Anime Corner: Chaika the Coffin Princess – Avenging Battle Review

Blog Chaika Review Title

Chaika ended. Miss girl with broken speech. Sad now.

What’s the Story?

Following on from season 1, we continue the adventures of the mysterious Chaika, her hired-muscle Toru and Akari, and Frederica the dragoon. They’re travelling across the country, out to gather up the remains of Chaika’s deceased father, who happened to be a very bad man. He was an all powerful wizard, and an evil emperor who trapped the country in an endless war. Finally he was overthrown, his body cut into pieces, with a different part given to each of the heroes who defeated him. Now Chaika just wants to give her dad a funeral, but the thing is she’s not the only Chaika. There are a bunch of other Chaika’s gathering up the remains for different purposes, and after the ending of series one, there are serious questions about not just who, but exactly what is Chaika?

The Review

I have to admit, I do love Chaika, both the character and the series. Chaika at first appearance looks a little weak and helpless, but she has guts and determination when it counts. It also helps that she’s damn adorable, especially with her broken speech. It’s strange, I can remember watching the very first episode and really wishing Chaika would shut up, her speech pattern really grated on my nerves. I don’t know what happened, a couple episodes later and I found the way she talks to be really endearing. I think it’s that Chaika is more than just her outward appearance and the cutesy factor. You feel her pain as she struggles to figure who she is and what exactly is her purpose. The first couple of episodes for this second series did a really good job of showing that struggle, both for the main Chaika and a few of the others we’ve gotten to know.

Chaika isn’t the only good character, I like the rest of our main cast too. Toru and Akari are our badass warriors. Toru is a bit of the everyman, who’s both cool and put upon by the crazy people in his life. He’s gone from being the bored layabout, to a man with drive and purpose, most of that centred around Chaika. Akari is both hilarious, and a little creepy. Her constant attempts to foster a romance with Toru had me falling over with laughter (I just had to keep reminding myself that they’re not actually related by blood). Frederica is the odd one out I suppose. She’s both cute, and a monstrous badass, you know she can kick everyone’s behind in a matter of minutes, but that’s kind of the problem. Because she’s so powerful, the show had to continually come up with new ways to keep her out of the action. It just gets frustrating in the end. I can’t think of a time when she’s really been allowed to show off her true power.

To be fair though, none of these characters (outside of possibly Chaika) are especially deep, but they are fun and loveable. That brings me to the side-characters. I do wish Gillette and his squad got a bit more exploration and development, but then they’re supporting characters, and we’re on the clock here, so needs must I suppose.

This series feels like an old school adventure, travelling across a magical kingdom with a bunch of likeable weirdoes as they collect some magic items for whatever reason, and the reason was really good. The mystery surrounding Emperor Gaz and Chaika was an intriguing one. That being said, this series does have some flaws. First, in regards to that mystery while the build up is good, the actual answers aren’t all that interesting. Everything turns out kind of how you expect it to, with no huge surprises, which is a real shame. I just feel a little disappointed, this series was doing so well, I was hoping for something that would blow the plot open, and make me see it in an entirely new light, but we didn’t get that.

Also, season 2 shares a problem with season 1, and that’s that the tone can take some really jarring shifts. In season 1 the series suddenly went really dark in the last few episodes (especially concerning the fate of a bunch of young girls taken from a village), and this season we got the Black Chaika turning into a tentacle monster (She will be haunting my nightmares for a long time to come). I never really understood why it had to go so dark, most of the time the series bounces along nicely with goofy antics and some great action. Like I said, it’s just jarring how the story shifts gears so quickly.

And while I’m talking about the ending of Season2 (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so just be warned that the next two paragraphs have a couple). Emperor Gaz, bit of a letdown wasn’t he. He’s built up to be this super powerful wizard, it took eight of the country’s best heroes to take him down before, he shoots down a flying castle with one bloody shot! His battle with Toru is pretty good, if a little short, and then he just gets blown away like he’s nothing. It kind of makes me wonder what the point was of him coming back in the first place. At least Chaika got to give her father his funeral, in a manner of speaking.

Actually I think that’s what’s thrown off this second season of Chaika, the pacing. The ending feels way too rushed. I’ve been checking down the back of the sofa to make sure I haven’t misplaced a few episodes. It feels like Chaika deserved at least one more episode to give the series the conclusion it deserved. And it’s not just the ending that was rushed. There are a couple of emotional beats that needed more time to breathe, if we wanted to give this ending its full impact, like the friendship between Chaika and Niva. We got the beginnings of their relationship, and we can see where it’s headed, but then we skip straight from those beginnings to the conclusion. We miss out all of the progression in the middle, and that hurts the finale. The same with Frederica’s constant pleas for Toru to become her Dragoon Cavalier. It took so long to get to the resolution of that subplot that in the end I didn’t cheer with joy, I just screamed ‘About bloody time!’. It’s a shame, but I do feel that Season 1 paced itself a lot better.

