What I thought about: Big Mouth (Season 4)

The latest season of this adult cartoon continues to explore important themes of life with its usual grotesque flair – but the storytelling is less tight this time around.

Andrew (middle) has a unique fashion sense, and he won’t heed to any criticism of it

What’s it about?
Big Mouth is an adult cartoon set around a group of high school freshmen. They’re beginning their puberty journey, and learning to cope with everything that comes with it. The characters are hugely exaggerated and yet somewhat relatable.

Each of the kids have a hormone monster, an invisible creature only they can see. Sort of like fairy godmother, they talk to them and guide them through this stage of their life. I think they are supposed to be a manifestation of their hormones rather than an actual, individualised character – but either way they add so much colour to the show.

What do I like about it?
The personification of thoughts and emotions is perfect. We have the hormone monsters, of course, whom you might say are the stars of the show. But there’s also The Shame Wizard, a scraggy looking British wizard who pops up whenever you do something shameful – which for Andrew is basically all the time.

New to Season 4 is the Anxiety Mosquito and I have to commend the writers for the choice of animal because a mosquito is a perfect representation of anxiety. There can be more than one. They don’t go away when you flail and try to swat them. They question what you’re doing and shout at you when something goes wrong. As someone who went through this year’s summer with a lot of anxiety, I thought the portrayal was brilliant.

The voice acting is also on point, and somehow being able to tell which voice actor is voicing multiple characters just makes it funnier.

What do I not like about it?
Usually I love the show and it’s a consistent ten out of ten. This time around though, I didn’t think it was quite as good as before. I think it’s down to the way the stories were told. Characters had much more individualised storylines that didn’t often intersect. It was a departure from the ‘we’re all in this together’ class-sized story of previous seasons. While I do understand why this was the case (as you go through puberty and discover more about yourself, you naturally diverge from where you and your peers all began) it did just make this season a little less enjoyable.

Worth a watch?
Yes, but definitely start from the beginning and try to not take the toilet humour too seriously.

By the way…

  • One of my favourite characters, Missy, changes voice near the end as she has bene recast to be voiced by a black woman, which should have happened in the first place
  • Netflix has renewed the show all the way up to Season 6, which I was really happy about


Quickfire round: F is For Family (Season 4)

Season 4 of this fantastic adult cartoon explores some pretty deep issues, including a whole episode dedicated to black supporting character Rosie, who runs for election as the town’s Alderman, and a season-long theme of terse parental relationships.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Frank smile in a scene.

A brief recap on F is For Family: it’s an adult cartoon created by, and starring, US comedian Bill Burr. Set in the 1970s, it follows the lives of a dysfunctional sub-urban family, headed up by Francis ‘Frank’ Murphy, head of baggage handling at Mohican Airways. Having left college full of aspirations, Frank is drafted into the US Army for the Vietnam War, before settling down into a premature daily grind upon the arrival of his first son, Kevin. We know all this thanks to the fantastic opening credits, backed by Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’.

The show has always been good, not least because its 70s setting both does away with modern distractions and also sheds light on the issues of the times, including blatant racism, sexism in medical care, drug use, abusive parenting, drink driving, and a whole lot more.

This season’s central plot is the appearance of Frank’s estranged father, Bill, whom Frank only remembers as being foul-mouthed and condescending all his life, right up until his mother had enough and kicked him out of the house. Bill gets on well with Frank’s children, and thus begins a tense undercurrent as Frank becomes increasingly angry at the memories of his father’s bullying, which ironically impacts his treatment towards his own children.

We also get an entire episode dedicated to Rosie, the meet-and-greet at Mohican Airways, who is running for election to the town’s local council as their Alderman. Genuinely wanting to improve his poverty-stricken district, Rosie quickly becomes dejected by the bribery and bureaucracy exercised by the mafia-like mayor.

There’s plenty of development in the kids and Sue this season too, but these generally take a backstage to the larger themes of the show.

It’s hard for me to describe why you should watch F is For Family, but I’d certainly implore you to give a few episodes a go, ideally from Season 1.


Quickfire Round: Kakegurui XX (Season 2)

Having run out of content from the original manga series, this second season stretches six high-stakes gambles into 12 episodes, with the least satisfying ending I’ve seen all year. Yes, even worse than Dangerous Lies.

See what I mean about the unique art style?

Kakegurui is an anime (that’s Japanese cartoon, for those unaware) set at a prestigious private school where everything is decided by gambling. The anime piqued my interest with its interesting premise and unique art style. Characters are shown going from their usual display of simplistic kawaii caricatures into highly detailed, overtly ugly close-ups, as they experience a range of emotions when their gamble appears to be paying off – or not.

Backtracking a little bit – transfer student Yumeko Jabami is a pure gambler – she never cheats, unlike most of the school, and she derives actual pleasure from the risks involved in a high-stakes gamble, especially ones truly left to chance. After freeing house-pet Ryota Suzui (a position you get to if you lose so often that you’re unable to pay your debts), she goes on a mission to take down some of the more popular students, and expose the cheats that made them successful.

