This is a triple movie review! Three animated films for kids from 2017, all of them originally French, that have been dubbed into English (or soon will be): The Jungle Bunch, Sahara, and The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. The last one is the best by far, but isn't available in English yet. Coming soon!
The Jungle Bunch
Original title: Les as de la jungle (literally "The Aces of the Jungle"; here's the trailer). When my nephew was little, I took him to see the Thomas and the Magic Railroad movie, because he loved the whole Thomas The Tank Engine thing. I knew it was a franchise with loads of characters, and the movie relied on familiarity. I know I watched it, but to this day, I have no memory of it.
Similarly, The Jungle Bunch is based on a lot of television episodes, plus an earlier movie or two. You don't need to have followed any of them to watch the 2017 movie, but it probably helps to connect with it more. Personally I didn't find the characters particularly deep, and they're not meant to be. I liked some of their designs more than others. It's a computer-animated film, and the animation and backgrounds came out well. Visually it looks very good!
The wolf is by far the most popular fursona species but, as a recent opinion piece in Deutsche Welle pointed out, they are not universally loved. In Germany, like many places in Europe, wolves were driven to extinction and it was only in 2000, after approximately 150 years, that wild wolves were born in Germany once again. Many people, particularly farmers, are worried about wolf attacks on their livestock – echoing our previous reporting of wolves in France– while others are concerned about the risk to humans. But this conflict is about more than wolves; the conversations about wolves are intertwined with much larger issues.
Discussions around wolves show both the fear of the wild and the human desire to eliminate all danger while seeing themselves not only as superior to other animals but, to use the Biblical terminology, granted dominion over them. This is seen in sentiments that even question the right of other animals, such as wolves, to exist in "our" world.
"Wolves do not fit into our civilization any longer," she said, adding that her fear of wolves means she no longer enjoys walking in the countryside.
Over time, more and more evidence has accumulated that, due these attitudes, we are responsible for a widespread decline in animal populations and species that leave us with a dangerously low level of biodiversity. This is termed the sixth extinction.
What started with a well intentioned creative spark by a furry to take a mass produced WalMart animal costume product and teach young ones how to express themselves in designs of their own creation turned into an unfortunate swarm of saltiness and virtue signaling by InfoWar fans.
The doors to this interaction was open when WalMart’s official twitter account responded to a furry expressing their desire to do a video on modding of their Maskimal products. Once the positive interaction of a corporation with the furs was made, the Joneses stepped in to voice their offense at the situation.
So last weekend I sat down and remembered that BoJack season 5 had released onto Netflix. Being relatively new to the platform I thought that meant one episode was released and would have slow releases over time. No, apparently it means that all the episodes are released and you can watch them all.
One or two episodes wouldn’t hurt, I noted on Saturday. By the time Sunday rolled around I had gone through the entire season and was a bit drained, but still the interactions and story arcs between the characters had kept me hooked and dragged me through the entire bender. I hadn’t recorded my weekly show so I decided to take the week off and not record.
I don’t have a problem, really.
But, the show isn’t for everyone. It uses comedy as a pointed look at the worst parts of how things are for those caught within a perpetual cycle of self-inflicted wounds brought on by less than optimal decision making. If you prefer your comedy with a higher proportion toward the happy face, and less toward the tragic and woeful one, then the show may not be for you. For those folks I’d recommend Buddy Thunderstruck if you haven’t seen that one before.
However, for those who like a cerebral comedy with flawed characters in a flawed world it is well worth the watch. For those of you who have watched it, or if you don’t plan on watching it so you don’t mind spoilers, please continue to read the rest of the article for my thoughts about the fifth season. But be wary, like the show the way I am reviewing this may get a bit ‘too real’ near the end.
Eurofurence 24 ran from 22 August to 26 August this year. It was the biggest one so far and a great opportunity to meet friends from all over and enjoy oneself. There were several panels, discussions and events which are worth noting. However, conventions are very personal experiences, so while I will focus on some larger themes, your own con experiences may vary. I have previously reported on Eurofurence 21 and Eurofurence 23.
