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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Rent it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Essential

My Favorite Animated Films from 2021

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

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



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



10. Fortune Favors Lady Nikkuko

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

9. Poupelle of Chimney Town

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

8. Calamity

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

7. The Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily 

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

6. Words That Bubble Up Like Soda Pop

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

5. Encanto

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

4. The Summit of the Gods

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

3. Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish

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

2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

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

1. Belle

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

The Other Side of Animation 281: One Piece Film Red 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!)

Just like how we have finally started to talk about Dragonball, we are now finally jumping into one of Japan’s longest-running, and most successful franchises, One Piece. Unlike Dragonball, One Piece has had a fraught story of coming over to the US. On one hand, you had the infamous butchering and hatchet work 4KIDS did to the series despite giving us a fantastic US-made rap song, and then the franchise has struggled to find more footing to get in the spotlight of the busy US anime market. Not that it isn’t successful, but it makes you wonder what would have happened if One Piece had come out around the same time as Dragonball, and not gotten royally butchered, how much stronger One Piece’s US fandom would be? It’s big, since with a franchise that is considered one of if not the top-selling franchise in the manga and anime industry, it’s gonna have a footprint. What’s been a huge bummer though is that while Dragonball and Pokemon have had their films and specials brought over, One Piece hasn’t been given that treatment. Whether it’s because of the botched first US rollout or the typical rights issues, a mass majority of One Piece’s film catalog has been closed off from US fans. Sure, you could go the way of the pirate and search the high seas for fansubbed versions, but you would think by how big the franchise is, Crunchyroll or even Discotek would have brought the films over here. They have been pushing out the more recent films, but accessibility to everything the franchise has to offer would be nice. It has some films that were even directed by famous anime directors like Mamoru Hosoda. Well, at least we are getting the newer films and they are making bank with the newest film in the series, One Piece Film: Red

The newest adventure is directed by Goro Taniguchi, written by Tsutomu Kuroiwa, and animated by Toei. We are once again following our favorite pirate crew, The Straw Hat Pirates, as we see them stopping by Elegia, an island where a massive concert is happening that has the famous idol/performer named Uta, voiced by Amanda Lee. What happens after a real banger of a first musical number, is that some pirates happen to show up to capture Uta that include some members of the Big Mom Pirates. After revealing that Uta has the power of the sing sing fruit that lets her pull off some amazing powers, Luffy, the leader of the Straw Hat Pirates, dubbed by Colleen Clinkenbeard also reveals that he knows Uta. It’s revealed that Uta and Luffy used to be childhood friends due to Uta being the daughter of Shanks, the infamous leader of the Red Hair Pirates. However, the reunion doesn’t last long as Uta starts to use her powers to bend the entire world’s people to her whim and essentially take all of their souls with her to be in a world that’s nothing but peace and joy. Can Luffy and the gang stop her? 

The major appeal of this film is Uta, who is one of the best villains that the franchise has had. Most of the time, villains can come off as unimpressive, depending on when the film’s timeline takes place, as to who’s on Luffy’s crew. Some leave more of an impression than others. On top of a fantastic design, Uta is lively, being an idol in a world of pirates results in some extremely creative world-building of how she becomes an idol/influencer, and the sing sing fruit leads to really cool visuals and powers. While she definitely lands in the realm of “wants to cause the loss of millions of lives because her viewpoint makes her think the plan is in the right”, the additional details of her backstory make her compelling. Giving her a connection to Luffy and being the daughter of Shanks makes her way more complex than just being just another pirate or another disgraced Navy general. The universe of this anime is chock full of memorable villains, and the tragedy of her backstory makes her one of the best villains in the franchise’s history, and that’s saying something due to when this film’s plot may or may not take place in the main storyline. The emotional core that drives the story is between the friendship and clash of ideals between Luffy and Uta, the themes of strained friendships, and how Uta dealt with abandonment and her hatred for pirates. Granted, if you are expecting the Red Hair Pirates to be a major part of the story, well, yes they are, as they show up a couple of times during the first half of the film, but they mostly play important screen roles in the second half of the film. It’s weird how they marketed their appearance when they don’t come into the story properly until much later.

