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!
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.
The furry fandom’s favorite fighting fox has proven once against that when it comes to the competitive fighting game scene, he cannot be denied. SonicFox found himself victorious in the EVO eSport World Championship, to taking home the first-place victory in Dragon Ball FighterZ. He also kept his form as a top contestant in the Injustice 2 scene, able to take home third place despite having waned his practice to focus on the anime based game.
Many in the furry fandom typically care so little about sports that the University of Waterloo that researches furries literally uses sports fandoms as a control group when trying to compare those in furry with those of the outside world. However, it seems that when it comes to the fighting game eSports scene, many have found themselves giving into the fan fever of competition as one of their own dominates its world.
Those who watched the final match against Goichi (using the tag Go1) were not disappointed as the two faced off in their final sets to claim the title. It is a match that will go down in fighting game history scene for the intensity, and little bit of controversy.
Monster Mind is a puzzle-solving, Pokémon-themed, flash game created by Argon Vile. It's available to play for free through Inkbunny or Fur Affinity. One might be tempted to immediately dismiss it as just another pornographic game, however not only is it very well-executed but it also contains deeper questions about sex and sexuality than you might expect.
A puzzling start
The main puzzles—as well as the title—are based on the board game Master Mind. In the classic version, you have to guess the colour and position of each peg in a row of four, usually with six colours to choose from for each slot. After each guess, you are told how many pegs have the correct colour and how many are in the correct position. Over multiple guesses, you can determine the correct pattern.
Monster Mind is slightly different. While you are still required to find the pattern, several guesses are already provided as clues. You must use those clues to determine the correct sequence; although in the most difficult puzzles it might be necessary to make assumptions about more than one peg at a time. You can choose between various difficulties starting from a pattern of just three pegs (although in this game they are adorable bugs instead of pegs) and going up to five pegs. There is also a secret 7-peg puzzle with some extra rules!
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.
Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf (Иван Царевич и Серый волк / Ivan Tsarevich i Seriy volk / trailer) is a Russian 2D animated children's film that came out in 2011. It's the 7th film produced by Melnitsa Animation Studio, and although it took 12th place that year in Russia's box office, 9 of the top 11 films were all foreign imports, so for a domestic film it did really well! It made back 8 times what it cost to produce, enough to get sequels in 2013 and 2016. I've not watched the studio's other films, but they've definitely got an in-house animation style down to something that works well for them.
A lot of foreign animation companies don't bother exporting their films into the North American market because it's expensive, although Netflix and other streaming services are rapidly changing that. Sometimes it's a case of whether foreign audiences will be able to relate to the content. Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf feels very Russian, culturally. I get the impression it's poking fun at a lot of fairy tales, and I have no idea what they are. Still, it was an ok watch.
Director Wes Anderson has a lot of cinematic trademarks that make his movies, well, Wes Anderson movies. There's the whole love of more or less symmetrical shots, for instance. A frame from a Wes Anderson movie is often recognizable as such for this reason alone. He's the writer of all his own movies (with occasional co-writers, of course). In tone, his writing features normal to the point of banal dialogue in unusual circumstances. This is reflected in his movie's art direction; for instance, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, he filmed parts of the movie on an actual boat at sea, and other parts on a flagrantly obvious sound stage. The thing about doing this is that creating a huge stage and filming at sea are both difficult things to do that also don't really complement each other. He creates comedies, but they are often very dark; at one point in The Grand Budapest Hotel, for instance, an innocent woman's severed head is held up, and the primary emotion felt is relief. Under normal circumstances, the standard critique would be his films are tonally inconsistent, but, as even the sets are at war with themselves, this is obviously on purpose.
Also, he is known for violently killing off dogs in his movies. That's a thing he does.
Which brings us to Isle of Dogs. There is literally a plot to kill off every dog in the movie. Turns out, Wes Anderson might actually like dogs, however, because that's the villains plot, not the movie's.
Back in the year 2000, a game broached shelves that became a social phenomenon. Maxis’s The Sims took the doll house that many, stereotypically girls, played with in their youth and put it onto the computer screen. In the shadow of popular “virtual pet” games like tamagotchi it took the idea of the animal pet and made them a bit more human. The result was not only a simulator where you could take your virtual human and help them climb the ladder of success, it was a game where the more creatively sadistic could torture the poor souls in ways that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.
For those who are not into the whole torture thing, the game is pretty simple and addictive. You give your Sims stuff so that they can become more skilled so that they can acquire more stuff. There is a kind of cyclonic, capitalistic story behind it all, but the game does cut one thing out for the first iteration. The work part. While at home you need to keep your Sim’s bars full to keep them happy. Their sleepiness, hunger, bladder, hygiene, and such all have to be kept in check. However, the grungy and grindy part of the day, the effort done to make the money to improve the ever expanding home life, is cut out.
The Shape of Water (trailer) is a 2017 fantasy-drama film from director Guillermo del Toro, based on an idea he'd had since childhood. Essentially he wanted to make a happier version of the 1954 horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon, with the humanoid fish monster and the female lead falling in love.
And that's exactly what happens in The Shape of Water! It takes place in 1962, starring a mute woman named Elisa who's part of the cleaning staff at an American government research facility. In one of the labs, she learns of "the asset", an intelligent humanoid amphibian creature who's being tortured. Falling in love with him, she wants to set him free with the help of a small group of collaborators.