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! 

The Other Side of Animation 218: The Mitchells vs. The Machines 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!)

While I do enjoy the animated offerings from a company like Disney, I feel like the biggest hurdle every animation studio is going to run into is not another studio, but themselves. I know that sounds snobbish, but let me explain. Disney will probably make some great movies this decade. They might even warrant the award wins that they garner. However, you know that unless the very higher-up individuals in charge allow it, you know they won’t go outside of their boundaries. They might in some visual way, but story and writing? Well, you know they won’t go the distance that we hope they can. That’s what I mean by all of this. I want every animation studio to be the best version that they can be, but I know the much bigger ones like Disney won’t be able to grow or do what we want them to do. It’s why when they do something like have more LGBT+ elements or characters, they are relegated to the TV and shorts area. That is why a studio like Sony Pictures Animation is probably one of my favorite studios as of late. They tend to be more mindful and caring about pushing the envelope a little. They go the distance. Heck, they have made the next step in CGI animation happen with Into the Spider-Verse. Even before then, they were able to push the envelope with the Hotel Transylvania franchise with the use of bounce, squash, and stretch used for the animation of those films. They were willing to go downright silly with The Angry Birds Movie 2 and sure, you can say what does and doesn’t work about them, but the fact they went the distance is why I admire them. That, of course, goes into today’s review of their newest animated feature with The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

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Directed by Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, this new CGI/2D feature was originally supposed to come out back in 2020, but then the pandemic happened and was taken off the release schedule for a good bit with no place to call home. They then surprised the world by saying that the film was heading to Netflix with a small theatrical release. It comes out April 30th on Netflix, but I was able to watch the film early due to a screener, and, well, everyone is in for a real deal treat as this is, for the time being but I wouldn’t be shocked if it stayed that way, the best animated film of 2021. Why? Well, let’s dive in. 

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The story revolves around Katie Mitchell, voiced by Abbi Jacobson. She is the daughter of the Mitchells’ family which includes her father Rick, voiced by Danny McBride, her mother Linda, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and her little brother Aaron, voiced by Mike Rianda. Katie has always been the odd one out. She loves making movies and ends up getting accepted into a film school. Of course, her dad doesn’t seem to care much for her filmmaking and technology in general and is worried about her going off to school without a backup plan. They get into a fight and it’s up to Rick to solve this situation between him and his daughter. This leads to him canceling her plane ticket to college and instead takes the whole family on a road trip to the college. While this is happening, the head founder of PAL Labs, the Apple of this film’s world, is about to reveal a new product. This founder in question is named Dr. Mark Bowman, voiced by Eric Andre. It is during a product reveal that a new robot version of the smartphone virtual assistant that will replace the old virtual assistant named PAL, voiced by Olivia Colman is introduced. Unbeknownst to the Mitchells and the rest of the world, the AI and robots rebel against the humans to capture them and launch them into space. It is up to Katie and her family to save the world. 

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So, what do I adore about this film? Well, first off, I love how they portray the core family of the film. Do you know how if you wanted a more relatable or realistic family in animation you would have to go to a Brad Bird or maybe a Hayao Miyazaki or even Mamoru Hosoda? Well, we now have a new individual to turn to for these types of stories with Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe making one of the more believable families in animation. You have either seen this family, know this family, or were this family. I’m so impressed with how layered the writing is for these characters. From the bigger interactions to the smaller moments, the Mitchells were fun and zany, but I never felt like they were played up for comedy’s sake. But don’t take that to mean that the film isn’t funny. It’s one of the funniest films I have seen in a good long while. The number of great gags is constantly coming through, and whether they are visual, in the dialogue, or in the foreground or background, I found myself having to hold my sides at points due to how many of the gags the marketing didn’t show, and while some of the best jokes were shown in the trailer, the ones that made me laugh the loudest were not. Even with the creative fun of the premise and the character dynamics, the movie tells a very touching story of connection, the pros, and cons of technology, and as usual, what you are willing to do for your family. This film might be a laugh riot, but it’s a consistently touching story with characters you root for and want to see succeed. The writing is also very astute and sharp with its commentary about big tech corporations and the risk of technology disconnecting one from their family. Luckily, it’s not a black and white “technology is evil” story. It finds a perfect balance of its commentary about technology. They even do something that seems so hard for some animated films to do and that’s to make sure everyone in the family contributes to the story. I thought if you wanted to see an entire family take center stage, you had to go to Mamoru Hosoda for that kind of action, and I’m so impressed with how they made this work! 

