Over the Garden Wall ★★★★

Over the Garden Wall is a bold direction for Cartoon Network. Not only is it the network’s first foray into the mini-series format but it is quite unlike anything they have commissioned before. It’s a melancholic, dreamy and richly detailed story as two lost brothers wander through the eerie and mysterious Unknown looking to get home. Although many of the episodes feature self-contained stories there is a clear arc for the narrative and characters which eventually gains clarity in the final two episodes.

It’s a series (the whole thing is only 100 minutes long) steeped in references that will no doubt reward repeated viewings. It is filled with familiar folklore and fairy tales as well as numerous animation references including the likes of Miyazaki, Fleischer and even early pioneers such as Starewicz. Yet it is more rewarding than just spotting the loving references and details - it’s a beautifully observed story with a eerie and melancholic atmosphere.

The Unknown is like many fantasy worlds but the characters are so rich, whether it be the mismatched brothers or the insidious and manipulative Beast who stalks the pair through their journey, that it transcends the familiar. The series’ tone is also spot on managing to smartly juggle surreal humour, existential crises and outright horror. Visually it is surprisingly stunning with painterly backgrounds and great character designs. Not since Samurai Jack has a Cartoon Network production looked this impressive.

I’ll definitely be returning to the Unknown again.

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