Category Archives: Other Animation

“Lava”: A Great Premise with Questionable Production

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

First off, I just want to say thanks again to Jenna from Tricoast Studios and Rock Salt Releasing for allowing me to see the film early. All of the opinions here are my own. However, they did allow me to view the film for free, so feel free to take that into account while reading this review. Without further ado, here are my thoughts:

huh…That was certainly an adult animated film based on the comic book “Lava” by Salvador Sanz.

I was feel a bit of hesitation in reviewing animated indie films like this, especially ones where the original production is in another language. Because I barely watch movies to begin with, and especially do not watch comic book adaptations that often, my opinions always feel a bit out of place. There was definitely a lot of stuff that went completely over my head due to not being familiar at all with the source material. However, even with that being the case, I would say I still mostly enjoyed the movie.

For those not familiar, which will probably be most reading this, “Lava” is an animated comedy film directed by Ayar Blasco about a group of Tattoo artist friends who one day get together to watch one of their favorite shows only jointly experience the end of the world. Giant cats, a man-eating snake, and an alien group come to take over the world, but will they be able to fight back? You’ll just have to watch and see.

Its pretty obvious within the first few minutes of the movie that the English version of the movie was kind of an after thought. I mean, that’s totally fine, not everything has to be catered to an English speaking audience, but the quality of the English release definitely suffers as a result. The best performance undoubtedly came from Janeane Garofalo, who voices the main character Deborah, a woman whose life appears to be in crisis even before this end of the world scenario, as the film follows its opening scene with Deborah making it home only to be confronted about her souring romantic life by her roommate.

Another problem that arises is that, with the movie having been made primarily for the Spanish language production, the lip-syncing for the English voice-over looks pretty bad, to the point of being almost distracting in certain scenes. Again, for some reason, Deborah’s lines appear to be synced the best, while the rest of the cast just looks really off. The lackluster lip-syncing also creates a lot of friction in the delivery of the jokes. There were a lot of scenes where it was extremely apparent that the joke was very much intended to be understood in Spanish, and that the English translation was just kind of ok.


It may sound like I didn’t like anything about the movie, but that is definitely not true. For starters, I have always found end of the world premises to be really interesting. Whether it be other comedies like Seth Rogen’s “End of the World” or more serious takes like “The Walking Dead,” the idea of what do when society as we know it collapses beneath our feet is gripping because of how many different ideas there are on the subject.

There is also a kind of counter-culture narrative here which I can definitely appreciate. Deborah, being a tattoo artist, is considered a chosen one by these new alien invaders, because of the powerful art which she can supposedly bring to life. Even if it is just a comedy film, I do think a lot of the meaning of the main narrative is also lost in cultural translations, because tattoos often have very different associations depending on where one is. In the U.S., a lot of people view tattoos as a form of body modification that, in many conservative sects of western religions is considered heretical. In Japan, tattoos are still mostly associated with the Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia, and thus it is frowned upon to show them in public, to the point where many Onsen (public bath houses) ban people with tattoos.

The concept of tattoo artists being heroes of the world is really cool in that way, as they both figuratively and literally fight against people’s preconceptions of what it means to be an artist.

The animation for the film also seems to exist in that sort of weird grey zone of being purposefully rough in places but extremely expressive in others. For example, there is a scene right after she leaves her ex’s tattoo place where she is walking down the sidewalk only for her character model to get smaller as she moves away from the camera. At first I thought this was just bad, but the use of this technique to emphasize how small she feels in her inability to control the direction of her life, both due to the world ending but also because of her relationship is a really nice touch.

While I can not say “Lava” is my favorite tri-coast release I have seen so far, as that honor probably belongs to “Violence Voyager,” it definitely has a lot of good elements. However, I do think there were just too many things that did not work for me to call the film truly great. Still, if you are interesting in checking it out, the film will be releasing worldwide tomorrow, March 15th, on Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, Google Play, DirecTV, AT&T, Vimeo on Demand, FANDANGO in both English & Spanish. I would highly recommend trying it in Spanish with subtitles if you can, as I think that version might solve a lot of the problems I had with it.

If you do end up seeing the film after reading this, be sure to come back and leave a comments letting me know your thoughts.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!


“Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” is a truly Wonderful Experience

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

The end of “Steven Universe” and “Voltron: Legendary Defenders” left a pretty big whole in my appetite for cartoons, not because they were bad, but rather because I had been with those shows for such a long time that it felt like I would never have that same sort of connection with a show again. Whether or not this is a product of an unhealthy obsession with the series I watch has been a topic of internal debate for some time, but in the meanwhile I decided to get some skin back in the game after a friend recommended “Kipo” to me. Even after just the first few episodes, the series already has me hooked, and boy do I want to talk about it.

