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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Rent it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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



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

Rating: Go see it! 

The Other Side of Animation 276: Drifting Home Review

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

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

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

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




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





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

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 275: Goodbye on Glees Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 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 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

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Rating: Essentials