The Other Side of Animation 262: Pompo the Cinephile Review

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


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


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


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


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



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

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




Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 251: Belle Review

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

It’s interesting to observe the steady rise in popularity of certain animation directors from Japan. For a good long while, it used to be just Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata taking up all of the attention from overseas audiences. It wasn’t until 2016 that Your Name by Makoto Shinkai received the same attention. It wasn’t until 2017 for Masaaki Yuasa with his combo of Lu Over the Wall and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. The hope for the future is that with the acclaim of A Silent Voice, Liz and The Blue Bird, and The Heike Story, Naoko Yamada will be next alongside Mari Okada with her film Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom and her work on O Maidens In Your Savage Season. For now, it’s finally Mamoru Hosoda’s time in the spotlight. Sure, he has had it before with his acclaim for films like Summer Wars and Wolf Children, but mainstream audiences are mostly going to know him as the director of the Oscar-nominated Mirai. Even now though, how can you trust more casual movie audiences to actually go out and see a foreign animated feature when there are barely any theaters playing them? Luckily, GKIDS and Hosoda have gone all-in with his newest film, Belle. 

Written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda himself, the story follows Suzu, voiced by Kaho Nakamura and dubbed by Kylie McNeill. She’s a distant individual who feels alone in the world due to the depression that surrounds her after the death of her mother at a young age. She currently lives with her dad, but is pretty reclusive to anyone who isn’t her friend Hiroka. She even grew displaced with her hobby of singing and music due to how it was her mother who was supportive of it. One day, she decides to join the massive social media world known as U, an online space that scans a photo of you and turns you into who the “real” you really is. She goes by the name of Belle and ends up picking back up her singing under her new online persona becoming a massive hit. Unintentionally, with all that comes with fame and popularity online, her path is crossed by an entity known as Dragon, voiced by Takeru Satoh and dubbed by Paul Castro Jr. Who is this mysterious individual and what will Belle/Suzu’s fate unfold into if she decides to find out who this Dragon really is? 

It’s been said on record that Hosoda was inspired by Disney’s 1991 Oscar-nominated Beauty and The Beast, and the film uses a lot of the themes and elements of the original story. Though honestly?  I wouldn’t truly call it a Beauty and the Beast story in the more traditional sense. There are themes about love and family, which is what a lot of Hosoda’s films are based around, but this time, he sort of goes off the beaten path with how much this film is tackling. It deals with themes of loss, love, connection, coming of age, becoming stronger in a metaphorical sense, abuse, identity, and especially social media with how it warps and changes individuals. It might have some similar elements to Summer Wars, but people expecting Summer Wars 2 should really not go in expecting that. 

The only thing similar is how the film takes place in a social media world, but it doesn’t feel rehashed or recycled. People forget how long ago Summer Wars was and how social media has absolutely changed from 2009 to 2021. It’s more of a story of Suzu’s growth as an individual, and you can see how that progresses from the start to the finish of the film. Belle is full of small character beats of set-up and pay-off that are frankly, so well executed. Some reviews say there was too much going on, but the story never felt like it had too much on its plate. As previously mentioned, there are small little visual story beats that set up the overall story that you can miss if you aren’t paying attention. The overall story is extremely touching and shows how human connection and love can help each other get through life and grow stronger as individuals. 

Animation-wise, Hosoda made sure it was clear that there would be a lot more CGI used alongside his studio’s incredible 2D animation. There seems to be this weird technophobic reaction to anytime someone uses CGI, and that’s a shame, because the CGI here is used well. It might not match what Disney or what US studios are doing, but it has a distinct look that has the same level of high quality CGI used by studios like Studio Orange. It helps that a majority of the CGI is used while in the virtual social media world, and it’s all incredibly stylized. The characters are expressive and the movements never feel awkward or clunky. It also helps that Jim Kim, who designed multiple characters for Disney hits like Frozen and Encanto, designed the look of Belle herself. Even Cartoon Saloon helped out with the backgrounds in U, and it leads to a mixture of some of the best visuals of the 2020s so far. That doesn’t mean everything amazing was pushed into the CGI,  because the 2D is also great as usual, with some fantastic designs, expressions, and when the film wants to be funny, comedic animation. 



