Author Archives: Julianna (Animation Discourse)

Selling Out?: Hasbro’s Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters

From My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010 – present)  to Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015 – 2017)  Hasbro Studios has been behind the production of a wide variety of animated television and web series. As one of the largest toy-manufacturing companies in the world, it’s no surprise that the creation of its sudio’s series are directly tied to merchandising.


Hasbro is not the first production company that uses merchandising as a way to justify the hefty financial investment that corresponds with animation. In fact, Disney has used this business strategy for decades in order to increase its project’s revenues outside of the big and small screen. The difference between Disney’s production however, is that storytelling is of upmost priority, while toy sales only follow. On the other hand, the creation of works by Hasbro Studios are directly tied to and financially dependent upon the production and distribution of merchandise.

The conception of works is based upon their potential marketability to either young boys or girls. As series directly conceived on capitalistic foundation, it’s no surprise that many older viewers are heavily against these projects as many have the potential to tell an excellent story, yet are clearly restricted by market demand.


My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is an outlier of this statement, as Lauren Faust did an amazing job in its initial development. And rather than focusing on what toys would sell, she and her team’s main priority has been to create something of high quality. Although Faust is no longer a part of the series’ production, her legacy has been carried over by the writers and storyboard artists who stayed around.


The topic of discussion however, is of a new Netflix series produced by Hasbro Studios titled: Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters. This Netflix original series was released in October of this year and has a total of 13 episodes along with an IMDB score of 7.2/10. A promotion for the series was released on IGN’s YouTube channel, but was greeted with many comments against the series:

FistbumpBros: This animation style. Just, wow. You’d reckon in 2017 they could just up the frames?

Muctaru Bah: Gotta makes that money

Gol. D Rodger: Why the black guy always a big muscular loudmouth or a complete dweeb… all I see is white dude with his black and Asian sidekicks yawn…

OTHE: But Why … ?

W01fman: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Klaud Speed: I’m guessing a new toyline. This time you gotta buy his stretchy friends and enemies too.

The Illuminati: I remember Stretch Armstrong being a muscly guy not a teenage kid.

Cat’s Tuxedo: Muscly guys aren’t as hip and marketable to their target demo.

YesteryearsGamer: Seriously… what? My only guess is, they wanted an excuse to renew the license. Or they’re bringing out new toys. Well, it is Hasbro, so it all comes back to toy sales for them.


Despite the subpar ratings, and the somewhat valid comments shown above, Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters is reminiscent of a combination of both Spectacular Spiderman and Ben 10: Alien Force. The series in question is actually produced and directed by Victor Cook who worked on the former project, and it definitely shows in both its art style and dialogue points.


While it is obvious that the series’ central focus is marketability through its character and design choices, many outside features (dialogue, plot, etc.) are quite creatively satisfying. The series is self-aware to a degree in subtly poking fun at cliché superhero tropes, which is one of its strong points. Dialogue can be very comedic, sharing the humor of its brother series Spectacular Spiderman. Some characters are very endearing and dynamic such as Jake, Nathan, and Erica; while others such as Ricardo and Riya fall flat, but additional character exploration can reverse this. Overall, the pros well outway the conceptual flaws and campy premise of teenage heroes granted with elasticity-themed powers. It is an enjoyable and light-hearted series which makes for a very high re-watch value.


While consumerism may not be the ideal platform for any form of storytelling to be built on, at the end of the day, it provides avid cartoon viewers with more animated content. It’s important to keep in mind that chastising a series for its capitalistic roots does not entirely exclude traditional television that thrives on advertising dollars. The clear difference is that Hasbro Studio’s series are directly tied to merchandise sales and need to cater its content to the production and distribution of products— while traditionally-aired series are expected to indirectly cater to advertisers through staying within their conceived target market. Overall, both routes are influenced by capitalistic undertones with are inherently just another component of entertainment; as such, should the level of capitalistic sway really be a defining factor of what makes an excellent series? Or rather, should a series be automatically reprimanded simply because it is funded by a children’s toy corporation?


In the Internet-dominated (Western) world, and as mentioned in my post titled Teen Titans GO! Does it Really Deserve all of this Hate?, the increase of streaming and torrenting, means that creatives are required to find different sources of funding in order to make their vision come to fruition. So can we really blame studios similar to, and including, Hasbro’s if the result is more opportunities for storytellers, animators, and producers to do what they love while providing their audience with some form of entertainment?


Like the vast majority of the articles I post, I honestly had no idea where I was going to take this. The flow state really took over, and I just began writing whatever came to my mind. This makes for some interesting (and sometimes unstructured) articles. Either way, I would love to hear your opinion on the topic of animated series conceived for the purpose of selling merchandise. Should they be considered low-brow entertainment? Or should this aspect be disregarded as long as the works are entertaining? Let’s have a discussion.


Existentialism in Cartoons: Bojack Horseman and Rick & Morty

To the average person, cartoons are viewed as a form of stress-free entertainment. This genre of television is rarely expected to dive deep into philosophical thought-including questions about life, death, and existence as a whole. However, the series Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman have truly altered the way that many people view television animation in that it has bluntly introduced an abundance of raw self-awareness which centers many plot points and character qualities within the two programs.


More importantly, these elaborate series have showcased the fact that animation as a genre can have a relatable layer of existential complexity within its storytelling.


Existentialism is the philosophical thought that “existence precedes essence”, meaning we as humans are brought into the world primarily, and then decide what the point of our existence is. The majority of religions would argue the opposite; that we were created with innate purpose granted to us by some greater power.


