ton of well-known names including Allyn Rachel, the vocaloid system Oliver, Diana Garnet, Malle Flannigan, Natasha Alegri, Emilia Sheldon, Terri Hawks, Kent Osborne, Ashly Burch, Alexander James Rodriguez, Kumail Najiani, Arin Hanson, Doug Smith, Shannon McCormick, Natalie Lynn, Stephen Root, Eric Bauza, Donna Jay Fulks, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Blum, Cynthia McWilliams, Freddie Wong, Jason Greene, and Robbie Daymond. The calm relaxing beats are provided by composer Will Wiesenfeld. They bring a soothing and pleasant vibe to everything, and it’s amusing how it never becomes unpleasant or intense when the characters are in trouble. 

Bee and Puppycat is an out-of-this-world ethereal journey in animation. It has its moments where it can be a touch clunky and it’s pretty obvious that there is either a new season planned or a batch of episodes that have yet to be released due to its ending, but if you are looking for another “new” show to sink your teeth into with the symbolism and relaxing atmosphere, then you will definitely love this show. There is some confusion about if this new show is actually just season 2, but it’s mostly an Evil Dead 2 or a Desperado situation. It’s partly a reboot of the first series of shorts and a sequel series, but all told as if it was made for a first-time audience. Bee and Puppycat is great, and you all should definitely give it a watch if you are looking for new non-returning shows to put on your Netflix playlist. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a rather exciting and technologically driven action romp that you will have to wait and see for yourself. 

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 272: The House of the Lost on the Cape

(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!)

 

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


2022 has been a heavy-hitting year for Japanese animated films. We not only had the financially successful Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and Jujutsu Kaisen 0, but we also had grand epics like The Deer King and the incredible experience that is Inu-Oh. It shows that there are a multitude of varying journeys animation can take you on, and all that’s really preventing them from getting wider audiences is the fact that they need distributors that are willing to bring them over here. People are craving animation now more than ever, despite what companies like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery think about the medium of storytelling. Hopefully, even with the recents of streaming services going bananas, distributors still help support and bring over animation from all over the world. Films like today’s review, The House of the Lost on the Cape, deserve to be seen. 

Directed by Shinya Kawatsura, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by David Productions, this film was brought over by Elevenarts. The story follows two girls, Yui and Hiyori, dubbed by Madeleine Morris and Risa Mei. While taking shelter during a hurricane, an elderly young woman named Kiwa, dubbed by Pam Dougherty, decides to take them in once it has been revealed that both of the girls have either lost their family or have run away from home due to an unhealthy household. As the three go to a house on the cape, the two girls slowly start to learn about the mystery around this very special house, and maybe soon, become a family. 

One thing to notice about this film is how laid back it is. It’s very quiet and the film takes a lot of time for the first half to set up the mystery of the house and the dynamic between our main characters. The music is very soft and there is nothing super dramatic or loud thrown at you. Even at the halfway point, when they introduce magical spirits like the kappa, it’s never taken comedically or has some misunderstanding of why the spirits are there. It’s very nonchalant about the situation, and that does result in a film that is in a similar spirit to My Neighbor Totoro or Okko’s Inn, if you are familiar with one of those titles. That is to say, that “nothing happens.” Even when you see films like that, there is always a point as to why the story was told in that way. Sometimes it’s an experience of watching a slice of this type of city, life, or ways of a certain culture. It’s also a bit much to say that nothing happens in this film.

 It’s a story that’s meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and earthquake. You can see how the film finds low-key ways to make that clear by having those tragic elements implemented via environmental storytelling. The overarching narrative is about being kind, looking out for one another, dealing with loss, grief, and being remembered. It’s about caring for one another during tough times and coming together to help one another. What’s also nice is how the film wraps everything up. Yes, there is a “sudden” third act shift where the conflict that’s slowly been growing in the background near the end of the second act begins to show up, and they do at the end of the day, save the entire town, but still leave some aspects intentionally unresolved. Some aspects of their arcs are complete, but while the overall ending is happy, there is still a small bit here and there where the story says “yeah, they grew as characters, but this isn’t going to wrap everything up”. It seems like since Encanto and maybe earlier, we have been getting complaints about some films having very complex issues and how some films either leave it messy or wrap everything up with a nice bow. Personally, it depends on what the main point of the film is and what kind of story they are telling. Unless it’s just egregious in how it wraps everything up, then it’s okay to either end it on a nicer note or leave it on whatever note on which you want to leave it. 

Now, animation-wise, David Productions is mostly known for the adaptations of franchises like Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, Fire Force, and Cells at Work. The House of the Lost is well-animated. You can maybe argue that it isn’t the flashiest animated film out this year compared to the other powerhouse productions like The Deer King and Inu-Oh, but the film aimed to be more low-key, and that’s okay. The animation is still well-handled, the mix of 2D and CGI isn’t all that noticeable with maybe one detail showing the CGI assets, and the spirits or yokai designs are handled in a way that makes them stand out and aren’t just the usual designs you see in most anime or films. It has a nice detail of when Kiwa goes into the backstory or folklore of the area around the town they live in, they use this fun Science Saru-inspired visual style of rotoscoping and rougher art style. It gives the film a dose of surreal and magical whimsy without it being too much. It never felt like the two art styles clashed either. In the voice acting department, the English dub cast is great with some well-known talent like Madeleine Morris, Risa Mei, Pam Dougherty, Casey Casper, Caitlin Glass, Michelle Marie, Ben Balmaceda, Alan Lee, Lucas Schuneman, Kaiji Tang, Mike Pollock, Brooke Chalmers, Brent Mukai, Sarah Wiedenheft, and Laura Stahl. The music by Yuri Miayuchi offers a more Animal Crossing vibe to the world the characters live in with soft and very slice-of-life tunes that are sprinkled throughout the entire runtime. It has its moments where it becomes grander in tone, but it’s a very lo-fi soundtrack, and that’s always a fun change of pace when it comes to films with more fantastical elements. 

