The Other Side of Animation 235: Firedrake the Silver Dragon 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!)

Listen, it is pretty much impossible to have every studio make films on the level of the top-tier giants like Chizu, Science Saru, Disney, Pixar, and you get the idea. Not every studio all around the world is going to throw down the money for the tools, the talent needed, or will have the smoothest production cycle to make films on par with what’s coming out these days. That’s okay for the most part. Not everything needs to look like the most polished animated film from the bigger studios. With that said, with so many smaller studios making animated features, you have to do something that stands out. If your film makes viewers remind them of much better films, then you are in trouble as a studio. It’s always going to be disappointing when you see a small film from a studio that wants to make an impression, and then come off as something that was made because someone wanted to make an animated film due to how profitable they can be. This is where most people will fall with Dragon Rider aka Firedrake the Silver Dragon


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Directed by Tomer Eshed, the director behind the incredible CGI short Our Incredible Nature: The Common Chameleon, Firedrake was written by Cornelia Funke, John R. Smith, and was just released on Netflix. The story follows a silver dragon named Firedrake. He can’t breathe fire, the other dragons treat him like some odd individual, and his only friend is a creature called a Brownie. He talks to the elder dragon of his kind to learn about the Rim of the World, a location where dragons live freely and away from humans. One day, they find out that the humans are creeping ever so close to where the dragons live. It’s up to Silverdrake and his friend to find the famed dragon rider to help find this location and avoid the evil grasp of Nettlebrand, a mechanical dragon that wants to eat the dragons of the world. 



It’s very difficult to come up with a compelling story that feels refreshing and constantly keeps your attention. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t do a stellar job at keeping the audience’s attention. If you have seen any kind of fantasy film with dragons as the focus, then you will have seen this film. It has a few good lines and morals, but when you are struggling to remember the characters that said it, or when they said it, that’s a problem! The fantastical elements mixed with modern-day human civilization feel undercooked. The humans don’t seem to care that giants, sea serpents, and other mystical beings exist in this world, when the opening of the film explains that humans and dragons used to live together. Okay, well, why should I care? Viewers will find it hard to feel engrossed in this bog-standard world with a mediocre story attached. There are themes of moving on past a tragic event in your life, and how everyone is flawed, but can do good things. To give the film credit, those are decent points. 



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Getting to those points is what makes the film such a struggle to watch. It feels too childish for adults, and not engaging enough for kids. It makes references to much better films you would rather be watching, and those references can come off as both cute and very desperate. The two references by the way are for Ice Age and the obvious comparison point for this film, How to Train Your Dragon. To be fair, the film is based on a book,and could have been simply a bad adaptation of the story. To be even fairer, most viewers won’t care if it’s based on something, because the film needs to be good on its own, and no one wants to see fantastical creatures reference stuff like the internet, Skype, and you get the idea. It feels insulting that this film thought it needed to take place in the modern-day when if you change the time period, it wouldn’t matter. Sure, you would have to change a few scene executions around, but you wouldn’t have to change the overarching story. 




The characters fall flat. Firedrake is your typical dorky outcast who wants to be a powerful dragon but doesn’t know how. Sorrel is the snarky one who doesn’t trust humans. Ben had the potential to be an interesting human character, but viewers will have seen much better orphaned characters with shows like Kid Cosmic that came out this year. The villains and side characters that help flesh out the world don’t offer too much, which is shocking since you would think a giant mechanical dragon voiced by Patrick Stewart would be more entertaining than it actually is. The film’s story is a real crushing case of going in one ear and out the other. 




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The animation for Firedrake and the Silver Dragon looks like those videos you see on YouTube, where they take a game that has colorful cartoony graphics and run it through the hyper-realistic textures and graphics of the Unreal Engine, but then don’t translate the cartoonish character designs. The animation looks clunky and stiff. They also do a lot of repeated character models and looping animations. The overall vibe that I personally took away from this film is an animation school graduate project. Patrick Stewart’s character Nettlebrand has the best character animation on him, but it makes you wonder whether making him metal had a reason for it. A different team would focus more on his robotic elements than it looking like an alternate costume/skin from a video game. The human designs are unappealing to look at, and another sign of either the talent not being there or the talent not having time to go over a few sequences to make them look less horrifying at points. The film also feels like the CGI characters are at times flying against a flat background.


Since it wants to be like How to Train Your Dragon, it does have a few moments of action and flying, but they feel unimaginative. How to Train Your Dragon felt like you were there while the flying was happening. The overall film lacks that cinematic edge, and whether it was due to time or resources not being handled well, the action and flying sequences don’t have that spark and magic to them. Yes, for the most part, you can judge this film on its own merits without having to compare it to films that were obviously made by large teams of talented animators and directors. With that said, when a film like this is making references and wants to be like that more popular film, well, it’s open season on the comparisons.

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The voice cast does have a few big names including Thomas Brodie Sangster, Felicity Jones, Patrick Stewart, Freddie Highmore, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhasker, Nonso Anozie, Alex Norton, and Jimmy Hibbert to name a few. The performances range from annoying to some of them trying their hardest to work with the mediocre material, and some of them are completely forgettable. Patrick Stewart seems to be putting in most of the legwork to leave an impression, and even the weakest Patrick Stewart performance is better than most actors in this film. 






