The Other Side of Animation 234: The Stranger by the Shore Review

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

As much as I, a critic, do love watching foreign animation, reviewing it, talking about it, and making sure you all watch it, trying to watch them legally is a pain in the neck. I know some people will justify less legal means to watch everything, but I always want to make sure I tackle films that you can easily find. Unless I get a screener for a film not out in the US yet like Snotty Boy, a majority of animated films I have reviewed have some way to watch it. You can either buy it, rent it, stream it, and or it is coming out stateside. It’s a tedious job sometimes reviewing these films, but it makes it easier when companies in the US, no matter how big of an audience these films will have, give them a shot. This is why I was really happy to see a company like Funimation start to invest in bringing movies over again, and one of their first films this year that wasn’t based on a franchise was the gay romantic drama The Stranger by the Shore


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Directed and written by Akiyo Ohashi, and produced by Studio Hibari and Blue Lynx, this film is based on the boys love L’estranger series of the same name. It’s about two young men. One is a gay novelist named Shun Hashimoto who works at a beachside inn, and Mio Chibana a lonely orphan who recently lost his mother. A few years pass after the first time they meet, and while Shun still works at the inn and goes through the struggle of becoming a novelist, a new employee ends up working at the inn, and it turns out to be Mio, who then confesses his love to Shun. Will the two respond healthfully back to one another with their true feelings, or will life throw a wrench into the situation? 



The biggest problem with this film is its run time. There seems to be this rule that anytime a gay love story is adapted into a film in anime, it can only be an hour long. This leads to the film really putting the pedal to the metal to get to every single gay love story drama point resulting in a film that is not 100% satisfying story-wise. When it was able to slow down and let the drama be between our two leads, this film had a very nice, intimate atmosphere to it. It didn’t feel so contrived, because the drama between the two felt grounded. 

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When it had to go from Shun’s overarching narrative of commitment to dealing with his actions of the past, and the scorn of a woman he was supposed to have married but didn’t, it feels a bit much. It doesn’t help that Shun seems to get the boatload of development, while Mio gets the short end. Both characters are great, but a longer running time or better pacing would have absolutely helped make both leads feel fully fleshed out. It’s also a touch disappointing that the end goal for the two of them was to have sex. The sex scene itself is handled very tastefully and is intimate and loving, but the end goal of a romance shouldn’t be sex. Sure, that might not have been the intended goal, but that is what it seems like their end goal was. Apparently, the manga sequel to this story fleshes them out more, but we aren’t here talking about the manga sequel. We are here to judge this film and this film alone. 




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One thing that is consistent about this film is the animation quality. It’s a gorgeous film with fluid movements, detailed backgrounds, and very expressive characters. The studios behind the animation, Studio Hibari and Blue Lynx made one of the best-looking films of 2020/2021. If you want some great visuals, then you will love this film’s look. 





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The voice cast is also strong with some familiar names of the Funimation regulars, including Josh Grelle and Justin Briner of My Hero Academia fame playing our lead characters. They do a great job playing off one another, and they make the romance, when the film is able to focus on that, believable. The rest of the cast is impressive as well, with Amber Lee Conners, Morgan Garrett, Bryn Apprill, Jessica Cavanagh, Ciaran Strange, Brittney Karbowski, Monica Rial, David Wald, and the overall cast is a talented group for their respective parts big and small. 





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The Stranger by the Shore is a flawed, but touching romance story, and is readily available to watch now on Funimation Now. There is something nice about seeing more companies bringing over films from overseas, because it seems like the anime industry is willing to give us everything no matter the end quality, but when it comes to films, US distributors have to jump through hoops to bring these films over, and then you get distributors like Aniplex that think most people can afford their super expensive releases. For now, this film doesn’t have a physical release in mind, but if you have Funimation NOW, you can stream it for free, and if you are looking for a good romance anime film, then I recommend checking this film out. Now then, we shall journey to Netflix for a German, Spain, and Belgium collaboration with Firedrake The Silver Dragon aka Dragon Rider

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 228: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Review

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

It would be an understatement that Japanese animation loves to revolve stories around teenagers. Teenagers seem to be the core age range for so many animated films from Japan, and while I understand the want for older characters, I get it. Teenage years are the end of your childhood and right before your adulthood begins. A lot of interesting coming-of-age stories can be told in a variety of different experiences. For example, with the newest animated feature that Netflix picked up, we have a coming-of-age teen romance that not only has a unique visual look, but also has an adoring theme about how art connects us. Let’s talk about Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop


Directed by Kyohei Ishiguro, and produced by Signal MD, the same studio that made 2017’s  Napping Princess, it was originally supposed to come out last year, but due to that one thing that caused 99.9% of all films to get delayed, it didn’t come out until July 22nd and was released by Netflix onto their service in the US. Unfortunately, like most Netflix exclusive films and shows, it has been buried under everything coming out onto the service, and I’m going to make sure you see this film. 