It might not be as well-paced as it could have with how it gets from point A to point B, but the characters are charming, and the low-key atmosphere helps make the viewing experience an enjoyable one as we see the bond between the three characters grow over time. The House of the Lost on the Cape is like a warm hug with its overall journey of healing, and finding family and hope during tough times. It shows how coming together to help one another can raise themselves up from dark times and be a wonderful experience. If you can find a theater that will be playing this film, I definitely recommend checking it out. Otherwise, it will be coming out on Blu-ray and digital in a few weeks. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a fan-favorite animated series that finally hits Netflix. You will just have to wait and see what it is when we talk about it next. 





Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 269: Inu-Oh 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!)


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





When you go see a movie, what do you look for? Do you want an action-packed thrill ride? Do you want a thriller so dense with tension that you are left breathless? What about a horror film that leaves you so panicked and stressed out over the fear that lingers in your mind and the world around you as you exit the theater or turn off your TV? What about some animated visuals that live-action films can never truly fulfill? You probably want to see a film that not only stands out from the pack, but truly changes the world around you and your view on the art form itself. Not many can do so, but here we are with what might be one of the most important films of 2022, not just in animation, but in film in general. It’s a film that will make you think and redefine how films are made, and that is a good thing. We need more films shaking up the landscape and telling diverse stories and told in new and interesting ways. For now, let’s dive into the whimsical and abstract world of Inu-Oh.

This film is directed by the master himself, Masaaki Yuasa, written by Akiko Nogi, composed by Otomo Yoshihide, and animated by Science Saru. It tells the story of a blind Biwa player named Tomona, voiced by Mira Moriyama. He travels the land looking for stories to tell of the Heiki clan after their fall from the war. He was blinded after an incident brought upon by some government officials looking for a tool of power. Along his journey to becoming a biwa player, he encounters an odd entity in the form of a deformed human, who at first has no name but soon gains one via the performance name of Inu-Oh, voiced by the queen bee herself, Avu-chan. Together, they team up to tell the stories through song and dance of the spirits that were forgotten by the sands of time and the grasping hands of the rising political powers of Japan. 

You know how some reviews have described this film by saying that it’s a bit of everything? Well, it is. It’s a political thriller, a murder mystery, an epic stadium rock opera, an LGBTQ+-infused friendship story, and it’s also an absurd fairy-tale-infused slice of history about an individual forgotten in time. Inu-Oh is a story about how the conquest for greed and power are willing to erase from history people that existed. It’s a dark film with a rather depressing through-line of what happens to our leads. It’s a thrilling and energy-infused musical romp where music is used to tell the honest truth of the world. It’s both big in scale, and yet personal and intimate with its characters. Any normal director would not be able to handle everything that this film throws in front of you. Inu-Oh has both complex and brutal emotions, but it’s also simple and pure, a film that has a lot of subtext and text upfront about what it’s talking about, and it feels like it should all collapse into itself like some large sinkhole opening into the earth. How the heck do you balance all of this out? In addition, instead of just being a period drama, its music, like mentioned previously in the review and a bit further into the said review, has a rock edge to its  compositions and performances. It has that spark of pizzaz that would feel out of place if it was handled by anyone other than Masaaki Yuasa. However, while this film is spinning a multitude of plates and tones, what it doesn’t forget is that at the core of this film, it’s the story between Tomona and Inu-Oh. It’s a journey of their struggles and arcs in a world that is extremely unforgiving and very prone to discrimination. They could easily be forgotten individuals through the passages of time, but they push back and make sure that they and others exist. The different plot points, from the murder mystery to the political thriller aspects, are woven between beautiful music and atmospheric landscapes of the past. The characters may be straightforward, but with the allergic response people have with nuance these days, it’s for the best that the characters we do follow don’t muddy the waters. Tomona and Inu-Oh are bonded closely like brothers, and the final scene between them is extremely touching. In contrast, the overarching villains of the film are intensely despicable individuals with what they are willing to do to rise to power. The twists and turns that take you through this story will make you love our leads, laugh, smile, dance, and rock alongside the music, and just hate with a seething fury the passive villains of the film.

The animation is an experience in itself. It’s full of everything you love and adore about Science Saru with its chaotic and fluid animation. Combine the designs from character designer Obutake Ito, who did the designs for Giovanni’s Island, Lu Over the Wall, The Night is Short Walk on Girl, and Taiyo Matsumoto, who was behind the art of Tekkonkinkreet, the visual look of everything is drop-dead gorgeous. From the toned-down yet vibrant colors to the wildly expressive faces that show everyone who they really are and the flashy musical sequences, to the painted look of Tomona’s world through his blind eyes, you have an elevated visual treat that you won’t be able to compare or find in the cinematic landscape. Seriously, the musical sequences not only tell the story of the forgotten souls who couldn’t find rest, but they help paint the rise and popularity of our two leads, as well as the bitter silent anger from the main villain who finds their speaking the truth a threat to his overarching goal to unite the nations. The music itself is a collaborative effort between Otomo Yoshihide and Avu-chan. It’s full of just the best kind of rock with great story-driven lyrics, but also jam session vibes, and when they are paired with the film’s visuals, you get a special treat that beats out most of every musical this year. The voice cast is amazing. Avu-chan is incredible as Inu-Oh, and her performance is easily one of my favorites of the year. She brings a playful innocence to the early part of the character, and when the drama hits, she handles the heavier story beats well. Her scene with the soliloquy is probably my favorite scene of the entire film, and that’s saying something since her performances are the best part of the film. Mirai Moriyama also works well off of Avu-chan, and his singing is also pretty great! They really bring the heart and soul to the entire story, and the other actors do a great job with their own respective roles. 