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Netflix is an odd beast when it comes to animation. They have all of this money and they have put out a lot of incredible work, but then you see them buy films from overseas that would look at home on the film rack in a grocery store next to direct-to-video animated fare. If I wanted to see a company bring over direct-to-video films, I would have gone to Lionsgate. Firedrake the Silver Dragon is not the worst of the year, but it’s definitely a bottom-tier animated film for 2021. Maybe if this film came out in a weaker year I would have liked it more, but since the films are so strong this year, it’s going to end up near the bottom. There are so many better animated films with dragons in them right now that you would have to use a map to find a reason to watch this one. If you do want to watch it, then go ahead. Watch the film at your own leisure and see how you come out of the experience. Well, next time, we will be looking at yet another CGI animated film coming to Netflix, but you will 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: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 233 – The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf 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 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.

When a ton of different kinds of similar films come out in one year, you want to stand out and be able to stay on your own two feet against the competition. There is nothing worse than being the film that you reference in a negative way when you are comparing it to the film that may be similar but is the better option. This happens from time to time with certain years in animation. Why should anyone choose the subjectively weaker option, when you have something subjectively better offered to you? In this case, this year we have two different action fantasy films that take place in their respective franchises. You have the famous Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is the sequel film to the first season of the shonen action franchise, and now we have the prequel film to the Netflix live-action series, The Witcher with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 


Directed by Kwang ll Han, written by Beau DeMayo, based on the book series by Andrej Sapkowski, and produced by the legendary Studio Mir, this is a prequel story that takes place decades ago before our lovely Geralt takes the mantle as the main character. So, what do we get instead of a story following a baby Geralt? Well, you should heighten your senses and get your silver sword ready for what I’m about to review. 

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Our main hero for this story is Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, an infamous swashbuckling Witcher and future mentor to the franchise’s main character Geralt. Vesemir is going about his days as a monster slayer, who is hated among monsters and humans alike. I mean, technically, no one likes Witchers and there has been tension among his kind due to the growing tension between humans, the dwindling number of monsters, and their futures. During one night, Vesemir encounters a truly unique version of a monster known as a Leshen, and that sets him off on his journey to find out exactly what is going on, who is behind these weird new experiments, and will he and his kind be able to survive?

So, with this being a prequel story to the main events of the TV series, how does it handle the overall story of Geralt’s mentor and his days as a younger Witcher? I think one decision that was well executed was the fact that you can pretty much sit down with this film and not have seen the live-action show or played the games, and get an understanding as to what the story is about, and the dark fantasy world in which they live. It has a sort of typical fantasy thriller experience, and you can understand who was behind what exactly, before the twists are revealed, but because the dialogue was this great mix of camp and charm, and the overall story is morally grey, it makes for a fun romp to experience. The world of The Witcher is dark, morally grey, and unforgiving. While I call Vesemir the hero of our story, he has some skeletons in his closet that make him a flawed hero. Like I said though, you are easily roped into the story as you do see the complexity of this world’s politics. What you find out about the origins of the Witchers isn’t great, but you can see their perspective in how one becomes a Witcher and how they try to survive in a world full of discrimination and hatred, and how that can corrupt anyone. Now, with all that said, the film knows it’s an action flick, and Vesemir, while having his serious and dry moments, is mouthy. He has some very action movie one-liners and is cocky, but in a fun way. He also has a sincere heart for himself and for the people he cares about. It results in a film full of some mild cynicism, but a lot of heart. It might have a script that can be a bit blunt at times with its commentary, but it never bothered me, and with some lessons and themes, it’s good to be blunt about certain things. Now, if you are wondering if you will ever see Geralt, you will, but don’t expect to see him in any real meaningful way. This is Vesemir’s story, and he’s a fun lead character. It’s one of the few prequel stories where I feel like it tells a good story that never made me think about “well, why should I care about anyone here since it’s a prequel?”. Anytime a prequel can make me say that, they are on my good side. 

Now, for the presentation, this is Studio Mir, and while the overall animation looks like a better-budgeted Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, it looks great. There is a reason why Studio Mir is a highly sought-after studio for action shows and why so many studios try to copy their direction in crafting visuals and action. There is a lot of slick action choreography and camera work to make this some of the best action seen this year. It’s a film with a ton of satisfying action and gore on screen that makes for a visceral, but fun romp! Since this is a film based on the Witcher series, you should also expect some pretty good music as well! It’s composed by Brian D’Oliveira who was a composer on games such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Journey to the Savage Planet, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Tearaway, and Papo & Yo. He brings this mix of European folk with some middle-eastern sounding tunes. The voice cast is also pretty good. You have Theo James as our lead character, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell, Tom Canton, David Errigo Jr., and Matt Yang King, to name a few of the actors seen in the film. The cast feels like they would fit right into either the live-action series or the third game. 

While I love this film overall, I do have some minor gripes. Tetra, while being a sinister villain, is not all that interesting. They fill the void with some literal last-minute backstory that connects her to an incident told offhand about the conniving nature of the Witchers. It’s not handled the best. The side characters also don’t leave an impression. You tend to forget their names, and they seem to be there to either fill out more of the world or to get killed. I think I would have liked to have seen them get fleshed out more. Maybe it’s because of the length of the film itself, but I would have loved this film to be two hours so you can give more time for the side characters to be expanded upon and to add more action. 

