What Are We Watching, Western Cartoon Edition

March 5th, 2017

Several times in recent weeks, I have had occasion to comment that I am currently watching as many or more western cartoons than anime at the moment. In no way is this meant as a slam to anime. I still like it. I’m way behind on my watching, but that’s no one’s fault but my own. ^_^ 

I’ve written about Steve Universe several times already. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest cartoons I’ve ever watched, with moments of genuinely brilliant, Emmy-worthy writing.

Today I wanted to mention two cartoons that could not be more different if they tried.

First, if you are a fan of magical girl anime, you really must be watching Star vs the Forces of Evil. Star is a magical girl princess who has come from another dimension (As the OP says, “I ain’t from ’round here”) to live on Earth and the adventures she and her best bud Marco get into. It’s…well, it’s fantastic. ^_^ 

The story is smart, riffing on plenty of magical girl themes, but also just taking an intelligent tack on funny quirks of the genre, adding a dash of wacky and keeping the writing real for characters that are meant to be teens.

Star and Marco are often accompanied by a floating, glittery unicorn head and, of course, face evil bad guys, but the best episodes are often in the way every-day issues are blown out of proportion with magic. Shopping in “Quest Buy” with a gift card that if Marco doesn’t use, when it expires, will take them with it, for instance. A recent episode worth watching goes into the details of how Star’s magic wand has become corrupted and must be fixed.  (Click this link and watch it, at least for the OP, but the episode is a decent one, as well.)

The pacing is generally fast, the episodes are “wackiness ensues” with lots of screaming. 

The characters are likable. Marco and Star’s friendship is a friendship….and a good one. They have both had feelings for each other, but asymmetrically (which is the subject of a recent arc, in fact. This is the same arc which included same-sex kisses in a scene, a first for a Disney cartoon.) They make a great team, but are not perfect or one-dimensional. The bad guys do tend to be more for humor factor than any real threat. As handwaves go, it’s perfectly acceptable. It’s not that there isn’t a progression to the series, but most episodes can be viewed with no more information than that provided in the opening animation, but if you watch it regularly, you can see that there’s a definite change in Star and Marco’s relationship with each other and with their other friends (who do get caught up in their adventures, so yeah, they know Star’s a magic princess.) The writing assumes the audience is not a bunch of duds, which is refreshing. Things we’re thinking are things the characters say.

Ultimately, if magical girls without creepy service is a thing you’d enjoy, you’re probably going to enjoy Star vs the Forces of Evil. I certainly do.

Secondly, as far from the enjoyable teen antics of Star as possible, the other cartoon I’m consuming obsessively is:

Archer. No one who knows me well will be even remotely surprised that I like this cartoon. It’s vulgar and violent, but written for “mature audiences” as they warn you. This is not the immature tee-hee of fanservice. This is the hearty guffaw of “eat a bag of dicks” and nudity. 

A fairly brilliant parody of the super-spy narrative idealized by James Bond, Archer is really, really offensive. Remember, as Miss Meteyard said, ““Some people can be funny without being vulgar, and some can be both funny and vulgar. I should recommend you to be either the one or the other.” Archer is funny and vulgar. It also must be the most fun job to voice act in the world. Aisha Tyler as Lana Kane is the absolute epitome of voice-acting in America right now, but it is the bitter, rich, intolerant, alcoholic Mallory Archer who speaks deeply to my soul. I aspire to her glorious level of incendiary, incandescent loathing. ^_^ 

A good example of why I like the series is this line, in which Archer complains about an overcomplicated CIA plan, “all it needed was a sign that said, ‘free bird seed.’” Laughed for a good ten minutes at that.

There’s a lot of implied sex in the series. Lana is primarily straight, but Pam has had sex with all the other woman in the office and some of the men. Cheryl/Carol is…who the fuck knows what she is, and while Mallory is always looking for a sugar husband, we are led to believe that she has also had sex with Pam at least once.  One of the agents, Ray, is gay (and sometimes lacking the use of his legs or an arm) but he’s never gotten anything for it but a bunch of really insensitive jokes.

So, that’s what I’m watching right now. What are you watching these days? It’s an open thread in the comments! Let’s have those cartoon recommendations!


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18 Responses

  1. Chris Driggers says:

    I’ve been watching Gravity Falls! Another really smart show aimed at kids but you’d never know it wasn’t an adult show. My son, who is 8, is obsessed with all of the mysteries.

  2. Louis says:

    The new Voltron show on netflix is great fun despite never surprising me (and I am the easiest person to surprise), among its producers are Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery from Legend of Korra and you can see Avatar’s DNA in the character designs and how characters look when they are reacting to something. The cast is really the reason to watch it as everyone is so likable it is almost gets weird. But I won’t lie 90% of the reason I watch this is Pidge Gunderson, played by Bex Taylor-Klaus, the third season will be turning up in September and it needs episode (or five) given over entirely to Pidge.

  3. Grisznak says:

    I rarely watch any western cartoon. Currently I following Star Wars Rebels only, because I’m SW fan. No LGTB stuff there, but still cool, thanks to the strong female characters in the cast. Also, quite serious when it comes to the plot, it’s probably not everyday you can see characters being killed in the wstern cartoon.

    I personally always had a problems with western cartoon. First, most of them had a huge numberd of episodes with one shot stories and no plot. Second, graphic and animations was usually simpler than Japanese. Third, american humor was usually… well, not for me. Guess most of these things changed in the last years.

  4. Eric P. says:

    I had watched ‘Clone Wars’ from beginning to end, so it was only natural that I would be watching ‘Star Wars: Rebels’, which is good for all the reasons Grisznak already went over. The only loose LGBT-connection there is is that both series feature a kick-ass girl jedi named Ahsoka, who got her own self-titled novel a while back, and in said novel there was a girl character that had feelings for Ahsoka.

    I catch random episodes of random shows every now and then to kill time, but otherwise Anime is the primary animation I actually make time to watch for myself. It just has that appeal western animation doesn’t always have for me, though I can’t fully explain why.

  5. Ellen says:

    Obviously, Steven Universe. For those times of a different mood, Batman, the Animated Series. If neither of those satisfy, there are those DVDs of The Tick, and Dangermouse.

  6. Stacy L says:

    I’ve never seen Archer, but you sold me with the ‘free bird seed’ line.

    I’ve hardly watched any anime recently, or any other animation, which is quite a change. As far as TV I’m going over a lot of British comedy shows from the 80’s and 90’s. I follow where the mood takes me.

    It has been enormous fun revisiting some of the touchstone anime films I first saw as a young fan in the 90’s, like the Osamu Dezaki-directed Space Adventure Cobra and Golgo 13, as well as Night on the Galactic Railroad, which isn’t ‘fun’ but is amazing.

  7. Serge says:

    Donna and I watched Rick and Morty and it’s seriously effed up. Like most U.S./Western animation aimed at adults, it’s supposed to be comedic/parodic but the humor gets so black in places they have to be careful of Anish Kapoor’s lawyers. All the primary characters are highly dysfunctional and they all fail the lunch test. It’s hard to watch more than 2 or 3 episodes at a hit, and I’ll be watching season 2 mostly out of morbid curiosity than enjoyment.
    I’ll 2nd Louis on Voltron. It’s a very fun, decently written, well executed sentai series. I’m pretty sure it’s how most people imagine how they remembered the original series was. (The original was bad.)
    Being a huge Star Wars fanboy, I’m, of course, watching Rebels. Lots of good, decently written characters, with more diversity than has been in most of the movies. Also, its story of fighting fascists seems weightier these days for some reason.
    As far as other US/Western animation goes, in general, I usually only pick up a cartoon if other people in my monkey sphere start talking about it (e.g. Steven Universe.) And I’ve always preferred characters look more like people than cartoons, so there’s always a period of acclimation before I get used to a style of a particular show. Also, I wish we’d get more animation for adults that wasn’t comedy or parody. Archer and The Venture Brothers are great, but ‘d like to see something in those styles that isn’t parody, and go ahead and call me crazy, but also good.

  8. Grisznak says:

    I think I forgot about the two titles that are western and I saw last year (maybe bit earlier). First is Shezow – you probably know this one, since there a was big shitstorm around it, caused by the American religious groups like One Million Moms. Pretty good and funny, thanks to the lot of superhero and comics cliches jokes, very fresh thank to the original idea, yet bit too long for me. And not enough plot.
    Second is Miraculous: Ladybug and Chat Noir. Not bad, nicely done magical girl/boy series. But like before, it’d be great series if made in Japan, with lot of plot, side characters stories and so on. Otherwise, it’s just a good idea and generic series, with most of the episodes based upon same scenario. But, after all, I’m not the target :)

    • I hadn’t heard of it. I live pretty much blissfully unaware of what that group boycotts. ^_^

      I caught a few minutes of Ladybug and Chat Noir once. It seemed fun and, as you say, generic.

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