The reason why Rick and Morty is the highest rated television series in American animation is, in my opinion, the fact that it doesn’t try to sugar coat the existential question: What is the meaning of life? This can be broken down even further: Is there any meaning to life? If so, what is it? Where can I find meaning? How can I create it? The series takes a nihilistic approach to this question in constantly repeating the idea that life is essentially pointless and that nothing that anyone does really matters.


Image result for bojack horseman depression

This is the foundation to the character Rick Sanchez and, to a less direct degree, Bojack Horseman, the protagonist of the series of the same name. Both 0f these series showcase an, in theory, unappealing main character who drowns in pessimism and the egotistic-based entitlement to live a self-destructive life; however many people adore these characters enough to tune in every season to follow them through their journey. The reason behind this seemingly ironic enjoyment through watching these characters is the fact that they are relatable.


Their thoughts and actions coincide with those of someone struggling with depression. Believing that there is no true substance to human life and leading a self-destructive life that rejects any ounce of perceived meaning as soon as it comes within the vicinity of the person is evidence of this.

The reliability of these characters come from understanding that depression is a void in which, once one enters, is difficult to get out of; and something that many of us have experienced at least once before. Let’s be honest here, people who drown themselves in cartoons as a form of escapism don’t exactly represent the epitome of happiness, but then again, there are many reasons why people of all ages watch animated works. The point is, for the most part, depression seems to live right alongside existentialism, and both are very common experiences.


An important question to ask is:

What comes first, existential dread or depression? 

The answer is quite simple when you think about it, and also helps us to unravel the mystery behind these complex characters. Depression is preliminary. Happy people do not question existence—they simply take it as a given that they are alive, and they live. Take the character Mr. Peanutbutter of Bojack Horseman for example, he embodies this frame of mind in simply enjoying life free from expectations of what it has in store for him. The quote his character:

“The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn’t to search for meaning, it’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense and eventually, you’ll be dead.”


Mr. Peanutbutter carries a contrasting frame of reference to that of Rick and Bojack, which demonstrates that people can be divided into generalized segments:

a) Those who believe that life has innate meaning

b) Those who believe that meaning is not innate, but can be created

c) Those who are convinced that life is truly a meaningless void with no exit outside of death


Rick and Bojack fall into the third category; however as both series progressed, we have witnessed some character growth that hints to there being a possibility that their mindset is slowly beginning to change; and that no matter how much each of them deny meaning, they both carry hope for something greater.


In terms of Rick, it’s his appreciation and love towards his family which, although well-hidden, as been showcased through him being willing to give his own life for Morty; freezing time for months to hang out with his grandchildren; and staying with the family even after being demoted to the lowest status following Jerry’s return in the season 3 finale. In this same episode, Beth even tells Rick to change dimensions once again in response to his comment about their choice to stay together as a family not having an inch of significance in the multiverse.


What is important to note here is that rather than hitting restart, Rick decides to go out of his way to fix his poor standing with the President of the United States in order to remain in America—all to stay with his family who he has grown fond of, despite being in denial of the fact. No matter how much Rick tries to convince himself that the people closest to him aren’t special because of their infinite nature, it is clear to see that he views these characters, or at least the Morty of dimension C-137, as holding a special place in him.


On the other end of the spectrum, Bojack has lived a self-destructive life after reaching his prime two decades prior starring in a popular television sitcom. His existential dread stems from believing that he had already reached the best and most successful moment of his life, but after this high point was over, he realized that there is no other direction to go in but down. In season 4, we begin to see a change within him. Since his long-lost half sister Hollyhock made an appearance, Bojack begins to see that he is capable of caring for someone outside of himself; and that making a positive impact on someone else’s life can bring him genuine joy and provide him with the meaning he has been searching for.


This tells us that there is nothing left for him in the Hollywoo scene; rather as his values are beginning to change, Bojack is seeing that there is so much more in the world that he is capable of achieving in different areas of his life.


The main difference between Bojack and Rick, despite their many similarities, is the fact that Rick tries to convince himself that believing in the meaning of life is an illusion design for those of lesser intellect. He constantly denies the fact that nothing matters because he believes that emotions are synonymous to being weak, and that this is essentially demeaning to the “God” that he sees himself as. We have witnessed that Rick is capable of caring for others and about life in general, but consciously chooses to hide these emotions and to convince himself that he doesn’t care.


Bojack however, is a different case. Starting from the firsts season, we see that he truly wants to believe that life has meaning. He wants to care about something outside of himself. But alongside depression, Hollywoo’s high standards of success, and ___ he ends up acting self-destructively when anything positive comes his way. Bojack is plagued by an unfortunate family dynamic that was both negligent and verbally abusive. As much as Bojack would like to believe that he deserves his success and that he has made it far, he instead believes that he will never amount to anything, no matter how successful he becomes. Coming around full circle, it makes sense that his existential crisis and depression has rooted from mistreatment from childhood, but is slowly being fixed by him upbringing Hollyhock and seeing how an adult figure can positively impact the younger generation.


Overall, many series in television animation are beginning to develop in complexity and progressiveness; however, only a select few tackle themes of depression and nihilism. The problem with the existential question in reality is that fact that it is asked far too often. As a video by rauserbegins states: Depressed people introspect far too often. They question the meaning of life to almost an obsessive degree. Although self-reflection can be positive, too much of it can become self-destructive depending on the mental state of the person. In this sense, maybe we can learn something from a line Rick Sanchez has mentioned a couple of times: “The answer is, don’t think about it”.


And finally, to end on a more uplifting note, and to quote the Anonymous Baboon from Bojack Horseman:

“It gets easier. Everyday it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it everyday, that’s the hard part. But it does get easier”.





