American adult cartoons are hit or miss. Mostly misses for me. The last one I enjoyed was Rick and Morty, up until season three happened while I was working at a McDonald’s.
If I ever hear someone ask for Szechuan sauce ever again I will fucking murder them.
Smiling Friends is the first Adult Swim show in a while that I’ve actually enjoyed. I’ve been keeping an eye out for it ever since the pilot came out and hoo boy, it was worth it! This show is refreshingly original, wildly enjoyable, and most importantly: it has meme potential unlike anything I’ve ever seen!
Memes are important. Don’t ask why. Just accept that they are.
The premise is simple. The Smiling Friends, our group of tiny bizarre looking cartoon characters, need to make people smile. But in this bizarre, gruesome world, that may not always be easy. Especially when their clients range from a suicidal old man to an introverted gamer shrimp to Satan himself.
As you may have guessed from that summary, this is a black comedy. That said, it doesn’t rely entirely on its darker humor to work. Plenty of the show’s best jokes aren’t even that grim! The show can be just as wholesome as it can be gruesome, so neither flavor becomes too overpowering. Not a fan of the episode where a Hollywood frog man goes berserk? Here, have a fun little romp through the fantasy forest!
Character wise, this show is pretty simple. None of the Smiling Friends themselves are all that complex. Charlie is the down-to-Earth apathetic one, Pim is the upbeat overly positive one, Gleb is the tiny one that speaks in gibberish, Alan is the monotone one, and Mr. Boss is the creepy but well-meaning leader of the crew. It’s a simple group dynamic, but one that works really well in each given episode.
Speaking of which, the sheer variety of each episode is fantastic! No two stories are even remotely similar. From a fun fantasy ‘adventure’ to a fast-food murder mystery to a soul-searching journey through Hell, each story is completely unique and enjoyable for different reasons. And there isn’t a single bad one of the lot! At least if you ask me.
Even better than the writing is the animation. The sheer variety of it all is absolutely insane! The 2D animation is either animated in three frames or thirty-three frames! We’ve got 3D characters animated in stop-motion. We’ve got highly detailed still frames. Hell, one background character is animated entirely with rotoscope!
I love the character designs. They’re either highly detailed to the point of becoming uncanny and creepy or they’re so simple that a little kid could draw them. The sheer insane variety between them makes the whole show feel completely unpredictable and insane, which fits its tone perfectly.
Did I mention that the voice cast is a who’s-who of internet names and meme actors? Mike Stoklasa, Mr. Plinkett himself, voices Desmond in the pilot! James Rolfe, the legendary Angry Video Game Nerd, has a cameo! For fuck’s sake, Gilbert motherfucking Gottfried voices God!! And they’re not just names, either; they all provide really solid performances!
I love Smiling Friends! It’s a short, fun, and utterly insane ride that I enjoyed from start to end! You can watch the whole thing in about an hour and a half, less time than an average movie. And that’s not nearly enough! I need more of this show in my life!
If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d highly recommend it. This show is a gem from start to end. It’s a beautiful blend of chaotic, dark, and wholesome. It, fittingly, puts a big ol’ smile on my face.
Alright, back to my anime degeneracy.