First of all, the characters in this show are absolutely delightful. Each of their personalities shines through the moment they appear on screen. Kipo, for example, even in just the first five minutes of the show, is established to be sheltered from the world above, having to adjust to the sunlight as soon as she makes it above ground. Her bubbly personality also comes through in the way that she explores a pretty much unknown world with zero reservations.

Wolf, on the other hand, is very reserved, at least at the start, and only focuses on finding Kipo’s home. She has seen the dangers of this new era, and thus takes a more cautious approach to living on the surface. She also wears the skin of a wolf on her back, symbolic of her backstory, which at this point has only been hinted at, and of her lone wolf attitude.

Benson just kind of…what’s the word…vibes? He, along with his bug friend Dave end their travels alone in order to assist Kipo, and act more as the brains of the operation. His eclectic music taste also occasionally joins them along the way, and adds a little bit more flavor to the soundtrack and their overall journey.


Speaking of music, the show’s musical numbers have all been superb so far. They really lean into the weirdness of the show, sometimes even moreso than “Steven Universe” and are all the better for it. My favorite thus far is probably “Yumyan Hammerpaw,” named after the megamute of the same name, and which comes across more like an epic ballad than a number written for a kids shows. From the instrumentation to the chorus, it all comes together perfectly.

However, the softer cuts, like “What We Have is You” also felt particularly well crafted. It is clear that, even just from the few flashbacks that have been given so far, Kipo’s relationship with her dad is something she cherishes greatly, and so this number really highlights that connection.

Most of that, of course, would not be possible without epic voice work of those like Karen Fukuhara and Sterling K Brown. Not only do the two of them have excellent singing voices, truly breathing life into the song, but their voice acting in general also helps establish their relationship. That goes for the rest of the cast too, as nearly every voice actor leans into their role in a way that feels genuine and engaged with the role, and despite how odd it is, even for cartoon standards.

The one major gripe that I have with the show thus far is the character designs, as often times I think their designs, as well as the facial expressions that results from them, can be misleading as to the actual feelings. One example that stuck in my mind was during the episode “Ratland,” when Benson and Kipo are riding in a boat together. At one point, Benson’s eyes get a more anime, deadpan aesthetic, and it ruins the more romantic atmosphere the show was trying to set up between the characters. On top of that, their eyes often morph into weird shapes, and the inconsistency can be very off-putting.

Overall, I find myself very excited to diver further into the show, and despite the lackluster character designs at certain points, it still has more than enough great elements, from the characters to the voice acting and music, to keep me invested for the foreseeable future.

Have you seen “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts?” How do you feel about the show (no spoilers please)? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

The Steven Universe Pilot Episode is…Strange

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Its been a while since I’ve watched anything “Steven Universe” related, and considering the fact that school has kept me from being able to do the longer, more in-depth posts that I would eventually like to return to, I figured now would be a good time to return to the series. Today, I decided to check out the only episode of the series that I never got a chance to experience: its pilot.

The story of the pilot follows Steven and the Crystal Gems after the Gems get back from a mission, bringing home a mysterious item. Despite Steven begging the Gems to let him come on one of their missions, even singing the now widely known main theme of the show, “We are the Crystal Gems,” they tell him that he is too young and that it would be dangerous. Amethyst then gives Steven some money and the mysterious item to go buy donuts with. Steven goes to buy the donuts only to realize that the mysterious item he was given allowed him to travel back in time and make comebacks to lars, at which point an Alien comes to retrieve the item. As the alien defeats both the gems and Steven, he must use the device to go back in time and start the fight over, which ends up saving them all.

Released over seven years ago today in March 2013, It is clear that the pilot has a lot of elements that carried over to the early portions of the series. For starters, Steven’s design, as well as the general design of Beach City, seemed to have been decided on relatively early, as only a few minor changes Aesthetically seem to have been made between the pilot and the first season proper. It is also surprising to see that Lars and Saddie were both originally part of the picture as characters. However, considering how much they contribute in the early seasons of the show, and even the later ones, it makes sense.


There are also a lot of dramatic changes. Mainly, the Crystal Gems themselves. The character designs of Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl all look much more mature and realistic than their season one counterparts, almost gritty in their realism. This change also is not particularly surprising, as given the events of the series even in just the first season, it would make sense why they might tone down the realism in the animation.

Another very notable change seems to come in the brightness of the animation. Whereas Steven Universe’s first episode proper establishes the series bouncy and bright color scheme, the pilot appears noticeably darker, highlighted mainly by the orange hew of the sunset and the inside of their house, again reflecting a larger sense of realism that disappeared past the pilot.

The interior design of the beach house also changed a lot to make it feel bigger. In the pilot, the kitchen, couch, and teleportation device are all relatively close, and their appears to be no upstairs, where Steven’s room is located. On top of that, the back wall and the door to the Gem’s rooms look noticeably more ancient, reflecting more the age of the gems themselves rather than the modern look of beach city.

