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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Rent it

Chainsawing Through the Fall 2022 Anime Season

(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 editorial!)

The fall 2022 season was a pleasant upgrade over Summer 2022’s anime season. It doesn’t reach all of the same heights as Fall 2021, but with its cast of new and returning anime, it still unleashes to the anime-loving audience a batch of amazing shows. Sure, some were bound to be new classics like Chainsaw Man, but there are other great shows this season and with Winter 2023 around the corner, let’s drop some impressions of a pretty solid season of anime. 

COMEDY

Love Flops (HiDive) 

(CW: assault and harassment jokes in the first episode)

One of the few original properties this season by Kadokawa Pictures. It’s produced by Passione, directed by Nobuyoshi Nagayama, and written by Ryo Yasumoto. Consider this one of the most middling mediocre harem anime to ever exist. Probably one of the worst anime of 2022 as well with the fact that the five girls and one woman who are fawning over this teenager, have no reason to fall for him. The way they are introduced to one another is laughably terrible and conceived, and the second episode’s reason behind them falling for him is yet another take on the vibe that they want anime viewers to start getting married and make kids. If it didn’t have Passione’s higher-than-usual production values, this anime would have fallen flat due to one-note love interests, and how it’s mostly interested in being male-wish fantasy nonsense. You all know you can not watch bad anime because it has cute anime girls right? You can go to other anime for cute anime girls that have more substance and personality to them. Heck, this season is full of them. You can do so much better than this one. Oh, and it dares to have a twist and become super meta when it doesn’t earn it or deserve it. 

The Little Lies We All Tell (Crunchyroll)

Man, it must be tough to be a comedy/gag anime that comes out the same season as Pop Team Epic’s triumphant return. This show is based on the manga by Madoka Kashihara. It’s directed by Makoto Hoshino, written by Megumi Shimizu, and produced by Studio Flad. The marketing for this show is weird. One poster and the title make it sound like it’s going to be some dark teen drama, but it’s a gag anime. It feels like it was put together by random or thrown-out ideas, and it is at least trying to be absurd and have that same high energy take as classics of the subgenre, but it never quite feels as cohesive or as absurd as others. It’s trying, and it has a laugh here and there, but it’s never as consistent as other shows like Cromartie High or Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. The four, well, three girls and one cross-dressing boy who was forced to go to the school all have something to hide, and the different gimmicks never feel like they mesh. It’s a weird show, because I personally don’t think it’s good, but I can see someone vibing with this show. It needed to have a bit more balance or focus on making the characters have actual personalities rather than just relying on the gimmick and some tired anime tropes. Still, you can do worse with anime comedies. 

Urusei Yatsura (HiDive)

Well, if it’s not broken…. This is based on the influential manga by Rumiko Takahashi. It’s directed by Hideya Takahashi, Yasuhiro Kimura, and Takahiro Kamei, written by Yuko Kakihara, and produced by David Productions. No exaggeration here, this new adaptation of the manga basically kept everything set in the 1970s without changing much outside of a new visual coat of paint. So be prepared to see somewhat tame by today’s standards mean-spirited gag stories with a somewhat overarching plot being weaved into the episodes. It can be loud, absurd, and funny, and whether its more heartfelt moments clash or not with the over-the-top and well-animated comedy, will be up to you. For me, I enjoyed the batch of episodes I have seen so far and it will at least be way better than that Inuyasha follow-up. 

More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers (Crunchyroll) 

I feel so betrayed and frustrated by this show. It’s based on the manga by Yuki Kanamura, directed by Takao Kato and Junichi Yamamoto, written by Naruhisa Arakawa, and produced by Studio Mother. If you don’t hear about the setting this story takes place in, it sounds like a real rock-solid rom-com. Two students who don’t care much for each other team up to actually hook up with the people they want to crush on. Now, if you have seen these romcoms before, you know our two leads are actually gonna fall for each other. The story focuses on their insecurities as individuals and, while it can be a bit horny since it’s anime, the show really does invest a ton of time to progress the story arcs between our leads. What makes this show fall flat is the premise. Our two leads are together because they are in a mandatory school course where they must learn to become good future husbands and wives. Oh, and the dorms the couples stay in, are wired with cameras all over, watching their every step. It’s intensely creepy and it’s maddening because this would be really cool if the premise didn’t sound like some weird conservative wet dream of the ideal school course students should be taking. I know some of the anime made every year will have some underlying political commentary about modern political topics in Japan, but no school should have a mandated “get a grade by being a married couple” course. You could easily have a better setting, because everything else is pretty okay! I wish I could recommend it full-heartedly, but there are better romcoms this year that don’t pull weird settings like this. 

I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss (Crunchyroll)

When you watch a terrible anime like Shinobi No Ittoki, coming back to watch a show like this one really shows how good some of the shows this season are. This is based on the novels by Sarasa Nagase. The adaptation is produced by Maho Films, written by Kenta Ihara, and directed by Kumihiko Habara. While we are about to slowly get flooded with isekai titles about characters playing the villain from a popular or just any random otome game, if they can keep differentiating themselves from My Life as a Villainess, then they are good to go. Here, the rom-com plot of our lead trying to propose to the demon lord has resulted in a rather delightful and quirky journey, as we see our lead break the game and shift reality around her beck-and-call and use her knowledge of the original game to her advantage. It focuses on a lot of diverse character interactions, and it’s an adorable show with so many characters being rather lovable. It might have wonky animation and CGI compositing, but this is an otherwise charming show that will warm its way into your heart. 

Do It Yourself! (Crunchyroll)

What a wonderful original anime we have this season. It’s directed by Kazuhiro Yoneda, written by Kazuyuki Fudeyashu, and produced by Pine Jam. What’s so delightful about this show is how it works on so many levels. You not only have the fun of seeing an anime about the joy of Do It Yourself projects, but it’s a show about rebuilding and repairing friendships old and new. It’s not just another “cute girls doing cute things” show. It also has a visual style that looks like the result of Cloverworks and Science Saru having a child. Pine Jam has truly crafted a fantastic watercolor visual style and some of the most expressive characters of this season of anime. It’s one of those shows that is a great gateway anime to introduce to newcomers, and it stands out as one of the best this season. 

