I'm a 32 year old male and my tastes in animation are broad and varied but they mainly include Disney movies. However, I like watching movies and shows that are different and seem to stand out to me.
Animation, Acting, Singing, Dancing
Animation that I love:
The Fox and the Hound, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Avatar: The Last Airbender
This is BRB's most educational show. Dogtanian and Willy Fogg, their other two more popular shows, were known to be more adventurous and straight-forward, although those shows had their own lessons to impart. David the Gnome exemplified the spirited optimism of the 80s, moreso than the other two shows. It was surprisingly more complex than most 80s cartoons, though, as seen by it being a European import and not a merchandising machine. David the Gnome was supremely joyful, and packaged itself as a series of "adventures in a bottle". It also had one of the most endearingly heartfelt opening themes I remember, in my opinion.
While David the Gnome took children along for the ride in a realm of fantasy, one that was almost Tolkien-esque but suitable for children, and educating them about animals at the same time, the true star of the show was how well it integrated many different themes, themes of nature and themes of family, what went into a happy marriage and how to respect and care for the animals. Most of all, it was a beautiful show, beautiful not only in its animation but also in its boundless expression of heart. A cartoon this sublime wouldn't be seen again for quite some time.
All the proper elements are in place.
Cute characters? Check.
Winning personalities? Check.
A great theme song? Check.
A convincing villain? Check.
Theatrical quality animation? Che. . .
Yes. Friendship Is Magic takes whatever preconceptions you've had about the franchise and turns them upside-down. Forget what you thought you knew about My Little Pony, whether it was good or bad, or indeed whether you had low expectations. Friendship Is Magic doesn't raise the bar. It's really not possible to raise the bar from a franchise known for its nauseating silliness, world famous animation mistakes, and cheesy storylines.
Friendship Is Magic breaks the mold and creates a whole new breed of cartoons. Right from the beginning when a semi-silly fairytale style opening gives way to Twilight Sparkle's earnest reading(competently acted by Tara Strong) or when the infamous theme song is obliterated by a completely hip and complete new interpretation, Friendship Is Magic lets you know that this isn't your older sister's My Little Pony. Or even your younger sister's My Little Pony.
The gender-divisiveness is gone. Well almost. From there we're treated to great character moments, outrageous humor, and finally, wonderful animation. All unusual for My Little Pony. They might as well drop that part of the name and call it Friendship Is Magic.
The Pony Universe finally feels believable. The kingdom feels like a kingdom. The families feel like families. Magic feels authentic. Spike is tolerable. And they even have their own version of air show pilots. The ponies still throw parties(and boy do they ever throw parties), but now they have to worry about the darker things in life.
There will be detractors, of course. Hasbro lost the rights to most of the G1 names, but old school pony fans will find solace that cameos of their favorites will appear and that the ponies have now got their magic and villains back. Others will complain that it feels like Powerpuff Girls meets My Little Pony. But most will love that it's really honestly funny.
All I can say is "Welcome back, guys. You've given us your best adventure yet."
Edit: Well apparently most of the episodes will take on a slice of life format, and the first of the "non villain" episodes aired today. My impressions are that this show is more like My Little Pony's version of Tiny Toon Adventures, with a little bit less of Looney Tunes' style of hyperactivity, although the new Pinkie Pie fills out more than her fair share of the Genki Girl role. It's still just as funny as ever, and it's good to see some honest characterization and kid friendly inner conflict. And comparing the Flash animation in this show to, say, the Flash in the new Pound Puppies is like comparing the animation in a Disney movie to the animation in South Park.
This show grows with each passing episode and spreads its magic like wildfire. Its charming influence has already earned it a legion of fans not even one quarter of a season in and a fair collection of a peripheral demographic(read, guys). While Friendship Is Magic is not above stringing a host of plot coupons to get a point across, the way the lessons are applied is definitely not unintelligent nor pandering, and the bigger than life personalities make you instantly forget whatever minor faults there may be.
Friendship Is Magic seemingly managed to capture a lightning in a bottle, and somehow struck a chord with pony fans and animation lovers alike, not caring to be the flashiest cartoon or showing up the other kiddy toons on how it should be done, but somehow doing both at once with great ease.
At the end of every episode, Twilight Sparkle writes a letter to Princess Celestia(who curiously remains behind the scenes since her rescue) stating what she learned about friendship from the day's events, which I think is a nice touch and only increases this show's sense of honesty. However, Friendship Is Magic tosses off its quirky expressions and winning lines like clockwork, and this is probably the real heart of the show. It mixes its innocence with plenty of humor, some character-driven, and some remarkably wacky. Sometimes it's chuckle-inducing. But many times it's hysterically funny.
