The Other Side of Animation 233 – The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf Review

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


Heads up: I was able to watch this 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.

When a ton of different kinds of similar films come out in one year, you want to stand out and be able to stay on your own two feet against the competition. There is nothing worse than being the film that you reference in a negative way when you are comparing it to the film that may be similar but is the better option. This happens from time to time with certain years in animation. Why should anyone choose the subjectively weaker option, when you have something subjectively better offered to you? In this case, this year we have two different action fantasy films that take place in their respective franchises. You have the famous Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is the sequel film to the first season of the shonen action franchise, and now we have the prequel film to the Netflix live-action series, The Witcher with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 


Directed by Kwang ll Han, written by Beau DeMayo, based on the book series by Andrej Sapkowski, and produced by the legendary Studio Mir, this is a prequel story that takes place decades ago before our lovely Geralt takes the mantle as the main character. So, what do we get instead of a story following a baby Geralt? Well, you should heighten your senses and get your silver sword ready for what I’m about to review. 

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Our main hero for this story is Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, an infamous swashbuckling Witcher and future mentor to the franchise’s main character Geralt. Vesemir is going about his days as a monster slayer, who is hated among monsters and humans alike. I mean, technically, no one likes Witchers and there has been tension among his kind due to the growing tension between humans, the dwindling number of monsters, and their futures. During one night, Vesemir encounters a truly unique version of a monster known as a Leshen, and that sets him off on his journey to find out exactly what is going on, who is behind these weird new experiments, and will he and his kind be able to survive?

So, with this being a prequel story to the main events of the TV series, how does it handle the overall story of Geralt’s mentor and his days as a younger Witcher? I think one decision that was well executed was the fact that you can pretty much sit down with this film and not have seen the live-action show or played the games, and get an understanding as to what the story is about, and the dark fantasy world in which they live. It has a sort of typical fantasy thriller experience, and you can understand who was behind what exactly, before the twists are revealed, but because the dialogue was this great mix of camp and charm, and the overall story is morally grey, it makes for a fun romp to experience. The world of The Witcher is dark, morally grey, and unforgiving. While I call Vesemir the hero of our story, he has some skeletons in his closet that make him a flawed hero. Like I said though, you are easily roped into the story as you do see the complexity of this world’s politics. What you find out about the origins of the Witchers isn’t great, but you can see their perspective in how one becomes a Witcher and how they try to survive in a world full of discrimination and hatred, and how that can corrupt anyone. Now, with all that said, the film knows it’s an action flick, and Vesemir, while having his serious and dry moments, is mouthy. He has some very action movie one-liners and is cocky, but in a fun way. He also has a sincere heart for himself and for the people he cares about. It results in a film full of some mild cynicism, but a lot of heart. It might have a script that can be a bit blunt at times with its commentary, but it never bothered me, and with some lessons and themes, it’s good to be blunt about certain things. Now, if you are wondering if you will ever see Geralt, you will, but don’t expect to see him in any real meaningful way. This is Vesemir’s story, and he’s a fun lead character. It’s one of the few prequel stories where I feel like it tells a good story that never made me think about “well, why should I care about anyone here since it’s a prequel?”. Anytime a prequel can make me say that, they are on my good side. 

Now, for the presentation, this is Studio Mir, and while the overall animation looks like a better-budgeted Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, it looks great. There is a reason why Studio Mir is a highly sought-after studio for action shows and why so many studios try to copy their direction in crafting visuals and action. There is a lot of slick action choreography and camera work to make this some of the best action seen this year. It’s a film with a ton of satisfying action and gore on screen that makes for a visceral, but fun romp! Since this is a film based on the Witcher series, you should also expect some pretty good music as well! It’s composed by Brian D’Oliveira who was a composer on games such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Journey to the Savage Planet, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Tearaway, and Papo & Yo. He brings this mix of European folk with some middle-eastern sounding tunes. The voice cast is also pretty good. You have Theo James as our lead character, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell, Tom Canton, David Errigo Jr., and Matt Yang King, to name a few of the actors seen in the film. The cast feels like they would fit right into either the live-action series or the third game. 

While I love this film overall, I do have some minor gripes. Tetra, while being a sinister villain, is not all that interesting. They fill the void with some literal last-minute backstory that connects her to an incident told offhand about the conniving nature of the Witchers. It’s not handled the best. The side characters also don’t leave an impression. You tend to forget their names, and they seem to be there to either fill out more of the world or to get killed. I think I would have liked to have seen them get fleshed out more. Maybe it’s because of the length of the film itself, but I would have loved this film to be two hours so you can give more time for the side characters to be expanded upon and to add more action. 