It’s Studio Chizu, so of course, it was going to look great, but the acting is also so good. The original language version and the English dub are quite possibly some of the best in recent memory. You can tell the actors on both versions worked hard to hit the big emotional scenes and are compelling outside of those scenes. Both the Japanese and English actors for Belle had their breakout roles in this film. The rest of the cast includes some really big names on both sides like Takeru Satoh, Jessica DiCicco, Hunter Schafer, Wendee Lee, Barbra Goodson, Ben Leply, Shota Sometani, Paul Castro Jr, Kylie McNeill, Chase Crawford, Manny Jacinto, David Chen, Lilas Ikutah, Ryo Narita, Brandan Engman, Tina Tamishiro, Andrew Kishino, Kenjiro Tsuda, and you get the idea. What’s fun about the English dub is that while there are some recognizable names, they aren’t the biggest celebrities around like some of GKIDS previous endeavors with casting celebrities for their films. It’s a dub filled to the brim with character actors and voice actors, which is the best. However, one thing that could have crippled the film is the quality of the songs that were performed by Kylie and Kaho respectively. Well, they are bangers! There might not be many songs for the lead to perform, but what they lack in quantity of songs, they definitely make up for in the quality of songs. The songs play an important role for each part of the story in which they are introduced, and they will stay with you for the rest of time once you leave the theater. The music is, like the visuals, a collaborative effort by Miho Sakai, Yuta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell, and Taisei Iwasaki. It offers a vibrant offering of tunes that are just as fun to listen to alongside the musical moments. 

Belle is simply put, a powerful experience, with its outstanding visuals, engaging story, and musical moments all wrapped up in one of the best animated films of 2021. It truly deserved its 14-minute standing ovation at Cannes as well as the multiple award nominations and wins under its belt. It’s this reviewer’s personal favorite film of 2021 alongside The Mitchells vs. The Machines. It’s now time for Mamoru Hosoda to have the same level of acclaim and attention that Hayao Miyazaki has enjoyed over the years. If you can watch this film safely, please do check it out. It’s an experience unlike any other in animation. Next time, we will look at the Funimation co-produced and distributed Sing a Bit of Harmony

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: Essentials 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Finale

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

Good gravy, let’s finally get this one out of the way! Here were my top 10 favorite animated films from 2020! If you haven’t seen part 1, part 2, or part 3, I will make sure to hyperlink them. I apologize that life got in the way of making this one happen so late. 



10. The Wonderland 

While Keiichi Hara’s follow-up to one of my favorite films of 2016 Miss Hokusai doesn’t quite reach that level of quality, his new film, The Wonderland is still a whimsical adventure via a coming-of-age tale. It has some truly beautiful landscapes and a creative fantastical world that may be Hara’s own take on Alice in Wonderland. The villain isn’t the most interesting, and there are some jokes and moments that irked me, but I was so happy to catch this film before everything came crashing down with the pandemic. 

9. The Willoughbys 

This dark family comedy may suffer from a majority of the children in this family being underdeveloped in favor of the oldest son getting the majority of the development, but considering how little came out during the pandemic, I’ll take an overall vibrant and funny experience. What it may lack in some story strength makes up for some of 2020’s most vibrant CGI stop-motion-style animation, some very clever jokes, a fantastic cast, and it was just another step in showing what kind of experiences Netflix, flaws and all, are going to be offering in the feature animation scene. 

8. The Croods: A New Age

While I wouldn’t call 2020 or 2021’s DreamWorks’ best year for animation, out of their four recent films that they have released, The Croods: A New Age is their best one since 2019’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Who would have thought that a sequel that was in start/stop production hell would actually result in one of the better DreamWorks sequels? They expand on the world, the new characters are likable and bring in some substance to the overall story, the jokes are more creative, and the sequel leaning into the more absurd world that the story takes place in leads to a better overall product. I don’t know what they could do with a follow-up film, but if it’s as much fun to watch as this one, I wouldn’t mind seeing a third film. 