Overall, while the pilot was an enjoyable watch, it felt more like something straight out of the 90’s than anything related to the Steven Universe of today. Its heightened realism, though interesting, makes it a bit harder to watch when one has already seen all of the series proper. If you are a fan of the series and are curious about its origins, then check it out, otherwise its nothing worth seeking out.

Are there any other cartoon pilots I should check out? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

“Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture” is the Worst Film I Have Ever Seen. You Should Still Watch it.

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Me watching this movie:

First off, I would just like to thank Tricoast Studios and Rock Salt Releasing from the onset for the chance to watch and review this movie. Any negative opinions I have about the film are no reflection upon them, as they just allowed me to watch the film for free. With that being said, man is this movie absolute trash.

For those unaware, which is probably most reading this, “Dollhouse” is a film which focuses on the fictional life of Junie Spoons, a child actor turned over-sexualized teen pop star and the ways that society silences her identity while profiting off it at the same time, especially when it comes to the music industry. The film presents the perspectives of others who were close to Junie during her rise to stardom, including her mom, former friend, a Junie Spoons “expert,” along with a few others. The film ends at the end of her career, where she goes completely insane from the stress of her life.


Junie Spoons

Initially, I went into the film with some pretty generous expectations. Surely this would be a good dissection of the ways in which women are culturally ignored about issues pertaining to women, right? Well, it was, at least for the first half.

The first half of the movie shows Junie’s come up as a Hollywood starlit. Even from the age of three Junie is depicted as having strings attached to her, showing how she is both literally controlled by her mom, but also figuratively held captive by both her mom and society as a whole. Junie’s first relationship is also arranged for her by a PR team, and when her first boyfriend Zachary Wilderness rapes her and releases the footage online, he is held to zero account for his action, meanwhile Junie is treated as a slut for engaging in sexual activity before marriage.

Not only is Junie treated like an object to be controlled, she also has virtually no control over what she says publicly. In all of her interviews as a kid, she is given a script by her PR team where she mostly appeals to god as a way of getting out of public scandal. A lot of this is meant to closely mirror the real life experiences of Brittany Spears and Lindsey Lohan, and it arguably does so to pretty good effect.

However, the film takes a pretty weird leap in logic when it addresses the subject of transgender people. During the film’s latter half, a man named Larry, who claims to be Junie Spoons biggest fan, gets surgery in order to look like her, and then essentially takes over her identity, with people referring to her as “trans Junie Spoons.” There is even a line that implies that people let trans Junie Spoons do what she wants so they don’t get taken to court.

It is at this point where the film loses a lot of credibility in its messaging. While the female experience in America has certainly been filled with hardship, discrimination, and outright erasure, the idea that a group of people who have had zero political and cultural power within the U.S. until very, very recently are somehow equally to blame for those same hardships is absolutely ridiculous on its surface. Furthermore, the idea that trans women are just men who want to be women, and thus can never really understand what it means to be a women is equally ridiculous, for the simple reason that most trans women are living that experience every day, are oftentimes more discriminated against because of it.

Writer Connor Lockie probably explained it best in his review of the film where he said “Junie’s story aims to highlight the way young women are stripped of their personhood in order to please the ruling forces of the patriarchy, but ironically commits an eradication of trans subjectivity from American independent cinema.”

Still, even if the film’s grotesque ideas about transgender people were not present, their would not be much worth salvaging. For starters, director Nicole Brending’s admittedly forward thinking ideas about women in Hollywood have already been illustrated to much greater affect in other places, without the extra layers of bigotry.

The puppets used for the film’s characters are also incredibly off-putting. Most of the characters are incredibly unattractive to look at, and the ones that are just look like boring barbie-doll figures.


Arguably the most egregious decision made is to hide all of these ideas behind the shield of “comedy.” It has become a tactic of many who want to engage in political dialogue but not be criticized for bad ideas to just simply call those bad ideas a joke. Now, it would be one thing if the film was actually funny, because at least then there would be some reasoning behind that decision. Unfortunately, it is just not. Most of the jokes fall incredibly flat, and this coming from someone who finds things way funnier at one in the morning and tired, which is exactly when I watched the film.

Still, despite all of the bad things about the film, I would still encourage those who care about issues like these to watch the film for one simple reason: understanding.

What makes bigoted arguments like the ones made in “Dollhouse” concerning are not that they are good, quite the opposite actually. It is that most people do not have the understanding to explain why the arguments are bad, and I think watching the film might actually give perspective on where TERFs are coming from when they make their arguments against transgender people. I would also recommend listening to this podcast Nicole Brending did with Rogin Kim, where she explains a lot of her creative decisions behind the movie, as well as addresses the initial backlash she got when the film released.

