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 260: Tekkonkinkreet

(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!)

There was an article going around in Japan that talked about the current climate of animated films that aren’t big anime franchise films. After Your Name was a smash hit in 2016, the industry has been trying to find the next big Your Name hit, and unfortunately, or what was apparent from that article, the returns haven’t been promising when the big franchise films like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and Jujutsu Kaisen 0 have been smash hits. That isn’t all true, with Belle becoming a financial hit, but it makes you hope that they do not regress into doing big IP-driven ONLY films. Now, we could talk about the fact that the industry all over the world keeps glomping onto the next big hit and trying to replicate it, and how chasing the trend first and making a good film second is always going to end in tragedy, but you know how the industry works. It takes action first without thinking about the long-term game. It’s a shame, because while making money is important, letting the art and the teams make something distinct is also important, because most franchise-based films are underwhelming. When you want to see something that looks like it goes off the beaten path, then you need to see films like Tekkonkinkreet

Directed by Michael Arias, one of the first non-Japanese directors for a major Japanese-animated film, this film is written by Anthony Weintraub, and was animated at Studio 4°C. The story follows two young boys named Black and White, dubbed by Scott Menville and Kamali Minter. They live on the streets of Takarmuchi, a once-thriving metropolis that is now bloated and overrun with criminal gangs trying to take down one another. Black and White try to take control of the streets by protecting everyone from said gangs. Can the two boys survive these dangerous times inside a crumbling city? What else is this character-driven city hiding or dealing with? 

While this is the part where we talk about the plot of the film, let’s instead focus on the standout feature of the film, the animation. If you were looking for something unique, then it would be tough to find something as distinct-looking as this film. The art direction was handled by Shinji Kimura, who also helped out in films like Children of the Sea and The Portrait Studio. Character designs were handled by Shojiro Nishimi, who also did character designs for MFKZ. They were able to translate the immensely detailed buildings and city life and blocky character designs from the original manga by Taiyo Matsumoto to life. Some moments in the film even go into this dream-like imagery that looks like it was all drawn by colored pencils. Even the action beats are as fluid as ever, despite the designs being blocky at points. The city feels intensely lived-in with so much of the city feeling like it’s falling apart. Most of the metal and buildings are covered in rust or chipped paint. There doesn’t seem to be much that isn’t overrun by industrial factories as the many civilians from the typical citizens, the different gangs, and everyone in-between give off vibes of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Shanghai, which were the direct inspirations for the city as they were looking for a Pan-Asian look. Even with the grime and roughness of the overall city via its visuals, there is a lot of love put into the world and how people love living there. The voice cast is also distinct because it’s more US-animation-driven than the usual anime dub casts you see in most Japanese animation. You have the likes of Scott Menville, Maurice LaMarche, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Phil LaMarr, Dwight Schultz, Rick Gomez, Kamali Minter, David Lodge, Quinton Flynn, Alex Fernandez, Yuri Lowenthal, Kate Higgins, Steve Blum, Matt McKenzie, Crispin Freeman, and Dave Wittenberg. It’s a nice mix of what you would normally see in US and Japanese animation. The music is composed by the group Plaid, and they bring this minimal touch to the world mixed with some industrial and fantastical beats. 

Now that we’ve got the talk of the visuals out of the way, what is this film actually about? It’s not that it’s a complicated story, it just follows more of a vibe or mood-like approach to its storytelling. It’s vastly different from what you would see back in 2006 and some would argue even now. Then again, with a film from the same studio that made Children of the Sea and is usually the origin of those fantastic anthology films like Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond, you should expect something off the beaten path. It’s more flowing and not in your face as we follow the two brothers and the police chasing after the multiple gangsters trying to squeak out a living in a world that is constantly changing. It brings back historical moments like the change from 1970s New York when it was filled to the brim with sex, drugs, and violence before it was cleaned up. The city around them is dying and pushing them out, but some love the city as it is, while reminiscing about what it was like back in the day. The loss of childhood innocence, freedom, and dealing with your personal demons is rampant throughout this film, as there are tales of kids that run and fight freely throughout the bustling city streets. Corruption slithers its way through the alleyways, and this is all while the two brothers at the center of this story are both at the forefront and at points on the sidelines to focus on everyone else. It results in a story that is working on a more emotional than logical level, and that will definitely turn off some people. It’s not the most cohesive story as it goes through the different seasons, and much of what can be interpreted by the audience is either hidden within the dialogue or through visual storytelling. You might not want to focus too much on a film’s plot to get everything, and it’s not the best-told story, but with everything listed above, it’s one of the easier to follow films, whereas the similar-looking Mind Game, which Masaaki Yuasa directed, was a touch more complicated to follow exactly what the story and themes were without breaking them down yourself. However, sometimes, you may want to simply watch a movie that’s an experience and hits a certain part of your brain that likes those less straightforward stories.

