Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016 Finale

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Welcome back to the final part of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016. If you have not seen the previous part of the list, here is a link. These are the final ten films that I love, and would watch many times over. I consider them new classics that everyone should check out and support. Honestly, I would just tell you to buy them all, but that’s just me. Let’s get started

10. April and the Extraordinary World

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I know everyone is in a bit of a bum mood, since the future of Studio Ghibli is up in the air as Hayao Miyazaki works on his supposedly “last” film, so instead, I want to turn your attention to what some have considered a French Ghibli alternative. April and the Extraordinary World is a fun Castle in the Sky-style action adventure film set in a world where science never got past the steam age. It’s filled with high-flying action, sci-fi technology, and it’s just a fun adventure with fun characters. I still think some of the chemistry between characters could have been better, but I really loved watching this film. If you need your Castle in the Sky fix and to see how to do Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow better, then definitely watch this movie.

9. Long Way North

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Let’s call this the polar opposite of a Disney princess film. This French film about a Russian princess wanting to redeem her grandfather’s legacy is simple, yet complex. It’s easy to get into and well executed. The film can be very quiet and atmospheric with a honestly dark edge to the adventure she goes on to find her Grandfather’s ship. Granted, some of the voice work isn’t the best, but the film is gorgeously animated, and it has a great cast of characters with a story that shows the darker side of events like this. I was a tad disappointed that this film wasn’t seen by more people, since I truly think it’s a fantastic film. It’s easily the best film Shout! Factory has distributed, and I highly recommend you support this film by buying a copy.

8. The Boy and the Beast

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Man, I don’t know why people aren’t more willing to say Mamoru Hosoda is the new “Miyazaki”, because films like The Boy and the Beast are why he’s one of my new favorite directors. This tale with themes of father and son relationships, different family situations, and parents being up-front with your children is masterfully fused with the beautiful animation, great action, and likable characters. I think the pacing could have been better in the third act, but that shouldn’t detract from how amazing this movie is. I can’t wait to see what Hosoda does in the future.

7. Only Yesterday

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Yes, it’s technically a 2016 release since we never got it when Disney was bringing over all of the Ghibli films. Luckily, GKids decided to be awesome and help us out with bringing over probably one of my favorite Ghibli films to date. I love the more mature tone, the characters, the setting, and the voice cast. I adored Daisy Ridley as the lead, and I found her character to be rather complex and interesting. I’m sure everyone in their life has wondered if they feel like they got what they wanted out of their life. Sure, it can be a tad slow, and I can totally understand if someone finds this film boring, but I found it unabashedly fascinating. Easily one of my top five favorite films from the studio, and I think Isao Takahata’s best movie from the ones that I have seen from him.

6. The Little Prince

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Talk about a victim of circumstance. This amazing and mature CGI/stop-motion film from France with the director of the original Kung Fu Panda got screwed out of being in theaters, and whether it’s true that Paramount wanted the studio to pony up more cash for distribution and advertising or not, The Little Prince deserves more attention than it got. Yeah I get the complaint about the third act and such, but in the end, I loved my overall journey with this film from beginning to end.

 5. Moana

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In some regards, Moana had a disadvantage coming out right after the huge hit that was Zootopia, and being another Disney princess film right after the monster that was Frozen. Luckily, Moana I think does better in terms of an overall experience, while being progressive for a Disney princess film. Moana is a fantastic lead, Maui is a blast, the villains are hugely memorable, and the overall story is well-told. Sadly, it does take that dip in quality in the third act, and brings up very outdated Disney story elements, but I would call it safe than lazy, like some reviewers would argue. In the end though, Moana is a super fun adventure film, and is easily one of Disney’s best offerings in a year where they were doing pretty well.

4. My Life as a Zucchini

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Probably the most real and “human” animated film from last year. This Golden Globe/Oscar-nominated stop-motion film about a kid living in an orphanage is well animated, emotionally touching, charming, and it does feel human. Even with the English dub, the actors still bring in that calm and quiet spirit. The child actors were, once again, a situation where they would make or break the film, and well, they pulled it off. Granted, I wish the film was longer than 70 minutes, since I really enjoyed being with these characters and I liked the lead’s relationship with the police officer. It’s just an amazing film, and I would highly recommend checking out this award winner.

3. Zootopia

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While Moana is a fantastic film that I could watch over and over, Zootopia is the better movie. While it might not be super subtle with its themes, its clever writing, world building, hugely likable characters, great designs, and a fun sense of humor lifts itself up from such a problem. It was also a bigger risk, since it was Disney’s first animated film in a long time to use bipedal animals. If there was one film to take home the most awards for Best Animated Feature, I’m glad it was Zootopia. Sure, I wish Kubo and the Two Strings took the award, but hey, at the very least, I agree with Disney winning Best Animated Feature this time.

2. Miss Hokusai

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If there was a film that I wish could have gotten more acclaim and nominations, it would be Miss Hokusai. This down-to-earth, character-based film just won me over in an instant. I loved the daughter interacting with everyone and dealing with different situations in life, I loved the different art styles used for different parts of the story, I love the voice cast, I love Richard Epcar as Hokusai, I just loved this movie. Yes, there were some characters who you obviously knew were there for a very specific reason, but I don’t care. I love films like this since it shows animated films can be more than just wacky comedies, and that more adult animated films can be more than stoner comedies. It’s easily one of my top five favorite films GKids brought over, and I would recommend following the director and seeing what he does next.

