Friday, April 22, 2011

Neon Genesis Evangelion

So seeing as this is probably going to be my last blog entry, I thought I'd save my favorite animated series for last. This series is one of the reasons I got so into animation in the first place. It's called Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is at first glance, a typical giant robot show. It's premise is that in the year 2000 (the series aired from 1995 to 1996) a meteor struck Antarctica, flooding the Earth, and killing half the human population. Afterwards, these giant monsters referred to as Angels begin attacking humanity. The only thing which can fight the Angels are these giant robots called Evangelions. And the only people who can pilot the Evangelions are three teenagers named Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, and Asuka Soryu.

The first thing that stands out about Neon Genesis Evangelion (commonly referred to as "Eva") is that the designs of the Angels are some of the most creative monster designs I've ever seen. The designs captivate you, and do to the fact that the Angels regularly defy physics, each episode's fight with an Angel is intense and exciting to watch.

Above: An Evangelion fighting an Angel

However, the main appeal about Eva is the characters. Like I said, at first glance, Eva appears to be a pretty typical giant robot show. However, as time goes on, you see that it's really a psychological examination of the characters. Each of the characters has mental and emotional issues, and this eventually becomes the main drama of the series, with the Angels and the whole question of why they exist becoming sort of a subplot.

Basically, the main theme of Eva is an examination of alienation, depression and the distance humans put between each other. The series creator, Hideaki Anno, was depressed at the time he created the series and it shows throughout the series. As the series goes on, it gets more and more disturbing. When it first aired it was originally on primetime. Eventually, it had to be moved to a timeslot after midnight because it would have been too disturbing to air on primetime.

The whole trend of the series becoming more dark also applies to the animation. Eventually, the animation becomes so twisted that it can only be described as postmodern. The animation is also rife with religious symbolism, and many a person has tried to analyze all of the symbolism in Eva. The concluding movie to the series, End of Evangelion, looks like it was made on acid. In fact, here's my approximate reaction when I first started the series and when it ended:

Beginning of the Series: "Huh, this looks like a pretty typical giant robot show. I wonder what's the big deal?"
End of Evangelion: "...WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH?"

Eva made a huge impression on me when I first watched it, mainly because I could relate in a way to many of the characters, and its whole plot left me speechless. Countless people have felt the same way after viewing it. Neon Genesis Evangelion made a huge impact when it aired, and it continues to influence animation to this day. Everyone should watch it, if only to view one of the most iconic anime series of all time.

On one final note, Hideaki Anno has recently started making a remake of the series, in the form of four movies, called Rebuild of Evangelion. It's undoubtedly influenced by the fact that Hideaki Anno has grown a lot as a person in the fifteen years since Eva first aired, and is now happily married with a daughter. The focus is no longer on psychological drama. Instead, its main appeal is that many of the Angel fights are now redone with amazing animation and CGI, and many characters spend less time contemplating their emotional issues, and more time fighting Angels. In addition, neglected characters from the series seem to be getting more character development so far. Two movies are already out on DVD and Blu-Ray, and two more are planned. However, I wouldn't recommend watching Rebuild of Evangelion before the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series. Rebuild has its own appeal, but its much better to appreciate when you've already seen the series. Finally, I hope you love the series as much as I did.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show

Like many kids of our generation, I would religiously watch Cartoon Network. Those shows defined our childhood and it's shame that so many kids cartoons pale today pale in comparison to past cartoons. And without a doubt, my favorite show on Cartoon Network was Ed, Edd n Eddy. I used to spend countless afternoons watching it. Of course, it's been years since I watched it, but when I heard that Ed Edd n Eddy only recently ended, and that it concluded with a hour and thirty minute long movie called Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show, I had to check it out.

The whole movie's basically about the Eds fleeing town after one of their scams goes awry, and going off to find Eddy's brother. The movie perfectly concludes the series. First off, the movie is worth watching for the first twenty minutes along, in what is probably the most epic car chase ever. I don't want to give too much away but let's just say it has all of the slapstick humor that made me love Ed Edd n Eddy as a kid. As for concluding the series, it does a great job at that since we finally get to see Eddy's frequently-mentioned older brother and an ending where the Eds actually win for once.

 When the movie was over I did feel a bit sad, since one of my favorite shows from childhood was now officially over. Still, as a whole, watching it made me experience an awesome feeling of nostalgia.

So yeah, if you want a huge hit of nostalgia, go watch Ed Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show. Amazingly, the whole movie is available on Youtube. So I'm guessing that with all their new, crappy shows, Cartoon Network doesn't really care if someone violates their copyright on Ed, Edd n Eddy.