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The story revolves around a young boy named Cherry, dubbed by Ivan Mok, who interacts via haikus, and a young girl named Smile, dubbed by Kim Wong, who hides her smile and braces behind a mask. After running into one another at the mall and accidentally picking each other’s phones up, their summer changes their lives forever. This includes helping an old man find his long-lost record, and Cherry and Smile dealing with their individual friends and family. 

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I think let’s talk about the outright beautiful animation shown on-screen first. This flat bright color palette reminds me of the bombastic visuals seen in anime like The Great Pretender, where they take realistic photos and then paint over them in this very vibrant pop-art look. The character movements for the most part are weighty and realistic, but when the time comes for it, the characters move like individuals seen in something by the likes of Science Saru or Trigger. They bring such a rough, but readable and lively look to everyone, that it makes the film itself stand out from other Japanese animated films that have come out this year or will be coming out in the future. It’s an animated film with its distinct vibe and feel, and while it may only be about 90 minutes in length, it has a low-fi charming pace to the overall look and atmosphere of the story being told to us. 

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In terms of the story, it’s a smaller-scale experience with it mostly focusing on the love story between our two leads, but due to great writing, identifiable and likable characters, it’s nice to see something smaller-scale. Not every animated film needs to be about the literal ending of the world. Their relationship, and the fact that it grows strong even though there is the possibility of it ending is catastrophic enough. I know I’m defending what would normally amount to melodramatic teen problems in real life or normal mediocre teen dramas, but it’s always in the execution that you make the teen drama interesting. You want to root for Cherry to be able to speak in front of people. You want Smile to be able to not be ashamed of her buck teeth and braces. You want to see them get the record back. It’s compelling and epic in scale in its small way. Sure, some of the characters are a little one-note, but you do recognize them and they are kept consistently entertaining and relatable. It’s a film about how art connects us, and it’s a constant theme throughout the entire film as we see poetry, art, and music give everyone connections to one another and how we move through the world around us. It also helps that we have a fantastic dub cast that includes Ivan Mok, Kim Wong, Sam Lavagnino, Marcus Toji, Ratana, Ping Wu, Yuuki Luna, Victoria Grace, Kim Mai Guest, and Andrew Kishino. It also helps that there is an incredible composer as well. You’ve got Kensuke Ushio, who composed music for A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Birds, Ping Pong, Japan Sinks 2020, and Devilman Crybaby. The music overall is fantastic and the main song that plays in the final act and in the credits is beautiful. I’ll look up the songs and download them if I can get my hands on them. 

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Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a delightful, low-fi, and really sweet animated feature. It executes its story and characters with grace and respect to the viewers, and tells an endearing and wholesome story through its music and visuals. It’s on Netflix right now, and I highly recommend everyone check it out! I can’t wait to see what this director does next since he’s attached to that upcoming samurai-themed Bright film. For now, I will talk about a truly excellent Netflix series that you will not want to miss out on!


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: Essential

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 2

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

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

27 Kill it and Leave this Town 

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I always respect the fact that we still get animated features that stay true to the original ambition and idea created by the director. I think that’s always a good goal to have in mind with making animated features. However, if that director wants to make a film that’s extremely slow, hard to follow at points because of the heavy emphasis on dream logic, and only appealing to a certain niche group of animation and film fans, then you shouldn’t be shocked if someone ends up not liking it and not recommending it. I do get what this film is about, but the meandering pace and focus on surreal dream-like images, designs, and a very morose tone make for a fairly dull watch. I love the art style and the music, but it shouldn’t be a shock when a film like this doesn’t find a wider audience. I know this was the director’s passion project, and that’s fine! I get why some critics do love this film, but again, if you want to make a film that’s as far away as possible from the films that come out from big studios, then don’t be shocked if you don’t catch many fans. 


26 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge 

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We have yet another video game movie, and while it’s low on the list, it’s one of the better films in terms of video game adaptations. When it’s actually about Scorpion’s Revenge, it’s a compelling story, and the action throughout the overall film is fantastic for a direct-to-video film. However, the film wants to be a universe starter and a traditional Mortal Kombat plot with a tournament set up. It’s too busy trying to focus on making a franchise and giving Johnny Cage a predictable story arc. It’s a fun film, but easily one I can see not coming back to. 

25 SCOOB

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What is with WB and their fetish for wanting universe starters? Even taking out the above-average CGI animation, some decent casting, and a few clever jokes, references, and side characters, the film is not a Scooby-Doo film. It’s a Hanna-Barbera universe starter, and that’s it. It’s uninterested in being a film about the iconic dog and that’s a shame. When it does have some of that charm from the franchise, it’s a decent watch. Like everyone else, I wish some of the concept art that we got to see after the film was released was what we got instead of this lukewarm universe starter. 

24 Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

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Speaking of universes, we now have the finale to the previous cinematic universe of DC/WB direct-to-video films. Outside of an opening sequence that made me unintentionally laugh for days, I was glad this was the last film in a franchise I wasn’t a huge fan of. It had great action, some endearing moments between certain characters, and I think the ending was pretty good! I just wasn’t a fan of this storyline and I’m glad they are moving on. 

