Hunter x Hunter 1999 vs 2011 Part 3: The Zoldyck Family

Meet Killua’s family, the league of crazy assassins.

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As the Hunter x Hunter dub enters the year of the Chimera Ants, the ever-popular head to head comparison series between the 1999 and 2011 anime returns! Finally out of the Hunter Exam arc, the shortest arc of the show commences- the Zoldyck Family arc, which gives the viewers a first look at Killua’s family, and also shows the extraordinary resolve of Gon and his friends as they attempt to rescue the former. For those who missed it, here’s the links to Part 1 and Part 2 focusing on the Hunter Exam arc.

 

The First Task of New Hunters! Find Kukuroo Mountain! Rescue Killua! (1999, Episode 32-36, 2011 Episode 22-26)

Admittedly, it’s difficult to even split up any portion of this arc, given that in both iterations of the anime, it spans a mere five episodes (which is is stark comparison to the previous Hunter Exam arc, which ran for 31/21 episodes in both anime version respectively. Add in 2011’s Chimera Ant arc, which spanned 60 episodes, and the brevity of the Zoldyck Family arc is even more pronounced.)

Despite its short length, the arc is extraordinarily important for two main reasons- the first being the introduction (at least briefly) of the rest of Killua’s family outside Illumi, who was introduced formally at the end of the prior arc; and the continuation of character arcs that see the main foursome begin to go their separate ways after this point, where outside of the Yorknew City arc, most of the viewers’ time would be dominated by the brilliant friendship and adventures of Gon and Killua, but that’s for another day.

As for the story itself, the Hunter Exam is now over; Gon, Kurapika and Leorio are officially licensed Hunters, and as such, their first unofficial job is the agreed-upon rescue of Killua from the clutches of his crazy family. After a brief confrontation between Gon and Illumi at the end of the previous arc, the location of the Zoldyck family estate is revealed to be Kukuroo Mountain, on a completely different continent and country (the Republic of Padokea, more specifically.)

Before we reach the family themselves though, the arc also introduced a number of family servants and butlers, who played a key role for the arc:

ZEBRO

1999                                            2011

    Image result for zebro

SEAQUANT

1999                                            2011

Image result for seaquant             https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/f/f3/Seaquant_face.png/revision/latest?cb=20141110065042&path-prefix=ru

 

CANARY

1999                                                             2011

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/6/6b/Canary_high_quality.JPG/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/250?cb=20120226162650      

 

GOTOH

1999                                             2011

     https://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/8/8e/Gotoh_HxH_2011.PNG/revision/latest?cb=20120401042159

Once again, the lighter shading and style of the 2011 anime is noticeable in these character models; however, only Seaquant received a notably huge design overhaul, although his headband and mustache was preserved between both iterations. Zebro’s sideburns are noticeably bushier in the later anime adaptation; Canary’s design is remarkably similar, though her hair is now black instead of reddish (and fluffier-looking), her skin is more natural looking rather than the bleached sort of look in the picture, and her outfit has had a palette swap, with the bolo tie being slightly more pronounced. The same goes for Gotoh, whose face has a bit more definition, a lighter shade, and a red clasp on his tie.

(Of story note, Gotoh and Canary return to play important roles in the Chairman Election arc, which only the Madhouse adaptation has in anime form, but for now, the focus will stay on their roles merely in this arc.)


One of the more striking differences in the Zoldyck Family arc (and there are few, this arc is actually quite similar in both versions) is Gon’s confrontation with Mike, the family’s deadly hunting dog.

In both versions, while Gon is still insistent on entering the estate despite Zebro’s warnings, he instantly finds himself filled with a kind of primal fear upon merely sensing Mike’s prescence, let alone seeing him. However, in 1999, when Leorio accidentally breaks down the fake Testing Gate doors, Gon fins himself face to face with the fearsome canine, who proceeds to try and kill him; an encounter the young Hunter survives successfully with some help from Seaquant. Mike also has a sort of burgundy colored fur in the later version as opposed to the white fur he’s sporting in 1999:

MIKE (pronounced “me-kay”)

1999                                                 2011

        https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/1/1c/Full_Mike_2011.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/210?cb=20150111055109

 

White or red, this is one big dog you don’t want to mess with.

