30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 4: Favourite Female Anime Character Ever

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.


[SPOILER ALERT – There will be spoilers for certain shows in this post. Sorry!]

Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

This one for me was a lot easier than picking a favourite male character! My favourite female anime character has got to be Mikasa Ackerman from Attack On Titan.

Mikasa_during_the_military_training Attack On Titian

Mikasa during military training, Attack On Titan

You’ve got to admit it, she’s kinda of a bad ass. She proves herself to be one of the best Titan slayers and whilst also at the same time being compassionate and looking out for her best friends. And even [SPOILER ALERT] when Eren turns into a Titan she is completely fearless.

Honorable Mentions: Madoka (Puella Magi Madoka Magica), Sakura (Cardcaptor Sakura) and Asuna (for the first couple of episodes of Sword Art Online)


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

This is an easy one for me as well. I’ve been a huge fan of the all-female manga manga/anime creator team CLAMP for the longest time. Their work includes Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, xxxCholic, and they designed the characters of the super popular mech series Code Geass, to name but a few, and it is the former of those – Cardcaptor Sakura – that makes my favourite female anime character pick.

Cardcaptor Sakura Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

Sakura Kinomoto, Cardcaptor Sakura

With her cutsey outfits, doe-eyed innocence, and abundance of cheer, Sakura may look like just an ordinary harmless Japanese 10-year-old, but armed with her deck of magical Clow/Sakura cards, she becomes a formidable sorcerer over the course of the iconic series’ seventy episode and two movie run. I wrote an article recently for Bitch Flicks in which I realised that the strength of magical girls like Sakura comes from the fact that they break the flaws of the ‘strong female character’ stereotype by asserting their inner and outer power without ever surrendering their hyper-femininity to become more masculine in the process.

Sakura is also just impossible not to fall in love with. She’s passionate, loving, loyal, determined, and I love the fact that her true strength is rooted in absolute positivity – “Everything will be okay!” And with the current trend for anti-heroes and grittiness not showing any signs of subsiding any time soon, Sakura will always be a pleasant ray of sunshine to spend time with for me.


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

I’m copying Hannah here as my favourite female is Cardcaptor Sakura as well. Hannah has already covered why I love Sakura: she’s funny, kind, her willpower is through the roof, and she’s nails to boot, all done wile keeping her femininity intact.

However, I will tell you why she is my favourite of all time. When I was around ten/eleven-years-old I asked for rollerblades for Christmas, and the sole reason for me wanting these was so that I could zip around my village just like Sakura. Now there are some epic ladies in anime (see my honorable mentions), but Sakura is the only one that I’ve wanted to be. Unfortunately for me I lived on a hill with uneven pavements, so my skills on the blades were pretty shocking, but I’ll never forget why I wanted them. Sakura is just plain cool, that’s why!

GO ON SAKURA!

GO ON SAKURA!

Honorable Mentions: Nami (One Piece), Nico Robin (One Piece), Bulma (Dragon Ball/Z/GT), May (Pokemon), Aisha Clan-Clan (Outlaw Star).


Written by The Cosmic Anvil team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! AND if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter campaign!

Kickstarter age of revolution volume one cosmic anvil new reward tiers added

Kickstarter new reward tier £15 pledge cosmic anvil

kickstarter age of revolution cosmic anvil new reward tiers pledge comic book comic strip art commission

 

30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 1: The Very First Anime You Watched

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution!


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

Pokemon

Misty, Ash, and Brock

The first anime I can remember watching was probably Pokemon with my little sister, but at the time I didn’t understand what anime was and didn’t realise that I was watching it! I probably watched it on Jetix on CITV (in the UK).

Jetix_logo

Jetix Logo from CiTV

Another thing people might find interesting is the fact that I never played any of the original Pokemon games until a few years ago in University and was never interested in the card game as a kid. But me and my sister did collect the Pokemon stickers and would spend near enough all our pocket money on them every weekend.

Pokemon stickers

Pokemon stickers!

I also remember arguing over which one of us was getting a Pokeball and Pokedex toys for Christmas one year because one of us had to have the Pokeball and one of us had to have the Pokedex as we couldn’t both have the same one!  I had the Pokeball game and she had the Pokedex in the end.