23 Summer Days with Coo

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This was one of the few foreign films in 2020 to be a carryover from a long time ago. I mean, a long time ago in terms of 2007. We finally got this film in the US, and while I do like seeing one of Keiichi Haara’s first directorial efforts, it is flawed. It has a weird time balancing more child-like whimsy and the darker tones of what it wants to tackle. While it has some very hit and miss animation overall, it does end on a rather nice note that I wish carried the overall tone of the film. It’s a cute film, but I can safely say his later films are miles above this one. 

22 A Whisker Away

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If there was a real disappointment from 2020, it would be this film. While it has gorgeous animation, some truly great visuals, and the villain is fun, the main character is what breaks this film. Her constant stalking and harassment of the male lead are uncomfortable. It bogs down a film with some very mature themes and ideas. It’s just a reminder that not every original film that comes out is going to be good. 

21 A Dog’s Courage

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This is another film that we finally got from a previous year in the US. While I’m not fully familiar with South Korea and its animation scene, I was aware of this director’s previous film and was excited about finally checking this one out. It uses CGI animation quite wonderfully. It is also an effective experience of a group of dogs trying to find a better life. Its use of 2D animation isn’t as good as other films, and it is yet another animated film with a tone problem. Still, I always admire a film that has a strong emotional story, and I’m glad I got to see it. Just don’t expect this film to be very kid-friendly. 

20 My Favorite War

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This is such a unique movie. While we have films in this similar fashion with Another Day of LifeMy Favorite War tells a more intimate story of the director growing up in Soviet Latvia, and it has a very distinct visual style when the animation beats happen. It might not be the best animation, and it does look a little wonky at points, the personal story and the history behind that country are way more than enough to carry the rest of the film. 

19 Twilight

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Yeah, we finally got this film. I remember there was a lot of hype for it due to being crowdfunded, which is not uncommon with Japanese animation, but then everything went silent, and it stayed in Japan for a few years. Crunchyroll then finally brought it over, and well, it’s a solid little teen drama. While it’s not revolutionary or better than other teen dramas or coming-of-age dramas, it’s still well animated and earnest in its execution to warrant at least one viewing of the film. 

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

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 1

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

So, 2020 was a stressful and soul-sucking year, wasn’t it? On top of, well, everything else that matters more than what I’m about to write about, the animation scene was a mess in the feature film department. Delays upon delays, and changing release strategies shook everything up. Luckily, animation was a bright spot despite other elements getting in the way, and not only did we get a lot of great movies, but also a lot of incredible shows. Sure, the major studios bowed out of the release windows, but that left room for multiple smaller indie films and streaming features to enter the scene, and overall, it turned out to be a solid year. Maybe not the strongest, but still entertaining enough. Plus, unlike some animation critics, I watched all of the major releases that mattered. Anyway, the rules still apply. They must have had some kind of US release, I tend to stick to if they were released in some way during 2020, and while I am still following the Oscar Submission List, I am moving some of the films to my 2021 list due to the fact they didn’t get proper 2020 releases. Let’s get started. 

38 Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus

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Honestly, I didn’t want to add this to the list because it almost doesn’t count as animation. It mostly feels like a bunch of live-action footage with multiple filters with the bare minimum of rotoscoping the footage. It doesn’t feel like an animated film, but even if it was more traditionally animated, the plot was hard to follow, and trying to find out what the plot exactly was made my blood boil. Maybe it was a subtitle thing when I saw this at Annecy, but it’s no real shock this film had no chance at the Oscars or most award shows. It’s the exact kind of film that I would categorize as unpleasant to watch and is what I think of when people say they want something as far away from the big studio projects as possible. Well, this is what ya get, a film with such little interest in making sure you know what’s going on that it resulted in an experience I never want to have again. Sadly I do get that kind of experience, but we will get there on this list. 

37 Pets United

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I know it’s a cliche to bash Illumination, but you would realize how much talent and work goes into their films if you see a film like Pets United. It’s a weird mishmash of tones, ideas, and it doesn’t work at all. Say what you will about the Secret Life of Pets films, but they were at least fun to watch and kept your interest in some way to make you not forget them. Moments after I watched Pets United, I was forgetting details about the story, the themes, the characters, and so on. Its animation is fine, and some weird aspects stand out for how out-of-place they are, but that’s not enough to call it anything good. It’s one of the films that Netflix picked up because it didn’t cost much to purchase and translate. 




36 Fe@rless 

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Shockingly, a Vanguard Animation film wasn’t on the bottom of the list. Honestly, it does deserve it, because while it’s “better” than the previous two films, I wouldn’t call it good. It’s got all of the hallmarks of the studio’s work with a bad story, bland characters, and some decent ideas that are never expanded on or fleshed out. It all feels like a film that only had enough money in the budget for a rough draft and then got dumped onto Netflix with no fanfare. A few amusing lines do not make a good film. Otherwise, it’s just more straight-to-video/straight-to-streaming schlock. 



