Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Delta State

Plot: Four amnesiac twenty-somethings with psychic powers are recruited to protect the world from fellow psychic beings called Rifters. The Rifters originate from the mysterious dream-like realm called the Delta State, and their main intent is to control the minds of everyone in the world. The four have no choice but to accept this dangerous task as it is their best chance at remembering their pasts.

Breakdown: This is one of those shows where I find myself struggling to discuss it properly.

Let’s start with the basics. Delta State is a show based on a (never released) comic book of the same name by Douglas Gayeton. It was produced by Nelvana and released by Teletoons on Canadian television in 2004, and it has the honor of being the first ever fully rotoscoped animated TV series.

The art style really makes it stand out from other animated TV shows I’ve covered. I’ve seen numerous fully rotoscoped animated movies and short films, but they typically do this to gain a more realistic appearance while also taking advantage of the creative benefits that come with animation.

Rotoscoping itself is largely viewed as a lazy form of animating since you’re literally taking frames of live action footage and tracing over them, but I do believe this form of animation was the right way to go for this specific series.

Delta State has a very….college-esque kind of vibe to it. That makes sense considering that the characters are all in their early twenties, live together and basically act like college students. Not to mention the fact that doing a Google search on this title results in mostly colleges.

The show also doesn’t have tons of background music and utilizes natural idle conversations quite well. It doesn’t feel like a show where the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the four main characters, but by the end you start feeling the stakes.

The reason rotoscoping works well for Delta State is because of the Delta State. Technically, all of their psychic powers could be done in live-action just fine. Claire has the power of remote viewing, which can easily be done with practical effects. Martin is a telepath, which is done even more easily since no effects are needed. Philip has the power of psychometry, which allows him to have visions of past events related to items, which can also be done fairly easily with editing. Finally, Luna has precognition, which can also be done easily with editing.

The Delta State, however, is meant to be a dream-like realm – and in dreams anything can happen. In addition, like lucid dreams, various aspects of the world can be controlled with enough focus and effort. In fact, the name Delta State comes from the stage of deep sleep where delta waves develop. The Delta State sequences obviously benefit from being animated because animation allows you the same creative freedom that are necessary for dreams.

Additionally, we can gain a better understanding of how surreal or off this realm is considering that everything else is rotoscoped realistically. It’s just a normal city with normal people. The main four don’t even look like anything special. Since it’s rotoscoped and not live-action, we’re not distracted by the contrast of the live action versus the animation. It could have been fully animated as well, but then we would have lost the more realistic feeling the show is going for.

This is truly one instance where I really think full rotoscoping was the absolute best option to present the exact experience that the creators were going for.

…….But that’s not to say it’s perfect.

While the rotoscoping job was done well enough, I don’t care much for the character designs. The facial features of the people are done in such a craggy manner. In a way, it does help it stand out even more, but it’s just flatout ugly, especially the ‘noses,’ I don’t know why the noses are almost always just triangles. It baffles me. Why are they just triangles? It’s so distracting.

For everything else, I’m not really bothered by the craggyness. It gives it more of a cartoon/comic book style, and I like that. But the faces are just really….no. Martin in particular has it bad because not only does his face suffer like everyone else’s but his hair is just an anomaly. I get that it’s supposed to be spiky white hair or frosted tips, but it comes off more like his hair is Elmer’s glue, they stuck it to a wall, pulled him off when it was half dry and left it like that.

There is a sense of emptiness to the city as well, which is strange. There just aren’t that many people around. It’s understandable, because rotoscoping that many people would be a pain in the ass and expensive, but it kinda loses the realistic feeling if we’re in the heart of downtown and there are barely a handful of people here and there. Most of the time it really feels like only the most necessary people even exist in the city.

Speaking of characters, it’s also a bit difficult to get a grasp on the main four at this point. Admittedly, this first episode is a part one, so maybe the second part will allow me to get a better idea of the true personalities of each character, but so far the only one I feel I have a decent idea about is Philip. He’s a pretty nice and laid back guy who loves books. He’s also an awkward but not fully shy dude that I could definitely see myself hanging out with.

Martin seems like the looser cannon of the two guys in the group. He’s also seen flirting with Luna and saying he has a connection to her, which may or may not be BS, I dunno.

Claire is a responsible person, but not all that proactive. When Luna runs off near the end, she doesn’t do much to stop her, and when Martin confronts her about why she didn’t do more to stop her she says she was waiting for him….which….huh?

Luna is the most emotional of the group. She doesn’t care for Martin invading her privacy by reading her mind, which is totally understandable, but she also, as I mentioned, runs away near the end because she can’t take the premonitions or the mission of the Delta State anymore. This is probably fine, but I feel like it’s way early in the show for someone to be running off because they can’t take the pressure anymore.

It’s like how I felt it was weird that the first episode of Teen Titans starts with Cyborg leaving the team because he’s fed up with Robin. Stuff like that needs to be built up.

Then there’s Bodie, who was only in this episode for a short while. Bodie is their handler/mentor figure. He knows about the Delta State, does…stuff related to it, and is the one who recruited them to begin with. He seems pretty okay for now. He’s somewhat mysterious and a bit rough around the edges, but he’s not setting off alarm bells for me yet.

In regards to the story, they’ve set things up pretty well so far. Them all having amnesia of their entire lives up until two months prior to the start of the series is pretty interesting, and them all having various psychic powers instead of the same set is cool. It makes all of the characters necessary in some way or another instead of having one or two characters who outshine the whole group. I especially like how they use their powers in creative ways to achieve their goals. For instance, Claire can sense/see things psychically, and in this episode she learns she can do that over the phone because she needs to covertly see inside of a bookstore.

The idea of the Delta State is fascinating. It’s a dream-like state clearly linked to their subconsciouses, but it’s also an entirely different realm that mirrors our own world while also not. They can see little clues to their pasts throughout the Delta State, but they’re typically too busy dealing with Rifters to really focus on these little flashes of memories.

Sadly, so far, the Rifters only seem like evil psychics so far, but, again, maybe that will be better fleshed out in part two.

In this episode, they’re tracking a Rifter named Karla who initially appears to Philip at the bookstore during a book signing. They’re alone in the store because the author suddenly left due to unknown circumstances and apparently the people who work in the store don’t exist and other customers never visit. They flirt for a while, but she decides to leave since she has prior engagements. When she gives her signed book to him as a gift, he’s able to psychically see events connected to the book – the most recent of which being the author of the book running away from the store after being touched by Karla, seemingly being spooked by her doing something to him psychically.

The group, sans Luna, go off into the Delta State to investigate. They’re caught by Karla and her cronies, however. Back in the real world, Brodie and Luna start experiencing, I’d call them, glitches in the fabric of reality because of disturbances in the Delta State. Luna decides to set aside her unease about their situation and head off after them. She’s somehow able to fight off Karla’s goons quite easily, but they’re confronted by the image from a vision Luna had earlier, which was of a car approaching her. What she didn’t initially see, however, was that the person driving the car was her in the past. This revelation is where the episode ends.

As a whole, this is a perfectly good introduction to the show, especially for a part one.

I’m disappointed that it seems like this show has been largely lost to time. It’s not streaming anywhere, there are barely any articles or discussion pieces about it – it’s just kinda drifting in a void. It is on DVD, but only the first ‘season’ (I say that because there’s only one season and 26 episodes. I guess they split up the first season and called it two seasons?) and barely anyone has bought it. As of right now, the first DVD set of it on Amazon has only nine reviews, though a bulk of them are very good. Also, the description barely has anything about the DVD set like…how many episodes it has, what other features are on it, what quality it’s in, etc.

I had to do a Google search just to find what the back cover of the DVD set looks like. It has 13 episodes, a ‘The Making of Delta State’ featurette, and electronic collectible cards.


Delta State seems like a very cool show to me so far. Maybe not masterpiece material, but I do strongly believe that I’ll have an enjoyable ride watching the rest of the series. From the sparse amount of people I’ve seen who have watched the entire show, it is indeed a good one with a strong finale, so I look forward to sharing more of this show in the future to hopefully draw more attention to this largely ignored, but interesting and well made, series.

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Animating Halloween: Kowabon Review

Plot: An episodic series of horror shorts animated with a cel-shaded rotoscoping technique.

Breakdown: Being the sucker for short horror stories that I am, I decided to look up similar series to Yami Shibai and came upon Kowabon.

And even though I didn’t really dislike it, I can’t say it’s really all that good either.

Kowabon is animated using rotoscoping, which is a technique that is, has been and will likely always be controversial and seen as a lazy form of animating. Rotoscoping involves filming live actors like you would with any film then tracing over the footage frame by frame to make the animation. It has been used since practically the dawn of animation and even though it’s not as common today (MoCap is basically its successor), it still gets used.

I’ve always been of two minds when it comes to rotoscoping. On one hand, I can definitely see the argument that it’s lazy given that it is literal tracing, but on the other hand you still have to have a good deal of artistic talent to truly make it work without making it look janky or uncanny valley.

The art style they use to go with the rotoscoping is alright. It’s cel-shaded with thick lineart, which allows it to feel more strongly like an anime, but it also maintains the exact actors’ faces, which contributes to the added feeling of realism. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely unique, but it’s uncommon and definitely works in this series’ favor.

It’s a bit difficult to talk about Kowabon outside of that because there are no real stories or characters. I wanted to check out Kowabon because it was another series of really really short episodes, and considering Animating Halloween was coming up I thought it’d make for some great episode-by-episode reviews to help fill up the month, but I didn’t quite realize how much of a hindrance that short run time would be. Their episodes are even shorter than Yami Shibai, clocking in at barely three minutes and that’s with an ending theme song and credits.

Still, it wouldn’t be impossible for me to review each episode on its own….if there were actual stories to talk about.

Kowabon’s strength lies in its creative visuals and fairly good ambiance. It does not lie in its story or characters because they simply don’t have any.

The people in the stories have names, but they’re mostly just bodies to put on screen to be victims.

Another issue with reviewing this series episode-by-episode is in the fact that basically every ‘story’ is the same.

There are two threads that hold every episode of Kowabon together.

The first is cameras. 99% of this series is seen through the lens of a camera, whether it be smartphone cameras, webcams, security cams, even doorbell cams and, here’s something I’ve never seen before, backup cameras – the ones you have on your car to help you reverse.

What’s that, you say? A heavy theme on cameras probably means an overreliance on distortion effects to help deliver scares? Why you’re absolutely right, reader!

Which brings us to the second thread – the girl.

Design-wise, the girl is basically an amalgamation of the ghost from The Ring and a warped version of Manny from Grim Fandango. The girl is given no name, backstory, MO, or even a location where she’s supposed to frequent. She’s just kinda everywhere. Maybe not even limited to Japan. The only consistent thing with her is that she appears wherever someone is being filmed. I was going to say she can also only be seen with a camera but there’s evidence to the contrary on that front.

Each episode is exactly the same. Normal people doing very normal things. Then the video distortion starts. It gradually gets worse. Either the character given focus will notice weird stuff happening or the person on the other end of the call or watching the feed will notice, which frequently leads to ‘There look behind you! There!’ ‘What?….Quit fooling around, I don’t see anything.’ More distortion, the girl appears, more horror elements then boom, the girl gets the victim.

Sometimes they’ll add on a little bit after, like in one of the episodes they have the girl pretend to be the victim to her friend then send her a flood of texts demanding she open the door, which I thought was surprisingly effective, but they’re all the exact same story.

Even though there are little things that add to the scare factor, it becomes very formulaic very fast.

The ‘stories’ also have absolutely nothing to do with each other outside of the last two. Episode twelve, which is arguably the silliest episode, but I still found amusing, has a pop idol making a video of herself at some park dancing. The girl gets her, then episode thirteen has a fan of hers going to the spot where she disappeared to investigate what happened. Surprise of all surprises, the girl gets him there too.

The series is half and half when it comes to jump scares. They tend to rely on the creepy vibe they’re creating, but they sometimes can’t help themselves but go for the obvious jump.

Even the music is a bit off. There isn’t a lot of actual music, which is nice to add ambiance, but what is there is typical horror music. Then you have the ending theme song, which, while being very catchy, is a sharp contrast to the theme of the show. It has bouncy little cartoons, the song itself is very bubbly and fun, and it feels so weird being in a horror show.

To take you out of the experience even more, each episode has a behind-the-scenes clipshow of the episode in question playing in the corner as the credits roll. I really like watching behind-the-scenes stuff, and it’s nice to see the cast and crew enjoying what they’re doing, but it really yanks you out of whatever horror mood you were in. And there’s no dialogue so you don’t even get cool little behind-the-scenes tidbits outside of what you can gather from the video footage.

All of this culminates in a bit of a mess of a series. I like some of the stylistic choices, and some of the creative horror elements were really neat to watch. I also like how it’s insanely easy to binge watch it. I never had a difficult time going through any of the episodes because they were so short. I really think if they were much longer it would become a chore to sit through, given the formula they use.

However, I can’t deny that there’s no structure, no story, no characters, uneven tones and a boring repetitive baddie that is so close to The Ring (Hey, she does come out of video screens sometimes) ghost I almost want to call copyright infringement.

Additional Information and Notes: Kowabon was directed by Kazuma Taketani. This is Taketani’s directorial debut, but, to date, he doesn’t have any additional crew credits to his name, which is disappointing. Interestingly, it was written by Hiromu Kumamoto, who did the scripts for every iteration of Yami Shibai to date except the fifth entry. It’s kinda strange that I keep trying to find things similar to Yami Shibai and I continue to end up back with the crew of Yami Shibai. Is it really that niche of a market?

And just to keep that circle going, it was produced by ILCA, who also produced not only every Yami Shibai to date but also Sekai no Yami Zukan.

There is no English version available nor is it currently licensed in the US.

Episodes: 13

Year: 2015

Recommended Audience: No sex, swearing, or anything really bad. There’s some bloody handprints in one episode, but that’s about it. Given the horror themes, we’re probably already slightly up there in age range, but it’s okay for 10+ probably.

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