Even with the minor gripes, whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a good fantasy action film that I think fans and newcomers can easily jump into with ease. Now, do I Like this more than Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? I think in some ways, Nightmare of the Wolf is better, but only because Mugen Train requires you to watch the first season to get the full enjoyment of the film. You don’t need to watch the Netflix Witcher series to enjoy Nightmare of the Wolf. Still, I”m happy to have so many action animated features this year, and I’ll be happy to see so many get made. Now then, I think it’s time to talk about a film that I meant to review a few months back, but, well, I wasn’t able to for one reason or another. It’s time we take a look at the Funimation exclusive The Stranger by the Shore

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 231: Monster Hunter – Legends of the Guild 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!)

When you hear the terms, direct-to-video, made-for-TV, and “based on a video game”, it doesn’t always bring out the best reactions. Not that any of these tags can’t offer something of quality, but it’s usually not the case. You can find some gems among these terms, but when you get something that combines them into one mess of an experience, well, that’s a bad sign. It hurts because the film I’m reviewing today is the TV film Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

Directed by Steve Yamamoto, written by Joshua Fine, and produced by Pure Imagination Studio, this CGI film isn’t based on any of the released games, though if you wanted to connect it to one, it sort of takes place a little bit before Monster Hunter World. It’s a made-for-TV film that was sent directly to Netflix, and while it got one trailer, it was not a film that was available to review in advance. That should tell you everything right then and there about the film’s overall quality. How does this hour-long film adapt and work with the world of the famous video game franchise? Well, you should read on, my fellow hunters. 

Our main focus in this story revolves around Aiden, voiced by Dante Basco. He’s a young man who dreams of becoming a hunter to one day take down large beasts and or the infamous elder dragons. One day, after going out to try and stop a monster from causing trouble in the village, he runs into a professional hunter named Julius, voiced by Brando Eaton. After saving Aiden’s life, Julius warns Aiden that his village is in the migration path of an Elder Dragon that will cause destruction and death in its wake. Aiden decides this is his big chance to become an official hunter and pleads with Julius to take him on this hunt. The two are then joined by a thieving cat named Box, voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, Nadia, a Heavy Bow hunter voiced by GK Bowes, an Insect Glaive hunter named Mae, voiced by Caroline Caliston, and a blacksmith named Ravi, voiced by Dan McCoy. Can these ragtag hunters save the day and stop the Elder Dragon known as Lunastra? 

So, this film is only 58 minutes long. How in tarnation do you tell a compelling story within this time frame with multiple characters to flesh out, stakes implemented, and to overall engage you as the viewer to maybe go out and buy some Monster Hunter stuff? The obvious answer is you don’t. The fact that this is the directorial debut of Steve Yamamoto is extremely telling in how poorly told the story is. Yes, Monster Hunter has never been about the plot and was more about the gameplay experience of hunting giant monsters with friends. With all of that said, there was still an interesting enough plot to push you through the single-player experience. The story here is so squished and forced together that it doesn’t give any character time to grow. Yes, Aiden does get an arc, but he’s the only one to get an arc. Every other character either has little or no growth. The story feels so small-scale, when fighting an Elder Dragon in the game is meant to be this big event, and they choose one that you only encounter on the side and not in the main mission lineup. The film tries to make you care about the characters, but good luck remembering who these characters are, and how distinct they are as individuals without pointing out what weapon they use. Oh, and guess who dies first? You won’t believe it unless you know your monster movie or horror movie tropes. They even kill another character for the sake of drama, and it’s offscreen. I felt emotionally numb throughout this hour-long experience, and that’s a shame, but that’s what happens when you make a film based on a game that’s more about the thrill of the hunt and not the emotional hoops you jump through to get into the story. Even with it being based in the world of Monster Hunter, there is nothing that makes it stand out. I think the overall story could have been executed better if it had more time to tell its story, but since it only had an hour, there was no time to make a lasting impression. It tries to have a touching message at the end of the film, but it all fell flat for me. 

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How about the animation? Well, the CGI is decent for TV film standards, and I will give them credit for the monsters looking good. I mean, these are iconic monsters. They had better look how they do from the games, but here the movements are either stiff, too floaty, or not lively enough. I’m sure the animators didn’t have as much time to make this as polished as it can look, but the visuals are only slightly better than the CGI cutscenes from the video games from the PlayStation 2 games. When the action does kick in, it looks good, but the impact of certain hits and weapons feels unsatisfying to watch. The facial movements are also stiff and more emotion could have been put into their reactions. The voice cast is fine. The actors are doing their best with what they are given, and from what I can tell, this film was a first for a few of the actors, and, well, we all have to start somewhere, right? Dante Basco is a super talented actor, but he, along with the other actors, is not given the best material to work with. I give them kudos for making it work as well as they could, but the dialogue was mediocre. 

So, is there something that I like about this film? I mean, not really. Even though the fanservice bits and easter eggs are noticeable if you are a fan of the franchise, that shouldn’t be the end all be all of quality for fans of the franchise. Yes, this was made for fans of the franchise, but you shouldn’t just get the bare minimum and be okay with that. Wouldn’t it have been cool to get Studio Trigger or that studio that made Rise of the TMNT behind this property? How cool would that be? 

Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of the franchise, but I found myself despising 99% of this experience. Outside of Dante Basco doing what he can with the writing, the CGI animation is janky, it doesn’t look better than the CGI animation seen from the PlayStation 2 games, the editing is maddening, the story is tripe, and it adds up to nothing. It offers nothing outside of a few decent action beats, but since you can go and watch something like the upcoming The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf or Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, New Gods: Nezha Reborn, and get a much better looking and feeling experience. Legends of the Guilds feels like it was meant to be this pilot to have multiple stories about some of the characters seen throughout the franchise, but it falls apart pretty fast. Not the worst film I have seen this year, but it’s still at the bottom of my animated film list. If you have to watch it, I hope you enjoy burning an hour of your time that you won’t get back. Luckily, the next film I’ll be reviewing will have more to say as we look at Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo. 

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: Blacklist/The Worst. 

The Other Side of Animation 229: Centaurworld 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 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.

I previously talked about this in my Snotty Boy review, but animation is such a beautiful medium of storytelling. With passion, talent, time, and the right team at hand, one can make a unique and distinct experience that you can’t find with something in live-action. There’s always something to be said when a usually cartoony property is given the live-action treatment, and how much more critical fans and critics are of said live-action adaptations. Why would you limit yourself with live-action when you can do pretty much everything within the world of animation? Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I’m reviewing a new show that would be nigh impossible to translate into live-action. The new series on Netflix, Centaurworld. 


Created by Megan Nichole Dong, Centaurworld is yet another creative and unusual animated series for the notorious streaming service that you probably wouldn’t have seen on TV. So, what do I think about this fairly offbeat adventure with a bunch of quirky centaurs that is filled to the brim with musical numbers and a slew of my favorite character actors? Read on to find out! 

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Our story revolves around Horse, voiced by Kimiko Glenn. In her world, she is with her human companion, Rider, voiced by Jessie Mueller riding across the war-torn wasteland with a magical object that could help them out. Unfortunately, Horse and Rider get separated, and Horse ends up getting warped to a brand new world with the magical item. Horse has now found herself in the most magical place of all, Centaurworld! While there, she encounters a delightful cast of characters including a giraffetaur named Durpleton, voiced by Josh Radnor, Zulius a Zebrataur voiced by Parvesh Cheena, a kleptomaniac gerenuk-like taur named Glendale, voiced by Megan Nicole Dong, a birdtaur named Ched voiced by Chris Diamontopoulos, and a llamataur named Wammawink voiced by Megan Hilty. Can Horse and her new herd of friends find the rest of the pieces of the artifact and get her home and avoid someone called The Nowhere King? 

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So, we are about a good decade or so past the premiere of shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and Steven Universe. These types of shows have brought into the animation and TV world adorable worlds with a very offbeat tone and edge that will spill out into something that kids can still enjoy, but are there for the adults as well. It might be made for “kids”, but you catch more fish with bait, if you know what I mean. So, since on the outside, it looks like a lot of other shows, how does this show differentiate itself from other ones? Well, let’s start with its visual look. It’s a gorgeous show with a cartoony look, with fun and expressive designs that take advantage of its setting and the creatures you encounter in this quirky world of half-man and half-animal creatures. One of my favorite little details is the centaur bird character played by Chris Diamantopoulos, who’s human half is the upper torso so he has to keep flapping with his human arms. The designs are all very creative and aren’t just straight-up half human half horse individuals. Like, if the basic definition is half human half animal, then why not go all out with how they look? That’s the beauty of animation, because with all of the different designs, they all mesh well together. If they tried to do these in realistic CGI, they would not work at all. Even our main character Horse has a bunch of fun little animation tricks on her that give her so much character despite how she was probably tough to animate. Yeah, I know some people have talked about the weird design contrast with Horse being wildly different than the other characters, but when you see the story unfold, it’s this brilliant bit of commentary and storytelling about Horse herself, and at the end of the day, the design difference never bothered me. I’m being vague because I find Horse’s arc to be fascinating, and creative with how her arc unfolds. I have also heard some people argue that the show’s visuals are aiming for more of a “let’s make meme-worthy looks” approach, but while that may be the case, it’s not as distracting as some other shows and films like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Powerpuff Girls 2016. 

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Speaking of arcs and story stuff, the story itself seems like it’s going to be a goofier take on what would almost sound like a cartoon from the 80s. Like HBO Max/Cartoon Network’s The Fungies, it almost has a vibe of those shows. However, once you start binging the series, Centaurworld does reveal that it has a lot of baggage with its characters. This is a show that anyone can watch, but the topics and themes are very much adult. You can look at me and not believe me, but the show does tackle themes of abandonment, dealing with trauma, depression, self-esteem, love, trust, loss, and while the show will get goofy at one point or another through a lot of the episodes, the story beats themselves will ease you into the obvious baggage these characters have. It’s a clever way to approach these topics, and you can see how they weave it through the episodes. It might look and feel like a more polished 80s show, but it’s got the edge of a more modern cartoon that you just love to see. It’s able to be story-driven, but still takes its time with getting to the destination. This is why I love modern animation. Could you imagine people pitching this show back in the 70s and 80s? You would never get this far without some very heavy amounts of studio interference. Netflix might not be perfect, and I have plenty of issues with them as a company, but the fact they are letting creators do any kind of show they want is impressive. It’s not based on some pre-existing property or a spin-off of a popular show. Plus, the voice cast is amazing. On top of having a bucket list of guest stars, the main cast is one of my favorites of the season. You have Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Parvesh Cheena, Josh Radnor, Jessie Mueller, and Chris Diamantopoulos. Now I will say that it is a bit weird to see a POC character voiced by a white actress, and while she does a great job as Rider, I would be lying if I didn’t find the casting a tiny bit distracting since we had the constant recasting controversies last year. Everyone is distinct and they bring in a lot of fantastic energy to their performances. For me, while the comedy in the show might be hit and miss with some viewers, they mostly landed at a rate of 95%, and the song sequences are a delight at every point. Seriously, this show is so much fun to watch if you are a fan of musicals. 

