The 90s was a wondrous time, at least for television. 90s cartoons were my jam, and quite a few of them still hold up today. I’m not gonna say the 90s was perfect, or that all the animated shows that came from it were masterpieces. Still, the 90s had a ton of good content that often gets overlooked. One such show is the ever excellent ExoSquad series. This is a show I never even knew existed until my friend told me about it last year.
So, what is ExoSquad exactly? Well, it’s a series filled with giant robots and space battles. It’s an epic storyline, detailing humanity’s battle against a race they helped create: Neosapians. The humans (also known as Terrans) end up going to war with this race, after a revolution is started by the Neosapian known as “Phaeton”.
What follows is 52 episodes of one of the darkest and most mature cartoons to ever come out of the 90s. ExoSquad never shies away from focusing on hard-hitting issues, including racism, death, war, and psychological trauma. Heck, one episode has Phaeton vaporize one of his generals ONSCREEN and then replaces him with a clone.
Stuff like this is all too common in this series. The series often revolves around Lt. J.T. Marsh and team of commands known as “Able Squad”. More often than not, the show revolves around Able Squad fighting off Phaeton and trying to reclaim the planets he has taken over. The show will often focus around other protagonists as well, including Sean Napier’s earth resistance force.
The show was often advertised as an “American Anime”, in a time where most Westerners didn’t even know what that term meant. More often than not, ExoSquad is compared to Robotech/Macross, as both shows focus on giant robots taking part in wars. ExoSquad definitely had some interesting mecha designs, though they differed greatly from how Japan would often depict its robots.
The robot suits in ExoSquad would often look like actual combat suits, instead of giant humanoid men made out of metal. Giant robots in ExoSquad had this good design quality to them, where they felt like equal part robot and equal part weapon. The characters are also pretty strong on this show. Some of my favorites include the rather skilled yet disgusting slob known as Bronsky, or the various generals under Phaeton’s command.
The show lasted for 2 seasons, but ended up getting shoved to a 4 AM time-slot. This is the death sentence for pretty much any cartoon, as few kids actually get up that early just to watch them. As a result, ExoSquad died a slow and painful death. Plans for a third season, a possible movie, and a spinoff cartoon were all cancelled.
Since then, ExoSquad became buried to the sands of time. No one is crying out for a sequel in this day and age, or even a reboot for that matter. If the show was brought back, it might not be able to find an audience. Still, if this show were brought back on something like Adult Swim, then maybe we could that revival after all.
It’s not impossible for something like ExoSquad to make a comeback. It’s obscure, but that’s not to say plans for a revival can’t happen. We are seeing a resurgence in content relating to giant robots, with series like Pacific Rim and the newest reboot of Voltron. If ExoSquad were to come back, I’d definitely watch it.
With a solid enough team behind it, you could probably make a show that’s just as good as the original ExoSquad, if not better. In short, I feel that ExoSquad is a good show that’s worth going back and watching. Unlike most shows to come out of the 90s, it’s aged remarkably well. Sure, some of the animation can seem a bit stilted, but its dark and emotional writing make for a unique and intriguing series. If you happen across the DVDs, I highly recommend checking out this forgotten sci-fi romp.