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

imageedit_1_9202971284.jpg

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

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

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

imageedit_11_4660059114.jpg

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

imageedit_9_8298028318.jpg

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

imageedit_3_3644289703.jpg

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

imageedit_5_4998293164.jpg

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

imageedit_7_7996980798.jpg

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

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 194: Summer Days with Coo

imageedit_1_6532576660.jpg

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

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

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

imageedit_3_4750726053.jpg

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

imageedit_5_4095103380.jpg

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

imageedit_9_3296060239.jpg

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

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

imageedit_7_4491605681.jpg

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

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

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 192: The Princess and the Pilot Review

imageedit_1_5799709824.jpg

(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!)

We have talked about distributors in the past, like GKIDS, Funimation, Shout! Factory, Central Park Media, Elevenarts, and we will be talking about many more of them as more animated films from overseas are released in the states. However, today, we are going to talk about an animated film I have had my eye on for a while, and didn’t know it got a US release until I saw a distributor who brought it over, NIS America. While mostly a video game distributor, they did partake in releasing anime over in the US up until the mid-2010s. The most noteworthy title that they have brought over is the anime adaptation of the beloved, if notorious, Bunny Drop and the Love Live! seriesWhile not known for much else, I’m always interested to see what distributors like to bring over, and that includes today’s film, The Princess and the Pilot

Directed by Jun Shishido, who has directed other anime like Yuri!!! On IceKamen No Maid Guy, and To the Abandoned Sacred BeastsThe Princess and the Pilot is based on the light novel by Koroku Inumura. The film was also written by Satoko Okudera, who has written the scripts for many animated features like Summer WarsWolf ChildrenThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Miyori no Mori. So, did this animated feature deserve to fly under the radar? Well, you will have to get into the co-pilot seat and find out!

imageedit_3_6239963063.jpg

The story is set in a land where two nations, the Levamme Empire and the Amatsukami Imperium are, well, at war with each other. No one can live in peace or anything. Anyway, we focus on a pilot named Charles Karino, voiced by Ryunosuke Kamiki, who is tasked with escorting the princess of the Levamme Empire, Juana Del Moral, voiced by Seika Taketomi. The catch is that they are flying a plane that has no real combat experience, and must get across enemy lines to the homeland of the princess. 

imageedit_5_5927198166.png

What do I like about the film? Well, despite showing off air-based combat, the film is more focused on our lead characters and the relationship and chemistry between them. If there was a theme or a topic that the film focuses on, it’s the theme of freedom. The pilot loves flying since he isn’t held down by the rules and limitations of the ground. The princess feels free of her legacy and her royalty while in the air. The two make for a fairly cute romantic couple, even if their fates are as clear as the blue sky. The film also does tackle other issues like racism, corruption, and discrimination, but they are more like flavor packets to the overall experience. The film does spend a lot of time with the two leads, but when the air combat happens, it’s impactful. Due to the fact the duo are flying a plane made for speed more than combat, they take advantage of Charles’ supposed flying skills, and the combat sequences are thrilling. Sure, they are using CGI for these planes and airships, but it doesn’t stop the fights from being fun to watch. It’s all in the execution. 

imageedit_7_5546201989.jpg

Animation-wise, the film was produced by TMS and Studio Madhouse, and the results are pretty. The animation is gorgeous, and when they do use CGI, it blends pretty well. I know people love to rag on CGI used in anime, and yes, there are still some pretty bad examples of it today, but with the proper execution, it can look great. It also helps that the CGI is used sparingly. The music is also atmospheric and more environmental than grandiose, but it’s a solid soundtrack by composer Shiro Hamaguchi. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he composed the music for One PieceFinal Fantasy: UnlimitedOh My Goddess!Final Fantasy VII, and the original Monster Hunter. Unfortunately, the US release doesn’t have an English voice cast, but I found the overall Japanese cast to do well.

It was tough to write about this film because anytime I could try to layout this review, I kept thinking about Porco Rosso. To be clear, any criticisms I have for this film are not because this film isn’t one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies. With that said, while I do, in general, like this movie, I want to talk about some of the issues. For a film that takes place in a fictional world, they try to act like it is a “based on a true story” award season film. Even down to the villains in the film being a touch too cartoony in their hatred. Not to say there aren’t just cartoonishly racist people in the real world, but the characters who are hateful are too “on the nose” about it. I also wish the film didn’t use so many of its flying sequences taking place from inside the cockpit of the plane. Not to compare every part of it to Porco Rosso, but that film made the sky and landscapes feel alive. Porco Rosso loved to show landscape shots and show the beauty of the world around Porco. Too many times The Princess and the Pilot only focus on the cockpit view, and it takes me out of the film. The ending is also abrupt and, again, it ends with “historical” text like they were real people. It’s a shame because I loved the ending up to that point. The side characters are also not all that interesting, and you don’t see many of them again after they are introduced. Honestly, one of the more fleshed-out characters is an antagonist pilot later on in the film, and unfortunately, he doesn’t stay long either. 

imageedit_11_9614122701.jpg

Despite my criticisms of the film, I enjoyed my time with The Princess and the Pilot. It’s still readily available on DVD and Blu-ray, and you can find it on Amazon or on Rightstuf Anime. If you want to expand your anime film collection, then I recommend this film. It’s a shame not more people know about it, but I guess that’s what happens when you are with a distributor like NIS America that has pretty much stopped distributing anime. Well, it was fun to explore a new title, but we now must tackle an animated film that Netflix did nothing to advertise, and for good reason with Fe@rless

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 191: On Gaku: Our Sound

imageedit_1_7320329595.png

(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!)