Bocchi The Rock (Crunchyroll) 

While Chainsaw Man is probably the most obvious show this season to be popular, it’s nice to see a show like this stellar piece of rock and roll get popular. It’s based on the manga by Aki Hamaji. It’s directed by Keiichiro Saito, written by Erika Yoshida, and produced by CloverWorks. You can basically call this a combination of coming-of-age, music, and extreme cases of social anxiety. The journey of our nervous wreck of a lead character to join a blossoming band and to expand upon her social skills is one of Fall 2022’s biggest surprises. It also has some of the most expressive and vibrant animation seen all year. Not a big shock from CloverWorks, but just in general. It’s some of the most interesting visuals you will find in a year full of anime with distinct visuals. It’s also really funny and crushingly accurate as to how they capture social anxiety, and how it can feel for some people in certain situations. Just a splendid anime around, and it’s no wonder why it has become one of the fan-favorite anime of the season. 

ACTION/ADVENTURE

Shinobi no Ittoki (Crunchyroll)

Well, at least it’s trying to do more than most middling ninja anime. This is another original anime of the season that’s directed by Shuu Watanabe, written by Minato Takano, and produced by Troyca. This show has an odd balance of tones. On one hand, the story of a boy who’s suddenly forced into being trained in order to run an entire clan of ninjas is understandably compelling, but lordy, is this some of the worst written dialogue and storytelling I have seen all year. Yeah, let’s follow this one character who was never told until he was in high school about his ninja ancestry, never train him, and then throw him into a school full of other ninja clans that want him dead and not give him at the very least a rundown or heads up of who to avoid or what to know. This show wants to be this thrilling ninja story and it isn’t just due to how the characters are terribly written, and what could be interesting or fun with the rather solid action animation, is dead weight and stuck with a story that’s not fun to sit through. Just a really boring and unbearable series. It’s not a bad show because it’s poorly animated or problematic. It’s a bad show because at no point is it thrilling, at no point is the story compelling or giving you a reason to root for its characters. It has story beats that happen that aren’t earned, and it’s a sign of how bad certain original anime can be. 

The Eminence in Shadow (HiDive) 

(CW: Sexual Assault in the first episode)

What is with anime productions that want to botch their first impressions with anime-only first episodes? I swear these production committees never learn. This is based on the novels by Daisuke Aizawa. It’s directed by Kazuya Nakanishi, written by Kanichi Katou, and produced by Nexus. So, this show is weird, because the first episode is an anime-only story that sets itself up as an edgy power fantasy show, but when you watch past episode 1, it feels like it’s supposed to be a parody, or it’s goofing on the tropes and story beats of mediocre isekai. I would normally be all for that with how they crafted certain moments from the episodes I watched, but after a bit, I felt like I fell off on whether this was supposed to be a parody or they were just being very tongue-and-cheek with it when it comes off like every other power fantasy anime that comes out every year. I guess at least it has a sense of personality with how it’s trying to lay out its jokes, but I couldn’t personally vibe with this one. I get why a lot of people do, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. 

Chainsaw Man (Crunchyroll)

I mean, we all knew this was going to be one of, if not the best new show of the Fall 2022 season right? It’s based on the hit manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto that has taken the manga world by storm. The anime adaptation is obviously produced by MAPPA, it’s written by Hiroshi Seko, and directed by the duo of Ryu Nakayama and Nasato Nakazono. This show is just a bit of everything. It has fantastic action, incredible film quality level animation, dark comedy, and it doesn’t just fall back on its popularity or the gore to keep you invested. It has everything an anime fan or a newcomer to anime could want with how it balances everything to pretty much perfectly. There is a reason why this is considered one of the best shows of the year and season. You can’t get any better than this in terms of anime, and hopefully, MAPPA is treating its animators well to craft such an exquisite experience. 

FANTASY/ISEKAI

I Somehow Became Stronger By Raising Farming-Related Skills (HiDive)

CW: Episode 2 has a really tasteless male getting assaulted joke. 

Is anyone else getting really sick and tired of shows having a solid elevator pitch, but then completely bailing on it for no reason? This show is based on the light novels/manga by Shobonnu. It’s directed by Norihiko Nagahama, written by Touko Machida, and produced by Studio A-Cat. A super-powered farmer in a fantasy world where he doesn’t want to be the hero sounds like it could lead to a really creative comedy about a farmer who just wants to farm. The first episode has the lead character literally throwing a carrot at the speed of light and killing a dragon with it. That’s so funny and yet, the rest of the show is actually not about that. It’s about a farmer who just gets roped up into being a hero because he’s got really good stats. It’s a really boring watch that doesn’t do anything new or really fun with the formula, gets way too dark for a show that isn’t advertised as such, and of course, it will slowly have a colorful cast of female love interests and some non-threatening male friends that don’t get in the way of our lead and his forced-together harem. If it focused less on being just another power fantasy with a harem with really shoddy animation, there could have been something special. Still, alas, it’s another mediocre fantasy anime in a year full of them. 

Management of a Novice Alchemist (HiDive)

Well, at least it isn’t boring. This is based on the novels/light novels/manga by Mizuho Itsuki. The show is directed by Hiroshi Ikehata, written by Shigeru Murakoshi, and produced by ENGI. I mean, it’s a “cute girls doing cute things” alchemy/fantasy edition. It doesn’t do anything truly unique outside of focusing on the crafting side than the magic, but it also has to fit in stuff like action and possible romance baiting between the four characters. It’s got a solid visual look with some better-than-usual animation, but it’s mostly just okay. If it looked a bit worse, I would rank it lower, but its aesthetic is what’s saving this run-of-the-mill anime. Not that originality is the end all be all, but after a bit with how much anime is coming out, doing the bare minimum while other shows are hitting it out of the park is going to bite some on the backside in the long run. 

