Animation - not just for kids
What to watch over the Christmas break?
For ages, the stubborn statement that anything that is drawn (and by extension, animated) is for children. Even after titans like The Simpsons or South Park made their way into pop culture, the idea remained: animation was a somehow lesser medium for storytelling than live action. Even in this day and age, creators like Guillermo del Toro (who has a few animated passion projects himself, such as The Tales of Arcadia or the umpteenth new Pinocchio movie this year) spoke up against the discrimination of animation as a medium. And while del Toro's animated movies and series aren't neccesarelly ones I'd categorize as "adult animation", the fact remains: animation still has a long way to go.
As I pointed out in an earlier article of mine, there are some practical benefits to animation. It can be cheaper than live-action, which is great for projects on a budget. So while an episode of Invincible had a budget of $10 million, which might sound like a lot, it's still cheap compared to other superhero series, such as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or WandaVision, that each had a budget of approximately $25 million per episode. And one can't even say that it's because of the prestigious and expensive cast, as Invincible had actors voicing characters such as J. K. Simmons, Mark Hamill or Zazie Beetz, all three appearing in huge blockbuster movies, too.
And even if money isn't a problem, some things just look better animated. Because of the unique animation style and visuals, Arcane, for example, simply just couldn't work as live-action. The same goes for BoJack Horsemen, which, quite frankly, would be horrifying as live-action.
Christmas is upon us and with it, at least for some, comes a bunch of free time, too, which is perfect for binging series. So here are my recommendations, if you want to watch some great adult animation.
I already dedicated an entire review to this show. It's just fantastic in every possible way, beautiful visuals, an interesting story, spectacular fight scenes, layered, three-dimensional characters, a spot-on soundtrack with The Perfect opening theme, and top-tier voice acting. As I said before, one of the best new series in the last couple of years.
This is a slow burner about an ageing sitcom star who desperately tries to stay relevant long after his one big hit ended. He's also a horse but that, weirdly enough, doesn't really matter. BoJack screws up again and again and again, but you can't be mad at him, as he is already the most tortured person by his own misgivings. The show dives deep into relationships, addiction, the unforgivingness of show business as well as mental health problems or childhood traumas. We see cancel culture in the works, but there is feminism, LGBTQ, racism, and sexism, the works. The show never really takes a stand itself, but sharply criticising all and every issue our modern society has, keeping its existential nihilism all the way to the heartbreaking, yet nearly perfect last episode.
This mind-blowing and beautiful show might not even count as animation for some: it was shot in live action and the footage was animated afterwards with a technique called rotoscope. The result is, as I said, mind-blowing, moving oil paintings on your screen. And if this rare visual treat isn't enough, the story will make you cry several times in its short run. Undone is about family and decisions and consequences and life itself, in a painfully honest way. Amongst others, the show features Bob Odenkirk and Rosa Salazar both in appearance and voice.
This one is for comic book fans. Adaptation of the successful comic series under the same name, Invincible is built on the same premises as The Boys: in a world full of superheroes, some of them bound to be jerks. And oh boy, are they ever. The show might not make use of its animated existence the same way Undone or Arcane did, the visuals, despite all the superhero stuff and gore, are still much more grounded. This show could easily have been live-action, but animation suits it just as well. Fair warning: Invincible is not for the faint of heart. As the story progresses, it becomes gradually more dramatic, bloody and violent, as the titular character, the rookie hero Invincible explores the truth behind his own existence.
The legend of Vox Machina
Lastly, a fun and somewhat more light-hearted adventure. Vox Machina is about a group of lousy heroes for hire, your regular adventurer party: mages, rogues, paladins, bards, swordsmen, you name it. The show takes place in the world of Dungeons and Dragons and is actually based on the main cast's own D&D characters and campaign, which is also available on Youtube. Highly recommended if you're a fan of fantasy, D&D, humour, animation, good stories or all of the above.
I tried to dedicate a paragraph to the adult animation shows that for some reason or another I enjoyed the most in the last few years, but the list, of course, isn't decisive. If any of the recommendations above was your cup of tea, you should also check out Harley Quinn, Castlevania, Lower Deck, Love, Death + Robots, Disenchantment, Marvel's What if...? and of course, Rick and Morty. And if you don't mind if a show wasn't strictly made for adults, but something kids can enjoy, too, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an amazing pick, and so is the aforementioned The Tales of Arcadia cycle, starting with the first season of Trollhunters, or Rebels, for the Star Wars fans. Enjoy!
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