While the servants do get plenty of screentime and moments through the arc, it’s the titular family that steals the show. True to Killua’s claims to Gon, and further validated by Illumi’s official reveal and actions at the end of the Hunter Exam arc, the Zoldyck clan is one of dangerous, albeit eccentric, assassins, all incredibly deadly and driven by individual pursuits often unbeknownst to other family members. Their mansion is spacious, but has the look and feel of a medieval castle; it’s hardly what one might call “inviting” despite the obvious wealth obtained from the dark trade the family specializes in.

Perhaps what reinforces this mental image the most is our first glimpse of the estate is a torture room where Milluki, the portly second-eldest brother of the five Zoldyck children, is whipping a thoroughly unrepentant (not to mention bored-looking) Killua for his venture to take the Hunter Exam.

So, here’s the members of the Zoldyck clan we see for the first time in this arc. I should note that of the family silhouettes in the picture above (which also appear in the intros of the anime), 2 of the figures are not actually seen in this arc; one makes an appearance in the final arc of Madhouse’s anime, while the other never actually has made an anime appearance (and only appears in passing in the manga, for that matter.) As it stands though, here’s the rest of the world’s most dangerous family:

ZENO ZOLDYCK

 

 

SILVA ZOLDYCK

Image result for silva zoldyck

 

MILLUKI ZOLDYCK

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/a/a1/Milluki_Zoldyck_1999_Design.gif/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/226?cb=20131022004202

 

KALLUTO ZOLDYCK

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/6/69/Kalluto_Zoldyck_2011_Design.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/640?cb=20140919160854&path-prefix=ru

 

KIKYO ZOLDYCK

https://i1.wp.com/student.delta.edu/allysonwilliams/project1/Pictures/Kikkyo.gifhttps://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/hunterxhunter/images/a/a8/Kikyo_Zoldyck_2011.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/200?cb=20150111053538

 

From top to bottom, you might note that the family’s designs actually are on the whole not too remarkably different, with a few exceptions, between the two versions. In fact, one of the most changed up Zoldycks between the two anime iterations is actually Killua himself, which was explored in the first part of this series,

Remarkably, Zeno’s overall design is almost a 1:1 match, if you take away the brightening of a few colors and the slightly wavier hair. His outfit, down to the kanji is almost exactly the same, with a few minor changes; the piping on his shirt is a lighter shade of purple in 2011 vs a thin line of white in 1999, and the metal collar around his neck has been made slightly rounder and shinier in the new version. In this arc, Zeno’s role of chastising Milluki doesn’t change much; he’s introduced without too much else to say here.

The current leader of the Zoldyck family, Silva’s design from Nippon’s to Madhouse’s gave him a bit more musculature, particularly in the shoulders, and his skin is paler as well in the later version. While his outfit has the same overall design in both, the blues present in ’99’s gi have been replaced with the predominant lighter purple indicative of the Zoldycks in 2011, and the belt has been changed to red from gray. Silva’ hair remains similar, though a slight bit longer in the newer version…in the story, his talk with Killua allowing him to leave the estate is quite similar in both versions, though in ’99 Killua sits in front of Silva, while in 2011 he sits next to him in his room during the discussion.

Milluki’s appearance as a fat guy doesn’t change; and his facial design is almost identical between versions. Madhouse’s show accentuates just how portly he is a bit more, where his shirt seems fit to burst; and in ’99 he’s actually wearing sweatpants and slippers at home, which is a bit different. Arrogant and overtly proud about his technological prowess while jealous of Killua’s place in the family, he’s the same guy in both versions.

Kalluto’s debut amounts to a cameo in both iterations of Hunter x Hunter for this arc. Paired along aside Kikyo, his mom (yes, Kalluto’s a boy despite appearances), he actually received the biggest design overhaul of any Zoldyck; everything from his hair to the color of his kimono was altered in 2011 (although in ’99, the black kimono shows up on him in the Greed Island OVA’s.) Despite the design differences, he doesn’t do much of note in this arc regardless of the version, only leaving an air of mystery around the youngest Zoldyck child.

As is evidenced by the many side by side comparisons, 2011’s anime once again brightened colors on the characters significantly; of interest is that Kikyo appears in a later arc for 2011, but in the Nippon Animation adaptation, this short couple of episodes is the only time she appears. The major difference of course is the yellow dress in 1999; it’s almost the exact same outfit, but now clad in the similar purple others in the family wear with the newer adaptation. As Killua’s mom, she still knocks out Canary in both versions and tries to prevent Killua’s departure from home once more, only to be defeated by her middle son’s furtive glance.