Beast Tamer (Crunchyroll)

Some of the toughest anime to give impressions on are shows that are just so committed to being down the middle in terms of quality and story execution. Beast Tamer is kind of that show but with enough charm to it that makes it hard to be hateful or angry towards it. This is based on the novels by Suzu Miyama. The anime adaptation is directed by Atsushi Nigorikawa, written by Takashi Aoshima, and produced by EMT Square. The funny thing about these “I got kicked out of the hero’s party” fantasy anime is that the reason for getting kicked out is so petty, and that might be the intention, but it’s never believably done. What’s more interesting is despite it being what will essentially be a harem anime with multiple cute fantasy girls, the show as of what I have seen, was not interested in fanservice. Or, at least not to a distracting degree where the show halts in its tracks to give you some cheesecake. The main cast has decent chemistry with how our lead is gonna save the day with kindness with his monster-taming skills, but it’s just okay. Nothing super obnoxious, but nothing all that stellar either. It could definitely fill the void of comfort food anime watching, but your tolerance for certain harem tropes will be the deciding point, or if you can truly utterly believe the igniting point of the overall story in the first place. 

Raven of the Inner Palace (Crunchyroll) 

Well, we have our The Heiki Story anime of the season, and I mean that in the way that we have a period drama that’s really fascinating. It’s based on the light novels by Koko Shirakawa. It’s written by Satomi  Ooshima, directed by Chizuru  Miyawaki, and produced by Bandai Namco Pictures. It’s a shame the first major story arc is split between two episodes because this is one of the rare few anime that would have been better as a one-hour premiere. It’s really slow to start out and build up the world-building, politics, and supernatural elements with the first episode, and by the second episode, it fully kicks into what the first mystery of the show is. By the third episode, you will be intrigued and compelled to see what the requests the Raven Consort get and how they unfold. It unwraps into a beautiful story of love, loss, and is full of political and royal drama/thriller elements to keep you in this gorgeously prepared world. Doesn’t hurt either that Queen Bee does a fantastic theme song for the show, and if you are down for something a bit different from your typical shonen action romps or the big league titles, then consider giving this one a shot. 

Reincarnated as a Sword (HiDive)

This is what happens when you make a familiar, but compelling isekai. This is based on the novels by Yuu Tanaka. It’s directed by Shinji Ishihara, written by Takahiro Nagano, and produced by C2C. While the lead being reincarnated as a sword doesn’t seem like it leads to a very compelling story, it actually stands on its own as one of the better isekai this year. The sword’s interaction with our cat girl lead that so far, the anime has tried to avoid sexualizing, is nice since anime is so bad at not making young characters look lewd. I get ya want to sell merchandise, but instead of doing most anime nonsense, the show does focus on the growing bond between our leads and it makes for a more pleasant experience when you are able to enjoy the show without so much nonsense getting in the way. With a fun premise, great animation, and well-executed action, Reincarnated as a Sword was a pleasant surprise in a year full of mediocre isekais. 

OTHER

My Master Has no Tail (HiDive) 

This was a sweet little title. It’s based on the manga by TNSK. The anime adaptation is produced by Liden Films, written by Touko Machida, Kei Shimobayashi, Aya Satsuki, and Yuho Togashi, and directed by Hideyo Yamamoto. What starts off as a cute little fantastical take on a period piece where our little tanuki lead goes into the human world to see what is going on, turns into a friendship drama about her wanting to work under a storyteller’s wing in a changing world. No longer can a tanuki thrive in a world with carriages, cars, and at the time, modern devices. It’s a show that tackles themes of dealing with the fear of the unknown in an ever-changing world, respecting the past, and finding that ambition to push through the tides of change. It’s well-animated, the characters are likable, and while there may be some cultural barriers that will get lost in translation, the show is easy to follow and only has a little bit of that anime nonsense that hampers it from time to time. 

Bibliophile Princess (HiDive)

This is where I wish this had a dub, due to how talkative it is. This is based on the light novels by Yui. This period piece drama/romance is directed by Taro Iwasaki, written by Mitsutaka Hirota, and produced by Madhouse. Listen, this show’s first episode is really slow, and you will only get the crumbs of what the drive of this show will be between a lovely prince and a bookish princess. Luckily, by the second and third episodes, the chemistry blossoms into a rather lovely romance with some gorgeous visuals. This is one of the few light novels where it’s not just an edgy male power fantasy isekai nonsense. Granted, even though I have watched plenty of episodes, I am worried about how much our princess has in terms of agency and how much development she gets from the story, since a lot of it is told from her perspective. Still, if you are in the mood for romance, period dramas, and something more slow and low-key, then you will probably like this show. 

Blue Lock  (Crunchyroll)

The one sports anime of the season comes in the form of one of the best sports anime of the year. It’s based on the manga by Muneyuki Kaneshiro with illustrations by Yusuke Nomura. The adaptation is written by Taku Kishimoto, directed by the duo of Tesunaki Watanabe and Shunsuke Ishikawa, and produced by Eight Bit. Instead of being another familiar but well-executed typical shonen-style sports anime, Blue Lock brings a more aggressive and sinister vibe to the sports formula by pitting teams against each other to become the best. With a more assertive and menacing art style to the players and the world itself, Blue Lock sets itself apart by being different and truly stands out among 2022’s mostly generic batch of sports anime. 

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury (Crunchyroll)

Never thought I’d see the day I talk about and love a Gundam series that wasn’t G-Gundam or the other series that Toonami and Adult Swim played back then. This is directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi and Ryo Ando, written by Ichiro Okouchi, and produced by Sunrise. Who knew that what we needed was not a group of angsty teenagers in yet another anti-war story that clashes with the sole money-making side of the Gundam franchise of selling a multitude of models and action figures? Yeah, war is bad, but look how cool the robots and action beats are. Thankfully, what ya get with this one is Gundam crossed with Revolutionary Girl Utena, which is already at this point, a tired and worn joke since one of the writers of Utena is writing the script for this show. On a more serious note, this show is just fantastic. It’s got its political upheaval and war is bad messages for sure, but instead of that stuff being in your face at all times, it focuses more on the characters and they are delightfully diverse and complex. It still weaves in themes of discrimination and corruption, but they are characters first and foremost. It also helps that they are pretty likable, on top of the fight scenes being pretty stellar. It’s the shot in the arm that this franchise needed and it just needed to have more LGBTQ+ elements. Who knew?

