The Other Side of Animation: The Triplets of Belleville Review

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: There is some female nudity, but not a whole lot of it. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

So, we have seen crazy and insane storytelling done badly that was entertaining to watch in a “so good, it’s bad”  kind of way, but what about watching an animated film that is all sorts of crazy, but was done well enough to be considered one of the all-time great animated films? As we have seen in a lot of animated movies and shows, it seems like the most popular form of comedy is being fast-paced, over-the-top, or flat-out crazy. Even then, there is an art and style to said creative comedy. You can’t just be loud and visually weird and unusual. If you are all just flash and no substance, why should we waste our time with you? Yeah, shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and films like The LEGO Movie are over-the-top, unique in their visuals, and have interesting senses of humor, but they all have good stories and characters you love and want to invest into. This is why, after that trainwreck of glorious/horrible animation that was MD Geist, I wanted to look at an odd, surreal, but amazing movie like The Triplets of Belleville. This movie was released back in 2003, winning critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. The Triplets of Belleville was directed by Sylvain Chomet, the man behind the 1991 animated film, The Old Lady and the Pigeons, and the 2010 animated, The Illusionist. So, is this film as good now as it was back in 2003? Well, let’s find out!

The story revolves around a grandmother named Madam Souza and her grandson named Champion. They live a simple life, until the day she finds out her grandson has a fascination with cycling. After getting her grandson a tricycle, the years pass, and we see the son is training for the grand pike race known as the Tour de France. During the race, Champion gets kidnapped by the French Mafia, and taken over to a romanticized version of New York. Madan Souza and her dog go after him, only to find themselves lost in the big city. Luckily for them, they end up encountering the famed Triplets of Belleville, three famous vaudeville singers from back in the day. Can they get Souza’s son back from the French Mafia?

So, this is a French 2D animated film about a grandmother, her dog, and three old ladies taking on the French Mafia to get the grandmother’s grandson back, with some of the most unusual and ugly (in a good way) artstyles ever implemented. Yeah, it’s a weird and sort of crazy film, but it all works! Why does it work? Well, maybe because while it has some unusual and crazy visuals, the story and characters are kept simple and easy to understand. You really get invested in and charmed by the individual characters, and this is amazing since there is basically no dialogue in the film. There is some at the beginning and end, but they are there to pretty much bookmark the start and end of the film. The only dialogue you hear is from the radio. Luckily, the execution of the animation and art design makes it quite clear to know what is going on with all of the character’s goals and intentions.

Speaking of animation, it is beautifully done. The art direction is what really makes this film stand out. It’s about as anti-Disney and DreamWorks as you can get, with humans that are quite frankly over-exaggerated and gross-looking. However, I mean that in the best way possible. Unlike the third-party tripe you get, the characters are well designed and have very memorable looks and diverse animations. I think some of my favorite character designs come from the grunts of the French Mafia. They look like walking dominos, and are just cool to look at. The overall presentation, like I have mentioned, is over-the-top and reminds me of caricatures. It’s rather beautiful in that regard. I love it when I get to see different art styles put into play, and in my opinion, more films need to do this instead of trying to be another DreamWorks and Pixar knock-off. The music is just groovy and jazzy. I love the original song that was nominated for best original song. It’s catchy and just a fun song to listen to.

If I had to complain about something, it would be this weird little hiccup that I saw with the English subtitles. Even though there is no talking, when you see the TV or radio sequences where there is dialogue, the English subtitles turn to French subtitles when you watch the film in English. Why is that a thing? I even watched it in French and the English subtitles are still French. That is such a huge hiccup in terms of the tech department that it’s kind of baffling that some employee didn’t quality control this part. Hopefully they fix this with a Criterion or Blu-Ray release. Heck, why isn’t this film part of the Criterion collection? It would look amazing.

The Triplets of Belleville is nothing short of a modern classic. It deserves to be talked about more than it does. I know it’s a famous movie, but man, this film got better the more times I watched it. Sadly, you can only get this movie in a DVD format, but if you can get it, I would highly recommend it. It’s pretty cheap and I even found a collector’s edition of sorts that had a ton of extras and both the French and English version of the film. I just want to keep praising this film for hours, but I would then be repeating myself. So, let’s move onto a film that could have been something better than expected, even with bad advertising, but was just a bad film overall. Next time, we look at Hell and Back. Thanks for checking out my work, and see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation: MD Geist I & II Review

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WARNING: This anime is filled with blood, gore, violence, and nudity. Viewer’s discretion is advised