With all the major characters of the arc covered, there’s a few other changes and observations worth noting:

-In the ’99 adapation, each of Leorio, Kurapika and Gon keep working at the Testing Gate until they can open it individually (which is accurate to the manga.) In Madhouse’s version, once the trio is able to open the gate as a team, they proceed onwards to face Canary. In both cases, they thank Zebro and Seaquant for their help with training.

– I’d probably get skewered for forgetting this, but in 1999 Kurapika sports an amazing red outfit that he never wears again after this point, or in the second anime for that matter. In the latter version, the Kurta clan’s lone survivor merely wears the same outfit he had on during the Hunter Exam.

You can’t deny he’s got some style.

– During the Canary sequence in both versions, she has a flashback. However, the contents of the flashback differ, with 2011’s being far more extensive; which includes the entirety of her total victory over Seaquant’s party that tried to attack the family, and some time she spent with a younger Killua, neither really realizing that they wanted a friend… In 1999 it’s very short, showing Killua’s guarded return to the estate after the Hunter Exam, where he dropped his skateboard, which Canary propped up against a tree, along with a hand-drawn sequence that shows Killua offering the apple to her (which is true in both versions, but much more fleshed out in 2011’s context.) Furthermore, young Killua’s brief appearance in the 1999 moment was quite different from 2011’s younger Kil, who sported fluffier hair and a completely different outfit. Killua also asks her whether she wants to be his friend at a different moment; in ’99 it’s when he offers the apple; for 2011, it’s after Canary’s defeat of the hunters. He also shows off the Rhythm Echo in the later version, which Canary confirms she can use with great proficiency as well.

-In Madhouse’s version, Killua arrives at the butler’s quarters before Gon, Leorio and Kurapika, only to be intentionally stalled by Gotoh and company from seeing them when they arrive (and the coin game commences). The Nippon version had Killua still traveling to the lodge as the game was occurring, so as a result, he walked in as it concluded.

-After Gon and Killua are reunited, the latter’s skateboard is nowhere to be seen or in the plot of the Madhouse version, whereas the Nippon adaption has Killua entrust Canary with the board (given it was a part of that flashback and story I mentioned).

-The scene where the four main character depart each other is slightly different but still similar in both versions. (We’ll see Leorio and Kurapika again in Yorknew City!)


And with that, there’s a comparison of the shortest arc in either anime or the manga for Hunter x Hunter. Next installment, we’ll finally see Gon and Killua’s adventures begin with their journey to Heavens Arena, the greatest hub for martial artists in the world.


Like what you see? Is the Zoldyck Family arc your favorite of HxH? Leave a comment!

A few words for the New Year-

Looking ahead, and a few words of thanks!

Hello dear readers,

Once again, Happy New Year! I do hope everyone enjoyed the recent holidays, and as we head further into 2018, I’d love to hear suggestions on what you guys would love to see! As I approach the one year anniversary of AniB Productions, there is plenty in store coming- such as a continuation of the Hunter x Hunter comparison series, new show reviews, character pieces, and perhaps an episode review or two…and, I’m hoping to also again put out a piece for the Oscars when the time comes! (Here’s last year’s piece for reference.) The category for best animated film this year is not nearly as deep as some prior years, but the top looks as good as ever, and I’ll be looking to see the field again…

A new year also means new shows! Several exciting anime and Western developments should be occurring in 2018, including a season 3 of the popular My Hero Academia and hopefully another season of Made in Abyss, which I recently wrote about to start January. Star Wars Rebels will also be finishing its run after a number of years on Disney XD; and as usual, I’ll be keeping a lookout for promising new shows while keeping my other eye on those of the past worth writing about.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who visited the site, made comments, carried on discussions and enjoyed reading the material here in 2017! It’s a terrific experience to watch dialogue and discussion unfold about the incredible world and potential of animation, and some of the insights from certain individuals who contributed consistently (you knwo who you are!) was simply amazing. I might write the pieces, but it’s you, the readers that keep me going despite life’s other busy tasks

Here’s to a wonderful 2018, from me to you,

-Christian, aka “AniB”

Review: Made in Abyss

A intriguing, albeit dark fantasy proves to be a unique descent in more ways than one.

That’s right: Behold, not one, but two new pieces for the new year! In addition to the brand-new Random Episode Rambling (Duck Amuck), the first review of the new year is a request from a reader in what proved to be a most entertaining winter watch at the end of 2017! For that person, and everyone else, I hope you sincerely enjoy this piece.

