The breeze is soft through the trees. The bushes are thick and green with plentiful rain. The forest rustles with life… including a pair of mischievous kittens. Toxica and Yami have wandered away from home in search of a little bit of excitement in their sheltered life. All goes well, until Toxica encounters a terrifying beast twice her size. Yami flees and when his parents arrive, he is paralyzed with fear. They run to their daughter, fearing the worst... until the 'terrifying beast' turns out to be a family friend named Mika. While that encounter turned out well for the siblings (to the relief of their parents, Kiitura and Tsuki), Mika comes bearing bad news. Apparently there have been bands of predators roaming the area, coming dangerously close to Tsuki’s colony. Now the colony has to pack up and leave to stay with a sister colony until the trouble has passed… but what trouble will find them on the way there?
Toxic Tears was a show made by ToxicTearsProductions, otherwise known as ‘YmiaTheCheetah’ and other screen names. The first and only complete episode was released on April 8th, 2013. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t able to get too far and only had a partially completed version of episode 2 and a trailer teasing later events. Toxic Tears is a show in the “cat” genre, one that usually focuses on the struggles of a group of felines as they try to survive external threats such as rival colonies, predators, and environmental hazards. It could also be considered fantasy, as many of the characters have colorful fur, distinctive designs and magical powers to help defend themselves.
The show’s art is a nice treat for the eyes! It was animated in Photoshop CS5, resulting in the fine raster line arts and painterly backgrounds, though the characters themselves have more simplistic cel shading for ease in animation. With everything being made in the same program though, there’s a sense of cohesion between all of the elements. The characters feel like they’re a part of their environment and interact with it regularly- a quality that not a lot of shows have. The animation is good as well, with the action feeling quick and snappy and with clever looking special effects such as Kiitura's 'magic sonar'.
Toxic Tears’ sound quality is good as well. None of the characters are significantly louder or quieter than each other, and everyone can be easily understood. The most impressive aspect of its sound design however is its completely stunning OST. When listening to it, I was under the impression that it was using songs from other shows that the creator liked in order to build up the emotions present in any given scene. This is common for a lot of Webtoons, so I've come to expect it. When I checked out the rest of the channel however, I found out that a large portion of Toxic Tears’ soundtrack was composed by the creator of the show! I was blown away by the quality of these songs, especially considering that I assumed they were from an existing TV show or movie! I would definitely advise checking out the Toxic Tears soundtrack if you have the time.
That being said, I feel like the show was a bit faster paced than it should have been. Fast paced shows aren’t a bad thing! A lot of independent productions just don’t have the time or energy to produce full length episodes or seasons, and so have to cram what information they have into a shorter run time. I’ve seen this done well plenty of times! But I think in its attempt to get going with the plot, Toxic Tears ended up skipping some important information. I was frequently left wondering who these characters are, why they’re here, why they were so afraid of the foxes and needed to move, and what this world was like. Which is a shame! Most first episodes are spent on mostly introductions, but we didn’t even catch all of the main players' names. I had to glean what Tsuki’s name was from the credits! The scenes move pretty fast, sometimes too fast to let the actions breathe, or to let the viewer fully comprehend what's going on. Sometimes you don’t want the viewer to be left looking at a still image and I understand that, but it’s worth taking the time to let things sink in as well. The art and backgrounds are well done- I’d like to look at them! Camera movements can really help with this, allowing the viewer’s line of sight to pan over an otherwise still image. Combine this with narration and two characters sitting, and it’s pretty easy to get a lot of exposition out of the way without having to animate every little bit.
I think some exposition would have also helped increase the stakes and draw the viewers in. We are informed that there are foxes incoming, but we have no way of knowing if this is something worth worrying too much about. The characters react with vague concern instead of horror, which leads the viewer to think "Well maybe this is just normal for them." After all, Mika and the rest of his colony are pretty large individuals, much bigger than the cats in Kiitura and Tsuki's colony. Are the foxes so big or in such large numbers that they can’t be scared off? Do they have powers like the cats do? What's important about this place that they chose to live here? If it’s safer elsewhere, why don’t they live there to start with? I think answering some of these questions could really help make the audience care about what happens to these characters, and could be used to build on the existing characters as well. For example, it wouldn’t take much for Toxica and Yami to whine about having to leave because long trips are so BORING (Thus cementing their characterization as rambunctious kids and further foreshadowing Toxica wandering off later!), and having the extent of the threat explained to them, for their benefit and the audiences’.
That being said, there are some aspects of the plot that I thought were done really well. There is suitable tension (and comedy from the resulting relief) in the beginning of the episode. Toxica is in danger, accosted by a strange creature! Her parents rush to the rescue- and it turns out to be a family friend! This also serves as foreshadowing for what happens when Toxica goes exploring later. She got lucky once, but we the viewers know that won’t happen twice. Especially not with the flash we got of a strange creature when Tsuki mentioned how something felt off that day. It’s a nice buildup and callback, and I would have loved to see how the fight turned out. I also would have liked to have seen what the colony’s reaction to the strange beast was after the fight. Is this creature a normal predator, and these sorts of life threatening battles are what these colonies face every day? Or is this a mysterious new threat to their way of life? Either option could have been equally interesting and fun to watch.
In conclusion, Toxic Tears is a show that had a lot of potential. I don’t blame the creator for letting it drop though. Sometimes ideas that we work on for a long time can become less and less appealing as we become different people. For something that takes as long to do as animation that become even more apparent than in other forms of media, and far more webtoons than webcomics or written fiction succumb to their creators’ interests changing. Ymia is still active on the internet and still drawing, and one’s health and security is all we can hope for. All we can do is say thanks for the good show!
Audience: Teenagers, Adults. While the characters are occasionally cute and cuddly and there's no foul language, I don't think this show was necessarily meant to be watched by kids. This is mostly because of the violence in episode 2, which might be more than would usually be shown on a kids show.
Inclusion: B+. Not bad! This show has a female main character in Toxica, and her mother holds a powerful position and is well respected in their colony. They don’t interact too much, but I’m chalking that up to the show’s short run time as opposed to a specific writing decision. In addition, I was RELIEVED to see the presence of subtitles, which always make my watch sessions so much more manageable. Finally, there are characters like Mifune which have clear disabilities (such as being blinded in one eye) that are just as valued as the rest of the characters.
Best Quality: The music! I discussed it already, but the original sound track of this show is truly beautiful. I had a lot of fun listening to it, and they really help build up the scenes. It’s not often you see a soundtrack of this quality in a webtoon, and it’s nice to see it used to such great effect. In a close second the art is really good too, especially considering how hard it is to animate with photoshop.
Favorite Character: Mika! He seems like a really fun guy to be around, and he played well with the kids. In addition to that though, he seems like a good leader and a caring person as well. He doesn’t seem to be a part of Toxica’s colony and instead is the leader of a nomadic group of big cats. As a result, he’s probably doing Toxica’s colony a major favor by escorting them to a safe place. He just seems like a really nice guy, and I would have liked to have seen more of him!