Welcome to Adventures in Netflix episode six: Soul Music (Episode 1 of 7)!
Today EmotedLlama and I will be, erm, “discussing” Soul Music, the 1997 animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel of the same name; here is a plot summary, courtesy of EmotedLlama.
The story follows two somewhat separate storylines; that of Susan Sto Helit, granddaughter of death, and Buddy, founder of the new “Band With Rocks In.” While Buddy is in Ankh-Morprok, dealing with the exorbitant entry fees of the Musician’s Guild and trying to book a gig, Susan is in a boarding school in Quirm, learning of her since-forgotten heritage.
With hopefully enough information out of the way, here are mine and EmotedLlama’s thoughts on the show.
NekoShogun: So, the first thing we have to talk about is, obviously, the animation. Which is, in my opinion, utter garbage; they seem to have spent their entire budget on a, by today’s standards, crappy CG model of the Discworld and the animals it rests on.
EmotedLlama: I don’t think it’s a matter of opinion. Heck, the Magic School Bus TV show looked better than this… and it started in 1994, three years before Soul Music. Soul Music itself looks like it’s out of the late eighties or early nineties, without any possible nostalgia or charm that comes with them.
NekoShogun: I’m gonna stop the animation discussion here, because there’s really nothing more we need to say (though we could go on forever). Instead, I’d like to shift the focus to the voice acting, which, with the exception of Christopher Lee as Death, is pretty awful. Half the actors just sounded like they were shouting into their microphones with accents that may or may not have been genuine.
EmotedLlama: Definitely not genuine; most of them didn’t even sound of this world (though, given the setting, that’s not necessarily a bad thing)! And the writing certainly didn’t help. While the lines that were lifted directly from the book were, from a writing standpoint (that voice acting!), great, pretty much everything else was terrible. It seemed as if the philosophy behind the show’s writing was “take everything that was humorous or serious given the context, and take it seriously.” Which, obviously, does not work.
NekoShogun: I have to disagree with you there. I don’t think they were deliberately trying to make these things seem serious, but that the overall tone of the show ended up being this flat, awful, not funny… nothingness, that conveyed neither humor nor seriousness.
EmotedLlama: Well, I’m taking seriousness as being anything not, well, humorous.
NekoShogun: So you’re saying that, without the context of the prose, the show does absolutely nothing to provide emotional context for these scenes.
EmotedLlama: Exactly. And that’s really the main problem with the show; it either lifts lines directly from the book (at which point I say, “why?”) or it turns them into something with completely different meaning–usually seemingly intended to be taken seriously.
NekoShogun: Had there not been dialogue lifted directly from the book, I would’ve been seriously tempted to just shut the thing off and just pick something else for this segment, it was so bad. It really goes to show just how good Terry Pratchett is, that I was willing to endure this for those moments.
EmotedLlama: And that so much is inherently lost in the translation from book to visual format, too: Pratchett makes real use of his medium. Obviously, that doesn’t extend to this atrocity.
NekoShogun: That being said, there have been excellent movie adaptations of his works; the live action Hogfather and Going Postal, to name two.
EmotedLlama: No, those are definitely great–I think the Hogfather movie was fantastic–but there’s still a certain amount of information and subtlety that’s lost in the movies; take the Hogfather, for example, where a “setup-punchline” format for the humor often became obvious.
NekoShogun: So, getting back on topic, what did you think of the music?
EmotedLlama: 50/50, really; a lot of the thematic stuff was cool, sounding techno but entirely foreign at once by kind of blending different styles. The other half of the time it was bland and boring, doing pretty much nothing.
NekoShogun: Agreed. I have read that there are some actual songs with lyrics later on when the band performs (I think I read it on Wikipedia a while ago), but not having heard any I can’t speak to their quality.
EmotedLlama: We could always try watching another episode…. No, I’m just joking–no way we’re doing that.
NekoShogun: Yeah, I don’t want to ever watch that again.
~NekoShogun (and EmotedLlama)