The Lowdown:

Show: Made in Abyss

Studio/years aired: Kinema Citrus, 2017

AniB’s thoughts: Much like the new year, there might not be a better way to begin talking about new beginnings than with a very recent adaptation of a show that had people buzzing in the anime community very recently: Made in Abyss. It’s such a new adaptation that only a 13 episode sub exists, and while I’m writing this review, it could in short order become a preliminary review based on the abundant evidence that in fact this show will get a second season.

As is the case with a great deal of anime, Made in Abyss is an adaptation of an ongoing manga, and while I can’t verify the quality of the source material, the anime itself is an incredibly bewitching world, in equal part fascinating, full of discovery and adventure in the truest sense of the word, set against unfathomable dangers and some bone-chilling implications and moments that don’t always seem possible given how adorable some of the lead characters look. (What can I say- don’t judge a book- or show- by its cover.)

Before I talk about anything else in the show though, Made in Abyss is visually stunning. It’s not just good-looking in the way most anime are, but breathes life into this multilayered world of “the Abyss,” a giant chasm which hides another world within it, ringed by a giant city ringing its entrance at the top. The ability to convey a wide variety of unique environments in rich detail, while capturing the respective mood of each place, is something worthy of mentioning, before even delving into the characters or the universe in which the adaptation exists. Furthermore, the fact that the animation proves to be key in enhancing the storytelling that it does shows a talented use of the medium in which Made in Abyss exists, and helps augment a series of well-paced, impactful moments.

Finally, the character design ranges from downright charming (seriously, look at the picture for this piece!) with an influence from chibi characters the world over, to foreboding and even downright terrifying…as you’d expect in an excellent fantasy adventure. The Abyss itself is a multi-tiered ecosystem of life, with fantastic beasts living within its many levels, continually evoking the sense of simultaneous adventure and danger that lurks around every corner… and those who explore it, the cave raiders. Among their ranks, which correspond to different colored whistles worn around the neck, the most legendary and feared of such explorers are the White Whistles- an elite fraternity that numbers in the single digits, and who alone are allowed to plumb the Abyss’s darkest depths, for the chasm of wonder hides a terrible secret only known as the so called “Curse of the Abyss…”

More than anything, I think Made in Abyss took me to a certain place of just enjoying a show for the fact that it was enjoyable. It definitely is a dark fantasy as you delve further into it (literally), and has plenty of serious ideas and questions that it probes along the journey that you follow along on as a viewer, but just entering this unknown world and seeing it with the same fresh eyes as Riko- the young cave raider who the story follows- is something that harkens back to experiencing something like Tolkien’s Middle Earth for the first time, or tucking into an adventure that you just know will be exhilarating, come hell or high water. And perhaps that’s why this anime is a perfect pick to start a new year of reviews (at the time of this writing): for a whole new adventure awaits, and like a descent to the bottom of the legendary chasm there’s no turning back.

On to grading:


 

Animation Quality: Absolutely stunning 2-D animation with a smattering of 3-D thrown in. Made in Abyss, as I mentioned above, is absolutely gorgeous, and its animation, far from just looking stunning, uses the medium to its fullest in its ability to impact storytelling, from warm moments to tragic ones. 5/5 points.

Characterization:
Made in Abyss’s story mostly follows that of Riko, a young cave raider who wishes to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the legendary White Whistle Lyza the Annihilator, by exploring the deepest depths of the Abyss, the massive mysterious chasm of which the show centers around. After a series of events early in the show, including meeting Reg and receiving a mysterious letter from the deepest reaches of the Abyss, Riko decides to embark on the perilous, suicidal journey to the unknown bottom of the Abyss in the hopes of finding her mother- and so the journey unfolds from there.

Accompanying her is Reg, a strange boy who is said to be an Aubade- a true sacred treasure of the deep, and while he is seen as a robot, he has decidedly human features that make him truly an enigma. Reg is kind, but rather shy and has several unique feature including extendable metal arms and a powerful weapon embedded in his artificial hands that even he is unaware of its true origins or power source…Looking to find more answers about his mysterious past, he agrees to travel and protect Riko on her journey.

The supporting cast is varied for a (currently) short show, with different characters that play an important role at each level of the Abyss, from the massive town of Orth ringing the pit on down. Normally I’d detail the supporting cast slightly more, but in this case it’s probably better to experience them for yourself (and to avoid heavy spoilers!) 4.25/5 points.

