ENA Review: Collaborative Retro-Future Abstraction


Cara Macedonio (Cyberwitch), Contributing Writer


Independently made online art is its own sprawling ecosystem. One of the best things about the World Wide Web is that humankind is permitted to indulge in our wildest dreams containing far more liberty than the prudish censorship of TV. You can design and animate whatever, however you want. Standing on the shoulders of sites like Newgrounds and Albino Black Sheep, the current techno-Renaissance offers digital artists a louder voice through apps and forums. Though like any industry, there is stress. There are deadlines. But the voices of the people have spoken through patronage and crowdfunding art projects – this line of work can be most freeing.


Found on YouTube, the short fun series ENA (also stylized as ƎNA) appears as a passion project by 2D animator and artist Joel Guerra or Joel G, based in Peru. Three episodes exist, aptly named: Auction Day, Extinction Party and Temptation Stairway, each increasing in time span and animation quality. Good art is often worth waiting for.

Joel is certainly no slouch. He is all too familiar with collabs and character design. (He has another series called Hands Up, which features two alien cop cuties that fight intergalactic crime.) After some dedication to his craft, perhaps ENA’s iconic look came about just to see how far she could go. For days I’ve wracked my circuitry and implored my organelles to help me digest this mixed bag of clownery, just as you can hardly explain a dream when you wake up. Combined with musicians, artists and 9+ voice actors all across the world, Joel G’s ENA experiment can be summarized with this thesis: we revisit the past to build the future.


You, dear watcher, observe an inquisitive, persistent girl inspired by Picasso and Romero Britto but also very reminiscent of the old Windows Mac logo. Her fluctuating moods advance the adventure. Different sides of her speak up, but it’s still the same glitchy girl. You could say it’s written all over her face. ENA moves so much when she talks, I see her as stimming. She reminds me of myself with her formal bookish speech, an optimist doing what she wants when she wants. She’s quite relatable when she flings herself into despair. Who hasn’t had a meltdown trying to do something new? What teenager doesn’t wish for death? Do you feel television static behind your eyes? Don’t lose your head now! Her companion is the deuteragonist Moony, the most coherent friend she has. Dismissive, dramatic, and driven, Moony is far more judgemental than ENA (who goes to great lengths to prove her friendship). She is a sarcastic spherical snarker who speaks the same language ENA does but is fond of puns that even ENA can’t understand. It is quite plain to see how ENA is, on TikTok, affectionately referred to as “The Face of the Internet”. Their very quotable, consistent relationship canoes us down the river and they are the paddles.


This fever-dream is a microcosmic petri dish of NYC — fleeting NPCs of all shapes and colors speaking all different languages. What are they saying? Jerky bodies and choppy speech. They’re ridiculous and revel in their existence in a way that is so needed. I laugh. I wince. I feel weirded out and embarrassed. The designs for each character are so distinct. Objectives, trading goods and riddles – I cannot possibly predict who is coming next nor what they look like. They all have something to say and they all move things along. But ENA seems to know where to go. Sometimes our personal mission is so dedicated that we miss the signs, perhaps electing to ignore them. She hasn’t met many of these people before. How would you feel? Relieved, amazed, scared? It seems like this isn’t her first rodeo, I wonder if anyone else has done what she did. Is this our journey as well? Jeez Louise, everything here is so weird.


The episodes total roughly to 25 minutes, but these bite-sized episodes feel like eternity. Pacing, perhaps. Trying to show this to anyone older than me is equivalent to revealing your soul to another, swiftly regretting that decision, then proceeding to crawl into a corner and die. My mom hated it. To cringe is human; to forgive, divine. These crunchy sound bites, the faded outlines of each character and the glitchy way they move hearkens back to lower-budget point-and-click kid’s games. I am dropped back into my head compressed to fit on a cartridge, only playable in an outdated format. Memories are trapped in all sorts of physical mediums, and we must let go to improve. But the cartoon “The Amazing World of Gumball” gets it. Microsoft Sam even makes a short appearance in one episode. Oh, Sam, I’ve missed you. It hasn’t been the same since Hawking passed. In today’s world, webcore, dreamcore and vaporwave make the younglings yearn for an era they never lived through. Have you been here before?


Good reader, your safety concerns are valid. However, I hope you allow yourself to simply let the voluptuous panic roll over you. I return to these shorts as one does when they have a cold shower. It’s a test but will benefit you in the long run, somehow. Get confused. Have fun.Telling others about this corner of the world feels like releasing a laugh at the worst time. There is thought behind the silliest things. Can we listen to the music always in flux to help us understand? It’s an experience in nonsense, and there is so little of that as an adult unless you plop yourself in the sandbox. The sea is made of code so dive right in.


Pockets of niche subcultures within subcultures exist for nearly every show, book, and music artist imaginable, spread all across social media. But the impact the ENA series has on people and its fandom is the most worthy mention of all – countless artists and teenagers have been spurned to create. The lengths people go to in order to express how a piece of media has inspired them truly knows no limits; that freedom is what we live for.

This includes fantastic playlists inspired by ENA’s immersive wonderland — which I am currently editing this to, curated by the YouTube account ‘chickpea’. As other fandoms have spurred me to spend money until the high faded, I feel the aura of ENA’s aesthetic goes beyond the episodes after tearing through the carefully-crafted jams. No other webtoon has given me a crossover into my realm as much as this one has. The musical payoff is far more than material merch (…but I’m still gonna get a plushie).


Unlike so many shows that take far too much from a gritty colorless reality, the unsettled ENA world allows art for art’s sake, in the wake of this timeline’s global crisis. The curtains are blue, shut up and go in peace. Say goodbye to reason. This shit is bananas. Maybe the parental figure voices will creep in and tell you “Why aren’t you spending your time better?” As a certain guru once said: ‘you can do it like it’s a great weight or you can do it like it’s part of the dance’. ENA’s frenetic existence rejoices in details, in humor, in the lack-of-safety-dance. But kids show us what fun is by simply doing it. Clowns are very good at being clowns. So, let’s enter the circus. Just be here now.


The most logical direction this impulsive series could take would be to make a video game because these episodes were prepping you to be immersed. ‘Dream BBQ’ is able to be reserved now on Steam. This is a short video-game expansion into the ENA-verse, originally intended to be a new video and a new season. And… it’s free.

The trailer is up on https://www.youtube.com/@JoelG

The nightmare is confirmed.

Video Game Influences and Inspirations: Runescape, Super Paper Mario, LSD: Dream Simulator, The Town With No Name, Link: The Faces of Evil, CD-i, Absent-minded Giovanni, Playstation, Middens, Osamu Sato, Jackie Chan in Drunken Master, Hotel Mario, Yellow Magic Orchestra – “Simoon” (1978), Holiness Code, ophanim.

Fragments of my memory that ENA helps me recall:

Edmark’s Sammy’s Science House/Bailey’s Book House, Kid Pix, Nanosaur, Math Blaster Jr., Zoombinis, Thinkin’ Things CD-ROM series, Windows 98 and Windows 2000.