When you think of Japanese animation, the films themselves might be considered foreign and maybe indie, compared to what the US releases, but when I think about Japanese animation, I don’t think about the label of “indie” for them. Most anime these days are made by major studios, and sure, they are brought over by the likes of Shout! Factory, Elevenarts, and GKIDS, but they are made with bigger animation budgets, like most animated films. It would have to be pretty small-scale and small-budgeted to count as indie, and you don’t get to see that a lot. Oh, you see it in shorts, but not feature-length films, and when you do, it’s “indie” for a reason that’s not flattering. Luckily, I think I have seen, at least for me and my experience, the first Japanese-animated film that I would consider to be truly indie, On Gaku: Our Sound

Directed by first-time animation director Kenji Iwaisawa, and at a budget of supposedly $40K, On Gaku: Our Sound is one of the cheapest animated films in existence. It has been going around the festival circuit since last year winning the Grand prize for Feature Animation award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and Best Original Music at Annecy 2020 Online. During its screening at Annecy 2020, it was picked up by GKIDS and will have a US release sometime soon. I was able to catch this during Japan Cuts 2020. So, what do I think about this low-fi indie animated feature? Well, let’s dive in. 

imageedit_3_8414419332.jpg

The story revolves around a group of three high school delinquents named Kenji, Ota, and Asakura. They are the tough guys of their school, but are also delightfully dumb and bored most of the time. One day, Kenji gets an idea that the three of them should start a rock band. Can their newfound hobby get them somewhere in life while also avoiding the evil grasp of a rival high school gang?

imageedit_11_6243505866.png

This is a tough film to write about. As I sat down to write the review, I didn’t know how to approach it. The film’s major appeal is how slow, low-key, and offbeat the entire experience is. It’s not set up like a School of Rock, or a music biopic. It’s more like a slice of life film about three delinquents chilling, hanging out, and then wanting to start a band. Not a whole lot happens from beginning to end, and the beats that do happen in the story feel smaller in scale than films of this kind. The rival thugs? They don’t even come into the movie’s plot properly until much later. The music? It’s not just instantly amazing like in Bohemian Rhapsody. Many shots are still, the dialogue is slow, and due to limitations of budget and a team of mostly first-time animators, limited. Now, with any other film, I would say this is why the film doesn’t work and was more ambitious than what the filmmakers could produce. However, that is the charm of the film. The quirks of the overall film make it stand out from the rest. Plus, who doesn’t want a different take on music-focused films? The overall appeal of the film is watching the three punks form a band, talk about instruments, chill, make new friends among the music scene at their school, and choose what they want to do in the future. In a lot of ways, the film goes out of its way to play with the tropes of these characters. For example, early on, they get word that a rival high school gang wants to beat them in a fight. They dryly say “okay” and make their way to the rival school, but then find out they don’t know where to go, try to find directions, and then end up giving up due to how bored they are. The comedy is very dry. If you are into more dialogue-driven comedy or are familiar with shows like Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, then you will know what to expect with the humor. It’s just a fun little movie with some likable characters that have a distinct chemistry that you won’t find in many animated films. 

imageedit_5_2170659224.jpg

Animation-wise, at the very least, no matter what you think about the overall visual and technical presentation, this does look like a film made with $40 grand. How many times have you seen an animated film or a film in general, and then looked at the budget and wondered how on earth it cost that much when the results on screen, production troubles or not, do not equal what it cost? Sure, movements are limited, the line art can sometimes be jittery, it’s obvious when the film uses rotoscoping to make a lot of the characters move, and the characters themselves look like something out of Crayon Shin-Chan. Well, again, I think it all works. It’s a very consistent art style up until the third act when you can tell they threw in a sizable chunk of the budget for the smoother and wilder animation. Still, for its budget and a team of first-time animators, it’s a consistently solid package. The voice cast is also solid, as they do a good job of carrying the dry delivery and sense of humor. Granted, I don’t know if they will dub this one, since I worry the dry humor wouldn’t work with an English dub, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they hired some specific actors to dub this film in the future. Of course, we can’t talk about a film about music and not mention the music by Tomohiko Banse, Grandfunk, and Wataru Sawabe. Simply put, it’s nice to hear some rock music and folkish alternative again after seeing those genres getting stuck in the background as pop music took over.

