Geoduck's World

Random Events in a Disorganized Universe

South Park
Fourth Graders with fowl mouths living in a town in Colorado. Strange things happen and the kids fix it. They try to use this as a vehicle for social commentary and satire. First couple of seasons were not too bad. The sh*t show was a far deeper than many people gave it credit for. The later seasons got to be more a vehicle for potty humour and kids doing inappropriate things than serious satire.

Film Board of Canada. Beautiful abstract short with music by JS Bach and Glen Gould and abstract water-colours about moving spheres. Mesmerizing and meditative.

Spice and Wolf (Ookami to Koushinryou)
Amusing but not great. This is clearly set in Europe, not Japan. Craft Lawrence, a travelling merchant hooks up with Horo a Wolf Spirit. He agrees to take her back to her homeland in the north. Along the way they get involved with lots of dealings and actual criminality. There are two big companies in town that are competing and the two of them are caught in the middle. Unfortunately the company names are so similar it's sometimes difficult to which one is doing what. It's also the story of their growing relationship. The animation is average. The writing is not bad. I just had some trouble getting into the characters. Lawrence seems to drift from shrewd trader to clueless novice. Horo is at times, a wise spirit, glutton, or spoiled child. Also there are gaps in the action where Lawrence stops to explain his dealings to Horo. If you've ever seen the cartoons "By Word of Mouse" or "Heir Conditioned" or "Yankee Dood It", where they tried to use cartoons to teach economic theory you understand how boring this can be. At some points I just wanted to yell 'I get it already' at the screen. Just not interesting enough to bother with Spice and Wolf II.

Spirited Away (Movie)
(Miyazaki) A little girl and her family move to a new town and on the way stumble into a Spirit Bath House (we would call it a spa). She has to survive, make friends, and rescue her parents who have been turned into pigs. In the process she grows up from a whiny child to a confident adult. The description of this fairy tale does not do it justice. It is stunningly beautiful, moving, and deep. Not just the best animated film I have seen. I think it is the best film of any kind I have ever seen.

Strange creatures live on an island. They are the result of horrific genetic experiments. Some are recognizable: a gorilla with a pony head, a rhino with two legs, a cat head on 8 tentacles, and some are so mixed up that it's hard to tell what they were. They live, and play, and generally do amusing things. It's not high art but it is fun, even if it does rely on slapstick and bodily functions humour a lot of the time. The transitions are done with panache, the whole show has a fun tongue in cheek style. While it tarted out rather silly, over time the inner subversion came out. It's actually quite well written and very enjoyable. I get the same feeling from Spliced as I did from Dave the Barbarian.

Spongebob Squarepants
A sponge who is an idiot. His friend the starfish that is even dumber. His neighbour the octopus is arrogant and pompous. His boss is a miserly crab. His friend is a squirrel in the diving suit. The list goes on and on of the strange inhabitants of Bikini Bottom. The whole effect is completely stupid, utterly moronic, and without anything to interest anyone over age 9. Inexplicably, it is fun to watch. Look for anachronisms. For example, why are their are waves on the beach when Bikini Bottom is under water. How do they light fires. It's surprisingly fun.

There is a theory that you do not need fine art if the writing is good. The cartoons of Callihan are the best example. I can also point to several shows that were graphically impressive but were just bad. The film Antz for example. Squidbillies is about squids living among people in some remote hick town in the mountains of northern Georgia. It has almost unintelligible graphics. It also has forgettable, painfully obvious writing. Crass for the sake of crassness. Unfunny, uninteresting, witless dialogue. The plot, such as it is has little to keep you interested. The situations are stupid, the characters are unsympathetic and the interactions are uninteresting.

Squirrel Boy
A throwback to an older style of animation. A family lives with their talking screw up of a pet squirrel. Lots of slapstick and silly comedy. OK but the humour is juvenile enough that I do not catch it much. It has the same problem that Fosters has. The main character (Rodney the squirrel in this case) is just really annoying.

Star Trek The Animated Series
The overall stories are challenging, in many ways more on a level with the original series than a kids show. They used the power of animation to produce interesting situations and aliens they couldn’t do with TV production techniques available at the time. However, the series is crippled by one thing: Funimation. The Funimation animation is awful, on a par with He-Man, done by Funimation a few years later. It’s a fairly good series if you can overlook the clumsy production values.

Steam Boy (Movie)
A young boy named Ray Steam in Victorian England is a mechanical genius just like his father and grandfather. One day a package arrives. As they open the package the bad guys come in and try to steal it. The boy takes off with the device from the package with the bad guys in pursuit. The rest of the story is Ray trying to keep the device from the package, recover it from the bad guys when they get it, and above all try to figure out who, if anyone is actually good. Along the way he meets the most obnoxious, ethically vacuous girl ever animated. She almost sees the evil of the bad guys several times only to not get it. The film would be better if she had been smarter. A bit heavy handed on the message. Overall not a bad film though. Exciting and spectacular, the mechanical design of all the equipment is great, while also keeping the Victorian feel of the story.