7. On Gaku: Our Sound 

While Lupin III: The First and Wolfwalkers were going to always be the more approachable GKIDS-distributed films of 2020, I still wish On Gaku: Our Sound had received more love. It’s a truly, by the definition, indie animated feature among the bountiful animation scene in Japan. Its offbeat atmosphere, quirky humor, and laid-back approachable story stick out from the flashier big-budget fare. That many of the people working on this were first-time animators is an impressive feat and while the use of rotoscope is obvious, the fact there is no other film quite like it out in 2020 is impressive and rather fun. It’s a film that introduces a real deal shot in the arm that the animation scene always needs. 

6. Lupin III: The First 

I remember how worried I was to see the franchise’s first step into CGI, and boy howdy, they didn’t miss a beat. Not only is it a fantastic foray into CGI animation, but it’s also a Lupin story that’s actually compelling and entertaining! For those that are fans of the franchise, getting both good animation and a good story isn’t always a given or is balanced with each film and special. With the return of the iconic dub cast, thrilling action, stellar writing, and some of the best CGI from Japan, Lupin III: The First shows a promising future for the franchise and the future of theatrical CGI animation from Japan. 

5. Onward

Remember when everyone was dunking on this film, and then everyone ended up liking it? I sure do. While it might not be one of the higher-end Pixar films, this touching story about two brothers and their journey to strengthen their bond and to try to get some closure with their dead father does elevate it as one of the more intimate and personal Pixar stories. The fantasy element even has a fun way of approaching the metaphorical and literal theme of losing and finding magic in life. It’s a film that has gotten better on rewatch, and I feel badly that it became one of the first victims of the pandemic. 

4. Over the Moon 

Netflix had a tough challenge of following up their acclaimed year of animation from 2019 where they had both I Lost My Body and Klaus, so Over the Moon was such a surprise with how much I fell in love with it. It is a touching story about grief, personal change, and dealing with loss, with some fantastic music, vibrant animation, and a fantastic lead. It was directed by Glen Keane, and this was his first time directing a feature film! Over the Moon also has a very witty script from Keane and the late great Audrey Wells. It also gets bonus points for having moments of gorgeous 2D animation. With Pearl Studios now on their own, making films with a promising lineup of future projects in the works, Over the Moon was an out-of-this-world first impression of what they could do after their relationship with DreamWorks ended. 

3. Ride Your Wave 

Masaaki Yuasa is a master director. I mean, I could leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be super satisfying as this is, until we finally see Inu-Oh this year, his best and most approachable movie. It’s a romance that of course has its own Yuasa twist that makes it his take on the “Shape of Water” romance perspective about a college girl finding her way in life. It even has the tamest visuals of Yuasa and Science Saru’s work. You can tell they toned it down from the immense visual overload that was 2004’s Mindgame and his more recent work with Lu Over the Wall and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Whether you like his more out-there premises or his more grounded ones, Ride Your Wave should be in your animation collection. 

2. Soul 

Even with a year like 2020, having a Cartoon Saloon, a Peter Doctor/Kemp Powers Pixar film, and a Yuasa film in the top three spots should be a sign of how good the good stuff was. There are definitely some understandable arguments about some of this film’s execution of plot points, and I understand where they are coming from with some of them, and maybe it’s because 2020 was just an entire mood year, Soul hit many people in a way that most animated films, Pixar or otherwise, do. Until Disney and Pixar can break the chains and do more adult-tinted animated features, this is the most adult film Pixar has ever put out, with an extremely philosophical story about life and what drives a person. With earworm tunes, an incredible performance from Jamie Foxx, and a rather ethereal tone, Soul ranks up as one of Pixar’s best. 

1. Wolfwalkers 

I mean, was there any shock here that it would be number 1? While it is technically tied with Soul, there is just something extremely special anytime we get a Cartoon Saloon film. It has some of the studio’s best animation yet, with its mix of gorgeous 2D visuals and rough pencil style reminiscent of the 70s and 80s Disney/Don Bluth that looks like it was filmed on wood grain. It is a touching story about two young girls, the themes of discrimination, anti-colonialism, sexism, freedom, family, and environmentalism, Wolfwalkers stands out from the pack in a year that had very little competition for the major titles everyone was looking forward to. Now, I do wish they would simply sell Wolfwalkers as an individual release instead of holding it hostage with Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, though seriously, pay for an AppleTV+ subscription and watch this incredible flick.

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!