Today’s post was supposed to be about literally any other show. Now that I’ve finished the first season of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, AKA When They Cry, the sky was the limit! Do I jump back into superhero shows with the first season of Arrow? Start on something I love like Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated? Or pull out something weird from my DVD collection like Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century? But no, while looking up… I honestly don’t remember what, I discovered the existence of the Canadian cartoon My Life Me, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. Is it good? Not really, but it has a siren’s song on my soul. So here we are, talking about a show I bet literally none of you have ever heard of. On brand for me, but still.
So what is this show? It’s about 4 school friends doing various things that at the time seem like major events, but don’t add anything that would mess with the show’s lack of continuity. So, a pretty standard kids’ cartoon. The art is what instantly drew me to it, because it looks like a white kid in the early 2000’s attempt at anime (something I know a thing or two about since I had weeb friends). It’s fascinating in how weird it is, going way more into the “anime look” than most non-Asian shows would do, all while looking very unpolished.
So of course I watched 13 hours of this show. Well, closer to 9 and a half, but still. That’s 52 episodes, all about eleven minutes long–so two during a half hour block. But wait, you might say, doesn’t that mean it’s actually 26 episodes, each containing two stories? Apparently not, because each eleven minute episode has the intro song and outro version without lyrics, which means I heard the theme song 104 times. It’s going to be stuck in my head until the day I die, probably. And according to Wikipedia, every single episode aired during the month of September 2011. Just adds to the weird mystique of the show.
There’s no introductory episode, so we dive head first into the characters engaging in wacky hijinks before we ever learn their names. The “mainest” of the characters is Birch, a Japanophile who dresses like an emo kid. She’s dangerously gullible but otherwise sort of a sweet but bland character. She has a crush on Raffi, the handsome guy on the soccer team who may be the dumbest of the group; the high school equivalent of a himbo, if you will. Liam is Birch’s wacky cousin and the best character by far (I’ll get more into him later). And then there’s Sandra, a skateboarder and unrelenting bitch. Like, sure, in hindsight I realize that I had a friend in high school who was unnecessarily mean to the rest of the group, but she was at least friendly with me. Sandra is awful to everyone and I have no idea why the rest of them continue to hang out with her. There’s even an episode where she can’t be mean for two days (#46, “Cut the Sarcasm”), and that feat nearly drives her insane. She doesn’t succeed, by the way.
Other characters include their teacher, Mr. Towes. He’s your standard uncool teacher, but his defining trait is doing impressions. Sure, young teens in 2011 absolutely knew who Peter Lorre was and will get that reference. If people nowadays do recognize the voice, it’s won’t be from Lorre himself, sort of how the Three Stooge’s whooping is now associated more with Zoidberg from Futurama. The group’s nemesis is Amelia, the stuck up leader of a rival pod (the class is divided into groups of 4 called pods with our main characters in Pod Four). She has her own theme music and three flunkies: two girls who barely get any screen time, and Zeke, a vaguely queer-coded kid. He’s the second queerest character in the entire show (the first is a flamboyant salesman who sells Birch lip gloss in episode 32, “The Big Switch”), and therefore my second favorite. My number one favorite is Antoine, a black nerd who is regularly in the background. The visual gag with him is that with his glasses, his eyes are big black circles with few features, but when he takes them off he has normal eyes. Hilarious. But he’s a card gamer, so that doesn’t hurt. He had a crush on Birch (#28, “Growing Pains”) and is revealed to be captain of the
ping pong table tennis team (#42, “Pinged and Ponged”), but that’s basically all the attention he gets. It’s still more than most of the other, more inconsequential background extras. One kid wears a fedora and shouldn’t be trusted, in part because he wears a fedora. Raffi has three female stalkers who never get named, except for one of them in the final episode (#52, “Birch’s Trial”). Also the wiki says they’re modeled after the three women who created the show, so do with that what you will. And the principal is yet another unpleasant woman to be around. I swear I’m not picking on the women in the show! It’s just that the three meanest characters are women!