Even with the minor gripes, whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a good fantasy action film that I think fans and newcomers can easily jump into with ease. Now, do I Like this more than Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? I think in some ways, Nightmare of the Wolf is better, but only because Mugen Train requires you to watch the first season to get the full enjoyment of the film. You don’t need to watch the Netflix Witcher series to enjoy Nightmare of the Wolf. Still, I”m happy to have so many action animated features this year, and I’ll be happy to see so many get made. Now then, I think it’s time to talk about a film that I meant to review a few months back, but, well, I wasn’t able to for one reason or another. It’s time we take a look at the Funimation exclusive The Stranger by the Shore

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 232: Cryptozoo Review

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


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

PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is some nudity throughout the film. This film is not for kids and more for older teens to young adults and above. The viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

Back in 2017, for what felt like half a year, Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea was my favorite animated film of that year. 2017 was a rather middling year for animation since it seemed like all of the best films were saved for 2016 and 2018. It didn’t have many standout films until the latter half of the year, and that was when I felt like the year finally had some competition. To me, if I like or hate your movie, I want to at least feel like I’m getting something different or distinct, and not just be some bog-standard film that was made for the sake of making something. When you are someone like Dash Shaw, well, you are bound to leave an impression with his vibrant visuals and distinct writing. That’s why I was super pumped about the fact he had a new movie coming out, and was in pain that I wasn’t able to check it out during Sundance and Annecy, but luckily, I got a screener and am able to check it out now! This review will be about Dash’s new movie, Cryptozoo. 

 

Like I said above, this film was written and directed by Dash Shaw. It had its world premiere at Sundance back in January 2021 winning the festival’s Innovator award, competed in the Contrechampe section at Annecy, and will be distributed in the states by Magnolia Pictures. So, with Dash bringing us another abstract and wild experience, what do I think of this new surreal trip? Does its busy visuals drag down the film or do I gel with it like peanut butter and jelly? Let’s take a look and a visit to Cryptozoo

The story takes place in a world where cryptids exist alongside humans. Our main character is Lauren Grey, voiced by Lake Bell. She has made it her life’s goal to find, capture, and protect cryptids in a zoo/animal sanctuary-like environment after encountering one at a young age. Along with a rich widow named Joan, voiced by Grace Zabriskie, she is assisted by a medusa named Phoebe, voiced by Angeliki Papoulia, and is on a quest to find a mystical creature/cryptid called a Baku, an entity that is known for eating dreams both good and bad. They have to get it before it falls into the grasp of the military and a ruthless individual named Nicholas, voiced by Thomas Jay Ryan. Can they get the Baku before it’s too late? 

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So, let’s start with the obvious, the animation is bonkers. While it might flow and feel like papercraft with very stiff and limiting animation, you can tell this was an artistic decision and not a budget or limitation. Again, just because it’s not made by Disney or had the budget of a Pixar film, doesn’t mean animated films on smaller budgets or teams look worse. There is such a thing as art direction. It reminds me of a lot of those papercraft animated features from Russia, but done with more modern tech, and is combined with some proper 2D animation to give this film an extremely wild visual flair. You can not say this film looks like any other animated film out there. It looks like a bunch of clipart and detailed cutouts. It’s a trippy film as well, using a ton of psychedelic visuals to express different story beats and a mood that I can only compare to films like Foam Bath from 1979. The voice cast brings a more grounded vibe to film than the more comedic Sinking into the Sea. It helps that you have a pretty good cast with Lake Bell, Micheal Cera, Angeliki Papoulia, Zoe Kazan, Grace Zabriskie, Peter Stormare, Louisa Krause, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Alex Karpovsky.