Akiba Maid War (HiDive)

Well, I found it, I found the most ideal trashy anime that I don’t have to feel guilty for watching. This original anime is directed by Soichi Masui, written by Yoshihiro Hiki, and produced by P.A. Works. Yeah, the show is basically John Wick, but here every woman wears a sexy maid uniform. It’s more of a trashy action flick mixed with some territorial crime/gang war drama where all of the maid cafes are actually competing against one another with shady underbelly stuff that you would find in most crime thrillers. It’s over-the-top and schlocky, but with how much personality is in this show and how it 100% commits to its premise of drama and over-the-top action, if you were a fan of Lycoris Recoil, then you will absolutely love this show. HiDive this year has gotten some of this year’s best shows and Akiba Maid Wars is one of them! 


And there you have it. If you had to know the anime I’d recommend before the Winter season starts, please check out these titles: Chainsawman, Reincarnated as a Sword, Do It Yourself, Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, Akiba Maid Wars, Bocchi Rock, Raven if the Inner Palace, I’m The Villainess so I’m Taming the Final Boss, and honorable mentions go to Not a Married Couple, but Not Lovers and Urusei Yatsura

The Other Side of Animation 281: One Piece Film Red Review

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

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

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

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

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

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




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



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

Rating: Go see it! 

The Other Side of Animation 276: Drifting Home 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!)

Studio Colorido has been a rather surprising animation studio that has put out an eclectic resume of work. From short films and net animations, to working on major properties like Pokemon, they have put their name down as a quality animation studio. Even their film releases have mostly been good. Granted, I prefer Penguin Highway over A Whisker Away, but not every film is going to be a home run for studios. Every animation studio in Japan’s animation industry is going to have a dud and a hit and it’s never going to be 100% consistent. Still, a studio like MAPPA, Science Saru, and Colorido has the clout to make an announcement and you make sure you see it, because they are crafting journeys like Drifting Home for Netflix, and it’s a real gem you should all check out. 

Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida, the film is co-written by Ishida, Hayashi Mori, and Minaka Sakamoto. It stars a group of six kids. They are Kosuke Kumagai, dubbed by Bryce Papenbrook, Natsume Touchi, dubbed by Cassandra Morris, Taishi Koiwai, dubbed by Alex Cazares, Yuzuru Tachibana, dubbed by Ben Diskin, Reina Hama, dubbed by Abby Trott, and Juri Ando, dubbed by Cherami Leigh. As they venture around an old abandoned apartment building that is soon to be torn down, they all end up getting caught in a shift in scenery and location as the apartment building they are on is swiftly sent into the ocean along with them. As they try to find out the situation and what to do about it exactly, they also encounter a boy who may or may not be a ghost named Noppo, dubbed by Elliot Fletcher. Can our group of kids find a way back home while discovering what their friendship and/or relationships mean to one another? 

Do you know those old 80s/90s kids’ films that didn’t do well, but became cult classics and beloved childhood favorites? This is a modern-day take on those types of movies where a bunch of kids are the main focus, and we follow them through their journey on a metaphorical and literal memory of a giant building. A majority of the film is the kids traversing the open sea and checking out other buildings that are floating in the water, looking for food and reminiscing about the relationship each other shares. Now, while this film is at two hours, there are multiple points where they show montages of the kids interacting with one another and growing as individuals. It’s a coming-of-age story about kids who encounter themes of found family, loss, and memories first, and then an adventure film second. Sure, some characters show more growth than others, but the ones that get the focus make sense. It’s an intensely touching story that, while stumbling in how it handles its drama in the third act with how repetitive it gets, when it hits the right emotional note, it can be a real punch into the emotions. What this review is saying is that Its heart is in the right place. 




The film’s animation is more or less what you would and should expect from the talented artists at Colorido. They have always had a knack for having more expressive characters than most studios are willing or able to go the distance with how emotional the characters are on screen. It’s a studio with a distinct style, which is needed nowadays in order to stand out. Still, the combination of character animation, lush colors, beautiful backgrounds, and how it’s able to mix in 2D and CGI with relative ease makes this a gorgeous movie to look at. It takes its time to have moments where you can feel enthralled in the environment around our leads, and absorb the emotional headspace they are in when the story calls for them to have some kind of revelation or epiphany about what exactly is going on with them. It doesn’t hurt either that the cast is great. As mentioned above, you have a fantastic English dub cast of Bryce Papenbrook, Cassandra Lee Morris, Elliot Fletcher, Benjamin Diskin, Abby Trott, Cherami Leigh, and a surprise appearance of John DiMaggio, which is surreal. Not that it’s weird to see DiMaggio in anime dubs because he used to dub a lot of anime back in the day, but to see him again after so long being in mostly US-based animation is just great. Returning from composing the music from Penguin Highway is composer Umitaro Abe, and he brings a magical and adventurous vibe to the soundtrack. I mean, when you are a group of kids that are going across the high seas on a giant building, well, it should be fun and fanciful. 





While a touch too unevenly paced at two hours, Drifting Home is a charming journey a ton of kids take through memories about family, friendship, and dealing with loss and change. It could have balanced out its drama better, but it’s still a compelling and enjoyable ride with Studio Colorido’s distinct and colorful animation style, while also including a cast of likable child characters and a complex story about found family and caring for one another. It might not be as good as the director’s previous film Penguin Highway, but Drifting Home is a stellar experience that anyone looking for good Japanese-animated films to watch should absolutely check out. Now then, next time we will be looking at yet another Netflix exclusive, so be on the lookout for what it is! 

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 275: Goodbye on Glees 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!)

As we head into the late stage of studios doubling down on either something that can be cheap and made on a production line, or throwing money at ideas and properties that everyone knows about, the importance of supporting and rooting for original properties is becoming even more of a thing. At this point, an original film is something that isn’t based on a pre-existing property. You would think that so many have gone and seen the big franchise anime films and having them become hits would lead to more people going to see original films that get brought over, but they don’t. It comes off as cinema-goers and anime fans are too afraid to be more adventurous with film-watching and supporting non-franchise-based films. Listen, it’s okay to like them, but if you genuinely want more anime to be seen and released in theaters, then you need to be able to support the ones that are not tied down to something familiar. How boring would filmgoing be if it was just franchise fodder? It’s a shame so many viewers are not that adventurous or are all that supportive of original properties, because many fantastic films get released every year. Sure, it’s a good idea for the distributors to also make sure as many people can see them as possible and not just limit them to major cities, but filmgoers share the responsibility as well. Don’t just go and see whatever big franchise film gets put into theaters. You need to go and support films like Goodbye Don Glees as well. 

Directed and written by Atsuko Ishizuka, this film is animated by Studio Madhouse. We follow the tale of three friends. They are Roma Kamogawa, dubbed by Adam McArthur,  Hokuto Mitarai, dubbed by Nick Wolfhard, and Shizuku Sakuma, dubbed by Jonathan Leon. The three of them live in a small rural town in the countryside, and hope for lives outside of the city. Unfortunately, when a fire breaks out in the forest near the town where they live, they are for some reason blamed for it, and the trio of heroes go on a journey in the countryside to find a way to prove their innocence. 

So, you know how the metaphorical and literal igniting point of this film is the fire that the three are blamed for? Well, that’s the throughline of the entire story, but it’s not really about the fire if that makes sense. The film only really focuses on our main three characters, which results in a cast of side characters who really don’t get much development outside of one character that is connected to Roma’s personal arc in the story. Instead, the film doubles down on focusing on the three boys, and the real story is a coming-of-age story about what the three find important in their lives. What is the treasure that drives them and their goals in life? What is their ultimate adventure and the endgame of what they want to do? It’s a shockingly complex story, and the three leads work well off of one another. It finds a lot of time during its 90 mins to let the three relax and show off their friendship or reignite said friendship during some incredible moments. The three of them really do act like realistic teenagers and what they define as what it means to become more adult. It’s hard or really rare to find a film that has more grounded takes on teenagers, and it’s refreshing to see it here. I like that we have had a couple of films this year where the teens actually act like real teens or preteens as in the case of Turning Red. It shouldn’t be shocking due to this being the same director as A Place Further Than the Universe, but it’s nice to see other filmmakers from time to time show that they know how to write teenagers. It will even hit you with one emotional gut punch after another in the third act, so be ready. 

For the animation, Studio Madhouse did their usual fantastic work with some expressive and detailed character animations and incredible environmental backgrounds. Due to the location, it results in a very nature-driven world where every kind of green can be seen that meshes into a world full of nature growing around the land itself, and at certain points, man-made paths, and vehicles covered in grass. There are some scenes that are truly and utterly awe-inspiring. It’s a shame this film only got a Fathom Event release, because this film looks incredible, and you know the big screens would have made this film pop. It’s always the same problem with Fathom Events, because there are so few screenings. The designs of the humans were handled by Takahiro Yoshimatsu, who worked on titles such as Desert Punk, Overlord, and A Place Further Than the Universe. He brings some very appealing looks for our three leads, and each of them stands out in their own ways from Roma’s touches of red in his clothes, the fabulous hair of Hokuto, and Shizuku’s iconic jacket. As usual, it’s a gorgeous film and it results in some of 2022’s most awe-inspiring moments. Voice acting-wise, the English dub is good, as we have a cast that includes some fairly well-known anime voice actors and one celebrity voice with Wolfhard. The overall cast includes Adam McArthur, Nick Wolfhard, Jonathan Leon, Victoria Grace, Alan Lee, and Stephanie Sheh. The music by Yoshiaki Fujisawa offers a combination of tunes that ranges from streams of ethereal nature to some quirky tunes to use for jokes and some emotional “gut punch” tunes that play when you least expect them. It feels different from the composer’s other work that includes Estab Life, Engage Kiss, Love Live Superstar!, and Isekai Cheat Magician

Goodbye Don Glees is a surprisingly complex and endearing coming-of-age film about friendship between three boys that discover not only a way to save their lives, but also what drives their personal goals in life and their friendship. They set out to find that treasure that they hold near and dear to them. It’s a fantastic film that if you can find a way to see it on the big screen, do so. Otherwise, pick it up on Blu-ray to watch his charming story of friendship and life. Now then, we will now go on a journey via an ocean-bound apartment building via Drifting Home

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 274: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners Review

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

Video game adaptations are a cursed situation as there never seems to be any true or correct formula to make them work. Some have come close like Detective Pikachu and the Sonic films have been very successful, but those are the rare films to make it work. Even when you adjust the format from film to TV, TV shows or limited shows seem to fumble in that regard as well. 2020’s Dragon Dogma was an awful show, and yet 2022 has had three really good adaptations of video games. We had The Cuphead Show, which was pretty much Looney Tunes-style antics, but with Cuphead, Tekken: Bloodlines which adapted the third game’s storyline with fantastic CGI animation, and now we have the highly anticipated combination of Studio Trigger and CD Projekt Reds’ Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix. 

Based on the infamous sci-fi RPG by CD Projekt Red, it’s directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, written by Yoshiki Usa and Masahiko Otsuka, and produced by the famed anime production company, Studio Trigger. We follow a young man named David Martinez, dubbed by Zach Aguilar. He lives within a city that’s constantly on the move with technological upgrades being the name of the game. After an incident that ends up with his mother getting killed, David goes on the offense and starts to get enhancements done to himself including a special military grade upgrade. After doing so, he ends up becoming an Edgerunner, an outlaw mercenary taking on tasks that will sooner or later get them intertwined with the major corporations that run the entire city. Can David and his team that includes Lucy, dubbed by Emi Lo make a living in this chaotic world or will he find himself short-circuiting to the dangers in which this world lathers itself? 

Now listen, the video game this anime is based on is not known for much outside of its problematic development history and its disastrous release. Do you need to know anything about the game to enjoy the show? Not really. If you have seen any major piece of cyberpunk media, then the world and its commentary should be fairly familiar to those that enjoy this type of sci-fi worldbuilding. It also mixes in the sensibilities of the late 80s early 90s OVA boom from the anime scene. This means plenty of intense amounts of violence and some titillating nudity and sexual moments. However, while those three elements were made for a very specific crowd back then, the limited series uses them here for more substantial purposes than just shock and titillation. Or, at the very least it feels more substantial than stuff like the recent reboot of a certain infamous OVA franchise that’s also on Netflix. What is refreshing about this cyberpunk story is how it doesn’t try to be like Ghost in the Shell or other anime that would use this setting to be more about the human condition and just meander around with long diatribes. Edgerunners is fast-paced, action-packed, and while it can be at multiple points stimulus-overload with the visuals, they still find a way to fit in a compelling story and great characters. While the cast is overall strong, our two leads David and Lucy are the core of this story. Even when the screen is covered in bright colors, nudity, and violence, the heart of their romance and the story of finding freedom in a world where society is basically being watched by a thousand eyes and mega-corporations. It’s also all about the danger of losing your humanity in a metaphorical and literal way. It’s a complex show, and it’s so satisfying to see that Studio Trigger keeps showing that while they can be all about the bombastic action, they can still tell a good story. It may not rise to the levels of philosophical complexity as something like Sonny Boy or Ghost in the Shell, but it’s executed in a way to make the journey and the story comprehensible with the motivations of our characters. 