Stein’s Gate
A small group of kids start experimenting with building a time machine. They succeed and draw the attention of SERN, who in the future also comes up with a time machine and uses it to rule a distopian world. Suddenly they are struggling to survive SERN agents trying to take them out, and fix the future. The lead guy Okarin is frankly an annoying poser/jerk at the beginning but as the series goes on he matures a lot. The story gains a good deal of depth and character development. Each of the changes they make to the timeline has unforeseen consequences, and then undoing the changes leaves Okarin and his group with horrible moral dilemmas. They make a few mistakes in chrono-physics and there were a few plot twists that they telegraphed episodes before, but overall it’s not bad.

A kid leaves home to attend an academy for special students run by a slightly mysterious bearded man. While there the kid and friends have to deal with social issues, self confidence, and a huge threat that could destroy the world. Sounds like Harry Potter doesn't it? In this case the kid is a girl named Shima, the school is Stellvia an academy in space for talented students, and the threat is the shock-wave from a nearby Supernova that could literally destroy the earth. Overall the writing is superb. The characters have a great dal of depth. I found myself caring about what would happen to them, not just what would happen in the story. The animation is average or maybe a bit better than average, but that's OK. Even if the ending is a little predictable, there are enough twists, turns, and surprises along the way to make for a very entertaining series. A sequel was planned but, apparently there were clashes and it has been shelved permanently. Pity, there were a few questions left unanswered at the end of the first series that I was hoping would be answered.

Steven Universe.
A kid in a tiny town on a tiny planet in a tiny parallel universe goes on adventures with three spirits, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, each of whom have their own personalities. Apparently his mother, Rose Quartz, was a spirit as well and Steven is discovering his own powers. Odd adventures, occasional unpleasant songs, and a surprisingly dark subtext. At first I liked it. Over time I grew to like it a lot.

Storm Hawks
I was very surprised at this one. A small group of teenagers that call themselves the Storm Hawks. They use their crystal powered flying motorcycles to travel from place to place and battle the Cylonians. And other bad guys. It looked like yet another variation on a tired old theme. This time though the writing had some wit and cleverness. The animation is very good. The flying scenes are often breathtaking. Overall, this is a surprisingly entertaining and amusing show.

Straight Jacket
An alternate universe where magic is just like electricity, or chemistry, or nuclear; an energy that society uses for it's own purposes. Like many that we do use the pollution from magic's use harms people, especially children. Those that use it too much turn into horrible monsters bent on killing and destruction. Enter the Tactical Sorcerers. They wear an armoured skintight battle suit that keeps them from becoming deformed despite the vast magical powers they weald to protect the city. Straight Jacket refers to the suits, but also to the moral dilemmas they face. Kill to stop the killing. Pollute to stop the effects of pollution. The moral decay in some is palpable. The protagonist is a cynical, tired, unlicensed Tactical Sorcerer. He is accompanied by the half human-half demon daughter of the monsters he killed on one of his first jobs. The story is an interesting allegory of the real world where we do use powers that pollute and kill us, where greed does make us into monsters. It used the familiar 'Dirty Harry' model of a rogue cop that the police have to rely on to get the job done. Fun, but 90 minutes isn't really long enough to delve into the characters backgrounds and motivations.

Street Musique
Ryan Larkin used the music of street musicians, who appear at the beginning and end of the film, to inspire a journey exploring movement. The artwork varies from the Psychedelic to Impressionistic. LSD inspired surreal line drawings cross into beautiful abstract pastel drawings that cross into exquisite water-colour landscapes. The film is full of fun music and beautiful and thought provoking images. As with Walking, it is beautiful in its own way. See also Ryan, Walking, and Syrinx.

Sword Art Online
So close. This series is almost Best List worthy, almost. At heart it is a very well written and produced series about people trapped in an on-line world. At first glance it follows the pattern of the ./Hack series, just much better written. You really care about the characters. There are surprising plot twists. It’s not just a stereotypical one battle after another story arc. This continues to episode 14 when they escape. However, the series has 11 more episodes. For the second part of the series they add new characters, a new world, and a new, positively nauseating villain. The trouble is that the writing is just not as crisp, not as well done as the first 14. The characters make questionable ethical choices. There are plot weaknesses that weren’t allowed in the first part. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers but there’s even one rather disturbing sub plot involving a forbidden relationship. As with a number of other series, they just couldn’t hold it together till the end.

By Ryan Larkin . A beautiful charcoal animated film of the classic myth of Syrinx and Pan. The animation at times looks like sand painting the way the images melt into each other. It is quite striking. See also Ryan, Walking, and Street Musique,