As repeated media victims we furs are always on the lookout for furry references— good, bad or indifferent— on TV and elsewhere. There are two distinct styles in which our fandom is covered: bluntly by name, and more subtly. It’s easy to identify the former, but sometimes it’s more fun when they don’t use the 'F-word' to describe the group in which they are referencing in their content. In those instances, it seems more a stealthy shout-out for our animal-ears only, designed to fly over the head of anyone who doesn’t get it.
Today I wish to go over some of those moments in furry media that seem to hold general fandom idioms and how fun 'situational nuance' can be.
In my recent review of The Adventures of Peter Gray, I made a note that the book had furry characters which it termed furren. It is not something that I spent much time on but, in combination with some other reviews I've seen, it might be worth expanding a little.
During a review of Once Upon a Forest by The Nostalgia Critic, he noted that the children were called furlings. This lead him to ask, “Why is it fantasy films always have trouble just saying the word kids? It’s always furlings or younglings or Shia LaBeouf. Just call them what they are. Kids."
Similarly, in a review of Vampyr on Zero Puncuation, Yahtzee criticised using the terms ekons and skals for what were vampires and ghouls respectively.
Although to be fair to Vampyr, it does seem that ekon and skal are referring to specific subtypes of vampire. In such a case, it does make sense to use specific terms and it wouldn't be unlike the various vampire clans that feature in Vampire: The Masquerade.
The common issue that is brought up in all three reviews is the use of new word to describe something that already has a perfectly suitable word. Why is this done and is it a good thing to do?
The furry fandom has a problem. At least that is what is heard when you go onto Twitter, Youtube, or any other social media gathering on the internet these days. As the United States continues to have moments of harsh self reflection as to what their country and leadership represent, the frustrations of those in the fandom from the states has seemingly turned inward on itself.
Many are debating over free speech, its boundaries, and how it is under attack. There is one large article by Rakuen about it on this site, and another by the creator of Dreamkeepers on DogPatch Press. In addition, one particular furry comedian who has received heavy criticism as of late, 2 Gryphon, has decided to join the group of Alt-Furrys in posturing opposition to those that would oppose his views on what freedom of speech should entail.
However, my definition of exercising free speech is a bit different than most would see it. For to me, the meaning of exercising here is not the commonly defined physical exertion required to talk, but instead to expose and cast out the demons schakeling one’s soul and community in hopes of ousting it from the spirit and freeing them from those binds.
So in that sense, let’s strap in and prepare for the long and painstaking process of this exorcism of free speech and its relationship to furry fandom.
Following on from my review of Monster Mind, I metaphorically sat down with Argon Vile to discuss the game. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and consistency. Let's jump straight into it!
Rakuen: In the credits, you say Monster Mind was pretty much just done by you, although you took various assets from others. How long did it take to put everything together and what kept you motivated through it all?
Argon Vile: Development of Monster Mind began in January 2016 and finished in April 2018. When I first started the project, I tried to strike a balance between working on the game and working on my art. But after six months, I realized the scope of what I was creating, how long it would take. I decided to fully focus on the game, but I was still dissatisfied with the amount of progress I was making. I eventually adopted a motivational technique Jerry Seinfeld popularized, which is to take a physical wall calendar (being physical is important) and set a daily goal for yourself. My goal was to work on my game for one hour. Every day that I worked on my game, I would put an X on the calendar for that day. And eventually I would accumulate a string of five or 10 Xs in a row, and it would feel good. And that was my goal; don't break the chain.
Mary and the Witch's Flower (メアリと魔女の花 or Mary to Majo no Hana in Japanese) is the first feature-length film to be released by Studio Ponoc. The film was released in Japan in July 2017 and had a limited theatrical run in the United States in early 2018 prior to its home video release. It is based on the 1971 children's novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart (which I haven't read and cannot comment on how closely it follows). At a high level, the film could be described as a sort of Harry Potter meets Kiki's Delivery Service. Some anime fans have noted similarities to the anime series Little Witch Academia.