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Animation-wise, it is simply put, a masterpiece. This is what I want to see with CGI animation. You always hear how people complain about how all CGI animated features look the same, but they don’t. I get why they say that, but it’s not the case. A Disney film doesn’t look like a Blue Sky film, and a Pixar film doesn’t look like a DreamWorks film. However, some studios seem to have gotten comfortable with how their films look, and that has caused some stagnation with a certain set of the animation community. Well, leave it to the studio behind Into the Spider-Verse to kick it up a notch. This film uses the same kind of mix of CGI with 2D elements and pushes it further with every character, from their skin to their clothes looking painted-on and hand-crafted. It’s impressive as all get out to watch this film in motion and see all of the little details and pops of 2D. This is the next step in the use of CGI animation, and it shows that CGI hasn’t even hit the ceiling yet of the possibilities and opportunities that you can use with the medium. The characters all look fantastic, from the sleek robots to the fluid 2D movements of PAL, to the more regular and cartoony look of the Mitchells and the other humans. Seriously, I love that we have a family in an animated film that’s not traditionally attractive. Do you know how we had that failed Vacation reboot from a few years ago? You know how it just looked like a generic Hollywood idea of a family. What we needed for that film, and outside of that film not existing in general, was something like the Mitchells. Again, it’s so hard not to gush about their designs or the fact that Katie is one of the first queer lead characters in a US-made feature film. The voice cast is pitch-perfect and I know there is this tendency to hate every film that hires celebrities, but the only problem I have is when the celebrities don’t put in the elbow grease to act outside of just being themselves. Instead, we have a case where the celebrities they got were able to become their characters. Danny Mcbride, Maya Rudolph, Olivia Colman, Eric Andre, Abbi Jacobson, and Mike Rianda all do a fantastic job with their roles. I also got a laugh out of the cameos from celebrities like John Legend, Chrissi Tegan, Charlyne Yi, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Conan O’Brian, and so on. It’s an animated film that’s able to elevate the celebrities, and the celebrities can engross themselves. Never once was I distracted by the casting. The music is a blast from Mark Mothersbaugh who also did the music for The Willoughbys and The Croods: A New Age. Even the pop song that plays during the big “heck yeah!” moment with Rihanna’s Live Your Life is an emotional powerhouse moment. Sadly, I wish the song didn’t have T.I. due to his allegations, but luckily his parts of the song weren’t played in the film. Otherwise, I consider this more bad luck than anything else that the song just happens to have him. 

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another example of a studio pushing the limits of animation, and every animation studio should do what the teams at Sony are doing. Push the envelope while still doing what makes you distinct as a studio. Once this film is released, and if you can see it in a theater, watch it! It’s easily my favorite animated film of the year and this year is already stacked since we still have a DreamWorks film, a Pixar film, another Disney film, a film by the legend Masaaki Yuasa, and Mamoru Hosoda. Who knew 2021 would turn out to be one of the best years for animation, and who knows what else the US audiences are going to get this year. Now then, I have one more screener (as far as I know) to cover so stay tuned! 

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




Rating Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 217: Arlo the Alligator Boy 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!)

As you know from my reviews old and new, I am a supporter of both original properties and shows and films based on some pre-existing property. My rule of thumb is that whether it’s original or pre-existing, it all comes down to execution. How many times have we seen original ideas flop or pre-existing IPs knock it out of the park and vice versa? Well, many times. That’s why I roll my eyes a little when I see people be in the mindset of “original ideas or nothing at all.” Listen, I want as many original ideas to flourish as possible, but that also means that if you want to see them flourish, that means you accept them warts and all. That is unless they are a hateful problematic piece of garbage or made by a troubling individual. I can’t repeat this enough that you need to support the original ideas. You watch them when they arrive, and you spend some time talking about them more than the pre-existing films and shows. The reason why I bring that up is that today’s review will be of Arlo The Alligator Boy on Netflix. 

Directed by Ryan Crego, this 2D animated original property is Ryan Crego’s first time in the feature film chair, and was an out of nowhere announcement from Netflix. It simply came out of nowhere, and due to Netflix doing what Netflix does, they also have a sequel TV series in the works that will be coming out sometime after the film. It has some big names like American Idol finalist Michael J. Woodard, Mary Lambert, Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale, Flea, Annie Potts, Jennifer Coolidge, and Vincent Rodriguez III. It also has music by Alex Geringas and Ryan Crego himself. It was produced by both Titmouse, Inc and Netflix Animation. It’s obvious that Netflix, for all of their warts and problems as a service, wants to do animation that no one else is doing, and well, Arlo is one of those projects you wouldn’t normally see in the US. It would be just another day that ends in Y if this was from France or so, but a fresh-made 2D animated feature from the US that’s not some DC comics direct-to-video film? It’s rarer than you think. That’s why despite the few faults I have with it, I liked the film and think everyone should support it! Let’s dive in and see why I think you should support this film. 



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The story is about a young alligator boy named Arlo, voiced by Michael J Woodard. He lives with his adopted grandma in the swamps. He has a love for music and a fascination with the outside world. One day, he learns that he is not from the swamp, but has a father and is from New York City. He sets off on an adventure to find his father and a journey of self-discovery. Arlo is then joined by a woman named Bertie, voiced by Mary Lambert, a tiny individual named Teeny Tiny Tony, voiced by Tony Hale, a catgirl named Alia, voiced by Haley Tju, a hairy creature named Furlecia, voiced by Jonathan Van Ness, and a fish-man named Marcellus, voiced by Brett Gelman. Can Arlo find his real father and avoid the grasp of some hillbilly hunters voiced by Jennifer Coolidge and Flea?

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So, what do I love about this movie? Well, I love its animation. This is some of the most entertaining 2D animation I have seen for some time. It’s fluid, bouncy, it squishes, it squashes, it stretches, and you get the idea. It takes all of the elements that make great cartoony 2D animation and puts it through the wringer. It’s at the very least some of the most fun animation I have seen, and I can see this film being used for classes in animation and character movements. It checks off a lot of boxes with those two elements. It might take a little more from more recent animation trends, but it has plenty of theatrical and artful elements, and boy when the musical numbers kick in, the animation gets even better. The colors, the designs, the lighting, and so on, it’s all straight As across the board.

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In terms of themes, Arlo‘s biggest one is finding your place in the world. It’s sprinkled with other themes like abandonment, father and son bonds, discrimination, and self-love. What helps carry these themes is a fairly strong cast of characters. Arlo is a ball of joy and optimism and it never gets too annoying. I think it’s refreshing to see a lead character in something that’s not so teeth-grindingly defeatist and cynical. The other main characters are also good at bouncing off of one another, and they make for an enjoyable band of goofy individuals. I think some get a little more development than others, but due to the fact there is a TV series coming out, I’m sure it’s going to expand upon them there. Even the hillbilly hunters have a few funny lines. The music is also incredible. The background tunes are great, and the original songs are real knee slappers. They are easily some of the catchiest tunes you will find in a more recent musical. It’s also, simply put, nice to see Netflix make an honest-to-goodness animated musical. I know they have more than this one, but with some of their films, their musical song always seems like it’s there for a Best Original Song nominee and they don’t always fit the films they are in. Every song in Arlo though? They fit and are major parts of the story. 