 

While its visuals and atmosphere may overtake the story and how the story is told, Tekkonkinkreet is a film that you don’t get too often and should be celebrated when we are all, as of right now, looking for films that are different from the big franchise fodder or tentpole releases. Yes, they might not always work out 100%, but no film is ever going to be quote on quote, “perfect.” Yes, that would be nice, but then every film would be boring. Wouldn’t you rather talk about a film that has some big hits and maybe some misses of varying sizes? At least you have more to talk about than just, it’s good, it’s bad, or something in the middle that doesn’t leave that much of an impact on your filmgoing experience. As of writing this film, there has been no re-release and there is a Blu-ray and DVD release, but the Blu-ray seems like it’s hitting that out-of-print situation where it is hitting absurd prices on Amazon and the like. It’s a shame, because this is a fantastic film, and you would hope a company like Discotek or GKIDS would re-release the film. Still, if you can get a hand on a copy out in the wild, you are in for one of the many examples of why animation is such a vibrant medium, and how it’s not just for kids. Now then, the next time ya see a review, you will be hanging out with DreamWorks The Bad Guys

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 240: Dogs in Space 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 series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

The super talented teams who are making cartoons from 2010 to now are truly bringing in a new generation of stories and experiences. It doesn’t matter if they show up on Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Nickelodeon, Hulu, Netflix, and what have you, we are in a much better state of storytelling and what kind of stories we can tell now more than ever. Sure, we still get spin-offs, reboots, sequel series, and such, but that’s going to happen with every decade of TV animation. What’s so fun about the 2010s-to-now set of series coming out is that they are more committed to telling stories with themes that would have been shrugged off from the 70s, 80s, and even in the 90s. There were shows before then that dealt with heavy topics, but they were rare and definitely were not the norm. Now we have shows that deal with much more story-driven experiences and it helps make more substantial characters and experiences. Even shows aimed at little kids are becoming better, and one example we can look at for that is the new series from Jeremiah Cortez’s Dogs in Space. 

Created by Jeremiah Cortez and soon to be streaming on Netflix, the story follows a group of scientifically enhanced dogs that are set into an ‘out of this world’ adventure to find a new home for the humans. These dogs include our corgi leader Garbage, voiced by Haley Joel Osment, a shetland sheepdog warrior named Stella, voiced by Sarah Chalke, Nomi, a brash excitable pilot shih tzu voiced by Kimiko Glenn, Ed, a thieving Jack Russel Terrier voiced by Chris Parnell,and Chonies, a scientific chihuahua voiced by David Lopez. We also have our scared surveillance officer Loaf, voiced by William Jackson Harper. Can they find a planet good enough for the human race? What other dogs will our crack team of dogs encounter? What aliens will come into contact with them? 

This series is the 2021 version of 2020’s The Fungies, as in it’s a series with charm, some very sharp humor, and a lot of heart. It’s essentially Star Trek, but combined with animation, and no I don’t mean like Star Trek Lower Decks or that new Star Trek Prodigy series, but more with cute dogs and a “golden age” Simpsons era wit and humor attached to it. It might be a show aimed at younger kids, but there’s a bit of a peppery kick to the dialogue and character dynamics that make this show stand out from the rest. The show is definitely more about the adventure and comedy aspect, and while there is action, it’s not the overall focus. It might even be its weakest part, but we will get there when we get there. Most of the episodes are Garbage and his crew exploring the galaxy and encountering the dangers that come with every planet and for this first season, the planet hunting is only half of the plot as our fluffy heroes deal with the inner politics of how the colony deals with spats and rebellious dogs being bad boys instead of sweet little good boys. The different personalities of the teammates from Garbage’s doofy arrogant confidence, to Stella’s stalwart bravery, Kimo’s bombastic nature, the opportunistic kleptomaniac Ed, the calm and collected Chovies, and the hyper paranoid Loaf all work well to bring in some truly great and charming laughs. It even has a few dark jokes and many dog puns for those that like that kind of humor. Luckily, the personality is spread across the many side characters from the council on the ship, to random aliens and side characters seen throughout the show’s first 10 episodes. It makes for a lived-in world as we see what kind of ship the dogs run. 

What always amazes me about modern cartoons is how, while goofy at points, a majority of more story-driven shows introduce a more serious tone or theme to the overarching story. This show’s major theme is not only about trust and that typical friendship conquers all, but the running theme of Dogs in Space is our characters dealing with distrust and abandonment. It makes sense due to how dogs in real life become attached to the hip of good owners and when the owners have to leave or something happens to them, they get worried, scared, or maybe angry for feeling abandoned. It’s the main driving emotion for one of the characters in the show, and Garbage always worries that his messages aren’t getting to his owner who’s back on earth. It makes for a very endearing and heartfelt story, as you see these otherwise adorable poof balls fight space aliens and travel across the stars. 

Art direction-wise, it’s an adorable-looking show. The designs are simplistic, but in a good way, the characters are expressive, especially Loaf, and the team making this show was able to make characters with small eyes feel very expressive. Now, is it well animated? Why, yes! It might use a simpler design style, but if you have seen shows like Atomic Betty or Star vs. The Forces of Evil, then you know what kind of animation style they are using. It definitely feels similar to how they move in both shows. While the action is not the flashiest, it gets the job done, and due to how likable the characters are, you want them to do well and make the fights satisfying to watch. The voice cast is also stellar. It’s the most stand-out part of this overall show. As mentioned previously, you have Haley Joel Osmont, Kimiko Glenn, Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, David Lopez, William Jackson Harper, but due to this being fairly Star Trek-inspired, we also have Will Wheaton and Michael Dorn. Other incredible voice actors include Debra Wilson, JP Karliak, John DiMaggio, Rena Strober, Bobby Moynihan, and Dee Dee Magno Hall. 

Dogs in Space is a cute, charming, and ‘out of this world’ animated series. It sets out to be an amusing sci-fi space adventure, and that is what you will be getting. If you like dogs, which you had better, and adorable sci-fi adventures for all ages, then you will probably enjoy this series. Animation is in a healthier place than ever, and while there are plenty of improvements that need to be done within the animation industry, if we can get more shows like Centuarworld, Maya and The Three, Kid Cosmic, City of Ghosts, and Dogs in Space, then I’m all for seeing what the animation future has in store for us. Next up, we take a trip to both the US and China with this new US/China collaboration effort, Extinction

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!