The Infallible Fish Reviews: Hilda and the Mountain King

Hilda and the Epic Conclusion!

What’s the Story?

Hilda’s always been wild-at-heart and thanks to that she’s gone on all manner of adventures, even after moving to Trolberg. Whether it’s dealing with Tide Mice, sorting out contracts with the organisation-obsessed elves or befriending the local Nisse, there’s always something new to explore and learn about. However, after a harrowing journey through the home of the trolls with her mum, Hilda was all set for a bit of peace and quiet for once. Unfortunately there’s no telling when an adventure will call and the next morning Hilda wakes up to find herself turned into a troll! Meanwhile Hilda’s mum has woken up to find her daughter replaced by a troll baby! Can Hilda use her wits and courage to find her way home and turn herself back into a human? Or perhaps there are even more pressing matters, why exactly are the trolls gathering outside Trolberg? And what does the Mountain King have planned for the humans behind the city’s walls?

The Review:

And here we are folks, the end of Hilda. At least, at the time of writing this, that’s what this looks to be. The Mountain King is the latest Hilda book to be published and as far as I know Netflix hasn’t announced a third season. I’ll admit this film leaves me feeling very bittersweet. On the one hand it’s great that we’ve got to the end of the story with such a wonderful adaptation that is both word for word what’s in the book, but also isn’t afraid to add new stuff. On the other hand though, this is the end and I’m not sure I’m ready for all this to be over. I fell in love with Hilda back in the first season (you can read my review of season 1 HERE and season 2 HERE). The show is so cozy and charming it’s been like a comfort blanket at times, just wrapping me up and letting me disappear into this pastel-coloured world where magic and adventure are around every corner.

If you haven’t seen the series but are thinking about watching this film then I’d really suggest you watch the series first. This film is a direct continuation, following on from the cliffhanger season 2 left us on. Also, that cozy atmosphere that I was talking about, don’t expect as much of that in this film. There are plenty of moments of levity and wonder, with some fun bits of exploration and additions to the lore, but this is the story of Hilda and her mum’s frantic attempts to get back to one another. I can’t really call that cozy and there are some hard moments, especially with Hilda’s mum where you can see her breaking down under the stress. It all adds to the epic feeling of the film and just a gentle reminder that this story is bigger than any the series has ever tried to tell. The whole town is literally on the line this time.

If I did have one criticism to make about this film, it’s that, as someone who’s read the books, it’s hard not to see all the additional scenes as filler. As I said in the opening paragraph a lot of this film is a word-for-word adaptation, they pretty much took the book and animated it. However there is a big difference between the books and the TV series, mostly in the fact that the series has a lot more characters that it’s introduced. As such the film needs to find something for those people to do so they get little subplots that thread through the story. They’re entertaining scenes certainly and it’s great to see what everyone is up to, but I also can’t escape the fact that they don’t really accomplish anything. Minor spoiler ahead, skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it, there’s a moment where Frida and David turn up to help Hilda’s mum, only for her to drop them back home the literal next scene. It’s like the film going ‘I know you want to be apart of this but that’s not the plot, bye!’

Moving back to positives though, let’s talk about subtext. The plot, as I mentioned, is about Hilda and her mum finding one another again, but on a deeper level the story is about something else. The core message of the Mountain King is to not judge by appearances and to try to communicate and understand one another, even when we’re scared. Especially when we’re scared. Trolls have always been a menacing presence in the series, even if Hilda and her friends have learnt not all trolls are bad, it’s still their first instinct to run from one. This isn’t helped by the fact that so little is known about trolls and why they do what they do. Throw in the Safety Patrol driving everyone into a paranoid frenzy and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It feels like a very appropriate topic for the times as you see the townsfolk giving into misinformation and their own worst instincts. It’s a subject handled with a great deal of care and the film isn’t naive about it either, even by the ending it admits that not everything has been magically resolved, but it’s a start.

The Verdict:

In the end, Hilda and the Mountain King is the finale the series deserved. Everything that I love about the series is still here, the beautiful animation, great music and all the characters I’ve come to know and love. Yes, things are a bit more tense and serious, but the film never loses that sense of fun and wonder that I enjoy so much in this series. Add on some smartly written subtext and you’ve got a nearly perfect package. In fact my only real criticism is that some of the supporting characters feel unable to contribute to the story. That’s a nitpick though and I couldn’t be happier that we got to bring things to their proper conclusion. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to binge the series from the beginning.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Cartoon Corner: Hilda Season 2 Review

Hilda and the Expanding World!