The Verdict

Despite a few flaws, such as pacing and a lack of depth to some characters, this is still an enjoyable series. An old fashioned fantasy romp that’s always fun, has a likeable cast and has some truly great animation (especially in the fight sequences).

fish stamp good

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

The Infallible Fish Reviews: HTTYD: Gift of the Night Fury

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

                               Blog HTTYD Gift Review Title

How To Train Your Dragon is probably my favourite animated film of all time, which is odd, because it’s a DreamWorks film. Not that I have anything against DreamWorks, they make some really good films, but never anything on the same level as Disney and Pixar when they’re on their A-game. Despite that though, HTTYD found a magic formula that leaves me enjoying every minute of it, and its sequel. It has a funny, witty script. The animation is gorgeous, helped along by some jaw-dropping cinematography. The flying scenes are especially beautiful, and they capture the sensation of soaring through the air. I even enjoy just admiring the lighting on each scene. The soundtrack morphs between soft and sweet, to epic and grand effortlessly, seriously this is one of the best soundtracks to, well, anything. The characters are all likeable, with oodles of personality and believability. You feel each character’s joy and sorrow. The only tiny complaint I have with the first film is that we don’t get to see enough of the supporting cast. Most of the other students are reduced to basic character-traits. I like them, and they’re all funny, I just wish we got to know more about them.

That brings me to today’s review, the HTTYD Christmas special, Gift of the Night Fury. It’s a short film, lasting a measly 22 minutes, and while I wish there was more, I’m more than happy with what I got. The story is this, it’s Christmas (It’s never called that, but it’s the season in all but name), and as our favourite Vikings prepare to celebrate the holiday with their new dragon friends for the first time, disaster strikes. Suddenly all of the dragons leave with no sign of coming back, and Astrid’s attempts to cheer everyone up (“Let’s create new traditions, you know, to bury the sadness.”) only lead to one calamity after another. It’s up to Hiccup to find out where the dragons have gone, and save Christmas!

Firstly, just let me say, this is a really funny, and really heart-warming tale. It has just the right amount of sweetness to give you that warm feeling without being so sugary that you almost overdose. There are also some really good jokes and lines throughout this episode. My favourite has to be Astrid’s reaction when her little plan with the dragon eggs goes awry (“The eggs explode!”). I also like that we get to see more of our supporting cast. They’re given a good chunk of the story, and while it’s not like we any deep character moments, we do get to see more of their personalities, and how they play off of one another. Astrid definitely gets the best deal out of this short film, as we get to see more of her goofy side, as opposed to the her warrior side that was on display in the first film.

Hiccup has his moments too, showing more of his ingenuity, and how the village has come to respect him (everyone immediately rushes to Hiccup once the dragons disappear). The moments between Hiccup and Toothless are really sweet and lovable too, showing the deep bond that has developed between them. This entire short film feels like a natural and logical continuation of the first film, and I think bridges the two films perfectly.

The aspect I love most about this special though is that it’s not overloaded with Christmas. It’s a genuinely good story, with Christmas as a backdrop. Yes there’s snow, and a tree, and presents and lights, but none of that is shoved into your face. I’ve seen all of that stuff in every other Christmas special, and I’m tired of it. Most series don’t get the idea that those parts are nice, but they’re not the point of Christmas. It’s a time of giving, of good will to all, of spending time with those you love. Gift of the Night Fury gets that, the focus is on the characters and the bond between them. I will happily cosy up on the sofa, in front of a warm fire, and watch this every Christmas. That’s what makes this special, well, special. In fact, I think I’m going to go and watch it again right now.

Thanks for reading everyone, now go be with those you love. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

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

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Thumbelina

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

Thumbelina Review Title

Once upon a time there was a mouse, given life by a half-mad wizard…

This sounds kind of familiar.

Hush. The mouse was to rule over all of animation. The mouse did this for a long time, but many mortals grew jealous, and plotted to steal the Mouse’s crown. But the Mouse was too strong, none could match him, until the age of CG, where the Mouse faltered and was forced to share his crown with two giants known as Pixar and DreamWorks. That is a story for another time though, today we shall discuss the one mortal who came closest to toppling Disney, Don Bluth.

Ah, Don Bluth. He created some of the greatest animated films of the 80s, Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, Land Before Time, All Dogs Go To Heaven. It’s a shame things fell apart in the 90s for him. The weird thing about a lot of Don Bluth films is they are often mistaken for Disney films. When I was a kid I genuinely believed that Anastasia was a Disney film (they only wish it was their film). I mean they have a fair few things in common, they’re hand-drawn, they have a great quality of animation, and they follow along a similar formula for a kid’s film. Mr. Bluth actually came pretty close to beating Disney at its own game.

Heresy! No one may stand against the Mouse!

That brings us to today’s film, where Mr. Bluth may have gone too Disney for his own good, Thumbelina. Now this is a fairy tale princess movie, something that Disney is famous for (which is wierd considering that the actual princess movies only make up about a quarter of the official cannon).

Let’s start with the animation. This is Bluth animation, so we know it’s going to be good, and it is, for the most part. The animation of the human characters is especially mesmerising. You can tell they had a life model for Thumbelina, she moves with such realism and fluidity, it’s beautiful. The most stunning piece is our introduction to Thumbelina. I adore the way the petals peel open and the graceful movements as Thumbelina wakes up.

Unfortunately on the other end of the scale there is the handful of CG backgrounds, and they look terrible. Now I’m aware Mr. Bluth had filed for bankruptcy around the time of this film, so it’s clear he didn’t have the money necessary to finish those scenes properly. It’s a real shame, and really jarring when we switch from a nice painted background, to a horrible fly-through of CG boxes.

The animation is the best part of this film (despite the CG), but the absolute worst part, is the songs. Because, according to Kid’s Film Formula rule 2307, we must have songs. The problem with these songs is that they just don’t stop, they’re played and reprised near constantly and it drives you crazy. To make matters worse, these are not good songs. (“La la la, ho ho ho.” Great lyrics there guys.) The lyrics are often repetitive. They’re not exactly subtle. Our first song basically repeats that we are to ‘follow our hearts’ about fifty times. (Gee, I wonder what the central message of this film is going to be?) Also, they have Gilbert Gottfried singing! (Come on guys, not even Aladdin inflicted that upon us). “Marry the Mole” was actually nominated for a Razzie it’s that bad. The only bright spot with the songs is the singing voice for Thumbelina is really good, I could listen to that voice happily, I just wish the songs themselves were better.