Pokeball Game

Pokeball Game

pokedex

Pokedex

Honorable mentions: Yu-Gi-Oh!, Cardcaptor Sakura, Beyblade and Digimon.


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

The Cosmic Anvil team are all about the same age (children’s of the 90s), so we’re probably all going to have similar answers to this question! Many people regard the 1990s as a ‘golden era’ for anime in terms of popularisation in the West, with AkiraGhost In The Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion being hugely influential.

Unfortunately, none of the above were my first exposure to anime as I was far too young to have any knowledge of their existence. Like Jess, I grew up on a diet of Jetix and watching Americanised dubbed versions of shows, and again like Jess, the first anime I remember watching was Pokemon. I was very much sucked into the whole Pokemon franchise phenomenon – the show, the games, the films, the cards, the stickers, the figures… I even still have a t-shirt that I can just about squeeze myself into!

I also still have the special edition cards that were given out at the cinema when the first film – Mewtwo Strikes Back – came out, and I still remember the sinking disappointment upon discovering that the super shiny Mew card (which I thought would one day be worth ALL the money) was simply a sticker on some cardboard.

Shiny Mew Card

Damn you, shiny fake Mew!


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

Now, my first anime… you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called Pokemon…?

Yeah I know, Hannah and Jess have already talked about it but I’ll try to tell you my own experiences with Pokemon. Not only was Pokemon my first anime, but it introduced me to what being an anime fan means. First off, you can’t just enjoy anime casually, you have to immerse yourself into it. The video games lead me into the anime, and so it goes without saying that I had those, but there was so much more to Pokemon.

My Pokemon merchandise collection was pretty big. I had a Pokedex in both toy and book form, a Pokeball game, Pikachu plushies, Pokemon with marbles in them so you could roll them around, a Pokeball shooter that shot a Masterball on a string, the cards, marbles and marble pouch, bouncy balls, clothes, game guides, novelisations of the anime, toys, toys, and more toys! The list goes on, but my point is, this was when I became a true fan of an anime.

pokemon books

The book was epic!

Pokemon also taught me that being a fan of anime means that you will seem strange to others who are not, and not everyone gets it. My Dad would always watch it with me if he was in the living room at the time and ask me: “What the hell is going on?” I also remember him being one of the first to joke about Brock having his eyes closed all the time. My Mum was also confused, but still took me to see the first movie in the cinema, even though she fell asleep during it. My brother and sister took me to see the second movie in the cinema. My brother was terrified when he thought that the whole film would be like the opening Pikachu short with no dialogue, and my sister tried to understand it by telling me her favorite Pokemon was Pikachu, but once I told her mine was Lugia I saw that she was completely confused! Anime is hard man, but we’ve got to stick by it.

Back int he day Lugia was the bomb!

Back in the day Lugia was the bomb!


Written by The Cosmic Anvil team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! AND if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter campaign

Kickstarter age of revolution volume one cosmic anvil new reward tiers added

Kickstarter new reward tier £15 pledge cosmic anvil

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World War Hulk by Greg Pak & John Romita Jr.

I’ve always enjoyed watching and reading about over-powered super heroes like Superman (DC), Goku (Dragon Ball), Kinnikuman (King Muscle), Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece), and Hulk (Marvel). Monkey D. Luffy and Kinnikuman possess bizarre abilities and strength that can solve almost any situation; Superman and Goku have officially become Gods; and Hulk is the strongest there is. However, out of all of these characters Hulk is the one that stands out to me. He may not be my favourite (that’s for another Recommends blog) but he is the one that I find the most interesting. For this blog I will quickly discuss the above characters and what separates the Hulk from them, and then talk about my favourite Hulk comic, World War Hulk.

god group sheer force group superman goku fluffy ultimate muscle comics manga one piece shonen action

The God Group and the Sheer Force Group (left to right)

There are two groups that I will put the above heroes into: Superman and Goku are in the group I call ‘God Group’ and Kinnikuman and Luffy are in the ‘Sheer Force Group.’ I put Kinnikuman and Luffy in the Sheer Force Group because I feel that their power comes from the will power that emerges as they fight. Luffy has the ability called ‘Haki’ and Kinnikuman has the ability Kinnikuman’s ‘Burning Inner Strength.’ Both abilities provide the user with a huge boost in their strength, speed, awareness, insight, and many other aspects. Whenever a wall is met, these abilities help them break through that wall with sheer will power – a typical trait of Shonen (Japanese comics aimed at boys) characters.