Girl oriented, but not girly. Cute, but not cutesy. The eye candy is just a bonus. Friendship Is Magic is one of those rarities the cartoon world needs more of, and it's really unfortunate it's tied to a brand name that carries certain negative memories for those who would just as sooner wish the whole franchise had disappeared since the days of the 80s. Even if it's not changing the world, it may as well be. I haven't been this excited about an animated show since Avatar. Nor do I even remember the last time I cared about a cartoon's characters so much that I couldn't wait until the next episode aired.
Edit: *possible spoilers* I felt like getting in one final closure before the start of the much anticipated Season Two. I'll try to make this change as seamless as possible, but more than likely, it'll look like just another sloppy addendum. As of this writing, this show is pressing a score of 9.1 with around 800 votes(and this not a fluke like Princess Promenade's score). I suppose I could comment on how this show has spawned a massive beast in the form of a whole sub-culture, but I'll let the internet speak for itself.
One thing that continues to amaze me that I probably didn't iterate all that well previously is how well this show blends its three major components of comedy, character moment mining, and epic scenes. Episodes will have a different mix of the three themes, often trending towards comedy, so much so that you'll often forget to spot the educational banner being proudly flown in the upper corner of your TV. What's astounding is how a lot of the humor seems to be aimed at adults and draws somewhat modestly from the book of Looney Tunes, which flies in the face of the franchise's originally kitschy themes, treacly optimism(although this show is also optimistic), and, well, a LACK of humor short of "let's play nice". You'll probably recognize a lot of shout outs, such as how Pinkie Pie's bouncing chase in one episode is reminiscent of Pepe Le Pew or how a couple scenes parody Benny Hill or falling anvils during the infamous Feeling Pinkie Keen episode or even more obtuse shout outs like "Night of the Lepus". And even if you don't, that's okay because some humor is fulfilled in more sophisticated ways, such as jabs and quips and banter from our heroes during their snarkier moments(and Rarity being a loving homage to the old school girliness of the original gets her own galaxy of humor).
Character moment mining fulfills the show's socializing aspect. It's probably not surprising that this is how the show spins its educational requirement. What IS surprising is how this show props up the illusion of a working cartoon society so well that fans are picking out the oddest background characters and seemingly going "Hmm. That was interesting. What kind of life does this pony lead?" and spinning off fanfics and pictures of astounding quality. And all our main heroes doubtless form recognizable character types, but unlike many grade school cartoons, the main characters don't fill the archetypes precisely but find ways to bend the edges every now and again. Occasionally the edges get shattered, such as during the final episode of Season One where quiet Fluttershy lets her frustrations break her composure to an absurd extreme. The relatively complexities of the characters' personalities(complex in a Saturday morning cartoon way) also provide interesting clashes over friendship and showcase the cartoon's mild occasional internal conflict and lapses of judgment or selfish moments for each character. There also seems to be an abundant musical aspect to many character moments. The creators of the show are vocal fans of Sondheim, and it shows in the galactic leap in quality of songs over what 80s kids were used to. However most times, a character's personality seems to be augmented by the background music, often through the use of mickey mousing.
Epic moments often come in the form of encounters with the occasional monster(the aforementioned darker things in life which as of writing that paragraph I didn't know would come after the departure of the first villain). This isn't always the case, though. It's made quite clear that the lead female characters, and some notable background characters, are often strong and capable. Twilight Sparkle is sometimes a powerhouse of magic(but only when the situation calls for it) but very rare is the moment when violence is called for to resolve a situation(although peaceful resolutions to the problem of baddies are mercifully classier than the trend in 80s cartoons). These monsters aren't the dippy kind seen in the original(although the Diamond Dogs could be considered a hilarious parody of My Little Pony's need for stupid villains) but things like dragons and cockatrices and hydras. These moments aren't to distract from the show's overall optimistic nature. In fact, this version makes it a point not to be like the original with its punch clock villain of the week style of plotting. Instead, they're to show the audience that the characters live in a certain kind of world with its own rules, and these rules sometimes allow for monsters. Sometimes you'll have to wonder whether certain scenes where made with the kids in mind, what with several scenes almost bordering on accidental nightmare fuel. The hydra scene was scary enough as it was(boy howdy) but one vivid stand out scene finds Fluttershy bumping into Twilight and finding her turned to stone and rescuing her by finding her courage to stand up to the cockatrice and stare it down while she is slowly being turned to stone herself from the back legs forward. Another scene finds the group adventuring up a mountain Lord of the Rings style and nearly getting crushed by a rock slide. But not all epic moments involve monsters. The general purpose of these moments is to showcase moments of triumph, and sometimes these moments come through realizations of will. The most famous example probably comes from the episode Sonic Rainboom, where Rainbow Dash pulls off the titular trick to gain enough speed to save her friend Rarity from falling to her death from the heights of Cloudsdale in a scene that's not only a Crowning Moment of Awesome, but also a Crowning Moment of Funny and a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
It's hard to imagine a show such as this not becoming a huge success. It is thanks to a combination of factors, and not just because it was also made as a marketing franchise. I can't wait for Season Two. That's all I have to say on the matter.
Many animes are cute for the sake of being cute. Sugar: A Little Snow Fairy is a great example of this, and such animes are aimed at the younger set. Every once in a while, though, some animes will take their "cute" and covertly inject a little piss. What you're left with is an anime that's cute for the sake of making you nervous. Strawberry Marshmallow is such an anime and exemplifies the controversial "moe" style.
Strawberry Marshmallow is an anime that tries to follow the Azumanga Daioh style. While it may not have a successful brew of comedy as Azumanga, what's notable about Strawberry Marshmallow is that it doesn't mine the farm of "fast and silly" but instead finds ways to make ordinary situations seem funny through a mix of dead pan and timing. Several running gags and a couple allusions, some Japanese and some Western, occur.
There have been complaints that the dub is terrible, however I find that the English dub makes one of the gags that much funnier. There's a running joke that starts in episode 2 around the character Ana, an exchange student from the UK who has actually forgotten English. Japanese is represented as perfect English, or so we are to assume, while attempts at English are represented as "Engrish". The show will occasionally break the fourth wall by stating something to the effect of "She's speaking perfect Japanese" which will net the response of "Is she?" You really can't replicate this kind of humor.
Strawberry Marshmallow, in addition to being moe, has sometimes been classified by its fans and detractors as lolicon, possibly due in part to the nature of the "slice of life" style anime. Slice of life tends to ask its viewers to "look inside the world of" whatever style of life it sets up for us. Well any anime that asks its viewers to "look inside the world of" preteen girls is likely to be giving off some level of creep vibes.
Indeed, Strawberry Marshmallow seems to have built up an entire subculture centered around this disarming level of innocence and cuteness in the form of various art styles. The girls' eyes aren't just big as saucers, they seem eternally vacant. The show heads off any criticisms aimed at it with the inclusion of Nobue, who in addition to being a smoker, seems to derive occasional pleasure from various acts the preteen girls do in a rather fetishistic way, as if to say "Yeah we know we're weird. Shut up about it."
What makes this particularly stick is that unlike many anime themes, say the gifted teens pilot big robots theme, Strawberry Marshmallow is subversive about it. Disguised within the pretense of "silly girls having fun with their older sister figure", you'd never know this show was trying to warp your brain. Well except for the occasional "dammit" uttered by a 12-year-old who looks like she's 8.
Judging by the sound thrashing it's getting by the critics, it seems the world isn't quite ready for an animated movie without singing teapots or hyperactive squirrels, however the showing I was at seemed modestly packed(a good sign) and the people behind me seemed to enjoy themselves.
9 combines the theme of "outcast hero who screws it up and saves everybody again" of A Bug's Life, a dash of an alternate universe World War II, and the nail-biting dark paranoia of The Matrix. Since The Matrix pretty much has sucked the life out of the whole genre and gotten us all spoiled, the fact that this tiny movie with a big punch has gotten even that last element right is nothing short of sheer genius.
The movie treats us to a world of dark nightmarish visions and charged violence. There's a certain raw power to many of the scenes in this film, however the brutality still isn't something the average ten-year-old can't handle. Most people would probably be drawn to the dreary and depressing landscape, which evokes a kind of eerie beauty.
However, contrary to what the critics are saying, 9 isn't a soulless movie of irritating noise and motion. There are actually only a few key fight scenes, which allows the creators the flexibility to give caring attention to each scene's kinetic energy, and upon seeing the strange monsters in motion, I was actually reminded of Greek mythology. And like Greek mythology, 9 may have a somewhat limiting story, but 9 unfolded more like a short story and less like a movie that couldn't decide on what it wanted to tell and gave up. Short?! Could've fooled me. Unlike, say Disney's Atlantis, a movie which I still enjoyed but felt like bits were missing even at 90 minutes long, 9 at 70 minutes long still felt like just the right length. 9 also refreshingly had a straightforward back story, and the way it was told was brilliant.