Let’s actually talk about our main character, Thumbelina. Honestly, I like her. She doesn’t have a whole lot to work with character wise, but she has personality and I genuinely feel sorry for her in some of her darker moments. There’s the point in the film where she believes her prince, Cornelius, is dead and you can see how devastated she is (Though she could take a bit more convincing). Another part I like is when she’s upset because a beetle called her ugly. Her bird friend, Jacquimo, tells her not to listen to such things. She doesn’t love the beetle, so who cares what he thinks. It’s just a small little moment, but I think it’s nice (I just wish there was less of an emphasis on beauty and more on personality. But this is playing by the old Disney formula, so that’s not going to happen. Love is always instant and it’s always between the pretty people. Sorry, I’m getting off topic).

My only major gripes with Thumbelina are that she’s a too quick to give up, and I really wish she wasn’t so obsessed with marrying her Prince. I mean if she just wanted to get back to him so she could spend a bit more time with him, then marrying him at some point in the future, that would be fine. I mean this was made in the 90s, not the 50s. I can only surmise that the script is trying to be faithful to the original story, but the thing is that story is really old, and won’t match up with our current sensibilities. Why do you think most Disney films are connected to their source material in name only? I think this is one time where Bluth should have been more like Disney (heh). Thumbelina does have a moment of attitude towards the end of the film, where she basically turns down all of her suitors one after the other. Its one tiny moment that shows what could have been to make this film so much better.

Ok, let’s talk about our male lead, Cornelius. He’s pretty much the same as Thumbelina character-wise, there’s not much depth to him, but he has a ‘charming’ personality (see what I did there?), though he does have a step up on Thumbelina as he has boundless optimism and determination. I wasn’t sure I’d like him at first. We first meet him when he’s shirking his princely duties to fly around on his bumblebee. He spots Thumbelina, spies on her and sneaks up on her (I see, he follows the Sleeping Beauty method of picking up women). Of course the two fall instantly in love, well at least they learn each other’s names first. Still, I like Thumbelina and Cornelius as a couple, they have good chemistry, and I want to see them get together at the end of the film (it would just be nice if they held off on the marriage). They have a nice little sequence dancing across the lake (which in no way looks like that segment in Fantasia). And before you can say plot convenience, or “Don’t be an idiot”, he has to run off, promising Thumbelina he’ll be back in the morning. And of course Thumbelina is kidnapped (This happens a lot in the film, she’s almost as bad a Princess Peach. Come on girl, be a bit more proactive!).

So let’s talk about the villains of our movie. One of the things I like about this movie is the fact that there’s no completely evil person in this film. The villains are just greedy, selfish people. There’s a mole who hates sunshine, but loves money, a greedy mouse housewife (should that be mousewife?), a beetle who likes to make a song and dance (as well as complain about toads), a grumpy toad who’s a bit of a brute and his showbiz family. There are no unnecessary plots for world domination, or villains just for the sake of it. The only real problem I have with the villains is that most of them just want to marry Thumbelina. It’s like that’s the only thing they can think to do with her, and they only care about her looks or her voice, and this really annoys the feminist in me. These are the bad guys, so they’re not meant to be role models, but I just wish there was some other kind of threat for Thumbelina to face. (I’m doing an awful lot of wishing in this review. Where’s a star when you need one.)

This movie does have one true villain though, the worst of the worst, and that is a devilish bird known as Jacquimo. He dresses like a harlequin clown that shows up in horror films, and masquerades as Thumbelina’s friend, but we (the audience) know his true purpose, to drive us so crazy that we give a good attempt at reaching into the screen to strangle the feathered freak. Let’s have a look at the Character 101 handbook, yes here’s the chapter I want. ‘How to Write an Annoying Sidekick’. Yes, you give them a catchphrase, and make them repeat it, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again! Jacquimo likes to keep reminding Thumbelina to follow her heart, and nothing will be impossible. Just shut up already! We get the message, stop telling us! You could be more subtle with a jackhammer than this damned bird!

All of the other characters fall under one category, the one called ‘Cute Fuzzy Animals’. According to Kid’s Film Formula rule 1567, kids like cute things don’t they? And if they talk, then they can be funny (or at least attempt it). And this movie takes that rule to the extreme. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many talking animals in a film (you could fill Noah’s Ark twice over with all these guys). It doesn’t help that every one of them looks like a Disney rip off. I don’t care what you say, that dog in the beginning is Pluto’s long lost grandpa. The worst part of these characters though, is that these critters are here for one purpose only, padding! Outside of the villains 90% of these characters are completely pointless.

My only other gripe with the film, is the ending. It feels really rushed to me. I mean we last see the prince falling to his death when he fights the frog. Then, after Thumbelina’s escaped the mole, he just turns up. No explanation as to how he survived. No mention of the fate of the frog. And why does Thumbelina suddenly grow wings? Was she a fairy and just didn’t know it? Where’s the set up for this plot point? All of it just comes out of nowhere, and it makes me question why we needed all that padding earlier, when we could have had set up or explanations for this stuff. But the scene with Jacquimo asking a rabbit where to find the fairies, while said rabbit is being chased by a fox, was just soooo important to the story.