35 Pokemon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution

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Who knew we would get our very own version of 2019’s Lion King, but instead of a bad remake of a good movie, we got a bad remake of a mediocre movie! Yeah, I am not a fan of the original film, and I know many love it due to how every kid saw it back in the day. Still, it’s an ugly CGI remake of a 2D animated film that does the bare minimum of improving the story, and while it might be closer to the original Japanese version of the film, that doesn’t change much due to how it’s already a mediocre story. The CGI Pokemon looked fine, and the voice cast was solid, but there was no real reason for this film to be made. 



34 Latte and the Magic Waterstone

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Oh, look, another foreign feature Netflix bought on the cheap and gave no other support for it. Honestly, out of the worst films on the list, it’s harmless. Its most offensive element is that it’s boring and forgettable. It has a few cool moments like this one sequence where a character’s shadow is hand-animated, and some of the moments with certain characters were amusing enough. The biggest offender of this film is that it feels like a feature that was dated in terms of storytelling, themes, and characters. 




33 Henchmen 

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It’s a real bummer the lead actor for this film is a garbage bin. I probably shouldn’t have it on there because of the recent news about Thomas Middleditch (on top of the other creepy and awful stories about him), but honestly, no one in this film is good. It’s a situation where the film’s production history is more interesting than the film itself. I mean, an animated superhero comedy written and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell sounds incredible, right? Well, that is not what we got due to them leaving the project early on. Instead, we got a middling superhero parody that has a decent hook, but like most bad parodies, does nothing interesting with the hook. The animation is kind of cool, but it’s nothing incredible or as iconic as what Spider-Verse did with its visual style. It’s a film with a promising elevator pitch, but that’s about it. 



32 Ni No Kuni 

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What do you get when you are a film based on a video game? The answer is a film that’s not even remotely familiar to the video games it’s based on. It’s related by name only. While it has a few decent story beats, it plays out like a very generic fantasy film. The only part that is kind of cool is the moments in time where the leads go back and forward between the real world and the fantasy world, but that’s about it. It’s a real disappointing film. 




31 Superman Red Son 

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Do you know what my least favorite kind of DC animated film is? It’s the one based on an adaptation that shouldn’t have been one film! While the story of what if Superman was raised in Russia is a compelling one, it’s not given enough time to let the proper story beats play out, and it doesn’t feel as compelling as you would think this premise is. It’s easily one of the most forgettable films from DC’s animation lineup, and that’s a shame. 



30 Dragon Quest: Your Story 

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The video game curse strikes again! This is why truncating an entire video games’ story into one movie is a bad idea, and it’s even worse when it’s based on what might be the most popular entry in the biggest RPG franchise in Japan. The CGI animation while better than most, does a few things that irked me. Why do you have Akira Toriyama’s iconic designs, but take out distinct design details that end up making everything look generic? The action and music are quite fantastic, but then the film pulls a plot twist in the last 10 minutes that causes the entire experience to drive off of a cliff. I get what they were trying to do, but maybe don’t try to make your own story when you are based on a story that already existed. 




29 The Last Fiction 

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I might not like this film, but boy howdy do I respect and admire how this Iranian animated feature wanted to be this epic that had dark tones, violence, and plenty of action beats. That doesn’t mean I can’t find some things to criticize. The scale of the story is ambitious, but it feels badly paced with huge leaps through time, and characters I found forgettable. The combination of 2D animation and CGI was also something that felt like it was from the early 2000s. Still, there is something to admire about the ambition of this film. Hopefully, we can see some other promising projects from this corner of the world. 



28 Manou the Swift 

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Way back in 2017, I reviewed a film called A Stork’s Journey. I considered it one of the weaker films of that year, and I still stand by that. Well, to me, Manou the Swift was what that film wanted to be. While it’s not a marginally better film, it at least has a lot more that I like about it. It has a decent cast including Josh Keaton, Nolan North, Willem Dafoe, and Kate Winslet, the animation was better, and it wasn’t as obnoxious in the comedy department. It still had a lot of the same problems as A Stork’s Journey, but it did just enough better with the story beats to not make this a total borefest. 

Still, the next batch of films on this list are at the very least more interesting, so stay tuned! 

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

The Other Side of Animation 204: Earwig and the Witch Review

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

HEADS UP: I was able to review this film early thanks to a screener.

