Tear Along the Dotted Line
Greetings, ‘Tear Along the Dotted Line’ is an adult animated Italian show and a Netflix original that was created by Roman cartoonist Michele Rech, better known by his alias Zerocalcare. The unusual pen name means ‘zero lime scale’ in Italian which Michele was apparently inspired to don after listening to an advert jingle for a descaler product and, wanting to join in on an online debate quickly, he put that down as his user name which has stuck with him ever since. The series is comprised of 6 episodes and was released in 2021, many years after Michele became known for his comics such as ‘The Armadillo’s Prophecy’ which was also adapted for the screen into a live action film. Michele voices a fictionalized caricature of himself in the Italian version of the series but as for the English dub, Adam Rhys Dee uses his voice talents to cover most roles in the show. I’ve been most impressed by Adam’s performance as he is able to deliver the comedic lines flawlessly and hit the more emotional moments perfectly when required of him. The music was composed by Italian singer Giancane.
The story follows the day to day routine of Zero, an awkward cartoonist with not much of a social life to brag of. The situation isn’t helped by his own tendency to be a self-imposed hermit and his lethargic refusal to answer phone calls from even the closet of his friends. Nonetheless, he is an artistic soul that is fuelled by a vivid if neurotic imagination. For instance, he has conjured up in his mind an armadillo which serves as a personification of his own conscience and he is often humorously talked down to or scolded by this imaginary mammal. When not interacting with fictitious beings or locking himself in his apartment, Zero is hanging out with his friends Sarah and Secco. The former is an aspiring teacher while the latter is a gambling addict with no job to speak of and an unhealthy obsession with ice cream. Zero and his friends are meeting up to travel to Biella in the north of Italy for reasons that aren’t revealed to the viewer.
All the audience are aware of is Zero’s fanatical insistence in being punctual so the trio can get to Biella in good time. Naturally they encounter setbacks such as Zero’s car breaking down which he feels woefully unequipped to fix himself despite being an adult man. There is, however, a lingering and unspoken sense of subtle unease as they get closer to their destination. During the course of the day, Zero reminisces about his childhood years and young adulthood in which he has some fond memories to think back on but a reasonable amount of personal failings too that he dwells on. One of the most prominent regrets he admits to himself during his narration is that he never asked out Alice, a friend he always had a crush on. Despite the undeniable chemistry between them the two simply never evolved successfully into a relationship and the pieces slowly begin to fall into place for the audience as the non-linear narrative weaves together a tragic story.
I really enjoyed this unusual series and found myself hooked very early on by the first few minutes in the opening episode. It is full of nerdy pop culture references and the self-depreciating Zero’s humour is quite sharp, releasing a rapid barrage of jokes that can easily fly under the radar. Like Bojack, one of my other favourite shows, it does feature anthropomorphised animals and humans living together but it isn’t really clear whether this is part of Zero’s imagination or not. Asides from that similarity, they are both also brilliant in blending emotional scenes and effective humour together without any awkward shifts between the two. I also appreciate the way it was narrated with flashbacks giving an idea of who these characters are and it does a great job of building up a sense of mystery about their journey. ‘Tear Along the Dotted Line’ is certainly a show I’d recommend and there is also a much more politically inspired follow up series that I am currently watching, entitled ‘This World Can’t Tear Me Down’, that seems to so far to be of the same high standard as the first season.
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