Dungeons & Dragons Marathon: Remembering That Weird D&D Cartoon

The 80s was a weird time for animation, mostly due to the watered down stuff you’d see on TV. Every show was trying to be the next “He-Man”, while desperately trying to shill its action figures onto the young audience watching at home. Not all shows were like this, however. Some shows were radically different than what was airing, or tried its best to be more than an over-glorified toy commercial.

You had shows like Galaxy Rangers, M.A.S.K., and The Real Ghostbusters. These were all shows that managed to be entertaining and interesting, while also selling toys! There was another show that also fell into this category, at least in some respects. So, let’s talk about the long forgotten “Dungeons & Dragons” cartoon. D&D began airing in 1983, and ended its run in 1985 with 27 episodes. It told the story of 6 kids who are transported to a fantasy world based on the popular Dungeons & Dragon board-game, due to riding atop a magical theme park ride based on said board-game.

Right away, the concept alone really makes no sense. I mean, why would they make a theme park ride based off a board-game? Of course, the “being pulled into an alternate universe by a theme park ride” makes far less sense regardless. After the six kids are brought to this new fantasy realm, they are tasked by the “Dungeon Master” to help bring peace to the realm. While doing this, they are desperately trying to find a way home.

The characters were certainly interesting on this show. You had Eric, who was the jerk of the team. Despite being a cavalier, he didn’t have a sword and was really only there to be the butt of everyone’s jokes. There was also Hank, who was the archer and leader of the team. All of the other characters filled simplistic roles in the group as well, and half of them were useless in most combat situations.

Most of the episodes revolved around the kids trying to get home or help someone, only to get attacked by “Venger”. Venger served as the show’s main villain, who was constantly trying to kill the kids every chance he got. He only feared Tiamat, who was a ferocious dragon with powers that rivaled his own.

As you can tell, the D&D cartoon had larger stakes than your average 80s cartoon. The show was dark, though kept a playful attitude through most of its episodes. Some episodes only had a few dark elements here or there, while still playing up the comedic aspects.

A good example of this is the episode, “Quest of the Skeleton Warrior”, which featured our heroes meeting said titular skeleton. In the episode, all the kids were forced to face their fears. Most of their fears were pretty tame, or very basic overall. Thing is, that’s not what most people remember about the episode. Near the end of said episode, Hank nearly gets all his skin peeled off by a magic spell! Yes, you can even see his skin starting to peel in the episode itself.

Of course, they save him before he can become another living skeleton. Thing is, this was the only part of the episode that really ventured into dark territory. However, some episodes were just designed to be really dark in nature. I think the episode everyone talks about when it comes to this show is “The Dragon’s Graveyard”.

The whole gist of the episode is that the kids are sick of Venger constantly trying to kill them, so they decide to hunt him down and kill him themselves. It’s a pretty dark subject for a show from the 80s to tackle, but it makes for an interesting watch all the same. Seeing the young heroes pushed to the brink, and willing to kill the main villain was something that no other cartoons at the time were really attempting.

While the show did have some dark and thought-provoking episodes here or there, it always fell back into typical kid show territory. As hard as this show tried, it just never broke away from the constraints of its medium. Despite this, the guys behind the show still act as if it’s a masterpiece of its time.

One of the writers of the show was Michael Reaves, who avidly believed the show was a game of its decade. Heck, he even compared it to “Gargoyles”, one of the darkest kids shows in the 90s! It’s weird that he’d compare D&D to such a dark and revolutionary show, but it’s good to know that he’s proud of what he and his team created!

I’ll be honest, I enjoy the show in spite of its flaws. It did try to be dark and incorporate elements from the board-game, even if the final product came off as bland on occasion. At the very least, it stands apart from most other 80s cartoons. It tried to be more than just a commercial for something and I can at least appreciate it for that. I hope this show does make a return one day, so they can finally animate a proper ending for it!

ReBoot: The Guardian Code Review

The 90s was a unique time for television, an experimental age where all kinds of new and crazy concepts for TV shows were brought to life. Shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friends, the English dub of Dragon Ball Z, Shadow Raiders, The Maxx, and Cybersix populated this era of experimentation. However, there was one show that is often considered to be one of the most revolutionary cartoons to come out in this decade: ReBoot.

Made by the guys who did the CGI for the “Money For Nothing” music video, comes the first fully CGI cartoon ever. ReBoot took place inside a computer and revolved around a program named “Bob”, who was essentially an antivirus known as a “Guardian”. Bob made friends with the spunky young Enzo, and his sister Dot. Along with a stable cast of other likable characters, our heroes went on adventures through cyberspace in order to defend the computer world of “Mainframe” from evil computer viruses.