Friday, April 1, 2011


A young man stands in his bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April, is this young man's birthday. Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name!

What will the name of this young man be?

Okay, so today I'm not going to blog about an animated series, but a webcomic called Homestuck. A few of my friends from high school read it and had been bugging me for a long time to read it, but I was put off by its length. About two months ago, I finally set down to read it, and I was not dissapointed.

Homestuck is described by its creator, Andrew Hussie, as "A tale about a boy and his friends and a game they play together". It's basic premise is that four kids receive a game called SBURB, which allows them to manipulate their environment in a way similar to The Sims. It starts off feeling sort of like a deconstruction of The Sims. But then they notice that a certain object from the game starts a countdown when activated. And then meteors start impacting the Earth. Before they know it, the Earth has been destroyed in the Apocalypse and the kids find themselves transported to a new dimension. And as the kids begin to learn the true nature of the game, SBURB, it only gets more and more complicated.

The thing that may put people off about Homestuck is its complexity and length. It's basically the webcomic equivalent of Lost. The thing is though, it gets incrementally better, so I would keep reading more if you're not liking the current pacing. Andrew Hussie writes occasional recaps so readers can grasp everything that's going on but otherwise, it can be hard to follow. As for its length, it updates nearly every day. And it has been updating since April 2009. Since each update is usually multiple pages, its current length is around...5500 PAGES. Yeah, needless to say, it took me weeks to get caught up.

One cool thing about Homestuck is that while the art is pretty simplistic, it uses more media than other webcomics. Andrew Hussie will occasionally create flash animation and even flash games and the result is some of the best flash animation I've seen on the internet. He'll also occasionally release whole soundtracks for the webcomic, made by numerous artists. It ends up drawing you in more than your average webcomic.
For two good examples of the flashes (which don't spoil the plot) watch these:

So, if you have time on you hands, I would definitely recommend reading Homestuck. The first page can be found here:

Oh, and here's an image I found to give you a basic idea of the plot:

Friday, March 25, 2011


So, anyone who watches Adult Swim I hope has seen Superjail!. But if not, I think I should blog about what is one of the best shows on Adult Swim right now.

So, Superjail! takes place inside a giant prison that is inside a volcano, which is inside another volcano.  The jail is run by the Warden, who is basically a demented Willy Wonka. He's assisted in running the jail by Jared, his neurotic yes man, a killer robot named Jailbot and a transsexual prison guard named Alice. As for the prisoners of Superjail, there aren't many recurring characters, besides two creepy genius twins and a knife-wielding psychopath named Jackknife.

The main characteristic of Superjail is that it seems like the Warden can bend the laws of time and space to his will in order to control the inmates. Such as dressing the inmates up in wolf costumes which causes them to turn into werewolves during a full moon.

The main appeal of Superjail! is the deranged animation and the over the top graphic violence. Each episode ends with nearly all of the prisoners being killed in a gruesome bloodbath, each of them being given a unique death. I'd be surprised if this WASN'T made while on drugs.

The only real flaw of Superjail! is that each episode is only fifteen minutes long. But in that time you still get to see some of the most creative animation I've ever seen. So definitely watch it on Adult Swim if you're not already. And it's getting a second season which is going to premiere on April 3.

And just so you can get a feel for it, because really, it's almost hard to describe, here's a link to the pilot episode:

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This movie is based on a novel by award-winning author Neil Gaiman. I remember buying this book back in middle school at the scholastic book fair and I loved every moment of it. When I saw a movie based on the book was coming out in 2009 I couldn't wait for an adaption of one of my favorite childhood books. And when I finally saw it in theaters I was not disappointed.

Coraline is about a young girl named Coraline Jones who has recently moved into a new house. She finds life constantly boring and is annoyed by the lack of attention her parents give her. However, one afternoon she finds a hidden door that is mysteriously bricked up. Later that night, she follows mice to the door, which is now open, and leads to a more fantastic version of her world. The world is an exact copy of her house but with its residents more lively, more delicious food, toys which are alive, and animate plants. There also lives the Other Mother, an exact copy of Coraline's mother but with button eyes, and who promises to give Coraline anything she wants. However, she is also intent on making sure Coraline stays with her forever.

Looking back, I'm almost surprised the book was marketed to children because it gets consistently more creepy as it goes on. The movie is exactly the same way, and the ending scene is downright nightmare fuel. I heard numerous children crying when I saw it in theaters. It gives the film a great feel though, oftentimes feeling like a modern day Grimm's Fairy Tale, and its nice to see an animated film which isn't worried about scaring kids.

