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‘Lastman’ (animated series review)

Lastman is so good, it made me ashamed for not taking it seriously when I started.

That’s a hard thing to admit; that I’d take a review assignment for something I wasn’t really into. And it calls into question all sorts of things about humankind and our motivations that seems to be the new mountaintop to strip-mine for yucks in animation lately… Like, you know… Why do we do things? And stuff? (did that sound like Morty in your head? I was going for Morty. It was …urrrrrrrp… a good Morty. And now I’m Rick. Look at me, referential! I’m REFERENTIAL RICK!)

The most popular animated series targeted to non-children right now all seem to turn Jungian in their philosophies, throwing the base plotline of the movie Revolver in your face as if “we’re all going to die” hasn’t been the point of just about every philosophical vehicle ever filmed, written, animated, sung or beaten out of a piano shot with a shotgun a la Tool. And yes, reality is meaningless except for the fact that it is, in fact, reality and since we’re here, we might as well accept it and blah blah blah, Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, we get it, you like Smart Animated Things.

Lastman is smart. It’s animated. But it’s not A Smart Animated Thing. Where it’s smart is in the craft of telling a story that is fun, exciting, moves forward, gets to the end, and absolutely most important: entertains.

Let’s get the petty stuff out of the way: It’s limited animation. It’s short. It’s made on a tight budget. It’s not exactly Akira in the art style (or, Stephen Universe for that matter). Some of the characters are drawn outside the bounds of physics and 3D space, which can be distracting. Oddly-well made CGI randomly shows up between the illustrated animation (almost always a car chase).

Either her head is turned 270 degrees around, or her arms on the wrong side of her body.                                                  No big deal, the show rocks anyway.

I bring these things up not because I find any issues with them, but because they’re the typical reasons people automatically dismiss something new when our brains find it and try to decide if we’re going to invest any of our precious, already deeply fragmented attention spans on yet another piece of content delivered by the infinite firehose of Internet. And that’d be a huge mistake, because the Lastman works within these limitations to really exhibit its strength: narrative.

The story of the Lastman takes many turns: what starts as a tale of Richard Aldanaa, a fighter who lives in a boxing gym and refuses to learn boxing becomes a conspiracy theory involving the occult, a trainer and his daughter who houses an eternal being in her body, mob bosses, strip club owners, and a mad boxer whose mother is the lover of the first guy I mentioned, Richard.And then, things get weird.

But the twists, turns, shocks and surprises aren’t the reason to tune in, because they start immediately and never stop. They’re not gotcha’s meant to show how clever the writers are. They’re intricately woven threads of story, all justifiably motivated by the other events going on. It’s every bit as smart as Stranger Things with its referential nods to other movies and animated classics it was clearly inspired by, but far faster paced.

Which brings me to the voice cast. Every single performer in the English dub is stellar. Originally a French production, the translations never feel out of place and the delivery of every single line is impeccable. They carry this series through the finish line with enough follow-through to make me look very forward to season 2.

And no matter where they are in the storyline, the impact of the events of what’s going on is felt in a way that feels real and connected to the world and each other. When the first major revelation hits in episode 3 about the place Richard has been living and it’s secret, several foreshadowing moments suddenly dinged in my head. Innocuous bickering about the location of the secret played like humorous banter, without massive blinking lights overing over it blaring “THIS IS A HINT, PAY ATTENTION.”

As mentioned before, there are not one, not two, but six different “twists” that take this show across multiple genres, from “sports anime” tropes to the occult; cyberpunk to mafioso / yakuza material, and “the Chosen One” paths that all feel familiar, without once feeling pandering or run of the mill. And due to deft writing and story organization by the writers, the events all make perfect sense as they happen — even when they come out of nowhere, they seem to come from SOMEWHERE in this short series’ deep universe.

If superficialities about limited animation, open art styles, or outright nods to other series distract you, this show might tick a few of those boxes and get in your way. But if you can look past that — and in fact, accept it as the show has and enjoy it for what it is — Lastman will delight you. If you’re as hungry for something FUN that is smart and animated, as opposed to an Animated Smart Thing, Lastman is a must watch.

 

Lastman is now available on the VRV streaming platform

 

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