Have you been watching Brad Neely’s China, IL on Adult Swim? If not, maybe you should start checking it out, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s currently the best animated show happening on AS or any network for that matter.
Of particular interest to the ODeck audience is this season’s hour-long finale, “Magical Pet” aka “China, IL — The Musical,” which aired a week ago.
In the subplot of this episode, Frank, the unstable, insecure history professor and brother to ladies man Steve, makes his way to Chinatown to seek an ancient Tibetan balding remedy in hopes of winning over his baldness-averse female neighbor. Not long after he arrives, two Chinas collide as Frank crosses paths with the blaring horn of a big rig and Jack Burton yelling out, “What the helllll!”
What’s refreshing about China, IL is that it doesn’t really rely on pop culture references — it’s more of a cross between regular sitcom-style jokes and twisted, surreal humor — but that they slipped in this homage to Big Trouble in Little China was both very apropos and a pleasant surprise. What’s also interesting is that I had recently commented in a post about a possible remake of the movie about how I’d think an animated version might be worthwhile. I basically just got a fraction of my wish here.
The show actually gives us another good one with a nod to Gremlins. Because what kind of tucked away shop full of forbidden items in Chinatown would be complete without a mogwai? Except in the China, IL universe, the roles of pet and proprietor are amusingly reversed.
In addition to the classic ‘80s movie references, “Magical Pet” is also just an all around great episode. Main characters in China, IL have occasionally broken out into original songs in several episodes before, but this very musical episode is chock- full of pretty decent tunes. The episode also works in some traditional mythical monsters as a means of proving who is less superficial between two other main characters, Steve and Pony, as they both seem to find dates with extremely unusual physical attributes.