Honestly I like parts of this film. The animation is great, and I do like Thumbelina and Cornelius, even though I’m not always keen on how the film treats Thumbelina. Saying all that, this film has a lot of flaws. This feels and looks like a Disney film, it’s just missing the magic that Disney brings. Add on the fact that this feels like an old Disney film, something from the 50s or 60s, not the 90s, and you get a film that I probably won’t watch again. It’s a real shame, and I can’t help but come out of this film disappointed. Bluth is normally really good at showing the beating heart of a story, and creating some truly memorable characters, unfortunately that isn’t here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Anastasia to see Bluth get the princess genre right.

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

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Monster House

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

Blog Monster House Review Title

Fish? Fish! Where are you? The reviews meant to have started. Fish? What are you doing under the bed?

Writer? Quick get under here before it notices you.

Notices me? What will notice me?

The house you idiot, it’s alive and it’s going to eat us! Now get under here!

But it can’t eat me, I’m just a disembodied voice in italics, I’m not actually here.

Oh, right. Well get lost before it notices me then.

Look, what’s put this silly notion in your head about the house being alive?

There was film, a terribly deceptive film, I thought it would be ok, it looked like your typical kids film. It started so nicely, with this wonderful bit of animation as we followed this leaf fluttering down an ordinary street. Everything appeared to be perfectly fine, with annoying little girls, cantankerous old men and kids spying on their neighbours (Ok, that was kind of creepy), but slowly the film revealed its true monstrous self. A film where old men have heart attacks, people get eaten left, right and centre, there’s nightmare inducing imagery, and, oh God, stereotypical comedy police officers, the horror!

Get a hold of yourself Fish! This is only the second film you’ve reviewed. You can’t be beaten so easily, I have so many horrific tortures planned for you, you can’t let them go to waste.

You’re not exactly selling me on this reviewing thing you know.

Let me put it this way, I know you can review this film, I believe in you Fish.

You do? You know no one’s ever said that to me before, I almost feel as if I could review this…

Besides if you don’t I’m going to write the most obnoxious comedy sidekick in existence to join you for all future reviews.

Let’s review Monster House!

Firstly, just let me say, I like this movie, I really do, but this is not a film for small children. Mature children should be able to handle it with the least amount of nightmares though. This film gets dark in parts (not Coraline levels of dark, but still) so just go in forewarned.

So, what’s this movie actually about? DJ lives across from Mr. Nebbercracker, a grouchy old man who hates having kids on his lawn, always confiscating or breaking anything that happens to land on his precious turf. But all is not as it appears, as DJ and his friends soon discover that Nebbercracker’s house is possessed. They have to find a way to defeat this ‘Monster House’, and quickly, as Halloween is fast approaching, which could quickly turn into an all-you-can-eat buffet for said house.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the animation in this movie. It’s really good, some parts are absolutely gorgeous, the opening scene with the leaf for example. Or the scene were the house’s shadow creeps into DJ’s room, turning the room red as the shadow transforms into a hand, getting ready to grab DJ (I said this wasn’t as dark as Coraline didn’t I? My mistake). The motion of the characters is great too, especially during the action sequences.

There is one odd thing about the animation though, it’s the hair. It’s stuck on, permanently rigid, like the hair of Lego men. There’s not an ounce of sway or bob of movement. I know hair can be a pain to animate, but it kind of sticks out when you just don’t animate it (well it does for me anyway).

The greatest part of this film animation though, is something that is often forgotten when it comes to animation, the cinematography. A lot of time in animation, most of the attention goes on the actual animation, making sure that the characters and surroundings move realistically, to make it as believable as possible. That’s good, that’s what should be done, but after all of that people tend to forget about the camera, and just end up plonking it into the scene without all that much thought. This film is shot like an actual flesh-and-blood film would be shot. The angles, the framing, even the motion of the camera, all of it works to make this world feel even more real, and not just a bunch of models on someone’s computer.

Then we have our cast, and these kids are great. DJ (‘cause actual names are uncool bro I just have initials now, that’s how cool I is), Chowder (because calling him Fat Kid felt a little too on the nose) and Jenny (‘cause Penny was already taken). I joke, but this film gives off a strange 80s/early 90s vibe for me. What with the dark elements, the excessive explosions and violence in the finale, the Home Alone style antics, and these kids feeling like every other kid trope from that time (from the exterior anyway). But, once you get to know these kids, you realise they’re not just tropes, they’re actual characters. They act like real kids, they get scared like real kids, and they’re smart like…some kids are. It also helps that they’re really funny. There are no catchphrases, or zany antics, it’s all done by rather subtle dialogue. From DJ’s breathless astonishment at being kissed by a girl (even though he’s currently risking his life to blow up a possessed house, well at least he can die happy I suppose), to Jenny’s negotiations with the babysitter, to Chowder’s…just Chowder. He’s both stupid and endearing all at the same time. I love that kid.

The rest of the cast is where things falter slightly, not much, just a step or two. Because you see, it’s the kids that get all of the depth in this film. The adults are all pretty much just stereotypes, a little more three-dimensional than cardboard cut-outs, but not by that much. They’re funny every now and again, but there’s no detail to the characters, nothing to make them stand out a great deal from their counterparts in other films. But, then they’re not the focus of this film, so I suppose that’s ok. The best characters of the adults are probably Bones, who feels like a genuine jackass, Zee the babysitter is smart (though girl I gotta hope you get past this Bones groupie phase real soon, he just ain’t right for you), and I like the creepy old neighbour Nebbercracker. I also think it’s a nice moral about Nebbercracker too. I like that he turned out to be a good person, and having a reason for acting so nasty. It’s a really tragic back story as well, and one that adds some emotional heft to all the scares and action. Now I know not every grumpy old man has a reason for being that way, but this movie teaches us that maybe we should look a little deeper before judging.

