Tag Archives: Amazon

The Observation Deck: The Legend of Vox Machina

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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So, I have a confession to make: I do not care for watching D&D games. Given how short my attention span already is, the prospect of spending three or more hours watching someone else’s games feels tedious. I could maybe make an exception if the people playing were enjoyable personalities who I already liked, but that is about it.

That being said, the series under review today, The Legend of Vox Machina, is one that feels unique in its conception. That is because the series was actually funded on Kickstarter, and is based on the first campaign of Critical Role, a continual D&D campaign done by a number of high profile voice actors including Matthew Mercer, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, and a few others. The show is currently on its third campaign, although Vox Machina only covers content from the first.

The story falls in line with the campaign itself, following a band of adventurers who are widely considered the worst in the land, as evidenced by their drunken behavior and their seemingly massive debt. The group catches a break when the king of Exandria tasks them with finding and defeating a mysterious beast which has been ravaging the kingdom’s countryside. From there, the adventure continually escalates into larger and larger proportions

D&D and Fantasy Storytelling

D&D is a game that, by its very nature, invites a lot of creativity. Now, I am sure many of the people reading this who have played have also had bad experiences. This could have been because of a bad DM who only wanted to play in a very specific way or because the campaign itself was disorganized or boring. It happens. Still, for every bad D&D story there is also probably a great one, where the universe felt real even as everyone was sitting around a table looking at each other irl.

The level of detail that emerged from a campaign like this speaks not only to Matthew Mercer’s talent as a campaign writer but also to the work of the other voice actors who managed to write such profoundly fun characters. Nothing about The Legend of Vox Machina would comes even remotely close to working if it were not for such a likeable cast and gorgeous fantasy setting.

Of course, the show does also maintain a lot of the freeflowing quirks that come from the dailogue of said campaigns. What I mean is that a lot of the series humor can be boiled down a lot of cursing and sex, often randomly inserted into conversations without much of a purpose other than to serve as a random punchline. Given that I am perpetually 12 years old in regards to my bar for comedic quality, this does not bother me as much, but it might not jive with others.

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Vocal Performances

Of course, the series also would not work as well if these characters were be handled by less capable actors. Luckily, though, that is not at all the case, as every member of the main cast does an incredible job at selling the authenticity of their in game personas. Additionally, the way the actors play off each other in the series feels less like a properly scripted show and more like stuff that got pulled directly from the campaign, though I cannot say that for sure given my lack of knowledge regarding Critical Role.

Everyone on the show had absolutely phenomenal performances, but some of my standouts include Ashley Johnson as Pike and Taliesin Jaffe as Percy. Pike definitely feels like the character to grab a beer with, although engaging in that kind of “sin,” funnily enough, does become a major plot point which felt fairly compelling despite how stale some of those plotlines in normal campaigns can often feel.

Percy’s character takes up a pretty significant chunk of the first season, and without spoiling too much, goes through a lot of development. Which, honestly, is great because Jaffe manages to strike a perfect balance of giving his character a distinct vocal presence without making him sound obnoxious. It is a little dissapointing knowing that Percy will be less of a focus in the next season.

While I would not say there is a bad vocal performance among the cast, the one that felt the least memorable was surpringly that of the main villain Sylas Briarwood, played by Matthew Mercer himself. Though his character was interesting, and vocally Mercer did well, it still felt the least unique of the main characters.

To Animate a Campaign

Honestly, the biggest question mark for me going into The Legend of Vox Machina was the animation. After all, the series managing to meet its goal on Kickstarter did not necessarily guarantee anything of quality. They did manage to get enough eyes on the project that Amazon Studios came in to help produce it, which was comforting given their already proven track record on shows like Invincible.

and yeah, the animation is absolutely incredible. All of the characters looked visually disntinct, except for some shared similarities in the designs of Vex and Vax (though this makes sense given their sibling relationship). The backgrounds, while not particularly inspired in a lot of cases, felt unique to the world, particularly in the latter half in the town of Whitestone. The big tree in the center of the city felt fairly distinct, albeit a little reminiscent of some earlier dragon quest games.

As far as action goes, this is probably some of the best animated action I have seen in quite a while. There is a unique fluidity in the movement and fighting styles of each character which feels inspired from shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. This makes sense, though, considering that Titmouse, another studio that worked on the series, was also responsible for large portions of The Last Airbender.

Conclusion

It could have been the case, very easily so, that this show turned out to be complete garbage which made fans who donated towards its sucess feel robbed. After all, in an age where a lot of people are making “content” it can be hard obtain a level of trust about a project’s quality. I am happy to say that we instead live in this timeline, one in which everyone involved is clearly passionate and focused on making in a good show, which is why it is one of my favorite animated series in recent memory.