Mysticons: New Series, Great Potential!

As of August 2017, Nickelodeon has hosted a brand new series to add to its roster of animated content. Mysticons emerged quietly into the television scene without much of a heads up, but has been gaining plenty of online attention as of late.

Produced by Nelvana and Corus Entertainment—two Canadian production companies specializing in children’s programming, specifically animation—has created a series that could potentially become a hit in the world of online cartoon fandoms. The series surrounds a group of four teenagers, Arkayna, Piper, Emerald, and Zarya, who are brought together through a acquisition quest for the “Dragon disk”, an ancient artifact that is held in the royal ranks of Drake City. This artifact has caught the eye of evil perpetrators who would like to use it’s power to revive a previous overlord. The four girls are unexpectedly granted powers from the disk and are bestowed the unsolicited role of protecting their home from evil entities.


The first episode titled Sisters in Arms provides a solid foundation for the series. The first minute into the episode takes a dive into Drake City and many of its elements. The setting seems to be a combination of futuristic and fantasy, mixing hover vehicles with urban city life that is occupied by pixies, dwarves, and other inhumans alongside regular people. It makes for a very refreshing world with the early promise of extensive expansion.

A detail in showcasing Drake City that is very appealing is that the setting does not shy away from social divides. Piper and Zarya are part of a class called the Underdwellers—a population in the city that is plagued my misfortune and poverty, to the point where Piper and Zarya have to risk imprisonment just to steal food for some of the other inner city kids in their community. Of course in being a child-targeted series, this point was not strongly emphasized and the visualization of poverty wasn’t striking in the slightest, but including portrayals of social divides in any series targeted at young people displays a very realistic rendition of almost every region.


The four main protagonists share a very unique dynamic. Rather than none of the characters or all of them knowing each other prior to their unexpected earning of the “Mysticons” title, they can be separated into two different groups. Piper and Zarya being Underdwellers and Arcadia and Emerald being part of the royal family in some capacity. This is likely to become a point of conflict throughout the season as each pair comes from a completely different background. Seeing the social divide play out in the Mysticons’ team dynamic would be very entertaining, realistic, and something that would definitely add depth to their relationship with one another.


The character designs of the series also stands out. There is plenty of creativity in how the characters look in civilian attire versus their post-transformation suits. Their weapons of choice are also unique to each of the four protagonists. And the details of their hair and clothing does a solid job of encapsulating each of the girls’ personalities (e.g. Piper’s eccentric and lively personality paired with her three pigtails and golden hoops as weapons making up her hero look).


Mysticons’ animation is also quite different from the modern-day norm. The series uses 2D computer animation, with an attempt to make it appear somewhat hand drawn. I’ve brought up the budgeting issues that Canadian content is often plagued by (read this post for more information), so fir a Canadian-produced cartoon, I applaud its animation; however, in comparison to American-produced content that is currently airing, I believe that hand drawn animation would be much better suited. Although many avid animation fans would argue that hand drawn beats Flash, ToonBoom, and other computer-created 2D formats every single time, I strongly disagree with this statement. Series like Star Vs. the Forces of Evil and Gravity Falls utilize modern animation techniques really well (in combination with traditional animation at times). Mysticons, however, loses out on this type of animation given it’s heavy action scenes and plot-driven story—which are typically paired with traditional animation (e.g. The Legend of Korra, Voltron, Steven Universe etc.). The movements are similar, yet much more fluid, to the Canadian series Detentionaire. So although the series can benefit from higher-quality animation, at least it is a step up from other Canadian works.


Overall, Sister in Arms presents a solid start to the series, laying out the premise and introducing the main characters quite well. Plenty happened during this episode making it feel surprisingly long for a 20-minute episode. My main concern with the series moving forward is that it might be jumping into the plot a little bit too quickly. The pacing might become a little bit too quick to fully enjoy, or even grasp the story. As for the dialogue, the jokes can be a hit or miss, but overall it’s clear to see that the creative team behind the show has put a lot of heart into it.

Finally, the theme song is very upbeat and catchy. It gives off a similar tone as that of Totally Spies, except it is an original song created specifically for the series. Additionally, another track played near the end of the episode which was also quite good. Together the provide plenty of promise for the remainder of the series’ soundtrack.


Although it’s too early to tell whether or not this series will be a hit, it is definitely one of the higher-quality cartoons to come out of Canada. Additionally, if the series is successful, and seeing that Playmates Toys is a producer of the series, the characters and premise of the series have amazing potential for merchandise creation.


A/N: It’s passed midnight right now, but I just wanted to release this post into cyberspace as soon as I finished typing it out. I will definitely revisit it tomorrow to fix some of the poor language choices and descriptions. Let me know what you think of the series!

Cartoon Network’s Scheduling Woes

Recently, the “Big Three” animation television networks—Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney XD—have been relentlessly targeted for their less-than-favorable program scheduling. Cartoon Network specifically has been receiving quite a bit of cyberspace hate from grieving animation fanatics for months on end. Cartoon Network is being accused of selling out creatively for profit—two elements that are, by nature, polarizing. But ever since the release of Teen Titans GO! the checker box network has been coming under relentless fire.


Let’s take a look at this week’s schedule.

Out of all of the series that Cartoon Network currently airs, 46% (164 episodes) is taken up by Teen Titans GO! reruns. Now anyone who has seen a video of why Teen Titans GO! is an absolute disgrace is aware of the complaints plaguing the series and Cartoon Network’s schedule of it, so I won’t dive into that here; however allow me to redirect you to a previous blog post that discusses the issues surrounding the series.