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Sadly, it’s time to get down and talk about my criticisms of this film. First up on the docket, I find some of the characters lack development or purpose behind the plot. Like Marcellus doesn’t do a whole lot once he is introduced. I’m sure they will have more time in the TV show to be fleshed out, but since that’s not out yet, there isn’t a whole lot to some of the main cast. I also found the third act to be a little clunky in its execution. It still has some really strong moments and the themes of finding yourself and the battle against changing who you are to be accepted is great! It has plenty of striking visuals, touching moments, and great surreal jokes, but the transition of when Arlo finally gets to New York doesn’t feel as flowing as the previous two thirds. Now then, let’s move on to the villains or I guess obstacles would be more fitting. The hillbilly hunters do not do a lot in the film outside of the first and third act, and by the end of it, they were more like challenges that got in the way and an igniting point at the end for Arlo, but they could have been handled better. The way they wrap up their arc is a touch underwhelming, and some things about them are not explained well. Or at least, I didn’t find them explained well. Their final scene is funny, and maybe they will do more in the TV series, even though if we go by what happens in the end, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, but we will have to see where the show goes in terms of story. 

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While the third act might stumble a little, I still enjoyed my time with Arlo the Alligator Boy. It has incredibly vibrant animation, catchy songs, likable characters, it has fun offbeat humor, a distinct personality, and is an original IP from the ground up. It’s also a super sweet and earnest film that I think everyone will love watching. It comes out on April 16th, and if you love original 2D animated films, this is one of this year’s best. Well, now it’s time to dive back into the pool of screeners! Again, I’m sorry I can’t tell you what it is, but I think you will dig what I’m going to be talking about next. 

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 1

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

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

38 Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus

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

37 Pets United

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




36 Fe@rless 

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



35 Pokemon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution

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



34 Latte and the Magic Waterstone

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




33 Henchmen 

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



32 Ni No Kuni 

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




31 Superman Red Son 

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



30 Dragon Quest: Your Story 

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




29 The Last Fiction 

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



28 Manou the Swift 

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

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

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

The Other Side of Animation 215: Dota: Dragon’s Blood 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!)

Video games have always been notoriously difficult to translate into other mediums. There have been some success stories like the very first Tomb Raider, the original Mortal KombatDetective Pikachu, and to some degree, 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Still, even with those few successes, it’s not like a lot of them couldn’t have been better. Even the better video game films still have flaws that raise them to mostly entertaining and not much else. Some video game films are just liked because of how bad they are. Some adaptations, however, do seem to put in the effort to trying to capture the magic, the lore, the characters, and so on behind the property, and don’t treat it like it’s another gig. However, one of the biggest challenges is to grab the attention of the viewers who are not familiar with the brand. If you can grab people who don’t play your game or read your book, then you should be on the right track. What direction does  Dota: Dragon’s Blood go into?

Based on the hit Valve series, specifically Dota 2, this “anime” series is created by Ashley Miller and produced by Ashley Miller, Ki Hyun Ryu, Eugene Lee, and Steven Melching. The show came off of the heels of 2020’s Dragon’s Dogma, which to many, was a failure of capturing that video game’s spirit. Luckily, one of the bigger selling points outside of being a show based on a popular video game, is that it was produced by Studio MIR, the same studio behind Avatar The Last Airbender, Netflix/DreamWorks Voltron, and helped out with the best cartoon of 2020, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. So, does the show succeed in being faithful and good to newcomers? Well, let’s pick up our dragon-slaying swords and take a look! 

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Our main story involves Davion, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, a famed Dragon Knight, who, well, specializes in slaying dragons. After coming to the savior of a town in dire straits of getting attacked by a dragon, Davion and his cohort encounter a woman, well, a princess in hiding named Mirana, voiced by Lara Pulver. While making sure she and her compatriot get out of a situation at a bar, Davion then hears the word of the captain of the guards going deep into a pit where a supposed Eldwurm, basically a dragon that rules over others is hiding. As he finds the captain of the guards, Davion realizes an evil force known as Terrorblade, voiced by JB Blanc, has taken the captain over and wants to possess an Eldwurm known as Slyrak the Ember Eldwurm, voiced by the Candyman himself, Tony Todd. Davion and Slyrak defeat Terrorblade for now, but the fight leaves Slyrak in a dire condition. Davion decides to give him the warrior’s death, but Slyrak pulls a last-minute move and ends up bonding with Davion. Luckily for Mirana, she and her right hand find Davion in a forest at a later point with no memory of his actions. The three then go on an adventure to do a few things including helping get Davion his memory back and to get back these special lotus flowers that were stolen from Mirana. The plot gets even denser when the story gets entangled with a cult-like group, a sorcerer that lives in a hidden tower, and so much more. 

