Squirrel and Hedgehog (original Korean title: 다람이와 고슴도치, Taramiwa Kosŭmdochi) is a North Korean animated series by SEK Studios.
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, rats and wolves.
For a cartoon program purportedly made for children, it's filled with graphic (but awesome) violence and doesn't shy away from depicting the horrors of war including death. The Daily Dot sums it up as "imagine Breaking Bad as a cartoon." It reeks of anti-American propaganda from every hole.
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.
- An Aesop: A North Korean Aesop - your enemy does not deserve mercy or humane treatment. Your enemy is a liar, a bully, and a kidnapper. You cannot reason with your enemy - trying to make peace is a waste of time. You must train, you must always be ready! Kill them to protect your beautiful, perfect country, any way you can. You know, for kids!
- Art Shift: Is a given the series' status as a long runner, the first couple of incarnations especially look widely different than their more recognizable forms.
- 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.
- Blue and Orange 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 rats 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.
- 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.
- The Hero: Geumsaegi is the gallant savior of Flower Hill.
- Heroic Sacrifice: You should be willing to die for your people. You will be a hero for it.
- 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 rats 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: Lt. Vixen has a lot of fans for this reason. Of course she symbolises that American women are sly and overly sexual.
- National Animal Stereotypes: Squirrels, hedgehogs and other cute animals represent North 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 so 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?
- 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).
- 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.
- Tears of Joy: The show is infamous for this.
- 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.
- World of Funny Animals: All of the characters in the show are various animals.
- You Dirty Rat!: The 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.