What happened to variety? Is it really intelligently strategic to have almost half of network’s airtime directed at a 6-to-10-year-old age group? In my, and many others’ opinion, absolutely not. Each network may have a general target demographic that they skew their content towards, but they are rarely restrictive to this degree unless the network is focused on very niche programming. And given the vast range of animated content that is available (i.e. content ranging from PG-rated Phineas and Ferb to Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty), “animation” does not appeal to a specific niche. Rather than perceiving it as a genre, it should simply be considered just another medium and form of storytelling. In the long-run, poor scheduling will catch up to the network, and is already beginning to impact how Cartoon Network is being perceived in a negative light. It is alienating its wider audience and forms a redefined brand image that said network is only catering to insert very specific target audience here.


However, we also need to look at the other side of the spectrum. Business and creativity are naturally polarizing, so it’s difficult to analyze a corporation whose structure is built upon balancing these two opposing components; in other words, we need to assess both sides, not just the lack of variety in creative content. This is not to say that television executives know what their doing 100% of the time—many fail miserably, and other fail to learn from their miserable mistakes—but they are in the business of overseeing their television network, so have an abundance of insider information and years of industry experience to guide their decisions.

Rather than being all in for the Teen Titans GO! money grab, we need to stop assessing these people as greedy businessmen/women who are only in the entertainment industry for the sake of financial security. This is simply not the case. Scheduling is a meticulously-calculated decision involving research and data that we viewers probably would not be able to wrap our minds around; or possibly, it is the complete opposite. The importance here is that we don’t know what actually goes on during the planning meetings at Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney XD and every other television network out there.


Broadcast television is a dying platform. It’s quickly going downhill and these companies need to try to secure a solid income stream in order to stay afloat. If this means producing inexpensive flash cartoons based off of a hugely-popular series, then so be it. I personally believe that a large reason behind Cartoon Network’s constant airing of the series is a response to the increase of online streaming. Young children do not necessarily go out of their way to stream content on questionably-legal streaming services. They don’t have money to purchase content legally either. SO when it comes to entertainment, Netflix might be an option, but it’s likely that their parents will turn to a child-friendly television network and said child will be completely fine with whichever series is playing in that moment.


Other the other hand, older audience members, who crave plot, character development, high-quality animation, etc., will most likely stream content that they really want to watch, cutting out potential viewership numbers that networks are losing to the World Wide Web. This is my best guess as to why a hugely popular series with a highly prominent fandom, Steven Universe, receives a lower rating count when compared to a new episode premiere of Teen Titans GO! 


Series like Adventure TimeRegular ShowThe Amazing World of Gumball, etc. are much more expensive to create as they have deeper storylines, intertwining plots, and high-quality animation to appeal to the higher set of entertainment expectation of an older audience member. Teen Titans GO! on the other hand attracts a large viewership rating compared to these high-quality series, so carry a much greater return.

In response to this, Cartoon Network has been releasing more new content on its app and other digital platforms to recapture potential audience revenue that they are losing out on. This is no to excuse Cartoon Network for its lack of variety. It has its reasons for scheduling in the manner that it currently does. But it really is impacting the brand in a negative way. In this sense, it is trading in long-term gain for short-term gain—either this, or the network believes that it can easily redeem itself in the future. Either way, the expression don’t put all of your eggs in one basket comes to play here. Possibly, Cartoon Network knows that Teen Titans GO! will not be around for too long so might be attempting to capitalize on it now through a 50% scheduling “strategy”.

This, of course, does not stop a lot of people from their passionate anger that only stems from a love for excellent animation. Many people grew up with Cartoon Network and still spend hours of their week on the channel to this day.


Now, I’m not necessarily defending the network for it’s one-note and lackluster schedule; however it’s always important to keep in mind that there are two sides to a story and it is important to analyse the reasons and frame of mind from both sides, rather than simply dismissing one as idiotic and incompetent towards handling art and creativity. In addition, the network’s weekly schedule has been improving through releasing more episodes of OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes (see my review here) and reruns of the original Teen Titans series. Possibly Cartoon Network is listening to what it’s viewers have been vocalizing for months. Either way, things are looking forward!

OK K.O.! Let’s be Heroes: Surprisingly Endearing

In 2013, the pilot for OK K.O.! Let’s be Heroes was created and released through Cartoon Network’s Summer Shorts program. Despite its positive reception, the now hugely popular series Steven Universe was, unregrettfully, chosen from the pack instead.

However, 4 years later, OK K.O.! finally earned its long-awaited chance to shine. On August 1st, 2017, Cartoon Network released four 11-minute episodes followed by multiple more during the days following, granting the series its starting momentum to reach potential heights. Ever since this K.O.! bomb, the series has been receiving plenty of hype throughout various online platforms and is starting off with a 8.4/10 rating on IMDB.


OK K.O.! is an episodic series told from the perspective of Ko—a young boy who tags along with his mother to work at the Lakewood Plaza Strip Mall. While his mother is working at her dojo storefront, Ko breaks off and and engages with the wacky personalities within the vicinity—both shop owners and customers. Ko’s dream, and typically the center of most episodes, is to become a admirable hero; because in this universe, everyone has specific abilities in the art of butt-kicking that is showcased through a level-ranking system. Most of the people located within the plaza are at a certain level ranging from 1-11, and it’s implied that 100 in the highest. Ko is currently at level zero, but wants more than anything to level up to become the “greatest hero in the world”. Although the series is told from his perspective, we also get a sense of the other two personalities who work at Gar’s Bodega, a convenience store in the plaza where Ko spends the majority of his time, Enid and Radicles.


The series aesthetic is very promising. Its art style and character designs are incredibly unique in the world of post-Adventure Time television animation (in which many series take after its style). OK K.O.! uses hand-drawn animation which is different from the high and low quality Flash cartoons we have been receiving lately—not that Flash or ToomBoom is necessarily bad, in fact Star Vs. the Forces of Evil along with Gravity Falls are prime examples of Flash done right—but straying from the current norm is the sole definition of standing out from the crowd; and this is exactly what OK K.O.! brings to the table.

The character designs of the series also stands out immensely. There are no bounds to the type of characters that are shown on screen, and their mannerisms also follow a random and unrestricted pattern. It is clear that the crew enjoyed creating these characters and were able to use their unbounded imagination throughout the creation process. The series’ style may take some getting used to. It has somewhat of an intentional unpolished look to the line art and colouring, and characters are known to break their character model’s often; but after being accustomed to its aesthetic, it’s easy to see the series’ visual appeal.


The writing of the series follows a villain-of-the-day kind of format. Each 11-minute episode is self contained, which suits the premise of the series. It’s difficult to picture OK K.O.! following a continuous plot that stretches over more than a couple of episodes; but this form of storytelling is well-suited to the series and writers’ intentions. Although series like Steven Universe and Adventure Time are heavily story-based, this should not be used as a defining benchmark for an excellent animated series. Some shows are designed to be self-contained and bring other well-placed elements to the table—which is perfectly fine and adds variety to the series that are available.

The humor of this series is the complete opposite of stale. I found myself laughing at the dialogue, visual gags (especially those that take inspiration from, while poking fun at, Japanese anime), and some of the situational humour. The dialogue is snappy and the jokes are quite clever but not overly-glorified. A lot of the humour is subtle or referential; details that can be easily missed if not enough attention is paid. However, the understated jokes are very appealing.


There hasn’t been too much character development so far, but we do get a sense of the main and reoccurring characters’ personalities. Ko is a gem. He is clearly a kid who carries a very optimistic view of the world and people around surrounding him. He is naive in this sense, but this trait allows him to find enjoyment in the little things while truly seeing the beauty in all different kinds of people (or specimens) that he encounters. Writing a young boy character can be difficult to get right; however, this series has nailed it so far. Ko is somewhat hardheaded, but he often chooses to listen and learn from his mistakes—a quality that is lacking in many modern-day animated protagonists. He admirably pours his heart into his self-imposed mission of becoming a great hero, but doesn’t let this objective blind him from his other responsibilities. Ko is such an endearing boy and, although has some pitfalls, he is portrayed as a well-rounded individual who is eager to learn all that he can.


Ko’s single-mother, Carol, is very supportive of Ko’s journey to become a great hero, and allows him to train at Gar’s Bodega. She loves her son very much and gives him plenty of freedom to follow his passions and the appropriate amount of space to grow. When he gets into self-inflicted trouble, she does not reprimand him for it; instead she actively helps him to reverse said problem. Additionally, she works at the Lakewood Plaza as the owner of Fitness Emotions, a fight/exercise club. Her hero level is quite high at 11.


Enid is one of my personal favourite characters. Working at Gar’s Bodega, her character traits fall along the lines of an self-intitled young adult. She has shown some behaviours of laziness, but knows to act accordingly when necessary. She gives off an older-sister feel whenever she addressed Ko. She teases him but always has his back at the end of the day and finds his actions endearing. At times Enid seems to forget that Ko is just a kid, and speaks to him as if he is on equal footing. And in other cases both her and Radicles share moments of immaturity with Ko, which makes for an entertaining and fitting dynamic.


Overall, the series has experienced a promising start; and as the excitement over it increases, hope for a second season does as well. However, the series’ ratings seemed to have dipped below a million views on Cartoon Network, which isn’t very promising. Some of the episodes were released prematurely on Cartoon Network’s app, so this might be the reasoning behind the dip in viewership, but either way, its early success is not implied to even somewhat guarantee a second season.

Here’s hoping that OK K.O.! Let’s be Heroes receives a long-lasting place on Cartoon Network.


A/N: I was definitely not expecting this series to be as good as it turned out. In all honesty, I was expecting to dislike it, completely judging the book by its cover. I was definitely wrong to do so, and am very glad that I was able to look passed the series unorthodox exterior—and even better, realize the charm that its style carries.

By the power vested in me, I grant this series a place is the category of highly recommended animated series.


Creator Spotlight: Lauren Faust

The Nickelodeon Animation Podcast is a phenomenal resource for anyone who would like to learn more about the animation industry. Each episode features known figures of the industry, whether it be directors, producers, storyboard artists, animators, voice actors, and everything in between. This podcast is a gem for anyone who is even slightly interested in animation, and in my genuine opinion, I highly recommend that you all check it out! The inspiration for this article came from Episode 18 of the podcast featuring Lauren Faust.


Lauren Faust is an incredible woman. She worked on the Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and was responsible for developing My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Her involvement in modern television animation is lengthy, and to top off her incredible success, she is also a fantastic role model.

