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!

The Other Side of Animation 257: Jujutsu Kaisen 0 The Movie 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 Crunchyroll/Funimation. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank youCrunchyroll/Funimation for this opportunity.

Well, here we are, we are talking about a shonen battle anime franchise film. For those that know this critic’s personal bias towards them, you know that these franchise films aren’t really all that good. Most of the time, these films are shallow non-cannon experiences that introduce elements that could have been useful in the main story and are never brought up again. You wonder why the showrunners never think about adding the film elements and making them canon, but no matter how good they are, they tend to be just shinier versions of the show with exclusive villains and storylines. There is a debate on which type of shonen franchise film is worse, the recap of an arc in film form, or the filler story that may introduce some new characters, villains, and story beats, but will absolutely not matter in the long run. Luckily, we are seeing a new trend where some franchises are adapting certain story beats into films. Like, why not pace out an arc for a film when it might not work in the form of a show? This happened with Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, even if they did then reanimate a chunk of it as a couple of episodes. Luckily, today’s review will not have that issue, since it’s a prequel to the overall anime! This is a review of Jujutsu Kaisen 0

The film is directed by Sunghoo Park, the director of the show, The God of Highschool, and Garo: The Vanishing Line. It’s written by Hiroshi Seko, and based on the manga by Gege Akutami. Our story follows Yuta Okkotsu, dubbed by Kayleigh McKee. He’s a high schooler who happens to have something looming over his shoulders in the form of a deadly and immensely powerful cursed spirit named Rika Orimoto, dubbed by Anairis Quinones. This spirit happens to be his childhood friend before she died and was cursed to stick to Yuta. After an incident where Yuta put some classmates into the infirmary ward, he is sought after by our favorite Jujutsu sorcerer/mentor Satoru Gojo, dubbed by Kaiji Tang. He decides to enroll him into the school where individuals who want to become sorcerers can train and save people from these curses. Unfortunately for Yuta and Gojo, the main villain of the series, Suguru Geto, dubbed by Lex Lang, wants to get Rika for his own desires to rule the world and kill anyone who isn’t a Jujutsu sorcerer. Can Yuta get a handle on his grief and save the day? I mean, obviously, something happens since this is a prequel story, but still. 

What’s so fascinating about this film is how it fits into the overall franchise. Unlike most films in battle franchises, this one is actually important to the story. You can literally start the franchise with this film and then watch the show. The film rewards you with watching it first by making a lot of the stuff that happens in the show have more substance to them. However, watching the show and then the film afterwards can also give you some rewards in a different sense by filling in those parts of the story that this film explains. It’s such a smart decision to adapt the prequel story into a movie due to how it really couldn’t work as its own small story arc due to how little substance there was in the original manga. The film itself has a rock-solid story of Yuta getting over the loss of his friend, and him metaphorically and literally holding onto his grief with Rika. There is also a part of the story dealing with the different ideals, and the ravine that separates two of the characters due to their backstory and philosophy. It’s a film with a lot more substance than “the heroes fight a movie-exclusive villain that doesn’t do anything for the main storyline”. 

Animation-wise, it does look fantastic. Despite the fact that MAPPA is overworking their animators like the rest of the anime industry when they shouldn’t, their animation is top-notch. The film might not look any different from the show, but considering how good it looked in the first place, that isn’t the biggest deal. The characters look great, the animation is fluid, and the action beats are incredible. There is a reason why most studios try to book MAPPA for action shows due to their incredible work. I am sure this is what the director is now going to be known for. The English dub cast is fantastic as usual, with a really good set of actors that are obviously in the show as well.  As I previously mentioned, we have Kayleigh McKee, Anairis Quinones, Kaiji Tang, Lex Lang, Allegra Clark, Xander Mobus, Matthew David Rudd, Bill Butts, Ryan Bartley, Sarah Williams, and Laura Post. The music hits all of those fun bombastic and action-packed notes, and they bring back the overall team of the show for the film. I mean, why wouldn’t they? They brought back composers Hiroaki Tsutsumi, Yoshimasa Terui, and Alisa Okehazama. Hiroaki is a well-known composer who also worked on shows like Tokyo Revengers, Dr. Stone, Orange, Children of the Whales, Monster Musume, and the infamously awful Koikimo

Now, criticizing this film is a touch complicated. Not that it doesn’t have any flaws, there are a few that could be leveled against this film, but some of those complaints are probably build-up for the second season coming out next year. For example, the side villains? They don’t get to do much. While a few of them have a lot more story importance with the upcoming season, it’s a shame some are simply introduced. Luckily, this show is tremendously popular and will have some story relevance in the future, but for the sake of this film, they aren’t really substantial to the story. There also should have been a lot more time for moments to expand upon the friendship and love between Yuta and Rika. The film does enough to tell you their backstories, but they really are the highlights. They were both kids with illnesses, they loved each other, and then Rika dies and gets cursed by Yuta and turns into this powerful cursed spirit. There isn’t much time for Rika to breathe as a character, and while a majority of this film’s story is about Yuta letting go of loss and the grief of cursing his childhood friend, Rika is used more like a prop rather than having her own actual character. Or at the very least, she isn’t as fleshed out as Yuta is, and that’s a shame. It’s essentially the big problem with shonen battle shows and Jujutsu Kaisen as a whole, where sometimes the story and writing aren’t taking time to give the characters time to breathe. 

