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The Road So Far - The Amazing World Of Gumball

It feels like only yesterday that I first discovered The Amazing World Of Gumball, yet nearly two years have passed since then and I have watched every single episode since the premiere back in May.  At the time of this writing, exactly half of the first season’s episodes have aired.  I figured it was a good time to look back on the show and reevaluate my opinion, and with school starting back up, why not grade the show on its performance?  If you have watched the episodes as well, feel free to share your thoughts about the show on our forum or send us a tweet to @toonzone.

Animation

While it may be a bit early to say this, I sincerely believe that the show is the best looking animated program on television.  I’ve heard the term “visual feast” tossed around a lot over the years, but if any one show truly deserves to be described as such, it’s this one.  It’s impressive how well they managed to blend the 2D and 3D characters into the live-action world, as there are very few instances where the designs clash.  I am most intrigued by this because the people who work on the show are confident that the second season is going to look even better, and if they manage to pull that off, well… the sky’s the limit.  I am somewhat concerned by the fact that some of the characters are going to be slightly redesigned for season two, but based on what little has been revealed so far, it shouldn’t affect the quality of the show.

Grade: A+

Characters

I absolutely adore the characters.  There are so many of them, each with their own unique appearance, and most of them seem to be capable of contributing a great deal to the plot from episode to episode.  I often find myself just looking into the backgrounds in order to see what manner of strange creatures will show up next.  The Wattersons have proven themselves to be a fun family and I really want to learn more about them, although I have developed a case of Richard fatigue.  He can be a funny character and I still enjoy his roles most of the time, but I find his particular brand of humor – blatant stupidity – to be extremely tiresome.  I would like for him to be a bit more competent in the future, especially since several episodes have hinted that his stupidity is somewhat of a ruse in order to avoid responsibility.  I’m not saying that he has to change his shtick entirely, but it’s possible for him to be dumb and silly without going overboard.

It would probably help if he showed up a bit less as well, or at the very least, if the writers made use of Anais and Nicole a lot more.  It feels like Anais and Nicole have done relatively little in the first season so far, which is an area of concern for me because I’ve seen a lot of cartoons over the years focus more and more on male characters out of fear that boys will change the channel if the girls start showing up more often.  I don’t buy that and it sounds like pure executive meddling, although I don’t believe that The Amazing World Of Gumball is suffering from such meddling.  However, it is a fact that the girls don’t show up as often as the boys, and when they show up, they are in limited roles that deny them the same crazy antics as the boys.  That’s why The Painting may be my favorite episode so far, as I loved its ending when both the boys and the girls wrecked the house together.  I’d like to see the girls be allowed to let loose more often.

The supporting cast has been stellar.  I was concerned at first because they were all based upon common school archetypes, but in execution, they have done a pretty good job of breaking free from the shackles of their associated clichés.  If I have any problems with them it’s that there are too many good characters and they just don’t show up as often as I would like.  We’re halfway into the first season and some characters have barely spoken several lines, even when they seem like they would be able to fit into a plot quite easily.  I know a lot of fans are patiently waiting for their favorite side characters to get a more prominent role and I’m pleased to hear that the second season will make more use of them.  However, I do have one big problem with how all of the characters have been presented.

There are too many instances where the characters seem to have personality shifts in order to make a joke or plot work.  I understand that the show is a comedy and that there isn’t going to be much continuity, but I fervently believe that the characters’ behavior should still be consistent from episode to episode.  Take Gumball, for example; he has proven himself to be a fun little goofball, to be sure, but in some episodes he is depicted as being more stupid than Richard.  That is the case in two of the least favorite episodes among the fans: The Debt and The Responsible.  In the former, he stands in front of a slow moving car screaming at the top of his lungs, refusing to just step out of the way like Anais and Darwin did, and in the latter he tries to feed his sister a shoe.  He isn’t that stupid in most episodes, so making him that stupid for the sake of a brief scene just doesn’t make sense to me.  The side characters aren’t immune from this either.

In one particular episode, The Gi, all of Gumball’s friends suddenly decide to start bullying him.  I understand that children can be fickle, but previous episodes have shown that while Gumball isn’t the most popular kid at school, he is well liked, and his antics have generally been well received by the other kids.  To see him beat himself mercilessly in an attempt to impress his friends, while they all pointed and laughed, was too much for me to accept.  These weren’t the same characters that we’ve seen in other episodes.  Banana Joe, who was leading the mockery of Gumball, was one of his good friends in another episode and even chopped down a tree house with people inside of it in order to rescue him, so why did he suddenly turn into a bully?  Why couldn’t the writers have simply used the actual bullies, Jamie and Tina, to torment Gumball instead of having all of his friends betray him?

These are just several examples, but there is inconsistency all throughout the show in one form or another and I’ve spoken with many fans who feel the same way.  I know that the writers are capable of making the show more consistent and I sincerely hope that they work on that problem, as I believe the show could be a whole lot better and that’s saying something considering how much I enjoy it as it is.  I do wish to make one final point about the characters, and that is that the show deserves a lot of credit for how it has handled Gumball and Penny’s relationship.  It is extremely rare to see two characters actually love one another and care for one another’s wellbeing in a show like this, as more often than not, animated comedies take the… well… comedic approach and never play their relationships straight.  I just hope that they don’t keep repeating the gag of something interrupting their first kiss, as I believe that will merely annoy the fandom if it keeps up.

Grade: B-

Episodes

I was really worried about the types of plots that the show would use back when I first reviewed the show, as I found the plots from the review episode to be somewhat bland and I wasn’t expecting it to be as much of a sitcom as it was.  I’m happy to report, however, that I had nothing to worry about.  While some of the plots do have a familiar feel to them, the show has managed to execute those plots well enough as to keep things fresh, although I still believe that the show is a lot more entertaining when it holds nothing back.  The Dress is considered one of the best episodes by the fandom and that episode went in a direction that few other shows have gone in before and it went absolutely crazy with its premise in the process.  We need more episodes like that.  I’m also impressed with how the show has managed to have a good mixture of family themed episodes and school themed episodes and I hope that they manage to maintain that balance going forward into the second half of the season and into season two, as it provides something for everybody to enjoy.

Of course, what matters most for an animated comedy is the animation and the comedy.  The plots merely serve as a vehicle for both, with the characters being instruments of its will.  I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the animation, and as for the comedy, I am entertained by it.  I enjoy The Amazing World Of Gumball and I feel that the amount of time that I invested in it, following it over these past few years, is an investment that paid off.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the funniest show on the network, but when it’s at its best, it’s certainly capable of competing for that designation.  There are times where the humor comes off as a bit too juvenile, such as the occasional usage of toilet humor, but there are a lot of jokes that fly over the heads of children as well, so it has a good balance to it.  I’d just like to see them take more risks, as I’ve said, as I believe the show could benefit from it.

Grade: B+

Music

I have no complaints about the music.  Ben Locket and Neil Myers did an excellent job providing the score, as the music is nearly as varied as the animation.  I just wish Cartoon Network wouldn’t have cut the opening sequence, as I really liked the show’s theme song.  Hopefully a new one can be created for season two, one that the network will actually use, as the obscenely shortened version they’ve been using just doesn’t work.  Also, despite the fact that I usually loathe musical numbers in animated programs, the ones that have been in the show so far have been surprisingly tolerable; I’ve actually had a few of them get stuck in my head for a while each time I watch the episode that they’re in.  It would be nice to see some more songs in the future, and that’s something I never thought I would say.

Grade: A+

The Online Campaign

While I have not personally been satisfied by the content so far, as it’s barely started and what little content has been released hasn’t been very substantive, I’m still giving the online campaign a lot of appreciation.  It’s something that they didn’t have to do, so the fact that they did it at all deserves so much credit.  I would like to see @toonzone more about the other characters of the show, however, as at the moment it doesn’t really feel like Richard is the one tweeting.  I mean, he hasn’t tweeted anything that is specific to Richard; I don’t understand why he has barely mentioned his family, as the account would feel a whole lot more authentic if he occasionally updated us on what Anais, Darwin, Gumball and Nicole were doing.  As for Richard Watterson tweet, the ones that we have gotten so far have been funny, but they’re very short, provide little context as to why the characters are even doing what they’re doing, and do little to introduce the characters to a new audience or add depth for an old one.  I’m confident future videos will do a better job on all of those fronts, but first impressions are important.  I can’t say too much about the facebook page, since its announced features have yet to be fully implemented, but the episode teases that they provide are nice to read.

Grade: B

Voice Acting

I believe the voice actors have done an admirable job so far, even if we don’t know who voices most of the characters because a full cast list has never been released.  There are five additional names in the credits aside from those who voice the Wattersons and it appears that each of them voice multiple characters, which is never an easy thing to do.  The only complaint that I have about the voice acting is that, in some episodes, side characters speak without their real voice.  Alan, for example, is supposed to speak with a certain helium tone, but has on several occasions spoken without it.  This has happened for just about every side character.  It’s a small matter, but one that causes some annoyance for the more hardcore fans and I hope that future episodes make an attempt to use the right voices even for small roles.

Grade: A-

With that, I’m done blogging about the show until sometime after the final episode of the season.  Suffice it to say that I have really enjoyed the first season so far and I’m hoping that the rest of the episodes will be just as entertaining.  There are a lot of interesting episodes coming up, based on the handful of summaries and the episode titles that we know of.  I just hope that the show will improve upon the complaints that I had.  I know these episodes were written long ago, but a show naturally matures over time and it’s entirely possible that the second half of the season will be better than the first half of the season.  We’ll find out soon enough.

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