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Centaurworld is another slam dunk TV series for 2021 and Netflix. It’s everything I look for in a show, and I was grabbed by the premise alone. I think it was creative and smart that Netflix got a bunch of super talented individuals and asked them to make their dream projects that you would have a hard time pitching in more traditional settings like on a TV channel. I hope they keep this up because this is how we get more great shows and stories. It might be goofy, but it mixes its darker elements and musical moments so well. The show might be a bit much at first, but keep watching it, and I’ll be patiently waiting for a second and third season if that happens. Seriously Netflix, make sure Megan Nicole Dong gets to complete this show! Next time, I will be talking about the third Sony Pictures Animation film this year with Vivo

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!

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

The Other Side of Animation 225: America The Motion Picture 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 seem to live in a world where many people seem to think film criticism is black and white. A film is either good or bad, and, well, that’s limiting to the world of art and film. Criticism should be more of a gradient. No one is ever like “yeah, I like and hate everything”. You all have films you love, like, think are good, okay, mediocre, bad, the worst, and you get the idea. Sometimes ya love a film because it’s uneven or maybe you hate it for the same reason. This is how I feel about Netflix’s newest adult animated film with Matt Thompson’s America: The Motion Picture. 


Written by Dave Callaham, directed by Matt Thompson, produced by Channing Tatum, Adam Reed, Matt Thompson, Will Allegra, Peter Kiernan, Reid Carolin, Eric Sims, and Christopher Miller, and Phil Lord, this 2D animated feature was produced by Floyd County Productions, Free Association, and Netflix Animation. This is their newest attempt to reign over the animation scene with a film that you wouldn’t see in the theaters or on TV. Well, what do I think of this absurd take on American history that sounds like it was a film made by Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 for a history report? 

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Our story revolves around George Washington, voiced by Channing Tatum. He lives in an alternate history where he was alive at the same time as Abe Lincoln and many other important and pseudo-important historical icons. As he is enjoying a show with his best pal Abe, it is interrupted by Benedict Arnold, voiced by Andy Samberg. Arnold pulls a, well, Benedict Arnold and has not only interrupted the signing of the Declaration of Independence but also killed Abe Lincoln in his plan to take over the United States for King James, voiced by Simon Pegg. George decides to rise against the evil tyrants and finds a team of individuals to take down the British. These include Sam Adams, voiced by Jason Mantzoukas, Thomas Edison, voiced by Olivia Munn, Paul Revere, voiced by Bobby Moynihan, Geronimo, voiced by Raoul Trujillo, and Blacksmith, voiced by Killer Mike. Can our rebellious group of rabble-rousers save the soon-to-be-titled United States of America? 

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Listen, when the trailer for this film came out, it’s understandable that the reception to it and its wildly free take on American history would be polarizing. When you make commentary about politics, you have to, well, take small careful steps. However, after finally watching this film, it’s not meant to be taken seriously as a political comedy. Don’t come into this thinking you are going to get a Death of Stalin. Like I said above, I joked, but this does come off like a history report made by Jake Peralta, which is fitting since Andy Samberg is in this film. It has some commentary and I’ll have some thoughts about that, but it’s meant to be this cracked-out take on history that reads more like a pulp action story. It’s a fast-paced action comedy that takes full advantage of its nonsensical period of history, as it keeps you moving to each quirky setup, punchline, and action beat. It has some themes about working together to take down hate and to support stuff like science, but you will be here to enjoy the high-octane action and absurd characterizations of historical figures. The action is creative, violent, and has some of the better laughs in the overall film. It also helps that the cast is delightful and how they all bounce off of one another. It’s not perfect character dynamics, but some of the angles they take with the leads are delightful. 

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Animation-wise, it’s a bigger budgeted production of Archer, I think it looks better than Archer due to how much more movement and polish the character models are given. It helps that the film has a more comic book cartoony look that makes it stand out from Archer. They move fluidly, and they do have dynamic movements and much more expressive facial animation than the studio’s usual work. Hopefully, the studio that animated this film Floyd County Productions unionizes because animators should have better working conditions, but the team that worked on the film’s visual look did a fantastic job. I also enjoyed the voice cast. Channing Tatum, Will Forte, Jason Mantouzkas, Olivia Munn, Bobby Moynihan, Judy Greer, Raoul Trujillo, Killer Mike, Simon Pegg, and Andy Samberg put in some fantastic performances. It comes off like everyone had a ton of fun acting in this film since it’s not a traditional project for these individuals. The music by Mark Mothersbaugh is fun, but I wouldn’t call it his best work. It helps fit the tone and the mood, but outside of the mix of rock and hip hop thrown into the story, I don’t remember much. 

