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2022 in TV animation has been underwhelming. With 2020 and 2021 giving us great and unusual shows that sound like disasters, but are not. With 2022, well, there’s Vox Machina, Super Giant Robot Brothers, The Cuphead Show, and that’s about it. There should always be this push to have more original shows that help keep the creative landscape of animation alive, since IP-driven projects and continued seasons of already existing shows can’t be the only thing that keeps the landscape of animation vital. You need to be able to stand out from the pack and not be just a variation of something else that exists. You need to be something like today’s show and review, Bee and Puppycat on Netflix.
Based on the original shorts by Natasha Allegri, which were then rebooted into the version you see on Netflix, this show is chiefly directed by Joji Shimura, created by Natasha Allegri, and produced by Oriental Light and Magic aka OLM Inc. We follow our lead Bee, voiced by Allyn Rachel, a young woman who lives on an island and works at a cat cafe. One day, after some shenanigans that result in her getting fired, she encounters an unusual puffy cat thing known as Puppycat. While wondering where her next paycheck is going to come from, Puppycat warps her to a place where she can get a multitude of temporary work gigs that will take Bee and Puppycat across the universe and into the possible hands of some unknown entities that are looking for our heroes.
With it being 2022, we have now had a good 12 years of how cartoons of this current era have been handled. Instead of having thicker outlines and sharper corners, we have thinner outlines and rounder designs. What has helped make these shows stand out is how abstract and unusual they are. Instead of having one genre or one type of set-in-stone story, they cross the streams and become genreless due to how they are a multitude of different genres. Some are more adventure-focused ala Adventure Time, some have more of a dash of sci-fi to them like Steven Universe, and some had more references or vibes of an 80s cartoon like The Fungies. They also tend to have a more modern and low-key tone and humor to them. Even when things get zanier, the humor is still more universal or has a quirky side to it all. The point I am trying to make is that after more than a decade of shows like Amphibia, Infinity Train, The Owl House, Steven Universe, Adventure Time, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, and so on, you have to do well to stand out from the rest. So, what does Bee and Puppycat do that differentiates them from the pack? Have you ever dived into the deep end of the indie game scene? Do you know those indie games that have an art direction that’s more akin to modern cartoons and have lo-fi beats, and are usually more story-driven ventures? Or maybe they are visual novel-like experiences? This is kind of like that but in a more concentrated form. Everything here is so lo-fi and chill that even down to the voice performances, everything is relaxing and soothing. It has its moments where things get twisted and dark, but even then, the music doesn’t change to anything intense or extreme with its execution. Even when the show is showing you rather mature or shocking moments and plot twists, you will still feel as though you were wrapped up in a cozy blanket with a hot cup of tea on a cold winter morning. It’s honestly refreshing. Even when the shows get grander in scale and stakes are now cataclysmic, the show never feels like it changes all that much.
Another aspect of this show that’s really surprising is that, despite its cute visual look, there is a lot of cursing. So, yeah, this isn’t a show that’s really aimed at kids. They only bleep out some of the curse words, but they will be there out in the open. If your children aren’t bothered by that, then the rest of the show’s tone and the journey will feel similar to most modern cartoons.Maybe it’s because this individual didn’t watch the original shorts, but seeing what looked like another fun family show turn out to be more for teens and young adults was a pleasant surprise. It honestly results in this being another great example of an adult animated show that doesn’t try to be like Family Guy or South Park. It’s a show that tackles themes of depression, love, dealing with loss, grief, relationships, abandonment, the challenge of change, and dealing with lingering unkempt emotional baggage. It’s always the most innocent-looking cartoons that decide to scar you with intensely emotionally-driven themes and trauma. However, that is what is fun about shows like this. They aren’t just goofy characters in a goofy setting and hitting the reset button after every episode. The people in this show are diverse and have different personalities and story arcs and relationship dynamics with one another. Every character interacts with another differently. It’s also a weird show for the sake of being weird, and much of the time, that’s okay! You can still be a layered show, but also just have an oddball character for the sake of it tying in with some of the themes sewn together throughout the plot. The action when it happens is flashy and fun, but it’s never the most impressive part of the show. What’s fun is watching Bee and Puppycat take on multiple odd jobs on surreal and weird planets that feel reminiscent of stuff like Super Mario Galaxy and seeing how they unfold into the story and connect the main plot with the overarching narrative. It’s you finding out who exactly Puppycat really is, the drama between the humans, Bee and her relationship with her father, and to whom these giant demonic hands that are chasing after Puppycat are attached.
On the animation front, the show looks like Science Saru made a show that stuck to a more American-made mindset. Personally, Bee and Puppycat feel much more like a vibrant Science Saru show than this year’s Yurei Deco, and that’s saying something. With its combination of soft-looking humans, the muted and mostly pink and purplish-hued color palette, and the sporadic energetic movements of the characters, it doesn’t move or flow like a normal US-made cartoon. Maybe it’s because of the art direction or the studio that produced this show, OLM inc, but it has more of an anime sensibility to it as well. It’s an odd mix of western and eastern animation philosophies that match up in this oddly satisfying way. Then again, with the shows that OLM have had a hand in producing, weird and odd are not too far out of their wheelhouse. The voice cast is great, but once again, the fact they all softly speak their lines shows a real commitment to the calming tone of the overall show. It must have been a hassle to keep all emotions and line reading on one level. You would think this would get grating, but you get used to it, and it makes the comedy land better. The cast is small, but it has a ton of well-known names including Allyn Rachel, the vocaloid system Oliver, Diana Garnet, Malle Flannigan, Natasha Alegri, Emilia Sheldon, Terri Hawks, Kent Osborne, Ashly Burch, Alexander James Rodriguez, Kumail Najiani, Arin Hanson, Doug Smith, Shannon McCormick, Natalie Lynn, Stephen Root, Eric Bauza, Donna Jay Fulks, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Blum, Cynthia McWilliams, Freddie Wong, Jason Greene, and Robbie Daymond. The calm relaxing beats are provided by composer Will Wiesenfeld. They bring a soothing and pleasant vibe to everything, and it’s amusing how it never becomes unpleasant or intense when the characters are in trouble.
Bee and Puppycat is an out-of-this-world ethereal journey in animation. It has its moments where it can be a touch clunky and it’s pretty obvious that there is either a new season planned or a batch of episodes that have yet to be released due to its ending, but if you are looking for another “new” show to sink your teeth into with the symbolism and relaxing atmosphere, then you will definitely love this show. There is some confusion about if this new show is actually just season 2, but it’s mostly an Evil Dead 2 or a Desperado situation. It’s partly a reboot of the first series of shorts and a sequel series, but all told as if it was made for a first-time audience. Bee and Puppycat is great, and you all should definitely give it a watch if you are looking for new non-returning shows to put on your Netflix playlist. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a rather exciting and technologically driven action romp that you will have to wait and see for yourself.