2014 is the year of focus this week, and I watched a bunch of 2014 releases that I missed out. 2014 falls amongst the lowest in number of animated films I wanna check out for this project (just a mere 21 films – and I had to stretch already with including a miniseries Over the Garden Wall). It doesn’t help that some that I watched aren’t that good to begin with. There are some pleasant surprises, though, with 2 out of these three exceeding my expectations. For 2014 edition we have a film about the Day of the Dead (in a decade where Day of the Dead is frequent, with Coco, the short Dia de Los Muertos (2013) and La Leyenda de la Nahuala deal with the same subject matters), a WWII anime film and American indie Boxcar Children. Let’s get down to it:
With the end of the decade is drawing near, it’s time for me to revisit one of my favorite franchises of this last decade – and my all times as well – Monogatari series. Monogatari series is one rare show that despite its extreme visual style and convoluted storytelling, it still draws a delicate fan-following and becomes one of the most popular and enduring franchises the last ten years have to offer. With an “Off-season” is around the corner (of which there is no official announcement for anime adaptation as of yet but hey, do you seriously think that Shaft will get pass this golden egg? – and of which I’m mixed about: it’s time to move on), the 10-year era from 2009-2019 follows the completion of Monogatari’s main arc, spawning 15 plus mini-arcs and an entire cast larger than a football field. Monogatari has its ups and downs for sure, and we will get to that in this ranking of all the Monogatari arcs, from worst to best.
Of course, as per any ranked list, there’s some rules that needed to mention here. Some arcs that consists of several mini stories – will be included as one (like the Sodaichi arc). This gets tricky, though, when you scroll back to the Bakemonogatari season, which contains 5 mini-arcs of the same theme, and the Japanese novels and English publishions differ in the way they arranging (split into 2 in the former and into 3 in the latter). I will go with NisiOisin’s original intention – 2 small arcs. ONA’s Koyomi Vamp and trilogy-movie Kizu are included as well, that make it a total of 18 arcs. Without further ado, let’s chase them down:
This week, we will head to a niche market: anime TV movies from 2019. These films are all sequels of popular anime series in the past few years, which all in turns are based on popular Light Novels and while the original series are far from my Top 10 Anime material (although Tanya was close), I’m still interested in the franchises enough to follow them through. In the last couple of years, the anime medium have emphasized on following a successful season with a sequel film (or in some cases, multiple films). I suppose the main reason for that is that they can gain actual profits from releasing it in cinema and while the upside is that movie format has far better production values, we as the audiences have to wait much longer and they are not exactly newcomer-friendly. You can still watch these three films below without knowing any context, but the fact remains that there is a certain level from the films that you can only fully appreciate if you know the full context.
This week, we will have a look of French animated films in 2015. It was a great year for France with 4 distinctive movies (these three along with April and the Extraordinary World, which I enjoyed) that could rival any year this decade. It’s interesting to look at the settings of these films as well as literally they are all over the place. April takes place in an alternative steampunk Paris, Long Way North is about Russian aristocrat on her journey to the North Pole, Phantom Boy takes place in whimsical New York and Adama is in a West African village. France has always been one of the leading markets in animation, and I’m glad that the country still intends to keep the art of hand-drawn animation alive and healthy. Merci.
For this edition we’re examining anthology animated films of the decade… well, sort of, as far as the definition of anthology goes. Short Peace is composed by 4 different shorts from 4 different directors, whereas The Prophet uses the different segments for different poems in support for the main storyline, and Extraordinary Tales are based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe that are directed by the same director. Anthology films usually fall in pitfall for inconsistency, as some shorts are better than others, and for thematic and tonal incoherence, but at the same time these films offer multi-perspective with fresh takes on its particular themes. It has a degree of freedom that regular feature-length films don’t have. We will take a look at those mid-2010s titles, again from 3 different continents, to see whether they work as a collective piece. Enjoy.
In general, I consider 2018 an underwhelming year. It sits there as the worst year of this decade for me. There are only three shows that crack the my Top 50 of the Decade, which is the lowest in any year. It has some solid shows, but none that breaks out as a modern classic. I suspect 2018 will be remembered as the year where Netflix original anime storms the mainstream. While I do have some reservations towards its models (never a fan of releasing the whole batch in one go, and I feel Netflix originals are a tad bit too retro, not in a good way), they do take risks and any platform that brings more exposure to anime is always welcome. 2018 is also a really strong year for comedy. Comedy that is plain silly (Grand Blue), comedy that makes you cry (Anzumatsuri), anti-humor comedy (Pop Team Epic)… this year has it all.
Most Popular Show of 2018: Violet Evergarden
I left the show feeling a bit torn about it. On one hand, the production is top notch and when the show hits right, it sweeps you right away. On the other hand, I don’t buy much of Violet’s central conflicts and the show has a tendency to go over-soapiness and try to explain too much, which I was never fond of. To be fair, Violet Evergarden has never known for its subtlety, its intent is always to pull as many punches as possible. Violet Evergarden, therefore, is at its strongest when it uses Violet as an observer, to put her as a background for side characters with their own struggles to find ways to overcome. When she stays in the spotlight, however, the amount of predictable development and cheesy moments always overwhelm the show’s own emotions. All in all, Violet Evergarden is a roller coaster of emotions, in more ways than one. It either sweeps you away with its grandeur approach, or it doesn’t (like myself). Despite my grumpy Violet Evergarden is still worth a watch, if only for the beautiful CG-animated mechanical hands of Violet.
And so it goes. With the completion of Ferdinand and The Boss Baby, I have (finally!) watched all the nominees for Best Animated Feature Films this 2000s decade (I know, I’m proud of myself too. Who knows watching cartoons in your 30s can be this rewarding!?!). This gonna be a massive list as I’m going through every year down below, from best nominee to worst. Before I start, there are some of my general observation over the Oscar animated feature category and its nominees this decade:
I’ve mentioned this before that the Feature Animated Category is my favorite category from the Oscars. It’s one of the few categories where the Academy members look beyond mainstream fares for more international/ art-house picks.
Being said that, the list is still too mainstream for my taste. And while I usually agree with the nominations, the same can’t be said when it comes down to the actual winners. Their choices are usually too safe with Pixar and Disney dominating the race. It’s understandable, all things considered, given that the Animation branch votes for the nominees, and the entire board – many of them don’t care about Animation – votes for the winners.
The “16 or more films submitted to secure 5 slot nominees” rule is really dumb. It only happened once this decade (2010), but as a person who watches a lot of animated films, I strongly feel that we could use these slots to recognize more animated features.
GKIDS had done a very outstanding job to get those international titles noticed *a round of applause* – Netflix seems to be picking on that as well. That being said, usually these international / arthouse gems pick up their traction in Annecy Animation Fest or Animation in Film in the last few years. My point is that, if these indie films don’t play there (as in Anime or family-friendly cases), they tend to run under-the-radar and get ignored.
The Animation branch seems to be picky on sequels and boy, I am glad for that.
Finally, if you still complain that they still miss out on some great gems (they sure did), I need to point out the fact that the problem itself is on the submission list, which you can find here. You can’t blame their choices for being weak and uninspiring if there is a serious lack of choices to begin with. Many of the good stuff, most notably in early years (Arriety and It’s Such a Beautiful Day come to mind), didn’t bother to submit at all.
Scroll down to hear my thoughts on the nominations each year, and the state of the race in general. I’ll keep this post sticky and update the year gradually. After this post I will rank all the 2010s nominees in another mega-post. For now, let’s start with 2010.
For this edition, we’ll visit some indies in 2016. 2016 is an excellent year for animation (which I will discuss further once I do the yearly review). These three are certainly not the cream of the crop, they’re too niched for a wider audience. After all, we have a story about old couple, a story about eldery woman wandering along the shore and a BL story. But precisely because of that, these overlooked gems have a freedom to tell the stories as they intended. Besides, they look distinctive and gorgeous as heck. Let’s dive in
With the coronavirus outbreak glooming across the globe, it’s saddened to see how it already affects the cinema industry as a whole. Current productions are halting, theatres are having the lowest attendance in years, film festivals are canceled and even the fate of Cannes this year is up to the air at the moment (this is a current-me talking and who knows how things go 3,4 weeks from now but if Cannes still decides to proceed, I’ll go as well knowing the full risks). But if this outbreak has any positive aspect, it’s that “staying indoor” means “watching more films and anime”.
For this edition, we will have a look at certain types of animated films that appeal specifically for my taste: feminime films (mostly) made by women about women’s lives. Normally, animation is a product of collaborative efforts. More so than live-action, animation requires a larger number of people working on different aspects to bring a piece of blank paper to life. But these films mentioned below shine through their personal, intimate stories about themselves, about growing-up, midlife crisis where the roles of men are either dominant or insignificant at all. “We show that women can take ownership of their stories, their lives and make their own decisions. We don’t need to ask for permission. We’re each our own owner and we do whatever we want to do. The timing was just right for this story.” says Power Paola in her Virus Tropical film. It’s worth mentioning that Persepolis from 2007 serves as the main influence for these films, as they all acknowledge the refreshing and intimate approach of Persepolis.
As a last note, I should talk in more details about the art-styles and the background about the films, since celebrating the diversity of art styles from all around the world are one of the very reasons I wanted to do this project in the first place.
2017 might not be a great year for mainstream studio releases, but in terms of independent films there are many that leave a lasting impact. These three films, all from Europe, have distinct aesthetic and different art styles, yet I can’t imagine they are in any form other than animation. They all played during the Annecy Film Festival (though Big Bad Fox and Mutafukaz weren’t in the main competition, and Cinderella the Cat played a year later), which still remains one of the leading animation festivals. Let’s unpack them below.