This is the third film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It is no coincidence that the art style of the film closely resembles the works of Studio Ghibli, as Yonebayashi had previously worked there and was director of The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There. Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura and many others who worked on the film were also alumni of Studio Ghibli, which had largely disbanded its creative department following the release of Marnie in 2014. The characters of Mary, Madam Mumblechook, and Doctor Dee are voiced by Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent respectively in the English dub (Hana Sugisaki, Yuki Amami, and Fumio Kohinata respectively in the original Japanese).
Before going offline in March, Pounced.org boasted nearly 20,000 personal ads. That's impressive, but unlikely to make a dent in the amount of fan-on-fan relationships within the furry subculture - an online survey of 800 people in 2013 by the International Anthropomorphic Research Project found that nearly 80% of the respondents in relationships were in a relationship with another furry fan.
Feral Attraction is an advice column and podcast that seeks to address challenges, common and unique, that can arise at the intersection of fandom and dating. For hosts Metriko Oni and Viro the Science Collie, that means special focus on non-traditional relationship styles like polyamory and power-exchange relationships, with which they say the fandom is "uniquely enriched". This doesn't mean that others are left out, though - they also consider long-distance relationships and those new to relationships to be common in furry. Even those in completely traditional relationships get affirming, practical advice; there is no atmosphere that "traditional" means boring.
Have you ever had that moment at a convention? You know, that moment? You’re walking around, minding your own business when a random attendee walks up to you. They start chatting it up well enough, but several minutes later you realize that their story isn’t all that interesting. You’re bored and listening to an uninteresting person drivel on about their life story that you never asked for.
That experience is basically a summary of what you are in for with Netflix’s mockumentary Mascots. Scores of minutes wasted on backstories of uninteresting characters, going to an only slightly interesting competition, told in the most uninteresting way imaginable.
While some confuse fursuiting with mascotting, as some reviewers for this film have they are two completely different things. One fur on my twitter feed had requested if this was any good. To them I can say, no, no it is not.
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a feeling this year’s furry content is coordinating their themes. It’s always interesting when common threads start to show up near each other, especially when they were not intentional. I remember when Fred Patten’s anthology Furry Future was thought to have had prejudice as a subtheme by a non-furry reviewer. It might have seemed odd that all but one story in the anthology touched on the idea of social inequities without coaxing from the collection editor, but it was just coincidence that the writers felt like writing stories about that theme at the time.
It is surely strange coincidence that just after I played a game with a deeply ingrained theme of a protagonist diving head first into responsibilities to the point of self-detriment that there is an anime playing off this same subject released onto Netflix. However, unlike Yet Another Research Dog, which was a highly niche affair that probably only I had played of those I know, Aggretsuko was already slaying the fandom by the time I had gotten around to hitting the play button.
So what is all the hub about and is it worth the hype?
To begin, a little bit of justification as to why I'm reviewing this. In addition to being the 19th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Avengers three ... point five ... ish, this movie is also essentially Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2.5. And seeing as how that team just won its second motion picture Ursa Major by a pretty good margin over historically fierce competition, well, this is a team furries apparently care about, even if it's really just Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) bringing the furry.
Next, a little bit of warning. This movie ends on what could be a cliffhanger which may totally be retconned out of existence by the end of next year's Untitled Avengers Film, or maybe not, in which case there is a lot, a lot, of stuff to spoil. Now, people have a tendency to act, well, spoiled about spoilers, which basically didn't exist before Alfred Hitchcock invented the idea to promote Psycho, despite the fact that the trailer consists of Hitchcock giving the game away, since it doesn't matter.
However, there's no need to be rude, so I'm not going into the ending, other than I think I will reveal Rocket's fate, so you know whether or not, as a furry, you should just give up on this Marvel Cinematic Universe or not.
But I'll do that after the break, so if you don't want to know, well, don't click "read more".
Ghost of a Tale is described as an action-RPG game with stealth elements, dialogues and quests. Of particular interest to furs is that you play as an anthropomorphic mouse character in a world that's very reminiscent of Brian Jacques' Redwall series. Impressively, it is primarily the work of a single developer, Seith, and was funded via IndieGoGo. Ghost of a Tale was available in early access for a long time, although I waited until after the full game was released, in March 2018, before buying a copy.