Sometimes, the Internet takes you to some interesting places. It was a Tumblr post that brought my attention to an amateur animated show on YouTube called No Evil. It’s a show about a group of anthropomorphic animal spirits that live just outside the rival villages of Hatfield and McCoy. The show is also steeped in American folklore, tradition, and mythology. It incorporates it into the characters and plot– almost everything can be traced back to these stories.
The closest comparisons that I can make to how this works is to the shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time, aired on NBC and ABC respectively. Grimm and Once Upon a Time rely on the audience knowing the fairy tales and Disney films that they’re based on so that the writers can get to the police procedural/MMO crossover story that they actually want to write. No Evil does something different– it doesn’t assume that you know the characters and stories, but it doesn’t (necessarily) spell it all out either. Instead, it introduces characters and story elements that support the main plot, and makes that the compelling force behind the show. The only exception to that I can think of is a retelling of the story of Mahtigwess and Lusifee which reveals some backstory for those characters.
The main difference is the source material, and actually using the main characters of the folktales as the main characters of the show. Perhaps because of this, No Evil seems to have a bit more focus than the other shows, especially once the plot starts. Structuring the show like that might also be a product of a general audience’s unfamiliarity with the stories.
Just about all of the characters in the series are based on Native Central or Northern American folkloric and mythical characters. The “main” characters differ depending on the episode, but it tends to focus on a few major ones.
- Kajortoq aka “Kitty”– a fox spirit based on Inuit myth and other fox fables. She’s the mother of the group and the most sensible one aside from Paula (a large bear with a blue ox).
- Chalchiuhtlicue aka “Calamity” — a lizard spirit based on the Aztec goddess of water, as well as Calamity Jane. She is a wielder of Tlaloc’s tuning fork, and can control water.
- Ichabod — a crane spirit based on Ichabod Crane and the mythical creature of the thunderbird. He is Calamity’s brother, an intellectual, and often sees omens of the future.
- Quetzalcoatl aka “Corn” — a snake spirit based on the Aztec god of wind and wisdom. He is a shaman and healer, but keeps to himself due to his overwhelming anxiety.
- Huehuecoyotl aka “Huey” — a coyote spirit based on the Aztec god of mischief, as well as other Native American coyote myths. He is a trickster and spends a lot of time stealing scarecrows.
- Mahtigwess and Lusifee aka “Wrip” and “Vinkle” — a rabbit and bobcat couple based on a Passamaquoddy/Algonquin myth, as well as Rip Van Winkle. Wrip, the rabbit, has bottles of magic that create flawless disguises, and Vinkle, the bobcat, runs very fast.
There are also three monkey siblings that the title of the show comes from (Ixtlilton, Xochipilli, and Xochiquetzal, who literally see, hear, and speak no evil), a boy named Charles who calls himself “Black Bart“, a living rag doll that can animate the dead, and a group of kids from the two towns of Hatfield and McCoy that get in trouble together.
What I like about how the characters are used in the show is what I said earlier– they’re the main characters. There’s no random third party that’s conveniently there to have the situations explained to the audience. That doesn’t mean there’s no exposition or explaining, but it’s more often the characters themselves trying to figure something out than it is trying to explain to Emma Swan the curse on Storybrooke for the tenth time. I think that it makes for more compelling storytelling than a basic “problem of the week” show with a gimmick.
I really like the way that No Evil handles magic. There are some magical items, of course. The Tezcatlipoca Mirror (named after the Aztec god and can be translated into “Smoking Mirror”) was broken into four pieces at some point before the show starts. Three have been shown in the show– the Black, Red, and Blue Tezcatlipoca. The Black Tezcatlipoca, or “Black Ick”, is the most prevalent, shown as a creeping plague that essentially puts everything it touches into a coma. The item that broke the Tezcatlipoca Mirror was Tlaloc’s tuning fork, which has four spells, which, again, only three have been revealed.
The other major way that magic happens is through the creation of stuff– usually music or some sort of craft. The spell that they most often use involves both. To get the Black Ick off of people, they have to reproduce the spell that originally sealed it away. They use a quilt made by Kitty and Paula, a bowl of water, and an egg, as well as Corn’s shaman magic, and then they sing “Wayfairing Stranger”, which activates the magic. In later episodes, Huey makes some dolls out of sticks and thread for the children of Hatfield and McCoy to help protect them. There’s also Xochiquetzal, who can turn herself into butterflies by playing her guitar, and special coats worn by Corn and Calamity that are decorated with poppies to help them stay awake when it gets cold out.
The plot slowly builds in the first few episodes up to Episode 10 “Wrip an’ Vinkle”, when the Black Ick returns and Vinkle gets caught in it. From there, it deals with further expansions of the Black Ick, the Hatfield-McCoy rivalry, figuring out how to use Tlaloc’s tuning fork, and the denizens of the mysterious Mictlan Woods, named after the Aztec land of the dead. In Episode 19, many of the main characters head for a city called Hollow, where the spirits have to disguise themselves as humans to avoid persecution from the Industrial Men. And while this sounds like a lot, especially for a show whose longest episode is only 10 minutes long, the plot moves at a decent pace and there’s a clear progression of events. The mysteries of the plot are the main draw here, figuring out how everything progresses and what will happen next. While individual episodes might reference specific myths, the through plot brings these elements together and expands upon them.
All of the animation for No Evil is done by Betsy Lee herself. She also voices Kitty and Calamity. The animation is mostly fluid and the artistry is ambitious at the very least. A few standout techniques include the use of sign language and the water. Both Xochiquetzal and Xochipilli require sign language– Xochiquetzal to speak, Xochipilli to hear– and so many of the characters use American Sign Language or, as seen in the screen shot, Plains Indians Sign Language in order to communicate. Sign language is incredibly hard to animate, as it involves fast motion and hands which are two things that animators traditionally hate. The accurate use of sign language is highly impressive. Then there’s the water. All of the water is transparent, as opposed to the normal blue water usually seen in animation. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The water in No Evil is usually represented by white outlines that in large amounts will have a different color, but when it’s raining or being manipulated by the tuning fork, it becomes simple white lines that indicate where the water is. It makes water look like it does in the real world, which is really cool.
You should definitely check out No Evil, whether or not you’re familiar with the myths and folklore that it references. The whole thing is on YouTube, and it doesn’t take that long to watch. Even if internet cartoons aren’t your thing, this has a bit a weight to it. Things like No Evil are part of what makes the internet great, the way that it becomes a medium for art that wouldn’t survive elsewhere because it would be harder for it to find its audience, it might not last in the mainstream, or it might not get green-lit at all. There’s something to be said about that.
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05/01/2020 @ 11:49 pm
I concur. ‘No Evil’ is one of the more enthralling and rewarding events to experience!