Faust approaches her line of work with a feminist mindset. As a female writer, director, and storyboard artist, she has experienced what it feels like to be the minority within the animation industry and wider entertainment sector as a whole. As such, she works to inspire many young girls to defy odds and expectations within their line of work, whether involved in animation or not, and to avoid giving in to the supposed restrictions that are set upon them on the basis of gender:

“[Girls] need to know that they can do these bigger things, they need to know that they can be tough and strong. . . her feelings are important too; her goals, her dreams, and her needs.” — Lauren Faust, Nickelodeon Animation Podcast


Faust wrote about her perspective on the animation industry in a blog post. She has done a phenomenal job at defying odds within the industry and centering her career around developing lovable and well-rounded female characters:

“I have been a lifelong feminist, and as an artist working in the animation industry for more than 16 years I have striven to do right by women and girls in the animated projects I have been part of. I try to bring sincerity and depth to the female characters I’ve animated and have fought in development and story meetings to make female characters more than just the typical girlfriend, Mom or sex symbol. I’ve even fought to see that there was more than just one girl character in whatever project I was working on. Sometimes I swayed my coworkers (often it was easy, to their credit) and sometimes I lost. My goal, as an artist and as a storyteller, was to one day have a show of my own for and about girls.” — Lauren Faust, Ms. Blog Magazine


Aside from being an active feminist, which Powerpuff Girls and My Little Pony truly showcases, she also encourages everyone to follow their dreams, and she does so realistically. The best advice someone has given in terms of their career goals can be summed up in these few lines:

“Live below your means. Don’t live in the awesome apartment, live in the crappy apartment. Don’t buy the awesome car, buy a crappy car. Especially while you’re young because nobody judges you for that. And make sure that you can save. If you got a lot of savings, if you got six-months worth of savings in your account, you can be picky about your jobs. If you get offered something kind of crappy, on a project that kind of lousy, or working for somebody you think is a jerk, you don’t have to take it because you can pay your bills; you can wait for that awesome job.” — Lauren Faust, Nickelodeon Animation Podcast


Words of wisdom from the queen of television animation herself. And although this specific podcast really spoke to me, there is a long list of others ones that might have a major impact on you.




Watching Animation Critically.





These words are not often associated with Western animation.


In most cases, cartoons are presented as naïve works that double as a stand-in babysitter for young children. Animation is historically not meant to be taken seriously. But I believe that all media content that we are exposed to should be approached at least partially from a critical perspective. We should analyze the content that we consume, whether it be music, television, film, or video games, as each of these cannot escape socialized structures that we live within—and in many cases, are desensitized to.

The reason why animation, along with other media, should be viewed critically is because they are created within structures that both emphasize and reflect our daily lives. As a result, many animated works can be very progressive while telling deep and intriguing stories. Many cartoons are swimming in a pool of complexity that is just waiting to be unpacked; however at the same time, many animated titles can do the complete opposite. Either way, we need to assess all of it. Because within each highly-acclaimed and poorly-rated cartoon, are an abundance of systemic issues that are either touched on or built upon.

It’s no surprise that many animated films and programs are targeted at children—which is more than often used as an excuse to dismiss it as an inferior genre of entertainment that doesn’t deserve to be placed under a critical microscope. Much of this content was created under the impression that young minds would be their main consumer; but should this not act as even more motivation to assess the content that is directly impacting the perspectives of young people?

Isn’t it about time that we stop perceiving animation as an inferior form of storytelling and instead fight for progressiveness in these works rather than disregarding them as only superficial enough for shallow minds to comprehend?

This blog was created on the very true premise that animation is not commonly being discussed in a serious manner. Many films, songs, and video games are often analyzed for their deeper messages, but animation is often excluded from this conversation. So as someone who enjoys animated works and who believes without a doubt that animation can be very complex, I would like to contribute to the tiny fraction of cyberspace that discusses animation critically.


Consider this a formal invitation to join in on the conversation.




Hidden Gems: Delta State

What if you were able to lucid dream on command? What if you tapped into a realm of the subconscious every time you did so? And what if skilled mind hitmen were attempting to control the human psyche by entering this realm?

Delta State is a Canadian animated series that premiered on Teletoon in 2004. It has one season of 26 episodes that completes an entire story arch, with plans for a second season being denied the chance to see the light of day due to low ratings. The series didn’t attract a huge audience, possibly, because of it’s unorthodox animation style, compelling storyline, and Canadian origin. But the main culprit for its unfortunate cancellation (based on keen detective skills) is over the fact that Delta State was simply too smart, unique and intriguing for its time.

In other words, animation in the early 2000s had the mindset of being a form children’s entertainment. And despite many people still holding this viewpoint regarding the subject, the new decade is known to have challenged this perspective many times over.

Delta State features four main characters, who are also roommates and best friends (though mainly as a result of circumstance above anything else): Luna, Claire, Martin, and Philip. None of them remember any details of their lives prior to half a year ago, so in having being able to enter the Delta Sate at will, they were placed into an apartment together protected by a force field created by their mentor, Brodie, to keep them safe.

Aside from being able to enter an alternate realm, the protagonists each have unique abilities related to the human mind. Claire has the ability of remote viewing, so she is capable of retrieving visible information of a person, location, or object that is physically unattainable in a specific moment of time. Luna is capable of precognition,  thus can see both past and future events through sporadic visions that she has no control over. Martin has the ability of telepathy so is capable of reading people’s mind at will. And finally, Philip has the ability of psychometry, so is able to view the experience of past objects through physical contact.

Although these abilities sound very intriguing, they do not define these characters’ beings. Instead the four protagonists are portrayed as very realistic young adults who have to deal with the unwanted pressure of having to combat said “mind hitmen”, known as rifters. Unlike many series that consists of special abilities along with a literal “hero’s journey”, these roommates do not exactly settle into the powers that had been forced upon them. They do not have an inherent powerful sense of justice that transitions them into selfless beings who fight for the sake of mankind—instead remain as a group of 20-something-year-olds who, above anything, just want the memories of their past lives back. The bad-guy butt-kicking ranks second to their very self-focused goal. Even the people who they save from the rifters’ control usually have some kind of personal connection with the protagonists, which in turn motivates them to put their central objective aside momentarily to save whoever requires their assistance.