It’s Studio Trigger, so you can already tell what their animation style is going to be, and the animation is, for better or worse, what you expect. It can be busy and stimulating to a degree that you need to have down time from watching the visuals on screen, but it’s so good. There is something so delightful about being able to know what a Studio Trigger anime looks like. Even though the game this anime is based on has a more boring realistic look, they basically took blockier looks on the more traditional anime visual style, and have wildly expressive visuals and character movements. It might fall under the same limitations that the anime industry put in all of their projects, but they find ways to work around it all and still give us very expressive characters. The action is on point, and let’s just say there will be plenty of moments where you see explosions, bullets, and bodies getting turned into chunky salsa. The bright neon colors are also turned up to 11, and instead of going the route of making everything grungy, drab, and or murky as heck, it’s bright and colorful. It’s very impressive with how they make this world look distinct from other sci-fi worlds. The English cast is a mix of well-known anime voice actors and a few character actors you would know from live-action stuff who pull off some fantastic performances. You have Zach Aguilar, Emi Lo, William C. Stephens, Marie Westbrook, Stephanie Wong, Ian James Corlett, Alex Cazares, Giancarlo Esposito, Gloria Garayua, Borge Etienne, and Matthew Mercer. Akira Yamaoka, a composer most people would know from their work on Sparkster, Contra Hard Corps, Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, Shadows of the Damned, and Patema Inverted provided a tech-savvy vibe with some punk and hard rock edges to the technological cityscape. Also, the anime opening for this show is by Franz Ferdinand! When was the last time you heard from that band? That’s probably the biggest surprise that this show offers. 

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix is a beautiful, bittersweet dive into the technologically driven hellscape of a future where everything is driven by cybernetic enhancements. While it is based in the world of the infamous Cyberpunk: 2077, you will not need to wait months to enjoy the world of Cyberpunk with patches or mods. It might have a moment where the story shifts to a new batch of characters that isn’t the best at going from story A to story B, and if you aren’t into the hyper vibe of the animation at points, then you may want to skip this title, but otherwise, give this video game adaptation a watch! It’s impressive how this year, we have had three great adaptations via the world of animation. It’s a stellar time. Now then, next time, we will be talking about the new film GKIDS has released known as Goodbye Don Glees

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 272: The House of the Lost on the Cape

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

 

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from ElevenArts. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, ElevenArts for this opportunity.


2022 has been a heavy-hitting year for Japanese animated films. We not only had the financially successful Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and Jujutsu Kaisen 0, but we also had grand epics like The Deer King and the incredible experience that is Inu-Oh. It shows that there are a multitude of varying journeys animation can take you on, and all that’s really preventing them from getting wider audiences is the fact that they need distributors that are willing to bring them over here. People are craving animation now more than ever, despite what companies like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery think about the medium of storytelling. Hopefully, even with the recents of streaming services going bananas, distributors still help support and bring over animation from all over the world. Films like today’s review, The House of the Lost on the Cape, deserve to be seen. 

Directed by Shinya Kawatsura, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by David Productions, this film was brought over by Elevenarts. The story follows two girls, Yui and Hiyori, dubbed by Madeleine Morris and Risa Mei. While taking shelter during a hurricane, an elderly young woman named Kiwa, dubbed by Pam Dougherty, decides to take them in once it has been revealed that both of the girls have either lost their family or have run away from home due to an unhealthy household. As the three go to a house on the cape, the two girls slowly start to learn about the mystery around this very special house, and maybe soon, become a family. 

One thing to notice about this film is how laid back it is. It’s very quiet and the film takes a lot of time for the first half to set up the mystery of the house and the dynamic between our main characters. The music is very soft and there is nothing super dramatic or loud thrown at you. Even at the halfway point, when they introduce magical spirits like the kappa, it’s never taken comedically or has some misunderstanding of why the spirits are there. It’s very nonchalant about the situation, and that does result in a film that is in a similar spirit to My Neighbor Totoro or Okko’s Inn, if you are familiar with one of those titles. That is to say, that “nothing happens.” Even when you see films like that, there is always a point as to why the story was told in that way. Sometimes it’s an experience of watching a slice of this type of city, life, or ways of a certain culture. It’s also a bit much to say that nothing happens in this film.

 It’s a story that’s meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and earthquake. You can see how the film finds low-key ways to make that clear by having those tragic elements implemented via environmental storytelling. The overarching narrative is about being kind, looking out for one another, dealing with loss, grief, and being remembered. It’s about caring for one another during tough times and coming together to help one another. What’s also nice is how the film wraps everything up. Yes, there is a “sudden” third act shift where the conflict that’s slowly been growing in the background near the end of the second act begins to show up, and they do at the end of the day, save the entire town, but still leave some aspects intentionally unresolved. Some aspects of their arcs are complete, but while the overall ending is happy, there is still a small bit here and there where the story says “yeah, they grew as characters, but this isn’t going to wrap everything up”. It seems like since Encanto and maybe earlier, we have been getting complaints about some films having very complex issues and how some films either leave it messy or wrap everything up with a nice bow. Personally, it depends on what the main point of the film is and what kind of story they are telling. Unless it’s just egregious in how it wraps everything up, then it’s okay to either end it on a nicer note or leave it on whatever note on which you want to leave it. 

