Belladonna of Sadness

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Welcome back, everyone, to part 2 of this very long list. As usual, if you haven’t seen part 1, here is a link to it. I’m counting down the worst-to-the-best animated films that I saw from 2016, and we shall now move onto the films that are middle of the road, disappointing, and at the very least, visually interesting.

27. Monkey King: Hero is Back

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Want an example of one of the worst dubs that I can ever think of? This movie is the prime example of a distributor that didn’t really care about pushing out a good dub for this popular Chinese-animated CGI action flick. It sounds like they were rushing to get this out, and ignored the level of quality. Even then, a good dub wouldn’t have saved the other problems this film has, like its very Hollywoodized version of the legendary folk tale, horrible jokes, the multiple times the kid should have died but didn’t, and the better than most, but still middling animation. The fight scenes are fun to watch, and out of all the Chinese-animation schlock that Lionsgate, for some reason, likes to bring over, Monkey King: Hero is Back is watchable. It’s the most watchable one out of those films, but that doesn’t mean much when the rest isn’t worth sitting through.

26. Justice League vs. Teen Titans

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Man, it was kind of tough to say this was better than The Killing Joke, because I don’t like this one a lot either. Not only is the title misleading, since the Titans don’t fight the actual League members, but rather fight Trigon-possessed version of them, and get floored by them, but it also focuses way too much on quite possibly the worst character in the current DC-animated film universe, Damian Wayne. Yes, I get why he is as he is, and he does get a good fight later on in the film, but they focused way too much on the guy when it wasn’t really his story. This left the film with very underdeveloped characters that I hope get more screen-time in the upcoming Teen Titans: The Judas Contract(spoiler alert: They do.). I do like some of the characters and the scenes in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, but if this was supposed to be the one reason why we got Young Justice season 3, or anything Teen Titans-related, then I feel scammed, because I had to support a bad movie to get good stuff!

25. The Angry Birds Movie

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Talk about a film that had no reason to be anything but terrible, and ended up a rather decent experience. While I don’t think it’s a great movie, it probably had more effort put into its writing and characters, than any of the previous films on this list. For the most part, I still enjoyed the film’s dialogue, the jokes, and Red and his cohorts were fun to watch. Yeah, everything starts to dissolve into terrible film tripe when the pigs show up, the Mighty Eagle played by Peter Dinklage was pointless and easily the worst part of the movie beyond the celebrity cameos, but by the end, I was enjoying myself due to the voice work. While definitely a mediocre film, it’s the best video game adaptation to have come out to put a lot of the video game film adaptations to shame.

24. The Secret Life of Pets

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While I’m fine with this film doing well in the box office, since it shows “original” films can do well, The Secret Life of Pets still feels so painfully average. It doesn’t do anything in its story well, but it’s not bad either in what it does. I can see why people were so upset with this film’s success, due to how unoriginal and bland it can be. It also doesn’t help that it had 100 different characters who had no real personality to them. Everything was well voice acted and animated well, but the writing was weak, and the characters needed more time to either be fleshed out or taken out of the film altogether. While definitely leagues better than most films from 2016, The Secret Life of Pets will be yet another example of Illumination Entertainment having a great idea, but no noteworthy execution of said idea.

23. Trolls

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Honestly, this film was much higher on the list at one time. I loved the art style, the animation, the voice work, and some of the fairytale-style ideas. I also loved the idea of happiness that it attempted to show throughout the film. Because of all this, it rose above such horrible first impressions with that very first teaser trailer. However, as time went on, I kept bumping it down the list. It might have great ideas, but it never takes full advantage of them. About 80% of the characters don’t have any real character to them outside of their celebrity voices, and much of this otherwise-solid movie felt very manufactured. Like, really? Did we need Gwen Stefani as one of the characters, when she barely has a voice or role? Still, it’s an enjoyable watch, but I get why some were not so happy about this film.