As a result, the characters are portrayed as very real people who face a combination of both common and otherworldly roadblocks. Delta State inexplicably answers the question of: What if regular everyday people where given special abilities and forced into a “hero” role? This realistic characterization is hardly seen in Western animation, as is a young adult roster. As a 22-year old, many of their worries and struggles are incredibly relatable, and for those of you who currently (or have) live(d) with roommates, the character dynamic is something I’m sure will give off a sense of familiarity.

Delta State was written primarily as a comic, however its rights were purchased before the comic’s release to create the series. As such, it definitely has a comic-book feel to it, in both premise and storytelling style. One very important fact to note is that  the entire series was rotoscoped into animation; so the entire thing was filmed beforehand, then each frame was traced over. This makes for very accurate proportions and perspectives. Because this animation technique is so unorthodox, Delta State was actually the first television series to accomplish this feat in its entirety. And because it’s so unique, it definitely takes some getting used to.

After a while it’s easy to see that the animation definitely suits the premise of the series and sets its overall tone. It is definitely intriguing, and personally, made me want to keep watching.

Delta State follows a continuous storyline with the occasional self-contained episode. Almost every episode carries some kind of revealing plot and/or character moment that adds to the complexity of the series. Keep in mind, that the show is not something that can just be played in the background. It requires a degree of focus on the audience’s part, as it contains a thought-provoking story.

Overall, the best words to describe Delta State are smart and intriguing. The series naturally pulls its audience into the story, and its very real characters inspires the question of “what if?”. As in, what if I was placed in their situation? What if a realm within the subconscious existed and only a small handful of people could tap into it? What if a portion of this story is inspired by true occurrences/possibilities?

In my (self-proclaimed) professional opinion, Delta State is one of the most well-hidden gems of animation.

A/N: The other week I wrote an article covering the Canadian animation industry. And upon researching some Canadian titles, stumbled upon Delta State. It’s a really tough series to come by. Even when searching “Delta State” on Google, Delta State University returns higher on the search query. It is definitely a hole-in-the-wall within the animation sphere, and as such, I highly recommend it to any animation fanatic who appreciates a different and intriguing plot along with a unique overall style. 

Canadian Animation: Will it Ever Catch Up?

Oh, Canada. The land of maple syrup, beavers, and low-quality animated works, apparently.


As a Canadian, it truly pains me to insult my favourite form of entertainment that originates from my very own country. However, Canada isn’t exactly known for being at the frontier of acclaimed animated works. Some examples of these low-rated series include:

  • Johnny Test 
  • Angela Anaconda
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes
  • George of the Jungle
  • Rocket Monkeys


Many American production companies are approaching Canada to animate various television series (mainly because of its depleting dollar value, which is a selling point to US-based producers). So despite having created less than favorable works, Canada has actually had its hand on the actual animation of some acclaimed titles that are currently on air:

  • Rick and Morty
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic


But in terms of Canadian content creation, there aren’t many companies that dabble in the actual conception process—which is a real shame. However, in American entertainment companies taking advantage of the relatively low Canadian dollar, Canada is at least able to participate in a portion of the creation process. This is important as it showcases the country’s talent pool of animators, which can, and has, open(ed) many doors of opportunities in the production of animated works originating in Canada.


One company that had shown some potential at one point is Fresh TV, also known as the Toronto-based studio responsible for the creation of the long-lived Total Drama series. This was essentially a drama-filled parody of a Survivor-like reality series. This show ran for 5 seasons in total (6 if you count The Ridonculous Race) and reached immense popularity in the United States (on a Canadian-based scale at least). However, it seems like Fresh TV is moving away from animated works with the conclusion of Total Drama and lack of success from the cartoons that followed.


This leads us to an important question: Why exactly is Canada lagging behind? Its creative sector is overflowing with talent, and both Vancouver and Toronto are becoming new global hubs of entertainment; so why exactly is its content rarely, if ever, at the frontier of mainstream media?

Well, Canada doesn’t exactly place a large amount of funding into its entertainment industry. The reason being, it is approached as part of the cultural industries rather than seen as an economic force. The reason Hollywood is able to gain so much funding is because the state is aware that the film and television industries rake in billions of dollars per year. Canada, on the other hand, tends to play its cards very safe, so doesn’t fight for greater funding for its entertainment industry since it’s essentially a risky arena. Culture is surely a pretty thought, but it doesn’t make for much convincing on the governmental level to invest billions of dollars annually into the sector.


Additionally, importing American works is a lot less financially risky compared to creating original content. For the purpose of maintaining Canada’s cultural integrity, there is a quota in place in that a percentage of content displayed through Canadian broadcasters during primetime hours needs to be Canadian-produced; but because American works are typically high-budget, its difficult for Canadian series to compete in quality. As such, broadcasters have been fighting for a lower percentage quota skewed in favor of Canadian content, as they argue that it results in the loss of viewership. So far, this percentage has opened up a door of opportunities for Canadian content creators, but when not backed by appropriate funding, it’s difficult to deliver high-quality works. This is why many Canadian cartoons either have low-quality animation, low-quality writing, or a mix of both.


On the other end of the spectrum, Canada has its name on a small handful of popular works in the past:

  • Class of the Titans
  • 6teen
  • Arthur
  • Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy

It’s not the most impressive list, but hey, at least it’s something.


