Top 10 Downsides To Living In Middle-Earth

(OK, so this wasn’t one of the previously mentioned items, but it’s an idea that struck me…and besides, it’s a break from all the story commentary…)

J.R.R. Tolkien is famous the world over for his philological intellect and creating the most consistent constructed world in fiction…possibly. This of course goes without mentioning his fame as a writer, who’s literary works are still popular many decades later, more so with the help of Peter Jackson’s adaptive trilogies of his famous Middle-Earth chronicles.

What is it about fictional universes and worlds that appeals so much to us? Is it the escapism? Is it the fact that speculative fiction presents analogues to real world issues? Or is it megalomania, the fact that as someone else has complete creative control over a world, so you can too? How glorious such demonic cackles they must be…

Of course we’ve all had those fantasies, particularly as children. I, for example, was always hoping to get my Hogwarts acceptance letter. When I didn’t, I just buggered off in the TARDIS. No doubt Middle-Earth is yet another fictional world (fully constructed compared to the other two examples) that anyone would love to settle in and have multiple adventures, right?

Well, maybe. But let’s be honest – Middle-Earth, when you come down to it, is probably a pretty shoddy place to live. If you were born there, you wouldn’t know the difference, but from a 21st century perspective, I think I’d probably prefer this place. And I’d advise everyone to think twice before heading off to Mordor. Why? Well, I’m counting down the top 10 reasons for why Middle-Earth is kind of sucky place. There are no doubt more reasons that exist than this…

Please bear in mind that I don’t claim to be any expert on Tolkien’s legendarium. I’ve only seen The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit film adaptations, and whilst I’ve done some expanded reading into the cosmology and history of Arda and certain elements of the books not present in the films, I’ve not actually read the books myself, so feel free anyone to correct me if I make mistakes on this list.

So, without further ado, let us see what the top 10 Downsides to Living In Middle-Earth are…


10) Everything Is Trying To Kill You

There’s no real getting around this fact – I thought I’d start right off the bat with the most obvious one. Middle-Earth is terrifyingly dangerous! Let’s start with the fact that there are so many creatures that are apparently just inherently evil – orcs, vast armies of psychopaths that ride ravenous, enormous wolves, trolls, who, if you’re lucky, will turn to stone whenever there’s sunlight, but otherwise are enormous thuggish rogues. Even worse are dragons, vast flying monsters which, whilst they might look cool, are terrifying and dreadful to behold. It took a single dragon to flatten the Kingdom of Erebor under the Lonely Mountain (although just one arrow to take it down, go figure), so just bear in mind if you ever accumulate any wealth in this world, you’re a dead wealthy person. Dragons will come and incinerate you. Unless they are cold-drakes, in which case, they’ll freeze you. And that’s not counting any of the creatures that spawn from the dark lords themselves. The ring-wraiths, draped in black that will not hesitate to kill you, and of course the One Ring, a malevolent bit of bling that will slowly rape your mind and turn you into your own worst enemy, and the worst enemy of everyone else. Even Hobbits, the most diminutive and harmless race, will become utterly terrifying under the influence of the Ring. Even outside of Mordor, you can easily be at risk…


9) Everybody Smokes

Is this a petty entry…?
No, I don’t think so.

Now, I’m not sure how much smoking takes place in the books (but I’m fairly sure there’s quite a bit) but in the films at least, every time somebody’s sitting around, they’re all smoking pipes! Why…? Evidently Middle-Earth medicine has yet to determine all the risks smoking has for you, including lung cancer, heart murmur, stroke and more. And even if you yourself didn’t smoke throughout your life on this continent, you’d still have to smell it! Might just be a pet peeve, but I can’t stand the smell of tobacco. Of course, there’s no suggesting it is tobacco…they call it pipeweed. What’s that meant to be? We don’t get any indication whether or not it’s hallucinogenic, addictive, or otherwise detrimental to cognitive processes. Maybe Gandalf was just a figment of Bilbo’s imagination after all, because he’d been smoking too much, the silly bastard. Even Saruman pointed out to Gandalf that smoking all this pipeweed would be bad for him: ‘Your love of the halfling’s leaf has clearly slowed your mind.’ He was quite right – Gandalf failed to notice that Saruman the White had become Sauron’s flunky until it was almost too late.