Overall, “Dollhouse” was a terrible movie experience. Its good ideas are totally soured by its bad ones, and its attempts to be funny. However, if you are interested in women’s issues and want to get a broader understanding of the different ideological stances within that space, this is a decent place to start, so check it out.

Have you all seen “Dollhouse?” Have a different opinion? Feel free to share it in the comments. If you all have not seen it and do want to watch it, it will be available on the following platforms on August 11th:

  • Amazon
  • InDemand
  • FlixFling
  • Fandango
  • Vudu
  • Vimeo on Demand

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

The Newest Age of Steven Universe: Future

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In the weeks following the “Steven Universe’s” four part conclusion to season five titled “Change Your Mind,” there was a good amount of speculation about what the future of the show would look like, given that it seemed like an almost perfect ending. Fans of the series got their answer late last year with the release of “Steven Universe: The Movie,” a film set two years after the event of season five.

After what most considered an incredible movie, many thought that “Steven Universe: The Movie” would be the last of it. As it turned out, they were wrong again. In December of 2019, “Steven Universe’s” Sixth, and likely final, season began airing, appropriately titled “Steven Universe Future,” given that it is also set two years after the events of the last season.

It focuses on Steven’s life after ending the reign of the diamonds, where gems are free to live there life as they choose. The first ten episodes thus far have followed Steven’s endeavors with Little Home-world, a school designed to reorient gems towards being able to live alongside humans. Steven leads the organization in hopes of helping gems learn to be themselves.

Up until season six, “Steven Universe” had already been known for tackling darker topics, such as abuse, war, imperialism, etc., and did so in a way that showed an understanding and appreciation for those going through them. Each arc of the series had added either a new character or a new dimension to the overall story of Steven Universe, while also building on its core themes of love and acceptance, even when it did not necessarily make the most sense plot wise, such as during the arc with Jasper and Lapis.


“Future” leaves a lot of that behind in favor of focusing more on Steven, at least more than previous seasons had already. Specifically, season six not only focuses on his time running Little Home-world, but his character and psyche after saving the universe.

As it turns out, Steven has had a lot rougher of a time emotionally after the confronting the diamonds than before. During the last five seasons, Steven always had a purpose, that being to help the Crystal Gems and to find out more about his mom and her relationship to the diamonds and the war on earth. Each episode, and consequently each new adventure was a step towards that goal.

Now, in season six, Steven has to confront the reality of changing times. Connie, Steven’s best friend and who only appeared briefly in “Steven Universe: The Movie,” has so far not made an appearance. Meanwhile, his other to friends, Lars and Sadie have started to move on with their lives as well. Sadie has quit her band so that she can be together with her new partner Shep, and Lars has quit his position at his bakery in order to travel back out into space with his gem crew, as shown in the episode “Little Graduation.”

Meanwhile, scars from his mothers past are still rearing their head. In the episode “Volleyball,” the pearl that served under white diamond wants to fix her scar. However, when Steven takes her to get the scar fixed, it is revealed that the scar on her face is not a crack in her gem, but rather an internalized pain from when Pink Diamond hurt her physically.

All of this has left Steven a bit out of wack, to say the least, as shown in the last episode to come out as of the writing of this post “Prickly Pair,” which shows Steven after his decision to step down from Little Home-world and focus on himself. He decides to take up gardening, but while doing so accidentally brings one of his cactus’s to life. Soon the cactus is able to speak, and learns from Steven. However, the cactus has also heard Steven talk about his true feelings about his situation, and how he thinks the gems have been annoying as of late. The cactus then eventually goes wild, and repeats all of the things Steven told it.

And with that the show was left on Hiatus, with more episodes likely coming later on this year to finish out the series. The turmoil present in “Future” for Steven has already led to some pretty dark places, even without the threat of another gem war. In the first ten episodes alone the show has had stories about losing friends, getting over the trauma of abusive relationships, and finding purpose after losing it.

It is unclear what the exactly is going to happen next, whether Steven and Connie will reunite at all, what his relationship with the gems will look like after “Prickly Pair,” or even what Steven plans do next.

All that can be said for sure is that “Steven Universe Future” is an incredible continuation for the series. More than anything, though, it is an unique look at life for Steven after the saving the Universe, and it is likely that the series will continue to build in a strong direction during its next round of episodes.

What do you guys think of Steven Universe Future? Let me know in the comments below?

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Finding Santa: A Pretty Wholesome Christmas Tale

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Hello again everyone, hope you all are doing well. For today’s post, I have something special for you all. The wonderful people over at Tricoast gave me another movie to review, this one a bit more holiday themed.