There will never be enough words to describe the experience of watching a film like Inu-Oh. It’s a fantastical experience, it’s magical, it’s a political drama, it’s a sharp-edged social commentary, it’s a bombastic stadium rock opera, it’s a grand-scale epic, it’s a small-scale emotionally-driven human story, it’s an LGBTQ+ infused journey of two souls looking to tell the stories of the forgotten, and it’s a highly-condensed cinematic experience that could only come from the mind of someone like Masaaki Yuasa. Inu-Oh is everything that he stands for, not only in filmmaking, but in storytelling, his ideals, and as a human being. Inu-Oh, just like Everything Everywhere All At Once, is a cinematic journey through the making of art on screen. It shows you what kind of creative adventures filmmakers can take you on. It’s a film that is firing on all cylinders with its visuals. It’s a film that proudly and definitely spits in the face of filmmakers and critics who talk down to the medium of animation. It viscerally stands and rebels against the naysayers and “Negative Nancies” who keep confining and limiting the medium of animation and storytelling. It’s, once again, everything everywhere all at once. If this thick slice of word loaf didn’t say so already, Inu-Oh is my favorite film of the year. It’s not only the best animated film of the year, but it’s also, bluntly, the best film of the year. You will never see something like Inu-Oh. If you can see it, please do. More people need to see the cinematic brilliance of something so distinct like Inu-Oh. It’s also a fun companion piece to Science Saru and Naoko Yamada’s adaptation of The Heike Story. We may never see a new film by Masaaki Yuasa, but for now, his story has been told, and his journey through the beauty of animation ends here. He rightfully deserves a break, and hopefully, one day, he may return to tell more stories like this one. For now, we shall journey to a fantastic world of the mystical Dragon Balls as we talk about Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 265: The Deer King 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!)

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

Something fun to see with Chris Williams’ The Sea Beast was a return to the grand fantasy epics in animation. With the upcoming feature film Strange World from director Don Hall and writer Qui Nguyen, we are entering a phase of having non-comedy-driven experiences. The world of animation is big enough to have every kind of genre. That doesn’t mean I want to stop seeing comedies, but let’s start jazzing up the scene in every way we can. That means we should be supportive of films that come out and do offer something different. For example, let’s take a look at the newest GKIDS-distributed feature from Japan, The Deer King. 

Directed by Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji, written by Taku Kishimoto, and produced by Production I.G., the story follows a man named Van, dubbed by Ray Chase. He was a captured slave who worked in the salt mines of a nation that has taken rule of a neighboring country. This is, of course, all while a horrific plague is brought upon by a mass of wolves that infect one nation’s people, but not the others. Van encounters a young girl named Yuna, dubbed by Luciana VanDette. He goes on a journey with her escaping the mines to find a better life and to learn what exactly is going on. This is, of course, all happening while a scientist is traversing the land to find a cure for the plague named Hohsalle, dubbed by Griffin Puatu. Will Van be able to start life over again with his newfound family situation? Can Hohsalle find a cure for this plague that has cursed an entire nation? How will these characters’ stories be connected? 

Let’s get this out of the way first. Everyone and their grandma has been comparing this film to the Studio Ghibli classic, Princess Mononoke. To be honest though? It’s only similar if you haven’t seen the film yet. Yes, there are male lead characters that ride on a deer. That’s about the only way they are the same. Comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges. Both might be fruit, but you aren’t going to call an apple a copy or rip-off of an orange. Whereas Princess Mononoke is the complicated and philosophical battle of humans versus nature, The Deer King is more about humans battling and dealing with human nature. The big bad of the film is the human drive for war and bloodshed. What’s so fascinating about this film is how it has come out during the pandemic period of history, because the director did take note of how the different nations’ civilians have dealt with the plague that sweeps the nation of Zol. It’s very critical of people who are against science and vaccines or those specific people who let “faith” make the judgment call on whether someone lives or dies from this plague. On top of this film being a big fantasy epic and a medical thriller at certain junctions within the story, there is a huge human element to the overarching plot. Much of this film is about Van finding peace after losing his family to the plague and the war. It’s a journey of letting go of loss, not letting rage and revenge take the reins of your destiny, and embracing love and passion for life as he tries to protect Yuna from the grasp of both the empire, a hitwoman, and the source of the said plague. The film takes a substantial amount of time to make that the focus. It’s interesting, because you could assume from the trailer that the film is action-packed and thrilling, but it’s not. It has its big action moments, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call this an action film. It’s more of a drama, due to how the film focuses on dialogue, character dynamics, and more politically charged elements. There is a reason it earns its R-rating, and it’s not for the few minutes of blood that you see in the film. 

