The Other Side of Animation 115: HarmonQuest Review

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Warning/Parental Heads up!: This show does have some profanity in every episode, and some suggestive elements at times. Don’t watch with younger kids. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Hope you enjoy the review!

So, since I review animated films and video games, it should be no surprise that I have dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons/Pathfinders. I’m no master of it, and I only play it when my best friend from Seattle comes to town, but I always love fantasy stuff like that. There is something about making your own character, and having a story unfold with you and your friends’ actions in epic or comedic fashion. Sadly, most shows or entertainment don’t really do a good job at using D&D/Pathfinders in an entertaining way. I know there are popular videos online of lengthy sessions, but the problem is, no one has really found a way to make it both entertaining, and also work in a show-like format. Luckily, we do have such a product. Today’s review will be of the two current seasons of HarmonQuest. Inspired by the HarmonTown podcast tradition of having D&D sessions, HarmonQuest was created by Community creator and Rick & Morty co-creator Dan Harmon and Spencer Crittenden. It’s a half hour, half-live-action and half-animated show. It was originally part of the streaming service Seeso, but due to that service’s failing, the second season is now at home on VRV. So, is it great? Does Dan Harmon have a hit on his hands? Well, let’s get out our character sheets, roll the dice, and find out.

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To be clear, I am reviewing both seasons, so I’m going to be talking about the plot for both. I’ll try my best to keep spoilers out as much as possible. The first season stars a half-orc ranger named Fondue Zoobag, played by Dan Harmon, a goblin rogue named Bone Weevil, voiced by Jeff B. Davis, and a half-elf barbarian named Beor O’Shift, voiced by Erin McGathy. The three are sent on a mission to get back three magical rune stones that are being used by an evil cult to summon the Great Manticore. The second season has our leads trying to stop an evil sorcerer from fusing the demon and the human realms together.

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Let’s start with the positives. I mean, I technically can say that every positive this show has comes with a small negative attached, but in general, I have a lot of praise for this series. For one, this makes the whole concept of Pathfinders and Dungeons & Dragons approachable. Like I said, I’m not the biggest player for this kind of stuff, but due to how the story is kept moving and exciting, it really makes you wonder why more people who dabble in this hobby don’t do this. You are a show, don’t just give us unfiltered bore fests that are four hours long. Of course, the show wouldn’t be getting two seasons if the characters weren’t interesting. Luckily, the show does a great combination of having scripted events and improv comedy. What I mean by this is that they will have situations given to them, but the actors involved don’t have precisely worded scripts, and instead, have to think on their feet. Everyone from the main cast to the special guests work wonderfully off one another, and I don’t remember a current animated show that made me laugh harder than HarmonQuest. Sure, the show has plots and “character moments”, but you watch this show for the interactions of everyone. The first season probably had my favorite interactions, and that’s mostly because, while not every guest has played the game the entire show is based around, their reactions, actions, and lines do work, and no one feels like they are out of place. Season two also does a good job, but unfortunately, I have a few issues with season two, but we will get to that later.

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Since this is an animation review series, and this show is 50% animation, I think for what it is, it holds up, and gets the job done well. I like that every character’s designs are based around the likeness of the actors portraying them (Well, most of the time), and no one feels out of place. I can understand people calling it simple, but for an online series with big names attached to it, it’s not too flashy, but it’s not cheap looking either. You can tell the animators had fun listening to the actors play out the plot and then think, “how we can make this look great, and hilarious at the same time?” The designs are also not confusing. You can tell who is what if you are into this type of game.

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So, it’s time to bring up those negatives I have with the series. Like I said, it comes off as a pro and a con at the same time. While I love the special guests that they get, like Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Scheer, Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Olsen, Jason Mantzoukas, Steve Agee, Thomas Middleditch, and Aubrey Plaza, sometimes, it seems like the guest character doesn’t really have a lot to do in the plot. They are more there to get the plot going than to do much. I felt like this with the episodes that had Aparna Nancherla and Rob Corddry in them. I love the improv between the characters, but the two seasons lack a major story or arcs for the characters. I think that’s partly the compromise with doing the bulk of the story on the spot, but I feel like not a whole lot happens to make the characters grow. Enough happens to give some outlines for the characters, but they are never the focus. And sadly, the comedy doesn’t always land. I don’t think it’s the actors fault, improv is probably one of the single hardest forms of comedy to pull off correctly, but some of the guest role-players don’t mesh well with each other. I was so excited when I saw actors like Patton Oswalt, and Rob Coddry in certain episodes, and while they have maybe a laugh here and there, I found myself liking those episodes less than others.