In this second season, the student council disbands and an election is called. Everyone is both a candidate and the electorate – each student gets one vote, represented by a poker chip. You’re expected to gamble your way to victory. I’ll spare you the rest of the frankly confusing and unsatisfactory plot.

What I liked about this show was how it explored different games – some of them simple card games, others more complicated and involving higher stakes than money alone.

The opening of this season sees Yumeko participate in a sadistic game involving a guillotine. It’s held up by one string – but there are twelve strings in total. Players, three of them, stick a finger into a hole under the guillotine and take turns cutting the strings one by one. It doesn’t matter who cuts the string or in what order – if the guillotine falls, they all lose a finger. It’s a game of chicken.

The game’s inventor, one of the participants, knows there’s actually no risk of a severed finger, as she’s inserted an iron plate that protects everyone from the guillotine. She is used to revelling in the torture experienced by other participants when the odds of the guillotine’s string being cut get smaller and smaller. But Yumeko senses foul play, and asks the neutral overseer (who set up the strings out of sight, to keep it fair) if she ‘removed it, like I requested’. ‘Yes’ she replies, albeit not referring to the iron plate. It doesn’t matter. The inventor is now bricking themselves. Suddenly, it’s game on.

Moments like the one I just described are the best parts of this show. Unfortunately this season was bogged down in a terrible plot and an ending where literally nothing happens. More seasoned anime viewers have told me this is known as an ‘anime original’ ending, because it’s not in the manga series from which this anime is derived from. Let me declare myself not a fan of ‘anime original’ endings, then.


Spring Clean – Other shows I’ve watched this year

Sometimes one simply loses the will to write a fully formed review. Before we sleepwalk into the second half of the year, here’s what else I’ve seen in 2020 so far.

BoJack Horseman (Season 6)
A cute and fitting end to the story. The show pioneered so much when it began back in 2014 – an interesting art style, human-animal-ish characters, and metaphors galore. It’s sad to see the show all finished, but clearly BoJack couldn’t keep running from his mistakes forever.

For those new to the show – it gets better after the first season.

The show continues to explore some really important topics.

Sex Education (Season 2)
Viewers, now fully exposed to the show’s main gimmick of having a shy teenage boy give sex and relationship advice to his schoolmates, will appreciate the continued plot and character development. I’m convinced they blew half of the show’s budget on the school musical in the final episode, which was really quite something. I did however find the Isaac-Otis-Maeve triangle quite frustrating, particularly at the end.

You (Season 2)
I don’t really need to explain to readers how good this show is, because I know you’ve already seen it. The second season , shot in a completely different location and with a largely fresh cast, was fantastically thrilling (although I didn’t care much for the trippy episode). Not to brag, or anything, but I saw the ‘twist’ coming a mile off. It was still satisfying when it happened.

Remember: people die in this show.

Cesar’s actor is… underwhelming.

On My Block (Season 2)
On My Block is a great little show to watch. It’s a comedy drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst also shedding some light on the families caught up in gang warfare in Los Angeles. It’s best asset is its ensemble cast, each with their own striking personality. That said, I continued to be disappointed in Diego Tinoco’s performance as Cesar.

On My Block (Season 3)
This season came out immediately after I finished the previous one. I also thought it was pretty good, and was pleased to see the hilarious and surprisingly intelligent Jasmine get promoted to a main player in the group. However, the season finale was abrupt, confusing, and ultimately a little disappointing.

The gang are on a treasure hunt.


What I thought about: Paradise PD (Season 2)

Kinda like Family Guy but it’s about incompetent police and there’s way, way more toilet humour and graphic animation. This show isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, most of the time it genuinely isn’t funny

Whatever you’re thinking, the answer is yes

What’s it about?
Should I even be answering this question? The show is barely coherent. It’s loosely based around an incompetent police department who are battling a drug crisis.

Every character is horrible in some way. The chief is highly strung, the best person at being a police officer is sexually obsessed with a comically obese colleague, the police dog is a drug addict, an OAP cop who can’t retire as they can’t afford his pension is a massive pervert, and the chief’s son gets into a relationship with a car.

Oh yeah, see how I just snuck that last part in there? Yeah that’s probably not even the worst thing that happens in the show. Not even close.

There is a little plot development as the team try their hardest to uncover the ‘Kingpin’ who is in charge of producing and selling the local Argyle Meth. But otherwise, it’s just a slapstick, very dirty gag cartoon show.

What do I like about it?
Alright, some things are funny. The animation is also well done, and there are some good pop culture references. The show’s second season is a technical improvement on the first, even if…

What do I not like about it?
…the writing is definitely worse. I could just be forgetting the first season, which I saw over a year ago, but my god is this show crass. You have to have a certain sense of humour to even watch the show, and then I can’t really bring up any specific part I liked because it’s just so forgettable.

Worth a watch?
Not unless you like South Park and don’t mind seeing some very messed up cartoon animation. When I say the OAP cop is perverted, I really mean it.

By the way…

  • The show is seen as the spiritual successor to Brickleberry, another cartoon produced by the same people but with a park ranger setting.
  • There are two fewer episodes in Season 2. It’s probably for the best.