imageedit_9_6350722548.jpg

While I will defend this film’s technical and budgetary limitations, I will say that sometimes, those limitations showed their flaws. The story itself takes a bit to get going, and that’s a bit troubling with the runtime of the film being 71 or so minutes. It can lead to maybe a little too much dead air between the characters and story beats. Like I said above, the “villains” of the film don’t even play that much of a role. That’s probably the point, but still. I thought they could have used a bit more tightening of the story beats so it flowed better. 

imageedit_7_3040880802.png

Even then, I adored this experience. On Gaku: Our Sound won’t be for everyone, and if you find this film boring or tedious, I won’t blame ya. I don’t know when this film will be widely available to watch via a virtual screening experience or going straight to Blu-ray, but if you can find some way to watch it, do it. Well, since the animation scene is dry in terms of feature films, how about we look at a film I have been wanting to review for a while with The Princess and the Pilot

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 182: Sword of the Stranger Review

imageedit_1_4736823670.jpg

(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!)

Parental Warning/Heads up!: This film is not meant for younger viewers. It can be pretty bloody, and you will see limbs getting sliced off. Viewer’s discretion advised, and enjoy the review!

I have written almost 200 reviews about animated films, and the film genres I wish I could talk about more are animated films that revolve around samurai. You would think in Japan at least, there would be an abundant list of animated films that are inspired by the many classic samurai films of old cinema. We have many live-action samurai films we can name and recommend, but in terms of samurai or ninja films in animation, unless you count franchise films from something like Naruto, the pickings are slim. Sure, I could talk about Ninja Scroll, but that film comes with a lot of baggage that I need to sort out first with that director’s work. So, what am I personally left with? Well, why not Sword of the Stranger?

Directed by Masahiro Ando, animated by Bones, and originally released back in 2007, Sword of the Stranger is an action animated film that made the festival rounds before originally being brought over by Bandai with a dub by Oceans Studios. It had a positive reception through 2007 and its original US release in 2008, but after Bandai left the anime distribution game, Funimation picked up the rights and re-released it. I bought the Funimation re-release, but only now have had time to rewatch it, since we are all (at least, I hope you are all) isolating ourselves. It was time to go through my backlog, and I decided to start with this film. So, what did I think about it? I would recommend reading more to find out.

imageedit_3_3593763802.jpg

Our story revolves around a young boy named Kotaro, dubbed by Aidan Drummond. He is first seen in the film running away from a burning monastery when it was attacked by a group known as the Ming. The Ming is a group of warriors from China that is in Japan to perform some kind of ritual that requires Kotaro. Luckily for the boy, Kotaro runs into a wandering swordsman named Nanashi, dubbed by Michael Adamthwaite. Nanashi is then hired by Kotaro to protect him from the villainous grasp of the Ming and the right hand of the group Luo-Lang, dubbed by Scott McNeil.

imageedit_5_9679372191.jpg

In terms of stories, this samurai tale is nothing all that unique. We have seen the wandering swordsman with a dark past, the bratty kid that’s important to the main plot of the film, and villains with a plan that goes beyond simple conquering of the world. If you are looking for something that fully stands out from the classic samurai flicks of old cinema, then you probably won’t find much here. On one hand, you want to see something different or a style of film taken to new heights or interesting directions. With all that said, on the other hand, if you can execute your film with likable characters, great cinematography and heart-pounding action sequences, then being more of the same stuff that you love before is okay. It’s all in the execution, and the execution here is great. You get a lot of beautiful environmental shots, fairly quiet scenes with Nanshi and Kotaro bonding, and when the film decides to focus on the action, it gives you everything that you want with samurai action flicks. They set up the mood, and the action is fast-paced, but followable. The fights show how threatening and powerful the characters are. Nanashi is already hinting at it, because he can take down most opponents with his sword still in the hilt. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see the villain tear through a group of 10+ bandits with ease to set the stakes in the story? Luckily, the story has enough depth to it to simply not be an action-packed tech demo. The depth will be familiar sounding to many with a swordsman who can’t let go of his past actions, and what you are willing to do to keep ahold of your beliefs. It’s not a deep movie, but the movie didn’t need to be deep, it just needed to be this fun easy-to-get-into action flick.

imageedit_1_4647919276.jpg

The animation in Sword of the Stranger is quite good. The studio behind this film’s visuals, Bones, the same animation studio behind Cowboy Bebop: The MovieWolf’s Rain, the two animated Fullmetal Alchemist films, the Prototype short from Halo Legends, RahXephon, and the universally popular My Hero Academia series and films, really flexes their talent here, as it’s a beautiful film to watch in motion. It has sequences that set up the spectacle of it all, and it’s all so fluid. Sure, sometimes they use a little shaky cam that feels unnecessary, but in general, the designs are consistent, expressive, and they all move well. Another highlight of the presentation is the music. The epic samurai film score by composer Naoki Sato fit perfectly into the film. It’s grand in scale, with sweeping tunes that carry the film and make you feel engrossed in its world. It’s especially effective during the fight sequences, as it has an eerie calmness, then bombastic drums and tunes to help keep everyone on edge as swords clash. The voice cast is also pretty great. I know many older anime fans will recognize the studio that did the dub for the film, Oceans Studios, so it’s not all that surprising to see names like Scott McNeil and Paul Dobson pop up. Aidan Drummond almost teeters on being annoying, but he does a good job portraying Kotaro. I do like the dub overall, as it has talented people like Tabitha St. Germain, Brian Dobson, Michal Adamthwaite, Alistair Abell, Maryke Hendrikse, Brian Drummond, and Hiro Kanagawa.