Animation-wise, since this has a Studio Ghibli alumni, you can expect the animation to look not only amazing, but carry some of that Ghibli DNA through its lush visuals. There are superbly detailed backgrounds, grounded human designs, and fantastic physical animation in how things squash and stretch at points. It has a lot of those little character beats you would see in the director’s previous experience in animation. The designs may have a Ghibli touch, but they still stand on their own with Masashi Ando handling the character designs as well. You will find your eyes traversing dark caverns, misty swamps, snow-covered patches, beautiful grasslands, small fantasy villages, and ethereal forests. It’s also nice to see a lead character who doesn’t look like someone in their late teens or early 20s. It’s very rare we get animated films with adult characters, which is a bummer that being an adult lead character in a film is so rare, not only in anime but in animated films in general. The voice cast is also great. You have Ray Chase, Griffin Puatu, Erica Schroeder, Luciana VanDette, Doug Stone, Neil Kaplan, Frank Todaro, Keith Silverstein, Luis Bermudez, Chris Hackney, Doug Erholtz, Xander Mobus, and many others. Seriously, look up this cast. It’s fantastic. They do a great job alongside the original Japanese cast that includes Shinichi Tsutsumi, Ryoma Takeuchi, and Anne Watanabe to name a few from there. The music by Harumi Fuuki is quite elegant. If their name sounds familiar, it’s because Harumi composed music for Miss Hokusai, The Wonderland, Forest of Piano, and Tsurune. It’s a beautiful soundtrack that flows between pieces that are elegant, grand, imposing, and loving. 

While it has some superficial elements to the Ghibli classic and can be a touch long at times, The Deer King stands on its own as a grand human journey. It’s a rock-solid debut for  Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji, and if this is what they can do with one film, people will be back for their next one. Hopefully, if you can, you should watch this cinematic journey of man’s conflict with human nature. Next time though, we will be talking about a film that has been in production for over a decade and switched studios to finally get released, and, well, we will have to see how things unfold when we finally talk about Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 623: The Bob’s Burgers Movie 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!)


Honestly? It’s surprising that it has taken this long to get a Bob’s Burgers movie. Since the franchise started in 2011, it has pretty much been one of the go-to examples of adult animation that doesn’t heavily rely on raunchy humor, ultra-violence, shock jock sensibilities, and everything else that has given adult animation a bad reputation. Sure, by now, we have had shows like Arcane, Primal, and Legends of Vox Machina show that there can have varied results with adult animation, but since we are still going to get something like the upcoming Farzar, the best you can do is try to craft an experience that can make yourself stand out from the rest in the adult animation genre. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, and yes, you could argue that the creators of the other similar shows Central Park and The Great North feel too akin to Bob’s Burgers, but they tend to be executed in different enough ways to still feel refreshing, despite the common spirit and writing of the three shows. Now then, how do you take a show like Bob’s Burgers with a distinct flow that differs from something like The Simpsons and turn it into a movie? Well, you do so with flying colors! 

The film is directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman, written by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith, and produced by Bento Box Entertainment, Wilo Productions, and 20th Century Animation. We join the ever-lovable Belcher family that includes Bob Belcher, voiced by H. John Benjamin, Tina Belcher, voiced by Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman as Gene Belcher, John Roberts as Linda Belcher, and Kristen Schaal as Louise Belcher, as they begin to prepare for summer. This includes getting their loan handled, Tina finally asking Jimmy Pesto to be her summertime boyfriend, Gene getting his new instrument ready for a summertime performance, and Louise going through some personal self-discovery matters.  Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Tina can’t talk to Jimmy Pesto Jr, the bank declines the loan situation, and Louise, worst of all, is called a baby. They try to make all of the things go well for the four of them until a huge pothole opens up right in front of the restaurant that threatens to shut down Bob’s Burgers. Can the family figure out what’s going on? Why was a dead body found deep in the hole? Who is exactly behind all of this?

So, we have yet another animated show getting the film treatment, but what actually works about this flick? Well, while it does have a lot of those elements that you see in franchise films with the bigger budget for the visuals, and maybe a celebrity here or there to voice the characters, the overall size of the story and scale of the film is small. It’s actually refreshing, because the film literally takes place in only a few blocks of the show’s setting. No plot of the family traveling the world or the government showing interest in this one town for some reason, or an alien invasion. It’s a story about the parents finding a way to save their home and restaurant, Louise’s arc of overcoming her fears, Tina wanting to finally ask out her crush, and Eugene wanting to be the big pop star hit at the carnival. Of course, two of these plots take up most of the run time, but the fact they were able to make this all work and be able to pack so much charm and wit into the writing makes for an extremely entertaining experience. Even if it isn’t a full-blown musical, the few tunes they do have are executed in a way to add substance to the overall story and perfectly encapsulate what the characters are going for. The world and story might be small, but to everyone involved in the film’s plot, it’s world-ending levels big. That’s the beauty of the film. They did some major additions to the overall vibe of the show to make it work on the big screen, but they also kept the spirit of the show and what made it special at its core. You don’t usually get that with many films based on TV shows. 

On the animation and technical side of things, the film does look pretty good! It’s definitely a more fluid take on the characters that you should expect with film adaptations. While there are a few points where you can tell there are 2D characters walking alongside CGI backgrounds that result in some wonky compositing, it’s very rare and the visuals are pretty consistent. The designs were very approachable and making them look appealing and filled with the appeal was never going to be a problem for this show’s visuals. What’s also nice about the animation is that everyone, even during the big musical sequences, doesn’t act out of place or move like they are from a Disney Fantasia. Everyone dances like how normal people do. The Lucky Ducks sequence is a great example of this where it’s still well-choreographed, but it has its Bob’s Burgers appeal in how it looks. Voice cast-wise, while there are some big names, the real draw is always going to be the main cast of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, and Eugene Mirman. The rest of the cast is also perfect, with Larry Murphy as the Belcher’s lovable patron and friend, Teddy, Kevin Kline as the detached landlord Calvin and his brother Felix, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and a slew of other actors reprising or playing minor roles that include Jordan Peele, Paul F. Tompkins, Stephanie Beatriz, and Jenny Slate, to name a few. The music by John Dylan Keith and Loren Bouchard is great and has the small town charm of the show, and the musical numbers by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith are limited with only four songs, but the three that are available on the soundtrack have a whimsy about them that definitely reminds me of something from The Muppets. Even with everyone basically being voice actors/actors first, they do carry the tunes well! It’s just another part of the appeal of the franchise. 

 Now, one of the few criticisms I have is that the film does tend to focus more on Bob and Linda, and Louise’s story arcs than Tina and Eugene’s story arcs. Not that it’s a bad thing due to how the former three characters have a much more substantial story going on saving the restaurant and overcoming personal fears, but Tina gets the school crush arc and Eugene just wants to perform at the festival. Not that those two plots are bad, but there isn’t much to them. The film also gets a little long at 100 minutes? Personally, the film would have felt a little tighter around 90 minutes, but the fact that there is so much humor from the dialogue to visual gags shoved into each scene, that it almost fixes the pacing issues in the third act. Even by this point, everyone knows who the villain is, and while he has a few funny moments, he’s partly forgettable. Just a small road bump to get to the Belchers. 


While it may be more of what you love about the franchise, it shows that this franchise can do films, and if they would like to do more in the future, then that would be swell. It’s a fun, breezy, and delightful romp that everyone should go see if you already are going to or have seen Pixar’s Lightyear, but need something before the incredible The Sea Beast. I’ll definitely be picking up this film in the future when it hits Blu-ray, and if you love animated films with an indie charm, then you will love this film. Next time though, we are going to check out Chris Williams’ new Netflix animated feature of epic proportions, The Sea Beast


Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 262: Pompo the Cinephile 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!)


At this moment in time it definitely feels like the film industry doesn’t actually like movies. Granted, it may be due to the success of films like Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Bad Guys, and The Northman, but if you watched the Oscars a month or so back, well, the tone and vibe of it all tells a different story. Like, sorry that people want their favorite entertainment to be taken seriously and yet the industry keeps dumping on the talented hard-working people that make the films that award shows like the Oscars “love”. Yes, we have seen films that are all about their love of cinema, but they sometimes come off as hollow and were there for awards and not much else. It’s rare when you get a film that, while maybe flawed, has the passion for someone who loves film. To make these types of films not become shallow experiences, you need to be able to poke at both the good and the bad, and sometimes, that results in films like Pompo the Cinephile


This film was directed and written by Takayuki Hirao. It’s based on the manga by Shogo Sugitani and was produced by CLAP. The story follows an assistant who works under the famed Nyallywood producer Pompo, dubbed by Brianna Genitella. She is famous for her work of releasing B-grade movies that are hugely successful. The assistant is named Gene Fini, dubbed by Christopher Trindade. One day, he thinks about how Pompo should make a more serious film, and ends up finding a screenplay for such a film on Pompo’s desk. He is then assigned by Pompo to help produce, direct, and pretty much helm this project all in one go. Along with the help of Pompo and a young up-and-coming actress named Natalie Woodward, dubbed by Jackie Lastra, can Gene craft a masterpiece and learn to find the secret and passion for filmmaking? 


So, let’s not beat around the bush, a couple of early reviews for the film were not positive. Understandably so, the film is not well told, the cast of colorful characters aren’t fully memorable, it can be a touch messy pacing-wise, and some aspects of the film hit differently, both for good and for bad. However, after watching the Oscars fiasco that was bad no matter how many want to put the blame of it on the slap, this film’s story and the experience hit differently. Yeah, this is one of those situations where watching it after certain events really recontextualizes the overall story of the film. Instead of coming off as a messy uneven film, it’s a film that shows the passion that drives filmmakers, and is unapologetic in showing how the passion can drive and or hurt someone, or absolutely stop projects flat if the right or wrong decision is made. It shows the love for film, but also the brutality of making one. You simply can’t release a 10-hour movie and call it a day. You need to make it flow fluidly from point A to point B. It needs to fit a certain runtime that will make audiences of all kinds happy. Maybe setting up a shot a certain way can help elevate the emotional punch of a scene. It’s a film that loves to discuss these details, but also loves to call out certain filmmakers or aspects of filmmaking, like the jabs at filmmakers creating 2-hour films instead of what Pompo describes as “the perfect length”, which is 90 minutes. It’s funny because the film itself and the marketing portray those runtime gags and trailer edits in the exact way seen in the film. The film itself is literally 90 minutes and that’s a fairly funny meta gag. Still, even with its story that’s all about the celebration of cinema, the editing, and what have you, it still gives you a story with a cast of likable characters to follow and it does capture the joy and ethereal vibes that you get with watching movies, seeing certain shots unfold, and that one magical moment that makes you love movies. It’s a corny, but charming ride with how Gene learns and approaches certain shots with how the story is told. 