A lot of the runtime is spent on building up Uta and the island’s backstory. There is only one other major player in Uta’s past, but he and a lot of the characters get the bare minimum, which is a shame due to how likable and interesting the characters are. The main Straw Hat crew members get sidelined and are pretty much there to make sure Luffy and Uta are okay. They go around exploring the exact thing up with the world, and find out how and why Uta has all of this immense power. When the navy and the government of the world are put at a standstill, then you know the story has some major stakes. Even if the navy and the government are still portrayed as the major villains as the plot rolls on through. The characters that are from previous story arcs do show up to deliver a splendid addition to the formula, even if some of them only have at best two scenes. Still, this definitely feels like a more cohesive and thrilling story than most franchise films that feel like padded-out filler arcs. 

The animation is definitely stellar. While it might look like a fancier version of the show, the franchise’s iconic visual style looks great no matter if you are watching it on the big or small screen. You will never mistake One Piece for any other anime on the market, and as usual, every new film gives the Straw Hat pirates some snazzy new duds and the action set pieces are bombastic even if it gets chaotic on screen. Luckily, the mix of 2D and CGI is handled well and the CGI when used is expressive as it helps that the franchise art style is just bursting at the seams with personality. Even with the addition of influencers and idols into the world of pirates, they still find a way for them to fit and make sense. The voice cast is, as usual, stellar with the returning cast of Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brandon Potter, Christopher Sabat, Luci Christian, Sonny Strait, Eric Vale, Brina Palencia, Stephanie Young, Patrick Seitz, Ian Sinclair, and Daniel Baugh always a delight as the Straw Hats, and Amanda Lee gets all of the points to balance out the happiness, the unhinged, sadness, anger, and every emotion under the rainbow. Doesn’t hurt either that the singing voice for Uta is Ado, and holy cow the musical sequences become the best parts of the overall movie. Each song is different from the last, and they all have individually unique arrangements. They truly are, as the film describes Uta’s music as, “otherworldly”. Something about each song pulls you in and it will not let you go. You have your more pop numbers, but there’s also rock and a sort of metal tune as well. Not to say the rest of the soundtrack suffers compared to the amazing tunes, because Yasutaka Nakata’s ambient tunes aren’t overshadowed, but when the main villain is a pop idol, ya give them the attention. 




As usual with these films, there are some flaws. Since the films from this franchise don’t follow the show’s continuity, it’s hard to feel invested at points with some major lore and story beats dropped into this fantastical world that should be super important. They even make some of the elements pseudo-canon in the manga, but trying to find out where this film exactly takes place in the show’s timeline is confusing due to how certain characters show up who really shouldn’t be there. What’s worse is that due to how long this franchise has been going, the crew is going to get bigger and bigger as time goes on, so having these adventures still not in canon with the main timeline is maddening at this point. You can easily find time to fit everything in and it’s not like One Piece’s lore is flimsy, because it’s a complex world filled with political backgrounds of a variety of types and upbringings. It also pads out its time a bit too much as it feels unfocused at times with everyone either finding out what exactly Uta is going to use to make her plans come true or twiddling their thumbs because Uta has control of the situation. It moves at a decent enough pace, but with how many characters there are, some get way more attention than others. There is a reason why most shonen franchise films give the antagonist a big enough team so everyone on the protagonists all have someone to fight. 