 

Story quality: Simple premise, amazing execution. As is typical of anime, the overarching story plot is present and the main thrust of that plot- Riko’s drive to find her mother- is deceptively simple. However, the setting and the character themselves bridge the “how?” question in incredibly unique ways, augmented by the settings and the experiences of other characters imparted as the journey unfolds. One last note: This show shows how a flashback sequence should be done. Without spoiling anything, people who’ve watched this show or read the manga will know what I’m referring to. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: What drives people to do crazy things? Furthermore, what does humanity’s never-ending quest to see the unknown lead to? For this genre of show, there’s this deep and often unnerving look at the human mind as much as there is a look at the depths of the Abyss, and in turn, there’s real stakes, solids twists and emotional impact that rings true. I’m curious where another season will continue to develop this category. 4/5 points.

Don’t insult the viewer: Alright, alright…so there’s highly disturbing sequences that I do caution the faint of heart about, and I wouldn’t recommend this show to anyone under…16 in good conscience, largely because of how intense parts of Made in Abyss can get, but it’s a tightly packed narrative the whole way with plenty of excellent sequences, some fitting music, a nice OP and ending, and intelligent writing. Can’t really go wrong with that!  4.75/5 points.

Total Score: 22.5/25 (90%). A vibrant fantasy world packed with adventure and danger around every corner has proven to be an exhilarating, emotional trip thus far, albeit for a slightly older audience than you’d expect such cute main characters to be starring in. There’s likely to be a season 2 as I mentioned, but the 13 current episodes are a must watch, though I will warn that the final few episodes are something to brace for.

Hunter x Hunter’s Chimera Ant arc is finally getting an English dub

It’s about time- A brief history of HxH’s longest arc.

A few months back, I wrote excitedly about the fact that Greed Island for the first time was receiving an English dub, despite existing in some anime form since at least the early 2000’s. However, this might be even bigger…

An arc considered by many serious fans of the Hunter x Hunter manga and anime to be one of the finest not only in the show, but also across the genre, is finally on the verge of being dubbed. Very early Sunday morning will mark the beginning of the longest arc in the series airing in English on Toonami in the United States, and for those who haven’t seen it- buckle up, you’re in for a ride.

As with the Greed Island piece, here’s a brief history of the Chimera Ant arc:

2003: As the original HxH anime continued on with its set of Greed Island OVAs’, Yoshirio Togashi released the beginning of the arc in the manga on October 8th- which coupled with the frequent hiatuses of the series, would result in it lasting until April 2012- nearly 9 years!

2011: The Hunter x Hunter reboot (and the series mostly talked about) begins. At this point, the Chimera Ant arc is not complete yet in the manga, let alone the anime.

2013: Roughly a year after the manga finished the arc, the anime begins its version of it, marking the first new animated Hunter x Hunter story part since Greed Island’s OVAs finished in 2004. The arc would run into early summer of 2014.

2017: With the conclusion of Greed Island’s first ever English dub, the Chimera Ants will finally be heard in English on the Sunday of this writing (12/10/17 for posterity.)


As it stands, it’s rather difficult to talk too much at length about this very long and detailed arc without major spoilers for those watching for the first time, but the places in which the story goes during the next 60 episodes crosses the ranges of human emotions and psychology in ways shonen anime rarely, if ever does. It will be interesting to hear the VA choices for several characters, including the duo in the picture for this article, and with the shift in the story, it should really test the abilities of the dub actors to capture the same depth and intensity as the original VA’s.

Overall, there’s a lot to be excited about- and in many ways, it’s like an early Christmas present. Here’s hoping for both long-time fans and newcomers alike the English experience of the Chimera Ants is unforgettable.

Finally, here’s the very nice ending theme of the arc, but in 8-bits:

(I’ll leave the full version for the newcomers to discover. Credit to Studio Megaane for the track.)


Like what you see? Any more thoughts on Hunter x Hunter? Leave a comment!

A Brief Word on John Lassetter, and the recent string of events-

A lot of joy just got sapped from a lot of people.

Normally, animation is an incredible outlet for creativity and an escape of sorts from the harsh realities we experience in the world. The best productions take us to places and locales we could only dream of, with charismatic characters and incredible stories, waiting to unfold. Unfortunately, that facade can still be broken when a man behind much magic for countless minds over the years has been swept up into the ever-growing Pandora’s Box of misconduct in Hollywood that was often suspected, but never dragged out so openly in the public like it is now.