There’s no overarching continuity, so despite everything feeling like the most important thing ever at the time, the situations have no lasting repercussions. There’s a contest that sends the winners to Japan (#22, “Manga Slam”)? Oops, Amelia and Antoine win, and if they ever actually went it’s never mentioned. Another contest where the winners get a large sum of money (#27, “There’s No Business…”)? Zeke wins it because his uncle was the judge (a thing Sandra lied about, saying the judge was her uncle, because she’s a bitch who enjoys sowing chaos wherever she goes). Little details about the characters are sprinkled throughout, but they’re not built upon. Oh, Sandra is afraid of thunder (#13, “Friday the 13th”)? We never see her in a thunderstorm again, so that little bit of characterization feels hollow. So, basically, a cartoon for kids. Not sure what I was expecting.
…but then there’s episode 35, “The Costume Party.” The gang is going to a party, so they dress up in the Greco-Roman costumes they had in episode 8, “Planets Misaligned.” And you know, now that I’m thinking about it, Birch rediscovered her childhood stuffed animal in episode 9, “The Big Flap,” and it did show up again in episode 10, “Finding Neko.” So there is some continuity, sometimes? I’m baffled.
One episode that stood out was episode 31, “Star-Struck,” because it used the main cast quite well. Birch wants to perform in a school play, but Amelia gets the role. While Liam schemes with a bitter Zeke (I ship it) against the ice queen, Raffi and Sandra train Birch to be a better singer. Sure, their methods are all physical training because they’re dumb and think that’s helpful, but Birch’s three friends are all flexing what they’re good at in an attempt to help their friend. Even Amelia gets a chance to show that she’s got some devious smarts, although the next episode, “The Big Switch,” focuses on her way more. Anyway, “Star-Struck” might be the best episode of the bunch, but tastes will vary.
The art is kind of rough. It’s very clearly white people trying out a digital anime style, so it just feels… off. After binging this show, I’m so fucking tired of anime sweat drops. Hell, those sweat drops happen so often that there’s actually a reoccurring scene transition that’s a line of them moving over the screen. Sometimes characters become furries, growing ears and a tail to show that they’re feeling devious–sly as a fox, if you will–so a sweeping fox tail is another transition. The third that stands out is the… I don’t know how to properly describe it, but it’s a symbol of frustration that’s three semi-circles. Google calls it an “anime frustration symbol,” so let’s go with that. That’s also a common transition. The main cast randomly become chibi versions of themselves for what I can only assume is comedic reasons. The backgrounds look real bad, typically devoid of most colors and sometimes looking unfinished. Background objects that need to move–like a door or a desk drawer–look real bad. Like, “drawn in MS Paint” bad. And the actual characters look kind of flat, having little to no shading; just solid colors and thick black lines. Also, Sandra’s nose disappears when she turns her head because it blends in too well with her upper lip. Seriously, why is her nose so close to her lips?!
So… about Liam… Quick aside, I generally try to present myself on this blog honestly while not divulging too many personal elements. As far as you know, my name’s Chwineka and all that. But I am Liam and Liam is me. Well, me in high school, but still. He’s scrawny with blond hair and blue-gray eyes, characteristics I have (well, I was scrawny once, but time comes for us all). He dresses exclusively in bright green and black–my two favorite colors. He wears what looks like lime green Hot Topic shorts that are actually pants with zippers on the knees, and I know that detail because deep in my closet, I still have my own lime green Hot Topic pants/shorts. He occasionally wears color-tinted sunglasses, a phase I too went through when I was younger. He’s even into bad horror movies and comic books! Overall, watching Liam and seeing so much of me in him was a weird experience. And not to get too personal, but in real life I too have a 4-letter name starting with L. There are obvious differences–I will not try whatever a “tomato s’more” is–but the similarities may have been what drew me to the series. I mean, beyond grim curiosity.
As if that wasn’t enough, a friend had to go and look into the people who made this. One creator is JC Little, a woman who is credited as director on most episodes (if not all, I wasn’t keeping track). She has a blog and a YouTube page, and she seems like a nice person. Her blog has comments turned on, and on the “about me” page we see… well, I’ll just provide a screenshot, because a picture is worth a thousand words.
I really, really hope he means her newer animation and not the children from this show. JC, you do you and all that, but come on, don’t feed the trolls. You know how to delete comments, right? Right…?
Do I recommend the show? I’m a thirty-something man, so not really. It’s cute at times and has some interesting moments, but I’m absolutely not the intended audience for this. It’s especially hard to recommend today, what with shows like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power blowing it out of the water. But if you’re a Canadian youth who wants silly hijinks with an anime flavor, you could probably do worse.
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