Kinnikuman demonstrating his 'Burning Inner Strength' by catching and throwing a sun.

Kinnikuman demonstrating his ‘Burning Inner Strength’ by catching and throwing a sun.

Superman and Goku are in the God Group. Both have grown in strength over time to become classified as Gods. Superman eventually becomes ‘Superman Prime’ and Goku becomes the fabled ‘Super Saiyan God.’ In these forms they have become something that no one can surpass. What can a God do? Pretty much anything it wants.

Super saiyan god goku dragon ball superman prime DC comics

Super Saiyan God Goku and Superman Prime (left to right)

This brings me to the Hulk, who is unique in that he straddles both groups. He fights with sheer force and solves most problems with it. Hulk has been known to put out flames with a clap of his hands and his lungs are so strong that they enable him to breathe underwater and survive the pressure of deepest parts of the Ocean. However, there are times when the Hulk becomes more than just Sheer Force and becomes Godlike. World War Hulk is the best story to exemplify this. (WARNING: For those of you that have not read Planet Hulk there are spoilers ahead!)

Hulk strongest there is marvel

Hulk Strongest There Is!

World War Hulk is one of those big event stories in the Marvel Universe that basically pits characters against one another. In this case, it’s the Hulk vs. EVERYONE. Before I get onto that, I need to give a little back story to what lead up to this epic war. In the Marvel Universe there is a group named the Illuminati – a group made up of the most intelligent and influential super heroes, such as Black Bolt (King of the Inhumans) Doctor Strange (Sorcerer Supreme) Iron Man (“Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” to quote The Avengers film) Mister Fantastic (Leader of the Fantastic Four) Namor (King of Atlantis) and Professor X (Leader of the X-Men).

The Illuminati came up with a plan to get rid of the Hulk in light of death count he had racked up during all of his infamous rages, and in their eyes the only logical and physical way to stop him from continuing to destroy the world, was to send him into space – which they managed to do. However, the spaceship malfunctioned and landed on an alien planet. Unexpectedly, Hulk not only became a great Roman-esque gladiator on that planet, but also it’s saviour by freeing it’s people from a tyrannical ruler and rose to become it’s king. He also met a female alien who would become his bride. Unfortunately, nothing stays perfect for long – especially when you are the Hulk. The ship that Hulk landed in exploded, killing his queen and unborn son, and this sent the Hulk into a new rage – a rage that could only be calmed by seeing the monsters that sent him into space and killed his love: the Illuminati.

Now we finally enter World War Hulk – a story of pure revenge. If you love the Hulk then you should love this. Hulk takes on the most powerful Marvel heroes, all of them jacked up to try and equal his power level, and they all fail. The aliens who have allied themselves with Hulk see him not just as a ruler but also as a God, a saviour, and a destroyer. This is why I love Hulk too, as there is so much more to him than a rage monster. He’s a God – both vengeful and liberating, and he’s also a king, a husband, a father, and just a man – Bruce Banner.

World War Hulk Marvel Comics

King. God. Hulk

World War Hulk is rare in that Bruce sees eye-to-eye with Hulk (bear in mind this is before Banner and the Hulk realise they are the same, so it make sense to refer to them as two individuals). Bruce wants this revenge because he was finally happy and he and the Hulk were finally living a perfect life. He had an empire, a woman who loved him, and a son on the way. There is a scene in World War Hulk between Bruce, Hulk, and Doctor Strange, in which you see the rage in both the Hulk and Bruce… It’s brilliant.

World War Hulk truly shows all of the light and shade of Hulk that people often don’t see in him. We see the God, the Sheer Force, the humble man, and ultimately, we see the hero.

Written by Huw Williams@big_huw on Twitter.

New recommendations every Friday!

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Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP

It gives me HUGE pleasure this week to write about a manga that is so close to my heart I will physically hurt anyone that has a bad word to say about it. (Or maybe just cry a little.)

My first experience of Cardcaptor Sakura or Cardcaptors falls into the ‘Dubbed-Anime-That-You-Watched-as–a-Kid-in-the-90s-and-Didn’t-Know-it-Was-Anime’ category. A category that is also occupied for me – and probably most other people of my generation – by shows like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, and Dragon Ball. Cardcaptor Sakura (CCS) belongs to the ‘magic girl’ genre, and on the surface looks a bit like Sailor Moon – its closest contemporary comparison – but for younger girls, as the ages of the main group fall around 10 – 12 years old. Given this, and its ridiculously saccharine appearance, you could be forgiven for dismissing it as typical shŌjo (‘young girl’ in Japanese) fare. However, upon re-watching the anime in it’s original Japanese language format and reading the manga it was based on, I was surprised at the quality of the artistry, the depth of the storytelling, and the how much I connected emotionally with the characters.

Cardcaptor Sakura CLAMP Cardcaptors Manga Shojo Girl's Anime

Cardcaptor Sakura Anime

CCS was serialised in the magazine Nakayoshi between 1996 and 2000, and created by the all-female artist/writer group Clamp. It has since been collected into 12 volumes, and adapted into a 70 episode anime series and two films. I’ll summarise the story as briefly – and spoiler-free-y – as I can: The titular character – Sakura Kinomoto – is the daughter of a single father (her mother is dead) and sister of older brother, Toya (or ‘Tory’ in the English dub of the anime). The story begins with Sakura accidentally releasing a set of magical cards called ‘Clow cards’ that she discovers in a book in her father’s study. This simultaneously releases latent magical abilities within her that are connected to the cards, as well as the story’s mascot – Cerberus (nicknamed ‘Kero’) – who tells her that he is the ‘Guardian’ of the cards and tasks her to collect all of the cards that she set free. Sakura must battle the magical personification of each card’s power – e.g. Water, Wind, Fire, Jump, Fly, Mirror, etc. – in order to capture it, aided by Kero; her best friend Tomoyo Daidouji (‘Madison Taylor’ in the dub) and Chinese transfer student Syaoran Li (‘Li Showron’ in the dub, which borders on the phonetically offensive now that I’m seeing it written down…)

Cardcaptor Sakura CLAMP Cardcaptors Manga Shojo Girl's Anime

Tomoyo Daidouji or ‘Madison Taylor.’

The quirkiness of these sidekick characters is one of the things that set CCS apart from others of its genre. Kero is a street talkin’ dude (apparently from Osaka, which the writers tell you is basically the New York of Japan – or more specifically the Brooklyn of Japan) who can’t get enough pudding and lives in Sakura’s sock drawer.

Tomoyo plays the BFF role with heavy emphasis on the ‘Forever’ part and serves the shŌjo fans well by tailoring Sakura a new combat outfit for every battle. Except when I say ‘combat outfit’ I’m talking bows, fake ears, bells, frills, and hats, oh so many hats… Sakura still kicks major butt though, despite the frilliness of her skirt. (Adorable fact: At the end of every episode of the anime, Kero does a post-credit ‘spotlight’ on each outfit wearing a bow tie and smoking a pipe, which continually begs the question: Just how old is Kero and should we be worried about that sock drawer?)

Cardcaptor Sakura CLAMP Cardcaptors Manga Shojo Girl's Anime

Kero-chan!

Syaoran is basically a middle-aged man trapped in a child’s body. Not literally. He is grumpy, awkward, and so very desperate to be the hero, which makes it even more hilarious to see him get all huffy and jittery when things don’t go his way. At first he looks down on Sakura as though she were a bumbling idiot, but over time he grows to see her as a rival and equal, and then as a true friend. Beyond that, his feelings apparently get so complicated it takes the entire stretch of the manga and two films post-series to sort them out. (Who am I to complain though, I love those films…)

Cardcaptor Sakura CLAMP Cardcaptors Manga Shojo Girl's Anime

Grumpy Syaoran is grumpy.

There’s a lot to love about the central heroine too. Yes, Sakura is clumsy, cutesy, boy-obsessed, and naïve, but she’s also brave, loyal, eager, gutsy, and earnest. For a 10-year-old she also takes on a lot of responsibilities – staying late after school doing extra chores, cooking and cleaning around the house, going shopping with her friends completely un-chaperoned, and of course the small task of collecting all those rogue Clow cards that keep threatening to destroy the city and/or her friends and family. Perhaps this is in fact the reality for every Japanese child.

Cardcaptor Sakura CLAMP Cardcaptors Manga Shojo Girl's Anime

RELEEEEAAASSSE!

What you wouldn’t expect of such an innocent and well-meaning manga/anime is for it to be subject to any form of censorship. Yet, when the anime was shipped to the US to be dubbed, it was so heavily hacked up that certain key subplots and character dynamics were either gone or drastically altered. This was more than just removing cigarettes and violence, as was the case for other shows; it completely changed the way the English-speaking audience viewed it. In the interests of keeping this as spoiler-free as possible, I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that certain relationships between certain characters were put firmly back in the closet. Things like this may seem small, but they had a detrimental effect overall. As a show that is so much more than the sum of its parts, this harsh editing sucked out a lot of the fun minor details that fleshed the show and its characters out into real, loveable people. In short, if you’re going to watch the anime, don’t waste your time watching it dubbed.

The theme song is still pretty good though:

Written by Hannah Collins.

6 Kids Cartoons Adventure Time Fans Should Be Watching

It’s a cartoon special this week! Thirsty for more adventure? More wackiness? More epicosity? This week we’re taking a break from the world of comics and manga recommendations to count down our top 6 (because 5 just wasn’t enough…) kids cartoons – other than Adventure Time – that you should really be watching right now:

Bravest Warriors

Bravest Warriors

  1. Bravest Warriors

Channel: You Tube/Cartoon Hangover

Creator: Pendleton Ward

If you’re already an Adventure Time fan, then Bravest Warriors is a pretty easy sell when you realise that they share the same creative talents of Pendleton Ward. Set in the year 3085, the show revolves around Ward’s version of the Teen Titans as they travel around weird and wonderful parts of the universe having weird and wonderful adventures. Although it is aimed at a more mature audience than Adventure Time – with references to beer and a cheeky elf named, um, ‘Wankershim’ – it still feels very much like a kid’s show at heart, full of adorable creatures, punchy slang, bizarre plot lines, and heavy emphasis on friendship and emotion.

The beauty of Ward’s distinctive storytelling method is that events unfold in a seemingly random way on the surface, but upon closer inspection clearly rely on their own internal logic, with the seeds for overarching story arcs hinted at way before they come to fruition. That feeling of ‘randomness’ makes each episode wonderfully unpredictable, fresh, and organic.

Just remember: It’s always been Wankershim!

 

Regular Show

Regular Show

  1. Regular Show

       Channel: Cartoon Network

       Creator: JG Quintel

Although superficially very different, Regular Show and Bravest Warriors actually have a lot in common. Both are shows whose target audience is adults, but very much have the same appeal as a kid’s show (and certainly more appropriate for kids than other brands of adult cartoon, i.e. anything made by Seth McFarlane). Both of their respective creators also attended and befriended each other at The California Institute of the Arts and went on to work on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack at Cartoon Network Studios together. Ward and Quintel also provide the voices of main characters in their shows, and this ‘hands-on’ approach to their creations keeps their shows consistently true to their unique creative visions.

Quintel’s Regular Show revolves around the lives of two minimum wage groundskeepers, Modecai – a blue jay – and Rigby – a racoon, who spend most of their time avoiding work and being inadvertently sucked into unusual situations involving things like portals to alternate dimensions and the ghosts of guys from the 1980s who partied too hard. The show also features a beautiful watercolour-wash effect in its art; naturalistic dialogue in its scripting; and references to obscure 1980s/1990s pop culture and media that – through surreal reinterpretations – manage not to isolate any younger viewers.

And if that wasn’t persuasion enough, Mark Hamill voices an immortal yeti in it called Skips. Enough said.

Teen Titans GO!

Teen Titans GO!

  1. Teen Titans GO!

       Channel: Cartoon Network

Creators: Glen Murakami & Sam Register

       Developers: Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath

The original cartoon incarnation of DC comics’ Teen Titans in 2003 was nothing short of perfection. Dramatic, funny, touching, stylish, and hugely entertaining; it’s no surprise that cartoon guru Bruce Timm and his protégé Glen Murakami were involved in it’s development. It’s no understatement that I – and many others – was heartbroken when the series finally ended in 2008, and then overjoyed when its return was announced in 2013 following a series of popular shorts by DC Nation.

But, hold on… this wasn’t going to be the same show that we knew and loved. Following the equally superb DC comics’ based series Young Justice getting (criminally) cancelled in 2013 after just 2 seasons, it became clear that Warner Bros. was going in another direction with it’s DC owned properties, and that direction was: wacky. ‘More wack! The kids love the wack these days what with that Adventure Time thing…’ the network execs probably said to each other. And more ‘wack’ is exactly what we got with the rebirth of Teen Titans as Teen Titans GO!

This version focuses on the antics that the team get up to in between all the serious crime-fighting stuff, and is suitably rendered in the chibi ‘deformed body’ style that some of the gag cutaways were done in during the original show. As such, stories for episodes are as simple as: Cyborg and Beast Boy can only say ‘waffles’ all day; Raven starts a book club; Robin gets driving lessons, etc. All of which are peppered with Internet humour, quirky cutaways, and musical montages.

Some fans have taken against this new direction, and although I do miss the original sorely, I’d rather the show was on TV in some form or another than not at all. Plus, sorry to the haters, but it really does make me laugh.

The Amazing World of Gumball

The Amazing World of Gumball

  1. The Amazing World of Gumball

       Channel: Cartoon Network

       Creator: Ben Becquelet

The Amazing World of Gumball centres on Gumball Watterson – a blue cat – and his pet talking goldfish – Darwin – who grew legs one day and now exists as his adopted brother. The pair attend Elmore Elementary School, which is inhabited by an eclectic mix of characters such as a banana, a female T-Rex, a balloon, a peanut shell with moose ears, a potted flower, an Emo ghost, and – my personal favourite – a human upside-down chin with a face drawn on, to name only a few.

The most distinctive quality of The Amazing World of Gumball though is its ingenious collagic mix of 3D and 2D animation. Characters range from 3D computer models, to 2D flat drawings, to real objects with googly-eyes and mouths drawn on; and backgrounds are real images of peaceful American suburbia. This assorted visual tapestry merges well with plots that frequently unravel from typical family sit-com scenarios into chaos, accompanied by highly-strung, fast-paced voice acting from actual children who are not afraid to go from a whisper to a screech in an instant. Amongst all the chaos however, is an abundance of sheer warmth and vitality that few kid’s cartoons ever manage to achieve.

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls

  1. Gravity Falls

       Channel: Disney Channel and Disney X D

       Creator: Alex Hirsch

What do you get when you cross summer vacation, Oregon, grumpy elderly relatives, conspiracy theories, and an amazing jumper collection? Gravity Falls.

Created by another California Arts alumni, Alex Hirsch – who also voices two of the show’s main characters – Gravity Falls follows the summer vacation exploits of twins, Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are sent to stay with their Grunkle (Great + Uncle) Stan in his ‘Mystery Shack.’ Together with Handyman Soos and gift shop attendant Wendy, they discover the spooky mysteries of the fictional town of Gravity Falls with the help of a strange journal marked ‘3’ that Dipper discovers in the woods.

The strengths of the show are two-fold:

  1. It is genuinely creepy, and
  2. It is genuinely funny.

Combine this with excellent characterisation and fantastic voice acting – particularly from Kristen Schaal who voices Mabel – and you have the recipe for a loyal and enthusiastic fan base of children and young adults alike.

Most of the monsters that inhabit the town are well-worn supernatural and science fiction tropes – haunted wax works, time-travelling scientists, shape shifting creatures, underwater serpents, zombies, etc. – but the real underpinning of the show is the conspiratorial thread that connects each of these occurrences. Hidden patterns, ciphers, codes, and repeated motifs feature regularly and cleverly riff on the suspicions and fears of Internet Illuminati enthusiasts. The antagonist – Bill Cipher – an inter-dimensional demon in the form of a floating yellow pyramid with a single eye and dapper top hat is a clear reference to the Eye of Providence that appears on the American dollar bill, which itself is associated with Freemasonry.

Bill Cipher

Bill Cipher

This attention to detail runs through every element of the show, including its comedic elements: Mabel’s brilliant jumper collection; the post-credits gags; Waddles the pig; Grenda’s masculine voice; Xyler and Craz from ‘Dream Boy High’… This is a show you will definitely want to catch the reruns of.

The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra

  1. The Legend of Korra

Channel: Nickolodeon

Creators: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko

Let me take you back all the way to 2005. Teenage me wakes up bleary-eyed mid-morning on a Saturday. I wonder downstairs. My sister is sitting in the living room holding a DVD. ‘I’ve recorded a cartoon I watched this morning.’ She says, thrusting the aforementioned DVD at me. ‘You have to watch it.’ That recorded cartoon was the first two episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which aired on CiTV on Saturday mornings in the UK. We didn’t have catch-up TV at the time, so the effort of recording onto a blank disc was reserved for truly ‘must-watch’ stuff. No other show was more deserving of that saintly title than the Avatar series, and we diligently recorded every episode of that show from start to finish until we could buy them on the official DVD releases.

The reason for that little insight into my yesteryears is to convey the nostalgia that I – like many fans of my age group – feel for the original Avatar series, and what has perhaps led some to turn their noses up at its sequel, The Legend of Korra. The original series followed the trials and adventures of 12 year-old Aang – the ‘Avatar’ and master of the four elements – and his friends (‘Team Avatar’) as they seek to bring peace to a world ravaged by war from the over-powered Fire Nation. The series took strong inspiration from Eastern philosophies of balance; reincarnation; harmony between spirits and humans; as well as martial arts, and this also heavily influenced its aesthetic to the point at which many mistake it for an anime.

Avatar Aang from The Last Airbender Series

Avatar Aang from The Last Airbender Series

The Legend of Korra is a sequel series that takes place 100 years after the events of the first. It follows Korra, the successive Avatar to Aang, as she struggles to find her place in a fast-changing world in which industrialism and ideological challenges to the Monarchic ruling system perpetually disrupt the balance that she – as the Avatar – is tasked to keep. And yes – this is show is aimed at kids.

Some fans of the original series complain that the sequel is much weaker, but I can’t help but think that nostalgia impacts heavily on this, as the viewers I know who have discovered Avatar through Korra do not seem to harbour the same feelings. Thematically, the two shows can be seen as perfect inversions of one another: Whereas Aang struggled to accept his role in a world that desperately needed him, Korra struggles to assert her relevance in a world that constantly reject her. The Aang series was also largely character-driven, whereas the Korra series is largely story-driven. Whilst the Aang series had a single overarching story, Korra faces a new adversary in every series, with far more side-characters and subplots making up the story of each episode.

Korra’s production has also been plagued by a seemingly conscious effort by Nickolodeon to get rid of its most critically acclaimed show as fast as possible. From slashing its budget to taking it off-air completely, the network’s treatment of the show has sadly tainted the online airing of its final ever series, much to the anger of its fiercely loyal fan base.

Despite all this, Avatar remains quite simply one of the greatest cartoons ever created; striking the perfect balance between kid’s and adult animation that is only really matched by the likes of Toy Story. The world is steeped in rich history; the characters are loveable and believable; the adversaries are complex and often morally ambiguous; and the creators manage to distil mature emotional, political, and socioeconomic themes into digestible narrative and dialogue that anyone of any age can understand.

The world of Avatar is one that you will want to revisit time and time again long after its final episode airs.

Next week, we continue our cartoon special with a another list of top shows you should be watching!