Review/Rant: Family Guy

Brace yourselves: AniB digs into an overrated popular show.

The Lowdown:

Show: Family Guy

Network/Years aired: Fox, 1999-2003, 2005-

 

AniB’s thoughts: A long time ago, in a certain English class at my first university, a professor decided an episode of this show was worth showing to get people analyzing storytelling elements and humor. Needless to say, he made a bad pick. This review may prove be highly unpopular with some people, but the reality is that Family Guy never has been and certainly isn’t now a standout show; rather, it is symptomatic of the worst parts of Western animation and the “lowest common denominator audience” that many a network executive aims to shoot for, and so my disdain for the show has an entirely different basis than earlier review/rant pieces that I did; while Fanboy and Chum Chum, as well as Breadwinners were simply poor concept with terrible execution, they were still more niche in the sense that they were Nicktoons; Family Guy is a different animal entirely. It is a mainstream show that is globally known, and it’s had an impact that goes far beyond most animated shows for better or worse. However, I’m not here to debate the size of its pop culture impact, but rather, the show itself, and that, I’m sorry to say, is not good.

The reality about Family Guy is that it comes down to whether or not one thinks the characters are engaging in the show. Sure, they’ve gained a sort of iconic pop culture status in some circles, but that’s not the question. It’s whether they are good characters. Suffice to say, the show comes up woefully short in that regard, despite the few moments it managed to use its cast well over its long run. To start with, Seth McFarlane’s show all stick to the “ensemble” format- a main cast that follows set roles and rarely strays from them. That’s not inherently bad on its own, but Family Guy just so happens to have an insufferable main cast, from Peter Griffin’s mind-numbing idiocy and bigotry to the abuse of Meg Griffin, down to the family dog, Brian- who despite his ironic reputation as a “voice of reason” is in face more akin to the condescending jerk nobody likes. Whatever its other failures and shortcomings as a show, it falls squarely at the cast’s feet- and seldom has there been a more boring, one dimensional, rude and boorish cast in the history of animation.

That scathing critique aside, I understand the why of Family Guy’s continued existence: It makes money and its aformentioned director has been a major influence in Fox’s animation block for the better part of 2 decades, for better or worse. It’s a prime example of a “lowest common denominator” template that has proven to work in the sense that it draws viewers and is easily syndicated, and it’s in many ways to many people an “edgier” version of the Simpsons (but really, it was never anywhere near as smart or charming.) That said, understanding its success is also why it’s vital to be honest about the show we received, because it is a case example of why Western animation (and the entirety of animation on the whole) does not reach potential audiences with the sort of depth and critical acclaim their live-action counterparts do. If your casual viewer is spoonfed a diet of low-calorie junk like Family Guy, they will never develop a palette for something better, believing it to be the only sort of animated show for adults out there. As I’ve proven time and again, there are fantastic animated shows no matter where you look, from Disney XD to the Toonami block. Obviously, there’s still overlap for some people and that’s to be expected, but the demise of crude, cruel shows like this one would go a long way in legitimizing the short-form TV format for many a casual viewer, while spurning on a burst of quality that also makes money.

(Finally, one last note: Spare me the excuses about this show; I’ve explained my bit about why it’s simply not up to par, and frankly, I’m being too kind, both in my words and the grade I’ve come to assign it. That said, onwards to grading!)

 


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D animation, done in a signature style of Seth MacFarlane. It’s got a pleasing color palette, pops visually, and overall is pretty solid, though not perfect. 4 points.

 
Characterization: Needless to say, while my thoughts expressed a clear level of disdain… This might be the most annoying troupe of characters I’ve ever had to deal with watching a show, especially when you discount the pop culture significance of said individuals. On top of that, they’re damn unlikable for a variety of reasons. Peter is an imbecile with loose lips and a looser moral code; Stewie is an unnaturally unnervering presence, and the show’s treatment of Meg is downright shameful. Mean-spirited and downright morally reprehensible beyond any sense of humor, these fools get no credit from me. 0/5 points.

 
Story quality: Episodic, with some loose canon elements, though not really. This show’s storytelling is the equivalent of the mystery box- you have no idea what you’re going to get, and most of the time, it descends down a rabbit hole of insulting anything and everything in the name of “creative humor.” Some folks find this fun. It’s likely more insulting than anything. That said, there’s the occasional clever moment. 0.5/5 points.

 
Themes: Based on the above categories, do you really think Family Guy has any themes worth mentioning, let alone worth following? No, it doesn’t. It’s worse at social commentary than South Park, lacks anything nutritive unlike other shows with family ensembles, and while all of this might be excusable if it was entertaining…it’s really a matter of taste, which in this case was not a very good one.  0/5 points.