There are a handful of known cartoons that have been created through a joint effort involving Canada. Canadian studios are also known to collaborate with American and French companies (e.g. Totally Spies was created through a French/Canadian collaboration). So at least Canada is inserting itself into mainstream content by partnering with other companies, and vice versa.


All in all, it’s difficult to assess the future of Canadian cartoons on mainstream networks; however, it appears that the industry is growing ever so slowly. Canadian studios that have accepted outsourced animation jobs are starting to become aware of their internal talent pool, and seem to be dabbling in content creation themselves. The amount of Canadian-created content is also likely to increase when the dollar reaches its previous heights—studios will likely see a downturn of work and will have to find other ways to save their bottom line, including producing and distributing their own animated works.

Here’s hoping that Canada will eventually catch up.



A/N: Keep in mind that I am a Communication major, so my degree is all about media studies. The question of, “why is Canadian entertainment lagging?” applies to movies, television, film, books, etc. and is brought up quite often by many of my professors. This blog post touches on their collective response to the question. I’m no expert, but in assuming that my professors know what they’re talking about, this is my best guess as to why Canada is rarely seen in mainstream media outlets.

Is Japanese Anime Misogynistic?

Anime has changed the way that many people watch American animation. After being introduced to US cable in 1997 through the beloved Toonami segment, viewers began to expect more from animation in general. They began to crave continuity, overarching plots, and character development. And as the 2010s approached, they began to truly see the impact that the complexity of anime has had on American works.


Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Voltron: Legendary Defender, Steven Universe, the list goes on.


The new decade has brought about young creators who grew up watching anime and who genuinely believe that American animation could tell deep and intriguing stories.


Anime is treated as such an inspiration because it conquers American storytelling and visual quality on many fronts; however, as great as its storytelling typically is, anime tends to greatly lack one specific element:

Progressive female characters.


Anime, like most forms of entertainment on the small screen, thrives on countless tropes; however, aside from these there are very specific female portrayals that are displayed throughout many of Japan’s animated works. Two specific qualities that are more often than not woven into countless female characters are: 1) submissiveness and 2) boy-craziness. Neither of which are positive nor progressive.


Female characters are often portrayed as the weak alternative to their male counterparts. Many are defined by their romantic feelings towards a male character who consequently end up bringing out the best in theses females:

  • Sawako Kuronuma of Kimi ni Todoke
  • Lisa Mishima of Zankyou no Terror
  • Rinko Yamato of Ore Monogatari!!
  • Satomi Murano of Parasyte


To add insult to injury, the submissive female anime character often puts up with plenty of verbal and sexual assault that is too often played off as the norm:

  • Misa Amane of Death Note
  • Misaki Ayuzawa of Kaichou wa Maid-sama!
  • Megumi Noda of Nodame Cantabile
  • Nanami Momozono of Kamisama Hajimemashita
  • Shizuku Mizutani of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun


And to make matters worse, many female characters eventually develop romantic feelings towards their harassers. This doesn’t only make certain anime titles difficult to watch at times, but also spreads the idea that this treatment towards females is justified and even rewarded.


Not only is female submissiveness prominent in anime characters, but incorporating a boy-crazed personality into their characterization is also common. Before I continue, allow me to clarify that having romantic feelings towards another character is definitely not a negative feature. It’s a perfectly normal occurrence that the vast majority of us can relate to. The issue truly lies in the presentation of this trait; it is promoted as a redeeming female quality.

These female characters are defined by how they feel towards males. Many will throw away everything just to be in the same vicinity as a specific guy. And when these characters’ entire personalities become tied to how they feel towards someone else, they frequently end up subjecting themselves to male prowess, becoming nothing but an extension of their crush. Female characters that have a boy-obsessed outlook are typically emotionally and socially underdeveloped, but presented as being well-rounded individuals—as if having extremely powerful romantic feelings towards a male is more than enough to compensate for a lack of personality.


This is a huge issue as girls should be taught to build themselves up internally rather than relying on external stimuli, whether it be another person, or something else entirely.

The boy-crazed characteristic isn’t only inherent in Japanese animation, but as mentioned in a previous article, is also more than prominent in American works. The only difference is that female characterization in cartoons seems to be improving at a much quicker rate than that of anime, despite many anime having more complex storytelling elements.



Although Japanese animation is saturated with less than favourable female portrayals, there are also many notable personalities out there who have built themselves up without the help of a male counterpart, and who are recognized by who they are and what they have accomplished instead of who they are romantically attached to:


  • Hiyori Iki of Noragami
  • Revy (Rebecca) Lee of Black Lagoon
  • Kyoko Mogami of Skip Beat
  • Akane Tsunemori of Psycho Pass
  • Celty Sturluson of Durarara!!
  • Yuu Kashima of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun



And since misogyny isn’t exactly a positive note to end off on, I will leave you with this question: Who are the most trope-defying anime females on your list, and what is it about their phenomenal characterization that allows them onto your list?


Keep in mind, I am not Japanese nor have I ever visited the country. I only have a vague idea of what Japanese customs are, but cannot even begin to comprehend Japan’s social norms. However, I don’t believe that this should be used as an excuse by North American viewers to ignore these issues. Anime is becoming widely accessible on a global front. With Crunchyroll, Netflix, and other (questionably legal) streaming platforms distributing anime, viewers can access these works instantaneously, and because many of us are viewing anime, as with all of the media that we consume, it’s important to be actively critical of these works regardless of where they originate. With this said, as a Canadian I am approaching this topic from a Western perspective, as should you (though please feel free to disagree).