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 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 139: Summer Wars 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A fun part about tackling animated films is that you get to go through the director’s entire history of work, and see when certain parts of their craftsmanship start to pop up. That’s the entertaining part to watch an artist evolve. For example, today’s review will be a film that I think truly showed the colors of the creator, Summer Wars. Yes, we are dipping back into the filmography of Mamoru Hosoda with his second film after The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It was released back in 2009 in Japan, but came over to the states in 2010. While he has done film and anime projects before Summer Wars, to me, it’s the film that encapsulates a lot of the details that Hosoda would use in his future films. Let’s dive in, shall we?

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The story follows a teen male named Kenji Koiso, dubbed by Michael Sinterniklaas. He’s a math-savvy teen, who helps moderate part of this massive online world known as Oz, where you can do anything from socialize, play games, and even use it for real business. While working alongside his friend, Kenji ends up taking an offer from a female student named Natsuki Shinohara, dubbed by Brina Palencia. She asks Kenji to come with her to this huge family summer get-together to celebrate the 90th birthday of her grandmother. The catch is that he has to be her boyfriend/soon-to-be husband to impress her grandmother. Unfortunately, while meeting the large family of rather likable individuals, a virus gets loose into Oz, and causes massive world-wide chaos, and the virus plans to launch powerful missiles on power plants to cause widespread destruction. This is on top of also having to deal with the family drama of an illegitimate grandson, who may be behind the virus. Can Kenji balance this all out?

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room with this film. No, it’s not the fact that the script does has some choice words bashing the US, nor is it it the fact that, at first, the female lead is kind of terrible, because if a guy did what she did with forcing him to go along for a huge charade, the world would have rioted. It’s the fact that Mamoru Hosoda, in all of his infinite wisdom, basically remade an earlier work of his that was essentially the infamous Digimon Movie. Or, if we want to be more specific, one of the Digimon specials he directed. Yeah, it’s hard not to see Hosoda simply taking a bunch of the plot elements, like the virus, the nukes, and the bunny fixation in this film. The world of Oz looks like how the internet looks in the Digimon Movie, with the blank white open space and gears/Ferris wheel motif. It’s like he took a look at the reviews and ridicule the Digimon Movie got because of how Fox cut it up, and decided to give the middle finger to the US release of his work, and made it better. It’s not a major negative, but it’s a negative none the less.

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Like I said above, while she becomes more endearing as the film goes on, I found Natsuki to be annoying. Instead of just bringing Kenji to her family celebration, she forces him to lie to her family on a rather large scale, and then doesn’t get why the family doesn’t like this one illegitimate grandson. I can understand if this is how teens are, and I get not wanting to worry your grandparents about your future. I’m sure I’m missing a couple of cultural aspects of her reasons behind her actions, but it took a bit for me to warm up to her. She becomes more endearing when time goes on, but you have to stick with it. It just seems like if this was a role reversal, people would be calling this out more. While I love the family that this film focuses on, they aren’t all fully fleshed out. I don’t remember half of their names, and some of them are just annoying and don’t interact with the others to be aware of what’s going on. At two separate points, three family members cause the situation to get worse. Sure, you can write it off as two of them being obnoxious kids, but one of them is a police officer, and he doesn’t talk to the family members that are trying to take down the evil virus that could kill them? Like, it’s not a plot hole, but it seems like lazy writing.

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I know it sounds like I’m trashing this movie, but I do really love it. I have a lot of positives to say about it. As usual with Hosoda’s animation, it’s beautifully crafted, grounded, and the designs are all super appealing to look at. The online world also gives the film a good excuse to make fun avatar designs that I think fit each person in the film perfectly. This is also a major point of where we can see his amazing eye for up-close combat. The fighting in this film is gorgeous, with fluid and realistic movements. It gets a bit more absurd when you enter the online world, but it still doesn’t negate the force you feel from the punches and kicks. While you are technically watching a bunch of people sit around and look at a bunch of screens, you are still kept invested with what’s going on online and offline. It’s fairly nice to see a film that’s about technology not be an anti-internet or anti-technology message that anime unfortunately loves to do. Listen, technology has made some pretty horrible things, and made gateways for toxic and horrible people to spread their toxic roots all over the world. However, technology has also done wonders, and has connected us in many ways. It’s not just one-sided, in terms of tackling the commentary about Oz and its use by most people around the world. I also liked the dub cast. While the original Japanese version used accurately aged actors to voice their animated counterparts, and you lose that when Funimation uses a bunch of adults for everything, I still like the English dub. As usual, to play every moody male teen these days, you have Michael Sinterniklaas, and a slew of other incredible talents, like Mike McFarland, Patrick Seitz, Christopher Sabat, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Caitlin Glass, John Swasey, and many more. To me, this was the film where Hosoda started to really use his family motif in his films. While you might not remember everyone’s name, the characters truly feel like a family.

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It’s not Hosoda’s best film, and it probably apes too much off of his previous work for its own good, Summer Wars is still a visually stunning, heartfelt, and entertaining movie about technology and family. While there is a normal version of this film available from Funimation, they recently made a special edition for Hosoda’s other films like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, up to The Boy and the Beast. If you haven’t picked up this wonderful film already, I recommend picking up that special version. This just makes me super excited for Hosoda’s new film, Mirai coming out this year. Now then, we are onto the next review, and we will be tackling what might be China’s most ambitious, visually pretty, and busiest animated feature. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!