The Other Side of Animation 272: The House of the Lost on the Cape

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

 

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


2022 has been a heavy-hitting year for Japanese animated films. We not only had the financially successful Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and Jujutsu Kaisen 0, but we also had grand epics like The Deer King and the incredible experience that is Inu-Oh. It shows that there are a multitude of varying journeys animation can take you on, and all that’s really preventing them from getting wider audiences is the fact that they need distributors that are willing to bring them over here. People are craving animation now more than ever, despite what companies like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery think about the medium of storytelling. Hopefully, even with the recents of streaming services going bananas, distributors still help support and bring over animation from all over the world. Films like today’s review, The House of the Lost on the Cape, deserve to be seen. 

Directed by Shinya Kawatsura, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by David Productions, this film was brought over by Elevenarts. The story follows two girls, Yui and Hiyori, dubbed by Madeleine Morris and Risa Mei. While taking shelter during a hurricane, an elderly young woman named Kiwa, dubbed by Pam Dougherty, decides to take them in once it has been revealed that both of the girls have either lost their family or have run away from home due to an unhealthy household. As the three go to a house on the cape, the two girls slowly start to learn about the mystery around this very special house, and maybe soon, become a family. 

One thing to notice about this film is how laid back it is. It’s very quiet and the film takes a lot of time for the first half to set up the mystery of the house and the dynamic between our main characters. The music is very soft and there is nothing super dramatic or loud thrown at you. Even at the halfway point, when they introduce magical spirits like the kappa, it’s never taken comedically or has some misunderstanding of why the spirits are there. It’s very nonchalant about the situation, and that does result in a film that is in a similar spirit to My Neighbor Totoro or Okko’s Inn, if you are familiar with one of those titles. That is to say, that “nothing happens.” Even when you see films like that, there is always a point as to why the story was told in that way. Sometimes it’s an experience of watching a slice of this type of city, life, or ways of a certain culture. It’s also a bit much to say that nothing happens in this film.

 It’s a story that’s meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and earthquake. You can see how the film finds low-key ways to make that clear by having those tragic elements implemented via environmental storytelling. The overarching narrative is about being kind, looking out for one another, dealing with loss, grief, and being remembered. It’s about caring for one another during tough times and coming together to help one another. What’s also nice is how the film wraps everything up. Yes, there is a “sudden” third act shift where the conflict that’s slowly been growing in the background near the end of the second act begins to show up, and they do at the end of the day, save the entire town, but still leave some aspects intentionally unresolved. Some aspects of their arcs are complete, but while the overall ending is happy, there is still a small bit here and there where the story says “yeah, they grew as characters, but this isn’t going to wrap everything up”. It seems like since Encanto and maybe earlier, we have been getting complaints about some films having very complex issues and how some films either leave it messy or wrap everything up with a nice bow. Personally, it depends on what the main point of the film is and what kind of story they are telling. Unless it’s just egregious in how it wraps everything up, then it’s okay to either end it on a nicer note or leave it on whatever note on which you want to leave it. 

Now, animation-wise, David Productions is mostly known for the adaptations of franchises like Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, Fire Force, and Cells at Work. The House of the Lost is well-animated. You can maybe argue that it isn’t the flashiest animated film out this year compared to the other powerhouse productions like The Deer King and Inu-Oh, but the film aimed to be more low-key, and that’s okay. The animation is still well-handled, the mix of 2D and CGI isn’t all that noticeable with maybe one detail showing the CGI assets, and the spirits or yokai designs are handled in a way that makes them stand out and aren’t just the usual designs you see in most anime or films. It has a nice detail of when Kiwa goes into the backstory or folklore of the area around the town they live in, they use this fun Science Saru-inspired visual style of rotoscoping and rougher art style. It gives the film a dose of surreal and magical whimsy without it being too much. It never felt like the two art styles clashed either. In the voice acting department, the English dub cast is great with some well-known talent like Madeleine Morris, Risa Mei, Pam Dougherty, Casey Casper, Caitlin Glass, Michelle Marie, Ben Balmaceda, Alan Lee, Lucas Schuneman, Kaiji Tang, Mike Pollock, Brooke Chalmers, Brent Mukai, Sarah Wiedenheft, and Laura Stahl. The music by Yuri Miayuchi offers a more Animal Crossing vibe to the world the characters live in with soft and very slice-of-life tunes that are sprinkled throughout the entire runtime. It has its moments where it becomes grander in tone, but it’s a very lo-fi soundtrack, and that’s always a fun change of pace when it comes to films with more fantastical elements. 

It might not be as well-paced as it could have with how it gets from point A to point B, but the characters are charming, and the low-key atmosphere helps make the viewing experience an enjoyable one as we see the bond between the three characters grow over time. The House of the Lost on the Cape is like a warm hug with its overall journey of healing, and finding family and hope during tough times. It shows how coming together to help one another can raise themselves up from dark times and be a wonderful experience. If you can find a theater that will be playing this film, I definitely recommend checking it out. Otherwise, it will be coming out on Blu-ray and digital in a few weeks. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a fan-favorite animated series that finally hits Netflix. You will just have to wait and see what it is when we talk about it next. 





Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 259: Bubble Review

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

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

Studio Wit is a rather fantastic studio full of talented artists that are mostly known for animating the first few seasons of the acclaimed Attack on Titan. It must have been frustrating to be stuck on such a big franchise, because for a while that is all that they helped make. Luckily, they broke free from that franchise’s clutches, because the production committee was being absurdly impossible to deal with. It seemed like after that, they were able to start working on shows and films that they are way more passionate about. This includes Vivy, Ranking of Kings, After the Rain, this spring season’s Onipan!, and are co-producing with CloverWorks the Spy x Family adaptation, to name a few of the projects they have worked on since or alongside Attack on Titan. Now, they have an original film that will be out on Netflix called Bubble that shows that hopefully, Netflix is still going to be committed to original animated ideas and features. 


Bubble is directed by Tesuro Araki and written by Gen Urobuchi. It follows a group of people who live inside a large bubble that has overtaken Tokyo after an environmental disaster where these floating bubbles that defied gravity appeared. The game played within the bubble is essentially a more extreme and dangerous version of parkour as teams fight for resources by traversing floating and sunken buildings, and avoiding undertow-like traps throughout the courses. Hibiki, dubbed by Zach Aguilar is a young male who has had a history of hating sound or being affected by it in severe ways enough to wear headphones at all times, but inside the bubble, is one of the top-tier parkour players of his team.  One night, he decides to venture to the Tokyo Tower where ground zero hit when the bubbles arrived on earth. As he ventures around Tokyo Tower, he encounters a mysterious girl later nicknamed Uta, dubbed by Emi Lo, who is new to this now sunken city and world of parkour. Can Hibiki, Uta, and their friends find a way to solve the mystery of the bubbles? What about Uta? What is her role in this fantastical story? 

So, who said they needed a film that combined anime with The Little Mermaid, and parkour? Because that is what this film is. It’s a modern anime take on The Little Mermaid with the mixture of anime, and, well, you do get a distinct take on the fairytale that makes it stand out from other animated films like Ponyo, Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish, and Lu Over the Wall. There is something fun seeing what studios do with incorporating elements or story beats of fairytale-like experiences and how they unfold within the narrative. However, it’s more like Belle from 2021 in some regards, because it’s not fully a Little Mermaid story, but more of how it implements themes of environmentalism, connection, bonding, and freedom to the Little Mermaid formula, and it works out pretty well. It even has some of those ethereal universal atmospheric moments you would see in Ayumu Watanabe’s adaptation of Children of the Sea. While this film sounds like it goes places and is action-packed, it does tend to have more downtime moments where the characters breathe and the world is expanded upon, which is always a nice thing to see. Still, when the film decides to focus on the action, there is this rush that you get only when you combine some incredible music and gorgeous visuals from Wit Studios. 

With this being a Wit Studios production, the animation is obviously some of the best that the industry can offer. The entire sunken city world inside the bubble looks like it took its multiple coloring and intense amount of detail from Makoto Shinkai. The human movements are fluid and fast-paced with this being partly a fun action-packed parkour showcase, and its mixing of both 2D and CGI elements are seamless in the combination of the two. It’s a visually stunning film, and I know it’s easy to take jabs at it because of how it’s taking a ton of inspiration from Shinkai’s work on a visual level, but when the end result looks this fantastic, well, that’s a good thing. The action itself is so much fun to watch. There are definitely different takes on parkour, and there are some shows that make fun of it, but when you take it into the world of animation, it makes it look thrilling and exciting. This is especially true with how the people competing make harrowing jumps from floating debris and try to avoid getting knocked into the water or these dangerous black hole-like entities that are placed all over the city. The designs by Takeshi Obata are definitely some of his best work and don’t feel like leftovers from his collaborations with Tsugumi Ohba. The music is a real deal hit with the music being composed by Hiroyuki Sawano of 86, Attack on Titan, and Promare fame bringing this majestic, awe-inspiring, and epic score that really elevates the already impressive visuals. Granted, the fact this film opens with an anime-like opening sequence with a song by the famed Eve is jarring due to how this is a movie, but Eve has been making bangers over the past few years, so that’s perfectly okay. The English dub cast is full of well-known names like Zach Aguilar, Keith Silverstein, Emi Lo, Erica Lindbeck, Robbie Daymond, Laura Stahl, Landon McDonald, Jalen K. Cassell, Chris Jai Alex, Kyle McCarley, Christina Vee, Bill Butts, Derek Stephen Prince, Aleks Le, Howard Wang, Kaiji Tang, Brock Powell, and Jeannie Tirado.

Now, as for the criticisms for Bubble, it feels like it was drafted in the first half to be an anime series before getting turned into a film. There is a ton of exposition, and it always isn’t the best paced. The film is full of distinct side characters, but outside of a few who get some subtle or upfront character beats or backstories, most of them are forgettable. They are there to help push the story along and that’s about it. Even the other teams don’t have too much to themselves outside of some visual characteristics. It comes off at points, again, that it was meant to be a TV show. It would have definitely helped give the characters who aren’t Hibiki and Uta more time to be fleshed out. 