The show was fun, entertaining, and matured along with its audience. Starting off as a typical kids show, it eventually blossomed into a dark and emotional roller-coaster. While the fourth season dropped the ball a bit, it was still an entertaining experience from start to finish. Unfortunately, the season ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.

People who were enjoying the fourth season were left in the dust, when the planned third TV movie was cancelled. With no continuation from the TV front, the story was continued in comic form. Unfortunately, the comic was very unsatisfying, at least in terms of what it was trying to do with the world and characters. Not even the return of obscure fan-favorite character “Code-Master Lens” could save this comic for me.

The comic ended up being a bland continuation that lacked thrills and was resolved rather haphazardly. There was also a trilogy that was planned to continue the story, but it was ultimately cancelled. Another cancelled project was a planned spin-off, which was to be titled “Binomes”. This spin-off was aimed towards a younger audience, but never made it past early planning stages.

With the exception of a few rather awesome art-books (one of which I’ve reviewed on this very blog), ReBoot remained a dormant franchise… Until just a few years ago. A ReBoot continuation was announced and fans were excited! However, photos emerged from the reboot of ReBoot in late 2017. Suffice to say, fans were not impressed by it. It featured a ton of characters we never saw before, most of whom were generic teenagers and weird Power Ranger-esque superheroes.

When the trailer hit a month ago, fans were “treated” to their first glimpse of “ReBoot: The Guardian Code”. What they got was not what they were expecting at all. Instead of an entertaining kids show about a group of computer programs dealing with a deadly virus, it’s now about teenagers transforming into superheroes and fighting crime in cyberspace.

Yes, this series shifted genres from a fun cartoon filled to the brim with computer lingo, to a poor man’s version of Code Lyoko. Heck, even the creator of Code Lyoko thought they were ripping him off! Now, going off the trailers alone, I assumed this show was going to be terrible. However, I decided to gave the series the benefit of the doubt.

After all, few networks had faith in the original ReBoot back in the 90s. CGI was pretty new at the time, and no one really wanted to invest in a cartoon that had a radically different animation style than more contemporary shows. Still, ReBoot managed to prove itself as a fantastic show all the same.

Despite its generic premise, I went into the new show with the false hope that they would somehow surprise me and create something entertaining. I hate to say this, but I was completely and totally wrong. Before I trash on this show, let’s start off with the good. Most of the original voice cast is back, which is nice.

Some voice actors had to be replaced, such as the late great Tony Jay as Megabyte. His new voice actor Timothy Brummund does a decent job, but you can tell what he wasn’t given a whole lot to work with script-wise. I liked that the designs from returning characters are kept mostly the same, even if they barely appeared. I also dig the virtual form of V.E.R.A., due to it’s simplicity when compared to the designs of the main characters’ virtual avatars.

That’s about all the good I can find, as this show is pretty flawed throughout. The show revolves around these teenagers who accidentally bring V.E.R.A. into the real world, who then recruits them to travel into cyberspace to face Megabyte. Yes, Megabyte is back and he’s been upgraded to look sufficiently ridiculous.

They show his original design, right before turning him into this glowing buff monstrosity. He looks more like Gigabyte than Megabyte, which is a bit disappointing in my opinion. You can tell the redesigned characters just don’t gel well, as a lot of the designs from the original were done by seasoned comic book artists. They knew how to make a design pop, which is something this show has a problem with.

Now, it’s bad enough that Megabyte looks like garbage, but he also comes off way less intimidating than in the original show. By the third season, Megabyte had pretty much won and was only defeated by the show’s heroes coming together to stop. Season 4 ends with Megabyte not only returning, but also winning once more! In this show, Megabyte had already been both deactivated and defeated by the time the hacker found him.

Once brought back online and upgraded to maximum potential, what’s the first thing he does? Blast a few lasers at Frisket, that’s it. He’s then reprogrammed and controlled by some hacker, which means he’s not really a virus anymore. He’s a program, because viruses aren’t directly controlled by users themselves. This show can’t even follow the most basic rules set by the original, can it?

So, this show’s new villain is this generic hacker guy, as opposed to the Megabyte we all know and love. He doesn’t really do anything that interesting, aside from sending other people to do his bidding. Megabyte constantly gets thrashed in almost every episode, which means that he was more of a threat when he was a free agent. This is a guy who brought down an entire system, now he can’t even defeat a few teenagers.

Oh yeah, forgot about those old characters that we grew to know and love. These guys are our new “heroes”, despite the fact they are all very bland. They all have generic suits, generic powers, and generic personalities. You got the smart guy, the leader, the girl, etc. They are much less interesting than the vast cast the show used to have. You can’t tell me that the forgettable protagonist Austin is any better than Bob from the original show, since he lacks all the nuance and interesting characteristics that Bob had.