One day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post asking about directors, actors, etc that you root for, even if they haven’t been in anything or made anything good. To me, that is Goro Miyazaki. The son of the grandmaster of theatrical Japanese animation, Goro has sadly had to live under his father’s shadow as his film output of Tales from EarthseaFrom Up on Poppy Hill, and Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter (technically a TV series) has been some of the more polarizing releases from the studio. Most of the fans think he hasn’t made anything good, and I just find that to be too snobbish and cynical. Yes, he might not have his dad’s spark, but I think he has the potential to make something incredible. What doesn’t work for me is that his stories needed another run-through or a rewrite. Tales from Earthsea feels like it needed to be a series of films or a show, but was stuck being a single film. From Up on Poppy Hill has some grounded moments and some solid drama, but it has an abrupt ending. He’s almost there, and while I might like most of his work, I get why people don’t. He doesn’t have the same magic as his father, and when he tries to copy his dad’s way of making films, they seem to have elements that don’t fully mesh well. That is sadly the case for Earwig and the Witch

Directed by Goro Miyazaki, written by Keiko Niwa and Emi Gunji, this is Ghibli’s first foray into CGI animation with the help of NHK Enterprises. It was made as a made-for-TV film, which is why it feels shorter than most Ghibli features at around 85 minutes. It was picked up by GKids and given a small limited release, and will be on HBO Max very soon. So, what do I think about Goro’s recent jump into CGI animation? Well, let’s find out. 

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Our story follows a young girl named Earwig, who is dubbed by Taylor Paige Henderson. She lives at an orphanage where she was dropped off as a baby. She wants to stay there due to her friends being there, playing pranks, and enjoying the orphanage’s iconic shepherd’s pie. One day, the orphanage is visited by two oddball individuals. One is named Bella Yaga, dubbed by Vanessa Marshall, and a being known as the Mandrake, dubbed by Richard E. Grant. They decide to adopt her and take her back as less of an adopted daughter and more of a helping hand for Yaga’s potion-making. Wanting to escape the house these two live in, Earwig tries to find a way out. With the help of a black cat named Thomas, dubbed by Dan Stevens, she tries to give herself an advantage in this house of obvious magic and mystery. 

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So, one thing that I think we should talk about is the CGI animation. While CGI has been around in other countries for as long as the original Toy Story, it seems like, from my observation, that other countries didn’t start using it more commonly until a few years after the US got a head start. That’s not entirely true, because who knows what we are missing because a lot of countries don’t use CGI animation in the same spirit and vein as the US film industry does. They have a different production flow, and that is probably why many of them are still catching up visually since some of them are around the 2007/2008 era of CGI animation. That’s not a bad thing, but it gives more casual animation fans a raised brow when they see CGI animation from other countries. Luckily, it seems like other countries have found their ways of working with CGI, and it has worked well for countries like China. But what about Ghibli and Goro’s approach to CGI with Earwig? While it doesn’t have the same energy in its movements, it does look good on a visual level. The animations are smooth, and the overall world has a very cool figurine/plasticine/Laika-style look to everything. It does look good to a degree, and I think the characters do have distinct animation quirks and their movements to stand out from each other. What is missing is the smaller details, and since the team that Goro worked with wasn’t super familiar with CGI, it can be a reason as to why some of the animation is missing that personal touch from Ghibli’s 2D films. It’s expressive enough, and there are points where they do the typical Ghibli-style facial reactions and hair standing up straight, but I think this is why some people have had issues with the visuals. It looks too polished and doesn’t have some of the smaller elements that studios like Pixar and Disney put into their animation. It’s why even fantastic Japanese CGI animated films like Lupin III: The First still feel a little lacking in some regards. This film does have a lot of fantastical visuals and moments that do line up with Ghibli’s line of work. I think my favorite part of the animation is with the Mandrake who is the entire scene-stealer of the film. He is the one who has the most memorable design, the best story beats, and the best visual moments. Still, I get why people will say the animation is lacking. If Ghibli can hire a more experienced team of CGI animators, or maybe team up with studios like Light Chaser, Pearl Studios, or something like that, maybe they can have a better product next time. 

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The animation is not the biggest fault of the film. To me, the story is the biggest fault. For a TV film that’s 85 minutes long, it feels like there are huge chunks of the story missing. Not like they cut them out ala The Weinstein Company, but they focus so much on one part of the story, that the last third has to push the most important story beats to the last 10 minutes. It’s another Goro Miyazaki film with an abrupt ending. What’s worse is that the ending feels like the story was about to get good. Not that there aren’t nice or entertaining moments during the first two-thirds, but when the last third has such touching emotional beats, and one heck of a closing reveal, well, it stings more. The film spends much of its time with Earwig who is trying to make a potential potion to avoid having to deal with the threats of Yaga, and that simply takes up too much time in the film. What would have been nice is if the film itself was more like two hours or so, and instead of being in the house the entire time, they showed off those moments that you see in the ending credits. It’s disappointing because the story does have some pretty good themes and story elements of dealing with loss and losing that part of you that gave your life spark. Simply put, I was interested in Earwig getting back at Yaga, and that got tiring after realizing how much of the runtime is dedicated to that part of the story. As I said, there are parts of the story where I enjoyed the film. I like seeing the Mandrake choose the meals for everyone. I like Earwig connecting with Thomas. I love her finding out who her mom was, and the past lives of the two adults with whom she lives. The performances are also quite good with Vanessa Marshall and Dan Stevens doing great work, and while I do love Richard E Grant, his character gets stuck saying a lot of his lines in low growly voices. Even Earwig’s mom, who is dubbed by country star Kacey Musgraves, is a cool character, but she is barely in the film, so outside of her singing talents, why cast her? It’s a real shame because this could have worked, and I don’t know if the story was truncated due to it being a TV movie, or if the writers and Goro had trouble coming up with a story that has a better flow to it. 

