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Animation / Squirrel and Hedgehog

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Squirrel and Hedgehog (original Korean title: 다람이와 고슴도치, Taramiwa Kosŭmdoch'i) is a North Korean animated series by SEK Studio.

It is about the inhabitants of a place called Flower Hill, which is made up of squirrels, hedgehogs, and ducks. The squirrels are the leadership, the hedgehogs are the soldiers, and the ducks are the navy. There are plenty of other factions as well, such as friendly bears, while the antagonists are made up of weasels, mice and wolves.

For a cartoon program purportedly made for children, it's filled with graphic violence and doesn't shy away from depicting the horrors of war including death. It reeks of anti-American propaganda from every hole. The Daily Dot sums its tone compared to other animated series up as "imagine Breaking Bad as a cartoon."

Very surprisingly, it has an English dub made by Mondo TV with the title changed to Brave Soldiers. Even more surprisingly, the voice cast has a pair of recognizable names; DAN GREEN is the narrator, and Mike Pollock is Sensorso Bear. note 

Squirrel and Hedgehog provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Geumsaegi, the main squirrel, can do anything.
  • Acrofatic: Aekku and his brother Geomeunjogjebi are pretty overweight, but can still give quite the fight.
  • Art Evolution: Is a given the series' status as a long runner, the first couple of incarnations especially look widely different than their more recognizable forms.
  • A Mischief of Mice: The mice are depicted as sneaky spies and saboteurs that work for the villains. In North Korea, mice are generally considered vermin and don't have a friendly reputation.
  • Back from the Dead: White Weasel, apparently. He was unambiguously pronounced dead but still returns later on.
  • Badass Adorable: This is a general thing throughout the series, which will generate a lot of Mood Whiplash for viewers not expecting graphic violence among the groups of cute creatures.
  • Big Bad: The first series presented the weasels as this. The second series presented the wolves as this.
  • Big Brother Worship: Bamsaegi adores Geumsaegi.
  • Blatant Lies: Considering it's North Korean propaganda designed to appeal to children, the picture painted is that Flower Hill is an idyllic, plentiful place to live with more than enough food, and the leader Squirrels just want to live in peace, even trying to extend peace to the Weasels, which is ignored, and that the Weasels regularly kidnap and torture inhabitants of Flower Hill. It's also painted that really everybody agrees with the Squirrels that the Weasels are bad, but don't join the fight because they're unreliable or unwilling. Additionally, the wolves are brutish savages who want to destroy the Squirrels utterly.
  • Bloodless Carnage: For all the people getting shot, impaled and beaten up, there's shockingly little blood.
  • Butt-Monkey: Mulmangcho (from the Rat Army) is never respected by anyone, heroes and villains alike. This carries him into the realm of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, considering how hard he tries.
  • The Cassandra: Mulmangcho is forever trying to convince whoever it is he happens to be working for that Geumsaegi and Juldarami are still loyal to Flower Hill. His warnings not only always go unheeded, but the dynamic duo often manage to twist his evidence to make him seem to be the traitor, getting him into trouble.
  • Child Soldiers: In the later chapters, Geumsaegi's younger brother Bamsaegi and Goseumdochi's younger brother Undochi, make their appearance and the story reveals to us that they're training to be scouts as their older brothers. But then just a few chapters later, they're both sent on a mission to help Geumsaegi right into enemy territory, even doing stuff like firing guns and throwing grenades against the wolves. Both of them look too young, no more than fifteen years old. And he seems to be all fine with that!
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Assuming the translator didn't decide to spice up the dialog in the sub, almost everyone swears as bad as Revy. The translator probably did. The Northern dialect is famous (or infamous) among Korean speakers for sounding extremely archaic, and preserving a number of formalities that disappeared from the Southern dialects decades ago.
  • Dub Species Change: The Mondo TV "Brave Soldier" dub turns the evil mice such as Mulmangcho into rats, as rats are considered more villainous than mice. Despite the "rats" still have furry tails like mice.
  • Faking the Dead: The Weasel Commander solves the issue of Black Weasel and General Mangko betraying him by pretending to commit suicide to lure them out into the open, where he is able to confront them at his own funeral.
  • Fallen Hero: In the very first episode, the residents of Flower Hill are in the middle of building shelters when Bear shows up, clearly showing with his unsteady posture that he has seen better days and thus causing them to worry if he's becoming unreliable since Bear has been helping to protect Flower Hill for a long time. Bear helps himself to an entire bottle of alcohol, provided in-secret by the mice, and drinks himself into a deep sleep, forcing the squirrels, hedgehogs, and ducks to fight the mice and weasels without him.note 
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Characters are shot and killed onscreen. The only thing not allowed is showing a character shooting themselves, fatally or otherwise. The only time the camera doesn't cut away, the bullet is a blank. It does cut away when the Weasel Commander pretends to shoot himself. We see him put the gun to his head but then it cuts to the reaction of his aides outside his office door.
  • Foreign Re-Score: The original soundtrack is replaced by music composed by John Sposito in the English version.
  • Foxy Vixen: Lt. Yeou "Fox", the commander of American armies, is a cunning and elegant female fox.