Now, as for complaints, I have a few. While the action and story can be thrilling, the characters aren’t all that interesting. They are your very typical characters for these samurai flicks, with the bratty kid and the lone ronin who has a dark past that he tries to forget. The villains are slightly undercooked as well. Sure, the main bad guy of the villains is entertaining, but the rest of them don’t have a whole lot of dimension to them. It doesn’t help either that the film has many side characters. Not too many to take away from the plot like an early Toei-made film, but you are introduced to a character who is a bit bland, and then is killed unceremoniously. Yeah, I wish I cared more about that one person before the film gives him a gruesome death, and isn’t so worried about being macho and maybe/maybe not being xenophobic to the Chinese villains of the film. The film also does that thing that I rarely like in Japanese-animated films, the abrupt ending. Yes, this film does have an actual ending, and not “oh, we ran out of time”, but it does come close to that feeling, since it’s like “well, the movie ended, the boy and the ronin are the only ones left, and -insert pause here- that’s it!” To put it lightly, it’s a little frustrating.

imageedit_7_3572388316.jpg

While not original, Sword of the Stranger is a wonderful action flick that I find myself watching or thinking about anytime I want to watch an animated action flick. It’s really easy to find the film on Blu-ray and DVD since Funimation re-released it after Bandai left the anime distribution game. You can even watch it on Funimation’s streaming service. So, we reveled in samurai action, and now we must change the tune of the next review as we talk about Trolls: World Tour!

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 180: Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back-Evolution

imageedit_1_3634642955.jpg

(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!)

Well, it took 179 reviews, but I am finally talking about something from the Pokémon franchise. I know that seems a touch nutty that I avoided talking about this franchise for so long, but I wanted to tackle something Pokémon-related when I found a film I wanted to talk about. There are so many films to dig into that it’s a daunting task. I could probably get a good few months of content from just reviewing Pokémon films alone, but that didn’t interest me. If I wanted to talk about Pokémon, I needed a film that had more meat on its bones. That’s why, out of all of the films to talk about, I want to talk about the recent remake, Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back-Evolution.

Directed by Pokémon movie mainstay Kunihiko Yuyama and Motonori Sakakibara, this is Pokemon‘s first foray into CGI theatrical animation by Oriental Light & Magic. It was released last year in July 2019 and finally got a wide release in February 2020. So, did giving the first film in the franchise a CGI remake improve and evolve? Or did it take an Everstone and not evolve or improve one bit?

imageedit_3_6189246897.jpg

Well, the story of this remake is, well, the story of the original Pokémon film. I could keep it at that, but that wouldn’t be very professional of me. We follow our original trio of ragtag Pokémon trainers with Ash Ketchum, dubbed this time by Sarah Natochenny, Misty, dubbed by Michele Knotz, and Brock, dubbed by Bill Rogers. After having another fruitful battle, Ash and the gang are invited to an island where the supposed “strongest trainer in the world” lives. If only Ash knew that the trainer in question was Mewtwo, dubbed by Dan Green, a Pokémon that is the clone of the legendary Mew. Once Ash and his friends get to the island and find out about Mewtwo, the cloned Pokémon decides to reveal his plan of destroying the human race and any Pokémon that sides with humans. Can Ash find a way to stop Mewtwo from taking over the world? Will Team Rocket get in the way and maybe steal the film like usual? Did you see the original film?

imageedit_5_2663100595.jpg

So, let’s not beat around the bush. This remake is the Lion King 2019 remake of the Japanese animation franchise film scene. Every problem you have had with Disney live-action remakes can essentially be found here with this remake. There is one major difference though to compare this remake to the Disney remakes like The Lion King, this is a worse remake. Listen, I get that this film is super nostalgic for many people. It’s super nostalgic for me! I went to see the original Pokémon film in theaters with my sister when we were young and loved Pokémon as well. However, the film’s story was flawed in its execution, and you can only use so much nostalgia to cover up the plot points that don’t fully work out or are counterproductive to the story’s themes and tone. So, why do I consider this a worse remake than Lion King 2019? Because it doesn’t do anything to improve upon the original. It’s a mediocre remake of a mediocre film. It even ruins some of the original film’s most iconic shots. Sure, you can move the camera around easier in a 3D-dimensional space, but the film looks boring, and it makes you remember how important storyboarding is to the overall execution of scenes. As I said, the story problems don’t get fixed. Mewtwo is still a gullible hypocrite, some of his actions make no sense, the characters say something that is then shot down by a later scene, the film’s morals are contradictive to the main point of the show, the ending is awful because it cuts any stakes or progression in the film had short, and if you are wondering, some characters show up and are never seen again.