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I wish the music was the only thing I had criticism about this film. Like most comedies, I found some of the jokes to be hit and miss. It’s more of a dumb popcorn flick than a groundbreaking political comedy. The political jokes that are there are familiar and nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s like this movie wanted to be a pulpy schlocky action flick, but then also had to deal with the question of people overthinking this film with how it was going to handle its political themes. To me, it’s very basic in its views. It’s pro-science, anti-racism, and the ending is fairly funny and cynical in a realistic way of how America turned out in the end. To be clear, it doesn’t love or support the far right. Even the POC characters are constantly calling out George or Sam Adams on their shenanigans and insults. However, I don’t think it balances out its cynical political comedy and the violent pulp action elements very well. I wouldn’t call it the sharpest comedy or action film that Lord and Miller have helped produce. A good handful of the main characters are also not that interesting. Some of them are more fleshed out than others. It’s also a bummer that Blacksmith sits out for a major chunk of the second act alongside Geronimo, but I am happy that the two have some of the best lines and the best moments in the final battle. America: The Motion Picture is also very macho-driven. Outside of Olivia Munn’s Edison, the female characters do not get as much support and love as the male characters. 





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While it is extremely uneven in its execution, I enjoyed it. I can also understand if other critics and animation/film fans do not tolerate this one. It’s, at the very least, an interesting film to come out and doesn’t feel as boring and boilerplate as Spirit Untamed. If you are in the mood for something a bit different than the usual family-focused animated films out right now, then give it a watch. I’m glad something like this exists even if it’s not perfect, because more distinct animated films deserve to be made and either succeed or fail. If you want more diversity in what stories are told, then you need to support the ones trying to stand out. For now, though, let’s travel to Germany as the next film I will be reviewing is Snotty Boy.

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! 

My Journey Through Annecy 2021

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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 Editorial!)

What can I say about the Annecy 2021 Online experience? Well, it was a mixed bag. While I can overall say I had a good time, their move to being both an online and in-person event is what dragged it down for the online customers. Sorry, I don’t have the time or money to spend on going to France during a pandemic. It was a real botched attempt to satisfy the people who could go in person and the people from around the world who wanted to attend. It had some great elements to it, but I would also argue it didn’t do enough for people who wanted to experience it online. Here are my pros and cons of what I took away from the festival 



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Pro: WIP section was fruitful and interesting! 

As with last year, my favorite part of the festival was watching the work-in-progress panels. I loved seeing what films were getting made and how they were tackling the animation process. It’s so cool to get these behind-the-scenes looks at animation production because otherwise, not many people get to see this side of animation. Granted, some of them were in French, so it was a disappointment to watch and not understand parts. A few of them also didn’t seem to have a whole lot done. It made me wonder if these are part “Here is what we are making” and part “We are showing off what we have made so far to look for funding”. That’s not a bad thing, but I think I always want to see films that I can check out sooner than later, but that’s just me. I wish the ones in French all had subtitles or a different making-of video for online viewers so they don’t have to wait to watch them when they are finally dubbed or subbed. 

Favorite Panels: The House, Maya & The Three, Princess Dragon, Little Nicholas, Unicorn Wars, The Peasant, Fena: Pirate Princess, Robin Robin, Perlimps, Nayola.


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Con: None of the feature films were watchable online! 

I think this was the biggest issue, as while it was an issue last year, at least last year’s Online experience let you watch some films that were competing. I know and I get that there is a lot of legal and copyright stuff that kept some of these films out of the online portion of last year’s event, but since some of the films in competition waltzed right in with distributors, like Deer King got picked up by GKIDS and Viva Kids picked up Ape Star, why wouldn’t they be a part of the online part of the festival? I know last year’s batch of watchable films were mostly films with no real widespread value or appeal, but they decided this year that none of them were going to be watchable! I’m sure ya had to be there to see films like Snotty Boy or Mount Fuji Seen From a Train, which didn’t look like an animated film at all! The worst part is that they promised three films were going to be watchable online, but they just never showed up. You could watch the shorts and two old films from 1979 and 1981, but that was it. What is the point of having an online form of the festival when the online viewers can’t watch the features?! It doesn’t help either that Animation is Film 2021 was announced during Annecy, and will (for now) have an in-person and virtual experience with none of the hiccups that Annecy keeps having. Also, Animation First and the NYICFF had films that were fully watchable online! I don’t understand why they are so stingy outside of the obvious legal stuff, but if they aren’t going to have some feature films watchable online in an online version of the festival, then I would rather not participate at all. I was lucky to get a screener for one film, but that was it. Please, Annecy, I beg of you to make the films watchable online for online viewers next time! 

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Pro: Bubble Bath is a trippy film! 

Well, of the two older animated features they had to offer to the online viewers, I was excited to see Bubble Bath. This was a 1979 Hungarian film that had one of the wildest character designs and animation style out of any animated film from back then and even now. It was a film that said, “going off-model is the entire point.” It was also a musical, and while I don’t remember the songs, I thought it was charming! The story was decent enough, but I think the wild visuals and the story got lost within said visuals. Still, it was an experience I rather enjoyed, and once I see it become available in the US, I will buy a copy of the film. 

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Con: A majority of the French Annecy panels did not have subtitles on them! 

Listen, I would love to have all of the time in the world to learn other languages, and I know there are plenty of ways to learn said languages, but when a good chunk of the online viewers are from the US, well, I would just assume not everyone can speak or knows French. They have said the panels will get translated subtitles or dubs, but it makes me wish they did subtitle videos like they did last year. I could generally get what they were talking about, but fully getting it would have made some of them better experiences. 

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Pro: The Inu-Oh Preview. 