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Yeah, that is right off the bat, the biggest problem with this show. For the first eight episodes, they build up a very Game of Thrones-style world-building with it focusing on a few heroes from the game, but filling it up with heavy amounts of lore, backstories, and multiple plot threads going on all at the same time. It gets to be a touch overbearing. It has a much more interesting world than say, Netflix’s previous anime based on a fantasy video game, Dragon’s Dogma. While Dota does have a familiar fantasy setting, it’s not as rampantly sexist, misogynistic, or filled with flawed ideals like feudalism and slavery are a good idea, and redistribution of wealth to the poor is bad actually. Yeah, Dragon’s Dogma didn’t have a great story and these elements flew past me because of how boring Dogma was. Anyway, major elements that the show introduces early on are either pushed to the side until the last episode or are sidelined for other story beats. For example, Terrorblade only shows up in the first and last episode. When I got to the final episode of the first season, it hit me that this was a season made to set up everything for the next season more than make the first season more impactful. There are no real satisfying arcs for the main characters and it ends on a fairly annoying cliffhanger for a second season. 

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Now, this isn’t to say there weren’t any story beats or characters I liked, but when it feels like the story isn’t going anywhere, or is going down another side path instead of sticking to the main road, then it feels grating to binge. However, I do like the characters. While they might be the more familiar and safe characters to base a series on, they are more compelling and likable than a lot of dark fantasy show heroes like in Dragon’s Dogma, where Ethan is a fairly bland and unlikable lead character. I know it’s not fun or fair to drag another show through the mud because it subjectively failed, but no matter what criticisms I have for Dota: Dragon’s Blood, it does what Dogma should have but didn’t do. I like Davion as a typical male swordsman, Mirana is a solid level-headed archer, and her right hand Marci is the best character in the show. There seems to be a bit more energy put into the characters and they aren’t simply trying to be like Game of Thrones. I want to be around these characters, and when the show focused on the drama of said characters, you can understand their point of view of why they are doing what they are, well, doing. 

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Animation-wise, I think it was smart to get a studio like Studio MIR on board with this project. The combination of 2D and CGI for the larger monsters makes for some great animation. The action is well-executed, and the characters are very expressive. You can even get subtle little details through some of the more unique characters like Marci who is one of the most expressive characters who doesn’t even say a single word. The English dub is also pretty good. Doesn’t hurt that you have a stellar voice cast that includes Yuri Lowenthal, Josh Keaton, Lara Pulver, Tony Todd, Troy Baker, Kari Wahlgren, Freya Tingley, Stephanie Jacobsen, Anson Mount, and JB Blanc. The music composed by Dino Meneghin is solid, but I wouldn’t call it the most memorable soundtrack. It kind of has a Game of Thrones and familiar fantasy-sounding tunes, but they get the job done. 

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While flawed and a bit too ambitious for its first season, Dota: Dragon’s Blood is a solid fantasy action series. It has a small selection of interesting characters, a great voice cast, good action scenes, and an interesting lore-filled story. I’m not entirely sure if it’s loyal to the source material, but if you want something to raise your spirits after a lot of mediocre fantasy epics from recent years, this show is one of the better ones. I mean, you can argue it’s not great, but does your series have Tony Todd as a giant red dragon? Of course not. Next time, I have another screener for a Netflix film! 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: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 208: City of Ghosts 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!)