9 is also a movie with tiny bits of details tucked away here and there. These are the kinds of details that are insignificant and that many will miss by blinking but that still give the film a strange kind of authenticity. The main point of the film can also be digested and paired away in different ways. Too often it seems like religion is the downfall of mankind. Here science is the target. However the themes of the movie are presented in such a basic way that they never seem to outshine the exploits of the characters and leaves the messages of the film open to interpretation. 9 does its best not to make science or technology seem like the ultimate evil and to show us that only through our actions does evil come. The only point of contention for me is the very blunt "Yeah these guys are definitely Nazis" representation of the Chancellor and his party.
I found it odd that, given the giant machines, the ragdoll characters, and the lack of human beings, 9 was still one of the most honestly humane movies I've ever seen. It got so many things right that movies like Dark City, A.I., or I, Robot got wrong. The viciousness of the action scenes gave me the same feeling I got upon watching Jurassic Park for the first time. However, the subtext of the movie and the strangely endearing stitchpunks elevated the movie beyond mindless violence. While it seemed like many of the characters threatened to become one-note characters, only 9's constant heart of gold might irritate some watchers. 1's bitterness actually made him that much more of a fascinating character and made him better than say the elder penguins of Happy Feet. One of the best scenes in the movie is close to the end. 1 bitterly exclaims to himself "They've left us nothing. Why should we be the ones to clean up their mess?" What happens after that is nothing short of shocking.
The choice of ending is also intriguing but might leave many puzzled. It's not a happy ending. It's not a sad ending. But nobody saves the planet. You'll have to decide for yourself what to make of it, but I found it brilliant. However, for the movie's careful build up of themes, subtexts, and emotions, when that blasted thing blew up to Kingdom Come, I had to keep myself from uttering "That was F-ing cool!" as I felt like I had just witnessed the Death Star blowing up again. Maybe ultimately, it's that explosive element which most people will take away from this film. Which is kind of sad because I felt there was more to 9 than sheer energy. The ultimate message of the movie can probably best be summed up by the film's final scene, which wisely reuses the original short's funeral scene.
Most people are used to Miyazaki's movies being richly detailed and enamored with the weightier issues of the world. Or at the very least weirdly psychedelic and populated with some of the strangest group of characters you'll likely ever see. Given this, I think many people will be taken aback by Ponyo's simplicity and innocence and most likely its near color pencil style of artistry. But I think given the subject material, its choice of art style is actually brilliant.
Ponyo is definitely one of Miyazaki's simpler movies. There are no studies of humankind's relationship with nature here. No messages about war. He hasn't done something like this since My Neighbor Totoro. To be honest, this movie didn't give me that electrified feeling that My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service did the first times I watched them, but those movies were seen during the days when I didn't know what Miyazaki was capable of. However, since Ponyo is a longer movie, I think it weaves a different, and much slower brand of magic, giving us more time to grow accustomed to the movie's child characters.
That's not to say that there aren't touches of brilliance just because this movie isn't like Spirited Away. Miyazaki has a tremendous ability with viewing the world through the eyes of a child. One notable scene of pure joy comes when Ponyo speaks for the first time. Now you know Ponyo was going to speak eventually. However the manner in which she utters her first words is so sudden but so joyful that I couldn't help but feel like I had just discovered a secret doorway that only I knew about. Other scenes show the little pieces of magic that come with living the everyday lives of an ordinary but loving family, much in the same way that My Neighbor Totoro showed us. A particularly memorable and humorous exchange involves Sosuke's mother telling her husband to "Bug Off" constantly via signal light while the husband apologizes for not being able to make it home. Sosuke then lovingly tells his mother not to cry. This is such an honest and wonderful scene because I think we all can identify with this on some level. Another scene sent bad vibes throughout my body because it was extremely reminiscent of a certain scene from Bambi.
Ponyo is a movie that is crammed full of these little bits of magic. While most animated movies tend go for one overarching experience, Ponyo is about finding gentle nuggets of wonder and happiness here and there. There is a small message about keeping the balance of nature back-lighting the whole movie, but unlike Miyazaki's more cautionary tales, this doesn't take center stage. Ponyo is about the joys of love, friendship, and childhood. Every once in a while you'll get a bubble of poignancy pressing at the happy edges, but these bubbles quickly recede before it threatens to get too sappy. Even the soundtrack seems happy. The soundtrack is actually brilliant. This probably would've been my favorite part if I wasn't suddenly reminded of the movie's joyful little quirks, like Ponyo's thousands of strange little sisters, or the way she bounces around the room during her first night of being human in Sosuke's house, or the scene with her running on top of the giant fish, or her giving Sosuke a big hug.