100 years ago today …

… (yesterday, actually) Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur debuted. (The live-action first half of Gertie is here.)


Today’s headline: Russia Issues Terror Alert For ‘Moose And Squirrel’


So, what is the state of animation a hundred years later? Let’s take a quick look at the winter 2014 anime season.

The only show I can recommend is the hellish comedy Hozuki no Reitetsu. Much of the humor depends on knowledge of Japanese legends and folklore as well as contemporary Japanese culture. If you’re not familiar with the story of Momotaro, for instance, you’ll miss many of the jokes in the first episode. Even so, enough of the humor survives translation, ((Sometimes excessively free translation; e.g., in the fourth episode, the rabbit’s victims are tanuki, not badgers, but “We don’t need no stinkin’ tanuki” doesn’t have the same impact.)) and this account of the life of a competent, dour oni in an underworld populated largely by flakes and silly people nicely illustrates the close relationship between humor and horror. It also features the second-most bizarre ending animation of the season, starting with the second episode.

If you’re interested in the art of animation, Space Dandy might be worth watching. (There are episode-by-episode discussions here.) The title character is an unsympathetic jerk, however, and the stories aren’t particularly interesting. It’s probably best enjoyed without subtitles and without sound.

The third episode of World Conquest: Zvezda Plot reminded me of Cold Turkey and Yasutaka Tsutsui’s “The Last Smoker,” and I wondered if it might be another Excel Saga. However, the fourth episode was merely weird, and the fifth dumb, and I’m losing patience.

Witch Craft Works has the winter’s most bizarre ending animation. It’s also the second series to feature an iron maiden (but not Iron Maiden). Five episodes in, it looks like the dweebish protagonist is caught in the middle of a war between the witches of order and the witches of chaos, and that every female he knows is more than she appears to be. It also seems that he himself has a past he doesn’t know about. I hesitate to give Witch Craft Works a recommendation. Every episode adds complications and new characters, and I will be surprised if the crew can bring the show to a satisfactory resolution in just twelve episodes. However, thus far it’s held my attention, and, despite the female lead’s over-ample bust, fan service has been negligible.

Nothing else I’ve sampled is worth mentioning.