As someone who grew up when Blockbuster was still a thing, I will always have memories of seeing certain movies or shows on the shelf, and never renting them. I can remember a handful of the titles I never got around to seeing and should have, like the critically acclaimed Fantastic Planet. This was also during a time when I was not really big into violence and gore, and today’s review is about two titles that were stuck in my head that I never saw until recently, MD Geist I and II. If you look at the retro anime scene, a lot of people will point to MD Geist as being one of the worst anime of all time. This notorious schlock title was brought over by the now-defunct Central Park Media, and was directed by Koichi Ohata, the same individual who directed the utterly boring Cybernetics Guardian (which I have reviewed) and the even more notorious Genocyber. With a title that is well known for being the face of awful 90s anime OVAs, this must be pretty horrible. In fact, if you read some articles written up by Justin Sevakis, there is a really interesting history behind it being localized, and how the individuals of Central Park Media felt about the overall project. So, is this as bad as people made it out to be? Well, let’s find out.

The two OVAs are set in this Mad Max/Fist of the North Star/any generic post-apocalyptic world that was destroyed by two different armies. The OVAs star a super-soldier named Geist, a specially-made super-human, one of many that were all apparently wiped out in the past. The plot basically has Geist dealing with gangs, one of the armies, and then in the second OVA, an army of flesh-eating robots and another super-soldier.

Let’s start with the bad. Why? Because there is so much wrong with this set of shorts that makes it so hilarious. Seriously, there is basically no plot, and what plot is makes no sense. What makes the power armor powerful, if all it takes is one strong spear toss to take someone wearing it down? Why did the humans make a last resort plan with flesh-eating robots that will even attack the creators? Why is there another super-soldier when it was said in the first MD Geist that Geist was the last one? Why is there a cyborg? How did a kid near the end of the second OVA get struck by the spear, when he had to have been at least two feet or more off the ground to get struck by it? What does the military gain from double-crossing the second super-soldier when he is trying to get rid of the flesh-eating robots? I could go on and on about more of these plot elements that make no sense, but that would end up taking over the entire review. There are so many story elements that make no sense, that it really does show that the director had no idea what he was doing. He was basically on the level of Hollywood/YouTube not knowing how Fair Use or copyright works on YouTube (remember to fight for fair use and make sure copyright isn’t abused #WTFU), and that isn’t a positive thing at all. It becomes downright hilarious, since you are just waiting to see how bad the plot gets, and it just gets worse and even more hysterical. It helps too that the voice acting is so hammy and horrible, that you can’t help, but listen to how badly the English dub was directed. Some of the action seen throughout the two OVAs is entertaining, but it is also hilarious to watch for all the stilted animations, obvious post-edit changes, and downright sloppy execution of animation as a whole. Heck, the version we got with the “director’s cut” was apparently even better than the original version that had even more mistakes and missing story elements.

As for the infamous ultra-violence seen in this anime, MD Geist is much more violent than Cybernetics Guardian, but I have still seen worse in terms of gory anime, like Genocyber and Violence Jack. Geist’s violence is definitely more graphic than most, but due to the animation, it didn’t make me squirm enough to have an effect. The characters are not memorable at all. They are just archetypes of what was popular during that time in anime. I mean, this was anime during the late 80s and early 90s; you would have to scavenge through the rampant misogyny and violence to find likable and endearing male and female characters. The music is also just cheesy, and so bad that it’s good to listen to.

Out of this entire trainwreck that was apparently the flagship title for Central Park Media, is there something good to be had here? Why, yes. I mean, if I haven’t made it clear, this is a glorious trainwreck to behold, with an even more interesting history behind the production of said series of OVAs. Sure, it can be a tad boring at times, but once those bits of inept insanity come through, it will get a laugh out of you, or your money back. It’s just funny that this came out in a time where Japan was willing to put anything out on a VHS or DVD, not caring if it was well made or not.

MD Geist I & II are easily some of the worst anime you will ever see. Its entire plot makes no sense, the animation is garbage, the characters are stale like moldy bread, and it’s just an insane trainwreck with a director who had no idea what he was doing at that time. Still, it’s a really good choice for a “so bad it’s good” or bad movie night. It has enough crazy to be enjoyable on an ironic/guilty pleasure level. You can find the collector’s edition DVD for about $15, but I wouldn’t pay more than that for it. If you can find it for cheaper, I would recommend picking up this horrific pile of garbage, if you are one of those kinds of individuals. Or, if you want to watch it online to not feel guilty, a site called tubitv.com has both OVAs up. (By the way that wasn’t a paid promo. I would have said it was at the top of this article). While it is a bad anime, I have seen so much worse in terms of both old and new anime. So, how about we look at something crazy, but really good? Yes, next time, we will be taking a look at The Triplets of Belleville. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Lackluster!