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However, we have seen features with amazing animation fall flat under the story and writing department. It’s not uncommon to find films that do so. Luckily, while the visuals may be a bit much for the eyes at points, the story is substantial enough to keep you invested. It has an indie feel as we see the commentary about how our protagonists and antagonist plan to use the cryptids for their use. Sure, Lake Bell’s character might be doing the right thing by wanting to help protect and save the cryptids, but the film and script want you to see it from a different point of view with the zoo/sanctuary setting. To be clear, it’s not saying both sides are equally bad. The villain is obviously in the wrong with how they obtain cryptids by force or through the blackmarket dealings. It’s more that it’s painting it all in a morally grey way rather than trying to fence-sit on the topic at hand. You can pull a lot from how the cryptids are represented here in the film, and I’m glad the film decided to have an ambitious tone to its experience. Yes, some stories do and should need very straightforward stories, but when you get to mix it up a little via something that’s not so clear cut, then you can have a more distinct journey. You still have to be careful, but I felt like Dash Shaw did a good job portraying the two sides of humanity and the cryptid situation. 

While the visuals may be a touch overload at times, and the dialogue is calm and beefy, Cryptozoo is unlike any other animated film out in 2021. It might not be my favorite, and its major award season chances are probably going to be in the lower bracket of getting nominated, but I think it deserves a chance. It will be out on demand and will have a small theatrical release on August 20th, and I think everyone should check it out! If you are looking for something distinct, then you will be delighted to know that this film is truly worthy of the word unique. Now then, we will be hopping back over to Netflix, and will be checking out the new Netflix action fantasy film The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 



Rating Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 229: Centaurworld Review

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


Heads up: I was able to watch this 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.

I previously talked about this in my Snotty Boy review, but animation is such a beautiful medium of storytelling. With passion, talent, time, and the right team at hand, one can make a unique and distinct experience that you can’t find with something in live-action. There’s always something to be said when a usually cartoony property is given the live-action treatment, and how much more critical fans and critics are of said live-action adaptations. Why would you limit yourself with live-action when you can do pretty much everything within the world of animation? Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I’m reviewing a new show that would be nigh impossible to translate into live-action. The new series on Netflix, Centaurworld. 


Created by Megan Nichole Dong, Centaurworld is yet another creative and unusual animated series for the notorious streaming service that you probably wouldn’t have seen on TV. So, what do I think about this fairly offbeat adventure with a bunch of quirky centaurs that is filled to the brim with musical numbers and a slew of my favorite character actors? Read on to find out! 

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Our story revolves around Horse, voiced by Kimiko Glenn. In her world, she is with her human companion, Rider, voiced by Jessie Mueller riding across the war-torn wasteland with a magical object that could help them out. Unfortunately, Horse and Rider get separated, and Horse ends up getting warped to a brand new world with the magical item. Horse has now found herself in the most magical place of all, Centaurworld! While there, she encounters a delightful cast of characters including a giraffetaur named Durpleton, voiced by Josh Radnor, Zulius a Zebrataur voiced by Parvesh Cheena, a kleptomaniac gerenuk-like taur named Glendale, voiced by Megan Nicole Dong, a birdtaur named Ched voiced by Chris Diamontopoulos, and a llamataur named Wammawink voiced by Megan Hilty. Can Horse and her new herd of friends find the rest of the pieces of the artifact and get her home and avoid someone called The Nowhere King? 

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So, we are about a good decade or so past the premiere of shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and Steven Universe. These types of shows have brought into the animation and TV world adorable worlds with a very offbeat tone and edge that will spill out into something that kids can still enjoy, but are there for the adults as well. It might be made for “kids”, but you catch more fish with bait, if you know what I mean. So, since on the outside, it looks like a lot of other shows, how does this show differentiate itself from other ones? Well, let’s start with its visual look. It’s a gorgeous show with a cartoony look, with fun and expressive designs that take advantage of its setting and the creatures you encounter in this quirky world of half-man and half-animal creatures. One of my favorite little details is the centaur bird character played by Chris Diamantopoulos, who’s human half is the upper torso so he has to keep flapping with his human arms. The designs are all very creative and aren’t just straight-up half human half horse individuals. Like, if the basic definition is half human half animal, then why not go all out with how they look? That’s the beauty of animation, because with all of the different designs, they all mesh well together. If they tried to do these in realistic CGI, they would not work at all. Even our main character Horse has a bunch of fun little animation tricks on her that give her so much character despite how she was probably tough to animate. Yeah, I know some people have talked about the weird design contrast with Horse being wildly different than the other characters, but when you see the story unfold, it’s this brilliant bit of commentary and storytelling about Horse herself, and at the end of the day, the design difference never bothered me. I’m being vague because I find Horse’s arc to be fascinating, and creative with how her arc unfolds. I have also heard some people argue that the show’s visuals are aiming for more of a “let’s make meme-worthy looks” approach, but while that may be the case, it’s not as distracting as some other shows and films like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Powerpuff Girls 2016. 