One of the biggest complaints I hear about animation and why it’s so wildly discriminated against as a medium for storytelling is how loud it can be. Now, yes, some animated shows and films are loud, but so are a lot of live-action shows and films. Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean that this problem is unique to just this type of storytelling. To be frank, a lot of people who say all cartoons are constant noise are probably not watching the right series. Some of the most acclaimed shows out this past decade were slow, low-key, and thoughtful experiences such as Steven Universe and Adventure Time. Now, some comedic animation was hyper and loud, like Buddy Thunderstruck, but there was always a rhythm to it where it wasn’t that obnoxious. Plus, they weren’t all loud and bombastic. How many cartoons from the previous decade were more methodical in their pacing and more willing to tackle complex ideas, and how many were able to be loud and silly, but still rein it in to make the punchlines land? To be frank, most of them. It’s all about the execution, but if you are looking for a super low-key show that is wildly charming, adorable, and something different from the rest, then look no further than City of Ghosts on Netflix.

Created by Elizabeth Ito, the creator of that fantastic CN pilot Welcome to My Life, this new CGI mixed-media series will be released on March 5th. Its hook is that it has a unique art and animation style compared to multiple cartoons that are out right now, and not only that but since this show takes place in different areas of Los Angeles, everyone is voiced by locals of the same area. It’s a slice-of-life documentary, and well, we don’t see many of those in animation. How does the end product turn out? Well, get ready for a spooktacular time! 

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This story follows a group of four kids that have a ghost club. They include Zelda, voiced by August Nunez, Thomas, voiced by Blue Chapman Abrams, Eva, voiced by Kirikoiu Muldrew, and Peter, voiced by Michael Ren. They traverse all around the city solving problems that may have to do with something akin to the supernatural. I mean, the show is called City of Ghosts, so the “problems” are caused by ghosts. Well, for the most part. 

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I know that description of the plot is very simple, but the thing is, this show is far from simple. It’s a show that I really can’t compare to any other show out there right now. It’s one with multiple unique elements that it can call its own. First off, this is a very quiet show. It’s super laid-back. I know some people complain about how some shows are super bombastic, but that’s not the case with a lot of cartoons. Sure, some are more energetic, but City of Ghosts is quite possibly the most laid-back animated show I have seen since Home Movies. It’s not a mockumentary like The Office or Parks & Rec. It’s like an actual documentary series where the kids go around, interview people who are experiencing ghosts, and maybe encounter some people who could help them with the cases they are given. On top of a fantastic low-fi techno soundtrack, you could very well call this the most laid-back show of the year so far. It also has an ASMR vibe to it due to the tones of the voice everyone uses. What’s also really impressive about this show is that while it may say that it’s for young kids, like most animated shows, there is an underlying adult tone to the show. It’s not apparent until you listen to the interviews of the ghosts. You get a lot of themes of gentrification, colonialism, racism, but also more positive themes about respecting the culture of the city, the people, race, identity, legacy, family, love, all creatively mixed into a show that stands out among the other cartoons. City of Ghosts is something you wouldn’t expect from a show about little kids going around and solving ghost problems. 

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Animation-wise, this show takes a bit from Ito’s previous short, Welcome to My Life, where it’s a mix of photorealistic background and low-fi CGI animation. Sure, you can argue that you see this style in plenty of indie games, but you don’t see it a lot in animation. The only other show I can say looks similar to City of Ghosts is Gumball, and if you know anything about that show’s unique and vibrant style, then you are in good company. I know people are getting tired of the current “style”, but to me, it’s all in the way you execute said visual style. I love the low-key visuals, and the designs for the humans and ghosts are all incredibly charming. They stand out visually, and all of it feels cohesive. I really can’t get over some of the great ghost designs. They are simple but hugely effective. One of my favorite elements that I have found out about this show is that every character in it is voiced by actual local people of Los Angeles. It gives the world a more relatable and “real” feeling. Now, I know this sounds like you have the biggest risk on your hands to make this all feel natural and not stilted, but Ito and her team found a way! It brings you into this world and never takes you out of it. Augus

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I can’t wait for people to watch City of Ghosts. It’s a show that can rightfully say is unique and stands on its own. With its low-fi atmosphere, likable lead characters, soulful commentary about culture and life, and adorable CGI animation, City of Ghosts is easily one of my favorite new series of 2021. Once it comes out on March 5th, I highly recommend watching it. Sadly, the next few reviews on my list are going to be screeners, so I can’t tell you what they are. You will have to wait and see! 


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

Rating: Criterion/Essentials.