imageedit_7_7348182006.jpg

So, what about the animation? Well, the CGI used in the film is okay, but it doesn’t look all that good in motion. The Pokémon look great, because of course they do, but the humans do not look good at all. They are stiff, their animation wants to be cartoony, but it’s not fast or snappy enough, and the look of some characters make them look creepy. Ash and Misty look like porcelain dolls from a horror movie. Team Rocket looks great, but obviously, something happened when the translation from 2D to 3D took place, since the iconic Pokémon human designs become hit-and-miss. Okay, what about the dub? That should mean that they are using a script more akin to the original, right? None of that 4Kids tedious dubbing is there, right? Well, yes. The script is definitely missing that 4Kids kind of cheese, but it’s also missing that 4Kids cheese. Say what you will, 4Kids wasn’t a good company, but sometimes, the writers behind Pokémon got away with a few puns and jokes. Sadly, due to some scene changes, the better jokes from the 4Kids dub weren’t there, and were replaced with slightly more annoying jokes. I will say that at least the dubbing is solid stuff. The actors are doing their best, and they even brought back some returning voice actors for the characters. They do fix a few lines that made the original worse.

imageedit_9_8236275149.jpg

Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution is a frustrating sit, because it does everything a bad remake does, and yet, everyone is just going to overlook it, because they liked the original movie. It’s just as cynical, or in my opinion, way more cynical than the Disney live-action remakes. At the very least, the Disney remakes have their original films to go back to. This film only has the original mediocre film to fall back on, and that’s not a good thing. I can’t say it’s the worst movie I have seen so far this year, but until further notice, it will be listed as the worst one until something else comes in. I know I was hard on this film, but you have to leave childhood nostalgia at the door for these kinds of films. I don’t recommend it, but there is nothing wrong if you find yourself or your kids enjoying this film. It’s easily the most harmless bad movie I have seen this year. It’s just another mediocre Pokémon movie in a series that has quite a few of them. Now then, let’s tackle one more Netflix animated film, and review Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon.

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: Lackluster

The Other Side of Animation 178: The Wonderland Review

imageedit_1_2300660644.jpg

(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 is nice that in the Japanese animation scene, more directors and creators are becoming more popular. Japan has some of the most talented individuals working in the animation scene, and it is satisfying that Makoto Shinkai, Masaaki Yuasa, Mari Okada, and Mamoru Hosoda are now world-renowned, but I feel like one director deserves some more recognition than he gets, Keiichi Hara. While starting by working on some iconic shows like Doraemon and Crayon Shin-chan, he has also had a small, but fruitful directorial film career working on films from those franchises, and his own films like Summer Days with CooColorful, and one of my faves from 2016, Miss Hokusai. However, we are talking about his newest film that got a small release thanks to Elevenarts, The Wonderland.

Originally titled Birthday Wonderland, and based on the 1988 story Strange Journey from the Basement, Hara’s newest film premiered last year in April, and was able to compete in the 2019 Annecy International Film Festival, but like many of the films there at the festival, lost to the festival smash hit, I Lost My Body. It even missed out on being shown at Animation is Film 2019, and hasn’t had the most fanfare. It doesn’t help either that while it got pretty positive reviews, they still came with hefty criticism. So, what do I think about this adventurous film? Well, you have to read the review.

imageedit_3_6887183130.jpg

The story revolves around a teenage girl named Akane, a pretty average teenage girl with not a whole lot of self-confidence. One day, her mother requests she go visit her aunt named Chi to pick up a special gift. While there, she peruses the items that Chi has acquired. One of the items that stands out is this piece of stone with a handprint in it. Akane then decides to put her hand in the print and it ends up with the hand fitting in the, well, stone. Then, out of the store’s basement, a dapper individual walks out. He turns out to be a famed alchemist known as Hippocrates. He explains that he is from another world, and since Akane’s hand fits the print, she is the Green Goddess, and must come back with Hippocrates and his assistant Pipo back to The Wonderland. Reluctantly, Akane and her aunt go with Hippocrates to save their land and to avoid the evil plans of a masked individual. Can Akane save the day? Can she find the courage to make it through a magical world?