The movie I will be reviewing today is called Finding Santa. Since I am a little behind, by the time this review is out, the movie will already be out for streaming on the following services:

  • Amazon
  • ITunes
  • Google Play

Along with any others. Also, for those who prefer physical copies of their media, the film is also already available on DVD. Minor spoiler warning as well for the review. With that being said, here are my thoughts.

Christmas, arguably the most celebrated holiday today, is an important part of many people’s year. In fact, it has become so important that many are debating online, at least in the United States, about whether or not its OK to put up their trees before Thanksgiving. It is also incredibly important to the story of Finding Santa, a 2016 film directed by Jacob Ley.

The story of Finding Santa revolves around eight-year-old Julius, an orphan living at Bellhaven who loves Christmas more than anyone else.  However, due to the bullying and lying of two other orphanage boys Gregory and Squeak, Julius stops believing in Christmas. However, a strange encounter with a voice inside a box full of Christmas toys leads Julius on an adventure to save both Santa and Christmas by taking down Krampus.

The story of Finding Santa is not all that new as it relates to other holiday films. At its most basic, it is a film about a boy losing faith in those around him, and as such loses faith in Christmas. There is a very similar plot line in the second Home Alone movie, where Kevin is roaming around New York, lost and confused and almost loses faith in Christmas as a result. Julius is pretty similar to Kevin in this regard, but is maybe a bit better written. Still as far as main characters go, he is pretty hard to root against, given the fact that he is growing up in an orphanage where Christmas is one of the only things he can look forward to.

The other two major characters in the movie are Gregory and Squeak, the two bullies who make Julius hate Christmas. The reason they do so is because ever since Julius showed up as a kid, Alfred, their cartaker, had been giving Julius a lot of attention. Gregory and Squeak are also not too particularly interesting as characters, but in this case they do not need to be, because their function in the story is simply to act as the catalyst to both the beginning an end of Julius’s journey.

Two other characters worth talking about are Sophina the angel and Herman the pig. Being two of the figures in Julius’s toy box, Sophina and Herman know who Julius is and help him when he gets arrives in the world inside the box. In fact, it is Sophina’s idea for Julius to act as the new Santa in order to save Christmas. Herman often serves as transportation for Julius, but he is still an enjoyable presence on screen nonetheless.


The story, while definitely not complex, layers in a lot of little things that would otherwise go unnoticed if more was going on. One example of this is the symbolism found in Alfred’s red Christmas ornament. At the beginning of the film, when he initially finds the Santa suit in Alfred’s closet, the Christmas ornament falls and breaks, losing a small piece. This is representative of the fact that in that moment, Julius’s belief in Christmas has been broken. The ornament then makes a reappearance much later on, when it is revealed that Santa is not actually dead, but rather that Krampus has trapped him inside of the broken ornament. Here we see Santa ready to just give up on Christmas. He too has a broken belief in Christmas holiday that he makes possible, and its both literally and figuratively trapped. At the end of the film, After everyone gets together around the tree, Julius hangs the ornament, showing that even though both he and the ornament were broken, they are still ready to move on.

The animation was pretty overall pretty good, and added a lot to the feel of the movie. It really felt like all of the movement in each was necessary, and added to each scene well. There were parts where it was somewhat obvious that they reused shots, but those moments were few and far between, and often justified in doing so. There were also parts where the clay like texture of the animation made the characters or visuals look a bit stiff as well, and those parts did take a way a bit from the enjoyment.

Speaking of stiff, the voice acting could have been better. A lot of the lines were delivered extremely awkwardly, and it also kind of took me out of the atmosphere the film was trying to create. Now, its hard to complain too much about this, considering it is a Danish film, and that from what I can tell, a lot of the voice actors probably learned English as a second language.

Overall, I think my feelings about Finding Santa are similar to my feelings about Violence Voyager, mainly that while there a lot of problems with the film, it still adds up to be an enjoyable experience.

I mentioned it at the beginning of the post, but if you guys have any interest in seeing Finding Santa, it is available now both on DVD and on streaming. If you have seen it, how do you feel about it? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

It’s Hard Not to Feel Like Spinel Sometimes

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Steven Universe has long been known for its positive, uplifting messages about identify, respect, and loving others, and this year Steven Universe’s creator Rebecca Sugar continued that tradition with the newest edition to the franchise, Steven Universe: the Movie.

Compared to the show, the movie is similar in style in presentation but is definitely bigger in feel. In fact, going back to its musical roots, the movie has a soundtrack that nearly rivals the rest of the show in terms of volume, with loads of wonderful individual songs such as “True Kind of Love” and “Happily Ever After.”

The film’s story takes place two years after the season five finale, in which Steven is able to convince White Diamond that the very structure of gem society, along with her view of other gems, is fundamentally wrong, and that other gems should be seen as equals, rather than lesser beings. In those two years since, Steven, along with the other crystals gems, have managed to make earth a safe-haven for gems of all kinds. However, this newfound happiness is short lived, as a blast from Rose’s past soon comes to haunt Steven, and turn his life upside down.