Now this film starts off small but gets progressively bigger, it does a really good job of building up the threat, then delivering on that threat, and then making the threat even more terrifying until we reach a truly epic (if completely over the top) finale.

The film starts its turn towards the dark when DJ gives old man Nebbercracker a heart attack, and you get to enjoy the horror of the whole thing, all the way through when he falls on top of DJ, pinning him to the lawn (no cutaways here, enjoy the terror my friends), to when the ambulance wheels his body away. This leaves DJ rightly disturbed about the fact that he’s just killed a man, something I give the film credit for, being willing to give some attention to.

Now these are smart kids, and once they realise something is wrong they tell the grownups, starting with the babysitter, then the police. Oh God, the police, I’m sure someone will find these pair of imbeciles funny, but I certainly don’t. They’re ok at first, but they slowly grate on me. Saying that they did do one joke that I found funny, when one of them says they’ll phone for back up, the other one pointing out that the only other officer is Joan at reception. Anyway, so when neither of those options work out, the kids decide to settle this themselves. They start by stealing some cold medicine (Wait a minute, I thought I said these kids were smart?), as part of a plan to put the house to sleep so they can sneak inside.

Yeah, I’m all for independent kids and improvised Home Alone style solutions, but stealing drugs? Really? Any other dangerous ideas you want to implant in impressionable young minds? Explosives? Why not? Hey let’s go the whole hog and throw in some knives and guns, I’m sure the parents won’t mind. Oh, is that too far? Ok, we’ll just stick with the explosives then.

The nightmare fuel properly gets under way when the kids, trapped inside a police car, are swallowed by the house (in a really energetically animated, if terrifying scene). They explore the inside of the house, eventually getting captured by evil slinkies and sinister pipes, and dropped into a gaping maw of rotating teeth (Are you terrified yet? I know I am.)

Then the film decides, heck we’re animated, we can do whatever the hell we want. I imagine the conversation regarding the finale went something like this:

“Let’s have the house start walking around.”

“Ooh yeah, then we can have it chasing after the kids, smashing through all kinds of things.”

“Then, wait for it…we have the house fight a big mechanical digger.”

“Awesome. Then, to finish it off, we can have DJ throw dynamite down the chimney, wait for it…while swinging on a wrecking ball.”

“Epic bro.”

Yeah, as written by a committee of five year olds, and it’s…it’s… Good Lord is it exhilarating. Yes it’s so over the top sharks are flying in formation alongside it, it’s so action cliché it’s funny, but there can be no better ending for this film.

This film is great, a lovely Halloween treat (I know Halloween’s already gone), just make sure you check it before you show it to the little ones, or else the trick might be on you.

There, I did it, I reviewed the movie.

Feel better now?

Somewhat.

Are you going to come out from under the bed now?

You’re sure the house isn’t alive, and isn’t going to eat me.

I’m sure.

And you’re not going to write some obnoxious sidekick to join me on future reviews?

Of course not.

Ok, then, I’ll come out. Now, about these horrific tortures you have planned for me.

Oh look at the time, gotta go, see you in two weeks.

Hey wait a minute! See you in two weeks folks, I’ve got a Writer to hunt down. Get back here!

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

First Impressions: Yona of the Dawn

I think the hardest thing to review is something that’s middle of the road, and that is what Yona of the Dawn is, so far. It’s not bad enough for me to rant about it, and it’s not good enough for me to squeal with delight. It’s just ok, nothing more, nothing less. The story is your standard fantasy. We have a kingdom at peace. We have a Princess. We have the Princess’ sweetheart. We have the soldier who is there to protect the Princess and has no feelings for her whatsoever. Then something happens to the King. The throne is usurped. Our Princess is on the run, and thus begins a battle to take back the kingdom.

The villain could be interesting. I’m sure there’s more to his back-story than has been stated. It does make me want to know what caused such a shift between his younger self and his current personality. As of yet though, I still haven’t seen that moment of pure evil that’ll make him a great villain.

It doesn’t help that this looks like it’s going to a slow show, they’re only just out of the castle at the end of episode 2.

The animation is ok, with the odd bout of goodness in the fight scenes.

The only thing that is really tempting me to keep watching is the contrast between our weeping flower of a Princess in the present, and the fierce archer she becomes in the flash forward. I kind of want to see how she develops into that, though I honestly doubt if the show’ll do anything really innovative or new. I’ll give a few more episodes.

First Impressions: Chaika the Coffin Princess – Avenging Battle

Broken speech. Excitement lots. Shocking truth. Chaika back!

Sorry, I can’t keep that up. But I’m so excited. I really enjoyed the first season of Chaika, and so far season 2 continues that trend. Fantastic fight sequences, lovable characters, a good dollop of humour and an intriguing mystery. Who exactly is Chaika? Why are there so many of her running around? And just what is the Emperor up to? Though it does look as if we’ll be getting a few answers sooner than I expected.

I love the contrasting struggles of the different Chaikas. A couple determined that they are the real Chaika, and another determined that she isn’t.

I will miss Gillette, partially because I can no longer make the ‘best a man can get’ joke. Saying that, they never did find a body. And then there’s that guy, what was his name again? Ah yes, Guy (at least I still have that joke). He’s as creepy and mysterious as ever.