Animation-wise, the film looks great. It has an appealing mix of more typical modern character looks, but a sprinkle of what can be labeled as retro. Pompo has a fantastic design, and you can see why her visual look has a mix of the more modern, but retro vibes with how pop art she looks. The backgrounds once again take some inspiration for the detailed cityscapes of Makoto Shinkai’s work, and the character movements are given plenty of detail and expressive reactions to certain situations as they arrive in the story. The English voice cast is great as well, with Brianna Gentilella, Christopher Trindade, Jackie Lastra, Anne Yatco, Kenneth Cavett, Jonah Platt, Gavin Hammon, Brock Powell, John H. Mayer, Michael Sorich, and Thomas Bromhead to name a few. They tend to capture the personalities from Pompo’s sharp-witted mannerisms, Gene’s awkward but fiery passion for filmmaking, Natalie’s humble hardworking newcomer persona, Mystia’s outward bombshell look that hides a clever individual, and you get the idea. Kenta Matsukuma, the composer, might not have too much under his belt with work ranging from Black Clover, God Eater, and Real Girl, but he brings a pretty solid soundtrack. It isn’t the most memorable effort, unless you consider the theme songs which were written by other people, but he does get the job done with what kind of mood or stage the soundtrack needed to set. 



Now, as for criticisms, there aren’t that many, but the ones that are there do stand out. The music itself isn’t the most memorable, and one can assume that due to this being his first major film score, it’s why the overall soundtrack isn’t the most memorable. As mentioned above, the overall story has some small pacing issues and some story beats go the distance in stretching the suspension of disbelief in how they were able to pull off certain moments. Some characters also feel like they were there for the sake of some crucial story moments or to fill space. They aren’t completely pointless due to their connections with the main characters, but otherwise, they don’t do much. 

Yes, Pompo the Cinephile is not perfect, and yes, if I did see this film before the whole Oscars fiasco and some other unexpected events in the film industry unfolded, the reading of this experience would be different. However, it has a lot of charm and passion of a film lover who may not know everything about films but enjoys the medium so much. Unfortunately, unlike Belle, it didn’t get a huge release but will be coming to Blu-ray and DVD on July 12. If you want to see something that has more love of the movies than the entire award season industry, then give this film a watch! Now then, due to how little is coming out, let’s talk about something that has been a long time coming. Next time, we will be talking about the first film in the popular comedy franchise with Bob’s Burgers the Movie




Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 255: Human Resources 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!)

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

Out of all of the shows that get people hot and bothered on Netflix, Big Mouth gets people the most bothered. The iconic adult comedy that revolves around the life of a bunch of kids going through the disastrous and horrifying time of puberty with the help of monsters and creatures representing different sides of the human condition has split viewers down the middle. Some love this raunchy comedy for what it’s tackling with puberty, sex, gender identity, and relationships. On the other hand, many do not care for it due to how it’s yet another crass raunchy animated comedy that supposedly skates by with an artificial approach to said topics mentioned in the previous sentence. It doesn’t help that other shows got canceled while Big Mouth was able to fester. Luckily, shows like Tuca and Bertie were able to find new life on other services, but you get the idea. People who hate adult animation and comedies tend to point to this one being the worst of them all as it lingers grossly on the service. And now Nick Kroll and his creative team have a spin-off show that focuses on the monsters at hand. Now then, let’s make a trip to the third floor to Human Resources

This new show was created by  Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Kelly Galuska, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett. This takes place in the world of the creatures that inhabited Big Mouth. We follow a group of different creatures including love bugs, anxiety mosquitos, logic rocks, hormone monsters, depression kitties, addiction angels, and you get the idea. We follow them through their daily lives as they help deal with the problems, minute and personal. 

So, with this being a spin-off to Big Mouth, expect a lot of the same elements that defined the iconic yet polarizing series. Comedy-wise, expect this to be fairly raunchy with so many sex jokes, swearing, and essentially, a small army worth of innuendos and visual gags. There will be nudity and some fairly graphical moments with violence and sex, but at this point with adult animated comedies on the streaming service, you should expect there to be no real limitations. As we have seen with shows like The Prince or HOOPS, being crass, shocking, offensive, and or in bad taste is not enough to make shows good, due to how you need something else to balance out the crass, cynical, and or mean-spirited nature of the art you are offering to viewers. Like how Big Mouth has a flawed if not admirable path of talking about the ugly side of puberty and coming of age with its kid characters becoming teens, Human Resources focuses more on the adult side of the lifespan. Granted, that sounds weird since this show is reliant on you loving the monsters and creatures that helped out the humans in the original show. 

Luckily, there is substance to this show. We see themes and storylines dealing with friendships, workplace situations, trust, dealing with loss and grief, toxic traits, the unpredictable reasons behind being in love, the battle between love and logical thinking, self-love, complicated relationships, sex, and you get the idea. The show does give a lot of characters time to bounce off of one another, and while your tolerance for these characters will make this series enjoyable, there are a few likable characters including Randall Park as Peter the logic rock. Everyone does a good job working off of one another, and while the crass humor is, say it with this critic now, the ride-or-die element of your tolerance for the story and how it all unfolds, there are a few really solid jokes and gags. 