What’s the Story?

By now Hilda has gotten used to living in the walled city of Trolberg. She may still miss living out in the wild sometimes, but with her friends by her side she’s discovered that there’s more than enough adventures to be found within the walls. From krakens to immortal Vikings, the hidden library of the witches to the return of the Tide Mice, what more could a wild-at-heart girl ask for? Of course not everything is sunny in Trolberg, Hilda is keeping these little adventures a secret from her mum and that’s causing some tension at home. Then there’s the efforts of the Safety Patrol that generally do more harm than good around the city. Also, is it me, or are those trolls getting closer to the walls?

The Review

Hilda’s back! I really loved the first season of this cosy, utterly charming little show, as anyone who read my review of it will be able to tell you (you can read it for yourselves HERE). So, how does the second season stack up? Well, it’s more of the same and that’s exactly what I wanted! This series is like settling down with a warm cup of tea after coming in from a wintry day, possibly with a cucumber sandwich or two. It’s effortlessly captivating, from the superb visuals and animation to the heart-warming characters and inventive situations and creature designs. I could spend the rest of the my days running around the streets of Trolberg, going on adventures with Hilda and the gang, but before I turn this into another non-stop gush let’s talk about what this series does different to the first.

In my review of the first season I talked about how the story kept evolving, and that is true of this second season too, more so in fact. For starters a lot of the elements and characters of the first season return and are further explored and developed. Want to know what happened to those Tide Mice? Want to see more of the witch librarian and see more how magic works in this world? That’s all here and more. It really makes the world of the series feel like a living breathing place, actions have consequences and one adventure will have a knock-on effect on another down the line. It’s also nice that Frida and David get to meet characters that they didn’t run into last season, but the rest of the cast did.

That brings me to the biggest development this season, and the closest this series has gotten to an over-arching plot, Ahlberg. New head of the Safety Patrol, he’s keen to be seen as the hero of the town and his vanity and various schemes often cause problems throughout the season. From antagonising the local wildlife to interfering with forces that only make things worse, it’s almost as if Hilda has a recurring antagonist at last. I say almost because the majority of the time Ahlberg is treated as a joke and dismissed, a fearful idiot who just doesn’t know what he’s doing and never gets any real comeuppance. For those looking for his comeuppance I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer. There’s no real resolution to the problems he’s causing by the season’s end and, since the Mountain King story hasn’t been adapted yet, I’m assuming all that’s going into season 3. (Having read the Mountain King comic though I can’t wait to see it animated!) The most we get for now is the deputy starting to see Ahlberg for the egomaniac he really is.

Ahlberg isn’t the only problem for Hilda this season though, there’s the continual rising tension between her and her mother. It’s typical kids show stuff really, kid goes out on these wild, fantastical adventures and doesn’t tell their parents what they’ve been up to, leading to arguments when they’re finally caught out. Where Hilda is different though it that it goes to great lengths to show both sides of the argument. Hilda’s mum is genuinely worried about Hilda, after all she knows about some of the stuff that’s out there and she knows how headstrong Hilda can be. Hilda on the other hand just wants to roam and enjoy herself, and in her head she’s not telling her mum about this stuff because she doesn’t want her to worry. Of course she doesn’t realise that by not telling her stuff she’s actually making her mum worry more. You can feel the love between these two and the moments where they get to show that, as well as going on little adventures together, are just magical.

There are also quiet a few tearjerker moments in this season, for me personally the ones that really got me where the time travel episode and the Twig episode. The Twig episode I was expecting to get to me and it did, but the time travel one managed to get me to care more about a couple of ancillary characters in twenty minutes than some shows have managed in twenty episodes.

On a final note, I can’t end this review without once more mentioning how good this show looks. The character designs are just perfect, simple and yet endlessly-endearing and really creative when it comes to the various creatures that pop up throughout the series. I really love the use of colour in this show’s visuals, especially when paired up with the changes in lighting or when anything is glowing. There’s a warmth that just oozes off of the screen and pretty much every episode has at least a dozen frames that I want to decorate my walls with. As I said in my previous review, this show is just beautiful in multiple senses of the word.

The Verdict

If you enjoyed the first season of Hilda, then you’re definitely going to enjoy this one too. It’s more of the same, but what else could you really ask for from this show? It’s sweet, it’s heart-warming and oh so very close to being perfect. The animation, character decision and sound design are all top notch and the world and characters continue to evolve in natural ways. Fair warning, the series does end on a cliffhanger and there’s clearly more to come so we’ve all got to await that elusive season 3, which I’m more than happy to wait for. The best things are worth the wait.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Cartoon Corner: Hilda Review

Blog Hilda Review Title

Just North of Normal

What’s the Story?

