Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 2

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

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

27 Kill it and Leave this Town 

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I always respect the fact that we still get animated features that stay true to the original ambition and idea created by the director. I think that’s always a good goal to have in mind with making animated features. However, if that director wants to make a film that’s extremely slow, hard to follow at points because of the heavy emphasis on dream logic, and only appealing to a certain niche group of animation and film fans, then you shouldn’t be shocked if someone ends up not liking it and not recommending it. I do get what this film is about, but the meandering pace and focus on surreal dream-like images, designs, and a very morose tone make for a fairly dull watch. I love the art style and the music, but it shouldn’t be a shock when a film like this doesn’t find a wider audience. I know this was the director’s passion project, and that’s fine! I get why some critics do love this film, but again, if you want to make a film that’s as far away as possible from the films that come out from big studios, then don’t be shocked if you don’t catch many fans. 


26 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge 

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We have yet another video game movie, and while it’s low on the list, it’s one of the better films in terms of video game adaptations. When it’s actually about Scorpion’s Revenge, it’s a compelling story, and the action throughout the overall film is fantastic for a direct-to-video film. However, the film wants to be a universe starter and a traditional Mortal Kombat plot with a tournament set up. It’s too busy trying to focus on making a franchise and giving Johnny Cage a predictable story arc. It’s a fun film, but easily one I can see not coming back to. 

25 SCOOB

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What is with WB and their fetish for wanting universe starters? Even taking out the above-average CGI animation, some decent casting, and a few clever jokes, references, and side characters, the film is not a Scooby-Doo film. It’s a Hanna-Barbera universe starter, and that’s it. It’s uninterested in being a film about the iconic dog and that’s a shame. When it does have some of that charm from the franchise, it’s a decent watch. Like everyone else, I wish some of the concept art that we got to see after the film was released was what we got instead of this lukewarm universe starter. 

24 Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

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Speaking of universes, we now have the finale to the previous cinematic universe of DC/WB direct-to-video films. Outside of an opening sequence that made me unintentionally laugh for days, I was glad this was the last film in a franchise I wasn’t a huge fan of. It had great action, some endearing moments between certain characters, and I think the ending was pretty good! I just wasn’t a fan of this storyline and I’m glad they are moving on. 

23 Summer Days with Coo

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This was one of the few foreign films in 2020 to be a carryover from a long time ago. I mean, a long time ago in terms of 2007. We finally got this film in the US, and while I do like seeing one of Keiichi Haara’s first directorial efforts, it is flawed. It has a weird time balancing more child-like whimsy and the darker tones of what it wants to tackle. While it has some very hit and miss animation overall, it does end on a rather nice note that I wish carried the overall tone of the film. It’s a cute film, but I can safely say his later films are miles above this one. 

22 A Whisker Away

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If there was a real disappointment from 2020, it would be this film. While it has gorgeous animation, some truly great visuals, and the villain is fun, the main character is what breaks this film. Her constant stalking and harassment of the male lead are uncomfortable. It bogs down a film with some very mature themes and ideas. It’s just a reminder that not every original film that comes out is going to be good. 

21 A Dog’s Courage

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This is another film that we finally got from a previous year in the US. While I’m not fully familiar with South Korea and its animation scene, I was aware of this director’s previous film and was excited about finally checking this one out. It uses CGI animation quite wonderfully. It is also an effective experience of a group of dogs trying to find a better life. Its use of 2D animation isn’t as good as other films, and it is yet another animated film with a tone problem. Still, I always admire a film that has a strong emotional story, and I’m glad I got to see it. Just don’t expect this film to be very kid-friendly. 

20 My Favorite War

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This is such a unique movie. While we have films in this similar fashion with Another Day of LifeMy Favorite War tells a more intimate story of the director growing up in Soviet Latvia, and it has a very distinct visual style when the animation beats happen. It might not be the best animation, and it does look a little wonky at points, the personal story and the history behind that country are way more than enough to carry the rest of the film. 

19 Twilight

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Yeah, we finally got this film. I remember there was a lot of hype for it due to being crowdfunded, which is not uncommon with Japanese animation, but then everything went silent, and it stayed in Japan for a few years. Crunchyroll then finally brought it over, and well, it’s a solid little teen drama. While it’s not revolutionary or better than other teen dramas or coming-of-age dramas, it’s still well animated and earnest in its execution to warrant at least one viewing of the film. 

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

The Other Side of Animation 199: Weathering With You Review

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

Content Warning/Heads Up: I will be talking about the film’s ending because it needs to be discussed, so if you have yet to watch this film, do so right now. 

Well, I was going to review Hayop Ka!, the adult animated film from the Philippines that hit Netflix. Sadly, there is a problem with that, it’s not available on US Netflix. I know I could pay for a VPN and use a different region’s Netflix, but consider me lazy, I don’t feel like doing such a thing until the film gets an official US release. The fact that it’s available everywhere else on Netflix but my country is so weird. Well, that’s life for ya. Sometimes, a wrench is thrown into my original plans, and for the first time out of almost 200 reviews, I have to talk about a different film than what I promised from my previous review. Oh well, one out of 198 reviews is pretty great, huh? Luckily, I wanted to review this replacement film for a while, because it’s one of the biggest films of 2020 in the indie scene, and one of the biggest hits for GKIDS and Makoto Shinkai, Weathering With You

Directed by Makoto Shinkai, this was the famed director’s follow-up to the monumental hit Your Name. It played at the Annecy 2019 film festival in the work-in-progress section, and was the first film shown at the Animation is Film Festival 2019 Edition. It may not have been the second coming of Your Name, but it still racked up awards all over the place in both nominations and wins. If Japan took the film and made it their submission for the Best Foreign Feature award at the Oscars, then that’s saying something. Personally, while I think Your Name is a great movie, and my opinion of it has changed somewhat since I reviewed it, I prefer Weathering With You. Why? Well, you have to read the review. 

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Our story revolves around Hodoka Morishima, dubbed by Brandon Engman. He leaves his town and goes to Tokyo to chase after a sensation he saw in his home in Kozu-shima. As he gets there, he is poor, quickly running out of money, not finding a job, and in dire need of a home. He decides to take up a small gig at a small-time magazine company run by a man who saved him on the boat, Keisuke Suga, dubbed by Lee Pace. After doing a couple of weeks working with the small company, Hodoka encounters a girl he ran into when he arrived in Tokyo, a teenager named Hina Amano, dubbed by Ashley Boettcher. As the two teens bond, Hodoka finds out that Hina can control the weather by making the sun shine and the rain vanish that has been heavily pouring down in Japan. So, how will this result in the pair’s relationship? Can they brighten your day and or find happiness, and where they are going in life? 

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So, one thing I notice in a lot of Makoto Shinkai films, is that he loves to have two things, teen romance and love over long-distance being used in their relationships. What shocked me is that Shinkai pretty much ditched the long-distance part as this is one film from him that I can think of where the teen couple is with one another for a mass majority of the film. I think that helps, because I like the relationship between the two kids. I know a lot of romance stories dealing with tragedy love to kill one of the love interests early on, and well, it’s nice to see films like Weathering With You and Ride Your Wave show the characters in relationships. It carries with itself a lot of the energy of teens feeling like they are lost in life, and they need to find their way and what they are looking for. Of course, this film has other bits of commentary, like environmentalism. The actions of the sunshine girl will have consequences, due to how the film has a reoccurring theme of finding your happiness and joy in what you have going on in your life right now, and trying not to worry about what will happen in the future. I like how the main cast is handled. Many times with Shinkai films, the side cast isn’t all that memorable, due to how much emphasis is put on the two leads. Here they feel more robust with how they work off of the two teens and how their stories are woven into the overarching plot. 

So, one thing that has stuck out to people who have seen this film is the highly controversial ending. If you have yet to see this film, then please know that this is where I’ll be talking about it. If you have yet to see the film, then please watch it before reading this review. Otherwise, it’s your darn fault if you read this part. Let’s get to it! 