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It’s annoying because there are plenty of cool elements to the film. First off, I love Earwig’s Mom’s connection to Yaga and Mandrake. There is a compelling interesting story there, but it’s skimmed over. I think one of my favorite story beats was when Mandrake gets Earwig’s favorite dish for dinner. It was a genuinely nice scene. I also adore the rock and roll soundtrack and opening animation. It gives this quirky fantasy setting a unique flair that I can honestly say I haven’t seen in a Ghibli film. The composer of this film is Satoshi Takebe, who also worked on From Up on Poppy HillRomeo x JulietRonja the Robber’s Daughter, and Deltora Quest. I also love the visuals at points, and when the CGI can go into the quirky Ghibli movements and reactions, it looks fantastic. The ending credits are also fun to watch, but the 2D drawings seen there do make me wish Earwig was in 2D. 

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Earwig and the Witch is frustrating to watch. You can see the great film there, and who knows, maybe people will love this TV film as the years go on, but I don’t think they should give up on CGI. What they need to do is maybe work on forming a CGI animation team so that they can make talented individuals work on both 2D and CGI films. I think they can easily make it work. I don’t think this is the worst animated film of 2020, and I think some people are being wildly harsh and critical in the same way people are critical to “lesser” Pixar films. If you want to watch this film, you can either go to whatever theaters are going to play it, or you can be smart and wait for its release on HBO Max. I’m hoping that Goro finds his footing, and I’m going to root for him no matter what happens. We have seen directors who at one point may make a bad movie one year, and then the next one, they make a great film. Well, next time, we will be looking at a new cartoon show for Netflix, but I can’t tell you what it is until next time! 


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 201: Lupin III: The First Review

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

With the state of animation where CGI is becoming more common to the medium, animated properties are slowly and surely starting to slip into the transition that, let’s be real here, the same transition that video games ran into going from 2D to 3D graphics. Remember how long it took for so many game companies to finally crack the code? Not all of them were Nintendo, and so many franchises and companies paid for their failed attempts with games that weren’t great. So, what does this have to do with animation? Well, animation has and is going through those transitional phases. If you pinpoint certain parts of animation history, you can see where certain transitions to higher-end technology led to some clunky moments. I still remember when anime went from hand-painted to digital painted animation, and how they had to work with lighting and how not to make everything look so garish. Luckily, one franchise has been able to make that leap, and I can now talk about it! Today’s review will be of Lupin III: The First

Directed by Takashi Yamazaki, produced by TMS Entertainment and Marza Animation Planet, and brought over to the states by GKIDS, this is a monumental film for the franchise, as it’s the first film in the historic manga/anime franchise to be in full CGI. While CGI animation made in Japan is nothing new, it has taken a while for some franchises to take that first step. It was shown off at Annecy 2020 Online and got relatively positive reviews. GKIDS then gave it a limited theatrical release back in October, and now, well, here we are. Does Lupin make the jump to CGI? Or should this thief have stayed in the realm of 2D?

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So, this time, our story with the lovable thief has Lupin, dubbed by Tony Oliver, wanting to steal a special diary called the Bresson Diary, something that the Nazis were looking for back in World War II. As he tries to steal it the first time around, he is thwarted by the combined forces of a young woman named Laetitia, dubbed by Joy Scattorin, and the ever committed Inspector Zenigata, dubbed by Doug Erholtz. After escaping the grasp of the police with the help of his buddies Jigen, dubbed by Richard Epcar, and Goemon, dubbed by Lex Lang, Lupin finds Laetitia’s home and makes a deal with her. The diary is important to him due to it being one of the few items his grandfather couldn’t steal, and Laetitia is the granddaughter of the original author of the diary. Can they make a deal and unlock this diary’s secrets while avoiding the grasp of an evil organization that wants to use the diary’s secrets and treasures to bring back the Nazi party? Well then, you can easily assume what happens, but you will have to see for yourself. 

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How about we talk about the CGI animation for this film? How does it compare to the director’s other film from this year, Dragon Quest: Your Story? Personally, while I think some of the same issues can be seen in terms of animation with both films, I think it looks better than Dragon Quest: Your Story. On one hand, the previous film failed because it tried to be a CGI version of the game, and used a lesser version of the game’s iconic art style. At least with this film, everyone looks like they do from the manga and anime. While it may have been more bouncy and cartoony in its movements, the characters are still way more expressive and have their little quirky movements and traits that make them stand out from one another. They honestly do look like they were translated right from the anime and into 3D models. It’s quite impressive. There was an effort to take advantage of the animation being in CGI. While it’s not Hotel Transylvania in terms of cartoony animation, it still has some pretty good comedic animation. The action is also stylish and fun, due to how it plays like a mixture of a heist and an Indiana Jones-style adventure film. It might go into the area of sci-fi in the third act, but it at least feels more cohesive than other films in the franchise that try to mix it up, and it doesn’t work 100%. Sure, I wish Jigen and Goemon got to do a little more, like maybe they have their exclusive bad guys to fight, but this film is mostly about Lupin and the film-exclusive character Laetitia. 