What really makes the film stand out is that it's probably one of the greatest pieces of stop-motion animation ever produced. Stop-motion is a type of animation where objects are moved in small increments and photographed between frames, giving the appearance of motion. The amount of detail they show in the world which is created is incredible, and makes you appreciate how much patience the animators must have had. One short "making of Coraline" videos released prior to the film's release, shows one artist using knitting needles the size of human hairs to create the clothes of the characters. In contrast to most other animated works, there's very little computer generated imagery, its done almost entirely in stop-motion. To get an appreciation of the skill it must have taken to animate the film this way, just watch the trailer:

What's also notable about the film is that its directed by Henry Selick (not Tim Burton), the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And it was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was also the first stop-motion film shot in 3D and I'm really glad I had the chance to see it in 3D when it was playing in theaters. Overall, Coraline is definitely worth checking out. Both for its exquisite story and for its amazing stop motion animation

Friday, March 4, 2011


Get ready for some of the trippiest animation you'll ever seen in your life.

Paprika takes place in the near future where a device called a DC allows people to enter other people's dreams. And yes, I know this sounds similar to Inception but Paprika actually came out four years prior to Inception. The device is used as a type of psychotherapy treatment, with one researcher, named Dr Atsuko Chiba, assuming a persona in the dream world with a completely different personality named Paprika, which she uses to treat people. However, a prototype portable version of the device, called the DC Mini, is stolen and is missing a safeguard which basically prevents people's minds from being hacked. Soon, people start going insane as a dream from a schizophrenic patient invades their minds, and people's perception of reality begins to unravel.

As I mentioned, one of the main appeals of Paprika is the trippy animation. It honestly looks like it was made while on drugs. The dream from the schizophrenic patient I mentioned? Here's what It looks like:

Most of this has to do with the film being about the nature of dreams. In the dream world the laws of physics are constantly broken and the setting of the dream world shifts nearly every minute. As the film goes on, the viewer can no longer tell what is reality and what is the dreamworld anymore.

The director of this film, Satoshi Kon, was an absolute genius, who had frequently been compared to Hayao Miyazaki and had won numerous awards. I would highly recommend anything by him, especially one film, Millennium Actress, which I may blog about at a later date. What's tragic is that he died of pancreatic cancer last May at the age of 46, thereby depriving the world of one of the most talented directors to ever live.

All in all, if you're looking for something trippy to watch, I would definitely recommend Paprika. And while the nature of dreams is the main theme of the film, don't expect it to be like Inception.

Friday, February 25, 2011


"Nothing amazing happens here. Everything is ordinary"

This is one of the first lines in the series FLCL, spoken by the protagonist Naota. This is despite the fact that he lives in a town which is home to a giant robotics factory which resembles an iron. Later, he nearly gets run over by a maniac girl on a Vespa named Haruko Haruhara, who also hits him on the head with a Rickenbacker bass guitar. From the bump on his head from where he got hit with the bass guitar, a giant robot eventually pops out. And this is all in the first episode. And the series only gets weirder from there.

 While there is sort of a space opera-type plot in the background of FLCL, it's very hard to make out. And honestly, it's unimportant. The main appeal of FLCL is just how goddamn wacky it is. As the show gets weirder and more insane it constantly leaves you laughing with its cartoonish antics and the fourth wall being consistently broken.  In fact, Adult Swim said that this is their favorite anime to air and described it in a commercial thus: "Don't worry, it'll start making sense soon... Well, that's not really true, but it keeps getting better and better and better".

A popular rumor is that the series was created by the animation studio, Gainax, to test out new animation techniques. And it shows. The animation style is very erratic and resembles Loony Tunes in a lot of ways. It's constantly shifting between art styles, at one point turning into manga panels and at another point turning into the art style of South Park.

If anything clear can be said about the plot of FLCL, it's that it's mainly a coming of a age story. Although a very weird one. The main character, Naota, is a middle schooler who is entering high school next year, and is  constantly serious and trying to act like an adult. Eventually, after all of the crazy events of the series, he comes to realize that he should enjoy being a kid while it lasts. The strong characterization in the show has helps lend to its appeal.

Another notable thing about FLCL is that it has a very nice original soundtrack by the Japanese alternative rock group, The Pillows. The ending theme in particular is very catchy and the music tends to fit the animation very well. I liked it so much that I have the entire soundtrack on my iPod.

The only real disappointment about FLCL is that it's only six episodes. Although, even that's not too bad because it allows you to watch the whole series in around three hours. And they manage to pack a lot of crazy into those six episodes. All in all, if you're looking for a fun, wacky series to watch, you can't go wrong with FLCL. It recently came out on Blu-Ray and DVD, and is also available as an HD download on iTunes.

Oh, and here's the trailer: