When it comes to anime, the conversation surrounding accessibility in the community is a weirdly contentious one. I don’t just mean the usual sub VS dub debate either, as the conversation goes well outside that but for several reasons, supposed “fans” of the medium are quick to dismiss these ideas all too often. The weird thing though, it’s not really an issue in live-action media. That’s why I’d like to take a moment to talk about two recent things I watched: Amazon Prime’s Cinderella and Netflix’s Squid Game. What do these two experiences have in common when it comes to accessibility, and why anime licensors and distributors should be taking a page from their books? Well, you’ll have to read on to find that one out.
Bebe’s Kids is not the most popular (or well-regarded) movie that has come out in the 90s, but it came at a time when rap and hip/hop were trending on the radio, black comedians were becoming box-office attractors, and animation was starting to be seen as more for adults than children. Though, at first glance, you might think that this try-to-be-hip animated comedy was made for kids, with its simplistic hand-drawn style, edgy attitude, and juvenile humor. In reality, it was based around one simple stand-up act by late comedian Robin Harris. I didn’t know who Robin Harris was before I found out about Bebe’s Kids, but his most famous routine was about the titular kids and how they would annoy them on a date he would go on with his girlfriend. Apparently, the skits were so popular, that Paramount saw potential to make a movie based around that routine. The movie, however, did not do well, critically, or financially.
As of late, villain origin stories have been on the rise, giving us a chance to sympathize with characters known for nothing more than being truly evil. Films like Disney’s Maleficent and DC’s Joker have shown us that these natural born monsters are just broken beings who have been pushed past the edge to the point where acts of cruelty are their way to get back at the injustices and/or tragedies placed upon them. If done right, these backstories can be compelling and may help us appreciate or hate them more. Cruella de Vil is the latest baddie to get an origin. The real question is: Why? There are so many other Disney villains out there with more tragic backstories that deserve to be told; Scar from The Lion King or Ursula from The Little Mermaid have compelling reasons to be who they are rather than being just pure evil, while Cruella is known mainly for wanting to skin dalmatians to use them as fur coats. What is to humanize about that? Maybe if we looked into her past, there could be an excuse for this sort of sympathy.
Back in 2004, a film called Team America: World Police was released from the creators of the popular (and still running) animated show, South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Much like the show, Team America made it a goal to attack everyone and everything, from celebrities to politics, and how we, as Americans, handle the issues going on in the world. Instead of crappy cut-out style animation, Parker and Stone did the entire movie with marionette puppets. How it even got made and backed by any studio is beyond me, but I am glad it even exists in the first place.
After the critical and audience reception of 2016’s Suicide Squad, writer/director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) was brought in to give it a new life. The Suicide Squad serves as both a sequel to and reboot of Suicide Squad, as not only does it take place in the same universe as the rest of the previous DC films that have come before it, yet it does manage to do something different, with all sorts of new characters and a mission that is pretty much the same, but on a massive level when compared to the 2016 film. Still, the premise is reminiscent of the original; Viola Davis’ ruthless Amanda Waller brings a group of criminals together to stop a worldly threat in order to get their sentences reduced lest they back away; if they do that, she activates a microchip that ends their life, though not in a PG-13 way.
The tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one that has been told for centuries, though for some reason, I had never heard of it until David Lowery’s adaptation. Lowery, who gave us A Ghost Story nearly four years ago, uses a visceral approach to the 14th-century poem, with breathtaking set-pieces and lush environments. It may as well be the best-looking film that A24 has put out in recent years. Though, being an A24 film, do not expect a lot of exciting action or medieval combat. Instead, immerse yourself in the journey and dive in to a mind-blowing experience.
Back in 1996, a little movie called Space Jam was released. Not only did it define the 90s, but many people who grew up in that era fondly remember it as a nostalgic fever dream that had no right to be as popular as it should have been. Now, 25 years later, a sequel has finally been released. Known simply as A New Legacy and starring LeBron James in place of Michael Jordan. Much like the original, A New Legacy combines animation with live-action, albeit with some updates to place itself in the annals of modern films. All in all, it is merely a shameless, self-aware exercise to see how many IPs can be in one film (It worked with Ralph Breaks the Internet and Ready Player One, so why not this?); some funny, some distracting, all just there for viewers to point and say “Oh, look who it is.”
The original Mortal Kombat from 1995 was as decent of a video game adaptation as one could be. Sure, it was cheesy and the effects have not aged well in recent years, but one thing it had was a sense of self-awareness; it relished in those corny effects and dusty atmosphere, making it feel like the video game that it was based on. The only thing it was missing, however, was enough bloodshed and brutal fatalities to give it the R-rating it so desperately needed. When the original game was released, it caused controversy among parents and politicians for its use of graphic violence, causing the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) to come up with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to ensure that what children were playing was or was not appropriate for them. Now, after twenty-six years, we finally get a live-action Mortal Kombat movie with all the gore, profanity, and crudeness that make for an R-rated extravaganza!
After 59 years, two of the biggest titans have come together for the ultimate rematch to prove who is truly the king of the monsters in Godzilla Vs. Kong; the fourth installment of Legendary’s Monsterverse, spanning nearly a decade, starting with 2014’s Godzilla, followed by 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, along with 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, ultimately culminating to Godzilla Vs. Kong. Like most movies from the past year, Godzilla Vs. Kong was pushed back due to the pandemic with a release date set for 2021. Now the wait is over, and we get to see these two in action yet again. The cheesy effects and rubber suits of yesteryear have been improved with technology that not only makes these two monsters feel real, but are bigger in scale, leading to a path of destruction and high stakes.