 

 

Don’t insult the viewer: Family Guy is a mean social critique and satire of anything and everything. It makes me cringe almost constantly, which no cartoon should do. But it’s an adult show! some say. It’s still highly questionable even with a higher tolerance levels for such attributes. Finally, it was canceled twice. What does that tell you? 0/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 4.5/25 (18%). Good animation aside, Seth MacFarlane’s most well known work is ultimately a terrible show disregarding its significant pop culture influence and unlikely 16 run on TV. It has ultimately lost its fundamental comic heart and soul; it is not funny, and serves more to take a dump on just about everybody. It makes a true animation fan cringe and shake their head. There’s nothing against trying new things in the medium, but when it’s pushed in such a way as here, there’s nothing but a cold husk of cold “humor.” Some people like nasty. I find it tends to ruin the show. And so it goes.

Review: Monster

A perfect blend of action, thriller and mystery elements makes one terrific anime.

The Lowdown:

Show: Monster

Studio(US network)/years aired: Madhouse (SyFy), 2004-2005 (USA 2009-2010)

AniB’s thoughts: The name of this show- Monster– doesn’t pop off the page as an overtly exciting concept, but as it turns out, it’s another classic case of excellent execution on a pretty great concept and as a result, is one of the best anime I’ve seen.

Packed into 75 episodes, Monster’s a mid-length experience that truly feels excellent every step of the way, expertly weaving a complex story while seamlessly transitioning from one part of the story to the next; its midpoint “finale” is incredible, only to be one-upped by the stunning conclusion, and the character development is mind-blowingly excellent. There may not be a “perfect anime,” but on many levels Monster is very close. It nails both “psychological thriller” and “mystery” genres flawlessly into one package; runs multiple plotlines parallel to the main one, seemingly disparate at times, but ultimately ties them all together in a very satisfying manner…and if that wasn’t enough, gives us one of the great villains in animation. It’s truly a monster of an experience.

What does this all mean to me beyond gushing effusive praise? It’s proof that you can find a great show if you keep looking under rocks. I was unaware of Monsters existence until occasional guest writer and friend Onamerre discovered the intro theme on a Youtube search, and suggested I watch the show based off his impression of that opening. (Goes to show you openings do in fact, have a key first impression.) It’s a show that’s the best representative of the seinen anime label if you wish to call it that- clearly intended for slightly more mature audience, but hardly edgy or contrived, like some shonens, and it’s been something that I was quite excited to write about for a while based on how much this was both an enjoyable and good experience.

One last note: It was difficult to write this piece and not spoil the whole plot. For those of you who have seen the series, you’ll understand exactly why that is, given the twists and moments of discovery in this show. For those unfamiliar with the show, know that you’re in for a treat best seen without spoilers and an expectation of being ready for anything. Perhaps the reason this show was so terrific was in part because the manga writer also spearheaded the anime- but it’s overall an excellent example of what the best of anime has to offer. Onwards to grading!


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime. The usage of the animation in this series is vital in telling the tale it wishes to convey, and as a result, it’s beautifully and hauntingly scripted. With pleasant character models, detailed settings, and meaningful imagery, Monster’s usage of the art form is sublime. 5/5 points.

 
Characterization: Featuring a diverse cast of characters, the show centers on Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese neurosurgeon, and a boy he rescues from a bullet in the head, Johan Liebert. Tenma is shown to be a rising star in the medical field in Germany (right after reunification) who has his career sidetracked by the surgery-when he decides to save the boy instead of a prominent, but corrupt politician who also needs brain surgery. To make matters worse, the boy disappears shortly afterwards from the hospital, with his attending doctors found dead…pushing into the main events of the show. Overall, Tenma is a kind person and a brilliant neurosurgeon, but his character arc is complex and riddled with difficult decisions and dangerous paths.

 

Additionally, the story features Nina Fourtiner (Anna Liebert), Johan’s sister- who is entangled in the show’s central plot and mystery as she searches for her past and the truth of the mysterious night where her brother was brought into the hospital; Detective Heinrich Lunge, a crack BKA officer and an obsessive workaholic bent on catching criminals no matter how hard or difficult the case, and Ava Heinemann, the one-time fiancee of Tenma,who becomes estranged after the events of the beginning of the show, turning into a bitter alcoholic with many regrets. Finally, there’s Dieter, a young boy who is rescued from the last vestiges of a horrific social experiment…

There’s plenty more that could said about the cast, but in the case of Monster, it would amount to one massive spoiler. Know that there are several other key characters in what proves to be a strong cast, and the character development is top notch- and you’ll be left amazed at the show’s central villain and the twists this show delves into. 5/5 points.

 
Story quality: One massive overarching plot line, with smaller arcs comprising a wholly connected story. Monster’s story is all about its characters and their different, yet similar quests all leading back to each other, tied together by a certain fateful operation.

Unfolding in smaller arcs, the pacing is steady and has no filler so to speak; every episode either focuses on plot or character development or both, and the answers to various questions are fulfilled in interesting and ultimately satisfying ways. 5/5 points.