From what I have gathered, you either love the ending, or you hate it due to the actions of the lead character. He caused Japan to flood because he wanted to be with the one he loved. It makes him a reckless protagonist. At least, that’s one side of the argument. The other side of the overall conversation is the environmentalism angle it’s going for. Honestly, it’s a mix of both and some more emotional core elements. For example, the sunshine girl’s deeds are great, but there is a fairly selfish side to what happens in the film. All of these people get to have good days due to her actions, but the day she vanishes, everyone is like “it’s for the greater good”, and that’s messed up that a human sacrifice was a good thing in the long run. This is, of course, taking into consideration that due to what is going on with our abuse of the ecosystem, ocean-side cities, countries, and what have you will sadly end up underwater if we don’t do something about it. Yes, the male lead did cause Japan to flood due to his selfishness that he would rather be with her than have all of the sunshine in the world. I mean, yeah, it looks bad, but due to how the environment is responding to us and the recklessness of teenage love, I get why he made those actions. I understand why people love and hate it, but in the end, the film’s core seems to be that things are rough, so enjoy what you have right now, and while things are going to be tough, we will be alright. However, simply put, that is my takeaway from this, and if you agree, that’s cool! If you don’t agree, then that’s fine as well! 

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Animation-wise, I mean, it’s Makoto Shinkai. It’s a gorgeous movie with some of the studio’s best animation and visuals yet. It combines everything you would love from the rain in The Garden of Words to the amazing skylines of Your Name, and while you may not see anything unique about the character designs, they still look like characters from a Shinkai film. In terms of the dub cast, I know not everyone is always on board with celebrities doing voice casts, but from my experience, they are pretty good, and that’s no different here. It helps that it’s a mix of voice actors and big names, but the big names aren’t distracting. The cast includes Brandon Engman, Ashley Boettcher, Lee Pace, Alison Brie, Riz Ahmed, Barbara Goodson, Lexie Foley, Mike Pollock, Barbara Rosenblat, Wayne Grayson, Emeka Guindo, and if you know your Shinkai filmography, you will notice two actors from Your Name show up as their characters. They bring in strong performances, and of course, the Japanese cast is also great. Everyone feels very natural, so you can’t go wrong with watching one or the other. The overall soundtrack composed by the band RADWIMPS is quite stellar as well. It’s fun to see Shinkai have what could be his go-to-in-house music team with RADWIMPS, since this is their second time collaborating since 2016’s Your Name. I love a lot of the songs on the soundtrack. I listened to We’ll Be Alright ever since I saw the film back in October 2019. 

Now, do I have any criticisms? I think this is better than Your Name, so that means it’s a better film overall, right? Well, that’s not true. As much as I don’t mind the ending, and I get where he was coming from with how he handled it, I wish it was executed better. I know I spent a chunk of my review defending the ending, but it’s not like I don’t flip-flop from time to time when I think about this film’s ending. 

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Other than that, I think Weathering With You is a fantastic film from Shinkai and his team at CoMix Wave Films, and while I know many people will prefer Your Name, I love Weathering With You overall. Still, both movies are great, so they are like comparing one great milkshake to another great milkshake. You don’t lose in that situation. Still, I think it’s impressive that Weathering With You is still one of the most successful indie films of the year, but knowing how this year turned out, it’s a blessing and a curse. If you have yet to watch this film, please do so. Rent it, buy the normal version, the steelbook version, or the collector’s edition. You will not be disappointed. Well, we are now at 199 film reviews. Let’s then move onto something special for the 200th review. It should be something special, and you will just have to wait and see what it is. 

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

We Need More Companies like GKIDS

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

With this year being the year of film delays and a pandemic, it has dried up the foreign film market purchases. Granted, I don’t mean to come off as no purchases have happened, but they have been few and far between this year. I mean, it’s hard to know if you want to buy the US rights to a foreign film if there is no way to watch it. While I have loved being able to see some foreign film offerings via online film festivals, it’s less than what I would personally liked to take into my eyes and writing. It’s a real first world problem to complain about this, but as an animation and film fan of foreign animated features, this year has been lacking. When my co-host and I talked to Tony Bancroft and Scott Salva about getting their animated film Animal Crackers distributed, they talked about how it seems impossible for smaller animated films to get a foot in the door with a distributer. Sure, we have companies like GKIDS, but it does seem like other distributor hopefuls like Elevenarts and Shout! Factory seem to have dialed back their support. For example, Elevenarts’ only major animated film this year? The Wonderland.  At least in 2018, they had not only the franchise films they brought over, but also Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom and Liz and the Blue Bird. The point of the matter is, as much as I love GKIDS, it can’t be the only company that’s shouldering the weight and fate of multiple animated films from overseas. 

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Thankfully, back in June of 2020, the Los Angelas Animation Festival founded a new distribution arm with the intent of distributing animated films from overseas. These include the first Iranian-animated film to be submitted to the Oscars for Best Animated Feature, The Last Fiction, and the Chinese stop-motion head trip SHe. Now, they may not have the biggest names or the most approachable films, but the fact of the matter is that they have a chance to be seen now, and that makes it all the better for animation and film fans like myself. I want to be able to support these movies, but I don’t want to support them under the table. Sadly, that may be the only way to do so until an official US release via GKIDS, Shout! Factory, Elevenarts, and or Netflix happens. 

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Due to the small and frankly, limited nature of theatrical animation discussions seen online, people seem to have very limited and sometimes flawed viewpoints on the overall animation line-up over certain years. You can talk about how underwhelming years like 2011, 2013, 2017, and to a degree, 2019 were, but when you look past all of the big films, pushing aside all of the DreamWorks, all of the Disney, Pixar, Illumination, and what have you, and in those years, you have a treasure trove of animated features. Now, that isn’t to say they are all perfect gems, because when you dig deep enough, you will find just as many or even more duds than what the US studios release. Remember, just because there are a lot of great foreign features, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their quick slap-dash productions. Still, when you expand your horizons, you get a better view of what animation can do, and what stories can be told using the medium. 

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It’s funny though, no matter how many Annie Award wins and Oscar/other award nominees a company like GKIDS gets with the films they bring over, other companies don’t even think about jumping on that hype train of being able to have some kind of foreign animation gem in their catalog. A24 is one of the most well-known indie distributors/production houses around with multiple award wins and nominations, but only recently have they finally decided to touch something animated. Could you imagine if A24 and Neon got into distributing foreign animated features? They tend to get more reach and theaters with their films. As much as I love GKids, their limited theatrical releases do hurt the number of people who can watch their work until it hits digital or physical format. Even companies like Well Go USA Entertainment have started to dip into the animation game. If they know what’s up, so should every other indie/film distributor.

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Now, if I’m being honest, I did make this editorial to partly vent that I want to see these amazing animated films from overseas as legally as I possibly can, but I did want to also talk about the fact that there is an audience for this stuff, and the fact GKIDS is the only one consistently doing this is painstakingly tiring. I don’t even care if I end up not liking the films 100%, I want to see them and make a judgment on their quality myself. To be fair, I get that the other countries will, of course, want their films to play in their homeland first, and there is a slew of legal copyright stuff with distributing it over in the states, but they must know that there is an audience for these films outside their own countries. With the success of films like Parasite and I Lost My Body, it should be a no brainer for other distributors to start picking up the slack and bringing these films over. I want to see films like CalamityWords Bubbling Up Like CiderLove Me Love Me NotThe NoseNahuel and the Magic Book, Stranger in the Spring, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, and you get the idea. Hollywood animation is only going so far as to show what kind of a world animation can create, but if you look on the other side, you will find so much more. 

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

The Other Side of Animation 196: Wolfwalkers Review

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

With everything that is going on in the year 2020, it does seem like foreign animated films are having a much harder time finding wider audiences. Even with film festivals going online, very few are being shown outside of their country of origin. From what I have seen, only a handful have been able to go online, due to probable legal shenanigans and not wanting to risk the film leaking online through piracy and whatnot. I get that, but it then makes the overall film year feel bone dry. No real news either has been announced for some of the other major foreign releases from last year, like Swallows of Kabul. People want to see these films, but due to the pandemic, and the legal complications of it all, the films are stuck in release/distribution limbo. So, when film festivals or distribution companies do make these films available to see for a wider audience, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it also gives financial support to the festivals, distributors, and studios. That’s why I was so excited to check out what is probably going to be the best animated film of 2020, Wolfwalkers

Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, written by Will Collins, and animated by the ever-amazing Cartoon Saloon, this is the newest film by Tomm Moore that made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 2020. It will soon be released on Apple TV+ and will have a limited theatrical release by GKIDS. So far, it has gotten critical acclaim, and it rightfully deserves it. Let’s bear our fangs and get right down to talk about this film. 

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The story follows a young girl named Robyn Goodfellowe, voiced by Honor Kneafsey. She has moved from England to Ireland with her father Bill Goodfellowe, voiced by Sean Bean. Her father is a hunter for the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, voiced by Simon McBurney, who is the leader of the town in which the Goodfellowes live. The town is having a bit of a wolf problem that is preventing the town from chopping down the forest to, well, colonize the rest of the land. As Robyn follows her dad into the forest (against his request, of course), She encounters the pack of wolves that are led by a young girl who calls herself a Wolfwalker. Her name is Mebh MacTire, voiced by Eva Whittaker. 