8) There are very few 21st century comforts

I already mentioned that Middle-Earth medical knowledge only seems to go so far. That is just one of many 21st century comforts that don’t exist in this place – obviously you’ve got no computers or internet. How will one cope?? That and all the places just look really…drab. Places such as The Shire and Rivendell are exceptions, as most other ones just have this dirty, uncomfortably old fashioned look about them. The taverns certainly have nothing going for them, and yet another awkward thing about life in Middle-Earth is the calendar. Yes, the calendar.
The Western world and many other places today use the Gregorian calendar, a calendar standardized around the birth of Christ…a date we’re still not actually entirely sure about, and not entirely helpful in that sense because there’s no year 0. But the point is, it does at least give us an easy to use system – with BC/BCE you’re counting down, and with AD/CE you’re counting up. Both give you an impression of how long ago a certain date was. Not so with the calendar of Middle-Earth. The history of the continent is split into Ages, which I suppose is fair enough, (First Age, Second Age and so on) but all they do is count along the years until an event big enough comes along and then they start the next age. How is that in any way helpful to historians, or just people learning history? The First Age had 587 years, ending with the War of Wrath against Morgoth, the Second Age had 3,441 years ending with the War of the Last Alliance against Sauron, and the Third Age had 3,019 years ending with the War of the Ring, again against Sauron, the persistent bastard. Who exactly decides when an age ends? And who’s going to remember which ages have which number of years anyway? To make matters worse, the Shirefolk have their own calendar system, Shire Reckoning, beginning when their insignificant little country was founded. It probably doesn’t translate well with the rest of the complex calendar, and so only the very mathematically minded can probably make sense of it…so not me.


7) There is no pity for an artificially bred race of self-loathing slaves

In the early days, it’s said that Morgoth mutilated and brainwashed elves into becoming his personal foot soldiers, and yes, they were picked up by Sauron too. As adversaries to our protagonists, orcs are defined only by their intense hatred for themselves and everyone else, including their masters, whom they serve out of fear. From birth to  often violent death, orcs experience nothing but misery and self-loathing every second of their lives.
So…where’s their pity?
Even Gollum was pitied! Despite the fact that he killed someone the second he saw the One Ring! But nobody cares for the dozens of orcs they slaughter, there is no hesitation in slaying these creatures at all. Admittedly, at the time, it’s usually in self-defence, and perhaps they consider the fact that they’re putting them out of their misery. It’s a possibility indeed, but it does bring home yet another grim fact about life in Middle-Earth. Not to mention all they do is flee in terror the second Sauron is destroyed, implying that they will get just as little mercy in the Age of Men as they did under the Dark Lords. In fact, I hear that having an exclusively easy race was a big problem for Tolkien, a devout Roman Catholic who believed in salvation and forgiveness. Apparently he never came up with an answer that satisfied him.


6) Everyone’s Pretty Racist

Even though the orcs get the worst rap, the various races of Middle-Earth are not much kinder to those of every other race. Elves and dwarves in particular have this habit of slagging each other off and mistrusting each other. It was so bizarre to every community that a friendship could even form between an elf and a dwarf, as if such a thing has never happened before…which it probably didn’t.
Elrond also expresses his opinion that men are weak, based on the activity of just one. Most races look down on Hobbits (both literally and figuratively), and it seems that the racism is prevalent enough that everyone seems bound by their race, as though to defend it. How many times did Gimli remind us he was a dwarf? How many times have characters referred to others just by their race? Start counting them up, and you’ll begin to see the ingrained problem, which is made even worse when you realise…


5) …they’ve kind of got a point, too…

Am I excusing racism? Of course not. But being constructed races, it seemed inevitable that those of Middle-Earth showcased a lot of archetypes. All dwarves have awful table manners, and are stubborn and pugnacious. All Hobbits eat more than they should and most are lazy. All elves seem to be good at whatever the hell they try and do, far outstripping anyone else. All men have pathetically short lifespans. It gets worse when you consider that only the elves and men were specially created by Eru Ilúvatar, the supreme creator deity of this universe, making everyone else seem kind of second class. Add to that the fact that elves are immortal, you’re looking at a very unfair world indeed, right down to the divine structure.


4) The gender equality is terrible

It’s almost something of a shock when I consider that the film adaptations were actual step-ups for the role of female characters, and in The Hobbit, there were none at all. Obviously Middle-Earth is meant to represent a culture of the past, most of which had equally awful records on women’s rights, but Middle-Earth is a constructed world, and as such gives you the liberty to create whatever you desire. But not only is there an obvious gender gap in Middle-Earth, it doesn’t seem to be evolving. The culture of the world seems to stay fixed.
Some are better at it than others, no doubt – the elves seem to have the closest to gender equality in Middle-Earth, with figures such as Galadriel revered with great respect (although that might have something to do with the fact that she’s thousands of years old), but it’s still a man’s world. There’s loads of ‘someone, son of your father’ because apparently your mother isn’t important. Only men can be monarchs, and only men can fight in wars. Unless of course your name is Éowyn, and you happen to be lucky enough to fulfil a prophecy that results in the death of some dreadful thing. I don’t doubt that Tolkien didn’t actually think of women as merely helpless baby machines, but it’s obvious who’s holding all the power here. It probably would have been more bearable if they’d done something like in A Song of Ice and Fire, where the sexist double standards still exist, but are explored and deconstructed via the female characters. But of course, they are two different stories, and Tolkien couldn’t bow to the same tropes without jeopardising the story he was telling.



Yes, I know I already mentioned how much everything on Middle-Earth wants to kill you, but…


On the other hand, the Ungoliant, Shelob and more spiders are all female, implying an even better role for women than the elves have…


2) There is too much emphasis on the divine right of kings

Gandalf refers to the rule of anyone who is not a king as a rule of ‘lesser men.’ Apparently, just like being an elf, being a king makes you inherently better than anyone else. Your right of royalty is apparently enough to get people to do what you want, and again, it’s a boy’s only job.
Everyone knows full well how this is not a truth in real life, but unfortunately many still perceive things this way. Thorin was able to maintain his right to Erebor despite slipping into insanity because of his kingship. Aragorn was determined to be a leader among his companions, despite not even wanting to be king, just because he was royal. Again, the elitism in this world seems to be elite. And why? Well…


1) The Deities are rather psychotic

The somewhat unpleasant aspects of Middle-Earth go right back to the one who created it. And no, I’m not talking about Tolkien, I’m referring to Eru Ilúvatar, who’s basically God. If I were to meet him, I’d give him serious advice. I’ve already mentioned how he decided to make two races his own important and special children, and give one immortal lifespans, but the truth gets a lot more disturbing than that. It’s not just him, but also his underlings that cause a lot of problems. Aulë, one of the Valar (like archangels) created the dwarves, but was reprimanded by Eru, because only HE gets to create life! Wow, stroppy…Aulë’s response is to DESTROY THE DWARVES, only relenting because they were fucking terrified. Even then, Eru doesn’t allow them to wake before the elves, because he gets to go first! These deities are perfectly happy playing childish games with sentient beings.
Furthermore, when some of the Ainur (collective term for Valar and the lesser Maiar) decided to rebel, led by Morgoth, Eru’s response was not to destroy them instantly but allow him and his subordinates wreck life for everyone on Middle-Earth for miliennia. Thanks a lot dad.

So, that was my list. I hope you enjoyed it, and if not…well, you didn’t. Sorry. Let me know what you think, and all the rest of that. Please.

All images belong to their respective owners.

Top 10 Hottest Animated Women

Alright! So, I wanted to do another list. And I thought to myself, as it’s been one of those weeks, I want to do something nice and laid-back. So…10 hottest animated women it is.

What? I can have guilty pleasures can’t I? And I guess the guilt in the matter comes from entertainment geeks like me finding themselves so deeply into series that they find themselves hankering after fictional characters, and then considering the possibility of mental help because we have cognitive dissonance about reality.

As I am a committed feminist, I’m trying to avoid any kind of objectification here, although with women that aren’t real I don’t think that matters as much…furthermore, the merits I will consider for the women that have made it onto this list aren’t just based on looks (though they do help) but the personalities that draw me. It’s interesting to consider, I think, the creator’s intentions behind these characters and whether viewers were meant to be attracted to them or whether it’s just incidental. Which, quite frankly, says a lot about both the viewer and the creator. I’ve also decided to do strictly animated characters as live-acted characters run the risk of having me just attracted to the actress rather than the character they’re playing – in that way, any character played by Chloe Grace Moretz is always a winner. :O

So, without further ado, let me introduce my top 10 ranking hottest animated women….!!! This is going to be very revealing…


#10) Sena Kashiwazaki

NikuOn the offset, she might seem a pretty obvious choice, but there’s more to Sena that just being a blonde, big-bosomed unsubtle bisexual with a cute little fang visible when she’s excited. As I mentioned in my Haganai review, Sena is a nice little deconstruction of the typical popular girl trope in that she’s fed up of being treated superficially by her peers and wants some real friends for a change. Unfortunately she’s far too used to her social status and her attitude presents a rather obvious lack of social tact. This is a hell of a lot of fun to watch but also becomes charming when you recognise her optimism and her gradual shift to humility. In the Haganai review, I also stated Rika was my favourite character, but she strikes me more as the best friend type than anything else. Sena, on the other hand, is the perfect romantic foil for Kodaka, our protagonist, and with this in mind on top of the other traits you notice immediately, I think Sena definitely deserves her place on this list.


 #9) Esmeralda
(The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

She’s the one who gave Claude Frollo the unholy boner, and you can see why. I’ve always had a thing for this particular skin-tone, and, well, as far as intention goes, obviously she was meant to be drawn as realistically alluring to two of the heroes and the villain. But that’s not the only reason to like her – she’s gutsy, she’s resourceful, and she doesn’t take the crap she has to deal with lightly. Frollo, with her tied to the stake, offers her freedom in exchange for sex. She responds by spitting in his face. Brilliant. Add to that a fantastic singing voice highlighting an incredible selflessness, and you too will be singing into your fireplace, having sexy hallucinations and wondering whether your images and fantasies of her will earn you a spot in hell for unstable perverts. Not that that’s happened to me…



#8) Leone
(Akame Ga Kill!)

Akame Ga Kill is one those shows that you can never be sure who they’re going to kill off next, and all the time I was pleading with the show that they wouldn’t kill off Leone. It’s weird, because I’m certainly not a furry, and whilst Leone is hardly an anthropomorphic animal (those paws and ears are actually just temporary extensions of her powers) she certainly has something animalistic about her, and in a series so full of vibrant, colourful characters, this was very clearly intentional. So, is it her animal-like nature I find so alluring, coupled with the slightly more feral habit of barely wearing anything on the top half of her body, exposing both impressive cleavage and a sexy abdomen? Or is it her personality, terribly gutsy and very forward in her dealings with the opposite sex (hell, the same sex sometimes as well)? It’s probably a combination of the two. To put it shortly, I’d definitely want this girl in my house…she can keep my cat company.


#7) Hinata Hyūga
(Naruto franchise)

In no uncertain terms, Hinata is my favourite character of the highly popular Naruto franchise, and it strikes me as interesting that her creator’s liking of her slowly seemed to grow, until he eventually succumbed to the only logical conclusion and her marry her long-time love interest, the eponymous protagonist himself!
Due to the timeskip the series has, Hinata is given plenty of time to develop. In the original series, she was immensley shy, obstructively selfless, but still overly loveable and cute. Post timeskip, and she’s still just as selfless, but getting over her shyness, utterly driven, and sexy…like, REALLY sexy…
Still one of the best scenes in the entire show is when Naruto, having been finally shut up by the motive reveal of one of the classiest antagonists ever, has Hinata rush to defend him, confess her love before nearly dying. It still brings a lump to my throat every time I think about it and her conclusion was well worth waiting for.



#6) Rapunzel

Admitting your attractions to animated characters is bad enough, but it’s when such things get distracting when you’re trying to watch a more family friendly film. The because lure of Tangled, was, for me, Rapunzel herself. Her wide-eyed curious nature is basic enough, but I get the feeling the animators were really pouring a lot into her design. Nobody had done a Disney-style fairy tail in CG-animation before, they obviously needed to make sure their lead was wonderfully pristine, down to beautiful detail on her famous hair to her adorable little overbite.
Now, as I am a Frozen fan, and in fact a much bigger lover of Frozen than Tangled, it’s easy to wonder why I didn’t put Elsa or Anna on this list. It’s true – Elsa and Anna are both beautiful, they have good relationship, and have personalities that compliment each other perfectly, and I doubt I’ll get tired of Anna’s antics of Elsa’s ice powers. But…Rapunzel perpetually foregoes shoes, and on this list, that automatically gives you about twenty points. Sorry ice sisters. It’s nothing personal.
Wow, this is even more awkward than before. I think I need to go and think about what I’ve done…


#5) Kurumi Tokisaki
(Date A Live)

Oh, well now…
Being the insane, psychotic slightly yandere banshee of a harem series, there is absolutely no way Kurumi’s hotness was unintentional, which makes me feel a little bit better.
Known as Nightmare, she is the only spirit observed that actually seems genuinely malevolent, rather than just a victim of unfortunate circumstances. With time and space manipulating abilities, her goal is Shido, the protagonist who is attempting to neutralize and save spirits by dating them. She wants not only his abilities, but clearly his body too, and it’s that kind of deliberate entertaining factor which makes us love Kurumi so much. Perhaps a highly dangerous girlfriend, but certainly an attentive one…



#4) Minene Uryu
(Future Diary)

OK, so this one’s potentially dangerous too, what with being a free-lance terrorist, but…I don’t care…
First introduced as an opponent to our protagonists in the survival game, Minene (or the 9th) quickly became one of the more important characters. We got to see her have plenty of development, more than most of the other diary users, and I loved virtually every minute of it. It didn’t bother me than she lost her eye and then later one of her hands. It didn’t bother me that she’d sooner kill me than much else. She just radiated hotness! Not only does she look inexplicably gorgeous, but she is, once again, a character that doesn’t care what the world hands her, because has always resolved to fight back. It’s only when she realises she has a conscience that the strain of what the world hands her returns.
On top of that, she’s a COSPLAYING terrorist, which, let’s be honest, would be a pretty cool way to go. It now seems blindly obvious why she was stripped almost naked when captured by the 12th…



#3) Erza Scarlet
(Fairy Tail)

Also known as Titania, the queen of the fairies, Erza has certainly lived up to her reputation. The men want her, the women want her, she’s just reputable in her badassery, her leadership, her love for strawberry cake and her wonderful array of armour and outfits. Erza is by far my favourite character in the series, and her backstory didn’t disappoint either. So far in my viewing of the series, it’s probably the darkest step the story took, and I loved it for that. Not much else to say on the matter. If you don’t like her…then, well, more for the rest of us. I have a poster of her on my wall too…



#2) Tenten
(Naruto franchise)

Even though Hinata is my favourite Hinata character, Tenten, for me, is the finest girlfriend material. Despite being listed as a ‘main supporting character’ Tenten gets so little screentime it’s insulting, despite her being Kishimoto’s favourite character to draw. Well, I can certainly see why…
Unlike most of the girls in other teams, I like how Tenten’s main fixation doesn’t seem to be romance. She’s sick of all the double standards against kunoichi in this world (which although aren’t explicitly stated, are quite evident) and maintains a headstrong outlook in order to become a great ninja. It’s just a shame such potential for character development was sidelined as much as it was, and so we have to rely on fillers and our own imagination to decide what this gorgeous weapon’s mistress did in her spare time.
I’m imagining it quite vividly…



#1) Lucy Heartfilia
(Fairy Tail)

One has to wonder as to why Hiro Mashima didn’t get a prize for Most Attractive Drawing when he was designing this character. One of the main protagonists of the show, I was drawn to Lucy the second she appeared. And…I really was. Damn…
I think the real appeal of this character comes from the fact that she seems to fit into any kind of fanservice you want. Not only does she have an unlimited choice of costumes, but the kind of situations and clothing damage she’s susceptible too throughout the series seem only just slightly over the top. Not too much so it’s still believable, but just enough so you notice the character seems to have been retconned into a fanservice character. Which she does EXTREMELY well.
This isn’t to say Lucy doesn’t have a character – she shares the heart and drive of the other members of Fairy Tail and has a compassionate side despite her attention deficit and a little too much focus on the glam. Even for all it’s plot repetition and slightly bizarre situations, Fairy Tail does at least promise to have something worth coming back to…ahem…


So, there was the list, I’m sure you found it incredibly awkward and now think I’m some of freak. Well…join the queue. Obviously I should probably seek help for fantasizing about relationships with fictional characters, but if you share similar sentiments to me, let me know which animated characters you find attractive. It’s a way of growing that’s harmless. I think.

All images belong to their respective owners.










My Top 10 Favourite Animated Movies

Well, hi guys! Time for something completely different. Again!

So, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I figured I should get a nice little project under way before the inevitable soul-crushing despair that I often associate with the particular calendar date. And before we get on to what that is (which you may have been able to infer from the clarity of the title), a little word about Valentine’s Day.

I’m not trying to rain on the parade on those who are celebrating the big VD with a significant other – I think that’s great, it’s nice to celebrate with the people you love and want to share your life with. Yes, maybe it would be easier for me to sympathise if I had such a person myself, but that’s a story for another time. (Of course, I keep on saying that, but I have no idea when other times will come around). But the point is, I don’t think Valentine’s Day should exclude or even imply to exclude single people, because, simply put, it’s a celebration of love, and a lot of the single people I know are very capable of that. What’s more, why set aside a day? I like to consider myself full of love for my family, friends, and various people around me all the time, and I know a lot of people who are too. I know this is hardly news, but just consider it a reminder for everyone tomorrow that there should be no constraints to your love.

Well, except for infidelity, but that’s another issue entirely.

But of course, activities that both couples and singles can engage in are sitting d0wn and watching films. I’ve always loved films, and, as VD is a celebration of love, maybe it’s only fair to share the films I love the most. But to be fair, that’s not always easy. I can’t imagine myself being able to concoct a reliable list of my all time favourite movies. I’d end up feeling like I’ve betrayed another favourite after it’s over or something. It would be a disaster.

So, I thought I’d narrow it down a bit, and talk about animation.

Animated films, I feel, hold an important distinction. There are no real limits to the visual style, the same way there are for practical effects and actor constraints and all sorts of other painful inevitabilities of live-action movies. Animated films are not just a work of story-telling art, but of very obvious visual art as well. This isn’t to say live-action can’t be visually appealing too, but with animated movies, as I’ve said, the art-style is very obvious and there are no constraints. I’m not an animator myself, but I can see when an art style has worked…
(Oh look, that was unhyphenated.)

What’s more, for many a modern person, animated films are some of the first we ever saw. The obvious artistic choices are probably one of the reasons that animated movies are generally family or childrens’ media, but I don’t think it’s fair to consider them a lesser art form because of this – on the contrary, that age is where we’re the most impressionable, and even if we first watch some animated films when we’re older, we can appreciate how good (or not) they are for the next generation and if they’re conveying the right messages.

With all this in mind and more, I’ve compiled my personal list of my Top 10 Favourite Animated Movies. (Ha, bet you didn’t see that coming, considering it was the title and everything!) These are the ones that just really spoke to me and I have, or will be willing to watch them many times. I’ll be commenting on visuals, music, storytelling, characters, all that good stuff, and by the way, any animation style counts – hand-drawn, CGI or stop motion, although there are no stop-motion examples on this list. I’ll also only be counting animated features, the first of which was Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), though that’s not on this list either…

The format of the list will contain the name of the feature, the year it was released and the animation studio who released it so one can examine and compare. Also, take care that if one of your favourites isn’t on the list, DON’T PANIC. This isn’t a list of what counts as the best animated movies of all time, just my personal favourites. In some cases, I may acknowledge that some lower on the list are stronger in certain respects to entries higher on the list – these are just my personal favourites in animated feature films.

So, without further ado, let’s begin…


#10) Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
I do believe this was the only animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture, and let’s be honest, you can see why. The most famous scene of Belle and the Beast’s dance with shots to the beautifully rendered ceiling and chandelier is just one of thing’s that makes this film such a spectacle. The post above declares it ‘the most beautiful love stories ever told’ and…yeah. Beautiful is a great word for it. I definitely felt the emotions of the characters and the journey they were taking during the movie, even though I knew what the outcome would be. As per a good animated feature, or any feature really, it does a very good job at visual storytelling, and taking on board just the right things to tell something of the fairy tale genre – as far as fairy tales are told, this is one of the ones that does it best.
You probably note that, as a movie often considered one of Disney’s finest, I’ve placed it pretty low on my list. Well, to be fair, I watched it a little late – I already knew most of the plot when I finally got down to viewing it, and whilst I definitely enjoyed most of the elements (barring of course the fact that the Beast in his human form looked inbred), it wasn’t quite the new spectacle that audiences in 1991 first got. Still, it’s nevertheless a very enjoyable film of very beautiful animation that I’ll definitely be seeing a few more times.


#9) The Prince of Egypt (1998)

Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Being raised in a very Christian environment, it was inevitable that I’d eventually see DreamWorks’ take on the story of Moses. But this is not a problem – this movie’s a total treasure. I’d definitely recommend it for any audience – not content with just telling the cut-out version of the story from the Book of Exodus, it uses it’s artistic licence to it’s full affect, taking full advantage of brothers (in this case, Moses and Rameses II of Egypt) who grew up together now being forced to be each other’s foes over the fates of the enslaved Hebrews. Not only does this film pile on the drama and the storytelling, but also has a fantastic and severely underrated soundtrack orchestrated by Hans Zimmer. Listening to the opening number of the movie as I write this, I feel the weight of the scenes they were set to, and if I weren’t so distracted, would definitely feel a chill…the design of the human characters isn’t always on par, but the animation of scenery at whatnot is gorgeous – the sweeping shots of Egypt, the segment full of burning hail during the plagues of Egypt, and the Passover sequence which is still one of the most chilling animated segments I’ve ever seen are just a few examples of why you should check this film out if you haven’t already.


#8) Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Studio: Studio Ghibli
I only discovered this one recently, but as you can see, I enjoyed it enormously.
Studio Ghibli is perhaps not as well known in the West as Disney and such, but you’ll find it has a very defensive community of fans. The story of this film is, at it’s core, actually very simple. It’s mainly about the life experienced by a young witch, who, upon arriving at a new town as per coming-of-age rituals, ends up setting up a delivery service using her broomstick. But this movie’s strength comes from it’s allowance for atmosphere. It gives us plenty of time to just get absorbed into this world and it’s characters. I remember being impressed at how well-paced it was. Nothing was happening too quickly or too slowly. It was just perfect. The characters are also very likeable – from Kiki herself, to the baker she stays with, to the artist who lives in a cabin in the woods to (insert other character if you’ve seen the film in here, I’ll love them, I love all of them.) It’s just a delightful experience, this entire movie, and the serene animation and music matches it perfectly. One of the most impressive things about the animation, in my opinion, is when Kiki’s flying – on the scene of her first delivery, when she deliberately drops, you just feel the gravity, and I hope some animation buff will tell me why. If there was one thing I think it could have done without, it would be the forced climax (there’s a joke to be made there). Not least because after it, the film just ends bizarrely anyway. But it’s a minor issue, I know I’ll be sitting down to experience this again sometime, maybe when I’m feeling down, because I found myself empathising considerably with Kiki when she goes through what she does here.


#7) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Damn these unevenly sized posters!
But anyway…
Released at a time when the Disney Renaissance was on a bit of a decline, I do agree with Doug Walker’s sentiment that it may not have been the best movie to get a general audience – the source material was very dark and controversial, and yes, this was sugar-coating it…somewhat. But what do I care? Enough of the original elements of the story where there to still make it a pretty dark film, particularly for Disney. So, the ending’s happy, and it’s full of musical numbers and goofy side characters. But it’s also got undertones of abuse, corruption, genocide and lust. There’s even a whole musical number dedicated to the antagonist’s lust for a gypsy woman – a number which still has a reputation for being one of the best villain songs ever. Once again, the visuals all support it – not only does Notre Dame look fantastic, both on the external and internal sides of things, but they don’t shy away from religious iconography and fiery symbols of someone’s inner turmoil either. Even with these dark elements in place, sometimes the simplicity is nice too – Quasimodo, the eponymous hunchback, is a very likeable character, and so are the gypsy woman Esmeralda, the villain (in his own way) Claude Frollo, and the majority of the other characters, barring the gargoyles…
Also, much like Prince of Egypt, this movie has an unbelievably fantastic soundtrack that is considerably underrated. Make sure to check that out once you’ve finished the film – it’ll be an urge you can’t resist. Just as I can’t resist constantly re-watching this movie.


#6) Frozen (2013)

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
No, I refuse to join the bandwagon of people that, because Frozen is now literally everywhere and they’re fed up of it, are saying that this is a terrible movie despite loving it initially. Even if you didn’t like it initially, I don’t care, because I absolutely love this movie. So there!
I remember going into this movie not knowing what to expect, but within a few minutes I was hooked. Once again, Disney’s playing up the fairy tail element to it’s advantage, and while Beauty and the Beast agreeably takes more time with setting out the opening story, what we get from Frozen is another well-thought out story focusing on the emotions characters are going through, and even redefining Disney’s long-held definition of what counts as true love. Convenient for Valentine’s Day, I think…
What’s more, it updates the Disney tropes for a modern audience, not only in what I previously mentioned but the fact that both the leads are female – yeah, so Disney princesses are unbelievably common, but having two, one of whom is the queen, without any true animosity is very new and refreshing.
And yes, I guess I should probably talk about the music. I know you’re all fed up of hearing ‘Let It Go’ everywhere, and yes, I do prefer some other Disney movies’ soundtracks (see Hunchback above), but I still think it’s a good song. And even if you don’t like it, I still think the movie it’s in is worth it. Once again, the visuals are stunning. With Tangled three years earlier, Disney were just starting with the 3D-style – here they pretty much perfected it. Elsa’s ice castle looks amazing, as do most of the other scenes. Not much else to say about it other than stop giving this movie a hard time. No matter what you say, I’m going to be watching this movie many more times, so there. Ha!


#5) Toy Story 2 (1999)

Studio: Pixar

Hang on, I hear you cry, where’s the first Toy Story? Well, I didn’t want to include the entire trilogy here, as this would discount many other decent films, so instead I opted just for my favourite of the trilogy, and what is, to me, one of the most nostalgic treasures I have. So much so, that I’ve put my sister of this movie possibly for life because of how many times I watched it as a child. :/
But I just loved it that much! I’m sure most of you can agree that the Toy Story trilogy in general is very good imaginatively with it’s character creations and storytelling and visuals, we all know about that. But for me, Toy Story 2 is the best for it’s new emphasis on a growing, creeping dilemma now facing are characters, which comes into fruition in the final film, but I feel as though the uncertainty made it a lot more engaging and a lot easier to empathize with the characters’ decisions. Not least because of what we learn on the cast’s new editions and their pasts.
The climax is also one of my favourites – if you wanted an update from a chase with a moving van in the first movie, try at the airport with a bloody jet. Not to mention dealing with a reasonably sympathetic yet still diabolical villain. Definitely one I’m going to be watching many times more…providing my DVD doesn’t break. ;_;


#4) Inside Out (2015)

Studio: Pixar

This movie isn’t even a year old yet and I already think it belongs up there with some of the best. And apparently I’m not the only one – Inside Out has received universal critical claim. Not since the Toy Story trilogy has a Pixar film been this well-received, as far as I know.
And well, you can see why. A few people, obstinate at being different, have claimed that the idea is unoriginal. Well, yes…but nor is practically anything. Virtually every idea has been done before, but what Inside Out does with the concept of personified emotions in the head of a girl named Riley is everything intelligent you can do with an idea like this, with focus on what should be focused on. The story itself is actually a coming-of-age story, detailing and highlighting the transformations you go through as you get older. For many who are going through or who have gone through the motions, this film is a very (unsurprisingly) emotional experience. Whilst taking part in some usual conventions of a family film (all of which are entertaining as well) when it needs to make a point about the role of your emotions and how you should feel about the transformations and choices you make, it drives home it’s point in spectacular style. And if I should take time to talk about the animation as well, then it’s also unbelievably creative and very nice to look at. And then there’s the feminist themes – as a film aimed for general audiences, it has a good number of female leads. It’s early days, but I get the feeling this film will persist through the ages as a classic.


#3) Spirited Away (2001)

Studio: Studio Ghibli

So, I get the feeling I’ll probably get lynched for placing this anywhere other than number 1. But…it’s my list. So there.
As you can see, I do definitely regard this movie very highly, but perhaps I’m disenfranchised, because I actually saw this a little later than most? I don’t know. There are still some elements about it that rub me the wrong way. Like, for example, what was the point of that No Face character? Yeah, he had a nice design, but other than that, I can’t really see what he did worthwhile.
But enough of that – most of what I have to say about this movie is overwhelmingly positive. For all I said about Beauty and the Beast and Frozen about catching the fairy tale element well, this, I think, is the one that does it perfectly. When it needs to be eerie, it’s eerie, when it needs to be sad, it is very sad, when it needs to be delightful and beautiful and whimsical, it captures that as well. The spirit world it draws us into, whilst not developed in an enormous amount of detail, is still stunning to look at and just very engaging. Even though the story’s enjoyable as well, it might be worth having a viewing of the movie with the sound muted, just to enjoy the visuals. I can imagine it would be wonderful even then, though with that being said, the music is also fantastic. I’m listening to it now, and it has occurred to me I will never get tired of that wonderful piano arrangement. And then there’s the story as well – the characters are very engaging and colourful and interesting, you feel the wonder, the terror, the grief…I don’t know what else more to say about it that everyone else has already said. Just watch it if you haven’t already. And if you want a summary…I’m not very good at them. Go find someone else…


#2) The Land Before Time (1988)

Studio: Universal Pictures

Here’s another nostalgic treasure of mine – whilst I will admit I haven’t seen as much of Don Bluth’s work as I should, remembering and re-watching this movie as I do really makes me want to. So, maybe being a dino-nut as a young boy originally drew me to it, but this movie has so much more to offer than just that. Not only does Bluth’s signature animation style create a very mystical element to the entire thing, but the messages of this movie stand out. Look hard enough, and you’ll see an anti-racism undertone. This movie also deals with companionship and loss in hard circumstances, and what’s more, the child dinosaurs who are the main characters actually act like children, both in their attitudes, insecurities and actions. This makes them, I think, all the more relateable. They were some of my favourite fictional characters growing up, and to this day I still hold them very fondly. As well as the wonderful animation, this movie also has a fantastic score by the late James Horner, which I listen to very frequently. If there was one thing that might count against it, it’s the fact that it’s a very short film. A lot edits made in the initial stages rendered this movie little over an hour in length. And sometimes, the compression does show. But as you’ve probably picked up by now, I don’t care. This is a treasured bit of a gold from my childhood and I still enjoy watching it as a young adult.

So, what could possibly be number 1?? Well…


#1) Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion (2013)

Studio: Shaft

Is this technically cheating, as this is a movie based on an anime series? Or that, despite my inspiring message at the beginning of this, this is not really a movie for children? Well, this is my list…and I utterly love the series, and I utterly love this movie. It technically counts as it’s a story separate to the series – a sequel, as it were. And as I have another sequel on this list, I think it’s allowed.
It’s very difficult to know what to say about this movie without giving away details of the plot of both the series and the film itself, but I’ll say that what the series does well, this movie ramps it up to the next level. The visual style really has to be seen to be believed, and even if you watch the series, you’ll only get a taster of how visually mind-bending and unbelievable the movie is. Taking both gorgeous colours and very dark, horrifying images, and blending it with a beautiful soundtrack supported by wonderful characters and underlying an amazing story, it reaches almost what I could consider a perfect animated film. Whilst opinions differ, I can proudly call myself a dedicated advocate of this movie.
The story, without giving too much away, underlies an inherent mystery. Even watchers of the series will be confused when they watch this, but whilst always dosing us with beautiful character development and great visual symbols of what’s to come and what’s going on in the mind of the point-of-view character in the story, they carefully bring us to the almighty twist that’s in the beginning of the movie…and that’s not even where the intense storytelling/visuals/literally everything stops either. This movie probably needs several viewings to understand fully, and even then, you can draw your own conclusions as to why everything happened and what it all means. Because, if you’re like me, you’re with this every step of the way. During some parts, I found myself literally pleading with the characters not to do…whatever they were about to do.
What else can be said? The animation is unbelievable, the characters and story awe-inspiring, the soundtrack beautiful…and if you enjoyed the lesbian undertones in this series, this movie cranks that up as well. So, if you enjoyed the series, definitely give this a watch. And if you haven’t watch the series and then the movie. I feel it’s my duty to promote it, if I make nothing else of my life…


So, there it was! I hope you enjoyed this list – let me know either from a comment here, or a message to me if you got to this link from my social media. If you liked this kind of opinion piece, give me more ideas for what I could make lists of. I have a few ideas, but let me know anyway. Basically thanks for reading, please share your thoughts and feelings, and have a good day!

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