Overall though, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is fantastic, and once again, it’s one of the rare franchise films where you can literally start with the film and then jump into the show, or watch the film after the show, and get rewarded in many different ways. It’s a fascinating film that mostly works as a perfect introduction to a franchise, and it has substance within the franchise. It’s actually mandatory that you watch the film, unlike so many franchise films that you can pretty much skip. The franchise is pretty good, and is a much better battle show than most that get released. Well, next time we will be looking at another Netflix feature from a prominent director. You will just have to wait for the review in the near future. 

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: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 252: Sing a Bit of Harmony 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!)

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

Recently, Funimation has decided to help co-produce a couple of different anime projects that include a few series like Tribe Nine, and this is the topic of this review. It’s safe to assume that they are now doing this because they have the backing of that sweet sweet Sony money to get a few anime shows and films made that they can then keep the rights for their streaming services and catalog of anime titles. This isn’t the first time this has happened either, as there have been a couple of shows or films made due to the helping aid of the US distributor that was interested. It didn’t always deliver success, but if that was the only way the show was going to get made, then so be it. Plus, it could result in something super delightful and visually beautiful like the film we are talking about today, Sing a Bit of Harmony

This film was directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who directed the rather impressive Patema Inverted and Time of Eve and its movie counterpart with a script by Yoshiura and Ichiro Okouchi. The story follows isolated loner Satomi, dubbed by Risa Me who is not very popular at school, is considered the teacher’s pet, and a “rat”. Yeah, she’s not very popular. One day at school, a new arrival joins her class named Shion, dubbed by Megan Shipman. It turns out that this new student is actually an AI! Yeah, we got a robot girl walking around, and she makes it her main goal to find a way to make Satomi happy. This gets the two into multiple shenanigans that involve the entanglement of some adjacent students, including tech-savvy Toma, dubbed by Jordan Dash Cruz, popular hunk Gotchan, dubbed by Ian Sinclair, popular girl Aya, dubbed by Alexis Tipon, and Judo student Thunder, dubbed by Kamen Casey. What adventures and stories will unfold, and how will Shion help make everyone happy and in harmony? 

Something that has been happening in the animation scene that has come to fruition in 2021 is how studios and teams are crafting films that may not rival the big-budget affairs, but are more committed to just properly executing the project at hand in order to be the best thing it can be. 2021 offered films like Wish Dragon, Words that Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, and Seal Team. This film has a very similar vibe and mood to a fun 80s teen drama/comedy, but without the super problematic parts of said films. It’s a film that’s about the connection that humans share with AI and through scenes that range from small to big, showing the interaction between humans and AI and technology in general. Some treat robots like garbage, some want to use AI and technology to make people smile and be helpful, and some want to use them for undisclosed profit and non-human friendly reasons. What’s rather nice is that the film doesn’t have a large cast for the heck of it. It could have been so easy to just market Shion due to her singing and typical anime beauty and the possible anime statue sales. Luckily, not everyone in the anime industry is that cynical, and everyone in the film has actual character to them. Yes, you have seen these characters before, but the filmmakers do add nuance to them and give them their own little arcs in the film and then watch as they all grow closer as friends. Of course, we will find out why Shion knows our lead and the backstory that the film builds up from the beginning and throughout the first two-thirds, but the time it takes to start and then get to the big reveal is really charming. It’s a very optimistic film about technology, and that’s always fun to see since we have pretty much run the course of “technology bad” narratives. Or, at the very least, we don’t need any more technophobic stories that paint everything technology as bad. 

Animation-wise, this is probably where the film falls the flattest. It does look good. It has a vibrant and polished look, and the skyscape scenes are very Makoto Shinkai-inspired, and the overall animation is very fluid. The problem is more that it’s not the most theatrical-looking film, or at the very least, the musical sequences aren’t the flashiest. They definitely saved the best moments for a few of the songs, but when you think of musicals, you want there to be more visually fun dance and musical sequences. Still, the film does look nice, and not every animated film needs to look like Children of the Sea or Belle. Luckily, the voice cast is also stellar with a really good cast for these characters. You’ve got Megan Shipman, Risa Mei, Jordan Dash Cruz, Ian Sinclair, Alexis Tipton, Kamen Casey, David Wald, Laila Berzins, and Richard L. Olsen. The music by Ryo Takahashi is also great. He composed music for shows like SK8 The Infinity, The Vampire Dies in No Time, Skate Leading Stars, and performed the ending theme to the new series Tribe Nine

It might not be the most groundbreaking animated film to come from Japan, and it might not be as wildly ambitious as the director’s previous work, but you know what? There has always been this pushback from snobbier animation fans and filmgoers that if directors don’t top themselves with every single film or if they regress to make something more approachable and family-friendly, it’s a step backward. Sing a Bit of Harmony is obviously made for a wider audience and it feels more cohesive and better executed than Patema Inverted. Making films solely on passion is good and all, but passion won’t help when the returns aren’t there and it causes the audience interest in your films to dwindle. Not everyone can do big ambitious and experimental films and keep doing so. Sometimes, there is something fun to see someone make a film for a wider appeal, but not feel so studio noted to death. Sing a Bit of Harmony is a fantastic film and an easy frontrunner alongside The House as some of the best animation of 2022 so far. Next time, well, who knows what will come next for this journey of 2022 in animation. Maybe I’ll review a film that came out in January to fill the void before everything else gets released, but it will be something animated! 

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