  • Godwin's Law: A propaganda cartoon about an army of hedgehogs heroically fending off the evil canid who threatens their homely woodlands with help from other animals representing the military's other branches, thereby saving all the cowardly animals who are unwilling to fight? The Nazis already made one, in 1940. Assuming this is not just a mere coincidence, it might be a particularly twisted example of Follow the Leader.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Red = Good and Blue = Wolf.
  • Group Hug: The heroes of the series have one in the middle of a fiery battlefield while behind enemy lines.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: You should be willing to die for your people. You will be a hero for it.
  • Homage: The mechanical whale in chapter 29 chases Goseumdochi on the sea. Some parts of that scene look pretty similar to Monstro chase scene from Disney's Pinocchio.
  • Ideal Hero: Geumsaegi is the gallant savior of Flower Hill.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: The wolves tell Geumsaegi to shoot Dr. Mole to prove his loyalty, but it takes him about five seconds to figure that Dr. Mole is too valuable a source of information for the wolves so they must have dragged out an impersonator.
  • Impairment Shot: In the first episode, the world spins from Bear's perspective—the mice got him drunk so he couldn't protect Flower Hill from attack.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Mulmangcho, although this is likely unintentional.
  • Irony: Regardless of whether or not the production actually works as propaganda for North Koreans, its cult following internationally has meant that countless more are familiar with it internationally— as an example of what not to do to get across a coherent message.
  • The Lancer: Usually Juldarami, the striped-tailed squirrel.
  • Ms. Fanservice: While not traditional fanservice, Lt. Yeou "Fox" stands out for her elegant feminine qualities, differentiating her from the other, more stoic characters. Of course she symbolizes that American women are sly and overly sexual.
  • National Animal Stereotypes: Squirrels, hedgehogs and other cute animals represent North Koreans, whereas mice and weasels (i.e. small, but less cute animals) represent South Koreans. Americans, North Korea's enemies, are depicted as wolves and foxes. Bear, naturally, represents Russians.
  • No Cartoon Fish: Photo-realistic ones at that.
  • No Ending: The last episode ends on a Cliffhanger, and there's no sign of any more being made.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Quite often for the main heroes.
  • Only Six Faces: Technically, the series' animation is passable. It's not terrible, but it's also nothing special.
  • Patriotic Fervor: It's from friggin' North Korea. Would you expect anything else?
  • Planet of Steves:
    • The name of the Hedgehog Commander is Goseumdochi. But then, there's a Scout Goseumdochi who gives his life to destroy an enemy base and near the end of Part One, another hedgehog soldier is named Goseumdochi, but it's not explained if he's the Commander or another hedgehog with that name.
    • Mulori the duck. Just like the hedgehogs mentioned above, the Commander of the Ducks Navy is named Mulori, but also there's a duck who died sacrificing herself activating an enemy grenade while underwater. Not only that, but just a few chapters later, there's another duck Mulori who acts as a disguise expert and who sacrificed herself by kamikazing in helicopter towards a weasel battle ship. There's a duck named Mulori who somewhere between those chapters is featured in a radio show to sing a song. And finally, the duck scout who keeps supporting Goseumdochi and company until recently, is named Mulori.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The way the squirrels and hedgehogs fight can seem ruthless, even cruel to Western audiences. The weasels and mice are subject to backstabbing, drowning, and even impalement at the hands of the protagonists.
  • Russian Bear: Russians are represented as bears, and are the unreliable allies of the squirrels and hedgehogs against the villains.
  • Savage Wolves: The Wolves are portrayed as despicable brutes that wish to destroy the Flower Hill community and enslave its people. They train by breaking logs barehanded and tossing jeeps. Wolves symbolise a brutish, obnoxious, but often stupid USA who fights for the sake of fighting.
  • Schizo Tech: Different levels of technology get mixed up to a point where Titanic-esque radio messaging at sea (early 20th century) co-exists alongside World War II style uniforms and infantry deployment (mid 20th century) as well as Nintendo DS level portable electronics (early 21st century)... plus rapid-fire laser weapons fired by flapping-wing aircraft (still a ways off).
  • Tears of Joy: The show is infamous for this.
  • Terrible Trio: Mulmangcho and his brothers Oegwipali and Mulsajo. But after the latter's death, the trio is completed with the next weasels they decide to serve: Aekku "One-Eyed" and Geomeunjogjebi "Black Weasel".
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: After the Weasel Army is defeated, Bamsaegi quits the army to become a personal assistant. When his lack of vigilance bites him in the ass and results in Dr. Mole being kidnapped, he rejoins again.
  • The Starscream: So far, almost all the various villains' Dragons have been this, and if they aren't, then Geumsaegi and Juldarami, undercover as Flower Hill traitors, will convince the villain they are.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Despite the fact that the Russians have been allies of the North Korean regime, the series 70s-era original version plays the "drunk Russian" stereotype straight by featuring a tipsy bear character.
  • Wicked Weasel: The main antagonists of the original series (they work alongside the wolves in the later episodes) are the weasel army, so this obviously applies. The Weasels are sneaky and while they present a picture of being tough, are really cowards. They most likely represent the Japanese, given Korea's history with Imperial Japan, & Commander Jogjebi wearing a black and purple haori coat.
  • World of Funny Animals: All of the characters in the show are various animals.
  • You Dirty Rat!: The Mondo TV dub turns the Mice characters into rats. The Mice/Rats are spies who serve the bullying Weasels mostly out of fear. You can feel sorry for them, but you can't trust them an inch.