imageedit_5_5479731198.jpg

There is a lot we can start with, but let’s talk about the standout element to the film, the visuals, and animation. This is a very pretty film with lush vibrant colors, beautiful landscapes, and fantastical locations. While there is CGI used in this film, you can tell it’s better integrated into the 2D animation than Ni No Kuni. I was in awe most of the time looking at all of the creative landscapes and designs. It’s hard to be grumpy at a film with large puffball sheep and being able to ride giant koi fish. The designs also stand out from the rest of the pack. Sure, the designs of the humans may not look unique, but it’s the person behind them that makes all of the difference. The designs are by Russian Illustrator Ilya Kushinov. She brings in a very unique look to the film, and it stands out among the different anime films coming out. In terms of themes, the film is another coming-of-age film about dealing with self-doubt and becoming a better person through trust and helping others. Akane starts out as a nervous wreck, who is reluctant to better herself, but throughout the film, she becomes a more self-reliant individual who has faith in herself. Even the villain this time around is more interesting, due to his circumstances brought upon him. The voice work is pretty solid, but I have only seen the subtitle version for right now, but since this is Elevenarts, I’m sure the dub will be good. The music is also stellar, especially with the film’s theme song by Milet, which has been stuck in my head for weeks.

imageedit_9_2055886966.jpg

Now, I do have a few negatives to talk about. While I love the majority of the cast, Akane isn’t the most interesting female lead. She isn’t terrible, but she’s fairly boilerplate. I also wasn’t fully on board with some of the mannerisms of Chi. She’s great, but there are a few moments that made me roll my eyes. I think my favorite characters were Hippocrates and the villain. I also found the pacing to be wonky. A lot of the film has the characters driving around, and I don’t mind that aspect, but once it hits the third act, the pacing becomes very stop-and-go. It’s almost jarring how oddly paced the last third is. I also wish there could have been more time expanding on this world than it being taken up by driving, because I loved the fantasy world.

imageedit_7_3834325831.jpg

While I still prefer Miss Hokusai, I liked Keiichi Hara’s newest film. It has a lot of personality, charm, and fantasy whimsy to recommend to anyone looking for a fun adventure. Sadly, with its limited release, you will have to wait for it to arrive on Blu-ray, but if you don’t mind the wait, then you will probably enjoy this flick! Well, it’s time to move onto our next film, but sadly, we have to wait for it to arrive on Netflix. Next time, we will be talking about one of three animated films based on video games this year. We already talked about Ni No Kuni, so we will be moving down to Dragon Quest: Your Story.

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 177: Ride Your Wave Review

imageedit_1_6652985151.jpg

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

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

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

imageedit_3_2771977800.jpg

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

imageedit_5_2211605862.jpg

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

imageedit_7_4676126294.jpg

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

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

imageedit_11_4409344145.jpg

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 164: Okko’s Inn Review

imageedit_1_8401082742.jpg

(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!)

If we are going to have a healthier theatrical animation scene in Japan, studios and animation enthusiasts alike need to be supportive of newer voices. We can’t let already-well-known names be the only ones that get the spotlight. While the Japanese animation scene is going through some major obstacles with keeping people who want to work in animation in the animation industry, that means when a new or unfamiliar voice makes a film, we should go out and support it.

Whether you love the end product or not, it’s more important that someone new or not as well known gets the attention. This is why I wanted to support Okko’s Inn. Directed by Kitaro Kosaka, and based on the manga and anime of the same name, Okko’s Inn is a film that I find to get overshadowed by other 2019 US-animation releases, like Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You and Studio Trigger’s Promare. I think Okko’s Inn deserves more support, and I’m going to tell you why!

imageedit_3_7023791391.jpg

Our story follows a young girl named Okko, dubbed by Madigan Kacmar. She ends up in an unfortunate situation where her parents are killed in a car accident. She goes to live with her grandmother at her inn. Okko then encounters some friendly spirits around the building, including a young boy named Uribo, dubbed by KJ Aikens, a young girl named Miyo, dubbed by Tessa Frascogna, and a small demon named Suzuki, dubbed by Colleen O’Shaughnessey. Okko will encounter different inn guests and even a girl who helps run a rival inn named Matsuki, dubbed by Carly Williams. Can Okko learn to be an innkeeper and learn how to help people? Can she learn about forgiveness and selflessness in helping others?

imageedit_5_2572218697.jpg

So, something to note about the director Kitaro Kosaka is that he worked on multiple Studio Ghibli projects that include Castle in the Sky, Ponyo, Spirited Away, and even Mamoru Hosoda’s The Boy and the Beast. If you feel like Okko’s Inn has the same vibe as a lower-key Ghibli film, you wouldn’t be wrong. This movie focuses on Okko’s coming of age as she helps different tenants in the inn who have their hang-ups in their life. It shows how acts of kindness of any kind can help improve the lives of others. It’s a laid back film in the same spirit as Kiki’s Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro. You get some fun shenanigans with the spirits, but the film’s strongest moments are with Okko figuring out how to help out everyone who comes to the inn. It’s noticeable that this film, through its designs and tone, is an experience aimed at a younger audience, and even for a film aimed at that demographic, it doesn’t talk down to them. The film does tackle themes of death, and it’s not afraid to talk about it. Luckily, the characters feel like they were right out of a Ghibli film, likable, endearing, complex, and fun.

