By Evan DeSimone
Digital platforms haven’t just revolutionized the way we distribute and consume live-action scripted content, the lower overheads and tremendous reach of platforms like YouTube have also been a boon for animation. These aren’t the Saturday morning cartoons you might remember. Streaming animation runs the gamut from zany kid-friendly fun and splashy superhero action to speculative science-fiction and romance.
Created by the late Monty Oum for Rooster Teeth, “RWBY” has been described as one of the first truly American anime. It tells the story of a group of young women with exceptional powers who are training to fight against the monsters and supernatural forces that plague their world. Think of it as steampunk Harry Potter meets “Sailor Moon.” “RWBY”’s unique animation — some of it by prolific animator Dustin Matthews — and fast-paced storytelling style have drawn praise from critics and fans alike. In 2014, Rooster Teeth announced that “RWBY” would become one of the first American anime series to receive distribution in Japan. You can learn more about the Rooster Teeth team behind “RWBY” here.
In many ways, Homestar Runner is the O.G. of web-based animation. Originally a standalone flash-based site creators, Homestar Runner has gradually migrated many of their original cartoons to YouTube. Site creators Matt and Mike Chapman’s expansive roster of bizarre and zany characters and off-beat sense of humor made it a hit with early fans of web entertainment and a staple of college dorms. Among the site’s colorful cast, few are more memorable than Strong Bad, the self-described villain who divides his time between vaguely tormenting his animated neighbors and cluelessly responding to viewer feedback in the ongoing “Strong Bad Emails” series. Learn more about the creative team responsible for this iconic episode here.
“Bee and Puppycat”
Produced by Frederator Studios, “Bee and Puppycat” found a home on Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover YouTube Channel. The series tells the story of Bee, a perennially unemployed 20-something who adopts a dog/cat hybrid creature called Puppycat. The show follows the often surreal adventures that the pair shares as Bee accepts an increasingly zany series of temp jobs. The series is also notable for its use of voice simulating Vocaloid programs to voice the Puppycat character. Find out more about the team that created the shows very first episode here or take a deep dive into the work of animation supervisor Ki Ho-Hwang.
“Knights of Sidonia”
As the great Netflix experiment in original content marches on, the streaming platform seems to be trying its hand at just about every form of television content known to man. “ The first Netflix Original anime series, “Knights of Sidonia” tells the story of a group of humans forced to flee into space to escape an alien attack that has wiped out the population of Earth. Hundreds of years later mankind has evolved in fascinating ways while in isolation and on the run. The series imagines a wild speculative future in which cloning, asexual reproduction, human photosynthesis and even immortality are the norm. When the aliens finally catch up, its left to one young man with a secretive past to save the ship and the human race.
Streaming service Crunchyroll has carved out a comfortable niche for itself by delivering streamable anime content to western audiences just hours or days after they premiere in Japan. Where previously anime enthusiasts needed to rely on digital bootlegs or wait months or years for popular series to make their North American debut, Crunchyroll has licensed hundreds of hours of anime content including classics like “Sailor Moon” and “Naruto,” as well as new releases like “Aldnoah.Zero.” The story of mankind’s fight for survival against futuristic Martian colonists, “Aldnoah” streamed on Crunchyroll just a few hours behind its original airdates in Japan. Along with its impressive catalog of licensed anime Crunchyroll is moving to add to impressive catalog of licensed anime with its own original content — In April, it named Brannon Coluccio as head of originals.