Enter Spinel, the character at the center of struggle in Steven Universe: The Movie. When she arrives on earth and meets the Crystal Gems, she vows her revenge on them by destroying planet earth with a strange looking device. The device actually contains a poison that Spinel injects into the earth, which will destroy all life on the planet in 48 hours. At first, no one is sure who she is or why she has come to earth in the first place. However, after Spinel reminisces over her past with Steven’s mom, Pearl quickly remembers who she is. Before Pearl can give Steven any information, Spinel hits all of them with a weapon that resets the gems and erases their memories. A quick battle between Spinel and Steven leaves Spinel hit with her own scythe-like, memory-erasing weapon.

The rest of the film follows Steven’s struggle to restore the memory of not only her friends, but also Spinel, so that he can try and convince her not to follow through with her plan of destroying the earth. At first, Spinel’s original motivation seemed inexplicable. Why would she want to badly to destroy earth and get some sort of illusory revenge on Rose? By the end of the film’s second half it all becomes clear. In what is arguably the most popular song to come out of the movie, “Drift Away,” Spinel explains to Steven how she used to be Rose’s servant/playmate. However, after finally receiving her own colony on earth from the other diamonds, she tricks Spinel into staying on gem homeworld, never going back to check on her, never considering her feelings in the slightest.


It is at this moment that Spinel’s feelings become much more justified. She spent literal thousands of years of her life standing around, waiting for Rose to return, wondering “am I doing this right?” All of that for someone who never really cared about her in the first place. Probably one of the most telling scenes is the one immediately following “Drift Away,” in which it looks as though Steven wants to defend his mom, but then quickly realizes that there is not excusing what she did.

Despite her character design being more reminiscent of 1930’s, what her story in Steven Universe represents is a problem that is still very much a modern one. Too often the trust that people put into others is betrayed, and it leaves those who have been wronged with feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. This type of harm can come in many forms, from simple gaslighting on one end, to rape at the other extreme.

Another type of this betrayal of trust can come in the form of revenge porn, where a significant other releases explicit content of a person without their consent, an issue that has only been further highlighted with the recent high profile story of former U.S. Representative Katie Hill.

However, this kind of betrayal of trust does not even have to be of an extreme nature. In-fact, sometimes it can be as simple as finding out that people who seemed to be trustworthy friends turned out to be nothing more than liars.

The reason Spinel’s arc felt so powerful is because at the core of her story is that betrayal of trust. She lost who she thought was her only friend, and because of that felt like there was no way she could trust anyone again. At the end of her climactic battle with Steven, instead of finishing him off, she breaks down into tears, and begins to wonder what the point of it all is.

Well, the point is this: those who are the victims, those who have gone through abusive relationships, and those whose trust has been betrayed should not be the ones feeling bad. Yet, even as I write these words, I am under no illusions about what the reality of the situation is. The Spinels of the world will go on feeling like garbage. The same as always.

Have you guys seen Steven Universe: The Movie? What do you all think? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

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Violence Voyager, Horror, and Bold Artistic Style

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

So, a little while ago on Twitter I hinted at having a cool project in the works:

Now, after a little bit of a buffer period, and having the time to sit down and watch it, I can finally talk about Violence Voyager, a strange and yet incredibly interesting horror animation film.

For the sake of immediate transparency, I will say that someone from the studio handling the movie’s distribution, Tricoast, did allow me to watch the movie for free in order to review Violence Voyager, so take that as you will. The film will be available for streaming on October 21st on these platforms:

  • Amazon
  • DirecTV
  • FlixFling
  • Vimeo on Demand
  • Vudu
  • Fandango
  • AT&T

Also, minor spoiler warning, cause for this movie its is kind of hard to avoid.

With that being said, though, Let’s get into the review.

It is not often I come across a media entity that intrigues me immediately, but Violence Voyager managed to do just that. At first, It was kind of hard to believe it was even real. However, as I did more research on the film I found out that it is plenty real, and it is a movie much more unique than most. Its approach to horror as well as storytelling more broadly is enough to get anyone interested, even from just the trailer.

The movie focuses Robert, aka “Bobby,” a boy from America who moves to a small village in Japan, where he meets Akkun, the friend he plays with the most. One day, the boys decide to make a journey over the mountain to another nearby village where there friend Takaki goes to school. While making their journey the two come across a strange amusement park in the woods, called Violence Voyager, and it is here where they learn that it might have been better to stay home, as soon they become trapped inside, while being hunted down by a strange alien.