91/100


Have you seen The Legend of Vox Machina? How do you feel about it? 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 ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thanks to our lovely patron Jenn for being amazing!

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

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Is Watching Anime Too Expensive?

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Welcome back to this series of re-uploaded columns from my work with my college newspaper. One of the topics I covered on my column was the cost of anime as a hobby. While there are certainly a lot of modern conveniences that make watching anime easier, for those who would rather not resort to illegal streaming, it can still be expensive. I hope you enjoy the read.


One of the most deceptively difficult questions to answer about anime over the last few years has actually been “where do I watch it?” Most people would reason that since media of all kinds has become significantly more accessible that anime would follow suit. While this is true generally speaking, much like any hobby that isn’t rock collecting, the dollars start to add up after a while. 

First, it is worth acknowledging again that, relative to just 15 years ago, it is definitely easier to watch anime. Before, if a show came out that someone was interested in, they would have to either buy an expensive box set or pirate the anime online in terrible quality while also risking the safety of their computer. Now, most people do not have to think twice about this.

However, the advent of movie and tv streaming has brought both solutions and also new problems. While getting a large number of shows for a set monthly price is a totally reasonable bargain, the model begins to unravel once a large number of similar services start to emerge, each carrying their own unique libraries. In fact, one might say that the problem streaming services set out to fix has been revived in a new way. 

As time has gone by and the popularity of anime has gone way up, many of these same streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, as well as anime exclusive services such as Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HiDive! are also looking for a piece of the pie. Even Amazon a few years ago wanted a share of the market and attempted to cash in with their service “Anime Strike,” which cost five dollars a month extra on top of the existing Amazon Prime fee.

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Exclusives have also become a significantly bigger part of the streaming service appeal, and the same is holding true for anime as well. Netflix made a huge effort early on to cash in on anime’s upward trend, and it does appear to be paying off, as the company owns the exclusive rights to an increasing amount of hot-topic shows within the community. 

Companies like Crunchyroll are also beginning to dip their toes into exclusives as well, with a number of Webtoon crossovers including “Tower of God” and “God of High School.” These shows have also turned out to be relatively popular among fans. Funimation, while not as focused in that area, does corner a large part of the market for English dubs for many of the most popular long-running and seasonal shows, including “Black Clover,” “One Piece” and “The Promised Neverland.”

This further division of popular shows among various streaming services means that anyone looking to keep up with what is new is going to have to pay a fairly hefty price. This has led to many figures in the community talking about a potential rise in piracy if companies begin to raise their prices too much. 

The streaming wars will probably continue to rage on for some time. Companies will continue competing for the various series which draw the most eyes in the short term. Long term, however, it may just be the case that being an anime fan, or a fan of tv and movies for that matter, continues to get even more expensive. It might be that streaming just becomes the new cable. 


How do you all feel about the cost of anime? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to also check out the column I uploaded last week about “Tokyo Godfathers” and Satoshi Kon.

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 ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

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

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Anime Strike is Dead. It’s About Time.

Being able to stream anime legally and not having to deal with bad subs or low quality on illegal sites at a relatively low cost has been one of the better things to happen for the anime community in the last decade. Companies like Crunchyroll and Funimation have meant a lot more anime for a lot less. Netflix continues to have the problem of not knowing what a simulcast is outside of Japan, but I’ve already talked about that in a previous post. Anime Strike, however, has been even more of a thorn in the side of the community for the past year. But, after Amazon realized that they created a garbage product, Capitalism finally won out and they officially ended Anime Strike.

Allow me for one second to just dance on its grave, and bask in how terrible a service, and an idea, Anime Strike really was. They were taking what were arguably some of the best shows of each season, and hiding them behind a 15 dollar a month paywall. Even people who already had Prime video had to pay an extra 60 dollars a year just to use the service at all.

Now, with Anime Strike gone, all of the anime that were Anime Strike exclusives have been transferred over to their general prime video library. As IGN pointed out in an article, this includes things like Land of the Lustrous, Made in Abyss, and one that I’ve been interested in for a while, The Great Passage.

Some have tried to argue that the idea of having exclusives at all is not fair, but one, exclusives are what makes a service worth getting in the first place, and two, that was not even the problem. The problem comes when corporations who do not understand the medium they are getting into in the slightest come in an create an unnecessarily high paywall for completely unjustified reasons.

Anime Strikes end is a good thing for the community. It means that good shows will not have to be hidden behind greedy business practices and a lack of understanding on the part of Amazon.


What are your thoughts? Did anyone actually have Anime Strike? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and bye for now friendos!