While it may be light as a bubble in some areas, Bubble is a fantastic original experience from a talented studio and team that I would definitely be on the lookout for if they team up again to make another animated feature offering. It will be on Netflix April 28th, and if you like action, lush animation, and something a bit different from your animated films, then definitely put this film on your watch list. Now then, since we are talking about distinct animated experiences from Japan, I think it’s time to check out a film that should have been covered on The Other Side of Animation for quite a while. Next time, we will be talking about Tekkonkinkreet






Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 257: Jujutsu Kaisen 0 The Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 214: The Legend of Hei 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!)

While I have been praising the Chinese animation scene, let’s not forget that the country has had a very fruitful and bountiful scene for decades. It’s not like any of this is new. I know it feels new because of the recent smash hits like Nezha and White Snake, but their history of animation has been around for decades. They have even put out films from back in the day that matched Disney in animation quality. Heck, some of their work even succeeded it with how ambitious their use of watercolor was. Unfortunately, like with most animation history, there were times where the art and products became more propagandistic, and when Disney had their second wind in the 90s, something changed for the worst in Chinese animation. They found themselves crushed between powerhouses like Disney and the increasing popularity of animation from Japan. This led to a lot of lower-quality products and films that were trying to ape off of Disney and other companies. Luckily, with 2015’s The Monkey King: Hero is Back, the animation industry in China decided to bite back against the competition, and it has been putting out films with challenging art styles and distinct stories. This is where The Legend of Hei comes into play.

Directed by Mtjj, this 2D animated film is a prequel to the events that take place before the famous web series. It was shown off at Annecy 2020 Online in the Contrechamp section but lost. Luckily, it got pretty great reviews and was a financial hit in China. Another piece of good news is that the film itself while being at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, will be getting a US release thanks to Shout! Factory in May. So, does this film keep adding to the winning streak Chinese animation has been having? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story follows Hei, a small cat-like spirit that gets forced out of his forest home due to humans. After struggling to find a decent living situation, Hei is picked up by a group of spirits led by an individual named Stormend. After relaxing in his new home, Stormend and his gang are attacked by an individual known as Infinity. After the crew escapes, Hei is left behind with Infinity. Hei then makes a deal between him and Infinity to get off the island and find out where Hei belongs and what exactly is up with Stormend and his crew. 

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I think the coolest aspect about this being yet another film with the morality of humans vs nature commentary is how morally grey this film approaches those themes. I think the stigma of “people hate stories about saving the environment” is that people don’t hate these types of stories, but rather the problem comes down to how black and white they end up being. Yes, humans suck and big corporations are indeed killing our environments, but it always leads to an extremely boring story, which will make the always admirable message of “please for the love of everything, save our forests and oceans and stop killing the wildlife” fall flat due to how predictable the story is. With Hei, the story falls more in the middle. It’s not taking a side because both the humans and spirits with their actions are put under the microscope. It even has an overall hopeful message about the human’s relationship with nature with a few moments of cynical comments. It feels more realistic and will give you vibes with how Princess Mononoke handled its commentary of humans vs nature. Not every story needs to be morally grey or just one-sided, but it makes for a more interesting story when both sides are examined in detail. It all depends on how you execute the story that people won’t mind another story in this range. Luckily, there are strong character dynamics that also carry the themes and commentary. A lot of the film is spent with quiet montages between Hei and Infinity, and they are the two that carry the story. I love that we are seeing stories from China that are full of these strong character-building moments because you will even feel for Stormend and his plight. 

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The animation is gorgeous. This is some of the most fluid 2D animation I have seen from China. The designs are identifiable, they move with a good flow, and that leads to some extremely followable action sequences. I know it’s nothing new to see Chinese animated films have stellar action sequences, but boy howdy are these some of the most intense fights, and it does a great job of making you feel how heavy the strikes are. The music is also very beautiful with some tunes almost coming off like they were composed by Joe Hisaishi. If anyone is curious, there will be a sub and dub version available in May, but I saw the dub version at the New York International Children’s Film Festival. I adored the dub, and while I know there is some debate about how the dub changes the names of the characters, I am not here to talk about that. What I want to do is shout out the cast that includes Aleks Le, Howard Wang, Kaiji Tang, Caleb Yen, and Suzie Yeung. 

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I think my one real problem with this film is how many characters it introduces. I think they show off a few too many and while I get this is a prequel to the web series, they feel like they were placed there more for the fans, and unless you have seen the series, they are going to feel like a flavoring to spice up the world around the viewer. It still doesn’t make it any less awkward when they introduce a ton of new characters, but take it like the side characters you meet in films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. They don’t do much, but they make the world feel more complete. Still, they could have dialed it back at points. 

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Whether you are aware of the web series or if this is your first time jumping into the universe from which this film is set, The Legend of Hei is a fantastic thrill ride. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the year so far, and one of the best animated features that have come out of China. Like I said earlier, Shout! Factory is going to be releasing this film in May on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital, and if you are up for something a bit different, then you should check it out! Well, I need to take a break from festival films, and next time, I will be talking about another Netflix series. I can’t tell you which one, but you will have to find out in the future. 

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




Rating: Go See It!