I write about animation, and I’m perfectly capable of shifting to a more serious topic involving my expertise, and I should start by saying this is *not* at all a defense of John Lasseter. If anything, the story just dropped within an hour of me writing this piece, and while the details haven’t emerged fully in all their detail, the fact that he decided to take a leave of absence himself suggests he was trying to get out in front of a landmine that was set to explode. You can read between the lines about what’s going to happen, and while the implications themselves are ugly, there are other parts of the fallout that are huge here as well: the well-being and security of people, specifically women, and what exactly this will mean for the twin titans of Western animation- Pixar and Walt Disney Animation- going forward.

On the former point, it has been said ad nasuem in other places and contexts, but the potential culture of harassment that may have existed at Pixar and perhaps Disney too as a result of Lassester’s actions is unacceptable and downright despicable. I don’t particularly take sides on “gender issues” as our society today defines them, but a safe work environment, free of fear and of backroom tactics is  key in nurturing positive change. In many ways, it seems the “old boys’ club” mentality still exists in workplaces, and what should be rejected as wrong is instead overlooked due to power, status and position. In Lassasster’s case, it does not matter how brilliant an animator or storyboarder he was- the consideration and acknowledgement of real human lives should always come first, in a culture that too often lacks true compassion for others. The latter point in particular is sickening given what Pixar itself stands for in movies- good, wholesome and downright incredible entertainment.

But it’s just that- entertainment. It’s not reality, much as it’s uniquely able to craft realities of its own- and the magic in those many amazing films became a bit tainted today. I’m not suggesting you have to chuck your copy of Toy Story out the window now, but the man influential in forming many a childhood dream and formative in the dominant decade of Pixar to open the early 2000’s has now been swept up in a growing scandal of powerful individuals that should serve as a warning to the values our culture holds and the sort of diligent watchfulness that should be cast upon those in positions of great responsibility.

Finally, this may in fact mark the end of the so-called Lasseter Renaissance at Disney. While a trivial point to the other aspects of this moment in time I’ve reflected on, it is of some importance in an animation context, as Disney had been rolling off hits since the man took over their struggling animation department back in 2008, and Pixar had still produced some fairly good films in the past decade despite the perception that they took a slight step back (which was more about the ridiculously high standard the studio set for itself.) Whatever happens next for these studios now is no longer connected with Lasseter though, but it will be interesting to see how a very promising 2018 turns out now for both Pixar and Disney’s animation studio.

Here’s hoping the truth continues to show itself, and the proper course of action continues to be taken.


Feel free to chime in on this issue, if you wish. Serious dialogue is the mark of a healthy republic.

Review: Wander Over Yonder

Take a wild wacky trip across the galaxy.

The Lowdown:

Show: Wander Over Yonder

Network/years aired: Disney Channel/XD, 2013- 2016

AniB’s thoughts: The most recent and perhaps underrated work of Craig McCracken’s career is this show- the delightfully offbeat slice of life Wander Over Yonder. Borrowing notes from classic cartoons of yesteryear and a good sense of adventure, Wander managed to carve itself out as a sort of cult hit on Disney X.D., in the midst of more celebrated works airing at the same time, namely Gravity Falls and Phineas and Ferb, and in turn, was an understated cartoon, quietly bowing out in a summer finale in 2016.

Despite its reputation as a severely overlooked show, Wander featured some legitimate vocal talent on its cast, led by Jack McBrayer as Wander, (whose other well known voice acting role was as Wreck-It Ralph’s titular game companion, Fix-It Felix in the movie of the former’s same name.) A strange “wandering hippie man” as McCracken describes him, Wander is endlessly upbeat and looking to make friends wherever he goes and however improbable the situation… and there’s something very warm about his entire concept that just works, beyond the orange fur… He is accompanied everywhere by his inseparable pal, Sylvia, who prefers to to let her fists do the talking while concealing a gentler side as well.

There was also an actual character arc in the show for main baddie-turned likable incompetent Lord Hater, who despite his odd love-hate relationship with Wander (his antithesis) stayed deep down committed to his goal of being the “the #1 villain and baddest in the universe!” Accompanying him was also one of the better animated sidekicks in a while, the single-eyed Commander Peepers, voiced by none other than Tom Kenny, as the general of Hater’s “Watchdog” Army- a group of similarly single-eyed little men with unwavering devotion, a fair amount of cowardice, a surprising number of luxuries, and perhaps most notably, woefully underutilized by their big boss- who delegated all the hard day to day details to Peepers.

