The Other Side of Animation 243: The Summit of The Gods Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to 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 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.

Have you ever seen, “Why did this need to be animated?” lobbed at animated films that try to do something different? Why do animated films like Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles and Funan get this kind of criticism when no one seems to ask this about live-action films? Wouldn’t it be cooler to see some of the more abstract live-action films get the animation treatment? Why worry about making sure the live-action and CGI elements mix and match when you could just worry about how good the animation looks? Why did this comedy full of physical comedy need to be live-action? Why not animate it so you can take advantage of cartoony physics like in the new Looney Tunes shorts or the classic Tom & Jerry shorts? If we keep criticizing animated features for doing something different, then the medium can’t evolve. If we don’t push the envelope of what we can tell in animation, then we wouldn’t have films like Toy Story, Into the Spider-Verse, Spirited Away, and Loving Vincent. When you let art evolve in what kind of stories we tell, we get films like The Summit of The Gods. 

Based on the manga by Jiro Taniguchi, which itself is based on the novel by Baku Yumemakura, this film is directed and co-written by Patrick Imbert. The other big-wigs in production also include co-writer and producer Jean-Charles Ostorero, producer Didier Brunner, producer Damien Brunner, and Stephan Roelants. The story follows a journalist/photographer named Makoto Fukamachi, who is trying to find a mysterious climber named Habu Joji. Makoto needs to find Habu due to the fact that he has a camera that belonged to infamous climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. For history buffs, Mallory and Irvine went climbing to the top of Mount Everest, but then never returned. Makoto gets invested in learning about the history of Habu, and even gets roped into Habu’s journey to try to climb to the top of Mount Everest. 

This film perfectly captures that feeling of finding that path of pushing yourself to go the distance. What would drive people to do stuff like in the documentary Free Solo? To escape the limitations of what humans are capable of doing? To prove something to someone or in this case, yourself? While it may be at 90 minutes, they pace it out to feel like a much longer film (and one that’s better-paced than most 2+ hour flicks). Much of this film shows either Makoto’s journey or Habu’s history, and is told through normal dialogue, some narration, but a lot of silence and visual storytelling. It’s a film that treats its story and characters with substance, and is more of an adult-focused experience. They do some abstract visuals to tell some parts, but it’s played straight, and that’s what is so good about it. The team behind this film gave this as much weight and passion as some of the better dramas that are released. 

The animation might not be flashy, but it is more realistic than what we are normally given with drama-based films. From what I can tell, they did not use rotoscoping, which seems to be a more common tool for adult-animated dramas than you would think. Still, the visual style reminds me of films like Funan. Realistic designs that move as normal humans do, but without the focus on all the minute details like a lot of Bakshi’s films do. It’s a film with many obvious great landscape shots and just pure beauty capturing the city life and nature. The best and most visually arresting moments are when there is climbing involved. The way they focus on the weight of the movements and the dangers that come with climbing up some of the world’s most dangerous locations is perfect. You will be kept on edge during multiple moments in the overall experience. The voice cast is fantastic as well. The film has its original French language and will have an English dub for those that may want to not follow subtitles, but both have incredible performances. The french cast includes Lazare Herson-Macarel, Éric Herson-Macarel, Damien Boisseau, Elisabeth Ventura, Kylian Rehlinger, François Dunoyer, Philippe Vincent, Luc Bernard, Gauthier Battoue, Marc Arnaud, and Jérôme Keen. The English cast includes Darren Barnet, Rich Ting, Chris Naoki, Ray Yamamoto, Brent Yoshida, Richard K Parks, Paul Nakauchi, Keiko Agena, Keisuke Hoashi, Clyde Kusatsu, Brian Takahashi, and Paul Nakauchi. The music by Amin Bouhafa is ethereal and otherworldly as it perfectly fits the moments of natural beauty seeing the journey of our brave mountaineers traverse one of the most dangerous places on earth. 

The Summit of The Gods is a Mount Everest-sized accomplishment and victory in animation. When animation fans say they want something different, this is what you can point out to them in order to get that fix of something distinct and unique. It’s easily one of the best films, animation or otherwise of 2021, and considering how many incredible animated films have come out this year, that should tell you how amazing this is. If you have Netflix, then you owe it to yourself to watch this film. If you want to see more diversity in animation, then you need to make sure you see films like this. Now then, next time we talk, we will be talking about Disney’s newest feature, Encanto

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 I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 219: Yasuke Review


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 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 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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 I will see you all next time!

Rating Go See it!