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I think it would be tough to talk about this movie without first talking about what might be some of the most visually stunning animation of 2020. Wolfwalkers is hands down, some of the prettiest 2D animation ever put to film. The fluidity of the movements, the designs, the colors, the rough 70s Disney/early Don Bluth is a sight to behold. I may have only been able to see this on a laptop, but it didn’t stop me from picking my jaw off the floor with how this film looked. It’s Cartoon Saloon’s most ambitious project in the art department. I love how the film uses rough sketchbook-looking characters, and they don’t clean it up at all. It gives the entire film a rough dirty look that matches the atmosphere and grunge of the period in which the film takes place. The film’s beautiful visuals are also executed perfectly, with quite wonderful editing and Samurai Jack-style split-screen effects to add tension and to enhance the emotional experience. Even the lighting in the animation makes everything look like it was animated on wood grain. It’s insane how visually stunning this film looks, and I just reviewed Children of the Sea, and this is on that level. 

The music is also wonderful as per usual. The team behind the music is the same team-up of Bruno Coulais and the folk group Kila, and to no shock at all, the music is fantastical, whimsical, atmospheric, elegant, energetic, and heavy when need be. On top of the amazing music, the voice cast is stellar. Besides the two lead actresses playing the, well, lead roles, Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker, you also have the great Sean Bean, who is always fun to see in a film or show. You also have Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, John Morton, Jon Kenny, Oliver McGrath, Niamh Moyles, Sofia Coulais, and even Nora Twomey makes a cameo in the film. It’s a wonderful and lively cast. 

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However, most of this film would fall flat without a good story, and to be frank, the story is great. While The Breadwinner is probably Cartoon Saloon’s darkest and most mature film story-wise, Wolfwalkers is up there in that same area. Seriously, this film tackles such themes as colonialism, environmentalism, sexism, freedom, family, discrimination, and you even see the villain use mass hysteria to get people on his side. None of these themes would work if the characters that encounter them weren’t great, and they are. Robyn and Mebh have fantastic chemistry and act like a real pair of sisters. It brings a lot of memories of My Neighbor Totoro, due to that film having sisters as the leads. Even Robyn’s father, Ben, is one of the better dads of animation. I know many “I have to protect my daughter” film dad tropes get tiring, annoying, and unintentionally creepy at points, but that’s not here in this film. Even the villain, while not the most original or three-dimensional, is extremely effective. He’s intense, intimidating, uses hysteria to get people on his side, and if need be, he can get off of his literal and metaphorical high horse and try to get the job done himself. The only one who doesn’t get to be fleshed out, and probably the film’s one nitpick is Mebh’s mom, but she turns out to be a sweet and caring individual and  make sure Robyn and Mebh are safe whenever she gets the chance to be onscreen. 

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Anyway, Wolfwalkers is a masterpiece of animation and filmmaking. It’s hands down the best animated film of 2020, and the rest of the 2020 offerings need to step it up if they want to beat Apple TV+ and Cartoon Saloon’s film. Sadly, there are no release dates yet for the film on AppleTV+, but if you are okay enough to go to a theater (I wouldn’t personally go to one, but that’s just me), GKIDS will be distributing it through theaters in the US. Either way, see this film when it’s released. Now then, I think it’s time to review a very special screener. I can’t tell you what it is, but I bet you will all love the review!  

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 195: 5 Year Special – Children of the Sea Review

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

In terms of media that we consume and observe, a term that gets thrown around is tech demo. It essentially describes a product that’s made more to show off what a studio or game engine or whatever can do. It might look pretty and powerful, but it’s made to show off something more than anything else. I’ve seen this term used a lot to describe certain studios’ work, and the one that seems to get that title a lot is Studio 4°C. Founded in 1986 by Koji Morimoto and Eiko Tanaka, most anime and animation fans would know them for their work on films like Memories, Princess Arete, Spriggan, Mind Game, Tekkonkinkreet, the Berserk: Golden Age Arc films, MFKZ, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, some sequences of The Animatrix, certain sequences of Batman: Gotham Knight, Halo Legends, and Genius Party and its sequel Genius Party Beyond. Most of their films or work are known for their interesting visual aesthetics, and to me, they push the limit of anime. Unfortunately, most consider their work more style over substance, and that might be true in some areas, but I think they are better than what most people give them credit for. Out of a lot of the anime studios that are around right now, at least Studio 4°C has an identity. I can tell what a film or project from them looks like. I also love that they want to push the boundaries of what anime visuals can be. This is why for my 5th anniversary special, I want to talk about a film that has been hovering around my brain since last October, Studio 4°C’s Children of the Sea.

Based on the manga by Daisuke Igarashi, directed by Ayumu Watanabe, and produced by Eiko Tanaka, Children of the Sea was originally released back in 2019, and has toured the film festival scene, from Annecy to Animation is Film. It even won Best Animation Film at the Mainichi Film Awards and the Grand Prize in the Animation Division at the Japan Media Arts Festival Awards. It was brought over to the states by GKIDS, and is now widely available to purchase on Blu-ray, DVD, digital, and you can watch it, as of writing this review, on Netflix, so let’s dive into the deep ocean, and check out one of 2019’s best films and one of the most stand-out films in animation. 

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We follow the life of Ruka Azumi, dubbed by Anjali Gauld. She is a junior high school student who is going through a bit of a rough patch in her life. Her parents are in the midst of possible separation, she ends up in a falling out with her classmates during an altercation during sports practice, and all of this while her summer vacation is was about to begin. After some friction with her mother, she goes to the aquarium where her father works. There, she meets a boy named Umi, dubbed by Lynden Prosser, who was raised by dugongs (manatees), and must be soaked or in the water in order to survive. While befriending Umi, Ruka also encounters Umi’s “brother” Sora, dubbed by Ben Niewood. What mysteries do these two water boys hold, and what is their connection with the huge migration of ocean life? 

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So, what is this film about? What kind of message and themes is it trying to convey? Well, to me and many others, it’s a film about loneliness, finding your place, and our connection to the ocean and the universe. Our main character feels alone in the world, and honestly, after the day she had and her family situation, I don’t blame her. Even a normal person can understand or have a point in their life where they feel lost. Sure, the film in the third act gets a little 2001: A Space Odyssey with its psychedelic imagery, but the overall theme and story I think are universal. The world feels vast, and you realize how small you are compared to everything else. It’s a very Men in Black way of looking at the world, but without the dark comedy cynicism. It’s a film that takes its story seriously, and you do feel for our lead character and her trials of finding out where her journey takes her. The other characters like Sora and Umi are interesting as well, with their free-spirited personalities that contrast with Ruka. The other characters are likable, but they are mostly there to help elevate Ruka, Umi, and Sora. Still, I dug the interactions and dialogue between everyone. It’s a hefty script, but without the feeling of the script being pretentious and bloated. The dialogue felt natural, and that’s sometimes very hard for an anime and Japanese animated film to pull off. 

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Now then, the highest praise for this film should absolutely go to the animation. I mean, look at it. Watch a trailer, find a clip, and look at the still frames of it! This is hands down, the prettiest and one of the most well-animated films I have ever seen. It does use a mix of 2D and CGI, but the studio mixes it up so well, that you can’t tell unless you know what you are looking for. It’s probably the most visually stunning animated film of the last decade. I know that sounds shocking, since we have also had films like The CongressKlausI Lost My Body, and you get the idea, but I think Children of the Sea outweighs them all on a visual level. You can tell they were painstakingly recreating the manga’s gorgeous artwork, and they do a good job with everything looking like it was drawn and colored by colored pencils. It’s like you can see every little hand-drawn line. The color palette is also gorgeous and just as detailed. Almost every frame could be taken out of the film and put in a picture frame, because of how jaw-dropping gorgeous the film is. 

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In terms of music, it’s also top-notch, as we have the reoccurring Studio Ghibli maestro himself, Joe Hisaishi composing the music for this film, and you can tell it’s him with his ethereal scores. It feels atmospheric and otherworldly as you try to figure out everything. In terms of acting, I saw the film both dubbed and subbed, and you can’t go wrong with either language, but as usual, I prefer listening to the dub, because I want to focus on the visuals. Still, the dub is a good one with a strong cast including Anjali Gauld, Lynden Prosser, Ben Niewood, Beau Bridgland, Marc Thompson, Karen Strassman, Wally Wingert, Michael Sorich, and Denise Lee. I also have to give a shout-out to the theme song of the film, Spirits of the Sea by singer-songwriter Kenshi Yonezu. It brings out all of the emotions and the grand nature of the visuals. 