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Speaking of arcs and story stuff, the story itself seems like it’s going to be a goofier take on what would almost sound like a cartoon from the 80s. Like HBO Max/Cartoon Network’s The Fungies, it almost has a vibe of those shows. However, once you start binging the series, Centaurworld does reveal that it has a lot of baggage with its characters. This is a show that anyone can watch, but the topics and themes are very much adult. You can look at me and not believe me, but the show does tackle themes of abandonment, dealing with trauma, depression, self-esteem, love, trust, loss, and while the show will get goofy at one point or another through a lot of the episodes, the story beats themselves will ease you into the obvious baggage these characters have. It’s a clever way to approach these topics, and you can see how they weave it through the episodes. It might look and feel like a more polished 80s show, but it’s got the edge of a more modern cartoon that you just love to see. It’s able to be story-driven, but still takes its time with getting to the destination. This is why I love modern animation. Could you imagine people pitching this show back in the 70s and 80s? You would never get this far without some very heavy amounts of studio interference. Netflix might not be perfect, and I have plenty of issues with them as a company, but the fact they are letting creators do any kind of show they want is impressive. It’s not based on some pre-existing property or a spin-off of a popular show. Plus, the voice cast is amazing. On top of having a bucket list of guest stars, the main cast is one of my favorites of the season. You have Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Parvesh Cheena, Josh Radnor, Jessie Mueller, and Chris Diamantopoulos. Now I will say that it is a bit weird to see a POC character voiced by a white actress, and while she does a great job as Rider, I would be lying if I didn’t find the casting a tiny bit distracting since we had the constant recasting controversies last year. Everyone is distinct and they bring in a lot of fantastic energy to their performances. For me, while the comedy in the show might be hit and miss with some viewers, they mostly landed at a rate of 95%, and the song sequences are a delight at every point. Seriously, this show is so much fun to watch if you are a fan of musicals. 

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Centaurworld is another slam dunk TV series for 2021 and Netflix. It’s everything I look for in a show, and I was grabbed by the premise alone. I think it was creative and smart that Netflix got a bunch of super talented individuals and asked them to make their dream projects that you would have a hard time pitching in more traditional settings like on a TV channel. I hope they keep this up because this is how we get more great shows and stories. It might be goofy, but it mixes its darker elements and musical moments so well. The show might be a bit much at first, but keep watching it, and I’ll be patiently waiting for a second and third season if that happens. Seriously Netflix, make sure Megan Nicole Dong gets to complete this show! Next time, I will be talking about the third Sony Pictures Animation film this year with Vivo

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 228: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Review

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

It would be an understatement that Japanese animation loves to revolve stories around teenagers. Teenagers seem to be the core age range for so many animated films from Japan, and while I understand the want for older characters, I get it. Teenage years are the end of your childhood and right before your adulthood begins. A lot of interesting coming-of-age stories can be told in a variety of different experiences. For example, with the newest animated feature that Netflix picked up, we have a coming-of-age teen romance that not only has a unique visual look, but also has an adoring theme about how art connects us. Let’s talk about Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop


Directed by Kyohei Ishiguro, and produced by Signal MD, the same studio that made 2017’s  Napping Princess, it was originally supposed to come out last year, but due to that one thing that caused 99.9% of all films to get delayed, it didn’t come out until July 22nd and was released by Netflix onto their service in the US. Unfortunately, like most Netflix exclusive films and shows, it has been buried under everything coming out onto the service, and I’m going to make sure you see this film. 

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The story revolves around a young boy named Cherry, dubbed by Ivan Mok, who interacts via haikus, and a young girl named Smile, dubbed by Kim Wong, who hides her smile and braces behind a mask. After running into one another at the mall and accidentally picking each other’s phones up, their summer changes their lives forever. This includes helping an old man find his long-lost record, and Cherry and Smile dealing with their individual friends and family. 

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I think let’s talk about the outright beautiful animation shown on-screen first. This flat bright color palette reminds me of the bombastic visuals seen in anime like The Great Pretender, where they take realistic photos and then paint over them in this very vibrant pop-art look. The character movements for the most part are weighty and realistic, but when the time comes for it, the characters move like individuals seen in something by the likes of Science Saru or Trigger. They bring such a rough, but readable and lively look to everyone, that it makes the film itself stand out from other Japanese animated films that have come out this year or will be coming out in the future. It’s an animated film with its distinct vibe and feel, and while it may only be about 90 minutes in length, it has a low-fi charming pace to the overall look and atmosphere of the story being told to us. 

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In terms of the story, it’s a smaller-scale experience with it mostly focusing on the love story between our two leads, but due to great writing, identifiable and likable characters, it’s nice to see something smaller-scale. Not every animated film needs to be about the literal ending of the world. Their relationship, and the fact that it grows strong even though there is the possibility of it ending is catastrophic enough. I know I’m defending what would normally amount to melodramatic teen problems in real life or normal mediocre teen dramas, but it’s always in the execution that you make the teen drama interesting. You want to root for Cherry to be able to speak in front of people. You want Smile to be able to not be ashamed of her buck teeth and braces. You want to see them get the record back. It’s compelling and epic in scale in its small way. Sure, some of the characters are a little one-note, but you do recognize them and they are kept consistently entertaining and relatable. It’s a film about how art connects us, and it’s a constant theme throughout the entire film as we see poetry, art, and music give everyone connections to one another and how we move through the world around us. It also helps that we have a fantastic dub cast that includes Ivan Mok, Kim Wong, Sam Lavagnino, Marcus Toji, Ratana, Ping Wu, Yuuki Luna, Victoria Grace, Kim Mai Guest, and Andrew Kishino. It also helps that there is an incredible composer as well. You’ve got Kensuke Ushio, who composed music for A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Birds, Ping Pong, Japan Sinks 2020, and Devilman Crybaby. The music overall is fantastic and the main song that plays in the final act and in the credits is beautiful. I’ll look up the songs and download them if I can get my hands on them. 

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Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a delightful, low-fi, and really sweet animated feature. It executes its story and characters with grace and respect to the viewers, and tells an endearing and wholesome story through its music and visuals. It’s on Netflix right now, and I highly recommend everyone check it out! I can’t wait to see what this director does next since he’s attached to that upcoming samurai-themed Bright film. For now, I will talk about a truly excellent Netflix series that you will not want to miss out on!


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 225: America The Motion Picture Review

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

We seem to live in a world where many people seem to think film criticism is black and white. A film is either good or bad, and, well, that’s limiting to the world of art and film. Criticism should be more of a gradient. No one is ever like “yeah, I like and hate everything”. You all have films you love, like, think are good, okay, mediocre, bad, the worst, and you get the idea. Sometimes ya love a film because it’s uneven or maybe you hate it for the same reason. This is how I feel about Netflix’s newest adult animated film with Matt Thompson’s America: The Motion Picture. 


Written by Dave Callaham, directed by Matt Thompson, produced by Channing Tatum, Adam Reed, Matt Thompson, Will Allegra, Peter Kiernan, Reid Carolin, Eric Sims, and Christopher Miller, and Phil Lord, this 2D animated feature was produced by Floyd County Productions, Free Association, and Netflix Animation. This is their newest attempt to reign over the animation scene with a film that you wouldn’t see in the theaters or on TV. Well, what do I think of this absurd take on American history that sounds like it was a film made by Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 for a history report? 

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Our story revolves around George Washington, voiced by Channing Tatum. He lives in an alternate history where he was alive at the same time as Abe Lincoln and many other important and pseudo-important historical icons. As he is enjoying a show with his best pal Abe, it is interrupted by Benedict Arnold, voiced by Andy Samberg. Arnold pulls a, well, Benedict Arnold and has not only interrupted the signing of the Declaration of Independence but also killed Abe Lincoln in his plan to take over the United States for King James, voiced by Simon Pegg. George decides to rise against the evil tyrants and finds a team of individuals to take down the British. These include Sam Adams, voiced by Jason Mantzoukas, Thomas Edison, voiced by Olivia Munn, Paul Revere, voiced by Bobby Moynihan, Geronimo, voiced by Raoul Trujillo, and Blacksmith, voiced by Killer Mike. Can our rebellious group of rabble-rousers save the soon-to-be-titled United States of America? 