Now, before I end this off, I’ll go into what I think is the worst part of the show. So far, they’ve put out 10 episodes of the first season on Netflix. I ended up using the American Netflix at a friend’s house to watch the show, since they’re going to air the episodes in Canada last. Why? Since YTV is a Canadian-only network, and they need something to air between episodes of Spongebob. Now, this isn’t what I find to be the worst part.

The worst part is that out of these 10 episodes they put up, the original ReBoot gang only appear in one episode. Can you guess which one? It’s not the first, second, or even the fifth episode. They do not appear at all (aside from Frisket and Megabyte), UNTIL THE TENTH EPISODE. That’s right, this ReBoot show barely shows anything relating to the original series until the halfway point of the first season.

This series also shows us the User for the first time ever, portraying him as a ReBoot fan who lives in his mother’s basement and has no friends. Wow, way to insult your entire fan-base, Mainframe. The worst part isn’t even The User though, it’s Bob and friends. Despite Bob being voiced by his original voice actor, he’s not the same character. The CGI makes me look like a zombie, like a reanimated corpse. His lines are also terrible, forced, and contrived.

One of the first things he says in the series is his speech that he gave in the original show’s intro, to a random group of Guardians that he has never met before. I’m serious, this actually happens. There are many other problems I could go over, such as the bad CGI, bad acting for the human characters, lack of proper continuity with the original show, and many others. I feel if I were to go over every problem, then I’d be writing a book on this show, which is something I don’t really want to do.

I want to conclude by saying to not watch this show. It has little to do with the original and feels like it was only made to sell toys. None of the original staff work on this, aside from a few returning voice actors. I watched this show out of love for the original series, but now I feel I should’ve heeded the lacking quality of the trailers and stayed away.

I know people will enjoy this show, I’m not trying to stop anyone from doing so. If you like Guardian Code and think it’s a great show, then that’s fine. We all have our tastes and interests. The thing is that I can just not get into this series. It fails as a continuation, it fails as its own thing, and it fails at emulating the original ReBoot.

I suggest sticking solely to the original, as I feel there’s not a whole lot on offer in this new series. Watch Tron, Code Lyoko, or Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad if you want a show that does this superhero premise better. As for me, I’ll keep watching this show, mostly out of morbid curiosity. Considering how off-kilter the episode with the original ReBoot cast was, I’m curious to see what they mess up next. In short, this show is like a train-wreck in slow-motion, it’s very hard to look away from.

The Awesome Absurdity That Is Space Ghost: Coast To Coast

90s animated television was truly a bizarre thing to behold, due entirely to its experimental nature. The mid-to-late 90s became a breeding ground for some of the oddest and most entertaining shows you could ever imagine. I’m talking shows like Daria, King of The Hill, Dr. Katz, Samurai Pizza Cats, Spider-Man Unlimited, Batman Beyond, The Maxx, Cybersix, and Gargoyles.

The 90s was a barrage of all these weird and memorable shows, but one show really set the mood for the absurdist cartoons that would follow in its wake. I’m talking about the hilarious and bizarre 1994 TV series, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast. Heralded as a cult classic of sorts, Coast To Coast was a successful attempt to bring a relatively obscure Hanna-Barbera character into the mainstream.

The series began airing in the mid-90s, and was one of Cartoon Network’s first “original” programs. I say that in quotations, as Coast To Coast re-purposed almost all of its animation from older Space Ghost cartoons. Since those shows already had severely limited animation, this meant there wasn’t a whole lot work with.

Despite the limited animation frames, Coast To Coast surprisingly worked. It was an absurdist animated talk show, featuring the titular Space Ghost character. Working alongside his two arch-enemies, Moltar and Zorak, Space Ghost would interview a cavalcade of famous celebrities and musicians.

Even though the series had very little in terms of original animation, it made up for that with some solid humor and entertaining characters. The show was a unique take on the “late night talk show” concept. I could never get into most talk-shows, since they had a tendency to just not that be entertaining. It doesn’t matter how many funny celebrities you get, it’s just hard to make a show where people sit down and talk for 30 minutes entertaining.

I get why people like the genre, but it’s never been my thing. Oddly enough though, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast managed to make late night talk shows into something truly entertaining! The show’s interviews were never straightforward, mainly because the questions the celebrities are asked aren’t the ones the characters are asking.

When recording the live-action segments, completely different and often time random questions were asked to each guest star. These answers would then be used for entirely different questions in the show itself, often times leading to random or hilarious results. Because of this, there were often times where the answers didn’t match the questions being asked.