While a bit bloated in the runtime and suffering from the usual shonen franchise films, One Piece Film Red shows why people love the world of One Piece, and its box office success shows how much people want to see more anime in theaters. I don’t know how many more times the execs need to hear that, but it’s good to see the trend continue of animated films from Japan mostly doing well in theaters. I wish the same people making these franchise films hits in the states would go and see other non-franchise films from Japan or around the world, but that’s an argument for another time. Also, here’s hoping in the future that all the money that these franchise films are making goes to the translators, animators in Japan, scriptwriters, and voice actors that actually deserve more of the praise for bringing these films to life and to other areas of the world and not just the execs. If you love One Piece, you will probably enjoy this film, and it’s always good to support foreign cinema no matter where it pops up. The world of film and animation is diverse, and we could all use something different every once in a while. Next time, we will be talking about Nora Twomey’s newest Cartoon Saloon feature with My Father’s Dragon. 

Rating: Go see it! 

The Other Side of Animation 280: Aurora’s Sunrise 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!)

Content Warning: There will be scenes of real life dead bodies, graphic violence, and assault

Do you know what has been a cool thing to happen with animation recently? How it was able to help bring back what was lost media and give it new life, or how it’s able to tell a different kind of story, like following the life of someone with a very rich history. If animation “fans” want to say they support new and distinct ways of telling stories through the medium, then that means you need to support and watch stuff like today’s review of Aurora’s Sunrise, which has been making its festival runs through some major places like Annecy and Animation is Film, where it took home the audience award over films like Titina, My Father’s Dragon, Little Nicholas, and Wendell & Wild. Seeing audiences for this festival choosing something so different was definitely a surprise. Then again, it was one of the few sold-out screenings at the festival. So, what is the film all about? 

Directed by Inna Sahakyan, this documentary animated feature follows the story of Arshaluys Mardiganian aka Aurora Mardiganian, her experience of surviving a multitude of horrors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and her journey to America to tell her story, only to have to deal with a different kind of horror of dealing with Hollywood execs. It’s a combination of live-action footage of people interviewing Arshaluys, some actual found footage of the Auction of Souls film that was said to be lost to time, and animation that looks like it uses something akin to puppet or motion tween rigs to tell the majority of the story. It won’t be an easy sit, as the story of Arshaluys is a tragic one of losing her entire family, being sold into slavery, and escaping the horrors for a small moment in time, but only to find herself with another set of challenges. That’s even before arriving in America and dealing with an entirely different set of abuse and challenges. It’s a tough watch, but it’s fascinating to observe how she strived and survived, even when she was in Hollywood, where they censored or changed what actually happened to her. She wanted to help tell the story of what was going on, but they weren’t willing to share all of the details and so changed them for an American audience to consume. There was even one point where I don’t even know how it wouldn’t make your blood boil. Even if it ended on a positive note of change making the world better for individuals affected by genocide and horrible events, what happened to her by people she trusted will make you despise the darkness in some people’s heart. It’s all interesting and eye-opening stuff to what was going on during that point in history, but you can definitely tell this was directed by someone who has mostly worked on documentaries. The story and plot play out in a very narrative-driven way of telling the details, and while they do have actors who portray young Arshaluys and so on, if you have seen any documentaries, you know how they don’t really follow a 3-act structure or a traditional film narrative. They mostly use the runtime to fill up the details of what exactly was going on. It can be a bit tough to sit through all of the details and history notes, but it’s really more so in the pacing due to how this film is 90 minutes long. It wants to be very atmospheric to let you soak up the mood of the sequences and the quiet moments, but it can feel a bit slow. Still, it’s more the fact this is such a harrowing and depressing story of Arhslauys’ history and the genocide that was happening. It just has trouble at times working as both a documentary and as a film. 




The animation does look good. The only times where it was a touch distracting was any time they used motion blurs to mimic fast movements. It looked a bit clunky, but the visuals themselves look fantastic. The painted look of everything gives the film a distinct visual flair that matches the tone of the story, and while they are definitely using plenty of tricks and work-arounds to make it look good to keep you captivated by the story being told, they definitely help show you the horrors that unfold. They show the beauty and darkness of history and the journey one person took to tell her story. The acting was a mixed bag, though to be honest, it’s mostly in terms of when anyone speaks English in the film. When they have American individuals, the acting sounds flat. At least, that is what it sounds like. You can tell the focus was more on telling the story than having compelling performances. 