Hilda lives out in the wilderness with her mother and her deer fox Twig. She loves nothing more than to go out exploring and sketching, encountering everything from trolls to forest giants along the way. However when elves threaten to evict her, Hilda is determined to do everything she can to keep her home, but it may not be enough. Still the city isn’t that bad and it even has its own weird and wonderful adventures to offer, for anyone who’s willing to take them on.

The Review

I’m annoyed with myself. It took me way too long to get around to watching this show and after finishing all thirteen episodes I just want to scream. Entire months went by without me knowing about the existence of this show and that surely has to be a crime. This series is beautiful, by so many definitions of the word, start to finish and I adore it so much. I’ve heard a lot of people compare this series to Gravity Falls and while I don’t feel that’s wholly accurate, I can see where they’re coming from. Kids with quick wits dealing with the strange and bizarre things going on around town, often meeting a quirky creature along the way, also the location is kind of similar in look, if you squint really hard. Hilda is a very smart and fun and funny character as well, but that’s kind of where the Gravity Falls comparisons end to my mind. Hilda isn’t really like anything else, it’s more interested in doing its own thing.

For one there’s no over-arcing story to this series, yet at the same time the story is constantly evolving. There’s go grand conclusion to head towards or mystery to solve, it’s just the days in the life of a kind-hearted and brave young girl as she tries to adapt to what life throws at her. It gives this series a very gentle atmosphere that just carries you along, oh there’s certainly moments of drama and excitement, like the nightmare sequence with the marra or the storm spirits attack on the weather station, but every episode leaves you with a warm glow by the end of it (well maybe not the weather station one, but then that one hangs off a pretty particular cliff by the end).

The two things I love most about this series is that, one, there are always consequences and, two, it never quite goes in the direction you’re expecting. Now I’m going to talk about the ending of the second episode here to illustrate my point so if you haven’t seen that yet either skip to the next paragraph or go watch the episodes (you won’t regret it). Those that have seen the episode will know that Hilda has spent the past two episode trying to find a way to live peacefully with the elves, while also helping two giants find one another. It ends with Hilda rescuing the king of the elves and being declared a friend of the elves. Problem solved you think and clearly the next episode will begin some new problem to deal with, except the giants Hilda was helping earlier step on her house. In a beautifully illustrated moment we have Hilda’s mum comment that the giant hasn’t even noticed, while she herself is standing on an elf house. It’s at that moment that Hilda realises she’s going to have to move, as she was told earlier ‘the world’s just gotten too small’. It’s an incredibly mature moment and way more than I was expecting, as well as completely catapulting the series in a new direction.

Speaking of this series never doing what you expect, one aspect that I have to mention is Hilda’s mum. Again, in any other series she would be just the mum, she’d be someone that Hilda would have to get around or hide all the fantastical things from, and while on occasion that can be the case, a lot of the times it’s not. Hilda’s mum, and pretty much every one else in the series, knows there’s trolls and the like out there and Hilda’s mum will often get involved in the adventures herself. Hilda’s mum is a source of comfort and trust and Hilda often gets farther by confiding in her than hiding things from her (which is actually a remarkably rare thing in fiction, normally it’s the worst thing ever when a parent finds out what’s going on, which isn’t really a good lesson for kids).

That brings me to the animation and, to put it simply, I love it. I love the colours, all the soft autumnal shades mixed in with the bright and eye-catching. I could take any single frame of this animation and it would make a perfect poster for my wall. This may also be the most seamlessly blended 3D animation I have ever seen, so much of this series looks like a living, breathing comic, then a character turns their head or there’s a swooping camera shot and you realise, that has to be 3D. Again, it looks like the comics this series are based on (which I’m now in the process of collecting) have just come to life and are moving around on their own. Also a shout out to the soundtrack, which is equally beautiful and I’ve been listening to it on loop for the past few hours.

The Verdict

In the end Hilda is a cartoon that everyone should watch at least once. Aside from some utterly beautiful animation, the story is mature and fun, constantly evolving and going in directions that you’re not expecting. The characters are all great and a lot of fun to be around, especially all the weird and wonderful creatures that Hilda meets across her adventures (also it’s nice to see some lesser known bits of folklore for Hilda to deal with). Do yourself a favour, find some time and watch this series, you won’t regret it.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.