In this sci-fi anime, Eden’s Zero, follow Shiki and his friends on a journey across the galaxy to find all four sisters and give the Edens Zero battleship its full power. On the way, they encounter a player who murders people in a virtual world, a devious hacker, a power-hungry leader, and a person who can see the future.
Reprinted from Bubbleblabber and Wayback Machine. This was the fourth article I wrote for Bubbleblabber. I would recommend this series. I claimed that I watched the dubbed version in this review, but that was a lie, as I actually watched the subbed version, as I prefer subs to dubs any day. I said I watched the dubbed version so this would be published. This is the ONLY article I wrote for Bubbleblabber that I’m still proud of. This post was originally published on December 20, 2021.
The first twelve episodes of this series introduced a young boy named Shiki Granbell (Sean Chiplock), who meets the equivalent of a YouTuber, Rebecca Bluegarden (Kira Buckland) and her cat companion, Happy (Tia Ballard), as they search through time and space for a being called “Mother” (Colleen Clickenbeard), with Shiki trying to make as many friends as he can. This space romp continues the story of Shiki, Rebecca, and Happy, with some comparing it to earlier works by Hiro Mashima like Fairy Tail and Rave Master, as their crew continues to expand. The entire English VA cast moves the series forward with its energy, radiance, and exuberance.
The animation of this series from J.C.Staff is smooth and captivating, especially in battle scenes. It continues to astound, especially with new opening and closing themes beginning with episode 13 and moving forward. There are colorful characters, backgrounds, and animation which often blows you away. This includes the introduction of the wealthy sector of the planet Sun Jewel in the later part of the season. The show’s second opening theme is “Forever” by L’Arc-en-Ciel, and the second ending theme is “Sekai no Himitsu.” J.C.Staff is known for producing well-known series like A Certain Scientific Railgun, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Azumanga Daioh.
There is the typical storytelling device of a narrator named Xiaomei (Jenny Yokobori). She is the Time Oracle and presides over the Temple of Knowledge on the Planet of Time. She knows everything in the universe and has future-vision a little like Garnet in Steven Universe, as she knows that the future branches out in various possibilities. She is weirdly obsessed with putting her visitors through battles, not knowing their outcome. She spends most of her time in the series as a narrator from the audience, not unlike the Watcher in What If…?
I found the episodes where Shiki and his friends go to Digitalis, a virtual planet/dimension, interesting. This isn’t because Pino chooses to be a human, Homura chooses a male avatar, or Weisz a female avatar, the latter two choosing avatars different from their original genders. Rather, it is due to the setting itself it seems to be applying to those who play with virtual reality or online multiplayer games. Specifically, Shiki and his friends can’t rewrite the code of the planet, but can use their real-world abilities, and they can log out of the game. The mix between reality and the virtual world reminds me a bit of The Hollow, which toyed with this concept.
Eden’s Zero has similarities with other shows which have hackers, as Hermit is well-skilled with breaking into systems to help her friends. Hermit is a bit different, however, as she has a dark past. She was deceived by humans into building a cannon which obliterated another planet, and for years she is tortured by scientists for their own ends. While she is rescued from a prison, the trauma of her experience prevents her from stopping a hacker which is destroying the Edens Zero, until Rebecca connects directly with her, and Shiki tells her to believe in herself, causing her to regain some faith in humanity.
The characters of Happy, who can transform into blasters, and Pino, who has an EMP which can knock out technology for a brief period, are interesting additions as well. Perhaps it is a commentary on anime shows themselves when it turns out that the Ether Gear that Rebecca, Homura, and Shiki use do not work when your hands are tied. In contrast to other series, it is made clear that everything has a heart, no matter whether it is human or robotic. However, this also means that humans and robots can die and stop functioning.
One of the intriguing plot threads is Homura’s journey. She becomes more a part of the team in these episodes, but is willing to save her friends, even from innumerable odds, like on the digital world, when she is facing a government spy, Amira (Emi Lo), who is impersonating her, and a murderer who is cheating to stay in the game. She hopes to reach her master and mother-of-sorts, Valkyrie, as part of the mission to find the goddess of the universe and struggles with facing a copy of Valkyrie when she visits the Planet of Time and thinks back to her early life. This comes to a head in episodes 19 to 25, when the crew go to the planet Sun Jewel, with wealthy and poor sectors. Whether it is like Star Wars and Fairy Tail, or not, it is a unique series in and of itself.
Homura finds out that the brutal Madame Kurenai, who won’t tolerate any crime or violence on the planet, is her greedy mother, who has enforcers to keep “order” in the labor district of the planet and wants to destroy the whole district with a superweapon as it isn’t profitable for her. She also discovers, to her horror, that her master, is no more, and she takes time to process this, while the audience learns of how Kurenai betrayed Valkyrie, continuing to fight with encouragement from her friends. Following Kurenai’s defeat by Shiki, she rejects Kurenai’s plea for forgiveness and says she wants nothing to do with Kurenai. In a bit of karma, Kurenai runs into the forest and is captured by Cedric, a man whose face she burned off, and they turn her into their “pet.” Homura makes peace with what happened, leaving Valkyrie behind, and decides to take on the same role as Valkyrie. Two of the shining stars, Witch and Sister, even embrace each other over the death of Valkyrie, and cry together, sad to see the loss of their friend.
There are funny parts in the series, like the different outfits the characters wear, including skimpy ones, especially embarrassing Rebecca. She is a character who changes outfits more than any other character, including when she wears an outfit from a popular anime, only to have her be embarrassed by Labilia Christy (Lizzie Freeman), an arrogant B-Cuber. She also spends time discovering her own magical powers, even using them to defeat Nino, a B-Cuber who declares that anime will save the universe, and saves the day by telling Kurenai’s enforcers, known as the Punishers, to stand down.
Eden’s Zero does not shy away from maturity. For instance, episode 21 has warnings for language and smoking. In other episodes, we see characters being tortured or dressed in outfits which appears to be fan service. On the other hand, Weisz, a male character, is naked in one episode, and embarrasses himself, so it’s not only women who wear revealing clothes. Additionally, there is fighting in nearly every episode, mainly led by Shiki to protect his friends, including in the final episodes of this season where Madame Kurenai fights against Shiki in a huge mecha, through the city center and into the labor district.
When George Menendez, runs to be Mayor of San Francisco, his opponent, Dennis Chang, tries to buy the votes of everyone in San Fransisco. Phineas is skeptical and tries to figure out what is really going on. Later, when Menendez gets in hot water over an inappropriate photo, and drops out of the race, everyone seems to abandon him, except for Phineas.
Reprinted from Bubbleblabber and Wayback Machine. This was the third article I wrote for Bubbleblabber. I would NOT recommend this series. I only watched it for review purposes. I am a bit ashamed I watched this series as it is total drek. This post was originally published on December 20, 2021.
This episode had more direct parallels to our current political situation than any other episode, as it focuses on someone running for office who is for equal rights and affordable housing, with Franklin working on Menendez’s campaign, along with Harper who is the campaign manager, while Phineas refuses to vote because he believes that all politicians are liars and crooks. This is, in part, because he was pushed out of the way when Bernie Sanders appeared with name for their movement (democratic socialism) while he lost the name. Chang tries to buy people’s votes by giving everyone a phone with preloaded spending money.
Chuck and Charlie reappear as the resident high friends of Phineas, Franklin, Freddy, and Kitty. At the same time, the show emphasizes the importance of self-worth and self-acceptance when Kitty helps Freddy when he is down because he is overweight while he says he likes who he is. This is later exploited by a tech company, showing how these messages can easily be co-opted, leading them both to make money off it and try to enrich themselves after they go viral.
This episode has some interesting social commentary about the power of tech companies, as it collects personalized information on everyone, and records things when you aren’t looking. Chang is not evil in the usual way told in stories but is more cunning and able to outsmart other people, like Phineas. He uses a photo scandal to try and discredit his opponent, so he can win the election.
Interesting to see Franklin as the one who has the idea to run Freddy to beat Chang. He is a joke candidate, with someone else behind the scenes, pulling the strings. The show pokes at the idea that people care more about personality than substance, while Phineas is annoyed as the “ideas man” who is ignored. He even gets so sidelined that his message can be softened, that he gets fired from the campaign itself.
It was an interesting twist to see Phineas work with Harper to try and take down Freddy’s campaign. That was something I wasn’t expecting. They mess with the debate, Chang trying to take down Freddy for saying he’d use technology to pay for everything. Franklin was completely right to be angry at Phineas for doing this. The speech Phineas gives about being passionate instead of out of his mind is strange, as he is supporting a technocrat. They seem to forget this all to quickly after he wins.
The voice acting of this episode is strong as always, but like the last episode, not one person or animal is shown smoking pot, meaning that it is becoming less of a stoner comedy, and just a dramatic animated show. In fact, I didn’t even laugh at all when watching this episode. However, the show is still holdings its own in terms of animation, music, and drama. This may be improved in the episode next week, which is said to be about using Molly and time travel, from a sneak peek following the episode.
The series continues to be irreverent, with one of the focuses of this episode being so-called “cancel culture,” with Phineas standing with Menendez after a “photo scandal” is promoted to discredit him, and he is “cancelled.” This comes full circle at the end when Freddy is declared a “racist” for having “yellow face,” interpreted to be making fun of Chang, and is “cancelled.” This leads the third-party gun-toting libertarian, Pimco, who is almost a jerky version of Stephen Hawking, to become Mayor. This means that the show is taking sides in this culture war debate, seeming to say that “cancel culture” is bad and arbitrary, rather than trying to push for a nuanced understanding of the concept which emphasizes that people should face consequences for their words and actions.
While in some ways this episode was better than last week’s episode and was exciting, I don’t think it rises to the level of last week’s episode. The episode was enjoyable, but it is becoming less enjoyable to watch than when I started this series. I hope the episode next week will change my opinion, but I’m not confident that will happen.
Gretchen has a charity event for ex-felons, the Freak Brothers get high listening to music at a store run by their friends Chuck and Charlie, and try to score some more weed. They meet a rapper named ScHoolboy Q. and spend time with him. But when Freddy accidentally crashes his golf cart, Q comes back the next day, demanding his money, so the Brothers scramble to get him the money before its too late.
Reprinted from Bubbleblabber and Wayback Machine. This was the second article I wrote for Bubbleblabber. I would NOT recommend this series. I only watched it for review purposes. I am a bit ashamed I watched this series as it is total drek. This post was originally published on December 5, 2021.
This mature animation continues to harp on the same themes as Gilbert Shelton’s underground comic, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, with characters, specifically the Freak Brothers, using and trying to get drugs like marijuana, while critiquing those described as “the establishment” and those in the counterculture at the same time. For instance, at the beginning of the episode, the brothers are shown going into a records store in San Francisco, run by their two friends who sell weed, and are introduced to rap music. They later smoke with him, drink fancy wine, in a scene which almost seems like it is out of a movie, and smoke again with him on his yacht.
This week continued the threads from last week but raises the stakes. After Freddy causes ScHoolboy Q’s solid gold golf cart to drop into a lake, the brothers think everything is fine. But, Q will stop at nothing to get the money, even taking the cats from them. Tensions between the brothers reach a boiling point as Freddy continues to be a fuck-up, and they even plan a raid on Q’s yacht. I did not expect to see Freddy and Kitty team-up, but that made the story that much more interesting, although Q doesn’t seriously threaten Phineas and Franklin, only tells them that if they roll enough joints, they will be fine. I liked that while it seems like Freddy is living up to how his brothers describe him, at first, he ends up saving the day, with his brothers having to apologize to him. While he is still absent minded and doesn’t hear them at all, there was a not-surprising twist to have everything end up happily, in a sense, in the end of the episode.
The series continues to be just as unholy as the mature animated series, Chicago Party Aunt, if not more. This episode made that clear, with Franklin making an offensive joke about Japanese people, with Camille having to clarify that she is Chinese, not Japanese, and Phineas calling out a leprechaun as a “midget.” There’s also occasional blood, swearing, and smoking. The voice acting of this series is still strong, all around, from Tiffany Haddish as a cat, Danny Gendron as a dog, along with Liza del Mundo, Phil LaMarr, Andrea Savage, and La La Anthony. However, the characters voiced by Woody Harrelson, John Goodman, and Pete Davidson have more lines, so they have more of an opportunity to shine than other characters. Schoolboy Q, who voices Q, also had strong voice acting.
Like the previous episode, there is continued social commentary, specifically with Phineas calling rap the voice of the counterculture. It is interesting to see the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s connected to rap music, a connection I haven’t seen anyone else make. It also points to how much money rappers make and hints that they are corporate, not part of anything equivalent to counterculture at all, as Q calls himself a mogul who is investing in the cannabis industry. There’s also commentary about ex-cons after imprisonment, as Gretchen holds a fundraiser for them, and they are violent and hostile to the guests.
I didn’t laugh as much as the last episode. While I found this episode strong dramatically, I don’t think the comedic moments were as strong as other episodes. The animation was decent and the characters, especially Q and his crew, were given some depth, although the fact they are Black men and are criminals, it tends to use elements of the scary Black man trope. This episode did provide some character development, although I am hopeful that more characters outside of the four protagonists will be developed, especially Gretchen, who is still a bit naive about how the world works. The storylines of the series are simple, but I am confident that the series will keep my interest, as Q survives at the end, declaring he will kill the Freak Brothers, setting up a villain.
The Freak Brothers go to a UFC fight. While there, Phineas finds out that one of the UFC fighters is his son. Meanwhile, Kitty goes around town trying to score some food and Freddy goes to look for her.
Reprinted from Bubbleblabber and Wayback Machine. This was the first article I wrote for Bubbleblabber. I would NOT recommend this series. I only watched it for review purposes. I am a bit ashamed I watched this series as it is total drek. This post was originally published on November 29, 2021.
This adult animated comedy-adventure is coming into its own. Previous weeks have focused on Jeff Bezos and the obsession of billionaires with deep space, and having three brothers, Phineas T. Phreakears, Fat Freddy Freekowtski, and Freewheelin’ Franklin Freek transported from 1969 to the year 2020. This week focused on UFC fighter P.J. Always Barkin Larkin enters the lives of Phineas, Freddy, and Franklin by staying at the Switzer house. Phineas believing that P.J. is his son. Franklin gets jealous and there is lingering emotional tension after P.J. begins having sex with Gretchen, as he wants to do the same after she welcomed his sexual advances.
This series continues to be irreverent, with no shame at showing characters in the nude, sexual acts, and going on psychedelic drug trips which would likely be censored if this series had aired on FOX or Hulu. The show continues to be captivating, even though it is one of the strangest, out there series I’ve seen in a while. It makes me think of the Harold & Kumar films or even the short-lived animated series Magical Girl Friendship Squad, which were both stoner comedies. The voice talents of Woody Harrelson, John Goodman, Pete Davidson, and Tiffany Haddish continue to shine. The same can be said for La La Anthony, Andrea Savage, Phil LaMarr, and Liza del Mundo. However, at times, it sounds like Haddish is talking in a tunnel, with her voice echoing.
This episode has social commentary, especially about the plight of homeless people, which Gretchen terms as houseless people. This reminds me of The Simpsons and Futurama episodes with social commentary of their own and were some of the strongest episodes of each series. This commentary makes the episode much more relatable. I laughed a little when watching this episode, but not as much as I did with earlier episodes. Even so, the series is still a strong comedy. I hope that future episodes provide more character development to not only the main cast, but also Camile, the daughter of Noah and Harper Switzer, and Harper’s sister, Gretchen. That would pique my interest even more in this series, as it seems shallow at times, with its simple storylines, even though the characters continue to stand out. Despite this, I trust this series will still be good enough to pull me into the world of three weird brothers stranded in 2020 and make me glad I watched each episode.
In November 2021, Rad Sechrist, creator of the well-regarded series, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, announced the creation of a platform known as Project City. Writer, comedian, and musician Ethan Becker, director and storyboarder Chase Conley, and character designer, storyboarder, and illustrator Coran Kizer Stone, joined on as co-creators of this platform.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the tenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on February 6, 2022.
Project City was formerly named the Rad How to School, when it was only an animation school. Sechrist recently described the platform as “like several small creator owned studios banding together” to tell stories they wanted. In this article, I’ll examine Project City and projects on the platform. I’ll also discuss the project’s impact on the animation industry and indie animation space.
The official website of Project City describes it as a “project based platform for learning how to create animation.” It proposes a way for artists to fund their own projects by “splitting up the Intellectual Property into Fractional shares” that anyone can buy. This will allow fans to “fund the projects that they want to see happen and artists get to create their vision.” Future profits go to the IP holder. They are then “divided amongst investors and creators, according to their ownership percentages,” in a process known as fractional intellectual property or F-IP for short.
The site says it is trying to seek stories from creators providing “diverse perspectives that explore controversial subject matter” that larger studios wouldn’t touch, while trying to “teach students the ins and outs of animation…[and] allowing them to invest in animated projects.”
The website’s FAQ says that Project City lets people “learn how to make animation” by working on their own projects and offering classes about the “different stages of the production process.”  The same FAQ states that there is a Discord, notes that people can access classes they paid for until their account is inactive, and answers specific questions about projects and teachers. All in all, this platform, which reportedly has a small staff, shows promise beyond anything in the usual studio system.
Project City’s section for animation classes has courses taught by top professionals in the animation industry. These classes focus on voice acting, animation programs, storyboarding, artwork fundamentals, pitching a series, and concept art. Others talk about character design, life drawing, film making, writing for animation, and fundamentals of animation storyboarding.
One of the more interesting sections is about investing in your favorite projects. There are four projects ready to be funded as soon as the F-IP process begins. All four have begun pre-production: Wonna the Wanderer, Robot Hunter: Rossum, Delinquents, and The Brave War.
The first of these series is by Coran Kizer Stone. Its story is simple: a young girl named Wonna wanders into a forest, meeting an old man who sends her on “the most dangerous missions to meet and destroy the most powerful beings” in this world. Currently, it has a script, storyboards, an animatic, and visual development.
The second series is by Chase Conley. In this series, artificial humans known as Primus Proxies have taken mankind prisoner. When a robot champion, Robot Hunter Rossum, appears to kill off the robot oppressors, the real champion, the real Rossum, watches, deciding whether it will aid or stop the impostor.
The third series is by Ethan Becker. It is about “kindness and having fun” with a series of short stories. It is set in the real world rather than a fantasy one. There are characters, such as Pat and Titi, who struggle over whether to kill people, Bo, who has a crush on Zoey, best friends Zoey and Su, and a boy named Max who misses his family.
The final series,The Brave War, is a unique one because Sechrist is one of the co-creators, with writer and director Andra Gunter and Daniel Rojas. This animated film focuses on a group of young graffiti artists “from Watts make a punk song that goes viral.” Before they fulfill their wishes, a “kaiju apocalypse happens, destroying the world and their plans.”
In keeping with Sechrist’s desire for more young adult animation, this is a young adult “2d animated movie with all original music,” featuring Nya Durango, a painter and clothing designer who is 16 years old, an avid drawer C.J., also known as Caleb James, who is 12, and wants to prove himself to Nya and her friends. There’s a crew leader known for his incomplete ideas, Knowledge Croswell, and his little sibling, Essence, who has a “quiet dry sense of humor.”
The series has already been promoted on the Kipo subreddit, where it is described as the “next project after Kipo.”  Andra and Rojas previously both worked on Kipo. Specifically, Andra wrote some songs for Kipo, while Rojas composed music for the series.
On the Kipo subreddit, Sechrist said that music for The Brave War will be composed by Rojas. He described it as separate from Kipo and stated that The Brave War may turn into a bigger series in the future. He argued that The Brave War, in terms of its content, is “somewhere between Guardians of the Galaxy, Walking Dead, and Attack on Titan. Sechrist noted that one of the film’s character, Essence, is non-binary. He further explained that in the film, creatures/monsters are affected by people’s energy, whether they are good or bad. He also argued that the film will have the highest quality animation possible. The show was promoted on other subreddits as well. Sechrist is also working with Gunter on Kin, an animated music series about a demon girl named Kin who falls in love with an angel, and after the angel’s death, goes on a “revenge mission to kill God.”
The platform also has a number of other projects in different stages of completion. This includes stories about miners (Amythias), anime battles (Sideman vs. Beta Squad), a girl who tries to survive in a dangerous, dark cave (Nina), a student who has to face off against a robotic food service who tries to put local food trucks “out of business” (Soul Food), two sisters with magical powers (Hanh and Minh), a young Chupacabra taking chances in an annual band battle (Monstar), and an inter-dimensional wrestling championship (Battle Dimension). There are others about houseless people (Hobos), a mythical shapeshifting monster (Lagahoo Girl), supernatural high school sophomores (Revamped), supernatural gangs (Spirit Fist), a teen girl who accidentally time travels (Time Trip), or a series taking place inside of a video game (Digital Hijinks).
There are various projects consisting of creators sharing fan art, fan comics, webzines, short films, graphic novels, or trying out their storyboarding and drawing. Some projects focus on topics such as masked wrestling (Los Torneos), a gangster trying to leave his brothers (Old Dog), superhuman spies (Titan Effect), a space fighter pilot and his team (Ganymede), and friends who beat up angels (The Pact).
Others share ideas for magic, mystery, thriller, horror, neo-noir, sci-fi fantasy, adventure, humor, action, sports, supernatural, detective, and slice-of-life animated series.  The same site hosts various webcomics, including a sci-fi comic with nudity titledFor Those Who Wonder, an adventure story titled Boundless!, and a comedic, fantasy action titled Taverns and Tentacles.  While there is a lot there, I wish the site was better organized with more subcategories.
Before looking into Project City, I was only familiar withThe Figments, The Garden Age, andIndigo. The head writer and project manager of The Figments, Jennifer Rust, who I have mentioned in past articles, is the creator ofThe Journey for Our Lives, Planet Magi, andLittle Wolf, all on Project City. The Figments is created by Kip, creator of the webtoon Welcome To Sleepy Hollow. In an interesting aside, before it became an animated series, Kipo was a webcomic which ran for 32 issues on a website run by Sechrist. Some of the webcomics on Project City may follow the same path.
On January 7, Sechrist said they were going to do a “very small test run of FIP shares to fund just one shot of Brave War to start,” and asked if there are some cool anime-style animators and background artists he should know about. This led artists and animators to promote themselves in the comments.
On January 28, Ethan Becker posted a video on his channel entitled “I quit my NETFLIX job for this.” In the video, Becker said that they are trying to produce shows that major studios are too afraid to touch, explained what F-IP is, and described a few projects they are working on.
This includes a show by Titmouse Chris Prynoski, who produced shows like The Legend of Vox Machina, The Midnight Gospel, Metalocalypse, and Megas XLR. He described his series in development, Leafland, which has no plot, no characters, just feelings, and experience getting high.
Becker talked about his show, Delinquents, with all the “good” characters killed off. Instead it focuses on the bad kids who live in an abusive household. He said that he would be incorporating many of his personal experiences into the show. He hoped that the show would be something that a lot of kids could relate to.
Gunter, who is working on The Brave War with Sechrist and Rojas, talked about how the film deals with a sense of abandonment. Sechrist described the film as going “against the grain.” Gunter also argued that with animation there is more of a range to make things “real,” with the film placing Black characters in “stressful situations.” He later noted that the show’s title comes from his name in German.
Conley, the creator of Robot Hunter: Rossum, said that none of the projects he had worked on for the last ten years truly represented him. He described how certain aspects of Saturday morning cartoons resonated with him, keeping him going, and giving him inspiration.
Stone, creator of Wonna the Wanderer, described how his characters exist as “emotional beings” in a world. Instead of being heroes or villains, they would be characters who exist. Wonna, the series protagonist, has to battle entities from an artificially created universe, all while she doesn’t realize she is in a simulated world.
Sechrist, Becker, Gunter, and Conley shared the names of actors or actresses they’d like to work with, if they could, and continued to pass around a mic literally attached to a butcher’s knife. It will be interesting to see all four of them (Becker, Gunter, Sechrist, and Conley) come together and talk about their projects every week.
Project City has the potential to expand the indie animation space beyond the scattered, often crowdfunded series on YouTube, some of which are in development and a few which are currently airing likeOllie & Scoops andHelluva Boss. Whether the platform is pioneering or not, it allows for more independence for creators in the series, movies, music, or shows they create. It is also really cool, with its fun and slick design. More significantly, it provides people with a platform to fund and create their own projects outside of using crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Patreon, meaning that it could be a game changer of sorts.  It is, as aspiring screenwriter Wade McGrath described it, “a kickstarter for animation…that also functions as a platform for people to hire other creatives.”
From the chatter on Twitter and responses on YouTube, it seems to be a place that creatives, allowing any possible intellectual property, including a Craig of the Creek storyboarder and it has the “potential to collaborate” with others, allowing “cool projects” to flourish. There are over 3,000 members on the Discord for the platform. Hopefully, Project City will be a boon for indie animation and push the animation industry in a direction that favors creators.
 In one of the comments, Sechrist revealed that “Netflix told me to never pitch them anything like that ever again” and that’s why they “went independent.” That is unfortunate to hear about Kipo, but not surprising. He also noted in September 2021 that he wrote a movie about Wolf, but Netflix “made them remove any stories from Benson Wolf or Jamack from seasons 2 and 3.” So, that sadly will probably not happen. He has been relatively active on the Kipo subreddit. Earlier, he confirmed Asher as a non-binary character and noted Asher was non-binary because some on the crew were non-binary. Sechrist also said they had 30 episodes from Netflix “from the very beginning” and wouldn’t let them do any after that saying that is “sort of the way Netflix wanted to operate.”
 This is different from the approach of Nico Colaleo who said in a February 2021 podcast that he hopes to make Ollie & Scoops bigger and bigger until the series can get studio funding, his ultimately goal, although he is content with keeping it independent, wanting to pitch it to studios in person.
In August of 2021, I wrote about the boom in indie animation, consisting of almost exclusively crowdfunded animations. Earlier this month, I expanded on that and wrote about various indie animations, specifically noting Hazbin Hotel and Wild Card which are in development. As storyboarder Amber Avara put it on January 7, “2022 is the year of sick indie animation, let’s make it happen!” Various creators are making it happen. Due to the number of indie animated series being produced, it is near impossible to mention all of them. Despite that limitation, this article will highlight over ninety indie animated series, giving you a snapshot into the existing boom of indie animation at the present time, with particular notice to those currently airing.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the ninth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on January 27, 2022.
On January 27, the fourth episode of Gods’School, a French indie animation about Olympian gods and Greek mythology, will air on YouTube. The series is created by one animator, Gaylord Cuvillier Philippe Libessart, on his own! In 2018, the series received support from the French National Center for Cinema and Animation, which gave Libessart the “opportunity to start the production and make the pilot episode.” The first episode aired in January 2019, telling the story of Eris, a goddess trying to find her place among gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. Gods’ School has been described as having animation as “gorgeous as classic Disney,” and it is adorable, really cool, an addicting and amazing cartoon that should be more well-known, and praised for its talented voice cast. Some have drawn fan art of the show’s characters. As of the writing of this post, three episodes of the series have aired.
Other indie animated series currently airing include Wisdom Nunn’s Bob’s World, Vivienne Medrano’s Helluva Boss, and Nico Colaleo’s series, Ollie & Scoops. Helluva Boss also includes several LGBTQ characters: Blitzo is pansexual, Moxxie is bisexual, Stolas is gay or bisexual, and Sallie May is a trans woman. In the latter series, there was an episode in October 2020 centered around a teacher, Binnie, admitting she liked a fellow teacher, Wendy. Just as prominent is Eddsworld, a long-running animated series which began in December 2004. It continues to rack up millions of views on its YouTube channel, even with its Eddsworld Beyond season, which began in 2021 with Matt Hargreaves as a showrunner.
Additional currently airing series include the spy mystery series SCP Origins, where incompetent spies try and take down villains, an adult animated comedy named Nora and Zin, and an ongoing series named The West Patch which describes itself as “a dark look at the side effects of consequence-free children’s programing.” For the latter series, at present, there have been two episodes so far. There are spinoffs also like Space Triage and The Following Call. Also currently out for viewing are the Instagram clip show Ronzilla, an original animated web series in which all the characters are dolls with the name of Project Infinity, and a murder mystery series named The Marvelous Adventures of Danny DeComp. The majority of these series air on YouTube. This again makes clear the preference of the video sharing platform as a place to share series, making it even more popular than somewhere like Newgrounds.
In January of this year, non-binary Argentine artist, Moon, creator of the sci-fi series in development, Indigo, asked indie series creators to promote themselves. Many people responded. Georden Whitman shared news about his animated pilot in development, Port by the Sea, which focuses on two kids (Umi and Port) sailing the seas to “find pieces of their broken moon, before an ancient deity swallows the world in ocean.” Matt Acuña shared information about The GardenAge, a series in development focused on “cute bugs on their journey to stop a lawnmower from destroying their world.” Andre Grandpierre noted that he is developingLong Way from DelArte, an animated series about friends traveling around the world, in hopes of “achieving their artistic dreams.” Some said that they were developing hand-drawn animated films or animated series, all in distinct stages of development.  Of these creators, some had some prominence in the animation industry. For instance, Whitman is the creator of Nomad of Nowhere and Acuña is the Production Coordinator for Bob’s Burgers.
In addition, Mugshot & Pollen is about two best friends hanging out, Starmakers, an action/adventure series, is about a bisexual girl named Astra who joins a guild and teams up with people to fight monsters after escaping those who want her as a “source of power.” There is a sci-fi, comedy, and horror series with the title The Heroes of Tomorrow and a series about wolves called Wolves of Cecila. It is one of the many wolf-related series out there, with those in development including Demon Soul, the concluded series All Lone Ones, and The Shadow Marked. An animated “homage to 8-bit retro gaming” named Bit Wars and a sci-fi series which may be released in June titled Monkey Wrenchare just two more examples of potential upcoming indie animated series.
The creators of The Descendants said they would pitch their show this year. The series Lumi and the Great Big Galaxy had a fundraiser while the show was in pre-production. Amber Avara, mentioned at the beginning of this article, continued working on an indie anime named Nocturne, sharing information about the character, images of color tests, and character sheets with her followers. Alpha Betas is going ahead, according to its Twitter and listings on its YouTube page. It appears that Long GoneGulch, by Tara Billinger and Zach Bellissimo, is also going onto the next stage of its development, either by submitting the pilot, or becoming an indie animated series beyond the pilot. It’s hard to know where Long Gone Gulch goes from here, whether it will stay on YouTube or end up on a major network.
Since my last post, Cartoon Connect‘s series Little Ron Ron, Gotta Be Mo, Lumen, or Loyalty High have not been continued. He appears to be working on a new animated series called Kenny Quick, asking for voice actor auditions in November 2021. The same is the case for Brandon Wright – it looks like his animated series Silver Lin is unlikely to continue. The same appears to be the case for Guardian Instance. Despite this, Diver appears to be on track, as a video this month noted that a new episode was being developed. TheQuickening, with a pilot airing in July 2020, and Ascendants, a series which appeared to be in development, are dead in the water.  While those shows may be ending, unless something miraculous happens, Howdy Cloudboy, a Western genre series with a main cast who are “all black lqbtq+ folks,” is being developed by a Black and Queer led studio named Faeduck Studios.
The Far-Fetched Show, created by Ashley Nichols and Dave Capdevielle, who both previously worked on Hazbin Hotel, has gone ahead. The official account put out a call for more animators and clean-up artists at the beginning of this year. Far-Fetched is a horror comedy about Rue Cervello (voiced by Nola Klop), a young woman who loses her chaotic canine, Kira (voiced by Jazmine Luevanos), and joins a bunch of musical misfits (Quinn, Griff, Piper, and Warren) who are part of the band Sesamoid. They work together to fight and survive in a place where science clashes with the supernatural. There are two villains: Drain (voiced by Michael Zekas) and Blair (voiced by Lauren Landa).
At one point last year, there was a post of the show’s official Twitter, showing the characters holding LGBTQ flags. Rue holds a sweater saying she is questioning, Quinn Hickley (voiced by J. Michael Tatum) holds the demisexual panromantic flag, Griff (voiced by Jacob Takanashi) holds an asexual flag, and Piper Stubbs (voiced by Dani Chambers) holds a lesbian flag, while Kira and Warren Webber (voiced by Jonah Scott) are allies. This was clarified by Nichols. The show’s current route is to fully fund the pilot themselves, then launch a larger crowdfunding campaign and merchandising to give the series “longer episodes” and make additional “bonus content.”
Presumably, shows like Satina, a dark comedy, will include LGBTQ characters. Hopefully, Satina will premiere this year. Like Satina, which continues to be in development if anything can be gleaned by creator Hannah Daigle’s YouTube channel, once the episodes of Far-Fetched are finished, they will be on YouTube. Comics of the show’s characters will likely be released.
A show I learned about recently is LimeLight. It started development in January 2021 and is created by a small production team that is part of the Uphoria Animation Studio. It is about a young Black woman named Ashira GoldenFire (voiced by Jazzy Greene) in New Orleans who tries to make it in the music industry. She is helped by her friend Cheryl Stone (voiced by Zoie E. Absher). Both go through “hardships and the evolution of music” as they try to achieve their dreams. But her path becomes harder after she brings Carter Sillver (voiced by Jack Kelly Savage), a Voodoo man, into her life. It is, as the show’s official website describes it, a series with a “twisted love story and adventure.”
The series, which has crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo and Patreon, already has a talented cast. Apart from those already mentioned, the cast is diverse, with various Black and Brown actors. Most of those on the crew appear to be first-time actors as the page on IMDB for the show indicates. The series is created by Hannah I. Johnson, who serves as writer, director, and producer.
Apart from Johnson, the show’s team consists of over 30 people, headed by a voice director, production manager, animation director, and editor. It includes various character and creature designers, background artists, writers, storyboarders, animators, and musicians. Johnson, known as MoralSky on Twitter, is the head writer on Samson, described as a “modern take on Robin Hood,” a producer of Robert J. Preston’s Fighting All Odds, an indie coming-of-age animated series about a deaf girl named Jackie, and founder of the Uphoria Animation Studio. Johnson has said, some time ago, that she’d like the pilot of LimeLight to be released in Winter of this year or early 2023.
LimeLight is not the only indie animated series about music. Far-Fetched, which was discussed earlier, focuses on a band, as does Battle of the Bands, a 2d mature animated series created byAllissoon Lockhart, a producer of Studio Meala, supervisor at Netflix, manager of the Qbomb band, and a drummer, with Parker Simmons as the co-showrunner. As it turns out, the lead character designer of Battle of the Bands, Max Monroy, is also the lead character designer on Far-Fetched!
Simmons was previously the creator and executive producer of Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart. The show, Battle of the Bands, is an adult action fantasy. It has Arin Hanson, Game Grumps, Hunter Peterson, Matthew Di Panni, and Hunter Burgan as producers. It looks like it will come out some time this year. Hanson, Di Panni, Erica Mendez, Sarah Natochenny, Erika Ishii, and Imari are voice actors who are part of a band called Heat Seekers. Already character sheets and bios about the show’s characters have been posted, it has been said there will be a lot of LGBTQ characters, and amazing art about the show has been shared as well, along with the show’s music score. Lockhart has been very active in answering questions and talking about the show on Tik Tok, Twitter, Twitch, Instagram, and elsewhere, including noting the female musicians among the show characters, since the show was created in 2017.
LimeLight,Battle of the Bands, and Band of Mythix make me think about a Metal Family, a Russian indie animated series focusing on a heavy metal-loving family, I recently reviewed. Similar to Metal Family, Battle of the Bands, Band of Mythix, and LimeLight will be released in some form on YouTube. Unlike Metal Family, the aforementioned series are primarily English language series. Although the Metal Family is originally in the Russian language, it has a different voice cast for English dubbed episodes.
On an unrelated note, it’s exciting to see that the show, Road to Friendship, has changed into a show named Corrupted Memories. That series is created by Jocelyn Saravia, a deaf Latinx storyboard artist, and they are collaborating with their friends on the show. This new show is about a mysterious stolen experimental drug which causes “tension between the group of college students.”
Not every indie animation can survive the process of development. Some series are abandoned or ended for a reason or another. One recent example of this is Rain: The Animated Series, based on the soon-to-end webcomic of the same name by Jocelyn Samara DiDomenick which has a trans protagonist named Rain Flaherty, a bisexual aunt of Rain named Fara, a gay man named Aiken Flaherty, a lesbian named Maria Strongwell, a pansexual girl named Emily Caston, and a trans woman named Jessica Li, along with additional characters. The official YouTube channel described it as a “story for boys, girls, and everyone in between.” In September 2021, it was abruptly cancelled before the series premiere.  However, the video of the cancellation was later updated to say that while the attempt to “adapt the full comic” has ended since “many of the old cast and crew have moved on,” videos will presumably come in the future. This was further confirmed by a comment saying that while the comic is no longer being animated, there will be “more shorts and videos.” This means that thepassion project can continue, but not as a full-fledged animated series. Even so, such an animated series is still possible. One comment said it is only “canceled for now.” Another said that the original push for an animated series fell apart. 
There are additional series I could talk about, like Rogue Metro, a 2D animated “post-cyberpunk science fantasy series with medieval inspirations,” and the S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters series which has a non-binary protagonist named Salem, along with Oliver who is gay, and Petra who is asexual. Its release date is unknown. The show’s official Twitter account has been silent since April of last year. In exciting news, however, this upcoming April, the series Interstellar Ranger Commence will be released on the official YouTube channel of Browntable, the production company for the series. This independent anime show will release episodes on a monthly basis, and is already set for a season 2!
In the end, I am optimistic that the boom in indie animated series will continue this year and for years to come, bringing joy to creators, artists, voice actors, and viewers alike.
 Century Park is said to include Indigenous characters. Christopher Wade noted his film, in development, The Will of Monsters. Jenn noted their indie animation studio, Sunflower Club, and their animatic pilot for The Figments. It is not known the progress of Dark Harvest, with the official account saying that the episode is 45% done, and the show’s creator calls himself an “expert procrastinator.” The same can be said about Aisle99 which has an inactive YouTube channel, but semi-active Twitter, or CriTORA. The social media accounts for animated series like Harri’s World,Dirt: The Series, Romancing Roslyn Cherry, Phantom Hollow,Deranged, Zoolaplex, Cabiria Intermezzo, Here We Are, and Demonic Crepes (created by Bubblegum Cartoons, and has a pilot in 2019) are inactive. While there is a listing of those working on the show Mayhem by Magpie V. Raven’s website, she is stepping back to pursue her own projects, like the Kina’s Adventure series while Sir Mayhem / Paul may continue the series after the animated film Mayhem Zombie Oblivion premieres. Raven is also an artist for Lackadaisy, Mystery Skulls, Ollie & Scoops, and more. The pilot episode of Stars Align has been written, and it will “premiere when completed on YouTube,” with characters redrawn, people cast for roles, in a series with The Owl House and Infinity Trainvibes. It is possible that Sara Eissa’s Astur’s Rebellion might be pitched somewhere again, as that animation is now under a company named Toon Cave, according to the updated website.
 The author of the webcomic based on the series, Jocelyn Samara DiDomenick, said that there was a number of reasons for the series ending, but said that “the very short answer…is that things just kinda weren’t working out” and called it “a bummer,” but is trying to look at the positive here.
 Cirque Du Monstro (CDM) is an additional series which fell apart, but for different reasons than Rain. The CDM Twitter account was deleted. The YouTube channel is empty. The creator, Krisis, seems to have scammed those who wanted to work with them, and sexually assaulted (and harassed) people, according to animators and storyboarders. For information on the latter, see Céline Heijnen’s thread beginning here, Bakakoujin’s tweet (and tweet thread), Antonia Pinnola’s Facebook post, and other tweets. Even a month before the tweets in December 2021, various animators promoted the show. According to a private tweet of Krisis‘s account, M0nsterParent, on December 8, 2021, the “CDM crew has been officially disbanded” and the animation is no longer being made. This is unfortunate because I felt that the project had some promise. Animators like Shou Tuzi (creating Tallyho!) stepped away from any affiliation with the show or the company producing it, 3M Productions, as did voice actor Mark Allen Jr.
In recent years, there has been an increase in indie animations, including on platforms such as YouTube. One of those series is the musical-themed Russian mature animation series, Metal Family.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the eighth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on January 8, 2022.
The action-adventure and drama series focuses on a Russian family of metal fans, each with their own personalities: there are Victoria and Glam, two metalheads in love with one another, and they have two children, Heavy and Dee. It follows the creative ways that the family deals with problems every day and manifests various tropes. Dee is 15 years old and Heavy is 13. Victoria is 37 and Glam is 39-40.
The series has a number of interesting small details that sets it apart from other animation series. For example, the opening of each episode begins with the character, or characters, hanging up their key, with the way each character hangs up their key a specific reflection of their personalities. There are also various pop culture references throughout the series to bands such as Metallica, System of a Down, Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi, and Led Zeppelin. Unlike some other series, this show takes place in a blurred world, without any specific location.
Metal Family does not shy away from mature topics. Victoria often drinks and smokes, while her husband, Glam, does not. She even gambles. The last part of the first season focuses on Glam Shvagenbagen’s troubled childhood going to a music conservatory. He meets a friend named Ches/ Chive who introduced him to Twisted Sister, heavy metal music, and gives him his current nickname. He leaves home for good after living with his abusive father, Gustav. Leaving his past behind, he chooses to be part of the “rabble” as his father puts it. He finds a family for himself in music and in the companionship of Victoria.
The show plays with the idea of a “strong man” defending a “weak” woman. In this series, Glam is diminutive but nasty in a polite way while Victoria is buff and brash. She is not afraid to throw a person out of a window or punch a hole through a wall, if warranted. Glam is more calculating and can solve problems by using his mind. Victoria likes to smash things apart – as she does in an escape room in an episode. She is a little like Princess Bean in Disenchantment, an alcoholic, and Harley Quinn in the series of the same name, who carries around a baseball bat which she uses to protect herself, those she cares about, and fight for what she believes is right.
The series is produced by a small team and is created by Alina Kovaleva. Xydownik co-directed the series with Kovaleva. Both work as series animators. According to the fandom site for the series, Koveleva works on the series full-time, using Adobe Animate CC. It took over two years to create the show’s first season. Alexey Khrapov worked in the show’s sound department. Alexey Vasilevsky composed original music, apart from the show’s other music. Karin Karimova worked as a violinist, Daniyl Yakovenko as a music consultant, and Luis Rojas as a guitar soloist.
The Russian voice actors have been consistent. Blin voices Glam and Dee. Roman Volkov voices Gustav and Xydownik voices Heavy. Kovaleva voiced a Youtube Instructor in a 2021 episode as well as Victoria. Xydownik also voices Ches in two episodes, along with characters like Rowd and the Conservatory Dean. Flynn The VA voices Drusilla. There’s also a background character named Celestie, and therapist Dr. Hans.
The English dub introduced new voice actors, including Elliot Cancel as Chive / Ches, Randolph Castellanos as Dee, Lydia Shvagenbagen, and Richard Armstrong, Hoctor as Gustav, London Hartman as Heavy, Kylie Ann as Mary Shvagenbagen, Ry Harte as Glam, and Chiari Queen as Victoria. Hoctor also voices biker gang member Bug, Ann voices Anna, a cynical radical feminist.
The series first aired on September 13, 2018, released in Russian, with English subtitles added after its release, ending its run in 2020. The pilot episode was also a music video sung by Avantasia, is entitled “The Story ain’t Over.” Since February 2021, an English dub of the episodes has been released on a separate YouTube channel, with a hilarious 3-minute trailer for the release of the English dub. Through 2021, the 10-episode first season aired on YouTube and the second season began in late December 2021. Oksana Gunchenko helped translate and adapt the episodes of the series.
The series has been positively received by fans, with over 140 fan fics on Archive of Our Own, garnering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, and has high rankings on IMDB. Hundreds of thousands more follow a fan site for the show on the Russian language social media platform, VK. This is impressive for a series with relatively new voice actors, with this series as their first big roles, and even for animators. A few are involved in other indie animated projects, like Kylie Ann as an animator on Legends of Myiorda, an anime/cartoon series. Some previously worked on Russian language productions.
Updates about the series are shared on Xydownik’s Russian-language YouTube channel, the Instagram account of Kovaleva, a channel on Telegram, and Kovaleva’s VK account. Like Helluva Boss, Heavy, one of the show’s characters, has an official Instagram account, posting candid photos from his life. This encourages people to be more deeply invested in the show. There’s even an official store to buy merchandise and items related to the show.
The voice acting and animation of Metal Family were intriguing. The story kept me watching the episodes and I say this as as a person who likes listening to metalheads like Caleb Hyles and the band Twisted Sister. The characters were complex enough and were not stereotypes which made me excited about what is going to come next. In the end, I’d highly recommend this series, especially for those who like badass characters, music, and compelling stories.
It’s the middle of Disability Pride Month, but that doesn’t mean there should stop the focus on characters with disabilities. The eight webcomics featured in this month’s roundup celebrate various relationships, and stories, of characters with physical and mental disabilities. Webcomics featured are mainly from WebToon* and elsewhere.
In December 2020, I wrote that there is “hope in the future for diverse storylines and expanded representation,” adding that there is “a lot to look forward to in 2021 in terms of animated series…[which] will undoubtedly affect the ongoing war between streaming platforms for more subscribers, profits for themselves, and film distribution itself.” That still rings true, and 2021 has even more representation that I had imagined in December 2020, with continuing series like The OwlHouse, Disenchantment, Helluva Boss, Star Trek: Lower Decks, the third (and final) season of Final Space, and many others. The representation in 2021 is part of the “whirlwind” of LGBTQ representation which creator ND Stevenson described in November 2021.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the seventh article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on January 5, 2022.
When Autostraddle, a digital lesbian culture publication, posted about their annual awards show, the Annual Gay Emmys, in September 2021, the influence of LGBTQ representation in animation was evident.  While most of the nominees for the categories were live-action series, there was an entire category dedicated to such series, “Outstanding Animated Series.” Harley Quinn, Blues Clues & You!, the “Obsidian” episode of Adventure Time: Distant Lands, The Owl House, “The Politics Episode” of One Day at a Time, and Magical Girl Friendship Squad were nominees.  The Harley Quinn episode “Something Borrowed,” was one of the nominees for the “Best Episode with LGBTQ+ Themes” category, and two couples in animated series were nominated for the “Fan Favorite Couple” question. When the results were announced Harley Quinn won for Outstanding Animated Series, although it was unfortunately the only animated series to win in a category. Of the series nominated, Magical Girl Friendship Squad and One Day at a Time ended in 2020,  Distant Lands ended in 2021, while three others are ongoing (Harley Quinn, Blue Clues & You!, and The Owl House).
Keeping this in mind, reviewer Jade King, in a review of The Owl House, said “we shouldn’t look toward giant corporations for continual queer representation.” While that still rings true, many of the shows with LGBTQ representation are produced and broadcast by such companies. For instance, of the over 20 Western animations noted in this article, almost all of them are produced by the subsidiaries of companies like Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, and Sony, which bring in more than $1 billion a year.  The same is the case with many of the Japanese anime series noted in this post, which tend to have more LGBTQ representation, generally, than Western animation, although the instances of representation between Western and Japanese animation is slowly reaching the same level, and Japanese anime often plays into “many problematic aspects” and stereotypes in one way or another. King also pointed out that queer representation is not a competition, but should be a collaboration, rather than putting down one show while elevating another, arguing that “queer representation isn’t a linear path to acceptance. It’s messy and inconsistent.”
In 2021, shows on streaming platforms lead the way when it came to representation. Netflix tops the list in this regard, with shows like Disenchantment,Carmen Sandiego (to a lesser extent), and City of Ghosts. With Disenchantment, the show was described as “queer through and through,” with what some would call queer vibes throughout, had its third part air on Netflix in January of 2021. Recurring characters Odval (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) and Sorcerio (voiced by Billy West) were shown to be a gay couple, while there was an implied gay couple between Big Jo (voiced by LaMarche), and his assistant, Porky. Furthermore, Princess Bean, called a “rebellious, alcoholic, adventurous princess” by one reviewer, the show’s protagonist, voiced by Abbi Jacobson, was shown to be bisexual or pansexual. This is illustrated through her kissing the elf, Elfo (voiced by Nat Faxon), trying to have sex with various men, seeming to have feelings for Lady Bowmore (voiced by Tress MacNeille), female explorer, and falling in love with a mermaid named Mora (voiced by Meredith Hagner). This is further supported by the fact that Jacobsen is bisexual herself, making the representation that much more genuine. As for Carmen Sandiego, it was more implied than anything else. In February, in Instagram Live interview, Duane Capizzi, the showrunner of Carmen Sandiego, said that it was intentional that Le Chevre (also known as Jean Paul) and El Topo (also known as Antonio) were together, and confirmed them at a couple, calling them villains which are “sweet,” but you “can’t help but love.” 
Some fans also speculated that protagonist Carmen Sandiego had feelings for Julia “Jules” Argent, called “Carulia” by fans, but that has not been confirmed by Capizzi or anyone on the show’s staff. Similarly, for City of Ghosts, the LGBTQ representation was subtle rather than outward like in Disenchantment. In the case of that series, Thomas, one of the show’s protagonists, a specialist of the Ghost Club and voiced by transgender child actor Blue Chapman, was non-binary, confirmed as such by show creator Elizabeth Ito. One episode of the series also showed a character with two mothers. The series, more broadly, was praised for its simple animation and characters, but having “strikingly complex” stories and background art which reflects the “realities of one of America’s richest cultural melting pots,” Los Angeles.
Disenchantment,Carmen Sandiego, and City of Ghosts were not the only Netflix shows with LGBTQ characters. The kids-oriented Ridley Jones also included such characters. The preschool animated series included a non-binary bison named Fred voiced by Iris Menas, and two characters (Aten and Kosi) voiced by Andrew Rannells and Chris Colfer, two openly gay actors. The series was created by Chris Nee, who created series like We ThePeople and Doc McStuffins, both of which featured LGBTQ characters. Nee described herself as gay and “relatively butch” in an interview in 2021. Jacobson, who had voiced Bean in Disenchantment, voiced Katie, the protagonist of the animated film, The Mitchells vs. the Machines. In the film, she wears a pin with a rainbow flag and later is noted as having a girlfriend named Jade at film school, with the representation relatively subtle. More outward, in terms of the representation, were Chicago Party Aunt, which included a a gay man named Daniel, and Q-Force, which featured an assortment of LGBTQ characters. The latter series, which had caused great controversy and consternation online due to its use of stereotypes, features a gay protagonist named Steve Maryweather (voiced by Sean Hayes), a gay man named Benji (voiced by Gabe Liedman), a lesbian woman named Deb (voiced by Wanda Sykes), and a gay drag queen named Twink (voiced by Matt Rogers). A late-comer to this article was Arcane, the first part which aired from November 6 to November 20. Show writer Amanda Overton confirmed that Caitlyn Kiramman was a lesbian, saying that there is no word for gay or stigmatization against it in Piltover, meaning that Caitlyn could “marry any gender or race suitor,” but such a person would become “a part of her house.” Overton also said that the relationship between Caitlyn and Vi is “naturally developing,” with the trauma that Vi’s parents were killed by Enforcers, with Vi also confirmed as a lesbian as well. On Twitter, Overton said that everyone on the show’s crew is “working together to tell the same story.”
On November 25, 2021, the final season of F Is For Family, aired on Netflix. It included Louis, the gay brother of Sue, a character voiced by Neil Patrick Harris, an openly gay actor. It also included Ginny Throater, who divorces her husband, Greg Throater, and is bisexual, while Greg is gay, and divorces her as a result. Additionally, Eileen, Frank’s sister, is lesbian and becomes Ginny’s lover. The second and final season of the Netflix series, Centaurworld, premiered on December 7. It featured three gay characters: Zulius, Ched, and Splendib. Zulius, who was hinted to be gay in the show’s first season was confirmed as such in the second season, while Ched was revealed to be gay. Furthermore, Zulius is voiced by Parvesh Cheena, an openly gay actor.
Other than shows on Netflix, there were multiple series on other streaming platforms included LGBTQ characters. For instance, Volume 8 of RWBY, running from November 2020 to March 2021, which streamed on the Rooster Teeth website, featured a trans woman named May Marigold, who is voiced by a trans woman, Kdin Jenzen, a bisexual catlike woman named Blake Belladonna (voiced by Arryn Zech), and various lesbian characters. The latter included Ilia Amitola (voiced by Cherami Leigh) and a couple (Saphron and Terra Cotta-Arc) who have a child named Adrian. At the same time, the first season of Invincible, which aired on Amazon Prime from March to April 2021, included a gay recurring character named William Francis Clockwell, voiced by openly gay actor Andrew Rennells.
HBO Max, also owned by Warner Media like Rooster Teeth, featured a gay couple, Jonny Quest and Hadji Sing, in Jellystone!, while Young Justice, which focuses on young superheroes from DC comics, has a rash of such characters. Specifically, Kaldur’ahm/Aqualad (voiced by Khary Payton) is polysexual, while Marie Logan (voiced by Danica McKellar) is bisexual or lesbian, Eduardo “Ed” Dorado Jr. (voiced by Freddy Rodriguez) is gay, Violet Harper (voiced by Zehra Fazal) is genderqueer, Wyynde (voiced by Robbie Daymond) is gay, and Harper Row (voiced by Fazal) is bisexual. The second half of the fourth season of Young Justice premiered in late October of 2021 and aired until December 30, 2021. While Kaldur reappeared in the newest season and with speaking lines, characters such as Ed, Bart, Violet, and Harper either had no lines, were only pictured, or only their voices were heard. At the same time, Logan died in Season 2, Wynnde has not made an appearance. These are unfortunate developments.
The HBO Max preschool series, Little Ellen, featured same-sex couples, with a second part of season one released in October, while Summer Camp Island, which also airs on HBO Max, includes a non-binary couple (Alien King and Puddle) and two presumably gay ghosts. It was also implied in various episodes that Timothy Brice Campbell in the HBO Max series Close Enough was either gay or bisexual. The second and presumably final season of gen:LOCK premiered on HBO Max and it featured a genderfluid character named Val(entina) Romanyszyn. Her character was not only groundbreaking as a genderfluid character by smashing apart tropes attributed to such characters, but is voiced by a non-binary pansexual voice actor named Asia Kate Dillon. Val confirmed that she was pansexual in the same season and Robert Sinclair was shown to be gay, with a boyfriend named Chris.
Other streaming platforms, like Paramount+ had animated series with LGBTQ characters. For example, the Rugrats reboot, a gay single mother named Betty DeVille, voiced by openly queer actress Natalie Morales, is a character. More prominent, however, is Star Trek: Lower Decks, fulfilling on Mike McMahan’s commitment to explore the identity of Beckett Mariner, who is voiced by Tawny Newsome. In the episode “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” Mariner tells Tendi, “I’m always dating bad boys, bad girls, bad gender non-binary babes, ruthless alien masterminds, bad bynars,” with a reviewer saying that Mariner affirms that “she is essentially pansexual.” In another episode she reveals she spent time on a space station and notes one of the nature preserves they are going to is where she went on a date, not specifying whether the date was male or female. She also calls Boimler, her male friend and colleague, her “number one.” Andy Billups (voiced by Paul Scheer), the ship’s chief engineer, is implied to be asexual as he has no interest, in the episode “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie,”of sleeping with the male or the female guard, and he is not shown participating in any sex acts in the “Naked Time” simulator in the show’s following episode. Whether the series follows up on this in an expected third season is anyone’s guess. At the same time, Star Trek Prodigy, also on Paramount+ includes Zero, who is a Medusan, with Medusans as genderless aliens who use they/them pronouns.
Hulu and Peacock also featured LGBTQ characters. In March, the series creators of Solar Opposites, Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan confirmed that Korvo and Terry are a romantic couple in a committed relationship. Another Hulu series has two LGBTQ characters, one of whom is bisexual (Melissa Tartleton) and another which is gay (Gary Garoldson). Furthermore, in the a Pride-themed episode of the children’s animation, Madagascar: A Little Wild, an okapi named Odee Elliott appears, who is non-binary. Odee is voiced by Iris Menas who said the episode’s biggest takeway is “acceptance and love and celebration” while GLAAD’s director of entertainment media, Jeremy Blacklow, said the episode comes at a time that “LGBTQ inclusion in kids and family programming is rapidly growing,” and stated that DreamWorks Animation is partners with GLAAD to “ensure that all families are represented on-screen.”
A late comer is the Crunchyroll coming-of-age series High Guardian Spice, created by a trans man, Raye Rodriguez, who was a character designer for Shadi Petosky’s Danger & Eggs animated series. This series featured trans and lesbian characters, with one of the trans characters voiced by Rodriguez himself! The other character, Snapdragon “Snap”, was voiced by a trans woman, and is on the road to transitioning to being a trans woman by the end of the series. The lesbian characters included two cousins of Sage, one of the story’s protagonists. They are named Aloe and Anise, her wife. The person who voiced Anise is a lesbian actress and she voiced two other characters in the show, meaning that those characters could be arguably lesbian coded. Furthermore, Sage showed an attraction to Snap and her friend Rosemary, meaning that she is presumably a lesbian, and Rose may be as well. Thyme, one of the show’s other protagonists, shows an attraction to a mermaid in one episode, while her roommate Parsley is very close with her. At the same time, another voice actor is openly gay and a person who voices a character named “Slime Boy” is ambiguously queer.
At the same time, terrestrial broadcast networks had their share of LGBTQ characters. This included gay men Crispin Cienfuegos and Ham Tobin in The Great North, voiced by Julio Torres and Pauli Rust respectfully, an implied lesbian woman named Frankie (voiced by Naomi McDonald) in Cartoon Network’s Elliott from Earth, and a queer man named Jerry Smith. Craig of the Creek, another Cartoon Network animated series currently airing features non-binary, lesbian, gay, and agender characters. Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!featured an alphabet song which featured multiple Pride flags, Jessie Juwono, a supervising director of the now-ended Big Hero 6: The Series, confirmed Globby and Felony Carl, as a gay couple, and storyboarder Sam King said, two days after the series finale of Disney’s DuckTales, that she would permit fans to “assume I think every character except, like, Lunaris, is LGBTQIA+ in some shape or another.” On the other hand, Nickelodeon’s still-airing The Loud House features lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters. Another series, Tuca & Bertie, the new season of which began airing on Adult Swim in June 2021, on Netflix for season 1, featured various LGBTQ characters as well. This included a bisexual Toucan named Tuca, and a female seagull, Kara, who is a former love interest of Tuca.
The ongoing Cartoon Network series, Victor and Valentino, features a character who is implied to be a lesbian: Xochi Jalapeno, voiced by Cristina Vee. As I wrote in November 2020, she has a clear romantic interest in another woman, Amabel, and her lesbianism is “heavily implied by her never showing romantic feelings for male characters and often blushing when she is around Amabel.” Sadly, in May of 2021, it was announced that The Venture Bros was ending. The series featured various LGBTQ characters such as the openly gay Colonel Horace Gentleman, a lesbian character named Virginia “Ginnie” Dunne, and a gay couple: The Alchemist and Shore Leave. Luckily, it was later announced the series would have a direct-to-video film continuation at some point.
Some shows aired on actual television channels and on broadcast networks. One such show was Final Space, with the show’s final season premiering on Adult Swim first, then later HBO Max and Netflix (for international broadcasts), from March 2021 to June 2021. The show’s cancellation was confirmed by show creator Olan Rogers. Final Space had previously aired on TBS. In December of 2020, I wrote that “if rumors are true, then the third season of Final Space will have LGBTQ characters” and that turned out to be be true! This was manifested in a humanoid alien by the name of Ash Graven voiced by Ashly Burch. She had previously voiced a bisexual woman in OK K.O.!: Let’s Be Heroes named Enid, a non-binary Gem woman in Steven Universe named Rutile Twins, a lesbian woman named Laney in The Loud House, and currently voices Molly McGee, a Thai-American protagonist of the series, The Ghost and Molly McGee.
In Final Space, however, Ash was shown to be a lesbian character in the eighth episode of the show’s final season, as she holds hands with a genderless being, Evra, voiced by a biracial queer actress, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and she had previously hated a man who had rejected her in a previous season. In a podcast about the episode, Rogers confirmed that Ash was lesbian and noted that his co-writer, David Sacks, pushed for an episode about Ash, while he had wanted to do another character. He also stated, at the time, that if the show were to have another season he would expand on the relationship between Ash and Evra. Sadly, he never got the chance to do this due to the show’s cancellation. The show also included recurring LGBTQ characters like Clarence Polkawitz (voiced by Conan O’Brien), a selfish man, as bisexual, and the gender-flipping possibly genderfluid Tribore Menendez (voiced by Rogers), while Rogers himself said that he would have pushed for Little Cato as a gay character in another season.
Other examples of shows airing on television and streaming platforms were Duncanville and HouseBroken, which aired on Hulu and FOX. Duncanville features a recurring genderfluid character named Mia Abarra (voiced by Rashida Jones), a kiss between one of the protagonists, Annie, and another woman, Sandra, and features background characters mentioning they are in gay relationships in several episodes in the show’s newest season. LGBTQ characters were throughout HouseBroken, whether a gay trans male cat named Chico, a bisexual mixed-breed terrier Diablo, and the owners of Tabitha, Stelios and Brett, as a same-sex couple. In November, in an episode of The Simpsons, a FOX series which has been running since 1989, Smithers was shown with a new boyfriend who was named Michael de Graaf.
More prominent is The Owl House, the first half of the second season which aired on the Disney Channel from June to August, then was added to Disney+ later. While it is aimed at pre-teens, the series is a “deep story with a simple premise” as one reviewer described it. A second season canonized the semi-canon feelings between a bisexual Afro-Dominican/Afro-Latina young woman named Luz Noceda (voiced by Sarah-Nicole Robles) and a lesbian young woman named Amity Blight, which fans dubbed “Lumity.” It also introduced a new non-binary character named Raine Whispers, voiced by Avi Roque, a non-binary actor, and confirmed that Eda Clawthorne (voiced by Wendie Malick) is queer because she had feelings for Raine, who she previously dated before breaking up, and previously noted she had ex-boyfriends. Furthermore, Mae Whitman, who voices Amity, came out as pansexual. The way forward for The Owl House beyond Season 3 is uncertain, as showrunner Dana Terrace stated in early October. Unlike previous Disney shows, which featured LGBTQ actors who generally did not voice LGBTQ characters, The Owl House features LGBTQ actors voicing LGBTQ characters, such as Mae Whitman.  Another currently airing Disney series, Big City Greens, featured two gay characters: Alexander and Terry.
Other Disney shows seemed to feature LGBTQ characters as well. In one episode of Amphibia there were two women who were coded based on the bisexual and pansexual flags, according to the show’s art director, named Jess and Ally. The latter was voiced by Latina comedian Melissa Villaseñor who is of Mexican descent. In another episode, a man was shown proposing to another man. As Jade King pointed out, there is a possibility of confirmed representation between two of the show’s protagonists, Anne Boonchuy and Marcy Wang, while there is “chemistry between Yunan and Olivia…teasing…a full relationship between the two.” There was even an episode which a song by Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, was shown.
In two episodes of The Ghost and Molly McGee, a lesbian character named Ms. Roop, who is voiced by Jane Lynch, a lesbian woman, is shown. In the episode “Mazel Tov, Libby!”, she is slow-dancing with a woman and in the next episode she is shown to be a lesbian. The woman she dancing with is her wife, Pam. Samantha C. King, a director for the show, said thatRoop is a “lesbian who always talks about her wife” and added that Pam and Roop aren’t the only LGBTQ characters, but that there will be “more significant rep later on.” Others have even argued that Molly McGee herself is bisexual, claiming that during a musical sequence in one episode, a bi flag-colored sticker can be seen on Molly’s motorcycle helmet, but this is only a unconfirmed theory. One of the show’s creators, Bob Roth, one of the show’s creators stated as much, urging fans to let the representation “unfold naturally.”
One indie animation put many of the series on streaming platforms and broadcast television to shame. Helluva Boss, at the head of the indie animation boom, continued to air on YouTube. Apart from the established LGBTQ characters like Blitzo (pansexual), Moxxie (bisexual), and Stolas (gay or bisexual), voiced by the openly gay Brandon Rogers, Richard Steven Horvitz, and Bryce Pinkham respectfully, the episode “The Harvest Moon Festival” introduced a trans female character named Sallie May (Millie’s sister), who is voiced by a trans woman, Morgana Ignis. Even two male-presenting characters, Blitzo and Stolas shared a kiss at the end of the episode “Truth Seekers.” The series can be described as having a tenor of morbid humor and being “unlike any other animated series, indie or mainstream, that has ever been created or has appeared on any platform,” unique in its own way. The series also featured, in the next-to-last episode of the show’s first season, Blitzo and Stolas going on a date together, although it did not work out for either of them, as Stolas can’t spell out why exactly he loves Blitzo, with both leaving each other behind. This series is prominent in the indie animation scene and one of the few queer female-led series, unlike other series which have wonderful representation but are not headed by queer people.
Otherwise, My Life is Worth Living, a series which is meant to use “relatable teen stories to teach suicide prevention strategies.” It includes stories which cover “LGBTQ+ issues, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and physical injury” and has aired on YouTube since September 2021. LGBTQ characters include Scott, a public speaker revealed to be gay in Dante’s Story and Dante, a high school football player who has struggled to come out. On October 11, the newest episode of Nico Colaleo’s series, Ollie & Scoops, premiered on YouTube. In the episode before that, which aired on October 22 of 2020, it centered on the history of a teacher, Binnie, who is “anxious and nervous to tell another teacher, Wendy, that she likes her,” with Colaleo promising that there will more of both characters in future episodes.
Many anime led the way when it came to representation. For instance, the original net animation, Assault Lily Bouquet: Fruits, based on Assault Lily Bouquet, had homoerotic focus, while the ongoing series My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! featured a bisexual harem of men and women who pin after the protagonist, Catarina Claus. In 2021 five series with LGBTQ characters began. High-Rise Invasion featured two protagonists who begin as a friends but become romantically involved with one another, while Otherside Picnic centered on two women who have feelings for each other. In the latter case, however, their feelings are only implied as they never kiss or even directly say they love each other, leading some critics to say that they can’t think of the show as anything more than “just another generic supernatural anime.”
Trans characters appeared in So I’m A Spider, So What? and Wonder Egg Priority. A non-binary character appeared in the series, Blue Period, who is misgendered and mocked by her classmates, and yuri content was present in both Sailor Moon Eternal movies, with two lesbian characters having a role: Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus. The series Komi Can’t Communicate includes a character with an ambiguous gender and another character, a woman, who is infatuated with the series protagonist. Some reviewers pointed to yuri coding in other series, like Vlad Love, Blue Reflection Ray, Kiniro Mosaic, Vivy, YuYuYu, Zombieland Saga: Revenge, and Battle Athletes, while noting the final season of Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon S, calling the latter the “one of the most ridiculous and entertaining yuri-ish anime…in some time.” There are also implied yuri tensions between the protagonists of The Aquatope on White Sand with one reviewer for Anime News Network saying that they are considering the series “to be a yuri series” and calling it “yuri-coded right from the start,” while another saying they are setting their “yuri expectations…fairly low” for the show, but are still planning on watching it anyway.
January of this year will see the premiere of the new season of Princess Connect! Re:Dive, along with Luminous Witches and Love Live Superstar!, all of which may have yuri subtext. In early February 2022, The Legend of Vox Machina, an adult animated fantasy series based on a Critical Role campaign, will begin airing on Amazon Prime. It will include two bisexual siblings (Vex’ahlia “Vex” de Rolo and Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar), and two queer characters (Keyleth of the Air Ashari and Scanlan Shorthalt).
There are a number of animated series with LGBTQ representation that are either scheduled to air or presumed to air in 2022. This includes the reboot series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which will have an interracial gay couple (Barry and Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins), part 4 of Disenchantment, and the fourth season of The Dragon Prince. The latter show has featured supporting characters who are gay, non-binary, and lesbian. Arcane may also be coming back for another season sometime in 2022, although the exact date is not currently known, as will, presumably, Volume 9 of RWBY.
It is also expected that Dead End: Paranormal Park, previously named DeadEndia, will premiere sometime this year as well, after it was pushed back from its original premiere of October of 2021. Dead End: Paranormal Park, when it premieres, will break barriers with a trans male protagonist, Barney, with series creator Hamish Steele hoping it would get “more trans creators getting their chance to tell their stories” while hinting at other LGBTQ characters in the show apart from Barney. Steele also, in a thread on Twitter, described overt trans representation as important to him for a number of reasons, but due to the show being a UK production since UK broadcasters had rejected his previous trans storylines, and hoped that the series can be “one production taking a clear stand against the normalisation of transphobia in this country [the UK],” with the series having, in his words, “multiple trans cast and crew.” Hopefully the series will continue to increase positive queer representation in kids animation.
There are indie animations in development which will likely begin or continue this year. This may include new episodes of Nico Colaleo’s series, Ollie & Scoops, the premiere of S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters,  and a new season of Hazbin Hotel on A24. Colaleo has already stated this, saying there would be “much more” Ollie & Scoops, while Hazbin fans were annoyed at much of the pilot cast not returning in the animated series which seems all but guaranteed to premiere this year.
HBO Max’s Lumberjanes, an animated adaption of the comic of the same name which ended in December 2020, will likely not air this year, but it is possible the litany of indie animations will air. This will not include Rain: The Animated Series as it was cancelled in September 2021 before the series premiere in a re-upload of one the show’s animations for unspecified reasons. The creators of the indie series, The Descendants, said they will pitch their series this year, with the show creator declaring that people need to create their dreams.
However, there are indie series moving forward, with no sign of cancellation. Indigo, with its development presumed after a previous cancellation, Wild Card, which has an openly bisexual protagonist, Jack, based on the show’s bisexual creator, Alex Bahrawy and Sheepish, with a non-binary protagonist, are only a few of many indie series with LGBTQ protagonists which are currently in development.  Wild Card seems to be moving closer and closer toward premiering the pilot, at least, as does Far Fetched Show.
 This was also clear in GLAAD’s 2020-2021 “Where We Are on TV” report (counting characters which premiered on primetime cable TV from June 2020 to May 2021) which noted characters in BoJackHorseman (since cancelled), The Owl House (p. 15, 40), Carmen Sandiego (p. 19), Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (p. 19, 40), Steven Universe Future (p. 40), DuckTales (p. 40), She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (p. 40), Harley Quinn (p. 42), Young Justice (p. 42). Let’s not forget that as Mike A. Epstein of LezWatch.TV pointed out, “while GLAAD does look into some international shows, it’s very skewed American.”
 2021 was the fourth year of the awards show. In 2020, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power won for the “Outstanding Animated Series” category (the runner-up was BoJack Horseman and other nominees were: The Owl House, Steven Universe Future, Harley Quinn, and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts). Also She-Ra was nominated for the “Best TV Episode With LGBTQ+ Themes” category, for the episode “Heart Part 2” while Adora and Catra in the same show won the “Fan Favorite Couple” award. In 2019, Steven Universe‘s episode “Reunited” was nominated for “Outstanding Individual Episode with LGBTQ+ Themes” and She-Ra won “Outstanding Animated Series” category (runner-up was Steven Universe and other nominees were: Love, Death & Robots, Bojack Horseman, Adventure Time, and Tuca & Bertie). In 2018, Rebecca Sugar, the showrunner of Steven Universe, was a runner-up for the “Outstanding LGBTQ+ Director / Producer / Showrunner” category, Steven Universe was one of the nominees for the “Most Groundbreaking Representation” category, and Steven Universe won the “Outstanding Animated Series” category (runner up was Adventure Time and other nominees were: Danger & Eggs and Loud House).
 Apart from these series, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Recorded by Arizal (implied that future story could have LGBTQ characters), and Onyx Equinox (with bisexual characters) ended in 2020. The hinted Astur’s Rebellion series by Sara Eissa was posed in 2020, but likely will not return. Additionally, the third “season” (as Peacock called it) of Cleopatra in Space, as I wrote about in December 2020, aired on Peacock on January 24, but had no more rep than the two moms of Akila which appeared in “School Break” which aired in November 2020.
 The other series are produced by a smattering of companies like Shadow Machine (Final Space; Tuca & Bertie), SpindleHorse Toons (Helluva Boss), Liden Films and Felix Film (Otherside Picnic), TNK (Redo of Healer), Millepensee (So I’m a Spider, So What?), The ULULU Company and Rough Draft Studios (Disenchantment), Zero-G, Inc. (High-Rise Invasion), Skybound Entertainment (Invincible), Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead toDoom!), P.A. Works (Aquatope on the White Sand), and Titmouse (Star Trek: Lower Decks).
 Other LGBTQ actors who did not voice LGBTQ characters include Matt Lucas as Benny in Romeo and Juliet, Rosie O’Donnell as Terk in Tarzan, Joshua Rush as Bunga in Timon & Pumbaa, Jane Lynch as Sergeant Calhoun in Wreck-It Ralph, Harvey Guillén as Funny in Mickey Mouse Funhouse, Auliʻi Cravalho as Moana in Moana, David Hyde Pierce as Francis in A Bug’s Life, Raven-Symoné as Monique in Kim Possible, Jack Dylan Grazer as Alberto in Luca, Sara Ramirez as Queen Miranda in Sofia the First, Graham Norton as Moonwind in Soul, Miley Cyrus as Penny in Bolt, Billy Eichner as Timon in The Lion King (2019 remake), Nathan Lane as Timon in The Lion King, Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in Finding Dory, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff in the Frozen films, Patti Harrison as Chief of Tail in Raya and the Last Dragon, Sean Hayes as Terri Perry in Monsters University, Alyson Stoner as Isabella in Phineas & Ferb, and David Ogden Stiers and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth.
 In this series, Salem, protagonist, is non-binary and pan, while Oliver is gay, and Petra is asexual.
 Others include Dirt: The Series, Romancing Roslyn Cherry, Howdy Cloudboy, Gadzooks and the Cryptoid Kids (a series by two gay men with LGBTQ themes), Roads to Rome, Succubus Cop, Starmakers, Cabiria Intermezzo, and Long Way From Del’Arte.
As the streaming wars have picked up, there has been a push for more animated series than ever before, which includes basing these series on comics, like Dead Endia and Hilda, or on video games, like the upcoming Earthworm Jim series. The latter is the case for the nine-episode-long Arcane, a science fantasy and action-adventure story, adapted from a multiplayer game called League of Legends – and is for those over age 16, with language, violence, smoking, blood, and death. This series, which has become a smash hit for Netflix, ranking at the top of the charts for the streaming platform, has been renewed for a second season due to the intense audience interest.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the sixth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on November 23, 2021.
Arcane is a relatively simple story within a bigger framework, with a main cast consisting of eight individuals. One of the primary stories is the separation of two sisters: Vi (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) and Jinx/Powder (voiced by Ella Purnell). They are on different sides of a war between the Zaun under city and Piltover, a well-off, utopian paradise. This story is interlinked with the rise of Jayce Talis (voiced by Kevin Alejandro), who works with Viktor (voiced by Harry Lloyd) to control magic and make it usable to those in the upper city. Silco (voiced by Jason Spisak) takes in Jinx, while Caitlyn Kiramman (voiced by Katie Leung) is tasked by Jayce with tracking down Vi, leading to her traveling to the under city. There’s also Ekko (voiced by Reed Shannon), an under city fighter who helps Caitlyn and Vi, the under city crime lord Vander (voiced by JB Blanc), and another member of the council, Mel Medarda (voiced by Toks Olagundoye).
My personal taste in animation is wide, and as a result, I tend to not watch many animations that are very realistic in their depiction of characters, like the mature French animated film, I Lost My Body or the animated series Undone, with its rotoscoping. I also tend to give those who work on such shows wide latitude, as the way that characters tend to be depicted or presented is not why I usually dislike shows. Arcane was no exception to this. Critics have praised the show for its blend of computer-generated and hand-drawn animation. And truly, this is one of the series’ strongest elements, something which other animated series fail at. I liked the steampunk feel of the upper city, reminding me of Steamland in Disenchantment – with deep detail put into each frame with nothing wasted. This includes the Hexgates, amazing visuals shown in each episode, and the action and fight scenes. I hope that the Arcane crew were well-paid because a lot of blood, sweat, and tears were put into making this series.
Arcane is a story which has three distinct acts, setting its story up more like a play than a television series. The story begins in the under city, introducing viewers to Vi, Jinx (then named Powder), Vander, and their whole crew, as they fight against a crime lord, Silco. Vander has an agreement with the Enforcers of the under city, not wanting to cause too much trouble. As you can imagine, this does not go well. Vander is killed by Silco’s goon. Vi is captured. Jinx goes into Silco’s arms, as she sees him as family. With the end of the show’s first act, the second act involves even more world building. Viewers see more of the upper city of Piltover. Jayce’s power grows, leading him up the ranks and onto the council, even displacing his former mentor Heimerdinger (voiced by Mick Wingert). There is a growing conflict between the under city and the upper city. In the show’s final act, this conflict comes to the fore as Jinx, Vi, and Caitlyn figure out what side they are on in this war. The series has themes of class oppression, even when it happens in a world where there is no sexism, racism, or homophobia, reminding me of similar themes in the 10-episode cyberpunk sci-fi series, Sherwood, which is much more family-friendly than Arcane.
Some have praised the show’s diversity, including its portrayal of ethnicity and disability representation (since Viktor has a bad limp and uses a cane), and the praise is well-earned. Human experimentation is a major theme of the series, as is the allure of power and privilege, the corruption of someone’s dreams, and the consequences of technological progress. Family separation, acceptance, and struggle, either between siblings, like Vi and Jinx, or between mother and daughter, as the case for Mel and her mother, are also recurring themes.
Character development is an important part of Arcane. The growing relationship between Caitlyn and Vi, is a perfect example of such development, with both attracted to one another despite their different circumstances. Amanda Overton, a writer for the series, confirmed that the pair were in a relationship, and said that in Piltover, there is no homophobia or stigma against those who are gay, meaning that she could marry someone of any race or gender, with that person becoming “part of her house.” This relationship was first hinted in the show’s fifth episode, in the middle of part 5, where Vi brings Caitlyn to a place known as the Pleasure House to find information and tells her “you’re hot, Cupcake.” Overton described this line as clarifying her character and showing that she loved other women. Caitlyn shows, in the same episode, attraction to another woman she talks to in the Pleasure House. In the show’s last act, Vi moves in with Caitlyn, becoming her roommate. Jinx describes Caitlyn as Vi’s girlfriend, in the final episode, and Vi does not object to this description. It is a stretch to see “bisexual energy” radiating from them, as one critic opined. I’d say it’s more of gay energy. Neither has shown any attraction to men, at least not as directly and strongly. This is apart from Vi calling Jayce a “pretty boy” in the eighth episode, as the latter was likely a way to work with Jayce so they could try to take down Silco together.
As a result, there has been a lot of discourse online about their growing connection to each other, with fans shipping them as CaitVi, with a flurry of fan art (and fan cams) of both characters together, and their moments together even shown on the show’s official account. There is, to use a line from a fan when referring to a scene from The Owl House episode “Enchanted Grom Fright,” no heterosexual explanation for their relationship. Both characters clearly are in a relationship with each other. It remains to be seen how this will develop in the show’s second season. From the discourse on sites like Twitter, it is clear that fans, including those like Miranda Mundt of Webtoon’s LoveBot, are excited and overjoyed by the moments in the series itself. The line between whether the LGBTQ identities of characters should be subtle or more outward is a continual struggle among creators, their crews, and the opinion of fans. Each show has a different approach, with some going with a subtle approach, like Twelve Forever having protagonist Reggie Abbott blush at Connelly, a girl in the eighth grade, and others being more overt, like Ruby and Sapphire in Steven Universe. Whether to have something as subtle or not is up to those who create a show, with one approach not necessarily better than another. This subtlety should not be confused with queer baiting, when a show hints at same-sex romance or LGBTQ representation but does not depict this representation.
Unfortunately, Arcane has a bit of a double standard. Jayce and Mel Medarda have a brief overt heterosexual, and interracial, relationship which involves kissing and sexual intercourse. Vi and Caitlyn have growing feelings toward each other, even sleeping on the same bed as one another. However, they do not kiss in the show. While this would fit with the characters of Vi and Caitlyn, that they are taking this slower as they are from different walks of life, one from privilege and opulence, another from poverty and desperation. Jayce and Mel are of the same class, the same social standing. So, that undoubtedly affects how they act toward one another. Vi clearly sees Caitlyn as sweet as a cupcake, hence her nickname for her, and was named by Overton as her favorite character. Since everyone on the show’s crew is working to tell the same story, hopefully, the relationship between Vi and Caitlyn becomes more overt in the show’s next season, potentially becoming even more the signature romance of the show. Some fans have also shipped Jayce and Viktor together, although that ship was never made canon in the show itself, so its existence is only in the show’s fanon.
Apart from these deficiencies, the characters of Arcane shine through. Personally, I was not familiar with most of the voice actors, apart from Toks Olagundoye, who I remembered as voicing Commodore Winifred in an episode of Cleopatra in Space, or Captain Amina Ramsey in an episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks. She also voiced Countess Cleo in Carmen Sandiego, Madame President in Kid Cosmic, and Nanefua in Steven Universe, to name a few, and played Kemi Talbot in Veep. The voice acting is one of the show’s strong points. The voices match completely with the expressions of the characters and emotions, making them more relatable to viewers, including when it comes to the relationship between Caitlyn and Vi over the show’s arc, beginning with gay moments and moving onto something more. The show’s characters are relatively diverse. They aren’t a cast of White characters. Rather, the cast includes many people of color, whether in the upper city or the under city. The voice cast itself is compromised of a diverse grouping as well.
There are a number of areas that Arcane falls short. Although I generally like the animation, some effects, like those from Jinx’s perspective are a bit too cutesy. Perhaps this is the hand-drawn animation part that some critics referred to, but it felt a bit out of place. While the opening song “Enemy,” is good, it’s disappointing to see a mainstream pop rock band, Imagine Dragons, as the artist, rather than someone lesser-known. The opening theme by JID, a Black rapper and singer, in a few episodes, is a bit stronger than the “Enemy” opening theme. I might have appreciated the song more if it was in the style of RWBY, sung by Casey Lee Williams, in that it would tell you the broad contours of what would happen during the season. I would not say the intro was “badass” as one reviewer put it, and would have been better with another song, although the instrumental pieces are much better than the opening. These elements of Arcane seem to be there in an effort to appeal to the masses who will watch it as it surges in popularity. The show is a way for Riot Games, which created League of Legends, to get people to play the video game.
Another aspect that irked me was the length of the episodes of Arcane. Each episode is between 39 and 44 minutes long. This means it is hard to watch them all in one sitting unless you have that much time to spare. I don’t understand why the episodes couldn’t have been shorter and divided into more episodes. There could have been double the number of episodes if they were of a shorter length. The time in each episode reminds me of the variable lengths of Mr. Robot episodes, which made it hard to know how much time you would be spending watching an episode, and hard to plan other activities during the day around it. These longer episode lengths make the show less accessible to viewers. If the episode lengths had been like Inside Job, it would have made for an easier binge.
As for a second season, it will probably air sometime in 2023, rather than next year. Moving into season two, hopefully we will see more of the world beyond the upper city and under city, as going to other locations could expand the story tremendously. In addition, I’m hopeful that the show’s music selection will be improved, that the cutesy animation effects are removed entirely, and that season two introduces more LGBTQ characters other than Vi and Caitlyn. Considering that the relationship between Leona and Diana in the League of Legends was made canon recently, I suspect there will be additional queer representation in a second season. Outside of those larger hopes, from a plot perspective, the next season will likely deal with the possible death of everyone in the Council, due to Jinx’s missile. Vi and Cait may have to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of this destruction. It is even possible that Jinx will be redeemed.
Despite my criticisms of the series and its mature content at times, I would recommend it. It remains engaging, entertaining, and relatable, easily pulling in viewers.