 
Themes: There’s a heavy focus on various relationships and competing ideas of philosophies on life, and the whole question of one’s own value and the very idea of personhood and humanity. Deep and complex, Monster’s explorations of these ideas can be occasionally disturbing, but on the whole, brilliant and in line with the sort of expectations it sets. 4.5/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Brilliantly paced and deeply compelling, Monster is a masterpiece in the genre with its writing, with maybe the occasional hard to watch moment….which really adds to the dramatic tension in this case. It’s a show that stays vibrantly packed to the brim with flowing action and plot progression, different locales and a excellent sense of pacing. Finally…the opening theme is perfect for this show- haunting, serious and just terrific.  5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 24.5/25 (98%). Brilliantly adapted and deeply complex, Naomi Urusawa’s Monster is a hidden masterpiece that is relatively unknown outside anime circles. Due to its incomplete airing on the SyFy network, a US station not traditionally known for animation, it has flown under the radar as one of the 2000’s best shows. It’s a must watch for animation fans and a solid recommendation even to others based on its strong mystery, psychological and thriller elements.


Like what you see? Know about Monster? Leave a comment below!

 

First Impressions: My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)

Hello long-awaiting readers,

It has been a while since I posted something, but I’ve not been simply twiddling my thumbs, and so my star summer anime project has turned out to be finally watching what’s been released so far of My Hero Academia. Consider this a very strong impression, indeed…PLUS ULTRA!

If you’re a fan of anime or have been following anything at all the past year or so, the biggest show outside of the long-awaited Season 2 return of Attack on Titan was this one- My Hero Academia, often referred to by its Japanese name, Boku no Hero Academia, or BnHA for short. The bottom line here is simple from yours truly: it’s becoming the next big shonen to erupt in the popular conscience…and it’s really, really good.

For those who don’t know (like myself before watching), it’s a show about a version of Earth in which superpowers- known as “quirks” in the BnHA universe- manifest and become commonplace, so much so that society itself becomes the stuff of comics, and regular humans with no such abilities dwindle to a mere 20% of the population. In turn, there’s heroes and villains- and becoming a hero has become a highly sought after and revered position in society. For the main character- a quirkless boy named Izuku Midoriya- this is his dream, though his status as a normal kid makes him a big dreamer and fanboy of the actual pros but not much else.

As fate would have it, it all changes with a fated encounter where Midoriya is rescued by his childhood hero, who also happens to be the world’s symbol of peace- All Might….and it takes off from there.

While I normally don’t like summarizing the beginnings of plots at all, these sort of initial impressions are almost difficult to do without them since in my excitement, I’ve caught up to the current run of the show. I’ll also mention that BnHA is being simulcast online via Funimation. But to get to the meat of what really is at stake here: this is a show absolutely worth watching for a number of reasons:

-The characters: Just from watching many shows and writing many reviews, there’s a premium to be placed on character development and a great cast, and this show delivers, big time. Midoriya is a delightful protagonist, and the rest of the main and supporting cast is diverse and interesting, with distinct personalities– a must in a show that features the superhero genre.

-The animation: The studio doing the show is Bones- and if you know anything about them, they’re the folks behind Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (which I gave a glowing review of.) The action sequences are richly detailed and vibrant, the colors pop, and everything is just so lively.

-The soundtrack: There’s some really catchy tunes and appropriate music that enhances this show exponentially. The theme songs in particular are real winners. Here’s a taste.

-Faithful manga adaptation: While I’m not really so much of a stickler about the exact 1:1 accuracy of manga adaptations, this show’s really faithful. It also doesn’t have filler, which is a huge plus in my book.

-Themes: Strong, straightforward themes are given a new lift and weight by the other strong story and character elements…plus, there’s some very real issues that occur aside from the tropes you’d expect in a show of this style.

 

I’ve completely fallen in love so far with My Hero Academia, and while I’m not doing a graded analysis today (given this is an impressions piece), I will give a 2-season preliminary review once the second half of the current season finishes its run. The show’s well worth a look as both a summer treat and for viewing purposes in general, and while I could say much more that is specific to the show, I’d like others to experience it too without spoilers. Find out what it truly means to be a hero and go beyond…


Like what you see here? Love My Hero Academia or has your interest been piqued? Leave a comment!

So, an update…

Hey everyone!

My apologies for the slow period…but I’ve been juggling school-related stuff and a writing competition at the same time, so it accounts for the lack of new material in the past 2 and a half weeks. I assure you- I’ve been watching some shows, drafting some new material and have some interesting ideas- so I’ll be trying to get that out sooner rather than later! Until then, please continue to enjoy the existing articles and reviews, and know I’m investing in continuing to make this the best animation blog on the internet!

Sincerely,

Christian, aka “AniB”