There are many areas for growth in television these days, but few are as busy or offer as much variety as adult animation. Already the format of many of the most entertaining shows of the recent past – “Bojack Horseman”, “Bob’s Burgers”, “Rick and Morty”, “Archer”, “Tuca & Bertie” – it has only grown. magnitude. New series are arriving every week (and that’s not counting the quarterly anime infusion), perhaps prompted by a combination of evolving tastes and pandemic-induced production changes.

They can take the form of superhero and sci-fi genre stories, like Amazon Prime Video’s “Invincible”, HBO Max’s “Gen: Lock” (premieres Thursday), or “Blade Runner: Black Lotus” from Adult Swim (November 13). Many still pop up in the broad category of wacky family comedies, like “The Great North” by Fox or “The Harper House” on Paramount +. Some are looking into licensing the animation for transgression, such as “Teenage Euthanasia” by Adult Swim, “Chicago Party Aunt” by Netflix or “The Freak Brothers” by Tubi (November 14). Others, you think, might take too much courage to try and get away with live-action actors, like “Fairfax,” Amazon’s satire of teen influencers and hypebeast culture, or “Q-Force.” , Netflix’s irreverent comedy about an LGBTQ spy group.

Inspired by the return of Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” here are three excellent adult animated series that take very different approaches to achieving the same goal: whether through theatrical smuttineness, minimalist degradation, or surreal fantasy, each has something to say about the real lives of young people.

The most relentless and entertaining show on the small screen returns with a fifth season on Friday. Like neurotic New Yorkers in a Sondheim musical, her teenage characters are endlessly talkative when it comes to their obsessions: masturbation, the dimensions of the organs involved in masturbation, the likes and dislikes of classmates to whom they think while they masturbate.

The series continues to use the sexual and romantic panic of its lifelong college students as a framework for serious but thankfully non-pedantic commentary; the first episodes of season 5 tackle topics like body image and the unashamed universality of being a perverted teenager. And the quick jokes are as sharp as those on many shows better known for their topical humor. (Budding activist Missy, voiced by Ayo Edebiri, is campaigning against the school’s problematic mascot, the Scheming Gypsy.)

Series creator Nick Kroll and John Mulaney bring the central characters to life, neurotic nerd Nick and brash nerd Andrew. But what sets “Big Mouth” apart is its collection of shaggy hormonal monsters, sleek loving bugs, and other beings sent from another dimension to help guide human teens through their tough, stinging years. questionable advice with insults and raunchy one-liners. It’s as if adolescence has a particularly playful salon act as its soundtrack, a vanity made literal in The Sorcerer of Shame, a master at spreading shame because he can’t feel it. himself; David Thewlis wraps the character in glorious layers of smarm. (Post it on Netflix.)

As allegories of coming of age grow, this recently completed animated series, on Funimation, is on the nose. A school building suddenly drifts out of our world and hangs in a black void; the 36 college kids trapped inside must overcome their anxieties and jealousies and work together to find a way back, a process commonly referred to as growing up. Travelers also acquire strange new powers, as teenagers tend to do. The coolest kid can fly; a hostile stranger can order whatever he wants from his own magical version of Amazon and must keep the community supplied with material goods.

The challenges they face are also easy to analyze as a Japanese social critic: the student council-type institute rules that allow everyone to work constantly; students who freeze in place like statues have vanished into curtained Twin Peaks-style rooms where they can play video games or lift weights in solitude. (One girl is reprimanded for calling them hikikomori, the Japanese term for extreme recluse.) Western viewers won’t have too much trouble following, even though the story is told in the elliptical, sketchy style typical of anime from science fiction.

A healthy appetite for teenage romance can get you through “Sonny Boy” despite the poor writing, but the real reason to watch the 12-episode season is the striking animation overseen by director Shingo Natsume – minimalist yet evocative. in the character design, and sumptuously detailed and inventive in the psychedelic succession of worlds traveled by travelers. Madhouse Animation Studio has a proud tradition in animated feature films, and the work of Natsume and his artists (including manga veteran Hisashi Eguchi) is reminiscent of some Madhouse landmarks: the elegant frenzy of “Paprika. “By Satoshi Kon, the languid melancholy of Mamoru Hosoda” The girl who jumped in time. (Post it on Funimation.)

In 2008, HBO premiered “The Life and Times of Tim,” a pretty-animated (the characters looked like Etch A Sketched), quietly steamy workplace squeak comedy that built a small but dedicated following. Weighing the show’s insider credit against its paltry viewership, HBO canceled “Tim” after two seasons, changed his mind, then canceled it for good after Season 3.

But that was before HBO Max, which is now home to the first season of “Ten Year Old Tom,” writer and director Steve Dildarian’s sequel to “The Life and Times of Tim”. If you were part of the cult from the previous series, you’ll be happy to know that “Tom” is largely the same series. The animation and dialogue are as raw as you remember, and the 10-year-old hero is a mini-Tim, downtrodden and subject to constant embarrassment but more perplexed than upset. Being slightly more sane than everyone around him is no defense against the elaborate humiliation scenarios Dildarian constructs.

Tom, voiced by Dildarian in a timid monotonous tone that slips into strangled alarm, is a shrewd Charlie Brown; he talks like an adult, but his ignorance of things like condoms or how to start a fire without burning the house gets him into trouble. His moral compass is broader than that of the adults around him, but he is easily misled. The cast of Bad Models includes David Duchovny as a sketchy ice cream truck driver, Jennifer Coolidge (returning from “Tim”) as the mother of one of Tom’s friends and a very funny John Malkovich as Mr. B, the tyrant in charge of the group, the directory, the spelling team and who knows what else at Tom’s school. (Post it on HBO Max.)


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