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[Mr. Stain on Junk Alley]
AKA: ガラクタ通りのステイン (Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta-dori no Sutein)
Genre: Black Comedy, Pantomime
Length: Television series, 14 episodes, 7-28 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from FUNimation (also available via Hulu)
Content Rating: 13+ (Violence, Crude Humor)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: Neko Rahmen
Notes: As of the time of this review, this series is available to watch for free on http://www.hulu.com.

The final, fourteenth episode in the series is a thirty minute special.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars

Mr. Stain on Junk Alley

Synopsis

Mister Stain is literally a starving artist who lives in the (oddly shiny) ghettos of Junk Alley. Every day, he shifts through the trash that litters the alley with his cat friend Palvan, looking for food and art supplies.


Review

Welcome, boys and girls, to Junk Alley. Here there be giant hermit crabs that have taken up residence in street cones, a cat who stands on two legs, a nearly bottomless fountain where leviathans prowl, a starving artist, and a never ending pile of junk for all of them to shift through, scavenging for food and art supplies. But that pile of junk has some weird surprises buried in it, from an egg that hatches a man-eating fish, to clay that takes on the shape and personality of its model.

Japan has never seemed interested in the CG craze that swept the West ten years ago and still going strong, so it may be a surprise to see that this series is animated entirely in 3D by its creator, Ryuji Masuda. The look and feel of the series is unexciting- you couldn't fault someone if they mistook it for a new toddler's series. The animation is made with a simple color palette primarily composed of the primary colors we learned in Kindergarten, and the details are minimal. But wait till you reach the end of the first episode before calling Mr. Stain a kiddie series; Mr. Masuda has a pitch black sense of humor that comes to the surface when a fish Mr. Stain tries to cook eats him. And unlike Looney Tunes, in Mr. Stain, getting chewed by a fish, or bonked on the head, or any other sort of violence, does leave a mark. A bloody mark. The characters will usually end up pretty banged up by the end of an episode, and that helps make the series truly twisted.

But “twisted” or “weird” is obviously not enough to build a good series on. It takes something more compelling, like good characters or a compelling plot. There's not much to Mr. Stain, Palvan, and their host of support characters; they're simply likable folks (or cats) who keep stumbling into trouble. Each episode clocks in at seven minutes, barely time for anything but bare bones plotting, which is exactly what we get. Almost every one of those episode depend on a simple formula: Mr. Stain discovers something in the junk, tries to cook it, eat it, or use it to create art, something goes horribly wrong, and he may or may not find a way out. There are a few special episodes that break that formula, which were the best of the lot. But beyond those, this anime is made of a series of unfortunate, forgettable events.

This series was licensed by FUNimation and released on DVD in 2006... and nobody cared. No word of mouth excitement from fans, Google only turns up a few reviews, and it seems the DVD quickly went out of print. Right now, the American streaming video website Hulu has the entire series up for free viewing, which is probably the best way to watch it. Mr. Stain on Junk Alley is a curiosity; an odd, colorful carnival that gives fleeting entertainment. It's free to watch, and only requires a few hour's to finish. I enjoyed it, but if I had paid for it, or if it went on longer, I don't think I would have written such a nice review.

Recommended for animation fans with a dark sense of humor and an appettite for the weird.Bradley Meek

Recommended Audience: This probably would not be great for children under 13 or so. There's a lot of slapstick violence, and while there's nothing graphic, a few characters physically abuse each other in unsettling ways. In addition, characters do die occasionally (though they usually manage to return alive with no explanation in subsequent episodes).



Version(s) Viewed: Streaming web video
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Mr. Stain on Junk Alley © 2003 FUNimation Entertainment Ltd/Masuda Ryuji
 
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