It would frankly be an incomplete review without talking about the movie’s fascinating animation style. Known as “Geki-mation,” the film blends 2-D paper drawings and cutouts with 3-D special effects. Director and Writer Ujicha has employed the style before, most notably in his 2013 film The Burning Buddha Man. While the 2-D drawings encompass most of the film’s characters and backgrounds, the 3-D affects range from simple liquids representing blood and throw-up to actual fireworks being used to for explosions. The result is a film with a much more amateurish feel, but also a more uneasy one, which greatly amplifies the movie’s horror elements.

It is often hard to judge children as characters in media, because kids usually have different ranges of emotions compared to their adult counterparts, but despite not being particularly interesting main characters, Bobby and Akkun also were not bad either. In fact, as far as main characters in horror go, Bobby is actually quite unique, in that he does not succumb the madness of the situation like many other characters do, and as such he provides a more sober view of what most would consider a terrifying situation.

Akkun on the other hand, is a bit more steriotypical. He mainly serves as the generic worrywart who still ends up dying anyway. More importantly, though, he serves as an introduction to old-man Lucky Monkey, a character who becomes much more important in the later half of the film. Toike, the man who greets the two boys at the entrance of Violence Voyager, becomes the movie’s main antagonist, and is a pretty good one at that. While initially coming off as one-dimensional and obvious, he grows to be a much more relatable and compelling character later on, even despite his grotesque actions. Takashi, the alien who abducts the boys, also becomes an important part of the film’s plot. The rest of Violence Voyager’s cast is either not as important, not on screen long enough, or too important to talk about without more spoilers.

One of the places where I think the film does slip-up a bit is in its voice acting. For reference, I watched the show in its English dub, and so I cannot comment on the Japanese voice acting with much confidence. Something that was present across the entire movie was voice actors talking over each other even when the subject matter of the scene did not necessitate it. Now, it could be that this was a purposeful, stylistic choice that plays into its more amateur feel, but it still felt largely unnecessary.

Another part of the voice acting that I think potentially hurt the film was the delivery of a lot of lines. A good example of this comes in Derek Petropolis, the voice of Bobby’s father, who, despite his character being in many different situations which would facilitate different tones of delivery, continued to speak in a more monotone voice. This came through in many, if not all, of the characters in Violence Voyager. Again, it is hard to tell if this was a purposeful stylistic choice, or just a mistake they just did not feel like fixing.

This is not to say the talent of the voice actors did not shine at all though, because when they did do a good job, it was enjoyable. It was also delightful to hear a familiar voice in the form of Xanthe Huynh, whose has voiced characters from a variety of different anime and video game franchises.

Despite its strange style, the horror elements of the movie do well in creating a scary atmosphere, and do so without the reliance on jump scares that many horror franchises, movie, anime or otherwise, have often come to lean on consistently. I mentioned before that the mix of live action effects with 2-D animation enhanced the horror elements a lot, and I meant it. There were many moments where a streak of blood or vomit across the page induced a pretty visceral reaction, whether intentional or not.

All in All, despite a few minor quibbles I have with how certain elements of the production played out, I found this to be an incredibly entertaining film. While it is not something that looks appealing to everyone at first glance, and certainly should not be watched by kids, its unique brand of animation and horror is enough to make it a great film if you’re in mood to watch something much different than the norm.

If you all are reading this after the film has been released, then what did you all think? Let me know in the comments below. I know Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews also talked about the film on his blog, so I’ll leave a link to his post as well.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

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If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

The Most Interesting Modern Cartoons and Why They Matter

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

The world of Anime is a vast and interesting one, filled with many unique genres and stories to tell, but anime isn’t the only place where animation is excelling. Taking a look across the ocean, many of America’s modern animation has similarly took a turn for the better. While the many of the cartoons of the past have opted to stay sporadic and more episodically focused, The cartoons of now have decided to take a more narrative approach. Here are some of the most interesting modern cartoons.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

Following in the footsteps of its universally loved predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Korra is informed by many of the same things, with a much different setting.

The story follows Korra, who is the next avatar after Aang, and who lives 100 years in the future. After it is discovered that Korra is the next avatar, she begins her training and eventually moves to Republic City, the world’s bastion of advancement and technology. At first, she struggles adjusting to city life, but after meeting Mako and Bolin, she manages to find her way around.

A lot of what Korra deals with, at least in the first season, is the idea that the world has advanced, and the need for the avatar is waning. This, along with the struggle between her freedom and her responsibility, leads to a bit of an identity crisis. The second season, meanwhile, deals more with the struggle between technology and nature, and the two contrasting lifestyles those things entail. Its a bit harder to describe the last two seasons in any detail without going into spoilers, but suffice it to say that both of the last two seasons of Korra are also incredible.