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In general though, HarmonQuest is one of the funniest animated shows around right now. Sure, it’s not always consistently entertaining, but it’s definitely a show I have watched multiple times, and I don’t do that often. Unfortunately, this isn’t on something like Amazon Prime or Netflix, which is easily the two biggest streaming platforms, but if you want to watch it, you have to get a subscription for VRV. I do hope that it can get a third season, since it ended on a cliffhanger. If you are into anything fantasy, or if any of this sounds appealing, definitely go watch it. Well, that was fun, but next time, we shall dive into Blue Sky Studios once more to check out their latest film, Ferdinand. Thank you for reading this review! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will see everyone next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 57: Rex the Runt 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!)

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This series is full of crass adult humor and dry wit. Parental Discretion is advised. I Hope you all like the review!

So, it’s been a little over a year since I started reviewing animated films. I’m feeling proud about that, so I decided to change things up a bit and talk about a TV series. I still plan on reviewing Sherlock Hound, but for now, I’m going to check out a short-lived series by our friends at Aardman. To celebrate their 40th birthday, I decided to write about the obscure series, Rex the Runt. This stop-motion series was directed mostly by Richard Starzak (aka Richard “Golly” Goleszowski) with other directors, including Dan Capozzi, Peter Peake, Christopher Sadler, and Sam Fell. It ran for two seasons from 1998-1999 to 2001, and was on A&E in the states. So, does this show about animated dogs age from back then? Let’s take a look.

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The show revolves around four dogs that live in a house together. You have the lead, Rex, voiced by Andrew Franks in season 1 and Colin Rote in season 2, Bad Bob, voiced by Kevin Wrench in season 1 and Andy Jeffers in season 2, Wendy, the token female voiced by Elisabeth Hadley, and Vince, voiced by Steve Box. The show pretty focuses on them going through creative and surreal British hijinks, while interacting with a quirky cast of characters.

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So, what made this show stand out to me, besides the fact that I barely know anyone who has heard or seen this show? Well, it was one of the few animated shows aimed at adults that dealt with stop-motion. The only other show I can think of that came out around the same time was The PJs. It also had a unique art style to it with the characters all being, for the most part, exaggeratedly flat designs. They even apparently put the characters against a glass sheet in front of the background to help keep that 2D look of the characters in certain sequences. Like most British comedy that I have seen, it’s peculiar and very dry in its execution. However, unlike a lot of British comedy that I have seen, I found a lot of the humor in this show to work. Yeah, you would get a dud of an episode or a few jokes that don’t hit, or to be honest, flew over my head, but I was laughing a lot during the show’s two seasons. The characters themselves are mostly of type, like Wendy is the token girl and Rex is the snarky, quick-witted protagonist, but the two characters of the main leads that stand out are Bad Bob and Vince. As the series went on, I found myself really loving both of these characters the most. Bob is smart, has an eye patch that switches from eye to eye, and carries around a normal-sized revolver, which just happens to look giant compared to him. Vince is the “pet” of the crew, and has a quite frankly hilarious, if underused in season two, disorder called “Random Pavarotti Disease”, where he will spew random opera from his mouth. He also has a habit of speech where he will only say one word or maybe an unfinished sentence for comedic effect. He easily gets the best laughs out of the entire show with how random and wacky he is.

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The animation is solid. For a show with episodes lasting about 10-15 minutes tops, the animation and the style of the characters are still done well. I mean, this is Aardman, so I would be surprised if this was bad animation. It might not be as detailed as Aardman’s bigger projects, but you won’t be distracted by low quality stuff here. The adventures they go on are as well pretty funny, like going to a Home Depot-style gardening center only to be captured by a race of alien plant pots, having to get their house back from an alternate timeline version of themselves, Bob losing weight, traveling into Vince’s head, finding out what is at the center of the earth, and so on. Most of them lead to creative jokes, and are fun to watch.

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However, with all that said, there are a few things you must know about this show. I sometimes felt like the episodes had no focus, or any real urgency to them. It leads to some episodes of the show feeling really boring, or the agency of the situation coming in at the last five or so minutes. The humor, while funny and clever, can be a bit too dry at times. Maybe the jokes flew over my head, or they probably weren’t funny, but some of the jokes were definitely duds. I also found the show to be at times a tad too British for an American viewer, if that makes any sense. I can perfectly see why some people will probably not find this show funny or entertaining. For example, I know the original version of The Office is looked at as a very funny show, I found it to be incredibly boring.

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In the end though, I love Rex the Runt, and I definitely feel like it’s another hit for Aardman. Can I see why it only lasted two seasons? Of course. Can I see why some people might not like the show? Yes. But do I like it? Indeed I do! I even showed it off to a lot of my friends and family friends, and they have great love for the series. You can easily pick up this show on the cheap, and you should check it out when or if you can. Well, now that one year has passed, and I covered my first TV series, it’s time to get back into movies with the promotional prequel film to Final Fantasy XV, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy. Thanks for reading, I hope you like what you saw, and I will see you next time

Rating: Go see it!