Chaika may not break any new ground in the fantasy genre, but what it does, it does well. I really like this show, and I think it deserves a little more love.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Frozen

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

Blog Frozen Review Title

Ok, my first review on this blog, and I have to be honest, I struggled with what would be a good place to start. There are plenty of movies I want to gush about, some I want to tear apart, and a fair few that I think deserve a bit more of the spotlight, all of which I shall get to in time, but to start there is really only one choice. It’s Frozen. Yes I know everyone from here to the South Pole and back has voiced their opinions on it, but for me my feelings on Frozen are…mixed, to say the least.

Now while reviewing this film, I’m also going to have to mention Tangled at certain intervals here. Normally I don’t like to compare films, I believe they should stand on their own, but my feelings for Frozen are too tethered to Tangled for me to pull the two apart. I’m a bit nervous to say this, but I prefer Tangled to Frozen.

Guys? Guys! Put the comments down! Look, Tangled has a special place in my heart. It’s the film that got me back into Disney. I left Disney somewhere around Tarzan, I saw a couple of movies after that, but they just didn’t feel the same as those blissful childhood memories. Then one day I found a DVD of Tangled staring at me in a shop. I’d heard some pretty good reviews, so I took a chance, and promptly fell in love. Sure Tangled isn’t the greatest film, it’s doesn’t have the most depth or heart wrenching story of the Disney films, but it is really good fun. I adore the characters, the side-characters are a blast, and I love the sense of humour it has, pretty much every joke in the film has me laughing, no matter how many times I re-watch it.

And that’s the first problem I have. For you see, it was hype that killed Frozen for me. My expectations where astronomical going into this film. Disney was on a roll (I Love Wreck-it Ralph more than Frozen and Tangled combined), I loved the songs (I’d heard them all about a month prior to seeing the film), and although I knew it would never be faithful to the Snow Queen, it would at least have elements of it in there, so what could possibly go wrong? Let’s find out shall we?

We begin with “Frozen Heart”, a great song that I feel is a little underrated. It does a great job of setting up the themes for the movie. There’s just one itty bitty problem with it. Kristof. You see this movie starts off badly, for me anyway, because this film is terrible at explaining itself. I have the chair and spotlight prepared, so here we go.

Example one, Kristof. We see him here working alongside these ice-sellers as they gather their stock, but none of them acknowledge the kid. They seem content to let a small child run around a dangerous work environment with no supervision whatsoever. Then they just clear off without so much as a glance at the kid. Yes, keep singing, maybe the brat will go away of his own accord. Come on, I’m just asking for a little clarification here. Who is Kristof? Where are this kid’s parents? I know Disney likes to shuffle parents off screen one way or another, but this is ridiculous. Is Kristof an orphan? If so, where are his legal guardians? Who takes care of him? Who feeds him? Clothes him? Explain movie! Explain!

And, oh boy, here we go. That brings me to THE scene, the scene where Frozen fell from the great podium that I had put it upon in expectation. This is the scene where we meet the trolls. Ok, let’s go through this one by one. First, Kristof and Sven have followed the King and Queen and sneak a peek, and a troll proudly declares that she’s going to keep them. That is kidnapping. Guards! Arrest that troll, and find me this kid’s parents, they’re clearly neglectful. Honestly, worst parents ever.

Second, when the immortal lines are uttered. “Born with the powers, or cursed?” “Born, and they’re getting stronger.” Ok, annnnd? What? That’s it? No, no, no movie. I know I was asking you to explain to stuff, and I’m glad you’re finally starting to try, but I require a little more than that. What do you mean she was born with the powers? Is that a thing? Does it happen often? If so, why are people so freaked out by it later in the movie? Where does this magic come from? Did the Queen have an affair with an ice wizard and the king is just too stupid to realise it? Maybe she got a cold while she was pregnant, who knows, if the movies does it’s certainly not telling us.

Err… Can I just interject here?

What? Who said that?

I did.

Who are you, voice in italics?

You shall discover that after a long and harrowing journey through the depths of despair and insanity, but that is for another time.

Sounds ominous.

It will be, when I actually figure what I’m going to write.

Wait, write, are you the Writer? The half-mad deity that created me?

You see the reason I’m here is…

Completely ignore me, ok.

You’re little grumble about not knowing where Elsa’s powers come from, to my knowledge, it’s not actually mentioned in the book either. As I recall, they explain it like so, snowflakes are like bees, and all bees have a queen, so therefore snow must also have a queen.

There is logic in that (somewhere). Look, ok, maybe the book’s not much better, but this is a particular bug of mine. I hate it when magic is just used as a kind of blanket term in the hopes that the audience doesn’t realise there’s no actual explanation. Like, why is there suddenly an omnipotent deity speaking in italics in my review?

Magic.

My point exactly. Where was I? Oh yes, ranting!

Third, why do the trolls have to remove Anna’s memories of magic? I realise we wouldn’t have a film if this didn’t happen, but what purpose does it serve? How will memories of magic hurt her?

And finally, four, the King and Queen are idiots. I mean, they’ve just been told that fear is enemy, so they decide to lock up their daughter in one of the most paranoia, fear-inducing environments they can possibly concoct. Congratulations, you’ve just won the Worst Parents award from Kristof’s family. Ok, ok. I joke about this, I think the entire Internet has joked about it, but I can kind of see where the parents are coming from. They’ve got the wrong end of the stick, they think fear from the outside is the enemy, not helped by the troll’s little light show, so they want to keep Elsa away from that. I can even understand them not telling Anna, seriously if you want to keep a secret, you do not tell small children. Just ask Regina from Once Upon a Time, she’ll back me up on that. It’s just that the King and Queen don’t have more than two brain cells working at any one time to warn them of the psychological damage this will do their daughter, the Queen’s daughter anyway.