While maybe not a recurring rewatchable kind of animated feature that some are, Aurora’s Sunrise is one of those animated features that focuses more on the documentary side of things rather than telling a story in a more filmlike way. Seeing more mature stories being told in animation means getting films like this. It’s important to see stories like this one told because it’s our world’s history, and to see a piece of filmmaking history get partly restored and preserved is something to treasure. You can not deny or ignore when such world-changing events and stories happen. It’s a shame that there are already some stories and films that are lost to time. Hopefully, Aurora’s Sunrise gets some proper US release/distribution, because films that are interesting to talk about are worthy of being remembered. We all need to remember the history of our world, whether it’s the darkest of times or the sunrise that shows us the beauty of our world. Definitely give this one a watch if you find it at a festival (it’s playing at the Asian World Film Festival nov 10th and 14th, IDFA, and Tallinn Black Nights) or when it becomes available to rent or own via a physical release or a digital one. Now then, next time, we will talk about something a bit lighter in tone, but remember, animation is a medium of storytelling and art. Animation is film, and animation can tell stories like Aurora’s Sunrise.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 277: Entergalactic 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!)

In 2022 alone, we have seen what animation can do. We have shows that push the boundaries of what can be defined as adult animation,  films based on TV shows elevate themselves out of the trappings that they could have been stuck with, and you get the idea. Animation is such a unique experience to tell art, and sadly, the entire industry is doing everything in its power to dismiss it as a whole. With whatever Warner Bros. Discovery and especially Netflix are doing with canceling half a dozen projects and removing them off the face of the earth, this medium of storytelling needs to keep pushing back against the higher-ups that don’t understand art or the art that actually moves people. Netflix especially was the streaming service to be on if you wanted to see creative animated projects. It might still be making some, but its “blank check” days are over, and it makes you wonder what couldn’t have been made now that was greenlit almost over a decade ago. Would they have greenlit Del Toro’s Pinocchio? What about City of Ghosts? Centaurworld? The Sea Beast? Wendell and Wild? Maya and the Three? Would they have greenlit today’s review of the multi-media experience of Scott Mescudi’s Entergalactic? Because if the answer is no, then that is damning evidence of what these “creative” higher-ups think about stuff like Entergalactic

Executively produced by Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) and Kenya Barris, this TV Special is directed by Fletcher Moules and animated by DNEG Animation. It follows a blossoming comic artist named Jabari, voiced by Scott Mescudi himself. He has finally gained a dream job of adapting his ideas for a comic book company. However, just as he is celebrating his victory and living in a bachelor pad while hanging with his two friends Jimmy and Ky, voiced by Timothee Chalamet and Tyrone Griffin Jr., he encounters two women. The first one is his ex whom he broke up with five to six months ago named Carmen, voiced by Laura Harrier, who he has a one-night fling with, but also, he encounters his neighbor, named Meadow, voiced by Jessica Williams. Can Jabari maneuver through his new life and find ways to balance everything out, and does that balancing act include a potential new romance? 

So, when you think of Scott Mescudi and the vibrant world of animation, alongside the fact this film is also cross-promoting his new album of the same name, you think there would be some kind of disaster like what The Carpenters did back in the day with their album Passage that also had a TV special tie-in. Luckily, it’s more than just a fancy piece promoting a new album. Not that it has never happened in animation, due to how animation and promoting music have worked for decades from Looney Tunes to even older than that. What does save this project from being more than a promotional tool is how it weaves an actual story. The music is there, and there are plenty of moments where the music is played over dialogue-less sequences of animation, but the overall film is a romance film. It might be a mood and a vibe at most points when you combine the gorgeous art direction and music, but there is a story here between Jabari and Meadow and their journey of finding one another. Jabari has to deal with his situation of working at a comic company that may have pulled a Disney and only hired him to make something for them, calling his art “too risky” for their audiences, and not truly let him craft his art. Meadow tries to find her path as an artist and what the relationship and dynamics mean to her and Jabari. This romance film is able to let the characters breathe, we get to see how they live and hang out with one another, and it offers a depth that you don’t often see in romcoms or romance movies. It’s not just will they or won’t they. You can easily find yourself invested with the characters or see yourself as one of them here or there. The underlying themes of racism might not be the main focus of the plot, but the main focus is on the relationship between our two lovebirds. Everything that goes on around the two are to enrich the world they live in.

