Animation A

Adventure Time with Finn and Jake
A kid and his dog have adventures. The artwork is very surreal. It harkens back to the early ‘rubber animation’ days but with a healthy dose of Salvador Dali thrown in. On the face of it a children’s show but with a grain of LSD in the mix. Odd but entertaining.

Ah! My Goddess
A not too successful engineering student through a rather improbable series of events ends up with a “Goddess” (more like a guardian angel). She follows him everywhere and it’s the story of her getting used to living on earth and with people and him mostly acting like a total doofus. I really don’t like to review a series without watching the whole thing. However average animation and bad sitcom writing made me bail after the fourth episode. It’s gotten great reviews from others. That’s why I was so disappointed: I was expecting it to be better. Unfortunately I found the plots to be painfully insipid. Maybe it’s just not my kind of show. YMMV.

Akira (Movie)
After a huge war Neo Tokyo is run by gangs, military police, and corrupt politicians. Kaneda`s friend is hurt in a motorcycle crash and is taken to the hospital. There experiments give him mysterious powers. Is Akira the name of the experimental project or is it a person involved in the project or is it the power? Who are the children with ancient faces? Is there some knowledge that humanity is not ready for? Does power always corrupt? Violent, graphic, thought provoking, and superb. Make sure you see the original version in Japanese. A later English dub replaced the words and they re-edited the film. In the minds of many the later version is quite poor.

Amazing Spiez
When you take a successful show and remake it with little kids the best you can hope for is mediocre. Muppets were good, muppet babies was unpleasant. Bugs Bunny was great, Tiny Toon Adventures was average. Such is the nature of things. The remake is never going to be better than the original. Now what happens when you start with a terrible show. Amazing Spiez is a spin off from Totally Spies, one of the most annoying programs with offensively vacuous characters ever made. As you might expect the spin off is painful to watch.

American Dad
Proof that TV is not a meritocracy. They gave the guy who came up with Family Guy another chance. What did he do? Family Guy all over again. Dad is thinner, mom is blonder, the talking dog is a talking fish, the awkward brother is an awkward alien, and the misunderstood sister is a misunderstood sister. Other than these cosmetic changes the scripts could be interchanged with less than an hour of rewriting. Very self conscious, and clumsy. The creator must have pictures of Rupert Murdoch in a compromising position. That would be the only way I know of that someone with such little talent could keep getting his shows on the air.

Angela Anaconda
Stop Motion animation using photographs chopped into body parts. It is targeted toward little kids. I can not say too much about the show because the effect of the animation style is so creepy and bizarre that I have not been able to watch more than a few minutes. It is the animated version of fingernails on a blackboard.

Angel Beats
A guy wakes in the afterlife and finds himself in the middle of a war. Maybe it’s because it’s set in a high school. Maybe it’s the way the principles refer to the regular students as NPCs,  a derogatory term from gaming for cannon fodder. Maybe it’s the Josie and the Pussycats J-Pop interlude. No, mostly it was the kids using full automatic weapons, in school. After what’s happened in the US in the last few years, I found it full on offensive.

Angry Beavers
A very old premise. Two characters, one emotional and not that bright, the other cooler, more calculating but only somewhat brighter. We’ve seen this in Ren & Stimpy, Beevis & Butthead, and many more. In this case the characters are stylized beavers, who get in trouble and have adventures. The writing is better than most of these shows.

This was on in the early 1990s. Warner Brothers finally put aside the zombies of Bugs Bunny and Co. and came up with completely original characters. Hip, very creative, and not afraid to push the boundaries, it was a wonderful break from the doldrums of late 1980s American animation. The show was an ensemble style with the Animaniacs (the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister), Pinky and the Brain (two lab mice trying to take over the world), The Goodfeathers (three tough New York pigeons) and Slappy Squirrel (an aging cartoon star from the 1930s with an attitude). A few of the characters did not work; Buckles became repetitious very quickly for example. Overall, though this show was a delightful discovery.

Sakakibara transfers into a new school, grade 9, class 3. He immediately notices something strange. A fear is stalking the class. They act like one girl, Mei, does not exist. Secrets, whispers, and fearful glances are everywhere. There is talk of a curse on Grade 9, class 3. Then people start to die. This is a fairly well written horror story with surprise twists and unexpected discoveries. Toward the end it does become a bit of a teen slasher film, but fortunatly without any gratuitous gore. A few plot weaknesses detract from the whole, but overall it’s a decent production. The creepiest thing though was the end music. The singer sounds EXACTLY like a Japanese Karen Carpenter.

Antz (Movie)
Follows the story of a worker ant (Woody Allen) as he tries to get along and come out in one piece when the soldier ants stage a military coup and take over the ant hill. There is even a Dr. Strangelove kind of plot where the soldiers want to flood the ant hill and drown the other casts leaving the soldiers on top. Too poorly written for adults. Too dark for kids.

Aoi Bungaku
Unlike any other series. A collection of short stories from classic Japanese literature. The animation is quite good, it is however the quality of the writing that makes this a truly fine series. The stories about adults in serious grown-up situations. No magic, no robots, no little animal companions. The first story is a tragedy about a suicidal alcoholic artist in the years leading up to WWII. The second is about a Bandit that goes insane. The third is a tragic love triangle told from two points of view. Next a writer takes a commission but the story hits too close to home. Then a nightmare where Psychopath gets his just reward. Finally an artist is commanded to paint a tyrants mausoleum with scenes of the country, only he paints what’s really going on in the land. A very good series

Aoki Hagane No Arpeggio
aka Blue Steel Arpeggio. A fleet shrouded in fog appears on the seas. This Fleet of the Fog outguns humanity and soon the seas and the sky above the seas is off limits. The world economy collapses and humanity is powerless. Then one of the Fleet of the Fog’s ships, the ships have no crews, they are run by AIs that take the form of human women, switches sides and starts helping humanity. The writing, artwork and voiceover work is excellent. There were unexpected twists and surprises. Several points I found myself thinking, “They can’t do that, there’s five more episodes left”. A few questions were left unanswered at the end but overall nicely done.