 

The show’s second and final season also saw the introduction of a brand-new and very competent villain as well (who I mention about in the character grading section), and the continued zany adventures of Wander and Sylvia, as well as Hater and his minions. Both seasons feature a lot of different planets and locales, and in many ways, it’s a more modern take on the old “space age” tales of classic cartoons the show riffs off of. Instead of shiny aluminum towers, Planet X’s and little green men though, Wander creates an immensely diverse place that we all get a glimpse into, while wondering aloud if the myriad of characters in the show are missing it all as well as it passes by. There’s a lot of heart and some deeper questions sometimes lurking in the fabric of this fun production, even among goofy inane pursuits ranging from Hater’s terrible sense of romance to Wander’s seemingly inhuman ability to drop *everything* at the cry of help. Needless to say, it’s a show that’s easily accessible and truly far more than just a footnote from its time period on Disney X.D.

 


 

Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D animation, with computer shading. Wander’s animation is gorgeously classic, a wonderful rich palette with varied worlds, characters and backgrounds all done in a simple, hand-drawn style. It works very well, and in some ways is remincient of the various locales in Samurai Jack, despite the different style of show and eras. There’s a lot of charm and color, along with some neat animation techniques which really make the show come alive. 4.5/5 points.

 
Characterization: While mostly covered in the thoughts section, the show rotates around the titular Wander, a sort of wandering “hippie” who crosses the galaxy looking to help people, have fun, and promote peace; his ride and best friend Sylvia, a “zbornak” who is a tough as she is loyal, and their “frienenemies,” so to speak- Lord Hater, the self-proclaimed villainous “Greatest in the Galaxy”, his second in command Commander Peepers, and a army of one-eyed henchmen known as the Watchdogs.

(SLIGHT SPOILERS:)

As of the second and final season, Lord Dominator, a ruthless conqueror bent on destroying the galaxy, takes over the main antagonist role. Unlike Hater, she outright seeks to destroy planets in an unstoppable march that she revels in. Dominator’s personal lack of friends may have more than a little to do with her ambitions, but she’s also quite powerful herself and genuinely enjoys being evil, so there’s that.

(END SPOILERS)

Truthfully, the entire show’s cast is exaggerated and funny in their traits, but the DNA of classic Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera run deep through its veins, and their hijinks correspond to that sort of humor, which is well-written. For this style of show, it’s very good. 3.75/5 points.

 

 
Story quality: Episodic, with continuity. Wander at its core has the DNA of classic Western cartoons in its storytelling, and each episode is naturally its own adventure. However, there is continuity in the show; past people and place reappear, adventures are referenced that already happened, and character development, along with a loosely long-term narrative exists. There’s no arcs, so to speak, but it’s a lot of fun to watch; it’s a show that’s smart without ever taking itself too seriously, knowing its own tropes. Indeed, the conclusion of the show is both a fitting end to the wacky people and places of the show while still giving a sense that the adventure never ends… 4/5 points.

 

 
Themes: There’s a lot of nice themes wedged into episodes about friendship, love, and ultimately many other valuable life lessons. It’s a very sweet show that finely balances these ideas on its trademark humor and zaniness. However, if you’re looking for a very densely packed thematic show, you’re in the wrong place. 3.25/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: “Fun” is the best descriptor to describe Wander. Smart, classic, and something all its own, it’s a cool ride. It also uses references and tropes quite well. 5/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 20.5/25 (82%). Craig McCracken’s show is a entertaining blend of slapstick humor, frantic storytelling, and hints of past efforts such as Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. It is one of the better efforts at the episodic format in recent years, and is worth a watch. (You’ll also find yourself whistling that theme song all day long!)


Like what you see? Have something to say about Wander Over Yonder? Leave a comment!

Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

A magical experience that defies stereotypes.

The Lowdown:

Show: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (often shortened to PMMM or just Madoka)

Studio(s)/years aired: Shaft/Aniplex, 2011

AniB’s thoughts: Well, well, well… some of you have patiently waited for this review for a while (shout-out to S.G.), and frankly, it’s a pleasure to have written it. Simply put, Madoka is a terrific show, defying the cringy stereotypes of the magical girl genre while delivering an highly favorable impact in only 12 episodes.

To be honest, it was hard to know what one should expect given that it was a blind watch and the genre has never been my usual choice to watch in animation, but experience took over and all the aspects that exists in any good to great animated show- gripping characters, stellar animation quality, and a very interesting story with progression- were all in place, along with some very thought-provoking thematic elements that created an unexpected depth in the storytelling.