Animation-wise, this show has the common adult-animated comedy visual look caused by problems that originate with bad production cycles made by giant studios and companies not giving the teams making these shows the time they need. As usual, people in the animation industry need new deals, so make sure you show support with stuff like #NewDeal4Animation, #StoryCraftUnite, and #EqualPay4EqualPaint. While it may not have the most appealing designs, there are a few designs that are fun to look at. I love the logic rocks and the need demons the most. It also seems like some moments in the show were able to breathe a little more and have a more fluid feel.  The voice cast is also pretty good with a great cast of comedic and character actors. You have Aidy Bryant, Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, David Thewlis, Keke Palmer, Pamela Adlon, Randall Park, Ali Wong, Thandie Newton, Bobby Cannavale, Jemaine Clement, Maria Bamford, Rosie Perez, Henry Winkler, and even guest appearances from Hugh Jackman, Helen Mirin, Lupita Nyong’o, and Janelle Monae to name a majority of a really stacked cast. 

Now, in terms of criticisms, with most comedies, the humor is hit-and-miss, and, well, that’s no different here. A lot of the humor can be a touch much. It has musical moments, but sometimes it can feel too chaotic onscreen all at once.  Some of the comedy even goes down to just yelling, and it’s not fun to watch when everything is going bananas on screen. It also has issues from time to time of balancing out the crass comedy and its more sincere moments. Sometimes the morals hit, and sometimes the comedic punchline or gross-out joke tends to take away the emotional punch. Yes, these characters can be deplorable and gross, but shows like this need to be careful with wanting to have their cake and eat it too. 

While your mileage will very much vary with this spin-off, Human Resources offers a more human experience to the adult animation landscape. If you like Big Mouth, but more for the times it hits more human themes and the creatures involved, then you will probably enjoy this show. If not, well, you can go watch something like Undone on Amazon Prime or Primal on HBO Max for your adult animated needs. Now then, next time, we will be taking a good look at Pixar’s Turning Red

Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 254: Child of Kamiari Month

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

With the Oscars once again dismissing and ignoring the Japanese animation side of things, stagnating as usual with what they actually nominate over what they should be nominating for awards, let’s keep reminding ourselves that not getting nominated doesn’t mean the film in question isn’t good. Who’s favorite film is actually ever in the Best Picture category? Anyway, just because the award shows announce their nominees, doesn’t mean films stop getting made. More movies are going to come out and they will continue to be interesting, good, bad or everything in-between, no matter the awards they are or aren’t given. So, let’s get down to it with one of the first animated films of the year with Child of Kamiari Month

This film was directed by Takana Shirai, written by Ryuta Miyake, Tetsuro Takita, Toshinari Shinoe, and was produced by Liden Films. The story revolves around a tongue girl named Kanna Hayama, dubbed by Mia Sinclair Jenness. Her life has been upended due to the death of her mother and she has lost her passion for running. That’s a touch unfortunate because she is also participating in her school’s marathon with her supportive dad being there. Sadly, due to the emotional baggage that she has been carrying, she doesn’t quite do well at the marathon, and runs away before her father can help comfort her. She runs to a shrine that she walked past with her friend the other day, and while there, her mother’s keepsake starts to activate. Time slows down around her and she realizes that something is up. Kanna can see the spirits that inhabit the shrines now! She encounters a talking bunny spirit named Shiro, dubbed by Luci Christian, who comes just in time to help her with an encounter with an oni boy named Yasha, dubbed by Mark Allen Jr. After the encounter, Shiro tells Kanna that she must go on this journey across Japan and gather the offerings from different spirits for Kamiari Month, a mystical holiday that is a celebration of the gods and spirits. Reluctantly, Kanna accepts the quest to traverse all over Japan to get all of the different gifts and complete the run. 

So, a recurring theme seen in so many foreign animated films that have been covered in multiple reviews and brought over to the states has been the main character going through some kind of coming-of-age story of getting over their grief or dealing with the loss of a loved one. It’s not an original concept, but they execute it well, with a much smaller-scale story about Kanna dealing with the loss of her mom and the growing depression and bitterness that has been caged up inside of her since that incident. The other side character that starts out as a rival to Kanna, the oni boy Yasha, has his own arc and reasons for wanting to do the run for Kamiari Month to regain the honor of his family that was dragged through the mud and banished from the heavens above. It’s a quieter experience as a couple of the montage sequences are just visuals set to music. The overall story might have some wonky and familiar elements, but it’s a good reminder, as usual, that not every film needs to be a groundbreaking mind-blowing experience. Sometimes, you just need to dial back your expectations 

The animation is pretty solid. It’s not super-flashy, and personally, when you are coming out after Belle, Josee The Tiger and The Fish, and Words that Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, it doesn’t quite compare to those, and not every film needs to, but don’t expect this to be on the same level as those films or upcoming films like Bubble and Drift Away. It does have some nice flourishes like when they encounter a giant dragon god, and when the film wants to have some distinct visual moments, it does deliver on those aspects with some waterloo flourishes that have elements of those Japanese ink paintings. The voice cast is also pretty rock solid with Mia Sinclair Jenness, Mark Allen Jr., Luci Christian, Kirk Thorton, Keith Silverstein, and Michael Sorich all bringing their usual top-level talent. 

In terms of criticisms, the film takes a lot of time to talk and explain everything about Kamiari Month. It’s not well-paced, because instead of spreading out everything throughout the runtime, they upload a ton of exposition about the lore and how everything works, and it becomes a bit much. Once you get past the film’s first 15 or so minutes, it ends up flowing much better, but you have to be careful about doing that story build-up upfront. It’s because most will be ready to switch to watching something else if the story is not paced well. It would be better if they were able to spread everything else around the run across Japan as they were doing it instead of wasting so much time in one spot to save money and time on new environments. 