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Listen, when the trailer for this film came out, it’s understandable that the reception to it and its wildly free take on American history would be polarizing. When you make commentary about politics, you have to, well, take small careful steps. However, after finally watching this film, it’s not meant to be taken seriously as a political comedy. Don’t come into this thinking you are going to get a Death of Stalin. Like I said above, I joked, but this does come off like a history report made by Jake Peralta, which is fitting since Andy Samberg is in this film. It has some commentary and I’ll have some thoughts about that, but it’s meant to be this cracked-out take on history that reads more like a pulp action story. It’s a fast-paced action comedy that takes full advantage of its nonsensical period of history, as it keeps you moving to each quirky setup, punchline, and action beat. It has some themes about working together to take down hate and to support stuff like science, but you will be here to enjoy the high-octane action and absurd characterizations of historical figures. The action is creative, violent, and has some of the better laughs in the overall film. It also helps that the cast is delightful and how they all bounce off of one another. It’s not perfect character dynamics, but some of the angles they take with the leads are delightful. 

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Animation-wise, it’s a bigger budgeted production of Archer, I think it looks better than Archer due to how much more movement and polish the character models are given. It helps that the film has a more comic book cartoony look that makes it stand out from Archer. They move fluidly, and they do have dynamic movements and much more expressive facial animation than the studio’s usual work. Hopefully, the studio that animated this film Floyd County Productions unionizes because animators should have better working conditions, but the team that worked on the film’s visual look did a fantastic job. I also enjoyed the voice cast. Channing Tatum, Will Forte, Jason Mantouzkas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Raoul Trujillo, Killer Mike, Simon Pegg, and Andy Samberg put in some fantastic performances. It comes off like everyone had a ton of fun acting in this film since it’s not a traditional project for these individuals. The music by Mark Mothersbaugh is fun, but I wouldn’t call it his best work. It helps fit the tone and the mood, but outside of the mix of rock and hip hop thrown into the story, I don’t remember much. 

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I wish the music was the only thing I had criticism about this film. Like most comedies, I found some of the jokes to be hit and miss. It’s more of a dumb popcorn flick than a groundbreaking political comedy. The political jokes that are there are familiar and nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s like this movie wanted to be a pulpy schlocky action flick, but then also had to deal with the question of people overthinking this film with how it was going to handle its political themes. To me, it’s very basic in its views. It’s pro-science, anti-racism, and the ending is fairly funny and cynical in a realistic way of how America turned out in the end. To be clear, it doesn’t love or support the far right. Even the POC characters are constantly calling out George or Sam Adams on their shenanigans and insults. However, I don’t think it balances out its cynical political comedy and the violent pulp action elements very well. I wouldn’t call it the sharpest comedy or action film that Lord and Miller have helped produce. A good handful of the main characters are also not that interesting. Some of them are more fleshed out than others. It’s also a bummer that Blacksmith sits out for a major chunk of the second act alongside Geronimo, but I am happy that the two have some of the best lines and the best moments in the final battle. America: The Motion Picture is also very macho-driven. Outside of Olivia Munn’s Edison, the female characters do not get as much support and love as the male characters. 





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While it is extremely uneven in its execution, I enjoyed it. I can also understand if other critics and animation/film fans do not tolerate this one. It’s, at the very least, an interesting film to come out and doesn’t feel as boring and boilerplate as Spirit Untamed. If you are in the mood for something a bit different than the usual family-focused animated films out right now, then give it a watch. I’m glad something like this exists even if it’s not perfect, because more distinct animated films deserve to be made and either succeed or fail. If you want more diversity in what stories are told, then you need to support the ones trying to stand out. For now, though, let’s travel to Germany as the next film I will be reviewing is Snotty Boy.

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 223: Lamya’s Poem Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 222: Trese Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Rating: Go See It! 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 3

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

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

18 Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves 

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



17 Superman: Man of Tomorrow 

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





16 No. 7 Cherry Lane 

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





15 Animal Crackers 

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







14 Trolls: World Tour 

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






13 SHe

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





12 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

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




11 The Nose 

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

Spring 2021 Anime Season Impressions Part 2

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


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



Drama



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

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




86 (Crunchyroll) 

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





Tokyo Revengers (Crunchyroll) 

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






Those Snow White Notes (Crunchyroll) 

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

Action/adventure

Combatants Will Be Dispatched (Funimation) 

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



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

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


Cestvs: Roman Fighter (Crunchyroll) 

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





The World Ends With You: The Animation (Funimation) 

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




Mars RED (Funimation) 

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


Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood (Crunchyroll) 

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





To Your Eternity (Crunchyroll) 

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






Romance/Comedy



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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

The Other Side of Animation 219: Yasuke Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Rating Go See it!