Now, animation-wise, David Productions is mostly known for the adaptations of franchises like Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, Fire Force, and Cells at Work. The House of the Lost is well-animated. You can maybe argue that it isn’t the flashiest animated film out this year compared to the other powerhouse productions like The Deer King and Inu-Oh, but the film aimed to be more low-key, and that’s okay. The animation is still well-handled, the mix of 2D and CGI isn’t all that noticeable with maybe one detail showing the CGI assets, and the spirits or yokai designs are handled in a way that makes them stand out and aren’t just the usual designs you see in most anime or films. It has a nice detail of when Kiwa goes into the backstory or folklore of the area around the town they live in, they use this fun Science Saru-inspired visual style of rotoscoping and rougher art style. It gives the film a dose of surreal and magical whimsy without it being too much. It never felt like the two art styles clashed either. In the voice acting department, the English dub cast is great with some well-known talent like Madeleine Morris, Risa Mei, Pam Dougherty, Casey Casper, Caitlin Glass, Michelle Marie, Ben Balmaceda, Alan Lee, Lucas Schuneman, Kaiji Tang, Mike Pollock, Brooke Chalmers, Brent Mukai, Sarah Wiedenheft, and Laura Stahl. The music by Yuri Miayuchi offers a more Animal Crossing vibe to the world the characters live in with soft and very slice-of-life tunes that are sprinkled throughout the entire runtime. It has its moments where it becomes grander in tone, but it’s a very lo-fi soundtrack, and that’s always a fun change of pace when it comes to films with more fantastical elements. 

It might not be as well-paced as it could have with how it gets from point A to point B, but the characters are charming, and the low-key atmosphere helps make the viewing experience an enjoyable one as we see the bond between the three characters grow over time. The House of the Lost on the Cape is like a warm hug with its overall journey of healing, and finding family and hope during tough times. It shows how coming together to help one another can raise themselves up from dark times and be a wonderful experience. If you can find a theater that will be playing this film, I definitely recommend checking it out. Otherwise, it will be coming out on Blu-ray and digital in a few weeks. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a fan-favorite animated series that finally hits Netflix. You will just have to wait and see what it is when we talk about it next. 





Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 265: The Deer King Review

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

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from GKIDS. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you GKIDS for this opportunity.

Something fun to see with Chris Williams’ The Sea Beast was a return to the grand fantasy epics in animation. With the upcoming feature film Strange World from director Don Hall and writer Qui Nguyen, we are entering a phase of having non-comedy-driven experiences. The world of animation is big enough to have every kind of genre. That doesn’t mean I want to stop seeing comedies, but let’s start jazzing up the scene in every way we can. That means we should be supportive of films that come out and do offer something different. For example, let’s take a look at the newest GKIDS-distributed feature from Japan, The Deer King. 

Directed by Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji, written by Taku Kishimoto, and produced by Production I.G., the story follows a man named Van, dubbed by Ray Chase. He was a captured slave who worked in the salt mines of a nation that has taken rule of a neighboring country. This is, of course, all while a horrific plague is brought upon by a mass of wolves that infect one nation’s people, but not the others. Van encounters a young girl named Yuna, dubbed by Luciana VanDette. He goes on a journey with her escaping the mines to find a better life and to learn what exactly is going on. This is, of course, all happening while a scientist is traversing the land to find a cure for the plague named Hohsalle, dubbed by Griffin Puatu. Will Van be able to start life over again with his newfound family situation? Can Hohsalle find a cure for this plague that has cursed an entire nation? How will these characters’ stories be connected? 

Let’s get this out of the way first. Everyone and their grandma has been comparing this film to the Studio Ghibli classic, Princess Mononoke. To be honest though? It’s only similar if you haven’t seen the film yet. Yes, there are male lead characters that ride on a deer. That’s about the only way they are the same. Comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges. Both might be fruit, but you aren’t going to call an apple a copy or rip-off of an orange. Whereas Princess Mononoke is the complicated and philosophical battle of humans versus nature, The Deer King is more about humans battling and dealing with human nature. The big bad of the film is the human drive for war and bloodshed. What’s so fascinating about this film is how it has come out during the pandemic period of history, because the director did take note of how the different nations’ civilians have dealt with the plague that sweeps the nation of Zol. It’s very critical of people who are against science and vaccines or those specific people who let “faith” make the judgment call on whether someone lives or dies from this plague. On top of this film being a big fantasy epic and a medical thriller at certain junctions within the story, there is a huge human element to the overarching plot. Much of this film is about Van finding peace after losing his family to the plague and the war. It’s a journey of letting go of loss, not letting rage and revenge take the reins of your destiny, and embracing love and passion for life as he tries to protect Yuna from the grasp of both the empire, a hitwoman, and the source of the said plague. The film takes a substantial amount of time to make that the focus. It’s interesting, because you could assume from the trailer that the film is action-packed and thrilling, but it’s not. It has its big action moments, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call this an action film. It’s more of a drama, due to how the film focuses on dialogue, character dynamics, and more politically charged elements. There is a reason it earns its R-rating, and it’s not for the few minutes of blood that you see in the film. 

Animation-wise, since this has a Studio Ghibli alumni, you can expect the animation to look not only amazing, but carry some of that Ghibli DNA through its lush visuals. There are superbly detailed backgrounds, grounded human designs, and fantastic physical animation in how things squash and stretch at points. It has a lot of those little character beats you would see in the director’s previous experience in animation. The designs may have a Ghibli touch, but they still stand on their own with Masashi Ando handling the character designs as well. You will find your eyes traversing dark caverns, misty swamps, snow-covered patches, beautiful grasslands, small fantasy villages, and ethereal forests. It’s also nice to see a lead character who doesn’t look like someone in their late teens or early 20s. It’s very rare we get animated films with adult characters, which is a bummer that being an adult lead character in a film is so rare, not only in anime but in animated films in general. The voice cast is also great. You have Ray Chase, Griffin Puatu, Erica Schroeder, Luciana VanDette, Doug Stone, Neil Kaplan, Frank Todaro, Keith Silverstein, Luis Bermudez, Chris Hackney, Doug Erholtz, Xander Mobus, and many others. Seriously, look up this cast. It’s fantastic. They do a great job alongside the original Japanese cast that includes Shinichi Tsutsumi, Ryoma Takeuchi, and Anne Watanabe to name a few from there. The music by Harumi Fuuki is quite elegant. If their name sounds familiar, it’s because Harumi composed music for Miss Hokusai, The Wonderland, Forest of Piano, and Tsurune. It’s a beautiful soundtrack that flows between pieces that are elegant, grand, imposing, and loving. 