imageedit_7_8113877609.jpg

Okko’s Inn was produced by Studio Madhouse and Dream Link Entertainment, which shows in the animation. It’s a gorgeous movie with charming designs, and fluid animation. There are some wonderful scenes, including the koi fish kite sequence and when Okko meets the fortune teller. The dub for the film is handled well. You can tell the kids in the film are voiced by kids, and the adults are voiced by adults. I have seen both the sub and dub versions of this film, and you really can’t go wrong with either. The music by Keiichi Suzuki is beautiful, and has that Japanese flair you would want with a film taking place in a mountain-side inn. If his name sounds familiar, he is the same composer behind Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers and the famous RPG Earthbound.

imageedit_9_9678614843.jpg

If I had to complain, I could, but a lot of the issues I have are nitpicky. The designs took a bit for me to get used to. They are more family-friendly, and it was jarring to me for some reason. They remind me of something like Hamtaro. I did look it up, and the person in charge of the art direction is Yoichi Watanabe, who worked on the Star Ocean EX series. The only major issue I have is that a lot of the major drama is shoved into the third act, and it’s abrupt when it transitions into it. However, I do like the ending, so I guess you can say that it’s also a nitpick.

imageedit_11_6358537383.jpg

Okko’s Inn is a delightful little film about kindness, growing up, forgiveness, and helping others. It might be getting overshadowed by other high-quality anime films, but Okko’s Inn shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s available right now on Blu-ray and DVD, and I think everyone should get a copy. Now then, it’s been four years since I have been reviewing animated films, and I think it’s time to celebrate with something flashy. Next time, we will take a look at Studio Trigger’s first original film, Promare!

Thank you for reading my review! If you like my writing and would like to throw some support my way, you can become a patron at patreon.com/camseyeview. I hope you all have a good day, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

Animation Tidbits: Annecy Part 2

imageedit_1_6867518283.png

(Originally written: May 29th: 2019. Sorry for posting this late!)

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

Alrighty, for the final part of this look at Annecy 2019, I decided to combine a bunch of films from different categories. This is because the various categories don’t have enough to warrant talking about in individual articles. At least, that is my opinion on the other categories. The one major change they made was a new category called Contrechamp, a category with animated features that are in competition, but have visuals that challenge the medium of animation. Otherwise, the films on the list will be from the screening events and In Production section of the festival. Let’s get started!

Children of the Sea (Contrechamp)

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story focuses on a girl named Ruka, who saw a ghost in her dad’s aquarium when she was little. She becomes attracted to the aquarium and the appearance of two mysterious boys named Umi and Sora, all the while the adults who work there figure out the mass disappearance of the earth’s fish. In a lot of ways, it’s almost unfair that this film is the perfect representation for the Contrechamp section of the festival. It’s almost unfair how downright jaw-dropping-off-your-face beautiful the film is. Studio 4C has done a lot of great work, but this easily looks like it will be their best. Plus, with GKids now attached to bringing it over to the states this year, I have major hopes it’s going to be at Animation is Film 2019! If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped, Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of the Studio Ghibli classics, is composing the music for this film.

Away (Contrechamp)

Directed by Gints Zilbalodis, Away is about a young man who’s riding a motorcycle, trapped on a mystical island while trying to avoid a shadowy monster chasing him. This is also a film that looks like it will be taking advantage of the Contrechamp title. Sure, it kind of looks like an indie game that’s trying to be the next artistic achievement in gaming, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Plus, this was directed and animated by someone who is 25 years old. That is wildly ambitious and I give him kudos for that. It looks like a visually creative film that I hope does well.

Underdog (Contrechamp)

Directed by Sung-Yoon Oh and Chun Baek Lee, the story revolves around a blue dog that was once a house pet, but ends up back in the wild. He encounters wild dogs, and tries to help them survive and live freely. Generic title aside, I really like the visual look of this film. It reminds me of the work arounds French animation uses in projects like The Painting. It has a super vibrant color palette, and while the CGI may not be Pixar or Disney level at all, it has its own identity and personality to it. I’m happy to see South Korean animation finally making some break-out titles to show that they can make animated features that aren’t tied down to propaganda, and can be watchable by all. Though seeing some of the marketing blurbs say it was more emotionally gripping than Zootopia? Yeah, we will have to see about that.

Ville Neuve (Contrechamp)

Directed by Felix Dufour Laperriere, Ville Neuve focuses on a man named Joseph, who moves into a house with his friend, and tries to get back with his ex-wife, and this is happening with the 1995 Quebec Referendum happening in the background. I like the minimalist approach with its focus on whites, blacks, and grays. It comes off like a more personal and intimate film, and I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this one.

