Tag Archives: cartoons

“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.

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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.

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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!

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.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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!