Appleseed (Movie)
A mercenary is captured by ESWAT, an elite paramilitary/police group. She is a legendary fighter that the rulers of Olympus, the last civilized city in a world destroyed by war, have been looking to add to their team. She discovers multiple plots and overlapping conspiracies. Some want to destroy the Bioroids, an artificial race, and some that want to destroy Humans. Great animation with a meticulous attention to detail. Amazing but not over the top violence in the fights. Well written story. All in all a first class job. A well done piece implicating anyone that would wage race/ethnic/religious wars.

Appleseed: Ex Machina (Movie)
A huge disappointment. Chunky, plastic looking CGI graphics that look like a 1998 video game. Cliche`s abound (the officers funeral with his son saluting the casket, the tough guy tearing up at the wrong moment, the old veteran competing with the rookie, etc.) Producer John Woo swamps the story with over the top action that is improbable if not physically impossible. The clumsy story-line involves terrorism by hacked cyborgs and civilians under remote control while Deunan, the heroine is torn between her lover and his clone. She comes off as an airhead with a death wish rather than the tough consummate warrior from the first film. Clues to what is going on are embarrassingly obvious to everyone except to the characters onscreen. Toward the end it morphs into a strange three way buddy film / zombie movie kind of thing. Very disappointing.

Quite derivative and disappointing. The premise (children called upon to pilot huge robots to stop an alien threat known as an angel) is clearly from Evangelion. Parts also reminded me of NO E IN, and several other shows. The big difference from the other series is the implied and overt sexuality of the characters and situations. However, these are not adults they are children, in some cases siblings. This gives the whole show with a rather distasteful bent. The animation is average, the writing is not even average.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Aliens arrive on earth and nobody notices that they adopted the guise of a box of fries, a shake, and a meat ball. Lots of sexual references, very lousy writing, inexplicable situations, contradictory physics. Just a strange show but after I watched a dozen or so I grew to like it. I am not sure why.

Astra: Lost in Space
At first I was really put off by this one. The animation reminded me of Totally Spies, heavily drawn cartoony figures with over the top reaction shots and emotions, and all of the characters seemed like classic worn out tropes. I almost quit after the first couple, but something kept me going. It turns out that the writing is very good. The characters grow and become sympathetic. The story gets to be VASTLY deeper and more complex than it looked like at first with real intrigue and tension. By the second half of the series I found myself totally into it. The overarching theme of working together to overcome obstacles works well. The end wraps up the story arc, and most of the loose ends, very nicely, almost too neatly, but that is a small quibble. They left open the possibility of a second season, but if they don’t it that’s ok too. It stands on its own just fine.

Attack on Titan
A huge disappointment. I watched half a dozen episodes. The overall production wasn’t terrible but something bothered me. Finally I realized what. Mindless humanoid monsters that kill people out of blood lust. Brave soldiers that fight them with inadequate weapons against hopeless odds. Corrupt leaders that care more for their own comfort than the good of the people. This is just another retelling of the tired Japanese WWII myth. This is something I’ve run into in other productions, Pom Poko for example, but never in a more flagrant or ugly way. It’s not even subtle. The principals are drawn with classic Japanese Anime character styles. The titans on the other hand are clearly drawn as caucasian, Americans or Europeans often with full beards, but naked with no genitalia. I lost interest as soon as I realized the underlying racism of the show.

Atomic Betty
A wonderful program out of Canada about a little girl that has a secret identity as a Galactic Guardian. It is cute and fun. I enjoyed the first season even though the stories are simplistic and most of the characters are thin. After the first season or two they seem to have run out of ideas. They changed some of the premises and unfortunately it really doesn’t work as well.

The Avatar
The world is divided among Airbenders, Firebenders, and Waterbenders. Each uses a combination of martial arts and psychic ability to control their respective elements and the three nations lived in harmony with The Avatar, an individual who can control all elements, keeping the peace. A hundred years before the series the Fire Nation went to war and subjugated the other nations. The Avatar at that time was a 12 year old boy that had been frozen in the arctic and so could not stop them. Now he is awake, still trying to learn and master his abilities, trying to stop the Fire Nation from doing bad things, and trying to not get captured by them. An interesting premise and a good message, warmongering is bad and people have to join together to stop those that want to wage war. The Avatar himself is a bit childish, more than he needs to be. Average writing but overall this is a fairly good series.

On a terraformed Mars the last survivors of humanity struggle to survive. Most worrying is that they cannot have children. To fill the void people have android ‘dolls’ which are companionship and help but don’t solve the problem: Mars is running out of people. Speedy’; a ‘doll breeder’, Layla Ashley; a fighter with a grudge, and a doll that isn’t what it appears, are travelling through this land while overhead a huge red cratered body gets closer and closer. The animation is decent, writing is really quite good with twists and surprises, and the music is excellent.

People that are touched by “warm snow” get an Ayakashi, a parasitic spirit creature of great power. Ayakashi must do the handlers bidding but any harm the Ayakashi receives is reflected on the handler and using an Ayakashi drains the handler. Using the Ayakashi also extracts a toll on the handler, some become physically handicapped, others go mad. Yuu discovers he is an Ayakashi handler and must learn to use this power while dealing with ever growing crisis. Who to trust? Who is out to help everyone and who is out for themselves. Pretty good overall.