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So, as we talked about the animation, how is the story? Well, while simple, and the film is more or less the same kind of Lupin III plots we usually get, I rather enjoyed my time with the plot. If I had to pick a theme that this film focuses on, it’s another feature film about family, the legacy they leave behind, and how you honor said legacy. Lupin and Laetitia both want to fulfill the legacy left behind by their families, and while it’s not going to be an incredibly deep film, it’s more focused than most Lupin plots that devolve into pure shenanigans. I found that Lupin and the gang worked off the villains and Laetitia pretty well, and that’s not always a certainty with films from this franchise. The director has said that he was inspired by what is probably the best film in the franchise, Castle of Cagliostro. Once learning about that, it is easy to see the connections there, and while that can be considered a pro and a con, it’s better than a lot of the specials and films that have come out in the past. Plus, with something like this new CGI film, you want to see a lot of the traditional Lupin elements. You want to see Zenigata get excited about capturing Lupin, you want to see Goemon be the stoic samurai, you want to see the love/hate relationship between Lupin and Fujiko, and you get the idea. It might be familiar, but it’s a good kind of familiar. This also means rehiring the iconic voice cast of the original red jacket series with Tony Oliver, Lex Lang, Michelle Ruff, and Richard Epcar as the iconic characters.

So, what do I not like about this? Well, as much fun as the overall experience is, I think the villains are the weakest part of the film. They are just typical modern-day (well, modern-day for the time in which the film takes place) Nazis that want to revive the plans and ways of Hitler. Now, it is nice the film is very anti-Nazi, and I am by no means looking for a sympathetic portrayal of one, but the villains don’t leave that much of an impression. The only kind of amusing thing about one of them is that the main bad guy looks like an anime-version of David Lynch.

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Outside of that minor issue, Lupin III: The First is a great action-adventure film that easily rises to the best that the franchise can offer. It’s digitally available right now, but you can get it on Blu-ray and DVD in January. I hope this film was successful enough to bring back Lupin to the theatrical side of things and we can see more of his shenanigans in the future! For now, we will have to travel back to the stone age as we look at The Croods: A New Age next time!

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 199: Weathering With You Review

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

Content Warning/Heads Up: I will be talking about the film’s ending because it needs to be discussed, so if you have yet to watch this film, do so right now. 

Well, I was going to review Hayop Ka!, the adult animated film from the Philippines that hit Netflix. Sadly, there is a problem with that, it’s not available on US Netflix. I know I could pay for a VPN and use a different region’s Netflix, but consider me lazy, I don’t feel like doing such a thing until the film gets an official US release. The fact that it’s available everywhere else on Netflix but my country is so weird. Well, that’s life for ya. Sometimes, a wrench is thrown into my original plans, and for the first time out of almost 200 reviews, I have to talk about a different film than what I promised from my previous review. Oh well, one out of 198 reviews is pretty great, huh? Luckily, I wanted to review this replacement film for a while, because it’s one of the biggest films of 2020 in the indie scene, and one of the biggest hits for GKIDS and Makoto Shinkai, Weathering With You

Directed by Makoto Shinkai, this was the famed director’s follow-up to the monumental hit Your Name. It played at the Annecy 2019 film festival in the work-in-progress section, and was the first film shown at the Animation is Film Festival 2019 Edition. It may not have been the second coming of Your Name, but it still racked up awards all over the place in both nominations and wins. If Japan took the film and made it their submission for the Best Foreign Feature award at the Oscars, then that’s saying something. Personally, while I think Your Name is a great movie, and my opinion of it has changed somewhat since I reviewed it, I prefer Weathering With You. Why? Well, you have to read the review. 

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Our story revolves around Hodoka Morishima, dubbed by Brandon Engman. He leaves his town and goes to Tokyo to chase after a sensation he saw in his home in Kozu-shima. As he gets there, he is poor, quickly running out of money, not finding a job, and in dire need of a home. He decides to take up a small gig at a small-time magazine company run by a man who saved him on the boat, Keisuke Suga, dubbed by Lee Pace. After doing a couple of weeks working with the small company, Hodoka encounters a girl he ran into when he arrived in Tokyo, a teenager named Hina Amano, dubbed by Ashley Boettcher. As the two teens bond, Hodoka finds out that Hina can control the weather by making the sun shine and the rain vanish that has been heavily pouring down in Japan. So, how will this result in the pair’s relationship? Can they brighten your day and or find happiness, and where they are going in life? 

