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The best in western animation – from Samurai Jack to South Park

Animation comes in all guises, and sticking exclusively to anime means annexing a myriad of stories and styles. It’s no secret that we’re both big fans of British and American animation at littleanimeblog, so with this latest column, I’m bringing you all the news that caught my eye over the last few weeks.

So many of our favourite western toons borrow heavily from anime, and chief among them is Genndy Tartakovsky’s time-travelling revenge yarn Samurai Jack. It’s no surprise the show is a fan favourite, with its hyper stylised visuals, mature storytelling and exquisite score. The internet was elated when the trailer for the long-awaited fifth series broke. From its dark and brooding visuals and the uptick in bloodshed, it was obvious why the show had made its way from Cartoon Network to the more grown-up arena of Adult Swim.

It’s been 12 years since we last saw Jack in action, so tensions were high not only for a return, but a return to form, and the latest trailer promises the new series will deliver the goods. But perhaps what is most exciting in the kinetic digital landscape of 2017 is the triumphant return of hand drawn animation. In a world where even grumpy ole Miyazaki has switched to computer animation, it’s a real coup. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer and let us know what you think in the comments. Jack’s back on March 11th.

The old cliché goes that cartoons in the west are for kids, barring The Simpsons and South Park. Of course, that’s complete and utter poodoo, but that does bring us nicely to our next topic, with the creators of everyone’s favourite foul-mouthed series delivering a surprise. For decades, South Park has been at the cutting edge of satire, it’s grungy style allowing episodes to be churned out almost in real time. Fans will remember with fondness the show’s outrageous takes on political events, that was until the political sphere became a self-parodying downward spiral led by an orange narcissist with tiny hands. So yeah, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are backing off the political satire in future episodes.

“It’s tricky and it’s really tricky now as satire has become reality,” Parker said in an interview with ABC News in Australia. “We were really trying to make fun of what was going on [last season] but we couldn’t keep up. What was actually happening was way funnier than anything we could come up with. So we decided to just back off and let [politicians] do their comedy and we’ll do ours.”

Netflix is the great enabler of geek film and TV, with all manner of dead and buried shows resurfacing, as well as its own productions that would have been unimaginable on terrestrial TV. Now we’ve got wind of a Castlevania series from Adi Shankar, wunderkind producer, YouTuber and sometimes actor. As an avid comic fan, I was ecstatic to hear that Warren Ellis (the genius author of Transmetropolitan and Iron Man Extremis, among others) would be penning the series. Adventure Time’s Kevin Kolde will also be involved, though quite in what capacity is still unknown.

Anyone who’s ever suffered through any film or TV adaptation of a video game will know that those involved tend to miss the mark. Even the more successful end of the spectrum – and I’d argue that Duncan Jones’ Warcraft did a pretty decent job – tends to get a critical panning. But Shankar is coming out with all guns blazing, declaring that this will be the “western world’s first good video game adaptation”.

If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re more than familiar with Konami’s influential Castlevania series, so I’ll hold off on the history lesson. Suffice it to say, if this series hits all the right buttons, chances are there’ll be a wave of new games to enjoy. Here’s hoping.

I love Power Rangers, and I’m not ashamed who knows it. Part of my adoration is in just how unashamedly campy and over the top it all is, so when news broke of a dark and gritty animated adaption, I was trepidatious. Adi Shankar, y’know, the producer from all the way two paragraphs up, will be spearheading the series. Given his involvement, and reputation for delivering dark and gritty goods, the show’s tone should be no surprise.

So basically, Shankar wants to take the first three seasons and recreate them in animated form, but for anyone hoping for a loving return to the bright and bouncy franchise, leave your hopes at the door. Speaking to Polygon, Shankar said: “It’s a complete retelling of the first three seasons. And it’s going to be really fucking dark. Darker than any other Power Rangers series.”

power-rangers

Which one’s your favourite?

He also said he’ll be chucking out the serialised format and opting for a more linear series, more in line with modern TV. The most exciting aspect is the revelation that Shankar wants to splice Power Rangers with elements of Dragon Ball Z which, as all DBZ fans know, means long, drawn out fights. Okay, fine, that sounds pretty cool. At any rate, I’m more interested in this series that the forthcoming live action outing.

I’d love to know what you all think about any of the above, so let me know in the comments so I can write a comment round-up.


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4 Comments on The best in western animation – from Samurai Jack to South Park

  1. Anyone who still says animation/cartoons are for kids should have their heads shaved bald

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GeekyGirlWrites // February 12, 2017 at 9:25 pm // Reply

    I’m so excited for Samurai Jack Season 5!!

    Liked by 1 person

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