The Other Side of Animation 239: Poupelle of Chimney Town 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!)

Studio 4C is one of the premiere animation studios from Japan. While they might not be as well known as Science Saru, Ghibli, Chizu, or Madhouse, their work is some of the most visually stunning and impressive to be seen. The thing is, you probably have seen their work. If it’s not Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game, then it may be their shorts seen in anthologies like Batman: Gotham Knight, Memories, and The Animatrix. You may also have seen their anthology films like Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond. Their other films include Tekkonkinkreet, Spriggan, Princess Arete, the Golden Age Arc Berserk films, Harmony, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, or the visual masterpiece from 2019, Children of the Sea. Whether you gel with their experiences or not, you can’t deny the immensely talented animators, directors, and artists they have that craft some of the most distinct films out there. They are also one of the earlier adopters of CGI among the many studios in Japan. It’s not always perfect, but when you live in a world that has both Ex-Arm and Tesla Note, you can do so much worse. Plus, a lot of Studio 4C’s work is quite good! This includes their newest CGI feature film, Poupelle of Chimney Town. 

Directed by Yusuke Hirota, the story follows a young boy named Lubicchi, dubbed by Antonio Raul Corbo. He lives with his mother in a large city known as Chimney Town, a grime-and-smoke-covered city where the only lights visible to the people are from the buildings, as the smoke is so thick that it covers the sky. Before he went missing, Lubicchi’s father Bruno, dubbed by Stephen Root, told Lubicchi about stars in the sky and a world not covered in smoke. Unfortunately, anything relating to said stars or any kind of optimism is squashed by a zealous cult that gets rid of people that bring that kind of stuff up. One day, Lubicchi encounters a being made entirely of trash, who is dubbed by Tony Hale. Lubicchi learns that this trash individual may have been from beyond the smog-and-smoke-filled sky, and decides that he wants to see what the outside world is like while avoiding the grasp of an evil cult. 

A good way to go into this film’s story is that it plays out more like a fairytale. It has very dream-logic  and fantasy world-like logic, but if you try to put too much logic in what is going on, then you will probably not like this movie. Luckily, there is more than one way to tell a story, and luckily, this film has a lot of substance behind its fairytale-like story with commentary about the environment, family, connection, believing in the truth, and is scathing towards organized cults and capitalism. The entire plot and why Chimney Town is in this condition is based around someone trying to solve the problem with greed. It’s a film with an ambitious story within its whimsy, and it finds a way to properly balance out both. It takes a lot of time to let the characters bond and let them breathe within its smog-filled world. Some characters are not as memorable as our two leads, but there are enough characters that are appealing that will make up for some of the film’s lesser characters. 

Animation-wise, this was going to be one of the interesting elements to the film. The original picture book has such a vibrant style that would be a challenge to bring it to life in film. The film and studio decides to go the route of using CGI animation, which to some animation purists is a sin when it’s really not. Sometimes, CGI is the only way to properly bring certain visual styles to life. While Japanese animation studios are still getting used to working with CGI, the visuals are really good here! The animation is snappy and expressive, the world around the characters is oozing with small details, and the world they have crafted feels fully realized. The music is also whimsical and even has a random Halloween dance number. It’s all composed by Yuta Bando and Youki Kojima. Voice acting-wise, the English dub is the first time I have seen Eleven Arts dive into the world of bringing on celebrity voice actors. At least they brought on great character actors with Tony Hale and Stephen Root having some of their best performances not only as voice actors, but actors in general. Antonio Raul Corbo is also good as our child lead. For one of his first voice overperformances, he does an excellent job. You also have Misty Lee, Hasan Minhaj, Ray Chase, Kari Walghren, Aleks Le, Mick Wingert, James Mathis, Laura Post, Greg Chun, and Fred Tatasciore. It’s a cast that does a fantastic job with their roles. 

Now, it might get overshadowed by the other foreign features being released during award season, and sadly, we might not be seeing this in limited release until 2022, but when you can find a way to watch the film, please do. It’s one of the most charming animated features from 2021 and one of the best and most visually stunning films from the acclaimed studio. It’s great that Eleven Arts is bringing over more animated fare and we can all hope they do more of that. Now then next time, we will be talking about another Netflix original series as we are diving deep into a few screeners. 

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 217: Arlo the Alligator Boy 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!)

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. 


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?


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.


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. 


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. 


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 I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 129: Batman Ninja Review

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(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, there is only so much you can do with a character, before you have to start getting creative. You either find new ways to tackle a character that has been around forever, or you simply stop their story right then and there. There are also tactics and plans to be had in-between those two decisions, but when you are someone like Batman, you have pretty much done it all. Batman Ninja, directed by Junpei Mizusaki, is one of the rare DC animated features to not be tied down to the more strict DC-animated film tropes. It’s a Batman film that decided to take a big shot of anime in its veins, and that is what we got. It also had some big names attached to it, like Takashi Okazaki, who was the creator of Afro Samurai, and Yugo Kanno, who did the music for Blame!Psycho-Pass, and the PlayStation 4 game, Nioh. It’s also one of the more interesting animated features, due to its mix of CGI and 2D animation. So, is it as good as the best action anime out there? Is it one of the best DC animated films out there? Let’s find out.