It’s also worth adding that it was very pleasing to see a dearth of fanservice in this type of show. The genre lends itself to the stereotype, but instead, the show focused its efforts on its core experience that it delivered- and at the heart of it are some terrific characters. Madoka’s a likable, personable main character, but it is Homura- the mysterious magical girl with the power of time manipulation, and the strange creature known as Kyubey that truly steal the show. Both have very interesting motivations that drive them, and Homura in particular received an outstanding character arc.

It’s evident that Madoka Magica is the magical girl show for people who don’t normally watch these types of shows, simply because it is a great piece of work. It’s true the cast is mostly cute girls, but the themes they grapple with and the decisions they find themselves making in this world are all too real, with a gravity and dramatic tension that is nicely balanced. Based on my viewing, it’s safe to say Madoka is definitely one of the better anime from the East this decade and probably the best of its kind out there.

Now, onto grading:


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, hand drawn but computer-shaded. Madoka pops off the screen, as good anime all tend to do- but its visuals also helps sell the complex and rich narrative it provides as well, along with its intriguing cast and thought-proving themes. Action sequences in particular are unique, using several different styles to indicate the chaos of witches in the show as an example. The animation does a wonderful job drawing the viewer into a compelling world. 5/5 points.

 

Characterization: The show focuses on the titular lead character, Madoka Kaname, and her role to play in the mysterious dealings of Kyubey, a strange alien being responsible for the creation of magical girls. Appearing as a small white, cat-like creature with red eyes and long ears adorned with hoop rings, Kyubey’s appearance and voice only add to the strangeness of this creature…and whose ulterior motives become more evident with the passage of time.

 

Madoka herself is a kind young junior-high girl who despite her musings about magical girls and their activities, is reluctant to become one due to the consequences of how Kyubey creates them- namely through a special, eternally binding contract. However, she is thrust inevitably into the middle of a looming crisis involving a super-powerful witch’s arrival, and the cruel consequences for all parties involved in this mysterious world.

 

Her best friend from school, Sayaka Miki, also finds herself intimately intertwined in the web of intrigue, but is is lured in by the promise of a unbounded wish as part of the magical girl contract with Kyubey. She cares deeply for a friend who suffered a crippling hand injury in an accident, and so Sayaka’s sense of justice is both pure and idealistic.

 

However, the most mysterious magical girl is Homura Akemi, a seemingly cold individual uninterested in the usual rules of being one, and with the highly unusual ability to manipulate time. What her purpose and goals are are shrouded in mystery through the show, but slowly reveal themselves.

There are other magical girls as well, one of which is a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t seen this show, but the other is Mami Tomoe- who introduces both Madoka and Sayaka to the duties and responsibilities of the role, should they accept Kyubey’s contract.

Madoka is definitely a show that excels with its small cast and does a terrific job developing them in the concise, tight narrative that exists. It’s a treat to watch the development that takes place, and how well the show ties its cast into the overarching plot seamlessly. 4.75/5 points.

 

Story quality: Overarching plotline. Madoka’s story is quite difficult to boil down into a few words, let alone without spoilers, but overall, it’s a tale about the choices people make and their implications, just what exactly does it mean when one says “the greater good”, and the sacrifice involved with it, and a tale about true friendship and even love (in a non-romantic sort of way). It’s a terrific character-driven plot that has intrigue, action, and is hardly what you’d think a show featuring “magical girls” would look and feel like, especially given the narrative weight. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: Like the story, there is much to unpack in the thematic elements of this show. The consequences of all choices, and the idea that there is no such thing as a “free wish” is key, as is the idea that “the decisions you make seal your fate.” Also key is the idea of “what is selflessness vs unselfishness?” and “What is the cost of doing something that can be portrayed as altruistic? What does sacrifice truly mean?” Much is asked in this show, and these answers are given in surprisingly thorough detail for a 13 episode anime. 4.5/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: In an anime where the temptation is to have loads of fanservice, this really isn’t an issue here at all, and the show gains much for it. Tightly choreographed, briskly paced with action and dramatic tension throughout, it’s a gripping little watch. 5/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 23.75/25 (95%). A case of where expectation pleasantly did not meet reality, Madoka Magica is a heavily thought-provoking watch with a lot more weight to its narrative and cast than one would officially be led to believe. It’s worth a look, even for those not into the magical girl genre as an all-around excellent show.


Like what you see? Enjoy Madoka? Leave a comment!