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So, one thing I notice in a lot of Makoto Shinkai films, is that he loves to have two things, teen romance and love over long-distance being used in their relationships. What shocked me is that Shinkai pretty much ditched the long-distance part as this is one film from him that I can think of where the teen couple is with one another for a mass majority of the film. I think that helps, because I like the relationship between the two kids. I know a lot of romance stories dealing with tragedy love to kill one of the love interests early on, and well, it’s nice to see films like Weathering With You and Ride Your Wave show the characters in relationships. It carries with itself a lot of the energy of teens feeling like they are lost in life, and they need to find their way and what they are looking for. Of course, this film has other bits of commentary, like environmentalism. The actions of the sunshine girl will have consequences, due to how the film has a reoccurring theme of finding your happiness and joy in what you have going on in your life right now, and trying not to worry about what will happen in the future. I like how the main cast is handled. Many times with Shinkai films, the side cast isn’t all that memorable, due to how much emphasis is put on the two leads. Here they feel more robust with how they work off of the two teens and how their stories are woven into the overarching plot. 

So, one thing that has stuck out to people who have seen this film is the highly controversial ending. If you have yet to see this film, then please know that this is where I’ll be talking about it. If you have yet to see the film, then please watch it before reading this review. Otherwise, it’s your darn fault if you read this part. Let’s get to it! 

From what I have gathered, you either love the ending, or you hate it due to the actions of the lead character. He caused Japan to flood because he wanted to be with the one he loved. It makes him a reckless protagonist. At least, that’s one side of the argument. The other side of the overall conversation is the environmentalism angle it’s going for. Honestly, it’s a mix of both and some more emotional core elements. For example, the sunshine girl’s deeds are great, but there is a fairly selfish side to what happens in the film. All of these people get to have good days due to her actions, but the day she vanishes, everyone is like “it’s for the greater good”, and that’s messed up that a human sacrifice was a good thing in the long run. This is, of course, taking into consideration that due to what is going on with our abuse of the ecosystem, ocean-side cities, countries, and what have you will sadly end up underwater if we don’t do something about it. Yes, the male lead did cause Japan to flood due to his selfishness that he would rather be with her than have all of the sunshine in the world. I mean, yeah, it looks bad, but due to how the environment is responding to us and the recklessness of teenage love, I get why he made those actions. I understand why people love and hate it, but in the end, the film’s core seems to be that things are rough, so enjoy what you have right now, and while things are going to be tough, we will be alright. However, simply put, that is my takeaway from this, and if you agree, that’s cool! If you don’t agree, then that’s fine as well! 

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Animation-wise, I mean, it’s Makoto Shinkai. It’s a gorgeous movie with some of the studio’s best animation and visuals yet. It combines everything you would love from the rain in The Garden of Words to the amazing skylines of Your Name, and while you may not see anything unique about the character designs, they still look like characters from a Shinkai film. In terms of the dub cast, I know not everyone is always on board with celebrities doing voice casts, but from my experience, they are pretty good, and that’s no different here. It helps that it’s a mix of voice actors and big names, but the big names aren’t distracting. The cast includes Brandon Engman, Ashley Boettcher, Lee Pace, Alison Brie, Riz Ahmed, Barbara Goodson, Lexie Foley, Mike Pollock, Barbara Rosenblat, Wayne Grayson, Emeka Guindo, and if you know your Shinkai filmography, you will notice two actors from Your Name show up as their characters. They bring in strong performances, and of course, the Japanese cast is also great. Everyone feels very natural, so you can’t go wrong with watching one or the other. The overall soundtrack composed by the band RADWIMPS is quite stellar as well. It’s fun to see Shinkai have what could be his go-to-in-house music team with RADWIMPS, since this is their second time collaborating since 2016’s Your Name. I love a lot of the songs on the soundtrack. I listened to We’ll Be Alright ever since I saw the film back in October 2019. 

Now, do I have any criticisms? I think this is better than Your Name, so that means it’s a better film overall, right? Well, that’s not true. As much as I don’t mind the ending, and I get where he was coming from with how he handled it, I wish it was executed better. I know I spent a chunk of my review defending the ending, but it’s not like I don’t flip-flop from time to time when I think about this film’s ending. 

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Other than that, I think Weathering With You is a fantastic film from Shinkai and his team at CoMix Wave Films, and while I know many people will prefer Your Name, I love Weathering With You overall. Still, both movies are great, so they are like comparing one great milkshake to another great milkshake. You don’t lose in that situation. Still, I think it’s impressive that Weathering With You is still one of the most successful indie films of the year, but knowing how this year turned out, it’s a blessing and a curse. If you have yet to watch this film, please do so. Rent it, buy the normal version, the steelbook version, or the collector’s edition. You will not be disappointed. Well, we are now at 199 film reviews. Let’s then move onto something special for the 200th review. It should be something special, and you will just have to wait and see what it is. 

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 194: Summer Days with Coo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Rent it!

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

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

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!

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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!