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!

 

Guest Review: Fairy Tail (Episodes 1-48)

Hey everyone,

This review features the return of Onamerre to AniB Productions, and this time, he’s compiling his thoughts in an ongoing review of the anime Fairy Tail. Note again that his thoughts are completely and entirely his…and he’s glad to receive useful feedback and insightful comments.


Author’s Note:
I have only watched the first 48 episodes, or what Funimation had deemed to be the first season of the show. There are over 270+ episodes and normally I would skip the filler, however, the show rarely has it up to now, and has quickly started up a new arc immediately after the conclusion of the previous one. I have decided to mark this show as a continual review, meaning once I have time, I will go through season by season and issue my reviews as if it were still being released. I have no problem watching anime with 100 or so more episodes, but over 200? To be watched consecutively? I have to give it a break to avoid being burned out, or else watching the show would feel like a chore. Please make sure to read my conclusion notes at the end for my overall opinion on the show. Now, I just have one question to ask. ARE YOU GUYS READY FOR MORE FAIRY TAIL?!?!?!?! (But seriously, read till the end please. Also, SPOILER WARNING!!!)


Animation: Fairy Tail was like a lot of other shows at the turn of the decade in which they started to experiment with CGI backgrounds and 2D computer aid. This show decided to use the CGI on the effects of the spells being cast. Everything else was hand drawn in a computer, including the backgrounds, and it shows. By that, I mean a lot of the time, the backgrounds don’t look good. Sure, there are times of awe, but only until critical plot events are in play do we see that happen. (That’s the main appeal of the show’s animation.) It’s a series of deep valleys, and breath-taking peaks…When those peaks arrive, the show shines. Conversely, the valleys aren’t super awful, but wow, is it noticeable. 4.0/5.0 points.

Characters: By far and away, the strongest part of the show. Every character, minor or major, has been given their deserved moment in the spotlight relative to their importance to the plot. (I will be avoiding some characters this time as I’ve only seen the first 48 episodes.) So for now, I’m focusing on the core characters of Fairy Tail.
Natsu Dragneel, AKA: Salamander, Fairy Tail’s Dragon Slayer: The star of the show, Natsu is often hot tempered and incredibly impatient. Makes sense as he was raised by a literal dragon named Igneel. He possesses incredible power within him, however, his flaw is that he gets motion sickness too easily. He is EXTREMELY protective of his friends and other members of the Fairy Tail guild. He often decides to deal with a problem by blowing stuff up first, and asking questions later. A fun character to watch, but easily annoying if not written right.

 

Gray Fullbuster, AKA Flasher: Unsurprisingly, the character that is supposed to be the fan service to the female viewers. Possessing dark spikey hair and an extremely toned muscular body, Gray is the guild’s ice mage. To quote the narrator of the show, “he has habit of losing his clothes.” While this would automatically take away points from the DITV (don’t insult the viewer) category, the origin as to why he takes off his clothes is interesting, and still weird. As we learn in the Galuna Island Arc, his town was wiped out by a demon, and he was the sole survivor. He then gets taken under the wing of a very powerful ice wizard. The preparation included stripping down as a way for the body to become numb to the cold to better focus on casting the magic. We see Gray get stronger as the show continues, and a feature I really like about Gray is that he sustains wounds during the Galuna Island Arc, and for the rest of the series, he has a scar over his left eye brow as a result.

 
Lucy Heartfilia: The show’s secondary narrator. She is a celestial wizard, meaning she can summon celestial beings that she has worked out a contract with to help her in battle. She is extremely caring of nearly everyone she meets who’s friendly to her, but furiously full of rage upon being annoyed. It turns out, Lucy is a runaway from her home as she is the heiress to the Heartfilia railway empire, and as such, makes sure that her surname isn’t publicly known. This situation is the catalyst for the Phantom Lord Guild Arc. There is a rather humorous gag involving her home. Every time she enters, there is someone from the guild in her house. It’s actually kinda funny. Her weakness though is that she is SUPER emotionally attached to almost every situation she encounters. But, she does find the strength to overcome most obstacles.

 
Erza Scarlett, AKA: Titania: The mother bear of the show. An extremely strong wizard who guides the other characters with an iron will. What makes her interesting is the vast array of armor she can equip. Unlike how Gray is comfortable wearing nothing, Erza is comfortable in her heavy armor. She doesn’t mind at all who sees her with or without clothes, but, her armor literally and figuratively protects her heart as she endured an awful childhood that made her the wizard she is today. An incredibly powerful wizard who is the odds on favorite to become the next master of the guild.

 
Makarov: The master of the guild. The most powerful wizard of the guild and father figure to everyone in it. Short in stature, but the size of his heart for everyone in the guild makes up for it. He knows that his time at the helm is winding down, but he lives everyday like it was to be his last. He also has the sole power to welcome in and expel members of the guild.
Happy: The adorable kitty cat that was hatched from an egg that Natsu brought back when he was younger. The joy he brought the guild when the egg hatched is how earned his name sake. Often joined at the hip with Natsu, over the course of the series, we see him slowly become closer with Lucy. FIERCLY loyal to the guild and its members, while not currently possessing and strong fighting capabilities, his iron heart makes up for it.
There are others that I will get to, but for now, a well-rounded cast of interesting characters that I cannot wait to encounter and talk about.  5.0/5.0 points.

Story quality: An extremely entrapping world inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien with the adventures one might expect. The show has a strong continuity with little to no filter. Each episode has Happy do the voice over with the name of the episode. Pay very close attention to when the voice over is NOT done by Happy, as that signifies either the end of an Arc, who is at the center of the Arc, or the start of a new Arc. The main arcs in the first season are The Death Flute Arc, Galuna Island (Gray’s origin), Phantom Lord (Lucy’s background), The Tower of Heaven (Erza’s origin), and finally, The Battle of Fairy Tale (Civil War). So far, so good. I’ll just say this, the character twist at the end of the season involving the grandson of Makarov knocked me on my ass. I did not see what happened coming. 4.75/5.0 points.

Themes: The Guild Comes First. Pretty self explanatory here. Every decision made, no matter how small, will affect the guild in the long run. Family. The best theme of the show and my god is it brilliant. All of the humans of the core group, with the exception of Makarov, had a brutal childhood. Natsu’s dragon abandoned him, Gray’s family and early friends were killed, Erza’s parents are believed to have died young too, and Lucy’s father is severely over controlling of her. The beauty here is that, while they have no blooded family left in contact with them, they make their own with their friendship. Makarov is the father, Erza is the mother, Gray is the eldest, Natsu is the middle child, Lucy is the little sister, and Happy is the family cat. They fight, cry, and eat like a family. 4.5/5.0 points.

Don’t Insult The Viewer: There is the common trope of the overly strong female trying to show that she can handle herself, but that gets a slight pass as it is well explained in the show. One aspect I picked up is that the characters are powerful when the plot calls for them to be with common tactic of “The true power within them” coming into play a lot during the show. I also mentioned nudity before. Gray’s use is more of a comedic effect. Most of the time, you do end up rolling your eyes. Rarely do you ever get a decent chuckle. For the others, its tasteful and actually makes sense. 4.0/5.0 points.

 

Final Grade (So far): 22.25/25.0 (89%). This was not what I was expecting here. A very well written show with a great cast of characters that will no doubt get larger and better with more conflicts that will come. One other aspect that I love about this show is the fuckin’ soundtrack! My god in heaven the soundtrack! Quite possibly the best soundtrack for an anime I’ve heard this decade. Celtic orchestral sounds with heavy metal guitar and drums is practically sex for the ears (if you like metal that is). I HIGHLY recommend a watch through and please, for the love of all things holy, check out the soundtrack. Here’s a sample to whet your appetite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Oh1jIa8_xU&list=LLPVA5o2996reCbE8l5V3nZA&index=14 Trust me, it only gets better.


Like Mr. Onamerre’s spicy thoughts on Fairy Tail? Leave a comment!

Review: Kill la Kill

Flashy, frenetic anime can be fun, but ultimately misses the mark by a bit.

The Lowdown:

Show: Kill la Kill

Studio (NA distributor)/ years aired: Gainax (Adult Swim-Toonami), 2013-2014

AniB’s thoughts: I’ve been sitting on doing a review of Kill la Kill for a little while, partially because there’s been other priorities to attend to, but also because I wasn’t sure how to put this eloquently to the people that like the show, or those who haven’t seen it yet, or maybe were patiently waiting for me to get around to it: Kill la Kill is overrated.

Yes, the show features a terrific soundtrack and came from the same people who did Gurren Lagann and once upon a time, Evangelion, and yes, it has the same kind of frenetic action you’d expect from a mecha anime in one that actually isn’t, but for me at least, the dynamics of the show were just… off.

It starts with the premise. I’m perfectly willing to accept “over the top” in anime, but this show in particular makes it part of its very fabric. It’s a potpourri of “high school meets Michael Bay action sequences meets convoluted premise” and while many people have reveled in that regarding Kill la Kill, it just never meshed with me. It didn’t find the same emotional thrust mixed with satisfaction as Gurren Lagann did (and which actually occupied a far grander scope, all things considered)…and then, there was the fanservice.

Oh, the fanservice. I’ve yet to write a treatise on fanservice in animation, but the vast majority of the time (about 95-98% in my rough mental estimation), it’s pointless, adds nothing to the story, cheapens the characters, and gives me a vaguely uncomfortable feeling about what I’m actually viewing. Kill la Kill, for all intensive purposes, is an ecchi anime, of which I suspect precious few will pop up in my review choices, and with good reason- it’s teasing nudity the whole way. I’m not into that. And this is the fundamental difference between something like Kill la Kill and the aforementioned Gurren Lagann, in which there’s one cringy comedic bathhouse episode early in the series along with occasionally playful teasing in the latter, while this entire series makes a point to expose its characters…and the main conflict involves clothing…or a lack thereof.

So does this mean Kill la Kill is a “bad show?” I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it’s not the masterwork some play it up to be, and it certainly has found a legion of anime fans that sing its praises. It also features some pretty amazing fight sequences (especially if you can get past the fan-servicing bit); the characters receive some pretty great development through the show (the central character conflict is actually compelling), and Ryuko Matoi is a strong, solid protagonist. (Cool fact- the character’s English VA plays Gon Freecss in the dub of HxH 2011.) Overall, I’d say one’s reception of Kill la Kill is dependent on one’s tastes. To that end, I’ve attempted to evaluate the show with a balanced hand noting the show’s perceived weaknesses against its strengths.


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime. Good looking anime that accentuated some things best left unseen, though the battles are spectacular. Character models are standard enough, tend to accentuate women’s breasts a bit though, and there are some truly spectacular settings illustrated as well. The use to make the obvious fan service look good however…not so much. 3.5/5 points.

 
Characterization: The series focuses on the story of Ryuko Matoi, a girl searching for the answers of her father’s murder who comes upon the main location of the show, Honnouji Academy.

Armed with a giant scissor blade, Ryuko’s a bit of a rough and tumble character, which come at odds when she discovers her sentient battle outfit, Senketsu (pronounced sen-ketz), transforms her into a very revealing outfit that also grants her great power. Because Senketsu is made 100% out of a special material called “life fiber,” it (rather he) has a life and personality of his own, although only Ryuko can hear him.

While at the academy, Ryuoko stays with and befriends Mako Mankanshoku (and her eccentric family). Bright and airheaded to a t, she often serves as the calming presence to Ryuko’s fierceness and determination, and has a good heart and a stubborn will…She’s also the main source of comic relief through the show, a role she excels at.

Opposing Ryuoko through most of the show is Honnouji’s fierce student body president, the formidable Satsuki Kiryuin. Armed with a will stronger than steel and a blade to match, she rules Honnouji in a way that it is much more a military base than really a school… She is flanked by her “Elite 4” (no, not Pokemon)- Ira Gamagoori, a massive man with a personality to match who serves as head of discipline; Uzu Sanageyama, a one-time street boss turned loyal swordsman; Nonon Jakuzure, the only girl and a friend of Satsuma since they were children, and also a music nut; and Houka Inumuta, her information specialists and tech systems guy.

Also to be noted among an extensive supporting cast is Raygo Kiyuin, the mother of Satsuki and head of the REVOC Corporation, a clothing line that has almost monopolized the whole world… Overall, these are actually pretty good characters for the most part with some strange elements and stereotypical tropes; the supporting cast on the whole is okay. 4/5 points.

 
Story quality: Overarching story. While the tale moves at a great pace (and one particular episode deals with the dreaded recap episode in the best way possible), there are other flaws inherently present. Mostly, this is because the storyline of Kill la Kill might be the most convoluted albeit complicated arc out there… (spoilers:)

Life fibers, the threads that form Senketsu, and give clothes known as Goku Uniforms their power, are in fact apparently a sentient alien parasite that devours its victims and destroys planets. Seriously, I can’t make that up if I tried. Raygo Kiryuin, the big bad, tries to co-opt this scheme of destruction while the subtext of Ryuko vs Satsuki plays out, the two eventually coming to a head… the paramilitary organization is literally a group called Nudist Beach (they eschew clothes…) and most adults in this series seem fairly useless. There is some strong emotion built into the plot as well as some decent plot twists, but overall, the end product is both somewhat entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time. 2.75/5 points.

 
Themes: Family struggles, friends, and some other self-discovery stuff. For Ryuko, it’s about forging her path against the path of someone like Satsuski, and so ideologies clash, literally exposed with bare ambition. Honestly, this show isn’t the strongest on themes, but it’s passable considering everything. 3.25/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Fanservice. This is the single biggest issue with Kill la Kill, and it’s obvious how intentional that decision was with characters even commenting on it in universe. One one hand, it sorta works because there’s an in-universe explanation, but… if you’re not into nudity (or very skimpy outfits), I’d stay far away (and frankly, i don’t condone it in the slightest). There’s also a fair bit of blood in some scenes, and to that end, you have been warned. 2.5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 16/25 (64%). A bizarre mix of different anime tropes with more than a little fanservice, Kill la Kill is unique…sometimes in the (very) cringeworthy sense, and other times in interesting, unique, and even very funny ways. I wouldn’t personally recommend this to anyone under 18, but depending on your tastes, it is potentially worth a watch.


Like what you see? Have something to say about Kill la Kill? Leave a comment!

Review: Ed, Edd, n Eddy

One of the longest-running Cartoon Cartoons embodied the precociousness of youth.

The Lowdown:

Show: Ed, Ed n Eddy

Network/years aired: Cartoon Network, 1999-2009

The Lowdown: Memorial Day has passed, and June has arrived- meaning summer’s unofficially arrived for many people. To that end, perhaps no show embodied the idea of creative childhood summers better than Danny Antonucci’s Ed, Edd n Eddy, one of the first Cartoon Cartoons, and also the longest running one, sticking around in production for a full decade. In many ways, the show marked the beginning of one era and the end of another, serving as a pillar for Cartoon Network in its so-called “golden era” that occurred in almost exactly the same time frame the show existed.

To be sure, Ed, Edd n Eddy is quite different from other later cartoons that take place mostly or completely in the season. It’s not a Gravity Falls with a deep mystery element and overarching story, nor does it try to be, and while a show like Phineas and Ferb focuses on inventiveness and references, it’s almost certainly a successor in some ways to the Eds. The show, quite simply, is classic slice of life scenarios chock to the brim with slapstick, clearly defined personalities, and quite a bit of humor that really clicks once you’re over the age of 18. More specifically, the Eds are your neighborhood outcasts always looking to try a score a quick buck and social “cred” en route to jawbreakers- the hard candies are bloated to massive proportions in the show- and for the most part, fail miserably, often to some combination of disaster, abject humiliation, injury, or bad luck. Most remarkably despite all that, the Eds keep plugging away, one day (or episode) at a time.

For many kids growing up in the early-mid 2000’s, the Eds were probably a constant in your cartoon repertoire. There was some personal involvement in watching Antonucci’s fictional Cul-de-Sac as the Eds navigated life and attempted scams. For an episodic cartoon, there was an unusual attachment to the characters the more one watched- and certainly, most people had their favorites- Double D certainly stood out as the brains of the trio; there was the fear of the Kankers busting out of nowhere in any given episode, and quite a few people probably also wished Ed didn’t have the brattiest sister on Earth in Sarah. The show may have resonated strongly among the demographic precisely because it was an exaggerated version of many a peer group- and the creativity of childhood unbridled in a show with reckless abandon, and so it can be said Ed, Edd n Eddy beyond any other descriptor, is fun.

While the show primarily is set in summer, the 5th season took it in a different direction, bringing the Eds and their peers to school and into fall and winter- a fact sometimes lost in the classic episodes of the first four seasons. However, the best part was that Ed, Edd, n Eddy went out with a bang and at precisely the right moment to avoid seasonal rot in 2009’s Ed, Edd, n Eddy’s Big Picture Show– a movie that largely brought the Eds back to their roots while giving the series a fitting wrap-up. I wouldn’t quite call the series a classic, but it was very influential, and has quite a few individual episodes that are conceptually brilliant (and very funny). It’s a bit of a nostalgia trip to go back and watch the show now, but its trademark style still shines through.


Animation Quality: An old-school 2-D cel shading, which was uncommon at the point the show debuted and virtually unheard of in 2009. Danny Antonucci specifically wanted this style of animation in order to evoke a certain style and feel- and to that end, it successfully captures the old-time feeling of cartoons past, even if it isn’t perfect…but plenty good enough to bring the world of the Cul-de-Sac to life. 4/5 points.

 
Characterization: Episodic show, focused mainly on the three titular characters, all of whom fit a certain type of individual. Of the titular characters, Ed’s the nice, if not completely dumb, grunt; Edd, better known as “Double D” is the smart, nerdy one, and Eddy’s a straight con man.

Ed, while a simple and foolish kid mostly, is very kind, ridiculously strong and loves life. He’s got no sense of personal hygiene, loves monster movies, chickens and buttered toast, and most of all, hanging out with his best pals. Spouting usually nonsensical phrases and laughter, Ed every once in a while has a moment of enlightenment; it’s always entertaining when that happens.

Edd, better known as “Double D,” is the brains of the trio. Diametrically opposed to Ed in terms of cleanliness and knowledge, Edd’s a neat freak and the inventor behind the construction of the trio’s scams. He’s physically weak, but makes up for it in social adeptness, manners, and a kind disposition to please everyone…which comes back to bite him often in this show. He also wears a black sock cap; a running gag is no one has seen what’s under the cap save for the other Eds (and so it’s left to speculation.)

Eddy is the self-proclaimed leader of the Eds and the driver of the scams the trio perform through the show. He’s short in stature, but his greed for money and jawbreakers often dominate his personality. (SPOILERS: In reality, Eddy harbors an inferiority complex. He’s stuck in the shadow of his big brother and desperately wants to be liked by everyone…but is instead the object of derision from the other kids for much of the show.) Despite his flaws, Eddy is fond of his friends, and the Eds are an inseparable trio, despite their wildly different personalities and goals.

The rest of the cast of characters are entertaining enough, though as an episodic show  get varying amounts development for as long as the show aired. This consists of the other Cul-de-Sac kids that appear in every episode, and the Kankers, who are deliciously fun, if not ridiculously over the top, as the villains of the show.  3.5/5 points.

 
Story quality: Episodic, with some canon here and there, mainly pertaining to the Eds’ themselves, such as Double D’s hat and Eddy’s brother. Each episode is usually well paced and takes a page out of the slapstick book of humor, albeit more unsettling than the classics and not anywhere close to “adult fare.” Most episodes usually follow a formula, and so it’s good, not great. Entertaining is the best descriptor. 3.25/5 points.

 
Themes: This show is virtually void of most deeply engrossing themes…except it explores certain aspects of childhood and growing up quite well. There’s a shared brotherhood in the struggle for acceptance between the Eds, and perhaps a bit of a running meta-commentary on life. (Man, I’m not sure who’d want to live in that neighborhood.) There’s nothing super-objectionable though. 2.75/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Ed, Edd, n Eddy is pretty funny, though it can be crude at points, and certain scenes can be unsettling…but that’s probably what Danny Antonucci was going for. The soundtrack also matches the fast-paced mayhem of the show well, and certain motifs are given to characters if you listen closely. 4.25/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 17.75/25 (71%). Ed, Ed n Eddy was certainly an quantified success by ratings and seasons, but it is at its heart, an above-average cartoon with some notable flaws. Overrated slightly? Most definitely. Downright terrible? Not at all. “Above-average” seems to be a fair descriptor, and careful analysis seems to agree, as it does some things very well and preserves the sense of fun it always had some number of years later.


Like what you see? Was Ed, Edd n Eddy a favorite of yours? Leave a comment!

Review: The Huckleberry Hound Show

The blue hound with a Southern drawl proved influential- but how does he hold up today?

The Lowdown:

Show: The Huckleberry Hound Show

Studio/ years aired:  (Hanna-Barbera), 1958-1962

AniB’s thoughts: Oh yeah, I’m going old-school here. In sharp contrast to samurais, a classroom of amateur assassins doubling as junior high students, or if you want to go back further, a pair of twins in a town full of mystery, it’s all the way back to circa 1958 with one of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s classic cartoons: Huckleberry Hound.

Classic cartoon aficionados will recognize this distinctively even-keeled blue hound with the signature Southern drawl and a love for the tune “My Darling Clementine,” and while he’s acknowledged as a timeless character, Huckleberry himself is really straightforward. He either gets outwitted or outwits his adversary of the day, with a trademark dry commentary and a personality that never gets too high or too low. And Huckleberry Hound actually brings me to a conversation I’ve been wanting to have for a while: How should we view classic cartoon characters?

Characters like Huckleberry Hound are archetypes of later shows- the bedrock in which slapstick humor of certain varieties and the bare-bone plot structure of the “slice of life” show came from. It’s fair to say that Huck’s a classic character instantly from the Hanna-Barbera library, but at the risk of probably offending some purists, he hasn’t aged that impressively. The Looney Tunes (the original run of shows, right up through 1969), for instance, still retain their charm quite well over 50 years later, and there’s a sort of classic nostalgia that can’t be replicated, such as the Wile.E. Coyote- Roadrunner chase sequences. Huckleberry Hound on the other hand, has some variety, but Huck’s heavy handed attempts to solve the plot of the day seem to fall somewhat flat, especially with a rogues gallery that’s more generic than anything, and animation that even for the period, seems somewhat lazy at times. The classics are the classics, but there’s nothing wrong in pointing out a flaw or , especially if other shows of the period did it better. However, the show did pioneer one aspect of animation better than almost any other show: breaking the 4th wall. Huckleberry was known to often turn and talk to the audience about his plans, and while other shows certainly did this sort of tactic, it was the bread and butter of the blue hound. Additionally, the show was credited with helping Hanna-Barbera grow into becoming a household name (along with Yogi Bear), and actually won an Emmy in 1960 for children’s programming, while simultaneously helping animation’s push into made-for TV series, and so, Huck’s influence is not to be unappreciated.

The Huckleberry Hound Show was quite successful in its own day, and like most successful Hanna-Barbera characters, Huck re-appeared in a number of spin-offs down the line, especially in the 1970’s (where the company got really successful, but lazy, as the major game in town in Western animation…and it all had to be watered down “for kids.”) The show aired re-runs for a long time on Boomerang, Cartoon Network’s sister channel, after the acquisition of Hanna-Barbera properties by Time Warner, but it may not now, given Boomerang’s propensity to air other classic properties. It’s worth appreciating for what it was (a period piece with some influence) and to add breadth to your animation viewing palette, but I suspect most experienced viewers will either find it to be too simple, or delighted for the same reason.


1. Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D animation, hand painted backgrounds and drawings. Everything was drawn frame-by frame, and so, a lot of classic techniques are on display, such as the static backgrounds that are scrolled along to give the illusion of motion. It’s pretty standard for the late ’50’s- early 60’s, and so, it grades out average as well. 2.5/5 points.

2. Characterization: Essentially, the entire section falls on how strong of a character one thinks Huckleberry Hound is.

Huckleberry is an erstwhile individual who usually serves in a variety of professions which change depending on the episode and setting, from a cattle rancher to a policeman (on several occasions) to even a knight in medieval times. Typically, he’ll be pitted against the episode “antagonist(s)” who is/are the cause of the conflict, and slapstick comedy ensues when Huck attempts to resolve said issue. He’s relatively cut and dry outside of the characteristics mentioned in my thoughts. Still, those characteristics, from the Southern drawl to the 4th wall breaking, gave him a distinct personality and made him a classic cartoon character; unfortunately, the rest can’t be said of the rotating generic cast. 3.25/5 points

3. Story quality: Episodic shorts with plenty of cutaway gags. Huckleberry Hound was a typical work in story structure for the period, and wasn’t terrible, but a bit simple, given Western cartoons’ propensity to target kids exclusively in shows at the time. 2.5/5 points.

4. Themes: Thematically, the show is very simple, largely in part because the story and characters are simple too. Essentially, it’s the classic “good guy” wins (mostly, or sort of) and the “bad guy” (or antagonist figure, most, if not all of Huck’s opponents could be described as mischievous or flat characters, rather than truly “evil”) either gets his just desserts or “loses.” This would be docked more for being rather cliche and shallow if the show aired 40 years later, but considering the period and target audience, it’s very difficult to fault too heavily weakness in this area. 2/5 points.

5. Don’t insult the viewer: Huckleberry Hound is a clean show, has classic slapstick humor, and is simple fun, if nothing else. It doesn’t have a snazzy soundtrack or a crazy premise, but it’s got a decent main character and a nostalgia factor. 5/5 points.

Total Score: 15.25/25 (61%). The score may seem somewhat low for a “classic show,” but The Huckleberry Hound Show is a mixed package of a period piece that’s quite dated in some respects, and still retains some charm and innovation in others. There are other cartoons from the period that did plenty of the things it did better, such as the aforementioned Looney Tunes, but it’s worth a look if you love retro shows, classic characters, or a further look into the history of animation.


Like what you see? Love any classic or retro cartoons from pre-1980? Leave a comment!

Review: Steins;Gate

A show about time-travel might just become a timeless classic of anime.

The Lowdown:

Show: Steins;Gate

Studio/year released: White Fox, 2011; Funimation handled the dubbing and North American release; however, instead of going to network it was directly released on DVD and Blu-Ray, hence why no localized network is listed.

AniB’s thoughts: Continuing on this whirlwind week of new reviews comes Steins;Gate, a request from a while back, and I must say that it was well worth the watch. Featuring a plot revolving around the concept of time-travel and its effects, once only believed to be in the realm of science fiction, the show is an adaptation of a visual novel and is notable for its small, intimately well developed cast of characters and its premise.

On the subject of time travel, it is a notoriously difficult concept to get right, especially in animation. The vast majority of shows devote an episode to the idea at some point, with  the results usually being somewhere between convoluted and mediocre Back to the Future riffs. There are a few excellent episodes dealing with the idea; SpongeBob Squarepants’ “SB-129” from its early seasons was actually one I enjoyed as a one-off idea in a style that fit that show (and yes, I just praised SpongeBob. That doesn’t happen often these days.) Steins;Gate however, did something very different in deciding to make the central plot device be time travel- but not the actual story itself, and in doing so, constructed its characters around the premise to spectacular results.

Steins;Gate is a gripping drama with some action and a strangely slice-of-life feeling that only becomes all too painfully real in the ways the show explores the different outcomes of a day, an hour, a minute, a second. Watching the main character, Rintaro Okabe (usually referred to as “Okarin” by his friends, especially Mayuri) go through the excitement and the anguish of discovering a lifelong dream and the justification of his convictions only to see the implications of every action, from the very beginning of show, and how he changes as a person (though not always outwardly) is quite a journey, and for such a short anime (26 episodes), it feels a lot longer when it’s all said and done. Ultimately though, Steins;Gate also feels worth all that time when it’s completed, and you might find yourself doing some introspection too after watching. There’s surely more to say, but it’s a terrific show that speaks best upon viewing…a journey of discovery might be the best way to sum it up.

 


1. Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, with all the richness and detail you’d expect from a show that has a focus on time travel. The character models are pleasing; the visual style brings to life the stakes at hand in the show, and the end product pops. 4.75/5 points.

 

 

2. Characterization: In a show full of standout qualities, the most impressive was the intimately developed cast, consisting of the members of “The Future Gadget Lab” and those around them.

Rintaro Okabe is the leader of the team and a self-proclaimed “mad scientist.” Preferring to be called by the fictional name “Hououin Kyouma,” Okabe is usually referred to by his friends as “Okarin” (a portmanteau of his first and last names.) Often talking in aloof terms or overt exaggeration, Okabe has a much more serious side emerge when his masterpiece invention- a time machine- turns from a theory into a reality- and as such, quietly takes responsibility for all the events of the show as the plot unfolds.

Kurisu is the daughter of a physicist and is studying abroad in Japan, as she is actually an American. She is a brilliant scientist in her own right, but finds herself quickly at odds with the eccentric Okabe, who takes to calling her “Christina.” However, the two grow to like each other as members of the Future Gadget Lab, and she proves pivotal in the plot of Steins;Gate. (SPOILERS: She also develops some feelings for Okabe.)

Mayuri serves as Okabe’s foil, or “hostage” of sorts. A happy, naive girl with lots of warmth in her heart, she knows Okabe better than anyone else, and is known for her catchphrase “Doo do doo! (when greeting anyone.) She’s happy to assist around the lab, has an avid interest in cosplay, and is often concerned quietly when she sees Okabe growing distant in his thoughts.

Itaru, better known as “Daru,” is the lab’s tech genius, which has Okabe calling him “the hack,” much to his annoyance. Knowledgable and chilled about most things in life, Daru has a sort of fetish for “otaku” culture, and the somewhat stereotypical anime perversion for women, which amazingly enough, isn’t entirely cringeworthy in this show. He also has an unusual connection with another cast member…

Suzuhu works for Mr. Tennouji, Okabe’s landloard. A mysterious girl who showed up one day to work for him, she’s athletic with a sense of humor and loves to ride her bike. She shows a sharp sense of intuition and there may be more to her than meets the eye…

As for the rest of the cast…Ruka is a gender ambiguous individual who despite feminine appearances, is a boy; he cares a lot about Okabe as well and is rather introverted; Faris is the owner of a maid cafe (yes, it’s what it sounds like) and is at the center of such culture in the city, and Moeka is a mysterious girl with glasses who usually only talks to Okabe via text messages…all these characters have more depth to them than these brief descriptions in what proves to be a stellar cast. Here quality definitely trumps quantity…5/5 points.

 

 

3. Story quality: Unusually enough, Steins;Gate is adapted from a visual novel, a somewhat unconventional sourcing material, but it makes for a seamless transition here. The brilliant move in Steins;Gate was designing the entire story around time travel as a plot device; instead of serving as a gimmick, it is the backbone in which the framing of everything else, from the superb character development, to the intrigue the story generates, is able to make sense…and it works wonderfully. 4.75/5 points.

 

 

4. Themes: Time travel and the implications of it as the show portrays is at the heart of Steins;Gate, but there is more… playing “God” and trying to manipulate outcome proves to have tangible consequences; the value of lives considering outcomes and personal feelings; true friends and relationships that transcend any sort of time regardless of setting, and even some rather tasteful approaches to usually difficult subjects ranging from gender ambiguity in a character to even tempting fate… it’s all very well done. 4.5/5 points.

 

 

5. Don’t insult the viewer: Great pacing, good music, innovative concept, and an intimate, well developed cast with some interesting themes explored and the writing to match? I’ve got nothing to complain about here. 5/5 points.

Total Score: 23.75/25 (96%): An unusually innovative take on the time travel trope, Steins;Gate starts a little slow but hits its stride with a small but superbly-developed cast of characters and a lot of interesting thematic implications. It’s definitely worth checking out as one of the best anime from this decade.


Like what you see? Did you enjoy Steins;Gate if you saw it? Leave a comment!