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The only nitpick I have is that the third act might be a bit much. It’s very 2001, and you are either down with what happens or not. There is also a small side plot going on, and I don’t know if it needed to be there, but like I said, these are minor nitpicks. This is one of those films that I think I regret putting at no. 10 on my Worst to Best List of 2019. If I could redo that list, I would probably put it higher than some other films on the list. It’s a one-of-a-kind film in a year that had some incredible and stellar animated films. As of writing this review, it’s readily available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. It’s also on Netflix, so now you have no excuse to not see this artistic and cosmic experience. Watch it however you can. It deserves a re-release in theaters once everything dies down. Well, it’s been five years, and I’m going to hope for five more years of writing about animated films. Now then, let’s move on to another artistic triumph in animation with Cartoon Saloon and Tomm Moore’s newest masterpiece, Wolfwalkers

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 194: Summer Days with Coo

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

With everything that is going on, it makes me want to watch movies about summertime and summer vacation. You know, flying or driving to another place, maybe the countryside, the beach, going to a campsite, and so on. It brought back a lot of childhood memories about my time by the lake, going to the beach, and finding weird little critters to show to my family and friends. It brings me back to a much simpler time, and as pretentious as that sounds, I still miss those days. It’s why after that trainwreck of a film I reviewed last time, Fe@rless, I wanted to review a film that could give me that vibe. That’s why I chose Summer Days with Coo

Directed and written by Keiichi Hara, animated by Shin-Ei Animation, and originally released back in 2007, Summer Days with Coo went around the film festival circuit where it swooped up Best Animated Film wins at the Mainichi Film Awards, the 11th Japan Media Arts Festival, the 2008 Tokyo Anime Award, and was nominated at the Japanese Academy Awards and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards for Best Animated Film. For some reason, the film never made its way over to the states until recently with the help of our favorite distributor, GKIDS. So, what do I think about Hara’s first non-franchise-based animated feature? Well, let’s take a look. 

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Our main story revolves around a kappa named Coo, voiced by Kazato Tomizawa. 200 years before the modern-day, he was with his father, who was killed during an incident with a samurai, and a sudden earthquake after said incident. Coo is then fossilized in the earth, that is, until a young boy named Koichi Uehara, voiced by Takahiro Yokokawa finds him and revitalizes him. Now Coo is stuck in the modern world alone, and slice-of-life shenanigans ensue. 

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So, what do I personally think about this movie? It’s Hara’s first film not based on any franchise like Crayon Shin-chan or Doraemon. It’s based on a book by Masao Kogure called Kappa Osawagi and Kappa Bikkuri Tabi. Well, I’m mixed. On one hand, I love the scenes where Coo interacts with Koichi’s family. They are genuinely nice scenes where the film is a more laid-back affair like Hara’s future film, Miss Hokusai. The plot takes its sweet time getting to different points of conflict to push the story and Coo’s development forward. I like that the film is casual in its tone and atmosphere. I even adore the fact that they throw away the trope of the family fully freaking out about a living folklore creature. The dad simply comes back from work and is like “huh, neat”. Coo himself is a fun and likable character, and the final scene with him is touching. 

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Animation-wise, this is where the mixed opinions become more noticeable. I know the studio is known for working on Crayon Shin-chan, and due to the designs sometimes being very chunky, it’s quite obvious. There are some nice movements and sequences from time to time, but the art direction looks inconsistent. Lesser characters in the background look clunky, while more important humans look okay, but nothing super impressive. The coloring on the humans is also not great. The digital colors look too plain and simple. It was so bland to me that I thought it was from the earlier days of digital coloring in anime, but this came out in 2007, the year before that had films like PaprikaThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Tekkonkinkreet, three of the most visually stunning Japanese animated films of the 2000s. It has some great music, and some solid performances, but the animation falls flat in some areas. Sometimes there is a great physical gag or facial reaction, but it’s not often. 

The animation isn’t the only problem. This is a long movie. A touch too long. It’s two hours and fourteen minutes long. For a film to be that long, and to have a plot that doesn’t have focus, and meanders from plot point to plot point, that’s a long runtime. It doesn’t help that the stakes seem out of order. Like, the major conflict happens, and then, another major conflict happens that doesn’t seem as impactful as the previous one. The tone is also all over the place. Most of the time, it’s harmless and family-friendly, but then some fairly violent parts caught me off guard. Hara’s later films would have much better tone consistencies. It’s frustrating, because when the film is great, it’s really good. I do love a lot of the character interactions. I just wish some of the other characters, like the love interest for Koichi were more interesting. She doesn’t do a lot until the very end. It’s not like there isn’t any substance to the film, because it does deal with themes of change, death, family, connection, and preserving nature. It’s the fact that this film’s pacing is not great. If it had better pacing for its long runtime, then this might well be one of the 2000s best hidden gems. 

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Despite my issues with the film, I do mostly enjoy Summer Days with Coo. I don’t consider it one of GKIDS’ best film releases in terms of what else they have brought over, but it’s still a unique experience all things considered. I would wait to maybe see if this film goes down in price before buying it, but if you want to own all of Keiichi Hara’s films, then pick it up and watch it for yourself. Now then, let’s continue with the somewhat summer vacation-related tangent at the beginning of this review, and end this summer with another GKIDS release, Children of the Sea

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

Rating: Rent it!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 3

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

Welcome back! Now, it’s time to get into the films that I enjoyed! This is the long part as we count down from 27 to 11! If you have yet to see the first two parts, make sure to use the tags in this editorial to get to Part 1 and Part 2. Now then, let’s keep counting down!

27. Son of the White Mare

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While this is a film from a few decades ago, it was never fully or officially released in the states until last year and will be coming out on Blu-ray this year. That’s a bloody shame, because this movie is awesome. The visuals are striking; the storytelling is straight-forward, but really, you watch this movie to see the amazing visual experience that it offers. Otherwise, it’s a simple fairy-tale-style story that relies way more on its abstract visuals to comment on certain topics. However, sometimes, you want to sit back and take in a film that offers outstanding visuals and enjoy the ride! I can’t wait until more people see Son of the White Mare.

26. This Magnificent Cake

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I honestly contemplated whether I would include this film on the list. Not because it doesn’t count as one, but I just find it odd that a 45-minute or as it’s called, a mid-length feature, is a film. Still, outside of that personal opinion, this is a very poignant and very dark piece about colonialism in the Congo. It obviously could have used a longer running time for everything to be a bit more impactful, and the ending fizzles out into abstract weirdness that is symbolic and meaningful, but it’s still one of the most unique experiences you can find in animation. I can understand why Barry Jenkins loved this film.

25. Abominable 

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It’s always a gamble nowadays on whether a DreamWorks release will be good or not, and that’s a shame because when they release something like Abominable, it shows why people still support them. Sure, it might not have the strongest characters or the beefiest story, but Jill Culton and her team were able to still bring a solid story with some gorgeous visuals to life with a way more interesting villain and tone that you don’t see a whole lot from the studio. I still have my issues with this studio, but Abominable shows that they still have a better sense of talent and storytelling than most animation studios.

24. Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans

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While I’m not a huge hater on the current iteration of the teen superhero team, I’m starting to get a little tired of it all now. It’s still a delightfully funny experience, the action is decent, and they were able to make the chemistry between the two different versions of the characters work. It’s always funny to see the same voice actor play two different versions of the same character. This iteration of the franchise might be losing its steam now, but if you enjoyed 2018’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, then you will find a lot to enjoy in this one.

23. Aya of Yop City 

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Produced by the director of 2013’s The Rabbi’s Cat, and directed by the creator of the comic series it’s based on, Aya of Yop City is easily one of the hidden gems of foreign animation. Not only is it one of the few animated films I have encountered that star an all African cast of characters, but isn’t about any of the major turmoils that are set in that country in a manipulative way. It’s more of a slice-of-life story, as Aya and her family and friends go through the challenges of relationships, love, jobs, and life. It can be surprisingly funny, endearing, and has a great visual look. It’s a shame that it wasn’t released until this year. Sadly, the story flounders in the end, and Aya herself is not the most interesting character, but people should still really check out this film. Just be ready to experience a film that doesn’t have a traditional story.

22. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines

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It’s rather sad that we finally got a second animated feature after 10 years, but the wait was worth it. The drama between Wonder Woman and one of the villains was compelling, the action was stellar, and it was nice to see a superhero film with a mostly female-lead cast. It’s also a bummer that there are a few moments where you can tell a guy directed the film, and the final act falls into generic action fare, but for a direct-to-video DC animated film, I enjoyed this one!

21. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

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It might be the weakest of the three DreamWorks Dragon films, and it 100% shows that DreamWorks doesn’t know how to handle its side characters, but it’s still a pretty stellar finale with downright stupidly good-looking animation, fantastic scenes with Hiccup and Toothless, and it shows how to somewhat properly cap off an incredible franchise.

20. I Lost My Body

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This shouldn’t be a big shock. Yes, I was not as huge of a fan as everyone else in the world with this multi-festival winning film. I didn’t think the film balanced out both stories well, I found the humans to be the biggest issue with the film, and I felt like other films should have been nominated. With all that said, this is easily one of 2019’s most unique films. It’s ethereal and mesmerizing watching the sequences with the hand and how the story unfolds. It also has a unique visual style that no other film in 2019 can copy. While I do not have the same love and support of it, I still found the experience to be enthralling from beginning to end.

19. Batman versus TMNT

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It seems like that my love for the DC animated films that go direct-to-video always leans to the non-Action 52-style storyline going on right now. I adored the art direction, the action was thrilling, and due to the two properties getting combined into one movie, the story goes bonkers with some sequences. It’s 2019’s Batman Ninja, and I am all here for it.

18. Frozen II

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The first film was lightning in a bottle, and Frozen II was going to have to go through some hurdles to overcome the giant challenge of trying to be as good or better than the first film. To a degree, I do like Frozen II better. I like the songs better, I like the tone, I like the commentary, and the film still does show why Anna and Elsa are great. It’s also a film that feels like the last act got changed due to probably being too dark. I don’t know if I’ll ever know what exactly happened with the third act that rubbed me and others the wrong way, and how Sven got the short end of the stick in terms of plots, but despite the rough spots, I still enjoyed my time with Frozen II.

17. Spies in Disguise

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It’s rather refreshing to sit here and type out the fact that I absolutely loved a Blue Sky Studios film. Seriously, outside of The Peanuts Movie and to an extent Robots and FerdinandSpies in Disguise feels like Blue Sky’s most cohesive film. The animation, the lighting, the designs, the characters, and the themes it tackles with how it handles aggressive and defensive tactics in spy work is rather ambitious for a film from a studio that has a mixed reputation. It doesn’t do it perfectly, and certain casting choices are distracting/bad, but overall, I would absolutely watch Spies in Disguise again in the future.

16. Mai Mai Miracle

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Don’t worry, this is the last of the “we didn’t get this movie until now” films on the list. Honestly, it is shocking that it took until 2019 to get one of the more charming animated features from Japan. It’s very much a film in the same vein as My Neighbor Totoro or the director’s recent work, In This Corner of the World. The story is about two girls from different financial classes enjoying and exploring the countryside post-World-War II. It has the same kind of problem as with the other films listed, where it seems like they had to have some kind of conflict, but if you love films like My Neighbor Totoro, you will love Mai Mai Miracle.

15. Okko’s Inn

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Technically, I saw this film two years ago at Animation is Film, and I still stand by my opinion that it is easily one of 2019’s hidden gems to check out. It’s a delightfully low-key coming-of-age drama that despite having a more simplistic art style, was able to really invest you into Okko’s trials of losing her parents. It also has some set pieces that are a wonder to the eye to see unfold with the power of animation.

14. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

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I perfectly get why people would absolutely be on the fence with this one. It’s another one of those teen dramas that has one of the teens with a deadly disease and, yeah, sometimes it milks it a bit too much, and the film is a touch too long, and the designs aren’t all that memorable. However, In terms of these types of films, it’s easily one of the best versions of it. The animation is great, the characters have actual chemistry, and I was able to be fully sucked into the drama and romance. Your reception to this film will vary, but one thing we can all agree on is that this film costs way too much to purchase, Aniplex! Lower the blu-ray’s price!

13. Penguin Highway

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For a first time directing gig, Penguin Highway is a smart and creative coming-of-age story about a boy going through puberty and wondering about the world around him. Granted, I don’t know if your journey through growing up included a random infestation of penguins, but still. It overstays its welcome a tiny bit, and I can understand people having an issue with the boy’s fixation on an older woman character, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to check out Studio Colorido’s future projects.

12. The LEGO Movie 2

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It’s truly a shame WB decided to burn through too much of the LEGO IP and it’s understandable as to why this film underperformed. I think it deserved to do better because it’s still a fantastic film with a great theme of boy vs girl mentalities, toxic masculinity, and identity. It’s still lighting quick with its wit, highly enjoyable comedy, and the characters are still strong, and I would argue are better than the first film. It might not have that lightning in a bottle hype the first film got, but overall, this film deserved to have done better.

11. Toy Story 4

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While I disagree with its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature due to it being the safest bet of the films nominated, and it runs into the DreamWorks situation of not being able to do anything with its side characters that aren’t the new ones, Toy Story 4 is still a stellar film in probably the most consistently high-quality franchise in animation. It might be an epilogue for Woody’s story, and Buzz gets short-changed, but the story is still strong, the characters are likable, the jokes are funny, and it still has a lot of that Pixar love that people adore about the studio.

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

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 2

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

Here we are with Part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019! We shall now dip our toes into the films that were, simply put, okay, and some that are pretty solid! Nothing wrong with that. If you have yet to see part 1, then I recommend doing so. Now then, let’s get started!

39. Reign of the Supermen

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While I like the second part of the infamous Superman story arc, I still find it overall just okay. Sure, it might have better character dynamics, better jokes, and some solid action, but it’s still having to follow up a story that already had to pretzel itself into fitting the storyline, and it’s one of the last stories in the current DC animated film universe. Hopefully, they can end on a high note.

38. Batman Hush

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Yet again, we have another DC adaptation of a famous comic book that decided to change things up for some reason. I love the chemistry between Batman and Catwoman, and before the reveal, I loved Hush as a villain. Even characters I don’t have the patience for, like Damian, get a good line. Sadly, the twist does undo a lot of the mystery, and I get that they wanted to probably change it, since fans already know, but still. Don’t change too much, DC and WB, or else you might end up ruining the entire point of the story.

37. The Lion King (2019)

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On one hand, yes, this is quite possibly the worst animated film of the year. It was a pointless retelling of an already good film. The photo-realistic CGI is impressive, but it takes away the emotion of it all, and the fact that no one talks about it anymore, but is yet a billion-dollar maker is frustrating, when people could have gone and seen other movies. Films like this shouldn’t be rewarded. On the other hand, I find the tech highly impressive, the cast is great, and I get why people went to see it. I still prefer the original, and if I could, I would combine elements from both the remake and the original into an ultimate version, but alas, we have yet another remake that shows that the Disney remakes aren’t dying anytime soon.

36. Zombillenium

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Out of all of the animated films from overseas that I was interested to see, Zombillenium was the biggest disappointment for me. It has such a fun setting and a cool art style, but the dialogue is weak and the film can’t commit to either being a family film or focused on the commentary of the workforce. It has its moments, and I love some of the darker jokes, but I can understand why this film went under the radar and got overshadowed by other films.

35. Justice League vs. The Fatal Five

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For once, I can talk about a newer Bruce Timm DC animation product and not be on the back of my heels for it. Sure, it falls apart near the third act, and Miss Martian felt tacked on, but the main story and how it handled talking about traumatic events and characters was combined with some of the better action sequences of the DC animated films. I’m rooting to see them return to the so-called Justice League universe in future animated films.

34. The Addam’s Family 

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Out of all of the big theatrical animated features, this one was the most disappointing. It felt like they didn’t want to go far with the dark humor, the story was lopsided in giving characters satisfying arcs, and the animation was cheap-looking. It has a lot of fanservice for fans of the franchise, the casting was great, and when the dark comedy was able to breathe, it was really funny. Hopefully, they can make a sequel that’s better looking, and better told the next time we see this kooky spooky family.

33. Pachamama

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Probably the most family-friendly film of the list, Pachamama was a simple, but charming film that I had the opportunity to see before it hit Netflix, and it’s such a treat. Not only does it take place in, and is a bit more faithful to the culture it’s based on, it also has a unique visual style that it can call its own. It’s more family-friendly, and it’s a fairly simple film, but nothing wrong with well-executed simplicity.