While it has some superficial elements to the Ghibli classic and can be a touch long at times, The Deer King stands on its own as a grand human journey. It’s a rock-solid debut for  Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji, and if this is what they can do with one film, people will be back for their next one. Hopefully, if you can, you should watch this cinematic journey of man’s conflict with human nature. Next time though, we will be talking about a film that has been in production for over a decade and switched studios to finally get released, and, well, we will have to see how things unfold when we finally talk about Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

Rating: Essential

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 259: Bubble Review

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

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Netflix. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.

Studio Wit is a rather fantastic studio full of talented artists that are mostly known for animating the first few seasons of the acclaimed Attack on Titan. It must have been frustrating to be stuck on such a big franchise, because for a while that is all that they helped make. Luckily, they broke free from that franchise’s clutches, because the production committee was being absurdly impossible to deal with. It seemed like after that, they were able to start working on shows and films that they are way more passionate about. This includes Vivy, Ranking of Kings, After the Rain, this spring season’s Onipan!, and are co-producing with CloverWorks the Spy x Family adaptation, to name a few of the projects they have worked on since or alongside Attack on Titan. Now, they have an original film that will be out on Netflix called Bubble that shows that hopefully, Netflix is still going to be committed to original animated ideas and features. 


Bubble is directed by Tesuro Araki and written by Gen Urobuchi. It follows a group of people who live inside a large bubble that has overtaken Tokyo after an environmental disaster where these floating bubbles that defied gravity appeared. The game played within the bubble is essentially a more extreme and dangerous version of parkour as teams fight for resources by traversing floating and sunken buildings, and avoiding undertow-like traps throughout the courses. Hibiki, dubbed by Zach Aguilar is a young male who has had a history of hating sound or being affected by it in severe ways enough to wear headphones at all times, but inside the bubble, is one of the top-tier parkour players of his team.  One night, he decides to venture to the Tokyo Tower where ground zero hit when the bubbles arrived on earth. As he ventures around Tokyo Tower, he encounters a mysterious girl later nicknamed Uta, dubbed by Emi Lo, who is new to this now sunken city and world of parkour. Can Hibiki, Uta, and their friends find a way to solve the mystery of the bubbles? What about Uta? What is her role in this fantastical story? 

So, who said they needed a film that combined anime with The Little Mermaid, and parkour? Because that is what this film is. It’s a modern anime take on The Little Mermaid with the mixture of anime, and, well, you do get a distinct take on the fairytale that makes it stand out from other animated films like Ponyo, Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish, and Lu Over the Wall. There is something fun seeing what studios do with incorporating elements or story beats of fairytale-like experiences and how they unfold within the narrative. However, it’s more like Belle from 2021 in some regards, because it’s not fully a Little Mermaid story, but more of how it implements themes of environmentalism, connection, bonding, and freedom to the Little Mermaid formula, and it works out pretty well. It even has some of those ethereal universal atmospheric moments you would see in Ayumu Watanabe’s adaptation of Children of the Sea. While this film sounds like it goes places and is action-packed, it does tend to have more downtime moments where the characters breathe and the world is expanded upon, which is always a nice thing to see. Still, when the film decides to focus on the action, there is this rush that you get only when you combine some incredible music and gorgeous visuals from Wit Studios. 

With this being a Wit Studios production, the animation is obviously some of the best that the industry can offer. The entire sunken city world inside the bubble looks like it took its multiple coloring and intense amount of detail from Makoto Shinkai. The human movements are fluid and fast-paced with this being partly a fun action-packed parkour showcase, and its mixing of both 2D and CGI elements are seamless in the combination of the two. It’s a visually stunning film, and I know it’s easy to take jabs at it because of how it’s taking a ton of inspiration from Shinkai’s work on a visual level, but when the end result looks this fantastic, well, that’s a good thing. The action itself is so much fun to watch. There are definitely different takes on parkour, and there are some shows that make fun of it, but when you take it into the world of animation, it makes it look thrilling and exciting. This is especially true with how the people competing make harrowing jumps from floating debris and try to avoid getting knocked into the water or these dangerous black hole-like entities that are placed all over the city. The designs by Takeshi Obata are definitely some of his best work and don’t feel like leftovers from his collaborations with Tsugumi Ohba. The music is a real deal hit with the music being composed by Hiroyuki Sawano of 86, Attack on Titan, and Promare fame bringing this majestic, awe-inspiring, and epic score that really elevates the already impressive visuals. Granted, the fact this film opens with an anime-like opening sequence with a song by the famed Eve is jarring due to how this is a movie, but Eve has been making bangers over the past few years, so that’s perfectly okay. The English dub cast is full of well-known names like Zach Aguilar, Keith Silverstein, Emi Lo, Erica Lindbeck, Robbie Daymond, Laura Stahl, Landon McDonald, Jalen K. Cassell, Chris Jai Alex, Kyle McCarley, Christina Vee, Bill Butts, Derek Stephen Prince, Aleks Le, Howard Wang, Kaiji Tang, Brock Powell, and Jeannie Tirado.

Now, as for the criticisms for Bubble, it feels like it was drafted in the first half to be an anime series before getting turned into a film. There is a ton of exposition, and it always isn’t the best paced. The film is full of distinct side characters, but outside of a few who get some subtle or upfront character beats or backstories, most of them are forgettable. They are there to help push the story along and that’s about it. Even the other teams don’t have too much to themselves outside of some visual characteristics. It comes off at points, again, that it was meant to be a TV show. It would have definitely helped give the characters who aren’t Hibiki and Uta more time to be fleshed out. 

While it may be light as a bubble in some areas, Bubble is a fantastic original experience from a talented studio and team that I would definitely be on the lookout for if they team up again to make another animated feature offering. It will be on Netflix April 28th, and if you like action, lush animation, and something a bit different from your animated films, then definitely put this film on your watch list. Now then, since we are talking about distinct animated experiences from Japan, I think it’s time to check out a film that should have been covered on The Other Side of Animation for quite a while. Next time, we will be talking about Tekkonkinkreet






Rating: Go see it!