Ok, time to bring in Tangled. Because you see no film is without its plot holes, and Tangled has a few. How does Mother Gothel know the magic song she has to sing to the flower? The Queen, a brunette, gives birth to a baby girl, with a full head of blonde hair I might add, and the King, also a brunette, doesn’t question this? Or have the very handsome blonde tennis coach quietly executed? (Again with the affairs, you’d think I was bitter or something.) How does an old lady sneak into a palace and kidnap the Princess? How useless are these guards? Oh my mistake, these are the same idiots who guard a crown by STANDING WITH THEIR BACKS TO IT!!! A horse could do a better job than those morons, and he does! Crime practically vanishes once Maximus takes charge. I love that horse so much. Sorry, I got sidetracked, my point is, yes if you think about Tangled’s opening, it needs to do a little explaining itself, but the one think it doesn’t need to explain, is the motivations of its characters, we know exactly why they do what they do. We understand the mechanics of the magic, it’s a little vague, but it’s better than “Born or cursed?” Frozen just doesn’t explain the thought processes, or its magic all that well. The art of good storytelling it to wrap the audience up in an experience, so that they don’t notice the flaws until after they’ve left, but at this point in the film I’m just asking myself too many questions, and its pulling me out of that experience.

Now just to be clear, I like Frozen, but by this point with Tangled I was in the first heart-fluttering embrace of love. Whereas with Frozen, from this point onwards the film has to work damn hard to win me over, it manages it in the end, but it’s the fact that the film has to try, whereas Tangled is just effortless.

A demonstration of my emotional state at this point of the film, when I first heard “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?” or as I prefer to call it, “Anna Adorable, Gonna Try and Make you Cry Now” (I know it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s accurate), when I first heard this song, it was on YouTube a few weeks before I saw the film, and I’ll admit it got me a little choked up. But when it’s played in the film, I’m sorry I ain’t crying. I’ve still got a bad taste from that last scene in my mouth, and this is way too early in the film for me to cry. I barely know these characters, I can’t cry over them yet. Come back in half an’ hour, then maybe you’ll get me.

Then the film begins its assault on the hardening defences of my heart. The opening salvo is a kid’s response to having to wear a suit. “Why do I have to wear this?” “Because the Queen has come of age.” “But why is that my fault?” Ok, keep that up and you might just win me back movie, but then we hit another stumbling block.

Alright, I’ve held off on this long enough. Tangled get back in here. I’m sorry but in my opinion Tangled is a much prettier film. The colours are more vibrant, the lighting is fantastic, the animation is exhilarating, especially in the action sequences. Frozen feels like a tiny step backwards, which I admit didn’t help me warm to the movie (Sorry, I’ll never make that joke again, probably).

So now the film comes back with a counter-offensive. Anna. Oh Anna you’re all grown up now, and what can I say? I love you Anna, marry me! She’s nerdy, she’s awkward, a hopeless romantic, full of boundless optimism and guts a plenty. I don’t care how many dolls and lunchboxes Elsa sells, you’re the star of this show and that’s that. Anna is a joy to watch, helped by Kristen Bell’s enchanting performance. She’s like Rapunzel, but more, and I really love Rapunzel. One of my favourite Anna moments, is just how adorable she is when she tries to be all authoritative and Elsa-like as she demands Kristof take her up the mountain. (Stop that sniggering in back, you have dirty minds the lot of you.) And I have to say, after years of Disney putting forward this ideal of true love, where you just have to meet your fated partner and you’ll then live happily ever after with no problems whatsoever, outside of evil sorcerers anyway, I am so glad that Disney is finally done with that. Love has never worked like that, and it never will. I love how this film tackles love, in its different forms and misconceptions. The only real misstep is that they use love as the magic wand to fix everything at the end, though I suppose that’s only so jarring because it comes about so fast. This message is such a huge step forward for Disney that I just want to hug everyone that worked on this film. Well done guys.

This brings me to Elsa. Elsa is a great character, full of depth and tragedy. She is a character archetype that Disney has never done before, and is a milestone character because of that. I must admit though, a part of me would have liked to see Elsa go a bit more ‘villain’, only briefly mind. Just to give Elsa more a chance to be a bad ass and show off, and let’s face it, Elsa is such a good character she could easily pull off being a hero and a villain. She is also played wonderfully by Idina Menzel, who captures the complicated character perfectly. Honestly, Anna and Elsa make this movie for me. I love every single scene where the two of them interact, I just wish there was more of them together. Every exchange is both joyous and heart-breaking all at once, my favourite being at the party after Elsa’s coronation, where Elsa rightly refuses to allow Anna to marry Hans (How can she go out with me if she’s already married?). This triggers a row between the sisters, leading to probably the best performances in the entire movie. The pain and desperation is so raw it hurts. Anna pleading with her “I can’t live like this anymore!” and Elsa whispering to her “Then leave.” And my heart just shattered. The amount of emotion Idina packs into those two little words is just phenomenal. (Now you may play “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and I will weep a bucket full of tears.)