32. The Angry Birds Movie 2 

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Talk about one of the biggest surprises of 2019. Yes, the story isn’t the strongest, and yes, when the jokes don’t land, they fall hard, but who would have thought this was going to be one of the best comedies of last year? On top of the solid animation, the jokes go out there, and are in such an abundance of different flavors of comedy. I give the team that made this film so much credit for going out there, and making this one of the best video game animated films out there.

31. Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond

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This is a wild bunch of shorts that we finally got legally, and it is one of the purest forms of what animation can do, in terms of visuals and storytelling. Some of them don’t work, and the ones that don’t work absolutely don’t work, but when they do, they are some of the most creative visuals you will see out of Japan. I hope they don’t stop doing these anthology shorts, so they can keep bringing in or showing off talented individuals in the animation industry.

30. The Case of Hana and Alice 

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While it is a prequel to a live-action film, the mix of roto-scope and CGI animation doesn’t fully work, and it can be a touch slow, I found myself enjoying the story of these two friends. It takes its time with the actual story that connects the events, but the chemistry of the two female leads sells you on their friendship. It might not be one of the best films out there, but I found the overall charm and small-scale story to be worth watching.

29. Another Day of Life 

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Based on the true events of a famous Polish journalist, Another Day of Life combines CGI roto-scope animation with live-action documentary footage in a dramatic and war-torn time of the Angolan Civil War. It also has some pretty out-there visuals, and can be a rather gripping story. I think it’s a little long, and it’s not a film I’m thinking about rewatching multiple times, but it’s an interesting story, and the visual look alone is worth checking this flick out!

28. Ne-Zha

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It’s amazing how in one year, China was able to show the world that they should be taken seriously with their theatrical animation, and Ne-Zha is one of those films. While looking downright gorgeous, and telling a story about discrimination and destiny, it is also seasoned with some of the best action you will see in CGI animation. It’s a shame that while the story can be deep and the lead characters are likable, the comedy drags the story down, and it’s a lot of comedy that isn’t funny. Still, seeing this become one of China’s biggest hits, and it was one of two amazing animated films from China, it shows a bright future ahead for the industry.

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

The Other Side of Animation Awards 2020!

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

Welcome, one and all, to The Other Side of Animation Awards! To end the decade, we will be celebrating the theatrical animation scene. I’ve got to tell you all, this was tough! With a group of judges of me, myself, and I, I decided to make an award show that would pay tribute to the thrilling year of 2019. Before we begin, if you wonder why I chose me, myself, and I as judges, well, that’s because of the 32 animated films submitted last year, I saw 29 of them. That’s more than most of the Academy Voters ever see. Now, let’s get started!

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Best US Animated Film: The category for the best US feature film.

NOMS: Toy Story 4, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Abominable, Frozen II, Missing Link, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, Klaus, and Spies in Disguise.

Result: This was tough, because while I did enjoy all of these films, 2019 was a mixed bag. Not all of it was great, but I still very much enjoyed the contestants here. I was thinking about which one gave me an overall splendid and emotional experience, and that kicked off Abominable, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Frozen II. I love those three films, but their overall enjoyability was hampered by certain story elements. Spies in Disguise was surprising, but it could have been stronger. So, that leaves us with The LEGO Movie Part 2, Toy Story 4, Missing Link, and Klaus. Toy Story 4 probably had the best emotional story of the four choices, LEGO Movie 2 was poignant, but I enjoyed films like Klaus and Missing Link more. In the end, I had to make it a tie with Klaus and Missing Link as the Best US Animated Features, because they gave me two experiences that were refreshing and unique to see. Plus, it’s my award show, and I can do what I want.

Winner(s): Missing Link and Klaus

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Best Foreign/Indie Animated film: the category for the best foreign/indie animated film of the year.

Noms: Funan, Bunuel, Promare, The Swallows of Kabul, Weathering with You, White Snake, Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Children of the Sea, Penguin Highway, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, Okko’s Inn, I Lost My Body, This Magnificent Cake, Nezha, Another Day of Life, and Pachamama.

Result: As usual, the foreign animation scene was strong this year with many powerful, important, and incredible films. This was tough, because I recommend everyone check out these films. Some of them had downright jaw-dropping animation, and some had great stories. Due to how hard this was, I had to narrow it down to just a few films. My choices then came down to Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Bunuel, Funan, Promare, White Snake, and Weathering with You. I chose those, because they were the most compelling of the films, but then it came down to what I looked for in an animated film that was able to balance out both animation and story. At the end of the day, I had to go with Dennis Do’s Funan as the most fulfilling and satisfying balance of story and animation, but I think everyone should check out the films in this category.

Winner: Funan

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Best 2D Animation: This Category is to award the film with the best use of 2D animation.

Noms: Funan, Bunuel, Promare, Children of the Sea, Weathering With You, The Swallows of Kabul, Penguin Highway, Klaus, Okko’s Inn.

Result: This is tough, because technically, most 2D animated films use some level of CGI, so I decided to nominate the films that use mostly 2D visuals, but CGI to enhance the experience. Promare is a visual treat, but a lot of it is using CGI. Weathering With You is drop dead gorgeous, but it has the same look as most of Shinkai’s films. It’s iconic, but familiar. Penguin Highway has some wonderful visuals, but you don’t get to the trippy stuff until the third act. Okko’s Inn is beautiful, but the more family friendly designs may turn off viewers. Bunuel has great visuals, but the animation can look stiff. It then came down to Children of the Sea, Klaus, The Swallows of Kabul, and Funan. All four of these films have incredible animation to them, and while I could technically make a four-way tie, I don’t want to keep doing that for each category. I then took it down to two films, Children of the Sea and Klaus. Both were stand outs in the animation scene due to their visuals and the execution of visuals. While the techniques used in Klaus are nothing new if you keep up with animation tools, the fact they took 2D animation and painted them like they were 3D models is wildly impressive. This is a nail biter of a decision, because the award could have gone either way, but I had to give it to Children of the Sea, because you watch that film in motion, and you get some of the most ethereal visuals that you will ever see in animation. Seriously, how it mixes its beautiful 2D animation with the CGI sea animals is out of this world.

Winner: Children of the Sea.

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Best CGI Animation: This category is for the film with the best CGI animation.

Noms: Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, The Lion King, White Snake, I Lost My Body, The LEGO Movie 2, Abominable, Nezha, and Spies in Disguise.

Result: This one was a bit easier to narrow down in terms of what I thought had the best animation. The Lion King was a technical marvel, but outside of how bonkers real everything looks, that’s all it offers, and it’s not like we don’t have realistic CGI being used all the time. I love the look that I Lost My Body has made with its mix of CGI models and 2D textures and features, but the stuff with the detached hand was more interesting to look at animation wise than the humans. The LEGO Movie 2 looks great, but it’s still the same we have seen with the previous LEGO Films. Abominable had great scenery and some standout shots, but otherwise, it looks like another CGI animated film. Spies in Disguise is probably Blue Sky’s best looking film, even if some of the designs looked wonky, but I found the lighting super impressive. This leads us to the finale of the remaining nominees, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, White Snake, and Nezha. To me, while the two Disney films objectively look better, the visuals I saw in White Snake and Nezha were way more wild and surprising to me. CGI animation was rough for a good decade or so with Chinese animation, but now, we have these two films that look like they had Disney/Pixar money thrown at them. I then had to think about which one had the better shots, and I had to go with White Snake. Everyone should get a copy of White Snake and Nezha and watch them to see how far Chinese CGI animation has come, and to put it in their Blu-ray player of choice, and be in shock and awe at how gorgeous they are. Still, White Snake had some of the prettiest visuals I saw last year, and that’s why I chose it.

Winner: White Snake

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Best Mixed Media Animation: This category lists the nominees are the films with the best mix of different kinds of animation styles.

Noms: Promare, Marona’s Fantastic Tale, I Lost My Body, Another Day of Life, and Bunuel.

Result: This is a fun one, because every once in a while, an animated film will stretch itself, and expand on what animation as a medium is. Bunuel and Another Day of Life do something fun by combining either Bunuel’s 2D animation with footage from the real life documentary they are making in the film, or Another Day of Life combines vibrant comic book-like visuals with actual live-action documentary-style footage of the time period in which the film takes place. I Lost My Body, like mentioned above, combines CGI models with 2D textures and designs. Promare uses a super vibrant color pallet with its mix of cartoonish 2D visuals and CGI models. However, the one winner for me in this category is Marona’s Fantastic Tale. Since it’s told from the perspective of a dog, the visuals take advantage of this fantastical world seen through the eyes of the dog, and every person the dog meets is animated differently. I could honestly gush about this film’s visuals all day and how there are fun symbolic elements to some of the characters. In short, Marona’s Fantastic Tale wins this award.

Winner: Marona’s Fantastic Tale

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Best Action/Adventure Film: This category awards the film that symbolizes the best action/adventure film in the animation scene this year.

Noms: Promare, Toy Story 4, Spies in Disguise, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Missing Link, White Snake, Nezha, and Batman vs TMNT.

Results: This was another category that was easy to break down, because the nominees were limited, and it was fun to break down what films I thought had the best action sequences, and gave us the best adventure out of the animation scene. Batman vs TMNT was the first to go, due to the limited budget hampering the film. They really should have spent the extra coin to give the animation to a studio like Studio MiR. Toy Story 4 has a lot of entertaining sequences, but it’s more of a drama. How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World also got put on the chopping block due to its focus on story and comedy. Missing Link is a great adventure film, but the action is limited as it also focuses more on story and comedy. That left me with Nezha, White Snake, and Promare. While these three films do have great stories and characters, I then had to get critical with the action sequences. Nezha was ambitious and very creative, but it does have that low point where they resort to a fart joke to help progress the fight. The action in White Snake and Promare are both flashy, over-the-top, stylized, and are fun to watch. It was really splitting hairs, but I had to go with the one that had the more coherent fights, and I went with White Snake. Like I said, it was splitting hairs, and while I enjoy Promare more as a whole, White Snake had the more focused and enthralling story. Like I said though, I was splitting hairs.

Winner: White Snake

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Best DC Animated Film: This category awards the best of the straight-to-video films from DC and WB.

Noms: Reign of the Supermen, Batman vs TMNT, Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, and Justice League vs. The Fatal Five.

Results: Unlike most years, 2019’s lineup of direct-to-video DC features was pretty stellar. Each one had a certain theme and intriguing story that made them more worthwhile watches than most of the DC films that come out in this category. Like the Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign/Indie Feature, I look for the film that gives me the best overall experience. It really came down to Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, and Batman vs. TMNT. I then narrowed it to just Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans and Batman vs. TMNT. To be honest, while Teen Titans Go! was funny and amusing, I’m getting tired of the style of humor with the whole self-deprecation and meta aspect they know that no one likes this iteration of the teen team. That’s why I chose Batman vs. TMNT, because it checked the boxes of what I look for in these films. Does it have good writing? Check! Does it have solid animation? Check! Is the story interesting enough from beginning to end to be invested into? Check! It also had a different art-style, which I always look for. It was the one film where I don’t hesitate watching again.

Winner: Batman vs. TMNT

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Best Comedy: This category goes to the film with the best comedy.

Noms: The Angry Birds Movie 2, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, Klaus, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans, and Missing Link.

Results: This is a tricky category, because comedy is so subjective and any winner I choose could be someone’s least favorite comedy. The first film to go was Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans, because while I found it funny, that show’s style of humor is starting to get a touch tiring, even if it is still pretty funny for 90% of the time. Klaus was next, because while the jokes and the characters are funny, I enjoy the writing and the chemistry the most and the great jokes are ones I don’t consistently think about. The same goes with Frozen II, because it’s funny, but I think more about the dialogue and the chemistry. Toy Story 4 probably has the best comedy of the four films in the franchise, but, like a broken record, I think about the story first and the jokes second. To me, the jokes came first for this award, and the last three films were hard to choose from because the comedy in Missing Link, LEGO Movie Part 2, and The Angry Birds Movie 2 are all different. Missing Link uses slow and very subtle wit. The LEGO Movie Part 2 uses the brand meta comedy that Lord & Miller have made popular. The Angry Birds Movie 2 uses the approach of being as ambitious as possible with all the humor and jokes that we push into the film. It’s wildly brave at how many kinds of jokes they try out, and for the most part, work. So, do we award it to meta humor, subtle wit, or everything and the kitchen sink comedy? Well, here is a good question, which film has the best comedy and what has the best combo of both story and comedy? When I thought about that, I had to give it to Missing Link. I love the story and the humor, whereas the other two films don’t fully live up to their stories.

Winner: Missing Link

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Best Drama: This award goes to the best drama-focused animated film.

Noms: Funan, Bunuel, Children of the Sea, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, The Swallows of Kabul, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, I Lost My Body, Okko’s Inn, and Weathering With You.

Results: So, like usual, I nominate a lot of films, but then start to break them down with how I enjoyed the drama and the story. I first films I let go of were I Lost My Body, Frozen II, then I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, Okko’s Inn, and then Children of the Sea. That left me with Toy Story 4, The Swallows of Kabul, Weathering With You, Funan, and Bunuel. These remaining films have very personal stories with intimate themes of life and personal discovery. I took off Weathering With You and Toy Story 4 because of story elements that hindered their experiences. That results in Funan, Bunuel, and Kabul. This is really hard, because I then had to cut Bunuel due to the slightly repetitive nature to Bunuel’s drama. At the end of the day, I decided to choose The Swallows of Kabul, because while Funan has great drama, The Swallows of Kabul lingers with me with its drama.

Winner: The Swallows of Kabul.

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Best Director: This category goes to the best director or dual directors.

Noms: Salvador Simo (Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles), Dennis Do (Funan), Jennifer Lee (Frozen II), Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec (The Swallows of Kabul), Sergios Pablos (Klaus), Hiroyuki Imaishi (Promare), Josh Cooley (Toy Story 4), Makoto Shinkai (Weathering With You), Chris Butler (Missing Link), Anca Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale), and Troy Quane and Nick Bruno (Spies in Disguise).

Result: To me, the best director did, well, the best directing with the film. Like, who helped make the best experience, which director got the best performances out of their actors, and you get the idea. To me, that resulted in Salvador Simo, Dennis Do, Zabou Breitman/Elea Gobbe-Mevellec, Anca Damian, and Sergios Pablos. All of these directors did such fantastic jobs with their films, and if I wanted to, I could and really want to give it to all of them. I then finally broke it down to between Dennis Do and the duo of Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec. Like a lot of this editorial, it came down to splitting hairs, but I went with the duo behind The Swallows of Kabul, Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec.

Winner: Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec. (The Swallows of Kabul)

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Best Short: This category goes to the best animated short.

Noms: Hair Love, Kitbull, My Moon, Memorable, Hors piste, and Sister.

Results: The animated shorts scene this year was unique as Disney didn’t really have one for their films, and Pixar was moving their shorts to Disney+ through their SparkShorts program. I then had to really rely on what got nominated and which ones I saw online. Now, the winner might be very obvious, but this wasn’t to say that it was an easy task of picking to award just one. They are also all different types of experiences. Yes, they all share a personal relationship theme, but some of them are funny, some are abstract, and some hit on very personal subject matters. However you may weave how I chose the short to win this award, but I had to give it to Hair Love. While I might adore the animation in some of the films slightly more, Hair Love is so personal, loving, caring, funny, relatable, and took the animation world by storm. Still, I highly recommend everyone get online to try and find a way to watch all of the shorts nominated.

Winner: Hair Love.

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Best New Release That Was Previously Unreleased in the US of 2019: This category is for the best animated film that finally got a release in 2019.

Noms: Aya of Yop City, Son of the White Mare, Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond, The Case of Hana and Alice, and Mai Mai Miracle.

Results: As usual, the challenge came down to what gave me the best experience. I love the two Genius Party films, but those are anthology films, and you will either love every short or find some to be annoying. The Case of Hana and Alice is a sweet endearing teen drama, but it takes a bit too long to get going. Son of the White Mare is a visual marvel, but a bit repetitive due to its fairytale-style story. That left us with Aya of Yop City and Mai Mai Miracle. Both are great in their own respective ways as they show life during a certain period in history. I then decided to award the one I would watch the most, and that narrowed it right down to Mai Mai Miracle. I’m not shocked I liked this movie the most, since it’s the same director behind In This Corner of the World.

Winner: Mai Mai Miracle.

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Best Lead Actor: This category awards the best male lead in an animated film.

Noms: Jorge Uson (Bunuel), Simon Abkarian (The Swallows of Kabul), Tom Hanks (Toy Story 4), Billy Matez (Promare), Brandon Engman (Weathering With You), and Jason Swartzman (Klaus).

Results: While it might not be on camera, actors still need to put in good performances to pull you into the film. Since this is the first time I’m awarding voice actors, I decided to go with variety. Jason Swartzman brings a lot of earnest sarcasm and pathetic nature to his character. Tom Hanks is just great as a wise and weathered Woody. Brandon Engman does well as a teenager finding his place in the world. Billy Matez does a good job at keeping up that impossibly optimistic and heroic spirit. Jorge Uson portrays a director trying to save his career while conflicted with his past and who he is as an individual. Simon Abkarian was also great as a man tired and weary of his country’s ideals as he tries to figure out what to do about the driving force of the story. After thinking about it, it came down to Jorge Uson and Simon Abkarian, and between the two, I think the best actor goes to Simon Abkarian. He left an impression on my viewing experience with a powerful and subtle performance.

Winner: Simon Abkarian (The Swallows of Kabul)

Best Supporting Actor: This category awards the best male supporting actor in an animated film.

Noms: Fernando Ramos (Bunuel), J.K. Simmons (Klaus), Zach Galifianakis (Missing Link), Johnny Yong Bosch (Promare), and Lee Pace (Weathering With You).

Results: To me, I was looking for an actor who was going toe to toe with the lead. The actors I chose for this award definitely accomplished that. Each of these actors was able to either keep up or even outshine the main character. It was tough, because I enjoyed all of these performances, but the one that stuck with me the most, and the winner of this one is Fernando Ramos from Bunuel, because he was so good as Ramon, and going head to head with the lead in the film, and having his own stand out scenes and lines.

Winner: Fernando Ramos (Bunuel)

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Best Lead Actress: This category awards the best lead performance by an actress.

Noms: Zita Hanrot (The Swallows of Kabul), Stephanie Sheh (White Snake), Lizzie Brochere (Marona’s Fantastic Tale), Ashley Boettcher (Weathering With You),  Annie Potts (Toy Story 4), and Mana Ashida (Children of the Sea)  

Results: like I said above, I went with variety this year and this was even tougher to really narrow it down. I had to look at who I felt put in the stronger performance and I thought they all did. I went with who left a stronger impression on me. When it came down to it, my favorite performance was from Zita Hanrot from The Swallows of Kabul.

Winner: Zita Hanrot from The Swallows of Kabul

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Best Supporting Actress: Obviously this award goes to the actress with the best supporting role.

 Noms: Hiam Abbass (The Swallows of Kabul), Christina Hendricks (Toy Story 4), and Yu Aoi (Penguin Highway).

Results: I know I said the other acting noms were tough, but this was the toughest one, because I didn’t find that many supporting roles that felt substantial from the female characters in the films from last year. When I thought about these three, I looked at their characters and their performances, and the one that stood out to me the most was Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby from Toy Story 4. She felt unique as a villain and was someone right out of a Ghibli film due to her layered character. This is probably my favorite acting that I have seen from Christina Hendricks, and she’s a good actress.

Winner: Christina Hendricks (Toy Story 4)

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Best Soundtrack: This award goes to the best soundtrack and that includes the musical numbers.

Noms: The Swallows of Kabul, Children of the Sea, Funan, Bunuel, Frozen II, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Promare, and Weathering With You.

Results: So, I decided to combine both soundtrack and original songs into one category, because it’s easier that way for me. Put another coin in the jar, because I decided to make this category hard for myself. I love the music in these nominees, but which one had the best overall package of songs? Well, I loved Promare’s two theme songs, but I don’t fully remember the rest of the music. The same goes for Frozen II and The LEGO Movie Part 2. While I love the soundtracks to Funan and Bunuel, I don’t fully remember the individual tracks used outside of one song. At the end of listening to the soundtracks, I had to go with the soundtrack from Children of the Sea. It, like its movie, is so other worldly and mesmerizing. It captures a mood and experience unlike any other. Then again, it’s also Joe Hisaishi, and he always makes great soundtracks.

Winner: Children of the Sea.

And there we go! I apologize it took a month or two to get this done, but I hope you all enjoyed this, and I think I’ll do it again next year.

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

The Other Side of Animation 177: Ride Your Wave Review

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

While I love the vibrant and constantly creative world of foreign animation, it’s not always easy to find theaters that are willing to play them. It doesn’t help either that most of them are Fathom Events that don’t get wider releases. There are so many incredible experiences with these films, but most people are not able to see them, and it’s frustrating. For example, while they are amazing distributors like GKids, Elevenarts, Shout! Factory, and so on, their word of mouth campaigning doesn’t always work. This is especially frustrating when GKids’ distribution of today’s film, Ride Your Wave, is not getting that many screenings.

Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, Ride Your Wave is his newest film that was released last year in June, having its world premiere at the 2019 Annecy International Film Festival. It also won some major awards at the Shanghai International Film Festival, Fantasia International Film Festival, and the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival. Sadly, it seems like, to me, it was overshadowed by the release of Weathering With You and I Lost My Body. Did it get overlooked for a reason? Or should everyone watch this film?

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Our story follows a college woman named Hinako Mukaimizu, voiced by Rina Kawaei. She recently moved to an ocean-side city town to go to college and surf. One night, her apartment complex catches fire, and she is saved by a male firefighter named Minato Hinageshi, voiced by Ryota Katayose. They bond and fall in love with one another. Minato even gets into surfing because of Hinako. Sadly, on a stormy day, Minato ends up dying at sea, which sends Hinako into a spiraling depression. Then, out of the blue, when she starts to sing a song that they bonded with, Minato appears within the water. What is going on? Why is Minato appearing in the water? Will Hinako be able to move on and ride her waves through life?

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So, let’s do our best to ride a surfboard, and surf our way through the good aspects of this flick! For one, I have to disagree with a few people feeling disappointed by how “tame” this film is, in terms of Masaaki Yuasa as a filmmaker. I think this one is more focused in terms of tone and themes. I love The Night is ShortWalk on Girl and Lu Over the Wall, but to me, Ride Your Wave has the best balance. If you didn’t see the trailers, the film’s theme is finding your way in life, which is something I’m sure most young adults after high school try to find. Even adults at one point or another think about where they are going, and what kind of life they want to live. You think you know where you are going, but then become unsure, due to incidences that send you off the rails, or in this case, wiping out. It’s a touching theme that is handled well throughout the entire film. The script by writer Reiko Yoshida, who also wrote the script for The Cat Returns and A Silent Voice is full of charm and young adults who feel fairly realistic. Some of them have typical anime traits, but even with the joke that this is Japan’s Shape of Water, I felt very invested with the characters. A lot of the time is spent with the young leads talking to one another, and the Yuasa weirdness only comes in when necessary.

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Animation-wise, it’s gorgeous. I know many despise the fact that studios like Yuasa’s Science Saru are using flash or computer over traditional 2D animation, but you wouldn’t know that if I didn’t already tell you. There always seems to be this tendency with animation fans thinking that flash animation or 2D digital animation is inferior to traditional 2D, but as usual, it’s not the tool, it’s the person behind the tool that gives you the results that show how incredible the quality is. The character designs are expressive, and the cartoony exaggerations are more controlled this time than what you see in Lu Over the Wall or The Night is Short. That style of cartoony stretch and squash is important for animation, but it, like any rule in animation, needs to be in control of what kind of film you are making. The voice cast does a great job, and while I wish there was an English dub, I get why they kept it to just the Japanese language track. Even though they made it work with Lu Over the Wall, I think there is a difference when a licensed song is used, and they probably didn’t want to deal with retranslating it to make it work. Plus, just like Parasite‘s Bong Joon-Ho said, once you get over the 1-inch barrier, you will be fine. The music is pretty good, but be prepared to hear the main song the film uses over and over. It’s almost its own drinking game due to how it’s intertwined with the story.

The one downside I have for the film is how the third act happen. Due to how Ride Your Wave moves at the pace of low-key animated features like My Neighbor Totoro, the conflict to start the third or so act never happens fluidly. It’s abrupt. I always wonder what happens in these films that make the filmmaker go, “Man, we need to find a way for the film to have a satisfying closing act”. It’s not a terrible ending by the way. The film wraps itself up quite nicely.

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While it might not have the same zany energy to Masaaki Yuasa’s previous films, I find Ride Your Wave to be his best film. The animation is wonderful, the characters are likable, and I highly recommend everyone try to catch the one-night screening of the film on February 19th, and to buy the film when it comes out on Blu-ray. Well, now we must move onto ride our own waves, and next time, I’ll be talking about Keichi Haara’s newest film The Wonderland.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials