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.
For this section, We’re heading to Spain to have a look at their animation this past decade. All things considered it had been a good decade for Spain. While the more popular CG outputs such as Planet 51, Tad The Lost Explorer which were box-office hits but performed poorly critically, it’s their indie, mature projects that – ahem, excuse my pun – has aged much better. Even if many of them are on the plain-looking side, they more than make up for the sheer power of their subject matters. Also I would add to this batch Chico & Rita (which I enjoyed during its release but I need to re-watch some day). These three films below are definitely adult-oriented, and for my money the more unique offerings in the animation scene. Let’s dig in:
Yeah, I’m doing this too. As a whole, I consider 2019 a great year of anime, especially comes right after 2018 which I consider the worst year of the decade. It’s a year where many Anime Auteurs – some of the best working Anime directors today – helming original visions. Ikuhara, Shinichi Watanabe, Yuusa, Shinkai all have their original, passionate projects, and many manga classics like Vinland Saga and Kimetsu no Yaiba receive anime treatments. 2019 also saw many reboot from the 90s, early 00s decade with varying degrees of success, such as Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019), Fruits Basket (2019) and Blade of the Immortals. On the negative side, the amount of isekai escapism is at its peak, at least in terms of quantity and not for their quality. My format is gonna be this: look at the most Popular show of the year, the most Underrated show, then some honorable mentions before I get to the top 10. Hope you enjoy the countdown.
Most Popular Show of 2019: Carole & Tuesday
If I have to give one definite quality of Carole & Tuesday, it’s “accessible”, for better or for worse. Streaming in Netflix with the majority of the audiences isn’t used to watching anime, I can see this show as a getaway to have a first dip of what modern anime is like. And there are many aspects of Carole & Tuesday to support that approach: the animation is expressive, the art styles are gorgeous and attentive to details, the plot is simple but inspirational, the leads are likeable enough and most of all, the music is well-produced – everything you would expect from the great master Shinichi Watanabe. On a flip side though, because the anime is too mainstream it unfortunately doesn’t have enough edge or depth. The titular characters Carole & Tuesday suffer from that the most. There is little to no conflict between them, and throughout its 2 cours runtime they often act like one, there is no personality to them at all. That is why the supporting cast is often more interesting than the leads themselves. Second, the story arcs remain quite simple and predictable, and it becomes clear that the show is more concentrated on the music than the story. All in all, with the gorgeous visual, crisp animation and the top-notch soundtrack, if you don’t expect too much of it, you’ll enjoy it as you go along the ride.
This time we head back a year to some festival-friendly animated indies in 2018. These films are pretty much passion projects from the creators, and you can see the love for the craft every single minute in the films. Three very different stories from three different regions. From the true story of his mother during the Khmer Rouge in Funan, to Studio Ponoc’s several intimate shorts and finally to Nina Paley’s 7-year in production for a film that eventually released for free. It’s a solid batch of films all around. Next time, we’ll head to Spain for some of their most acclaimed features in 2010s. For now, enjoy.
Well, I promise that this post is the last 2019-centric coverage before I move on to other specific years/ themes (not that this is the end of 2019 titles oh no there are still lots of good ones out there). For this part I decide to pick 3 smaller entries around the globe, with different art styles, aesthetics and target audiences. One from the respected female filmmakers about the harsh lives of people in Taliban, another is a manga-turn-anime tale about growing up, and the last is another addition to an all-time family-friendly classic from the UK. I hope you enjoy the piece.