One of the highlights was seeing the first five minutes of Masaaki Yuasa’s new film, and boy, was it a ride. With the beautiful animation, the different tone, and the character designs, it’s always exciting to see what Yuasa and his team have come up with next. I’m sad this will be his last film for a while since he’s going to be on break, but if the rest of the film was as good as these first five minutes, then I can’t wait to see how the rest of the film unfolds.

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Con: Should have had more previews! 

I loved the Inu-Oh preview and admired the unknown horrors we will be stepping into with Space Jam: A New Legacy, but those were the only two? You couldn’t do previews of the films that were being shown off or upcoming films? What about the ones that were premiering there as screenings like Luck Favors Nikuko? I don’t know, it reeks of the online consumers not having a proper experience, while the in-person stuff got all of the love and support. 

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Pro: The Panels were a lifesaver

Seeing the Netflix, Ron’s Gone Wrong, and other informational animation panels were a nice addition to the Work-in-Progress panels. Being able to see new shows and upcoming films for services like Netflix was fun! 

Favorite Panels: The Netflix ones and Ron’s Gone Wrong

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Con: There needed to be more for the online attendees than just the shorts

Let’s be really frank here, the online viewers got the short end of the stick. The shorts were great! The panels were great! However, that was it. Again, I get that they wanted to focus on the in-person event, but if you aren’t going to offer an equal experience to the online filmgoers, then maybe don’t do an online experience. I still enjoyed my time at Annecy, but I want Annecy to do better. I want to talk about more of these films that everyone might want to know about, but when you don’t give me access to them, well, I don’t know if I can get the word out and maybe drum up some attention.

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 221: Wish Dragon Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(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!)

Sony Pictures Animation has been having quite a renaissance, haven’t they? They went from a studio that people were indifferent to with most people liking Surfs Up, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They then became the most overly hated studio in the world because they *gasp* made The Emoji Movie, which wasn’t even the worst animated film of 2017 or the most cynically-made animated film of all time. Seriously, the hatred this studio got was incredibly petty and I resent anyone who fueled that flame. They then became the messiah of change in the animation scene with their more recent hits like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. With their recent release lineup of animated projects, they seem to be at the forefront of making diverse and distinct animated films that you won’t find from other studios. For example, their next film is quite a delightful experience with Chris Appelhans’ Wish Dragon

Directed by Chris Appelhans and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Tencent Pictures, Base FX, Flagship Entertainment Group, and a few other companies, the film was set to release back in 2019 but then was delayed to 2020. Of course, it was officially released in China on January 15th, 2021, and will be officially released on Netflix on June 11th. It was even produced by Jackie Chan who also provides the voice of the titular dragon in the Mandarin dub. So, how many wishes does it take for this film to be good? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story revolves around a young man named Din, voiced by Jimmy Wong. He’s a hardworking individual who has big dreams but doesn’t have the right background to reach those dreams. His main goal, while being rich and successful, is to reunite with his childhood friend Lina, voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who he hasn’t seen since they were little kids. One day, while out on a delivery, Din obtains a jade teapot that houses a magical wish-granting dragon named Long, voiced by John Cho. If Long can get Din to use up three wishes, Long can journey to the afterlife where he will be welcomed with a big parade and his many “fans”. However, an evil trio of goons wants the magic teapot for their nefarious deeds for a supposed mysterious client. Can Din use the wishes to reconnect with his childhood friend? What are the true mysteries of the teapot and the dragon? Are shrimp chips that delicious? 

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What stands out about this film is the fact that the story is really good! I think the story’s core themes of friendship, class dispute, family, and finding out what’s important to you and your life were heartfelt and compelling stuff! I know some people worried about it being too similar to Aladdin (even though the original story of a wish-granting genie was from Chinese origins), but it is pretty much the absolute opposite in terms of story and themes. I mean, yeah, some parts may be familiar, but it has an entirely different vibe and core message than what you would get out of Disney’s take. First off, the Wish Dragon in question has a more sarcastic and pessimistic personality, but Long never becomes overbearing. Long is his own character and doesn’t try to be like the iconic Robin Williams Genie. The characters all feel important and diverse in their goals and dialogue. You get why they are performing certain actions, and they feel fairly realistic. I also love that it’s not a pure romance flick. Din and Lina just want to become friends and it never turns into anything romantic. I’m so happy it’s a platonic relationship because, at the end of the day, it would be stellar if more studios realized ya didn’t need to have the two characters end up together. Even the “villain” of the film has an understandable reason for wanting to get the teapot. The film is also a real laugh riot. There was a lot of fantastic dialogue and visual gags that while maybe more downplayed than Sony’s recent hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines, I still found myself laughing out loud multiple times during the runtime. Seriously, this has some of the best jokes of the year. 

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Animation-wise, I get that some people may be turned off by the animation. The humans look a little basic, and they do rehash some character models for later purposes and gags, but in general, the animation is quite good. Long gets some of the most expressive animations out of any character this year in animation. I even love the head goon’s leg animation. It might be goofy, but the creativity of him not using his hands for a majority of the film is humorous. The action sequences may have a bit more focus on squash and stretch, but it makes it a lot of fun to watch to see the film use more cartoony physics. The music by Phillip Klein is solid as he’s the composer for The Last Measure and has worked on films like 2019’s Joker and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The voice cast is all pretty good as you have the likes of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng, and Bobby Lee. 

