Pigs are god's gift to earth. There, I said it. In terms of food, nearly every part of the pig is delicious porky goodness, and nowhere else in the world is the pig held in higher esteem than in China. It's no wonder that one of China's longest-running 3D animated television shows is a show about a pig.
Originally debuting in 2002, GG Bond was meant only as a showcase of China's developing 3D animation prowess. The show was then picked up for television in 2004 where it began its 15-minute episode format. It's been on the air ever since.
So what is GG Bond about aside from an anthropomorphic pig dressed in a bastardized Spider-Man costume? GG Bond, or as it's called in Chinese, (猪猪狭 )Piggy Hero, is about GG Bond and his heroic antics.
Born in a similar fashion to the Monkey King, a mainstay in Chinese fantasy literature, GG Bond was born from an explosion of a giant rock! Infused with natural powers and martial arts prowess GG Bond is a pig among pigs. He's also supposedly very intelligent.
Taking place in a world where people and talking animals get along, the stories of GG Bond deal with a lot of environmental issues such as degradation of forests and environmental pollution. In the very first episode of the show, the plot was about a group of malicious piggies setting out to monopolise a piece of very green and vibrant land. These bad piggies want to build a series of luxury housing compounds on the piece of land and sell them for high profit. Of course down the line the titular hero, GG Bond, shows up to thwart their evil plans.
Each season of the show is made up of various unrelated episodes and one major story arc. For instance the 2008 Martial Arts arc in, well, 2008, was focused on GG Bond and his kung-fu skills. The current season has GG Bond parodying the Super Robot and Super Sentai genres from Japan.
Over time, as the series progressed, the animation has gotten better; particularly now that the show is in widescreen and in "HD." The real world references are also getting slightly smarter.
For a Chinese animated show for children, GG Bond reminds me a lot of SpongeBob Squarepants. A lot of the jokes appeal to older audiences much like Spongebob did in the US. One example can be found early in GG Bond Season 1, where GG Bond meets a female goddess figure who shows up exploding out of what looks like a tiny floating galaxy. GG Bond immediately asks the goddess if she's Athena, a quick but direct reference to the hugely popular Japanese manga/animation, Saint Seiya. GG Bond also makes a passing reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sadly, the show does have some issues with misused content. In the early seasons, music from various famous video games has been sampled and used in the show for dramatic effect. For example, Final Fantasy VII's "One Winged Angel" is used in a few episodes when GG Bond is confronted with larger than life monsters. That's not to say that I'm criticising or putting down this show, I am rather appreciative of the fact that the animators have put such an effort to make the show appeal to adults as well as children.
My only real criticism of the show lie with its tendency to recycle old tales and its voice acting. For instance, in the show's latest season, the setting takes place in the "Snow White Kingdom". The various characters that inhabit this kingdom come from various western fairy tales, including characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. The show uses the classic tales and tries to retell them through a "modern" and more humorous take — sadly the humour and fun is lost on me. In regards to the voice acting, this is just a personal pet peeve, I find nearly all the Chinese mainland voice acting to be atrocious and over the top. It is literally poison to my ears!
Oh, and there are the sometimes overbearing "patriotic" themes, where the characters talk about loving their country and being nationalistic. However, scenes like these are spread out rather thinly.
All in all, GG Bond is probably one of my favourite Chinese-created animated shows to date — it's smart in a low-brow kind of way. Even with tensions with Japan being at all time highs, and Japanese animation being rarely broadcast on Chinese television, GG Bond stands as testament to honouring what many in China grew up with: Japanese and international animation and television. It's also reassuring to see lessons about environmental protection and defending the weak in children's television in China, a land where environmental issues and social problems have taken a back seat in the name of economical progress.
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