1. Kubo and the Two Strings

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It should be no surprise that the film that had probably the biggest fighting chance of dethroning Zootopia at the Oscars is my favorite animated film from 2016. Kubo and the Two Strings surprised me in how much I loved it. I was not surprised by Finding Dory being great, I was not surprised by Kung Fu Panda 3 for being great, I was not surprised Moana was great, and you get the idea. I was surprised at how well-animated it was. The voice acting was amazing, the music was fantastic, the visuals were awe-inspiring, and the themes and tone of the film made it a darker family film. I love how it’s about life, and how you can’t live in life without hardships. The action was fantastic and well-choreographed.  I’m so upset this didn’t do better, and even if there is nothing wrong with Zootopia winning the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, Kubo and the Two Strings deserved it more, and rightfully deserves the spot as my favorite animated film of 2016.

Well, that was 2016, a fantastic year for animation, and I know 2017 hasn’t been that great so far, but keep your hopes up and go see the smaller releases. Thanks for checking out this long list and I’ll make sure to get these out sooner rather than later next time.

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The Other Side of Animation 67: The Boy and the Beast 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Finally, I get to talk about one of my favorite new directors in the animation scene, Mamoru Hosoda. Even though I say he is “new”, Hosoda has actually been around the anime/animation scene for a while, starting all the way back in 1999 when he had a hand with working in both minor and key animation roles on the Digimon Adventure series, Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie: Poltergeist Report, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming, Galaxy Express 999 Eternal Fantasy, and Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie to name a few of the projects on which he worked. Only in 2006 after some directing gigs with the Digimon: The Movie and One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, did he finally get to work on his own original projects. His first release was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but essentially started to get more popularity among animation viewers when he released Summer Wars and Wolf Children. However, I’m going to look at those three films at a later date. For now, I want to talk about his newest film, The Boy and the Beast. This movie was originally released last year in 2015, but was brought over in 2016 by Funimation. So, how does Hosoda’s newest film stack against his previous works? Well, let’s dive in.

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The story is about a young boy named Kyuta, voiced by Luci Christian, and Eric Vale when the character is older. He is currently unhappy with a rather upsetting family incident where his mother passed away, and the father isn’t anywhere to be found. Kyuta runs away, and accidentally ends up meeting a humanized animal being named Kumatetsu, voiced by John Swasey. As a result, Kyuta takes the offer of Kumatetsu and follows him into another realm known as Jutengai or Beast Kingdom. After being shocked at running into a world not his own, he becomes the apprentice to Kumatetsu, even though Kumatetsu’s two friends, a monkey man named Tatara, voiced by Ian Sinclair, and a pig man/monk named Hyakushubo, voiced by Alex Organ, are concerned about the situation. The story also involves a fight between Kumatetsu and a boar man named Iozen, voiced by Sean Hennigan, about who becomes the new lord of the land. Will Kyuta train and become a great warrior? Will Kumatetsu be able to train Kyuta, and what will happen between the Beast Kingdom and the human world?

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I’m going to, of course, start off with the positives of The Boy and the Beast, since I really love this movie and want to talk about how great it is. First off, the animation is fluid with more realistic movements, but nothing that feels stiff or awkward about it, like when they do all cgi or rotoscope. It leads to some pretty beautiful animation with some outstanding fight choreography. I think what helps make the fighting in this movie so fantastic is that it’s more grounded and not flashy. The punches and kicks feel real, with actual weight behind the blows that characters give each other. Yes, there are some mystical elements, but it’s mostly punches and kicks. It gives Hosoda’s films a unique and iconic look, which is hard to say about anime these days with how generic and homogenous it can all look.

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Some of the other great aspects are the themes The Boy and the Beast tackles. The film deals with stuff like different family situations, not letting hate take you over, what true strength is, and what is probably the film’s greatest message, being upfront with your children. Yeah, we actually have an animated film that essentially tells the viewers that parents should be upfront with them and not lie to them. It’s a rather refreshing message, since so many films these days rather follow something generic and something we have seen before. It leads to some great parallels to the characters and their chemistry among the entire cast.

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The voice cast is also very strong. I felt like everyone had the right voices connected to their characters, and I love how natural the dialogue feels. It isn’t like in Ghost in the Shell where no matter how good the cast is, the dialogue is not organic, and feels robotic and unnatural. The music is once again extremely beautiful, and fits the mood in each scene. This is due to the talented Takagi Masakatsu, who also did the music for Wolf Children. It’s elegant, beautiful, atmospheric, and upbeat when the time calls for it.

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If there was really one major nitpick about the film, it’s the pacing in the second half. For the most part, the pacing is perfectly done, but some areas later on could have been better. It’s like how in Kubo and the Two Strings, in how there was no build-up for Monkey. She just appears and it’s like “um, okay.” The second half isn’t horrible. It still has a lot of plot-relevant moments and some really touching scenes, but its pacing is more noticeable in terms of how the story progresses.

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Even with the minor pacing problem, The Boy and the Beast is one of the best animated films of 2016, and one of my favorite films of the year. It’s touching, funny, mature, creepy at times, and an all-around endearing experience. If you can find the time to purchase or rent a copy of this film, I highly recommend doing so. Well, next time, we will take a look at the first in a month of Christmas-related animated films with The Magic Snowflake. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials