Episode One-Derland (Cartoons): Angry Birds Toons

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Plot: A series of comedic shorts based on the popular mobile game Angry Birds.

Breakdown: “Whaaaaa? They made a cartoon based on Angry Birds? WHY?!” You yell through your computer monitor, ignoring the fact that I just found out that an animated Angry Birds movie is being released.

Well, considering we live in world where this was a thing;

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And so was this;

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It’s not farfetched to believe that a cartoony mobile game got turned into a series of short animated features. Also, Angry Birds exploded with merchandise, so an animated show is only a logical next step in that regard.

Angry Birds Toons is a Finnish-American cartoon series in which the characters from the games do slapsticky comedic things like Looney Tunes. And when I say ‘like Looney Tunes’ I mean it’s really obvious that a lot of their inspiration for this show is from Looney Tunes. A LOT.

But is that a bad thing?

Not really. It’s actually pretty funny on its own when working from the Looney Tunes formula as a baseline. I thought that shot when Chuck, the yellow bird, slowed time down to save Red, the red bird, from falling and then he took a pitstop to look at a slowmo butterfly while Red slowmo yelled at him was really funny.

I also liked how it’s clear that, despite the fact that they work on a familiar dynamic of Chuck being the dunderhead with a heart of gold and Red being the somewhat temperamental straightman, they’re still good friends.

The first episode was merely two a half minutes long, and considering this is likely an episodic show, supposedly meant to showcase the backstory of the rivalry between the pigs and the birds, I’m sure the quality of the shorts fluctuates like any other similar show. However, I did like this first venture.

I’m not a fan of Angry Birds. I have the game on my phone and I play it on occasion, but I’d never buy any of the copious amounts of Angry Birds merchandise that has spawned throughout the years. It’s a fun game, but I never got close to being hooked on it.

The art is spot on to the style of the game and the animation is ‘Flash-y’ but fairly smooth, bouncy and cartoony. The music, while not being memorable, matches the tones of what’s happening in the short quite well.

Considering the shorts are so, well, short and I did enjoy their debut, my final verdict is;

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It’s a fun watch, and if you’re an Angry Birds fan or fanatic, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it even more.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable. E for everyone!

Sailor Moon Episode 4 (3 for the Dub) (DiC) Sub/Dub Comparison

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Plot: Usagi has gained some weight and becomes obsessed with dieting in order to get thinner. Meanwhile, Jadeite is using a gym to collect the energies of women (only women apparently) who are vain and obsessed with weight loss.

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Title Change: Learn How to be Skinny From Usagi is changed to Slim City.

So today’s episode surrounds Usagi’s weight loss regimen because she’s gotten fa-AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!…Ahem, sorry. She’s put on some wei—AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!….Oooohh…..Okay…Okay, I’m sorry. I just find it so hilarious that we’re supposed to buy that Usagi of all people is seen as “chubby.” Or even anything above average weight at most.

She’s like the anime equivalent to Barbie. In fact, her character is infuriating because she eats tons of junk, gets like no exercise, is lazy beyond reason and she still has a body like that. Just like Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew and Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. It’s ridiculous. It’s not even like they’re trying to address eating disorders or bad body image – her family also agrees that she could stand to lose a few pounds.

In the original, Usagi’s parents and brother actually call her “Chubby,” but ask what the big deal is as it’s alright to be slightly chubby. Then they all point out why she might’ve gained weight (She constantly eats, she gets no exercise, she’s lazy etc.) then she cries because they all pointed that out. I can’t say I blame her. If I freaked out over a few pounds, I wouldn’t want my family making fun of me for it either.

In the dub, they basically enforce that she’s not overweight and that she’s completely overreacting. The weight will come off on her way to school…..Wait, her weight will come off on her way to school? How much does she plan to lose? 1/100th of a pound?

After we see Luna’s drawing of a fat Usagi, there’s a short shot of the house outside as Usagi yells at Luna. In the dub, they edit this shot and the yelling out.

DiC edits in a scene where Beryl has a short meeting with Jadeite before the start of the scene at school. And ya know, I really love when the dub gets preachy. No lie. It’s just gold. Jadeite’s dialogue is so lame in this scene. “They’re so preoccupied with their foolish notions of dieting and fitness.” Yeah, those things do have a purpose beyond vanity, guys. Like, I dunno, staying healthy? Also, they edit out a small scene where Usagi drools over Naru’s lunch and then Umino teases her by offering her his mostly finished lunch.

The flower emblem on the front of the school is changed to “Crossroads Junior High”

Subbed:

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Dubbed:

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Because the message of this episode seems slightly changed for the dub, the dialogue is mostly changed throughout the scenes. In the scene with Serena speaking with her friends at school, they’re talking about dieting. This much is kept in the dub, but some key things are changed.

First of all, what’s with that awful voice the ‘chubby’ girl in the group has? The dub is trying to a push a “you’re beautiful no matter what size you are” message, yet they give her that horrible man-ish voice? She sounds completely normal in the original.

Second, in the original, the ‘chubby’ girl is actually dieting, but she says she’s having a hard time. Then the looks her friends give her are almost insulting as they say “We know.”

Third, the girl who talks about love making you lose weight doesn’t have a boyfriend in the original. They ask her if she’s ever been in love, she says no and they answer “We know,” and that’s why she suddenly changes her tone. Then the ‘chubby’ girl consoles her and says that we can’t help the way we were born. The other girl lashes out saying that she’s the last person she’d want to hear that from and they act like they’re going to fight.

In the dub, the girl who says those things about love says she has a boyfriend named Michael and the girls call him “Motormouth Michael” which is why she freaks out. Then the ‘chubby’ girl explains that it’s because he IS a motormouth and they act like they’re going to get into a fight over that.

In the original, after Naru starts making accusations toward Umino, he starts acting nervously and tries to make excuses as Naru becomes more suspicious. Then he runs away. In the dub, he instantly runs away after Molly gets suspicious.

An outer shot of the gym is removed.

One of the reasons the girls are so entranced by the entrance is because the woman on the screen is an actress they like. In the dub….Serena just yells with enthusiasm “AEROBICS!” 8D….It’s pretty weird.

When Jadeite tells Molly to get back to work on the bike, he actually tells her to keep working in order to be beautiful. She then agrees and keeps chanting as she’s on the bike “Be beautiful, be beautiful.” The dub looks slightly awkward because Molly blushes when he orders her to get back to work. Why would she do that? Also, she’s silent beyond panting after that in the dub, which makes it look weird with the lip flaps, but DiC sucks at that anyway.

The sign for the bath area is edited out.

Censor: Usagi’s breast lines are painted over with water in the dub.

Here’s your visuals PERVS!

Subbed:

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Dubbed:

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Forgive the blurriness for the dub screencap, it’s hard to get it clear when it’s moving.

Hm, I honestly don’t know why this next scene was changed. In the original, those pods are actually supposed to induce some BS called “Shape rays,” which allows you to lose weight insanely quickly. He tells the girls that ‘the chubby one’ could lose 10 Kg in a few minutes with the ray and that the thinner girls could lose 3 Kg. Another thing that was edited out of the dub was the mention that Haruna Sensei lost quite a bit of weight in only two days, and they believe that this is how she did it. In the dub, he says they’re in a spa and that the pods are “relaxation pods.”

The scene after this is the scene they edited in before the scene at school, so it’s condensed to just Beryl watching them from her crystal ball and laughing.

Huh…Why did Haruna Sensei look so healthy and energetic at school, but Naru and the others look like they spent half a week starving in the desert after one trip to that gym?

So we come to our very first change of Japanese food. Well, people eat dumplings in America too, so I dunno. Anyway, Usagi sees a little boy run by with a dumpling and she drools over it basically asking for it.

In the dub, Serena calls the dumpling a donut. (4Kids!!!……Oh sorry….reflex) Interestingly, she also says “You’re not going to eat all those donuts are ya?” DiC, it’s very obvious that that’s not a donut. It’s also obvious that that poor kid is only holding one. I’m actually kinda surprised they left this scene in at all. DiC makes just about as many pointless cuts as 4Kids, and this scene really makes Serena look freakin’ creepy.

The dub dream sequence is stupidly changed. In the original, she dreams that Motoki is telling her that he’ll help her with his power of love. In the dub, he just tells her not eating isn’t healthy and to have a “big steak with French fries and a chocolate malt.” DiC what exactly was the message here? Yes, not eating is bad, but eating crap is also bad.

The dialogue after the dream is also drastically changed. In the original, Motoki asks Serena what she meant by not having eaten since yesterday. Then he asks if her mother wouldn’t let her eat because of bad grades or something. She gets slightly offended then says she decided to go on a diet. Motoki then laughs at her for it and Usagi starts crying.

Motoki apologizes and says that she doesn’t need to go on a diet because she’s fine the way she is. If anything, she needs to gain weight. He then adds that he likes chubby girls over super thin girls, and Usagi gets excited because this basically gives her leeway in her diet and she goes to get a dumpling.

In the dub, Andrew says her fainting solidified his wanting to be a doctor. Then Serena’s slightly offended face doesn’t really match as she says “Oh really, you want to be a doctor? You don’t like working at the arcade anymore?” He then laughs because he wouldn’t want to work there forever. Then Serena cries because she’s afraid he might leave town to be a doctor.

He quells her fears by saying he needs to finish school and gain tuition before he quits his job at the arcade. Then he brings up the dieting stuff. However, even this isn’t without change. He basically asks if she’s dieting and tells her she’s fine the way she is and then says he’ll take her out for a big lunch and then she cheers because of that.

The very ending to this scene is slightly changed. In the original, Motoki gets a sweat drop above his head because he doesn’t know why she’s cheering him admitting that he likes chubby girls, then we change to the scene where she’s eating a dumpling. In the dub, there’s no sweat drop and we get this weird ass makeshift laughing animation thrown in by DiC when he really didn’t need to be laughing there.

In the original, as Usagi’s talking to Luna, Luna tells her that maybe she misinterpreted what Motoki said. He likes chubby girls not fat ones, and eating all those dumplings isn’t the way to be at a healthy weight. Then Luna instantly switches gears and says that’s not important right now and starts explaining that Haruna-sensei has gotten terribly thin and that Gym Shapely might be the culprit, but Usagi won’t listen and runs off to diet. In the dub, Luna mentions nothing about Andrew liking chubby girls and preaches more about dieting correctly before finally switching to negaverse talk.

In the dub, for some reason, Serena knows about the relaxation room despite never going down there or being introduced to it.

In the original, because Usagi’s obsessed with weight loss, Luna coaxes her into fighting by saying she’ll lose weight if she fights, so she does it. In the dub, Luna coaxes her into fighting to save Miss Haruna.

During the fight scene that follows, Usagi is talking during her moves. She’s basically parroting the motto the actress said when they first entered the gym. One sweat loses 1 Kg, two sweats lose 5 Kg, three sweats lose 10 Kg. She goes through each step as she attacks each of the three men. Since this wasn’t included in the dub, she doesn’t say a word in this scene, which is okay, because it’s fairly stupid anyway.

The next scene with Jadeite and Beryl is also completely changed. In the original, Beryl is impressed that he managed to collect so much energy and praises him on at least a half-successful mission.

In the dub, Beryl berates Jadeite for failing in his mission halfway and says she’s disappointed in him. Not only is there no purpose in changing this, but it also makes his smiling at the end seem stupid. Why is he smiling if he’s being scolded and says that Sailor Moon is making him mad?

The message of the episode is fairly lost in the original due the ending, which is also changed. In the original, Usagi tells her mother that Haruna-sensei is okay and that she took a week off from school to recover. Usagi’s younger brother then tells their mother to not try any crazy diets like Haruna. Their mother says she wouldn’t and Usagi should be wary of that too. Then we hear Usagi bawling because she gained more weight due to her brother rigging the scale. Shouldn’t the moral of this episode be to not be obsessed with weight loss but it’s a good idea to eat healthy and exercise in moderation?

In the dub, Serena doesn’t mention her teacher. Her mother just tells her to get out of the tub because her brother needs to use the bathroom. Then her brother tells their mother that he’s not really waiting to use the tub, he’s playing a prank. Then Serena bawls because the scale says she weighs 300 pounds. The dub sorta loses the moral as does the original, but they always add the ‘real’ moral to the end of the story in ‘Sailor Says.’ Hey, it actually came in handy for a change!

Next up is another episode that DiC skipped that centers around Usagi’s brother, Shingo, and Jadeite using a pet shop to collect energy.

…Previous Episode

Pokemon Episode 9 Analysis – The School of Hard Knocks

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CotD(s): Joe: A student of Pokemon Tech, Joe’s skills are graded as being on par with someone who has two badges. Despite this, he frequently makes himself seem less skilled than he is, somewhat embarrassingly so, in order to prevent being forced to work even harder than he already is by his fellow students. Joe has a big crush on one of Pokemon Tech’s beginner class’s best students, Giselle.

Reappears? No.

Pokemon: He is only shown using a Weepinbell, but it’s unclear whether it’s actually his or the school’s.

Giselle – An egotistical (and bitchy) girl that all the guys pine after, Giselle is the top student of the beginner class of Pokemon Tech. She looks down on Joe and even the three Ashketeers believing herself to be much more knowledgeable and skilled than they are due to her high scores and impressive knowledge of Pokemon.

Reappears? No.

Pokemon: Giselle is seen using both a Graveller and a Cubone, but, again, it’s unclear whether these Pokemon belong to her or the school.

Plot: Ash, Misty and Brock wander through the forest (well, get used to that sight) through a dense veil of fog. As they stop for a rest, Ash goes off to find some firewood and stumbles upon a group of kids ‘testing’ another kid, named Joe, on Pokemon trivia while he runs on a treadmill.

Joe falters throughout the test and ends up failing. Ash and Misty run to his defense, but the other kids snub them and go back to their school – Pokemon Tech.

Brock and Misty explain that Pokemon Tech is a prestigious school for aspiring Pokemon trainers. If they graduate, they are allowed immediate admittance into the Pokemon League without traveling to get the eight badges necessary.

Ash, enraged at the school for basically being a shortcut for rich kids to get into the Pokemon League without doing the real work of traveling and learning by doing, demands to go to the school only to have the fog clear revealing that they’ve been feet from the school the entire time and that the school was the one emitting the fog.

Joe explains to the group how difficult the school is and the hierarchy of their classes. Beginner class students are equal to someone with two badges, intermediate is equal to four and advanced is equal to six while graduates are equal to eight. While Ash, again, tries to defend his method of training and boasts that he has two badges, Joe says even he at his moderate level in the beginner group is better than someone with two legit badges. He even believes Misty, a Gym leader, is a pushover because she specializes in Water types and has beaten them in simulations several times.

Misty gets up to the plate at this statement and demands to have a real Pokemon battle for Cerulean City Gym’s honor. Joe uses a Weepinbell, banking on the type advantage, while Misty uses Starmie. Despite the type advantage and Joe’s confidence, Weepinbell is defeated easily, much to Joe’s confusion.

The top student of the beginner class, equal to someone with three badges, and creator of the harsh training techniques that go on at the school, Giselle, shows up. She explains that, even with a type advantage, Misty’s a Gym leader, thus her Pokemon are stronger and have more battle experience, which made the battle one-sided.

She further proves this by knocking Starmie out, literally, with a Graveller. Hearing of his exploits as a trainer, Ash tries to prove himself only to be mocked for his lack of progress over two months and seeming lack of skill and knowledge of Pokemon.

Angered at her insults, Ash challenges Giselle to a match. Pikachu vs. Cubone. The match is pretty one-sided with Cubone easily coming out on top each time. However, Ash basically tells Pikachu to go ballistic since he believes the use of Cubone’s bone is underhanded. Pikachu, with some trickery and a hearty can of whup-ass manages to beat Cubone and prove Giselle wrong.

Team Rocket show up to cause trouble, but are easily taken care of by the students of Pokemon Tech with a barrage of Pokeballs.

Giselle has learned her lesson and so has Joe. They agree to start their own journeys and finally become friends. With hopes of battling each other again in the future, the group leaves the school and continues on their journey to Vermilion City.

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– Nice paint job on the cup, 4Kids. How many highlighters did it take for you guys to do that?

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– Student 1: “We don’t fight.”

Student 2: “Fighting is for cavemen. We’re not in the stone age, ya know?”

You guys are aware that you’re in a school dedicated to teaching kids on the art of Pokemon Battling IE fighting, right? Or is fighting only sophisticated when you’re making animals do it?

– Oh come on, guys. I know text is evil and everything, but you can at least make an effort at making the blurred out replacement text look A LITTLE like the words Brock is supposedly reading.

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Let’s see if I can decipher any of that. Ahem….Po limo ice…..gurdooh cul. Outside of Po from Kung Fu Panda wanting a limo made of ice, it’s complete gibberish.

– So wait, Pokemon Tech can control the weather? Slow your roll, Kanto, Castform won’t be around for a few more years.

– I really do like the idea of a Pokemon school that allows you to bypass all the traveling. It appears to be really difficult, so, while it’s technically a shortcut, it’s by no means easy. The fact that only rich kids can attend kinda rubs me the wrong way, though.

My main problem with this is, how do the students get the Pokemon? You need to actually have legit experience TRAINING a Pokemon and catching them to be a good Pokemon TRAINER. Do they just get Pokemon handed to them by the school or are there times when the students are sent off to catch and train their own Pokemon? Because it really seems like it’s 99% books and simulations and 1% actually dealing with live Pokemon.

– Joe’s logic, all of it, is just stupid.

He fakes being less intelligent than he is to keep the other kids from working him even harder, which makes a little sense. But then he turns around and says they’re still his friends, even in spite of how they treat him, because it was only through their help that he learned as much as he did.

If he’s thankful to these guys for helping him learn so much through their harsh teaching methods, why is he pretending to be less intelligent to prevent them from giving him even harsher training methods? It makes it sound like pure laziness not avoidance of kinda bullying.

He then says that he doesn’t leave Pokemon Tech because his parents work hard and scrape together the tuition to let him go to Pokemon Tech. Yeah, hi genius. If you work harder, get smarter and improve your grades or moreso your badge ranking, you can graduate earlier and make it so your parents won’t have to scrape together this cash anymore. I thought you were pretending to be dumb.

– Ladies and gentlemen, one of the only times that Ash ever shows romantic interest in a girl and probably the absolute only time it’s ever been so blatant.

– Ah and also our first ever glimpse into Team Rocket’s continuously fuddled backstory. Good times. How did Jessie even get into Pokemon Tech if she was poor? Continuity! Get it? Poor continuity? Yeah, you get it.

– While I really like the simulation looking like the actual game, I kinda wish they had added more detail to the screen to make it feel more genuine.

– Let’s react to the crushes on Giselle here, assuming she’s ten.

Joe – Fine.

Ash – Fine

Brock – Ehhhhh

James – EUGH.

– I don’t think I’ve really hated a character in Pokemon, outside of Pokemon abusers, more than I’ve hated Giselle. Casey pisses me off, but she’s just really really really annoying. Ash makes me rage sometimes, but he has his moments.

Every time she’s on screen, I feel like slapping her in the face. What’s worse is the fact that she beats Misty so badly and Ash is the one who has to knock her down a peg. Are we really at the point where we’re saying Ash is better than Misty? Nine episodes in? Really?

And is she really justified in thinking Ash to be pathetic for having two badges and three Pokemon two months into his journey? I mean….yes, it is pathetic, but considering they’re in a school where I assume at least of year of work needs to go into moving up a rank, judging mostly by the guy who was held back a lot, doesn’t that mean they work for over a year just to merely meet the criteria for four badges? And another year for six? And yet another for eight? The more I think about this school, the more it seems less like a shortcut and more like a longcut.

It really seems like this school would be more suited for making Pokemon researchers instead of Pokemon trainers.

– No, Ash, just because a Pokemon has moves that are fairly unique to itself, like Cubone’s bone abilities that are fully legal under the authorization of the Pokemon League, does not mean you can make up crap as moves and call them legal. Even if they do look like legit moves such as Bite, Hi-Jump Kick and Fury Swipes, Pikachu doesn’t ‘know’ those moves legally, so it’s technically not fair. That’s like something Team Rocket would do.

– I know Giselle had to change her tune by the very end, but I find it ridiculous that she pulled a complete 180 just because of one loss. You do not spend 10 minutes doing nothing but gloating, mocking other people’s abilities, showing off, being a complete bitch and being so high up on a pedestal that you’re leaving the atmosphere and then become a nice girl after one match that was really won on sketchy terms anyway.

– In spite of wanting to continue going to Pokemon Tech to make his parents proud and prevent them from wasting their hard earned money, Joe decides to drop out and start his Pokemon journey. Well, hopefully they’ll save enough money from not needing to take care of him anymore that they’ll claw themselves up out of debt. Yay!

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All in all, this episode is really not as good as I remember it, which is a shame. I really do like the idea of a Pokemon School where you can bypass the traveling and Gym matches if you graduate. It’s a very realistic idea that I can see being implemented in this world. Despite the fact that it’s so damn expensive and may actually take much longer than a regular Pokemon journey would, I can imagine that most parents wouldn’t be comfortable with the idea of their ten year old child going traveling on their own to fight super powered monsters. A school that achieves the same thing is a good alternative.

While I was watching this episode, I mused about a spinoff show which would take place in a school. Like a slice of life with Pokemon. Think about it. New environment, new story structures, new characters, consistent side characters, few to no CotDs, and we could implement cool new aspects like fun challenges and tests, festivals, tournaments etc. Yu-Gi-Oh transitioned to a similar concept just fine, and you can’t tell me a nice change of pace from the stale formula we’ve had for over 15 years wouldn’t be welcome.

I also liked the rare exploration of Pokemon levels, something that is still debated to this day in regards to the anime, and the poke at the actual games with the simulator.

However, I don’t like Joe. He’s really bland and a bit dim. I hate Giselle with all my heart and soul, the battle between Cubone and Pikachu seemed a bit screwed, and the ending both in terms of message and Giselle’s big revelation seemed really predictable and corny to me.

In addition, Team Rocket’s appearance was even more pointless than usual. We only learned that they went to the school, got the worst grades and then they pop up at the very end, do their motto and get hit with a bunch of Pokeballs before running off.

This episode even had worse animation that usual. I did like a few shots that seemed odd in terms of Pokemon’s usual style like the shot of the broken window and Misty holding Starmie, but the shots of the boys walking away in the fog and Team Rocket’s final scene were horribly animated. It’s almost like they weren’t done animating them, to be honest. It just seems like a bunch of keyframes made into a slideshow.

Next episode is the beginning of the Starter Trilogy: Part 1 – Bulbasaur.

Previous Episode…..

Arago (Manga) Review

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Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Arago Hunt and his brother Ewan suffered from a tragedy as children when their parents were murdered by the mysterious serial killer, Patchman.

As they grew older, Ewan came to be a well-respected police officer while Arago became an angry wanderer obsessed with their parents’ murder. When the two see Patchman yet again, Ewan falls victim to him.

In an effort to save Arago’s life, he transfers his arm as well as a mysterious power called Brionac to him. Following his brother’s death, Arago takes his place as a police officer and tasks himself with fighting evil supernatural beings that plague London as well as finding Patchman to take him down once and for all.

Breakdown: This was a very enjoyable series with great characters that you mostly grow to love or at least like and a decent story. However, I can’t deny that this series is all sorts of ‘been there, done that’.

Main character has a tragic past, bent on revenge, has a power everyone wants and is super awesome and wants to protect the people he loves. Dark and mysterious villain turned good guy. Love interest childhood friend who is mostly useless for 99% of the series until they just decide to give her useful powers. Wise old man also with a tragic past that fuels his desire to join the fight.

Really the only one I can say who doesn’t fall into the typical tropes is Oz who is a kickass trap-using agent of the queen meant to kill supernatural beings and protect Arago, but he’s not even introduced until the final quarter of the series.

I guess also Coco and Colo, The Old Man/Joe’s daughter, also a policewoman, and her K-9 partner respectively. She’s another love interest for Arago but is at least more interesting than childhood friend/Rio in that her side-story of her connection with Colo was better than merely Rio being there during Arago and Ewan’s childhood and her being in love with Ewan.

In regards to villains, they also don’t stray too far from the template as we have supernatural monsters of the week for a little while based on actual mythology, which is kinda cool, and the four main sub-baddies which are modeled from the four horsemen of the apocalypse. At least they’re given backstories since each of them were previously human, and their backstories are pretty good for the most part.

Patchman himself is, sadly, the most bland. Outside of his concept which is being basically a Frankenstein creature hunting people for their parts to add to his body, hence the patch part of his name, he’s really just another villain who wants power and to destroy the world. We never learn of his backstory or where he came from, he’s just there and evil.

The story as a whole is very solid, but, again, it’s pretty predictable at certain points. There are numerous plot twists that got me, but the finale was really by the book, especially the very very ending.

And if I can be spoilery for said ending for a minute here –

Why exactly is the world so riddled in monsters now that Patchman and the horsemen are gone that Rio and Coco (and Colo? Did he die?) now have to battle monsters on a regular basis and demand for such extermination requires Oz’s organization to be rebuilt? Why did they have to wait until the very very very ending for Rio and Coco to not be useless damsels in distress/background art?

SPOILER END

The art is a mixed bag. While some of it can get pretty detailed with some really good shots in there, there are so many shots that look insanely awkward. The artist has a rough style with a lot of edges which makes some shots, mostly of people, look ugly, and it can be such a mess sometimes that it can be incredibly difficult to follow what’s going on in battle sequences.

Bottomline: This is a solid action manga that is also a quick read with each chapter only about 15-18 pages each. However, I really don’t think you’ll find anything new or groundbreaking here. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’d just as soon read a bunch of other action fighting manga. Also, I’m not exactly sure why this series is set in London. I forgot they were there most of the time, and they really don’t do much with the location.

Additional Information and Notes:

Arago was written and illustrated by Takahiro Arai. It was published by Shogakukan.

Volumes: 9

Year: 2009-2011

Recommended Audience: There’s moderate swearing, quite a bit of violence with mild gore and moderate blood. There’s technically no nudity but it gets a little close on occasion, most notably in Coco’s arc. 10+

Tokyo Godfathers Review

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Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: Three homeless people – a drunk/gambler washed up father, a crossdresser and a teenage runaway – find a baby amidst some trash. With only a few clues as to who her parents are, the three set out on a mission to find the baby’s family to decide whether they should return her or contact the police.

Breakdown: Welcome to the AVAHS finale! And what better way to close out the holiday season than with anime?

Technically, this isn’t much of a Christmas movie. While the entire movie plays out over the Christmas season with the movie spanning what seems like Christmas to New Years, there isn’t much connection to Christmas outside of decorations, a few songs and the implication that Kiyoko, the baby, has it in with God.

That being said, this is still a Christmas movie, and a damn good one beyond that. This is another of Satoshi Kon’s babies….no pun intended, and it has his style all over it.

While not being gut-bustingly funny, the movie does have several laugh-out-loud moments, and the characters, both major and minor, are very memorable with interesting and well-written stories. Only Gin, the washed up father, might have a slightly cliché backstory.

The story has a very straightforward path – get baby to parents – but this is one of those movies that seems more about the journey than the destination. The various hurdles that they have to jump to find Kiyoko’s parents are both realistic and hit all the right notes.

For instance, there’s a scene where Gin gets jumped by a bunch of teenage asshats who just want to beat the crap out of a homeless person (and a dead old homeless person as well) for no reason other than entertainment.

This is scene is really difficult to watch, especially since they steal something very important to him, resulting in him getting beaten even worse in an attempt to get it back. Just when you think he might die, they top off the scene with a great joke to lighten the mood. The joke doesn’t seem out of place or even out of character for the sake of a joke, and that type of sudden contrast can only be pulled off with real finesse.

While the characters are all very funny in their own right, they each have fairly sad stories that really make you feel for each of them. All of the emotions here, over the top for comedy effect or not, are all very genuine.

The story, while seeming very straightforward, had several twists and turns that I honestly didn’t see coming, especially the twist with Kiyoko’s mother.

If I had any qualms with it, the story seems a little too convenient at times. They just happen to stumble upon people from their past, the exact clue to where they need to go etc. a lot during this movie, and it’s only towards the end where you really start to notice, but still. This can be explained away by possibly whatever connection Kiyoko may or may not have to God, but *shrug* According to the Wiki page, these coincidences are done on purpose to showcase the little connections that we may have even with strangers to strongly link us together. Still, it can seem a bit wonky sometimes.

Also, I would’ve liked more exploration on Miyuki’s, the runaway, story. Her dad may or may not have done something to her pet cat that made her stab him in the stomach. He later says he has the cat and it’s fine, so I don’t know what happened there.

The art and animation are fantastic, yet another Madhouse production, and the city feels so well done and gorgeously detailed that you really feel like you’re there.

The music is also great with Christmas music, some classical selections and a somewhat jazzy BG set melded together.

The voice acting, Japanese, really shines here. Everyone is just fantastic in their roles, especially Hana’s VA, Yoshiaki Umegaki.

Bottomline: This may not be putting the spotlight entirely on Christmas, but it is still a feel-good Christmas movie with great characters, a fantastic story, plenty of action, drama and comedy, it’s and just a great experience overall. I can see myself watching this at least a few more times in the near future.

And that, sadly, closes out A Very Animated Holiday Special. Here’s to next year!

Additional Information and Notes: Tokyo Godfathers was written and directed by Satoshi Kon and it was produced by Madhouse.

Runtime: 1 Hour, 37 minutes.

Year: 2003

Recommended Audience:
Some rather crass homophobic slurs get tossed around, and there’s some other swearing. There are also a couple of suicide attempts, and one guy gets shot up. In terms of nudity, there are a couple boob shots but both of them are for the sake of breastfeeding. 13+

AVAHS – Tiny Toon Adventures: A Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special

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Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: In a parody to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Buster wants to leave the show after a series of failures while trying to direct a Tiny Toons Holiday Special. As he’s about to jump from the picture, his guardian toon angel arrives to show him what the show would be like if he never existed.

Breakdown: I loved Tiny Toon Adventures when I was a kid and, like Looney Tunes, I still love it and enjoy the crap out of it to this day. Despite some dated references, these shows are pretty timeless in their comedy.

I actually find this episode to be a bit sad because Buster is thinking of leaving the show on the episode that just happens to be the series finale. I’m not sure they knew the show was canceled after this, but it is weird that this type of episode is the last one ever.

As for the episode itself, it’s not one of the best episodes ever. It parodies the movie fine, but there are quite a bit more pop culture references than normal because of the celebrity guests for the holiday special. It’s certainly a funny episode, but not one of the best.

The Buster/Babs/Cher (yeah, Cher) ‘love triangle’ was kinda funny with the song, and it ended in a cute manner.

It’s a funny episode and a decent Christmas special, but not fantastic either. Here’s to you, Tiny Toons! Hoping you have a looney Christmas!

Recommended Audience: I think there’s a slightly raunchy joke in there, but it’s easily overlooked and I really could just be reading too much into it. E for everyone!

AVAHS – Disney’s A Christmas Carol

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Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: You don’t know the plot to this story? How do you exist? No, no, no. I refuse to believe you’ve never seen anything A Christmas Carol related. Now go and watch either an adaptation of it or a parody and think about what you’ve done.

Breakdown: This is kinda weird for me to review. I mean, how do you review any adaptation of A Christmas Carol? There are just so many of them, and it’s pretty damn hard to mess it up.

It’s such a simple structure. Jackass character hates Christmas, is haunted by three spirits representing Christmas past, present and yet to come, main character learns the error of his ways and becomes nicer as well as learns to appreciate and celebrate Christmas more. The End.

So if I can’t really analyze the story here, what can I analyze?

Well, I suppose we can start with Scrooge. It’s been my experience that most Scrooges are rather intimidating. While not being entirely scary, they do have a somewhat powerful air about them. They speak well, they have very straight posture and their voices are typically somewhat deep.

Jim Carrey’s Scrooge is very frail and has a much higher pitched and weak voice than I’m used to. His accent’s also somewhat questionable, though his old man voice is pretty good. He’s hunched over, he’s somewhat skeletal, he shakes frequently and he comes off as more of a grumpy old fart than a frightening man with power and money.

Also, despite the ‘elderly’ effects I can very clearly see Jim Carrey playing the character. It’s kinda distracting. Tom Hanks played several characters in The Polar Express and even though his voice was very obvious in most of the roles, I couldn’t really see Hanks in any of the characters except maybe the Hobo. Though, to be honest, this isn’t the role where Jim Carrey is most obvious.

Which brings us to the ghosts. First up is the ghost of Christmas past. This version’s Christmas past is supposedly one of the closest any adaptation has gotten to the Charles Dickens description. In the novel, the ghost of Christmas past is a, for lack of a better term, ghostly apparition of androgynous gender cloaked in a white robe. On its head is a flickering flame, like a candle, and he carries around a cap that looks very much like a metal candle snuffer.

Here, Past is basically a candle. His body is a white melting candle that eventually looks like a white robe. His head is a flame and he carries around the snuffer.

This is the role where you can clearly see Jim Carrey because they did really nothing to Carrey’s face when they plastered it onto the flame.

Look at that damn thing. It’s like they were going to shoot the scene for Past and forgot the trackers. Instead of waiting until they got them, they just shot the scene without them, cropped out everything but Carrey’s face and photoshopped it onto the character.

Not only that, but this thing acts like a psycho. He constantly sways back and forth like an idiot to make his flame waft in the wind and when he stands still he gets this like tic where he quickly twitches his head to the side, causing a lighter-like spark.

This thing is just a mess. What’s worse is that they just had a character with flame-like hair a minute ago. Marley was designed with hair flowing in that manner. Why couldn’t they have a regular head with fire hair instead of this?

Jim Carrey’s voice for this is also just weird. He’s constantly whispering and it’s a lot creepier than it should be.

As for the various sections, I tend to break up these segments into reflection, understanding and change respectively.

Reflection: This movie does follow every step that the first segment has. First his Christmas alone at a boarding school, then his sister, Fanny, announcing that his father has grown kinder and will allow him home for Christmas, then a dance with his fiancee, Belle, at a party his first boss and father figure Fezzwig was holding then his break up with her a couple Christmases later.

This section is fine, really, but it also starts to highlight a big problem as to why people find this one of the weakest A Christmas Carol adaptations.

Personally, my favorite is A Muppet Christmas Carol. Why do I bring that up? Because Muppets….are puppets. They don’t really have a lot of elbow room for emotional facial expressions. Yes, there are numerous human characters in the movie and Scrooge himself is played by Michael Caine, but most of the characters are Muppets. They do a way better job of conveying emotion than this movie.

In The Polar Express, conveying emotion was a problem but because of the subject matter it wasn’t a huge problem. It was a movie meant to be a roller coaster ride that made you feel all Christmas-y inside, and it did achieve that. The emotional scenes were sparse and one worked pretty well mostly because of silence and directing, not facial expressions and voice acting.

Here, you’re supposed to be taken on a bit of an emotional roller coaster. You’re supposed to be happy at Scrooge’s happier moments and feel for him when his life starts tumbling down, even if it is at his own hands. The fact that motion capture has big issues conveying emotion and has the trademark dead eyes makes movies like this a problem. I really believe this is one of the main reasons motion capture never caught on outside of video games and inserted CGI in live action movies. Outside of making pretty roller coasters, it can’t hold emotional impact very well.

It’s purely motion capture; not emotion capture.

Young Scrooge, despite being closely modeled after Carrey, is just awful. He looks like the action figure version of his character come to life. When he and Belle, a character who is actually very beautifully modeled, interact, I feel like a doll is having a conversation with a human person. It’s weird. It’s awkward. And because of this the scene loses 90% of the intended emotion.

I will say that the scene directly following the breakup where Past shifts his face quickly into the faces of those from his past is very effectively creepy. There. Motion capture is great for horror movies. Get on that.

Understanding: The Ghost of Christmas Present is basically exactly as he’s described in the novel. I should point out that straying from the novel’s representations does not mark points off. All of the adaptations change the ghosts a little. It’s not what the design is changed to, it’s how good it looks and if it effectively conveys the feeling that it’s supposed to.

Present…is actually pretty well done in my opinion. Except his laughing gets on my nerves. I liked his segment….though it does further highlight the emotionless problem.

Here is one of the most memorable parts of the story with Tiny Tim. Several characters are tearing up when thinking about his plight…..and I feel…..kinda bad I guess.

I wouldn’t say I feel nothing, because the dialogue alone is kinda sad but the sad faces in motion capture….they just don’t do it for me. The tears look like glass, the facial expressions just seem weird; it just doesn’t work very well. The voice acting and dialogue are okay here, which is really all that saves it.

However, Jim Carrey just cannot get emotion though Scrooge. He begs for Tiny Tim’s life and I feel like he’s asking for another slice of pizza.

Change: I really like the introduction to Yet to Come here. It’s in a dark wide open area, seemingly in a clock tower, and Yet to Come emerges through Scrooge’s shadow while Scrooge monologues accompanied by silence. Like practically every version of the story, including the original Dickens’ novel, this version of Yet to Come is basically the grim reaper. In this version, however, Yet to Come is almost always in shadow form, which is kinda cool.

Just when it seems like this one will be the most impacting and serious segment of all…..they completely ruin it. But I won’t explain how until later. Let’s just skip over that for a moment. Like the other segments, this one also explores the same beats as the novel. And just as the other two segments, the emotion problem is still present though, again, worse, because this is filled with death and tragedy.

When they show us Cratchit’s face with his eyes beet red from crying, all I could think of was that it looked like there was a bad rash around his eyes.

As for the rest of the movie, story-wise, it emits the most emotion, that which being fun. Probably because Carrey seems to actually be having fun with the finale. Plus, there’s a little bit more emotion than usual in his remorse.

With all of the story elements out of the way, it brings us to another of the worst problems in this movie. I’ve been deliberately dancing around these parts of the movie to focus on the story elements, but this movie, like The Polar Express….aims to be a visual 3D roller coaster, and spends quite a bit of time milking the pretty visuals and 3D effects.

A Christmas Carol is not a visual roller coaster. Sure, it has fantastical elements, but you’d be hardpressed to find someone who’ll say ‘Oh A Christmas Carol? I loved that action movie!’

In the first segment, I can be forgiving. The roller coaster aspect of Reflection was merely flying through the trees, which kinda did happen in the novel.

The second segment amps it up 1000 fold, however. Basically, Present uses the embers from his torch to turn the floor of the room into a viewing screen that seems to travel from location to location, so it’s like you’re flying around on a helicopter with a glass bottom that can see through ceilings.

I will admit that this effect is pretty damn cool and I imagine it’s fantastic in 3D and IMAX….Too bad I’m watching this at home on my 30” TV screen. This scene, out of everything from The Polar Express through this movie seems like its the one that has the most effect outside of 3D and IMAX, but there’s no denying that it loses quite a bit of the impact without it.

While both of those segments had a point, the third is absolutely pointless and kinda stupid. In Change, Yet to Come chases around Scrooge through town on his shadowy carriage. Scrooge inexplicably shrinks down to mouse size in the middle of this chase scene and there’s more chasing but now in mini-form.

Scrooge arrives at the second location of the third segment in mini-form as he lay across the stolen cloth that Mrs. Dilber took from his room after his death. He eventually grows back to normal size, but there is 100% no point in shrinking him to begin with.

Bottomline: So, basically, this movie’s a bit of a mess. While it is touted as being one of the most loyal adaptations of Dickens’ novel, and it even takes quite a bit of dialogue from it, it loses the emotion due to the motion capture and a good deal of the voice acting and it gains a bunch of action 3D stuff that just adds nothing to the story and doesn’t translate well to home viewing.

Unlike The Polar Express where I feel it’s more of an experience than it is a story, this is by nature supposed to be more of a story than an experience. Yes, it does the story just fine and it is a visual treat, again if you ignore the human characters, but without the emotion and feeling of Christmas spirit behind it, it just feels hollow.

It’s not a terrible movie, I wouldn’t even say it’s bad, but there are just a lot of problems with it and unlike The Polar Express, I’m not going to give it a big pass just because it’s Christmas. Watch on the biggest screen you can manage and try to get 3D, but there are just so many much better adaptations and even parodies of A Christmas Carol out there. I won’t be able to let motion capture die just yet, but can it please stay out of Christmas movies for now?

Recommended Audience: They do say ‘ass’ once, and there’s mentions of death. Plus, the final segment gets a bit dark-ish a little. 7+

AVAHS – The Wild Thornberrys: Have Yourself a Thornberry Little Christmas

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Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Eliza and her family prepare for Christmas in Africa, but Eliza accidentally ruins all of the decorations, gifts and food while trying to help animals.

Breakdown: The Wild Thornberrys is a show that I liked when I was a kid, watched it all the time and enjoyed, but I’d be hardpressed to actually remember an episode off-hand. The show had a very interesting premise. In an era where many cartoons were trying to be more about average life (such as Hey Arnold, Doug, Recess etc.) having a show mixing both ‘average’ life and mythical powers was nice.

I love animals, and seeing such a huge variety and a bunch of different places across the globe in a cartoon was awesome. I just can’t remember the show ever being particularly epic or funny.

To date, the only thing Rugrats related that I haven’t seen is Rugrats Go Wild, the crossover movie between The Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats. Can’t tell you why. I just never felt compelled. They’re both made by Klasky/Csupo, so you’d think I’d latch on better to TWT, but it never kept with me quite as well as some other nostalgic shows.

That out of the way, how does this Christmas special fare? Well, obviously, Christmas in the Thornberry household isn’t exactly as most traditional Christmases, but it is very similar. They have a Christmas goose and a big Christmas feast, they decorate and they exchange gifts. Really the only difference is that their Christmas trees are usually odd like cacti and dead desert trees.

Eliza being Eliza explores the desert area and keeps finding animals that need her help. Coincidentally enough, the best solution to each problem is subsequently ruining one facet of Christmas. For instance, the first animal she encounters is an ostrich that is trying to hatch her eggs. However, the cold desert winds are preventing her from properly heating the eggs. In order to provide heat to them, Eliza puts the ostrich eggs in her and Debbie’s gift to their parents, a heated camera bag. She can get it back at the end of the day, but it’s Christmas Eve so she worries a bit.

Next, a zebra is being cornered by some jackals and Eliza saves him by flashing a flashlight in their faces. The zebra still has to return to its herd, and after breaking her flashlight and not having access to the others in the comvee, she decides to take down the Christmas lights on a wire reindeer on the roof that her mom put up. She wraps the zebra in the lights and I guess they’re battery powered because she can just flip them on with no problem. With the lights on, the zebra can find its way back to its herd without being bothered by the jackals.

Finally, a hungry lion chases Darwin around and plans to eat him. He destroys the decorations on the Christmas tree during the chase and Eliza chucks the Christmas goose as well as all of the rest of the feast that her dad’s been working on to the lion to fill him up and make him ignore Darwin.

All of this works, but Eliza has no choice but to admit everything that happened to her family. They’re disappointed and Debbie is straight-up pissed but her parents forgive her since she was just trying to help animals and at least she wasn’t hurt by the lion.

In an effort to make it up to everyone, Eliza recruits all of the animals she helped and more to gather around in the oasis. They even ‘sing’ Jingle Bells to the family and the baby ostriches return the camera bag to Eliza so she can give it to her parents. It’s an unconventional but merry Thornberry Christmas.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this episode is predictable, but it follows a pretty straightforward formula, another that is common in sitcoms. Main character tries to do good, only ends up ruining everything, but is forgiven because they had good intentions. Plus holiday spirit bonus.

It wasn’t horribly entertaining, but I will admit that the ending was more touching than I anticipated. The baby ostriches bringing the camera bag back was a heartstring tugger. Plus, you do feel really bad for Eliza when she breaks down. Poor kid had to destroy everything Christmas-y to save animals in need.

All in all, this episode is worth it simply for the ending. It’s not preaching Christmas spirit or combating materialism, it focuses on family and knowing that big sacrifices sometimes need to be made to do good. Really, the only ones who didn’t get a happy ending in this are the jackals. Why does the lion get a good guy ending after trying to eat Darwin, but the jackals don’t get a pass for trying to eat the zebra? They were both carnivores following their desire to hunt and eat. Is it just because the lion apologized afterward?

Anyway, pretty nice Christmas special, but nothing too special.

Recommended Audience: E for everyone!