Let's talk about some animted shows (and a movie) on Netflix!
Recently, as I am still working from home, I have been putting on cartoons on Netflix in the background. I am a huge fan of animation, and it has been a while since I have broken into something new. So over the past few weeks I decided to watch a lot. Here are my reviews.
The Dragon Prince
The Dragon Prince is actually a show that I started watching several months ago, but I only completed the first two episodes and didn't have the drive to continue watching. This is because the first few episodes are not all that impressive in my opinion. From the first moments of the first episode the show seems to be setting itself up to be a fantasy show, just like any other fantasy show. Magic, dark magic, elves, dragons, kingdoms. It has all been done before, and it has all been done to death. The first few episodes do a good job of establishing the world, the characters, and the catalyst for the story, but I don't think that any of it really jumps out and hooks you. In addition, the beginning of the show can be particularly difficult to watch due to the animation. For some reason the animators chose to go with an odd animation style where the characters move in a very choppy way. I think that this was done with the intention of making the animation look unique (which is more difficult to do in 3D animation than in 2D animation), but the end result is less unique than it is jarring and laggy. Ultimately it almost seems unfinished.
Despite the rocky start of this series, I actually fell in love with this show. The fantasy setting becomes much more interesting. You grow to love the characters. You get used to the choppiness of the animation (which also gets much better after season 1). It all ended up exceeding the expectations I had originally going into it. The show does a good job at making you love its characters. Reyla, the elf assassin is probably my favorite. Jack De Sena does a great job as Callum, one of the two prince brothers who will sound familiar to anybody who watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. The only main character who I didn't quickly come to enjoy was arguably the show's lead character, Ezren. Ezren is a very young child, and the next heir to the throne. While he is far from a bad character, I didn't find him quite as compelling as the others at first. His part in the story made sense, but he just seemed like a somewhat generic quirky kid character, with an affinity for animals. Later in the series they begin to explore his character in ways that become more interesting, and I found myself liking him then, but it kind of took a while.
Many of the side characters are interesting and fun to watch as well. Claudia, the dark mage girl, is probably my favorite side character she has a really enjoyable light hearted personality, and the writing encourages you to like her, even though she often plays the role of an antagonist. Her brother Soren follows suit, though to a lesser extent. One of the more interesting side characters is the prince's aunt, a mute warrior that communicates in sign language. My only complaint with her is that I think she became a more boring character that I cared less about as the story progressed. The show focuses on her and a different character (I won't mention for spoilers) and their unlikely partnership. This sub plot doesn't seem to go much of anywhere in my opinion. It is slightly consequential, but that doesn't mean it is interesting. Her best moments are when she is introduced, and during flash backs.
Probably the weakest character in the whole show in my opinion is Viren, the father of Claudia and Soren, and the main antagonist of the show. Even from the beginning of the show he never becomes all that interesting. They give him just enough characterization and depth to keep him from being one-note, but he just didn't impress me all that much. And he never really seemed to be that much of a threat. This is probably why the writers chose to write in a bigger threat (which again I won't mention because of spoilers).
Ultimately if you can get past the weak start and the confusing animation choices in the beginning of the series, then I highly suggest giving The Dragon Prince a watch. The show isn't over yet, there is still at least one more season on the way, but I think season 3 mostly wrapped things up in a way I am happy with. I am not sure what direction they will go in season 4, but I will be tuning in to see.
I don't have too much to say about Hilda. In fact, I am not sure I should be writing any kind of review for Hilda at all, seeing as I only watched the first three episodes. I heard a lot about Hilda, and it may have been over-hyped for me. I definetely see the appeal, but I just don't think it is for me. I have never been that interested in urban fantasy stories, and the show might be just a bit too cutesy for me. The show revolves around Hilda and her mother moving from the wilderness, where Hilda can explore and make friends with the various fantasy creatures in their world, to the city, where Hilda must face the challenges of making friends with other kids. That summary may not totally cover it, since I haven't seen the full first season, but it is accurate enough. I definetely found some of its jokes quite funny, in particular the elves and their immense bureaucracy stand out, but the show feels targeted towards a demographic I just don't fit into. If I had a kid I might watch it with them. Maybe I will revisit it if I get bored someday.
Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro
I have only seen a few anime in my life, and I have never seen anything related to Lupin III before this. But this film is just pure fun. It is the kind of thing I feel like I would watch as a kid. It brought me back to the days of watching the original Speed Racer anime from the 60s. There isn't too much more I can say. If you like a fun adventure/heist/spy flick and the style of 70s anime give it a watch. You won't regret it.
Kid Cosmic is a new show from Craig McCracken. Animation fans will likely recognize the name as he created some beloved cartoons (PowerPuff Girls, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, Wander Over Yonder) and worked on many others (Dexter's Lab). As a result, Kid Cosmic not only has to stand up as it's own property, but also stand up with the other beloved McCracken shows. In both regards I believe that Kid Cosmic succeeds.
Kid Cosmic is a show about an ensemble cast of characters who acquire super powers from alien stones. The focus on the show is mainly on Kid Cosmic himself, and what he expects things to be like as a hero, versus the reality. The story becomes a bit of a character study of Kid, and really goes places that I wouldn't have expected. The art style, music, and themes all feel like a fusion of the 70s, comic books, and sunday comic strips, which surprisingly blends together very well. Aside from Kid, the other main characters are all enjoyable. Jo is a teenager working at her mom's diner, but longing for something more. Rosa is a toddler with a bit of a (somewhat deserved) Napoleon complex. Papa G is a kindly old man who always wants to help others and has his friend's interests at heart at all times. And Tuna Sandwhich is a cat with more than meets the eye. They each have powers such as opening portals, growing in size, and creating clones. They also have a captive alien they call Chuck who wants to take the cosmic stones to his leader so that his species can rule, and he can receive praise and admiration. All of these, and more, are very likeable and interesting. One thing I am appreciative of is that all the characters don't just get along all the time. They can have real conflicts that have real consequences. This makes their relationships feel more meaningful to me.
Without spoiling too much, about half way through the series the story takes a very interesting turn that really shakes things up. And the end of the first season left me begging for more. This is truly the first surprise hit of the year for me. Watch Kid Cosmic.
If you have any suggestions for animated shows/movies of any kind, I would love to hear them.
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