AniB’s 2019 Oscars Preview for Best Animated Film

As many of you may know, I do this annual piece on the Best Animated Film category for the Oscars every year. Shockingly, this is already the 3rd time I’m doing it (where does the time go?) and as usual, I’ll delve into a bit of the history behind this particular category and of course, my own prediction.

This year’s field is a far more interesting bunch, with last year’s category being dominated by the truly incredible Coco. While that film would be a favorite in pretty much any year, this crop is headlined by a truly excellent Spider-Man adaptation (Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse), two highly anticipated sequels (Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet), the seemingly annual stop-motion original flick (Isle of Dogs) and this year’s foreign film, Mirai, from Studio Chizu of Japan. A well-rounded field with 5 strong movies is never a bad thing for the category, though predicting a winner will likely comes down to some historical trends and perhaps more realistically, how many eyeballs just happened to watch each movie.

Here’s my annual preamble on the Oscars, which prefaces the next part:

Generally, I only care about results when it comes to award shows, much the same way as when I watch shows. I don’t follow the Oscars for their over-bloated pageantry, self-aggrandizing celebrities who pat each other on the back and give meaningless compliments to other influential people they know, or to watch people on the Internet have meltdowns over “x amount” of diversity or lack thereof. I’m just interested in the movies themselves, the people who put the work into said films, and the statistics behind it. So, here’s a list of the past 10 winners, with studios, to give a recent historical representation of this category (and note, the year is when the movies came out, not the award ceremony date, which is always the following year.)”:

And true to form, here’s the latest list of the past 10 winners:

2018: ?

2017: Coco (Pixar)

2016: Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2015: Inside Out (Pixar)

2014: Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2013: Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2012: Brave (Pixar)

2011: Rango (Paramount Pictures)

2010: Toy Story 3 (Pixar)

2009: Up (Pixar)

2008: WALL-E (Pixar)


It’s weird to think WALL-E came out 11 years ago, but it really hits you a bit more as you continue down the list of winners even past the 10 listed here. Incredibles 2, which is in the race this year, had its Oscar-winning predecessor debut back in 2004, and while the category is still young by Oscars standards, it’s rapidly approaching 20 years old. As has been the case throughout this decade, Disney and Pixar have continued to dominate the category, which historically bodes well for the the aformentioned Incredibles sequel and Ralph Breaks the Internet– but counteracting that point is all but one of these films were original franchises, the lone exception being the peerless Toy Story 3 back in 2010.

Historically, these trends continue to bode poorly for Isle of Dogs and Mirai. While both films are actually legitimate competition in this year’s field (unlike last year’s laughable nominations of Ferdinand and The Boss Baby), the last time a foreign film or a stop-motion film won was one and the same year: 2005, where as I’ve mentioned before in these Oscar pieces, was when Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit was the victor. While I’d like to see a bucking of convention, in a strong field this feels unlikely to be the year that bucks the trend, though it would be less of an upset that the theoretical ones that were proposed last year, given 2017 winner Coco’s mortal lock on the prize.

The really interesting case of the bunch is of course, Spiderverse. It’s truly an excellent film (yes, I do hope to release a review sometime) and easily the strongest and most surprising thing to ever come from Sony Animation, a studio best known for stuff like Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs way back when (and unfortunately, The Emoiji Movie from a few years back. Bleh.) This film has done well on the awards circuit, winning the Golden Globe for this category, and in tackling the Oscars, it’s a good bet to try and break a couple of trends working against it: a general lack of superhero films winning big here, the Disney-Pixar hegemony at the top, and Sony’s frankly surprising performance to deliver an incredible adaptation that is frankly unexpected given the genuinely unremarkable track record of films they’ve produced prior to this flick.

So who is my pick? I think in a strong field, originality will win out and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is your likely winner, though not a complete lock at the time of writing. Incredibles 2 is my dark horse based on historical trends, and while I’m fond of Ralph, I can’t see it winning against a stacked field, as charming as it is. Even Isle of Dogs and Mirai have a shot, albeit a narrow one- and this should be a fun race to look back on. I can only hope 2019’s crop of animated films proves as entertaining for a race.


Like what you see? Have thoughts on the Oscars? Leave a comment!

Also, check out the movie reviews tab at the top for more in-depth looks at Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet!

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Review: Little Witch Academia

“Believing is your magic!”- what a charming outing.

So, I haven’t been writing a lot lately for various reasons, but I have continued to view some new and different fare, and one of those picks just so happened to be another Trigger show- the whimsical Little Witch Academia.

The Lowdown:

Show: Little Witch Academia

Studio/years aired: Trigger, 2017

AniB’s thoughts:

Every once in a while, a watch I choose on a whim turns out to blow past whatever modest expectations I may have had- and the first anime to do that this year for me was Little Witch Academia, a joyous adventure behind the optimistic, headstrong and outgoing Atsuko “Akko” Kagari in pursuing her dreams at Luna Nova, the witches’ academy. Before I delve into the specifics though, it is always a pleasure as a purveyor of animation- or any medium really- to find something that gets you plenty excited that you didn’t expect- and while I had heard in passing good things about this show, it was a blind watch, which in the end couldn’t have been more fun.

LWA revived something nostalgic in how it impacted me. It wasn’t just one specific aspect, but from Akko’s cheerful smile in the face of impossible odds against many odd challenges laid before her, to the sweeping score that evoked at least some memories of John Williams’ work on the Harry Potter films, and even to the clean animation and grand adventure, this show was a heartwarming (and completely original!) adaptation. While there are some flaws, this show probably is the most “complete” work from Trigger- with an undeniable charm and appeal all its own.

This anime was the studio’s big production of 2017- and it shows with a grand scale of adventure, animation that both pops and yet has that unmistakable “softness” (as I’ll describe it) that the studios’ character designs tend to have, along with a rich depth of detail. More importantly though, Little Witch Academia is a grand culmination of the young studio’s considerable experience since starting from Kill la Kill, and the whole package seems to come together here in an indescribably pleasant way, combining a wondrous sense of adventure with a pinch of Harry Potter, a dash of humor, and a generous helping of some really enjoyable character dynamics. I could probably expound a lot further on certain details of this show, but for now, my general thoughts will suffice. Onwards to grading!


Animation: Modern 2-D animation, computer animated. Trigger continued its high quality animation here- and despite featuring a heavily female-dominated cast, was actually devoid of fanservice in most respects. Perhaps that’s a bit shocking from the studio that is inevitably thought of from Kill la Kill, but it’s true. The character models themselves are pleasant and varied, and the locales are also varied and pop, full of life. With a theming that demands this vibrant idea of a magical world brought to life, it absolutely delivers, with some terrific action sequences throughout the show. 5/5 points.

Characters: Little Witch Academia follows the story of Atsuko “Akko” Kagari- a Japanese girl with a wish to become a great witch like her idol, Shiny Chariot. Filled with a strong impulsive optimism about magic and how it inspired her, Akko seeks to fulfill her dreams, which become intertwined with the Shiny Rod- a powerful magical item she finds in a legendary forest- that once belonged to Chariot and is said to contain the “powers of the stars” themselves. Matching Akko’s stubborn will and determination to do anything she sets her mind to is a rash impulsiveness, but also a kind heart- and along the way, friends who keep her going.

Of those friends, two are the first people Akko meets on her journey and eventually dorms with- Sucy Manbavaran and Lotte Jansson. The former is colloquially referred to as the “Mushroom Queen” due to her affinity for the fungi and talent/interest for making highly effective and dangerous potions; while she’s got a wicked sense of dry humor and generally is introverted, preferring not to be bothered, what starts as a grudging annoyance becomes a close friendship with Akko, as well as Lotte.

The latter is a plain, nice girl of Finnish origin. While the level-headed one of the trio most times, Lotte becomes far more animated over her favorite book series, “Nightfall” and is quick to defend her friends in times of need.

Outside of these three, Diana Cavendish is also a key player. The star student of Luna Nova, Diana comes from a royal lineage of witches, and while she seems perfect, there may be more going on there than meets the eye…Viewed by Akko as a rival, Diana’s magical ability is outstanding, and she has the study habits and mind to match.

Serving as Akko’s mentor at Luna Nova, Ursula Callistis is the kind new astronomy professor, who is looking out for the girl’s well-being along with helping her to catch up on many magical skills she lacked the background in. Despite seeming clumsy at times, Ursula appears to be very smart and talented, and knows about Akko’s Shiny Rod and what it is capable of…

There is also the trio of Amanda O’Neill and her roommates Jasminka and Constanze; the former is a classic rebel with a penchant for wild broom riding. Meanwhile, Jasminka is good natured and always seems to be eating something, while Constanze might be one of the most underrated characters in the series- a German girl of very few words who mixes magic with engineering to make some truly spectacular gadgets through the series.

Finally…what of Akko’s beloved Shiny Chariot? You’d have to watch to find out…and if you have, you’d know what happened. There is a multitude of other supporting characters and at least one other major player who serves as an antagonist, and overall the way the cast comes together and develops, through both individual character moments and via the plot, is truly a lot of fun. 4.25/5 points.

 

Story: While the show was split up into two seasons for international release, the entire production is 25 episodes.On some level, this tale is one of two halves: the first focusing mostly on Akko’s integration into and adventures at Luna Nova, while the second delves more into the actual mystery behind the Shiny Rod. Overall, it’s good- but narratively the show seems to find its focus more as it goes along. There are definitely standout standalone episodes as well- such as one featuring the inner world of Sucy’s thoughts- and overall, it’s a solid overarching plot with both a fair share of serious and silly elements. 4/5 points.

 

Themes: At first glance, the message seems simple, but it’s driven home very clearly: the real “magic” within all of us is metaphorical- summed up by Chariot’s catchphrase that Akko takes to heart and beyond- “believing is your magic!” More specifically though, there’s a strong point about working hard to achieve your dreams; the power of having good people behind you on the journey, and to always find a way- because hope is powerful and essential, beyond mere logic.  4/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A solid narrative, backed by a very likable cast, a lack of fanservice and a killer score? Sign me up. It’s no hyperbole that the OST for Little Witch Academia is outstanding- and it sets the tone well for any situation, backed by a genuinely fun romp of a narrative. 5/5 points.

 

Total: 22.25/25 (89%): This show is quite possibly Trigger’s best effort yet- beautifully animated, vibrant and full of life with a likable lead and cast, no fanservice in sight and a great score, along with a strong underlying set of themes. There’s not much to dislike here- and it’s an easy pickup for anyone looking for a fun watch. Check it out if you haven’t!


Like what you see? Big fan of Little Witch Academia or Trigger? Leave a comment!