I will say, the one real downside I have for this film outside of the simple human designs is that the villain is a little weak. His leg thing is super creative and fun, but outside of that, he’s the weakest villain of the bunch. I prefer his henchmen over the main villain. Outside of that, I have already mentioned my issue with the human designs and the fact they rehash multiple models for a multitude of roles, and that did drag me out of the experience at points. Not by much, but it happened every once in a while. 

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Wish Dragon is the type of film I love discovering every year. Something not as bombastic as more major releases, but a film I easily prefer to the more mainstream releases of this year and previous years. Something that I wasn’t expecting and ended up loving is always a blast to find every year. I highly recommend watching Wish Dragon, and congrats to the director and his team for making a fun and enjoyable experience. Next time, I will be talking about another screener, but expect it to land soon. 

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! 

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!

The Other Side of Animation 219: Yasuke Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(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!)

You know I love propping up the creators, directors, writers, composers, and the people who work on the films and shows I review. It’s good to know who makes what, because it’s not just Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Netflix, and what have you. People make these films, not just the studios. It’s worth noting them as well when it’s something like LeSean Thomas who is bringing his distinct style and vision to anime. Yes, he has worked on shows like Black Dynamite, Legend of Korra, and The Boondocks, but those shows are anime adjacent. I wouldn’t directly call them anime. He has, however, been able to make more traditional anime with the help of Japanese studios and visuals with two shows for Netflix. The first one was Cannon Busters, which I think is a pretty good gem that you should all check out, and his newest mini-series for Netflix, Yasuke

Directed by LeSean Thomas and Takeshi Satou, written by LeSean, Nick Jones Jr., and Alex Larsen, and produced by MAPPA, this anime is a fantastical retelling of the historic black samurai. However, it adds in more fantasy and sci-fi elements to make for a unique experience. How does it unfold? Well, read on to find out. 

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The story follows, well, Yasuke, dubbed by Lakeith Stanfield. He is an African slave who was brought to Japan and was picked up by Oda Nobunaga to be his right hand. After some history passes, Nobunaga’s reign falls, and Yasuke is now a drunk boatsman haunted by his past actions who helps ferry people on the river. One day, he is requested to take a small girl named Saki, dubbed by Maya Tanida, who has a mysterious illness and powers attached to her. Yasuke soon finds out that she is being hunted down by not only bounty hunters, but an evil force that wants to use her powers to rule the world. 

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Let’s talk about the setting and story first this time. If you are narrowly thinking that you are getting another Afro Samurai situation where it’s set in a world where it is in Japan’s past, but it somehow has hip hop and sci-fi elements,you would be wrong. I mean, yeah you do see mech suits, but the more fantastical elements are more in the background than in the foreground like you see in Afro Samurai. It leans more on the magic and supernatural elements, and I think that might be one of the issues I have with this show. It has all of these elements mixed into the old world, but until the second half of the three episodes happens, they don’t add anything outside of flare to the world. They could have taken out the sci-fi elements and you wouldn’t miss a beat. I know one of the bounty hunters, who I liked, is a robot, but he could have been a magical set of armor. In general, I wonder if I would rather have it lean more on these elements or if the show was more in the vein of something like Sword of the Stranger. I wonder this because the show pulls a lot of its runtime into telling flashbacks when Yasuke was with Nobunaga. I liked these story beats because this is such an interesting historical story and a fascinating individual, but then the story pulls me back into the modern-day and into another “I must protect this powerful small individual from bigger forces out there.” It means that Yasuke can’t be the main focus, because the focus is not him, it’s the kid. Overall, I didn’t find the world and characters to feel consistently cohesive. I enjoyed the characters themselves with a special shout-out going to the bounty hunters and Yasuke. If you are curious, they do tackle some small themes of Yasuke finding his place in Japan, and they do comment on some elements of racism, discrimination, and nationalistic pride, but again, it’s not the real focus of the show. 

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Animation-wise, this is where the show shines and where MAPPA, the studio behind anime like Jujutsu Kaisen, shows off their talents. While the CGI can be janky at points, the action is on point with some of 2021’s best action set pieces. The action is so fluid and intense that when I was watching some of the episodes on a bus, I had to tone down my reactions to some of the action beats. As I said above, don’t go expecting this to be an Afro Samurai-style show, but do expect plenty of blood and gore. It’s a fairly violent show. It can be pretty brutal at points, but it doesn’t go too overboard into nihilistic blood fests. The voice cast is pretty stellar as well. Of course, the main draw is hearing Lakeith Stanfield as the titular character. I think he does an overall great job in the lead role since he’s a strong actor. The rest of the cast is also pretty impressive with Takehiro Hira, Maya Tanida, Ming-Na Wen, Gwendoline Yeo, Paul Nakauchi, Dia Frampton, Don Donahue, Darren Criss, Julie Marcus, William Christopher Stephens, and Amy Hill all putting in good performances. The music by Flying Lotus is stellar! The overall synth vibe the show gives off lends itself to a unique atmosphere along with a few moments of hip hop. The opening song is a real banger, and I hope you sit through the full song. I can easily see myself downloading that song and listening to it in the background as I work on writing some reviews. 

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While I don’t think it’s as good as Cannon Busters, which I hope gets a second season at some point, Yasuke delivers a different experience than what we will get with most anime this season. Even if I don’t fully gel with a series like this, I always admire and enjoy the vision they put out with these types of projects. Plus, it’s awesome that we get to see an anime based on one of the most interesting people in history. Next time, It will be the 220th review, and I feel like I need to find something special to cover, but 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 Go See it!