Playmobil (Screening)

Now then, let’s jump in with the first film in the “Screening” category. Directed by Lino DiSalvo, the story focuses on a young woman named Marla, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets pulled into this Playmobil world with her brother Carlie, played by Gabriel Bateman. They get separated, and it’s up to Marla to team up with Rex Dasher, a secret agent voiced by Daniel Radcliffe and Del, a food truck driver voiced by Jim Gaffigan, to get her brother back and avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, played by Adam Lambert. Yeah, this film did not get the warmest impression, being negatively compared to the 2014 The LEGO Movie. I can understand why. It comes off as a bit outdated that there needs to be a reason for the Playmobil world to exist, when people would rather just enjoy the world that they make. Still, the film looks silly and aware about itself, and some of the jokes I saw got a chuckle out of me. Hopefully it can be an entertaining flick once it releases later this year.

The Prince’s Voyage (Screening)

Directed by Jean-Francois Languionie and Xavier Pircard, this is a follow-up to a film Jean Francois did a while back called A Monkey’s Tale, which follows the prince from that film, as he washes up on the shore of an island, and encounters an individual named Young Tom and his two parents, who were exiled scientists. The film itself looks great, but that should be no surprise, because it’s the same guy behind The Painting, but I am curious to see how they make this film work, because who remembers A Monkey’s Tale? It has only gotten an English UK release, and no one in America has probably heard of this guy or his films. Still, the CGI looks stylized, and I’m curious to see how this film does in continuing the story with these characters in a travel diary-style form.

Abominable (Screening)

Finally, we are seeing actual trailers and footage for this film. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, we follow the exploits of a young Chinese woman named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, as she encounters an actual Yeti on the rooftop of her apartment building. It was previously caught by a scientist named Dr. Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson, and an evil rich man named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard. It is up to Yi, her friends Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai, and Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor, to get the Yeti back to his home in the mountains. This is an important film, due to this being DreamWorks first Chinese collaboration with Pearl Studio. As per usual with their non-comedy stuff, Abominable looks visually great, and has some endearing moments, but the jokes and references made in the first trailer and in the recent trailer are iffy. Hopefully, this is more of DreamWorks working at a How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda level, and not Shrek the Third level. Also, what is up with their marketing for this film? Everyone has already seen a trailer for the film for two or so months before the “official” trailer was released last week. What was the point of having two trailers and one of them was already viewable in theaters? Oh well, I hope this is a good movie.

Toy Story 4 (Screening)

Directed by Josh Cooley, we follow our heroes dealing with their new lives and a new encounter with a self-made toy named Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. One day, Forky gets out, and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, sets out to bring Forky back, but also runs into Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Shenanigans then ensue as Woody and the gang try to get Forky back to their new owner Bonnie, and Woody starts to have a crisis of what it means to be a toy. It’s too easy and frankly lazy, to say how this is a “cash grab”, when all films are cash grabs. We didn’t need a 4th one, but if we needed this one to get back on the train of original films starting with next year’s Onward, then so be it. Plus, I have been hearing good early word of mouth, and plus, who doesn’t want to see Keanu Reeves in his first ever voice role? Even if we might “not need it”, I’m glad to go back if the story is good.

Frozen 2 (Screening)

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, our heroes from the first film, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are off on another adventure to go beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. Yeah, there isn’t much known about the film right now, so let’s talk about how incredible the teaser trailer was. This film looks jaw-dropping-off-your-face-and-exploding gorgeous. I’m sure a lot of this is just teaser editing, and the film may not be this serious in tone, but wouldn’t that be awesome if it was? I know there is a bit of Frozen burnout, but I liked the first movie, and I’m excited to see how this new one unfolds.

Weathering With You (WIP)

In the Work in Progress section, we have the newest film from Makoto Shinkai. The story revolves around a young boy who moves to Tokyo alone, and almost becomes broke, until he gets a writing job for an odd occult magazine. His life feels like it’s constant misery, as rain and dark clouds follow him everywhere. One day, he encounters a young girl who has a mysterious power to clear the sky of the clouds and rain. While I have been critical of some of Shinkai’s efforts and directorial touches in the past, this one has me very excited. To no surprise that Shinkai has more drop-dead eye-popping visuals, something about the story feels instantly likable, and GKids recently announced that they will be bringing it over! I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope to see it sometime soon.

Promare (Midnight Special)

Finally, for the Midnight Special, we have Promare. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and animated by Studio Trigger, we follow Galo Thymos and his team, the Burning Rescue Fire Department. Their main goal is to take down a group of evil mutants called BURNISH that emits and can control a special fire that is engulfing the planet. This movie looks so over-the-top, silly, nonsensical, it’s super drenched in its anime identity, and this is why I follow foreign/indie animation. This movie looks crazy in the most positive way possible. Sure, if you know anything about Studio Trigger’s previous work like Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Little Witch Academia, and SSSS Gridman, then you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant Japanese animation around. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope to also see it soon.

And that wraps up what I think looks to be the most promising at the Annecy International Film Festival. Even with these listed, there are truly more interesting features being shown in their completed form or work-in-progress form. Just go check out the site, and see the multitude of animated projects being shown, and find your favorites.