Sigh. Here we go with “Let it Go” (See what I did there?). Now I love this song, it’s phenomenal (despite the fact that it’s played ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME!). Idina knocks it out of the park. On its own this is a fantastic song, I cannot say that enough and I want you all to keep it in mind when I say this next part, but in the context of the film it doesn’t work for me. This song is about Elsa finally breaking free, letting go of her past and joyously stepping forward into a bright new future, except there’s the little matter of her country being trapped in a perpetual winter! Now I know Elsa doesn’t know that’s happening yet, but still I feel like the song should be cutting back to the town for scenes of people freezing to death. Elsa is running away, and at no point does the song show that this is a bad thing. The song makes it sound like Elsa is stepping into a wonderful new chapter in her life, when in reality she’s making the biggest mistake of her life, and the song doesn’t get that across. (Running away from a problem is never the answer kids.)

Remember how I said Tangled has better animation in my opinion, well I think I know why. You see there is one part of this film’s animation that is astoundingly gorgeous and breathtaking, and that is the snow. The way it moves and flutters. The way it reacts to people falling into it, or scooping it up. It acts just like real snow. Obviously a lot, and I mean a lot, of money went into making those particle effects, and they’re worth every penny. (Yes I’m wearing my animator’s anorak, I never take it off.)

Speaking of snow, now we get to meet Olaf (Can you say segue?). I really like Olaf, I respect the amount of thought and effort that went into him, which is a thousand times more than most other talking magical sidekicks. He’s the embodiment of the happy moments in Anna and Elsa’s childhood, and has a heart as big as they come. Now that’s something that is often forgotten with the comedy sidekicks, they’re not just a series of jokes to keep the kid’s entertained; they’re actual characters with feelings. Think back to the Genie in Aladdin, or Mushu in Mulan, they had some really tender moments. Olaf is just the same. That scene with Anna by the fire is beautiful, and has a wonderful message about what love really is. Some people are definitely worth melting for indeed. It also helps that Olaf’s quite funny, he’s not laugh out loud funny for me, but he does make me chuckle, though that is mostly down to Josh Gad‘s superb delivery.

Now by it’s probably time for me to discuss another big part of the film, and that’s Hans. When we first meet Hans he’s charming, and dashing, and Anna clearly has the hots for him (Back off buddy, I saw her first). And Hans is such a nice young man, there is no conceivable way he could possibly be evil. Ok, I’m sure we all know the twist, and I gotta admit, I had it spoiled for me before I went in to see the film, so I can’t judge how shocking it is, but I do admire it. It’s a really good idea, and there are a couple of subtle little hints to it, it just needs a few more in my opinion, so then it doesn’t feel like it comes completely out of left field when it’s finally revealed.

The hints come at the aforementioned party. When Anna and Hans are walking through the rose garden, not once does he complicate Anna. Even his first line in “Love is an Open Door” is “All my life I’ve been searching for my own place.” Nothing about Anna, just getting his butt on a throne all his own. Still Anna is just too desperate for love and attention to see any of this.

Now I think what Hans needs to sell himself as the villain a bit better, is a villain song. Could you imagine if he sung a dark little reprise of “Love is an Open Door” here? It would have turned him from incompetent to incompetent yet pure evil. Yes, Hans is an incompetent villain. What? Anna is two minutes away from dying and you’re just going to leave her in a room where anyone can find her? (So sorry to take time out of your precious schedule.) And another thing, you clearly need to read up on this marriage lark, because claiming you exchanged marriage vows (WITHOUT ANY WITNESSES!!) is in no way legally binding. And while you’re there, check out monarchy as well. When Anna and Elsa die, the throne will pass to their next living relative, no matter how distant they may be. The only hope you’ve got of getting within sitting distance of that throne is to start a civil war and install a democracy. The people will vote for you I’m sure, but that’s a long way off. You have won nothing by any stretch of the imagination! Moron! Okay, breathe. Yeah, Hans is a bit of a letdown.

There’s one more little bit that bugs me about Frozen, and that’s the set pieces. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they all feel like they’re on a smaller scale. The wolf chase, running away from Olaf-zilla (I know he’s called Marshmallow, but I prefer my name for him), Elsa’s fight with the soldiers, they’re all kind of mundane. I don’t feel the blood pumping through my veins at an ever increasing speed. Tangled has some really amazing action scenes, the part there Rapunzel and Flynn escape the soldiers, where the dam breaks and water comes flooding down, or the ending where Maximus leaps across the rooftops, racing away at breakneck speed. Now that’s action. Frozen just doesn’t have that.

Ok, that’s a lie, Frozen has one fantastic action scene, and that’s the ending. The entire scene is truly epic as Kristof races across the frozen fjord to get to Anna, with the ice cracking, and ships crashing all around, the camera swooping between our protagonists. The way the storm sweeps away as Elsa collapses in grief, thinking she killed Anna, it’s breath-taking. All of it leading up to Anna sacrificing herself to protect her sister. We see Anna’s last tiny breath leave her as she turns to ice. The entire scene is beautiful, filled with drama and heartbreak. (Where’s my bucket, I need to cry again.) It’s only slightly marred by the rather quick resolution, where Elsa figures out the magic cure, love. You were doing so well Disney.

All in all, Frozen has better performances, better songs, stronger themes, and a great pair of leads in Anna and Elsa. I admit that logically Frozen is the superior film, but I still prefer Tangled (Because when has logic ever had anything to do with love?). I went into Frozen wanting to love it, I feel I should love it, but I just don’t, not completely anyway. I have too many quibbles with the narrative for me to embrace this film wholeheartedly. The parts are so much greater than the whole here, but I think I’ve finally come to terms with that. I may not love Frozen, but I do really like it, and I will be watching it again without a doubt. I’ll just watch Tangled a bit more often.

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