Review: Shop: A Pop Opera

Well, don’t let anyone say that Adult Swim is afraid of trying new things.

I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that Adult Swim had released a humble, 14-minute “opera” about a grocery store. But, ever since “Too Many Cooks”, I’ve known better than to think I can predict the programming churned out of the strangeness factory that is Cartoon Networks’ after dark adult programming block. As you might expect, Shop is an animation that defies traditional categorization. I can assure you you’ve never seen anything like it before, but I’m not sure I can really recommend it in the same way that I would recommend “Too Many Cooks” or “Unedited Footage of a Bear.” It’s ambitious, it’s insane, but I think, for me at least, it falls more into the “Miss” of Adult Swim’s “Hit or Miss” tendencies.

The concept is simple enough. A young man goes to the grocery store, and as he encounters different grotesque and horrifying people and foods, he comes up with little music videos in his head. Hallucinogenic jingles that tap into an existential concept related to what he’s just come across. These jingles are performed with a medley of avant-garde artistic approaches, ranging from stop motion to live action to shaky, hastily drawn animation. This is, as you might expect, really, really weird, and because of that Shop is sure to turn a lot of people away.

Art like this is always going to be incredibly subjective, so I feel that putting an arbitrary label of “Good” or “Bad” on it is kind of missing the point. It’s a feat of animation, to be sure, as it freely experiments with it’s eccentric and downright nutty artistic stylings without much regard for what the audience might think. Yet, that doesn’t make it something that I would watch for fun. It’s much more of a novelty to see and try to forget about than anything else, in a good way, if that makes sense.

Much like vapor-wave music, there is a very particular itch that this show wants to scratch, and it’s probably an itch you don’t even know you have. If you have a fondness for the grotesque, if you like to see something different no matter how uncomfortable it might make you feel, then I would give this show a go. Yet, unlike some other prominent Adult Swim shorts out there, I wouldn’t say that this is something most people need to see. It’s here for an instant and gone in a flash, so quickly that you probably won’t even know what to make of it. I sure as hell didn’t.

Erich Hau

Erich is a northern California based writer on the front lines of the nerd frontier. When he's not burning the midnight oil he enjoys musicals, smooth jazz, and a good cup of dark roast. Cream and sugar not included.

Erich Hau has 562 posts and counting. See all posts by Erich Hau