While not perfect, and Netflix once again not promoting this film that they spent money on outside of a single trailer, Child of Kamiari Month is a solid spiritual experience of getting over loss and becoming spiritually stronger. Personally, Sing a Bit of Harmony is the better of the two Japanese animated films released this year so far. Luckily, it was able to get some attention on Netflix and on the web before it got buried or overlooked by Studio Wit’s upcoming animated feature Bubble that’s coming out on Netflix in April. If you need something to watch and to get your anime fill that’s not a weekly TV series, then definitely give this show a watch. Next time, we will be talking about a new spin-off series based on one of Netflix’s most controversial and popular series.

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 253: The Cuphead Show 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 Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.

Despite the loaded and complicated history of the rubber hose animation aesthetic, the visual look has always been a favorite among fans of art and animation. When animation visual styles go through trends, there is always this yearning for an older visual look, and while I think some of the yearnings for more nostalgic-fueled visuals can sometimes lean into some very toxic attitudes, you can see, on a visual level, why people would want to see creators and studios bring back a classic look to new shows. Of course, when you tackle something with rubber hose animation, it’s the art style you have to be the most careful with, due to how some of the design decisions made during the early days of animation have some racist undertones. Luckily, with Studio MDHR and their hit game Cuphead, they were able to translate the iconic visual style into one of the most graphically impressive experiences of the previous console generation. Of course, when a game like this gets as big as it does, then you know a show is not too far behind. Well, let’s get started then! 

Animated by Lighthouse Studios, executive produced by Chad and Jared Moldenhauer (the two who created the game), and it’s developed by Dave Wasson for Netflix. The two different directors involved for this first batch of episodes are Adam Paloian and Clay Morrow. The story follows the wacky and shenanigan-filled adventures of Cuphead and Mugman, voiced by Tru Valentino and Frank Todaro. They go all around the Inkwell Isle encountering the individuals that live there and of course avoiding the evil grasp of The Devil, voiced by Luke Millington-Drake. Along the way, they interact with their elderly caretaker Elder Kettle,  voiced by Joe Hanna, the lovely Miss Chalice, voiced by Grey Griffin, and you get the idea. 

So, while there was a “plot” in the original game, it was very straightforward. The world was vast and full of a lot of interesting-looking characters. The one thing the game was not, was story-focused. Since that is the case, how on earth do you turn this show into a TV series?  With how there wasn’t too much lore and world-building put into the main game, it wouldn’t make sense to make it more story-driven, so instead of going the route of some story-driven shows, they went the route of the more recent Animaniacs and Looney Tunes direction, making more episodic shenanigan-filled adventures. Some episodes have some pseudo-ongoing story beats, but they are usually wrapped up within the second part, and the first batch of episodes ends with a cliffhanger, so it will be interesting to see where they take the rest of the episodes. The main focus for the episodes is putting Cuphead and Mugman in a situation and the hijinks ensue. They feel very old school with how they set up stories and jokes, but they bring a more modern-day sentimentality to the overall vibe and humor, so it never feels dated or going fully against the time period the show’s animation style is from. A lot of the jokes and set-ups are delightfully charming, and that’s because they were able to give the characters more concrete personalities for our heroes to work off of. Not that the characters didn’t already have them in the game, but they were mostly told through one line of dialogue or through their animation via their movements. Some of the stories have the typical “oh, this was a big misunderstanding” plot set-up or “I’m brave because I got this special item that’s not actually special, but it makes me feel brave”, but the dialogue and the lines they offer are what help elevate it to be more than just shorts going through the motions. With all that said, the character they do give these individuals is delightful, and The Devil might be my favorite character alongside his grunt and King Dice. 

Now then, with the animation, there has been a controversy about how the animation itself is not purely or strickly like the video game. Listen, you can dislike how polished the linework is for the show’s visuals, but the fact of the matter is that doing super old-school 2D animation is costly and time-consuming, and knowing the current landscape of animation production, they were never going to be able to do pure 2D visuals like the old-school days. Heck, the developers of the game revealed they had to remortgage their home to make the game, due to how costly it was to make said game with super slick 2D animation. With what the studio had with whatever production schedule they were given, The Cuphead Show looks really good. It might use a mix of 2D and maybe some animation rigging, but the fact that the visuals look as good as they do and how they were pretty much able to copy and keep the game’s visuals the same is impressive. They even use some filter or graphical techniques to give off the impression of the multi-layer camera effects the older Disney films had. It’s a visually impressive show that stands out from other animated offerings on Netflix. The voice cast is also pretty great, with the already mentioned names above with Tru Valentino, Frank Todaro, Joe Hanna, Luke Millington-Drake, Grey Griffin, Wayne Brady, and the rest of the cast is spot-on with the characters they portray. They even have a few musical moments and they are real bangers that bring back the musical styles of the old Betty Boop cartoons. 

Overall, The Cuphead Show succeeds with its adaptation from video game to animated series, and we already know there are going to be 48 episodes, so we are getting more. Now, Netflix, I’m happy this show is a success, but you better pay the teams that made this show the money they are owed, because with the current landscape of the animation industry revealing how much worse people who work in animation are paid compared to live-action is disheartening and maddening. It would be a shame to find out if you all didn’t give this team their due. Anyway, you can enjoy the first “season” on Netflix on the 18th, and if you like old-school cartoony-style shows, then you will love this show. Now then, let’s tackle a film that Netflix barely covered and advertised with Child of Kamiari 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: Go See It!