It’s become a bit cliche now to reference how animated projects like this owe a lot of their success to Into the Spider-Verse. That one film yet again kicked down the doors for studios to start doing more with their visuals, and while there is definitely a lot of the more stylish and lush visuals of Spider-Verse, the movements and how characters emote comes off like it had a little bit of City of Ghost in its veins via the low-framerate movements of the characters. Wherever this special got its influences, it perfectly matches up with something you would see Mescudi crafting, and the talented team behind the animation did a fantastic job. While the low-framerate animation can be distracting to some, the individual characters are still extremely expressive, and you can tell what’s going on through their thoughts. It even combines CGI with splashes of 2D animation with Jabari’s comic character, Mr. Rager, and it looks phenomenal. The bright and dark colors mix very well to bring this sunrise/sunset look to most scenes and the colors really pop when they show the characters off during the daytime periods. 

The voice cast is great, and while some celebrity voices don’t get that many lines, everyone plays their individual roles well. Mescudi is likable and relatable as our lead, as he wants to keep true to who he is, but still puts his guard up when he senses something is up. Also, who wouldn’t want to be as chill as him? However, while Timothee and Tyrone do a good job with their roles, The rest of the cast is where it all comes together. When you see Macaulay Culkin pop into the film, it’s endearing, funny, but also heartwarming and deep, and that’s just one of the many fun splashes of personality that comes with having such a distinct cast and story. Jessica Williams is adorable and fun to watch as Meadow, and Laura Harrier brings this passive, and partly aggressive tone to her character who does like Jabari, but clashes with him on an emotional and personal level. The rest of the cast includes Vanessa Hudgens, Christopher Abbott, Daniella Balbuena, Jaden Smith, Keith David, Teyana Taylor, Arturo Castro, Maisha Mescudi, Luis Guzman, and Francesca Reale. The soundtrack is straight-up fantastic. Of course, the main pull are all of the songs Mescudi crafted with a ton of collaborators, and each song felt like they fit the scene like a glove and encapsulate the area in which the film takes place. It definitely makes this film feel like its mood and vibes, but they do a good job gelling with the storytelling. The non-album stuff is very lo-fi and calming, which blends well with the atmosphere the film provides. 

Entergalactic is, simply put, fantastic. It isn’t just a mood, it’s a vibe. It’s an experience where Scott Mescudi takes us through a combination of fantastic music and out-of-this-world visuals with a heartwarming romance between two souls wanting to find where they want to be with their lives. Its story might be a straightforward romance between our two leads, but the themes that it weaves throughout our leads’ journey through love are eye-opening and vibrant with some of 2022’s most luscious visuals. It ain’t afraid to combine intimate relationships, sex, comedy, and 100% vibes via Cudi’s new soundtrack leads to one of the best examples of what kind of stories you can tell via animation. It’s honestly one of the best pieces of art to represent an adult story. More animation needs to be like this, and it’s a real shame that as of writing this review, the animation industry is about to dive into another possible dark age where creativity is frowned upon over what can be made for cheap and they can rake in more money. Entergalactic might be a tie-in with Mescudi’s new album, but it works as a stand-alone film and you should all check it out! Now then, there is no real idea what will be next, but you know it will be animated and offer a wondrous journey into the realm of storytelling. 

Rating: Essentials

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