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The story starts us off with Batman, dubbed this time by Roger Craig Smith, during a mission at night, as he tries to stop Gorilla Grodd, dubbed by Fred Tatasciore, from selling another mighty invention of his to the black market for supervillains. These villains include Poison Ivy, dubbed by Tara Strong, Deathstroke, dubbed by Fred Tatasciore, Two-Face, dubbed by Eric Bauza, The Penguin, dubbed by Tom Kenny, Harley Quinn, dubbed by Tara Strong, and of course, The Joker, dubbed by Tony Hale. After Batman gets into a fight with Grodd, the machine goes haywire, and sends all of them, including some of Bruce’s closest allies and partners, back into feudal-era Japan. Now, along with Catwoman, dubbed by Grey Griffin, his butler Alfred, dubbed by Adam Croasdell, Nightwing, also dubbed by Adam Croasdell, Robin, dubbed by Yuri Lowenthal, Red Robin, dubbed by Will Friedle, and Red Hood, also dubbed by Yuri Lowenthal, must stop the villains, turn back time, and save the day.


So, what’s so amazing about this film? Well, for one of the rare occasions, DC decided to let someone else take the wheel, and they take the wheel hardBatman Ninja is unapologetically dumb, fun, over-the-top, Japanese, and it will not stand down. Out of many of the DC-animated features I have seen the past few years, this one felt like it had the most consistent tones outside of the Adam West Batman films. It’s Batman in Japan, fighting a version of the Joker, whose grand master plan is to make a giant mech, and rewrite history. It will not let up on how anime this entire film is. From the designs to the action-packed fight sequences, it was clear that they knew what they were doing. Heck, they even have giant robot fights. Again, giant robot fights between the villains and Batman in feudal Japan. While there is definitely a story arc for Batman having to remember to rely less on his gadgets and more on his closest allies and his own skill, it’s balanced out enough within the main plot to keep you invested among the insanity.

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While I was fairly disappointed in how this film was going to be mostly CGI, and CGI on a small budget can be a gamble if you do not have the right creative team, I felt like it worked. Sure, they act like puppets sometimes, but the models used are way more expressive, detailed, and they feel like they have some kind of life to them. I was concerned about how action sequences would be handled, but I never found it distracting that they were CGI. The action is fast, brutal, satisfying, full of energy, and very entertaining to watch. The last fight between Batman and Joker is probably one of the best fights among these animated DC features. I never found myself wondering what the heck was going on during the fights. I think that’s because, unlike the Berserk anime series that uses CGI, Batman Ninja has proper direction in how the fights flow. On top of the crazy action, the color pallet is used well, the CGI models look good on the 2D planes, and they even have an entire surreal sequence done in 2D animation, and it looks fantastic. The music by Yugo Kanno was also matched up well with the film’s pacing and style. The big action theme that plays near the end is quite heart-pounding, and it makes the final fight so intense to watch.

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In terms of the voice cast, I was surprised. While we have some returning faces like Roger Craig Smith, Tom Kenny and Tara Strong reprising their roles as Batman, Penguin, and Harley Quinn, the rest of the voice cast is pretty spot-on. I was curious to see how Tony Hale would do as The Joker, and while a bit off-putting at first, he does a good job capturing that zany crazy nature of the character. As you can tell, many of the actors in this film pull double shifts with voicing multiple characters, but they are each unique sounding enough to not be an issue or a distracting element to the overall film. It was also simply fun to see other villains outside of the main Batman library, like Gorilla Grodd, who is definitely one of the more entertaining aspects of the film.

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While I do love this film in terms of how willing it is to be not only visually creative, but fun with its plot and setting, I do have a few complaints. I get why they used CGI animation, and it’s not the worst I have seen, but it definitely shows itself at times with how limiting it is. Sometimes characters seem more like puppets, and less like actual characters that are on the screen. It’s even more distracting when you can tell that not everyone is a CGI model. It is better than what I have seen Polygon Pictures or the Berserk series use, but I wish they went full-stop 2D animation for this film. For as fun as the action is, the final battle that is not Batman and The Joker is really underwhelming. You have all of these amazing villains and characters with the unlimited creativity of anime fight sequences, and the villains end up losing in under a minute. It’s really underwhelming, because all the other action sequences in the film are great. The one full 2D sequence was fun to see in the film, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t think I fully got why it was only that one scene, and why it was animated in such a way. The rest of the complaints are minor, like even though I respect how much the film wrapped itself up in the anime culture, some parts were just a bit much, like the little monkey sidekick. Some of Batman’s sidekicks also don’t have a lot to do, or get that many line reads.

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Overall, Batman Ninja is just a fun movie. By the end of the year, it probably won’t be in my top ten or five, depending on what else comes out, but it will be one that people should definitely pick up. If you were burned by their other animated features, definitely pick this one up. I had a lot of fun, and it’s easily one of the most entertaining DC animated films you can get right now. For now, we must move on to the 130th review as we take a look at another film that may be good or bad for infamous reasons. I won’t say what it is, but you will have to see next time! Thanks for reading the review! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!