Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top 7 Current Animated Series

I love animation. It is truly one of popular culture’s great art forms. But, sadly, in our modern culture, it seems that, as with movies and music, mediocre animated programming is getting all the attention while the best of the medium is being ignored. Analyzing the most popular, or at least most recognized, animated shows of the last few years: The Simpsons has become tired and repetitive, South Park has become overly bitter and preachy, and groundbreakers Family Guy and SpongeBob Squarepants have fallen victim to severe Flanderization, meaning their characters have become nothing more than extreme stereotypes of their former selves.

So for those of you who, like me, have grown tired of the immensely popular, and decreasing entertaining, cartoons flooding the airwaves, I have compiled a list of the seven best animated series currently running on television, but are severely over looked. And let me clarify what I mean by “currently running”, these are shows with new episodes either airing presently or expected in the near future.

Are you ready kids? Okay, let’s go!

7. Kekkaishi (Adult Swim)

If you grew up watching Toonami, you’ll love this. It is just a very fun anime, with a perfect balance of humor and action. Vic Mignogna plays the lead Yoshimori, and is fantastic as always. The plot is a little difficult to summarize (even for someone whose been watching for months), and jumping in at this point in theshow would leave you confused, so watching some earlier episodes online is recommended prior to catching it on TV.

New episodes air Saturday nights at 12:30am Eastern on Adult Swim.

6. Futurama (Comedy Central)

With this one, I should keep it simple: Writing, acting, satire, and style are some of the best and all around superb. The misadventures of a delivery crew in the future. It’s great stuff.

New episodes return in 2011 on Comedy Central.

5. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Adult Swim)

After attending two anime conventions and surrounding myself with people who love the art form, during the summer of 2010 I felt obligated to start getting more into anime. The first show I stumbled upon was this. It is about Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who lost all or part of their bodies in an attempt toresurrecttheir dead mother, and their various escapades. Vic Mignogna is amazing as Edward, and the rest of the cast is great as well. The action scenes are brilliantly animated, and the setting leads to some superb art direction.

Back-to-back reruns air Saturday nights at 1am Eastern. New episodes expected to return soon.

4. Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)

A boy named Finn and his dog Jake go on adventures. While the premise may sound bland, it is easily the craziest and trippiest show on TV. The colorful, abstract world is beautiful. While marketed to kids, the humor is definitely for an older crowd, something I commended Cartoon Network for, but I’ll get more into that later. It is a feast for the eyes, and really fun to watch.

New episodes air Monday nights at 8pm Eastern on Cartoon Network.

3. American Dad! (FOX)

FOX just loves to screw their best comedy shows. First it was Futurama, then Arrested Development, and most recently King Of The Hill. They are slowly, but surely, trying to kill American Dad!, the only worthwhile program left on their Sunday lineup. CIA agent Stan Smith, his family, and their ‘pet’ alien Roger do a bunch of crazy stuff, and it is excellent. It is what you’d have if you took classic Simpsons and made it more adult and outlandish. Roger is one of the funniest characters in animation. Screw Family Guy, watch this.

New episodes air Sunday nights at 9:30pm Eastern on FOX.

2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network)

The prequels were too melodramatic, and The Clone Wars theatrical pilot was too silly, but Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns to the perfect balance of drama and fun that made the original trilogy classics. Taking place between Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith, the Republic is still fighting the eponymous Clone Wars against the Separatists. The series has come a long way, with the animation becoming more detailed and smooth, and the stories growing darker and more complex. The action sequences are phenomenal, as well. It is funny how a weekly basic cable animated series ‘for kids’ is better scripted and acted than the big budgeted blockbuster prequels. It is a fantastic complement to the original trilogy.

New episodes air Friday nights at 9pm Eastern on Cartoon Network.

1. Regular Show (Cartoon Network)

This show is game-changing. It is pushing the boundaries of what can be presented as “children’s programming”. Because, while it does air during regular Cartoon Network hours, it is just barely keeping itself from being Adult Swim material.

How many “children’s shows” get away with using “crap”, “pissed”, “what the H”, and “screwed”? How many would have montages set to songs from Loverboy, The Thompson Twins, or The Karate Kid? How many would have talking, cannibalistic hot dogs, a transvestite prostitute, ambiguously gay unicorns, a crotch shot courtesy of an ostrich, or implied sex between a horse and a drunken clown?

This show is rated TV-PG for a reason. It ain’t for kids.

Cartoon Network has someserious balls. After their early hits with broad appeal like Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo ended, the programming became lighter and fluffier to compete with Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel. The Clone Wars, Adventure Time, and, now, Regular Show are changing that. They are trying to slowly pull the money making demographic from Adult Swim into Cartoon Network.

The plot and action of The Clone Wars, the trippiness and subtlety of Adventure Time, and the references and humor of Regular Show aren’t aiming for the childrens.

This show, and the other Cartoon Network originals mentioned, could help put an end to the dreaded ‘Animation Age Ghetto’. People might wise up. They might come to their senses and realized that cartoons aren’t just for kids. While others have tried to send that message for decades, it still isn’t getting through. These great shows can change that.

Regular Show, in case you’ve been wondering, is about friends Mordecai and Rigby, a blue jay and raccoon, whowork for a talking gumball machine and a talking lollipop, alongside a yeti who skips.

Yeah, really.

The plots are crazy, the music is awesome, the characters are hilarious, and the writing is fantastic.

There are not enough good things to say about this show. I love it to death.

This is, without adoubt, the best animated series you’ll find on TV.

Don’t miss it.

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