What Makes Legend of Korra such an amazing predecessor to the original avatar is the way it adapts to its new characters and environment to tell a unique and original story. Korra is a noticeably different character than Aang. Much like Toph, Korra isn’t afraid of conflict, and starts out aggressive to the point of being detrimental. In a world where technology is quickly outpacing the feats of benders, her role as a peacemaker, not just between nations, but between benders and non-benders, and between spirits and humans, becomes even more important.

There is also the struggle of relationships. Between Mako and Bolin, and later Asami, her relationships often change dramatically, with friendships becoming romances, romances becoming friendships, and friendships becoming strained. All of this happens while she is trying to perform her duties as avatar.


Steven Universe

Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe, while not always as narratively focused as a show like The Legend of Korra, still brings a lot to the table in terms of the story it does tell.

Steven Universe is about, well, Steven Universe, a boy who is half gem and half human, and who is often raised by Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst, creatures known as gems who original came from Gem Home-world, but ended up living on earth after defending it from invasion. Together, Steven and the gems go on adventures.

While the first half of the season one of Steven Universe is marred with filler, the show quickly picks up after the show’s mid-season finale, in which the gems fight off Jasper and Peridot, who attempt to take the crystal gems back to home-world. After that, the show largely becomes about Steven’s identity, both as person and as a crystal gem. Steven also wants to know more about his mother Rose Quartz, but is continually brushed off by the other gems for large portions of the show, and is forced to look for answers on his own.

In connection with Steven’s questions about his identity, the show also explores a lot of elements of Sex and Gender. While the gems, except for Steven, are implied to be female, because they are gems, their exact gender is left ambiguous in the show.

Another example of this is a concept in the show known as fusion. If two gems with a strong emotional connection come together, the two can form a new gem out of their component parts. In addition, if the two gems somehow become disconnected while fuse, they will break apart into their original parts. As a metaphor for something more intimate, the show establishes through fusion that the only healthy relationship is one in which their are two willing participants who care about one another and want to be together. Later on in the show, Steven and his best friend Connie fuse together into a person they call Stevonnie after the two dance together.

The show also explores the idea of bigotry on a systemic level. In gem society, gems are divided into castes based on their identity. Pearls are a servant class, and Amethysts are a worker class, and any departure from this caste is shamed. The main reason for the war for earth, in fact, was Rose Quartz’s resentment of gem society.

However, the show becomes even more than that. Towards the beginning of the latest season, the show again transforms into a show not just about Steven’s identity, but rather about the expectations that precipitated the questions about his identity in the first place, and about the structure of gem society and what it would mean for that to change.

Star vs The Forces of Evil

Well, there is already one show on this list about friends from space, so why not two? Much like Steven Universe, while it may take a bit for its plot to get going, Star vs The Forces of Evil is a show with another great story.

The show follows Marco Diaz and Princess Star Butterfly after the two are united on earth. Star is sent away from her home planet Mewni in order to learn more about the world. Meanwhile, Marco is looking to just get through high school, but when Star comes into his life, things get a lot more exciting.

Star vs The Forces of Evil, now on its forth season, has been extremely story focused since the end of its first season, and despite some minor side plots that have thus far gone nowhere, the story’s cohesiveness has remained strong. What started as a comedy with magical elements thrown in has grown and matured significantly.

Staring with season two, the show has explored a lot of the history of the Butterfly family, including how Star’s signature magical powers work and where they originate from.

Along with a lot of world building and history of Mewni and the magic associated with it, the show also dives headlong into themes about racism and bigotry by telling the story of the monsters that live on Mewni. The Mewmans that live there are, at least at the beginning, extremely hostile to monsters, not allowing them to live in Mewman cities. But, after Star comes to know some of the monsters that Mewmans have demonized, she comes to the realization that things need to change. From about the middle of season two onward, this tension between Mewmans and Monsters becomes a central thread throughout the story.

This tension comes to a head in season four, where Star and Marco must deal with the fallout of Eclipsa, one of Star’s relatives who was frozen in ice after she ran away with a monster that spread destruction across Mewni, escapes and becomes queen after Star find out what really happened in her family’s past.


Why These Shows Matter

Aside from the aforementioned Avatar: The Last Airbender, there are not many western shows that get brought up when it comes to the conversation of good animated storytelling. However, I would argue that all three of these shows should be put up for discussion, for their brilliant stories.

However, what matters about these shows is not just how good they are. Arguably the most important element of these shows is the messages they send, specifically towards a younger audience. All of these shows, in one way or another, send the message that we should love and respect one another regardless of our differences, whether its Star through its message against racism, Steven Universe’s message of gender acceptance, and Korra’s more general message of peace and love.

What non-anime shows have you all been watching recently? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you would like to support The Aniwriter or are just feeling generous, consider donating on Ko-fi, or by using one of my afilliate links down below.

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If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!