22. Belladonna of Sadness

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Yes, this one counts, since it was never released in the states, even though it came out in the 1970s. Belladonna of Sadness was the final film from this adult animated trilogy that was started by the grandfather of all anime creators, Osamu Tezuka. It’s a beautifully abstract animated film, with all the trippy sexual energy you would see in an animated films from the 70s aimed at adults. Unfortunately, due to how limited the actual animation is, and how uncomfortable the beginning of the film is, its sexual themes will probably turn off a lot of people to this film. It’s the one film I can think of where I will agree and disagree at the same time if you love or hate this movie. It’s a bizarre and interesting experience that is definitely worth checking out if you are into film or animation history.

21. Sausage Party

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Just like Trolls, Sausage Party was higher on the list at one point, but as usual, I thought about it and bumped it down a few pegs. It was mostly because while I found the film funny, a lot of its humor was “miss”, since I’m picky about my stoner humor, and of course, the controversy revolving around the abused animators really does bring this film down. It’s a shame, too, because there was a lot of effort put into its themes and writing, it was a hilarious parody of Pixar-style films, and it’s great that this film opened the door for more animated films to be aimed at adults. It’s still a blast to watch, but your mileage may vary depending on who you are, but hey, that’s comedy.

20. Storks

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This was an amusing surprise, and a sad tragedy that this film didn’t do better in terms of box office numbers. I won’t deny that I get why people are split on this film, but at the very least, I sat through the entire film and found it to be a really great comedic watch. Yes, its world-building and characters are not well fleshed out, but it had the best comedy of the comedy-based animated films of the year. It had beautiful, fast-paced animation, a great comedic cast of actors, and it’s an entertaining experience. I wish it was better, since it doesn’t reach The LEGO Movie or Shrek 2, in terms of animated comedy heights, but I’m definitely going to be watching this one again in the future.

19. SING

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Oh, hey, look, another Illumination Entertainment film is low on the list. While I do admire that the studio was branching out in 2016 with two new films that are not Despicable Me-related, it still had plenty of the flaws you would find in these films, with underdeveloped characters, stories, and, once again, a great crowd-pleasing idea that isn’t taken fully advantage of. It was really aggravating, because this film’s advertising was everywhere, to an extremely nauseating degree. Even then, I still had fun watching this movie. The animation was great, the designs are solid, the contestants are relatable and likable, the music is fantastic, the actors did a great job portraying their characters, and it was a film I’m glad was better than what I was thinking it would be. I always like being surprised. I just hope Illumination can step up their game with future films.

That is it for Part 2 of the list, be prepared for part 3 in the future.

The Other Side of Animation 53: Belladonna of Sadness Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

MAJOR WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: This film is in no way meant for children or teenagers. This is a very adult animated film with graphic violence, and scenes of consensual sex, sexual images, and graphic assault using abstract imagery. Do not see this movie with your kids. If you decide to see this movie, please do some research and look up all that you can about this movie to see if it might be your cup of tea. I don’t know what else to say, but you have been warned! Viewer’s discretion is definitely advised with this movie. Hope you enjoy the review!

We are heading into some rough waters ahead. We are looking at another explicit and sexual animated film known as Belladonna of Sadness. As with Fritz the Cat, there was a time in animation where animators and filmmakers got very, and I mean very, experimental with their budgets and filmmaking experiences. What we got were a lot of adult-oriented animated films with mature themes, social commentary, and quite frankly, a lot of sex. This is where you would find a lot of “cult classics”, and I don’t blame them for being so, but being good is on a whole other situation onto itself. Sometimes you see the depth of the story with its characters and themes, and other times, you find self-indulgent schlock that got made because the creators promised nudity, and Hollywood was excited. Luckily, for the few films that escape that trapping, you have some of the most unique film experiences around. So, where does Belladonna of Sadness land? Belladonna was part of a trilogy of adult anime films called Animerama. This series of films included One Thousand and One Nights and Cleopatra. This third film, unlike the first two, was also not brought over here until recently. It was even restored with eight additional minutes of footage that was cut from the rerelease of the film in Japan. It was directed by Eiji Yamamoto, who has worked on all three films and has worked with Osamu Tezuka on other projects including Kimba the White Lion, Astro Boy, Odin, and Space Battleship Yamato. Though Osamu only worked on the first two, he was the one who put the wheels in motion for this trilogy of adult films. Yes, the creator of anime helped made three sexually-themed animated films. It’s really weird to see the contrast in themes and tone between Astro Boy and Belladonna of Sadness. So, does this film elevate itself into something ambitious and deserving of its praise? Or does it dissolve into some schlocky entertainment?

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The story stars our newlywed couple Jeanne and Jean. They go to the Lord of their kingdom to get the Lord’s prayer. Unfortunately, the Lord denies their request, and Jeanne is sexually deflowered and assaulted by the Lord and his lackeys. After such a traumatic and horrifying experience that no one deserves to have happen, Jeanne makes it back to Jean, scarred and forever changed. During the night, Jeanne gets visits from an evil spirit that offers, in exchange for pleasure, her power to get revenge on the scumbags that ruined her life. During the story, she gains enough power to obtain the support of the town to rebel against the Lord. Can she use her powers well, or will she be consumed by the powers of the evil spirit?

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I’m just going to be blunt right now with my opinion about this movie. If you do not like the sound of this movie because of the, quite frankly, delicate subject matter that’s hard to swallow, or if you have seen the film and do not like it for the same reasons I just mentioned, I 100% understand. This is one of the few times where I totally understand why you might or don’t like this movie. It’s definitely a tough film to sit through, and is probably the worst part about the film. It’s a revenge fantasy with a very, and I mean very, touchy subject. Sex and rape are fragile topics to use in stories, and you have to be extremely careful to execute it properly, or else it comes off as gimmicky or incredibly distasteful. It’s why I don’t fully respect animated films of this genre. They use sex as a means to get sloppy stories out there that gallivant around saying, “we have deep stories and commentary so the sex is part of the symbolism and the commentary!” It wants to be pro-feminist, and while some parts are done well, you have to keep reminding yourself of the horrific disturbing horrors that Jeanne had to go through to get these “pro-feminist” sequences. Also, for an animated film, it has very little animation. I can sort of understand if the fluid animation was used for artistic purposes, but this film is mostly panning shots over still images. I know this was 1973, but even then animation was starting to have fluid movement. Maybe because of the abstract art, but they have sequences where there is movement in the abstract art, so it’s confusing to know what kind of budget this film had. The film even ends on a still shot of the famous painting Liberty Leading the People. It works in the grand scheme of the film, but it’s a film with complex art that can be more distracting than focused.

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So, outside of the rough subject matter, what is good about this movie? Well, unlike a lot of films in this sub-genre of animation, I actually feel like it does this type of story and style of film the best. You want to make sure Jeanne gets back at the royal scumbags that ruined her life, and feel badly for what happened to her. You want to see her stand up to the society that ruined her, and you want the ones that screwed her over six feet underground.  I think why these types of films fail is because they focus so much on the shock and awe of having sexual themes and visuals, but forget to have a coherent story and likable characters that don’t learn a lesson or develop as characters.

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The animation and visuals are outstanding. For an animated film from 1973, this is one of the prettiest and visually abstract films I have ever seen. Sure, the animation itself is very limited, but when it does happen, it’s fluid, and looks better than most anime from that time period. I also adore how it doesn’t look like traditional Japanese animation. It doesn’t have any of the usual tropes you see with the art form, and it looks great. It also matches the visuals with a daunting and down tone. The atmosphere perfectly brings you into a world of dread and 70s acid trips. The studio that made this movie went all out to make the most challenging film of its time period. Fun fact, the studio that did make this movie actually went out of business because how ambitious Belladonna of Sadness was. It’s also partly a pro-feminist movie with how the female lead is going against authority, and how women were perceived at that time. Granted, I wish this came without the very touchy subject, and to me, it’s not the smoothest with its pro-feminist themes, but I still like that Jeanne was a very strong woman.

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Like I have mentioned above, if you cannot get into this film or don’t like it for its subject matter and story, I perfectly understand and won’t deny that this will have a very small appeal to people not into films and animation. I still very much enjoyed Belladonna of Sadness, and do plan on watching it again, and think it’s an ambitious piece of cinema. If you want to pick up a copy, you can get it on Blu-ray that comes with a cool little 16-page booklet. Well, now that we got this interesting piece of lost cinema out of the way, next time, we will be looking at Kubo and the Two Strings. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!!