A Centaur’s Life [セントールの悩み] (2017)

12 episodes, 30 min. each (split into two 15 minute segments); originally titled “Centaur’s Worries” in Japanese; based on a manga series by Kei Murayama that began in 2011 and is still being produced. The animated series was produced by Haoliners Animation League.

A Centaur’s Life is from the subgenre known as Minami-ke, or “slice of life” anime. It focuses on the experiences of the centaur Himeno Kimihara and her friends as they navigate through the highs and lows of high-school and adolescence. The only difference is theirs is a world of supernatural and hybrid creatures, as evolution took a different path and “normal” humans are now the stuff of mythology!

More:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Centaur’s_Life

https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=19402

https://www.funimation.com/shows/a-centaurs-life/

 

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Antigone (2019)

3 min.

A succinct re-telling of the story of Antigone, created by Dr. Jessica Hughes on behalf of The Open University

Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus (1998)

80 min. Produced by Renaissance Pictures/Universal Cartoon Studios, directed by Lynne Naylor

A feature-length action adventure direct-to-video film based on the hit TV shows,  Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior PrincessThe main actors from the shows, including Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless, did the voice work for the characters.

A brief plot summary: “Mighty Zeus brings Hercules’ mother, Alcmene, to Mount Olympus, and Hercules, believing she has been kidnapped, leads a rescue mission to save her. Zeus’ jealous wife, Hera, decides that it should now be her time to rule the universe. Hera steals the Chronos Stone, source of the God’s power, and unleashes the four Titans from their eons of imprisonment. With these angry behemoths on the loose, only the combined forces of Hercules and Xena, together with their trusty sidekicks Iolaus and Gabrielle, can save Mount Olympus.” Written by David Mullich <dmullich@aol.com>

More:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules_and_Xena_%E2%80%93_The_Animated_Movie:_The_Battle_for_Mount_Olympus

 

Persephone: A Story from Greece (2001)

Stop motion; 13 min.

Director: Sergey Olifirenko

Season 2 of the “Animated Tales of the World”

Animated Tales of the World was an animated series that aired on HBO Family in 2001 and it contained several stories from around the world including Australia, Russia, England and Africa. The series had won two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2001 including Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation and Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for Peter Macon.

 

 

Oedipus (2004)

8 min.; stop-motion animation with a cast of fruits and vegetables!

Written, produced and directed by Jason Wishnow

World premiere at Sundance, winner of the Audience Award at the Seattle International Film Festival

You can also watch a behind the scenes video of the making of the film and a video of the storyboards used to produce the film here: www.wishnow.com

Thanks to Serena Witzke for sharing this with me.

Cleopatra [クレオパトラ] (1970, NSFW)

Written and directed by famed animator Osamu Tezuka with Eichi Yamamoto co-directing, this sci-fi/fantasy/history sex romp was a total box office bust. It was the second of three feature-length adult-themed films produced for the “Animarama” series by Mushi Productions and contributed directly to the company’s bankruptcy not long after its release.

It was released in the US in 1972 as Cleopatra, Queen of Sex by Xanadu Productions, which marketed the film as the first pornographic animated film to get an X rating. But the rating was Xanadu’s own creation (not bestowed by MPAA), nor was it the first X-rated cartoon (Fritz the Cat claimed that title by debuting a week before Cleopatra, Queen of Sex), and it wasn’t exactly pornographic. All of this meant that audiences were really confused and irritated by the film.

Summarizing this film is a challenge, but here is a bare-bones outline: Three humans decide to travel back in time to understand “the Cleopatra Plan” that aliens intend to deploy in order to destroy humanity. The trio disguise themselves as members of the Egyptian court and get involved with a group of Egyptian rebels who enlist Cleopatra in their plan to seduce Julius Caesar and murder him, and thereby overthrow Roman rule. The plan doesn’t work, however, as Cleopatra falls in love with Julius Caesar, who, after making her queen of Egypt, returns to Rome and is killed there. She goes on to fall in love with Mark Antony and to continue the plan by seducing Augustus, but this also fails because he is gay and uninterested in her. She commits suicide over her loss and failure, while the time travelers return to the future just in time to stop the aliens from using sex and seduction to take over the earth.

Needless to say, the plot of Cleopatra is extremely convoluted and has many more twists and turns than I’ve outlined here. (Animation historian Fred Patten has a wonderfully detailed summary of the film and its reception here and you can watch it in full with Spanish subtitles here). Sometimes it is dramatic, sometimes it is funny, and often it is disturbing, with graphic scenes of rape and physical violence. And while it does aim for historical accuracy at times, there are many deliberate moments of anachronism and general “WTF?” weirdness.  One highlight that I appreciated is the depiction of the assasination of Julius Caesar in the style of a kabuki drama.  Overall, the animation is great, as is the music — both have that distinctively 70s vibe that I love — and I think there is a lot more to unpack about this film in terms of what it was trying to do and how the figure of Cleopatra was perceived in Japanese culture during this period, but the whole affair is definitely one of the wackiest takes on Roman history that I’ve encountered in modern animation.

More:

Tezuka’s Adult Features: “Cleopatra” (1970)

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