This really adds to the charm of the show, and helps create that “surreal” feeling that the show is known for. Despite being billed as a “talk show”, the interview segments are only a fraction of each episode’s running time. Usually, most of the episodes are spent watching Space Ghost and his crew dealing with silly cartoon shenanigans.

These include following a random ant around the planet, being chased by evil alien pods, or even selling out to a fictional fast food chain. These scenarios were often more entertaining than the interview portions, which were already pretty fun in their own right. Coast To Coast was a series that proved to be popular, mostly due to how different it was compared to other cartoons airing at the time.

The series picked up steam pretty quickly, soon becoming a mainstay on Cartoon Network. Since then, it’s become one of the channel’s hallmarks. It ran for many seasons, got several specials, and even received two different revivals. It also got a ton of spin-offs including The Brak Show, Cartoon Planet, Harvey Birdman, and even the popular Toonami block of programming!

Space Ghost.png
One wonders how Moltar can drink coffee with no actual mouth…

Space Ghost: Coast To Coast also popularized the style of re-using limited animation, which would become a staple of the Adult Swim block. Coast To Coast is one of those rare shows that not only surpassed its source material, but managed to be something wholly unique on its own. It’s not a perfect show, that’s for sure.

The limited animation, bizarre scenarios, and the rather abrasive soundtrack may be a turnoff for some people. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to get through those first couple seasons of Space Ghost for me, since those are the ones that haven’t aged all that well. Still, if you stick with the show and watch past season 3, you’re definitely in for one of the most entertaining experiences in Cartoon Network history.

Homestar Runner: A Legacy of Great Web-Cartoons

To me, internet animation has always been a unique subject to tackle. There are so many facets to online animation, and so many awesome cartoons out there to list. I’ve tackled the animated web-short “Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit”, but I thought I’d go back and discuss the epicenter of all online animation: Homestar Runner. While Homestar wasn’t the first piece of online animation, it did popularize it to a great extent.

So, what is Homestar Runner? It was originally a children’s book published by the “Chap Brothers”, but eventually spun off into one of the first truly successful web-series. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest web cartoons of all time! It revolves around a group of cartoon characters living in “Free Country USA”, a made-up fictionalized state. Homestar is an arm-less athlete, who loves to run and generally isn’t all that smart. He has to deal with the masked menace Strong Bad, who is his rival and occasional arch-enemy.

Strong Bad himself was first introduced as a somewhat bland villain to Homestar, but eventually grew more popular as the site got bigger. This eventually landed him his own web-series on the site called “Strong Bad Emails”, in which the mask-wearing malcontent would reads various emails from around the globe.

This series became the most popular aspect of the site, overtaking most of its content. Strong Bad Emails were the main draw, though The Brother Chaps still put out various other cartoons on occasion. These included shorts, longer cartoons, and the occasional “Teen Girl Squad” episode.

Homestar Runner was a unique website, for it had all these cartoons available FOR FREE! That’s right, you could pretty much watch any show you wanted, whenever you wanted! It was like Newgrounds, but with actual quality control and an interface that didn’t look like trash.

Homestar Runner also offered games, which were usually modeled after old-school games from way back in the day. These were also free, albeit extremely simplistic. The site was so inviting and so fresh, and has surprisingly remained mostly the same after all these years. There has never been a huge attempt to remodel the side, which is much appreciated. After all, why fix what ain’t broke?

So, what made Homestar’s collective content great? A lot of it comes down to its humor, which is deeply rooted in both pop culture and surreal comedy. Homestar was a series that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at other properties, ideas, concepts, cliches, and even its own characters. As a result, the series never took itself too seriously, and generally was entertaining to watch.

The cartoons feature about a dozen memorable characters, such as the animal-like The Cheat, and the ever-depressed Strong Sad. The characters came off as quirky, silly, goofy, and were all very hilarious. To this day, Homestar remains one of my favorite web cartoons. It revolutionized online web animation, and made it popular.

It became so overwhelmingly popular that it’s been referenced by various forms of media, even to this day. Shows like Megas XLR, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and even the game Kingdom of Loathing all reference Homestar. Even when the series went on hiatus, its popularity never truly died down.

I found myself recently re-watching a lot of the old Homestar stuff, and it’s still entertaining after all these years. It is the longest running web-series of all time, even outrunning the long-lasting “Red Vs. Blue” series. The various Easter Eggs, subtle adult jokes, and likable characters keeps me coming back even as an adult. It’s one of those shows that just never loses its luster for me. With Homestar making a resurgence in content these past couple years, I think it’s a great time for newcomers to give the series a try! Surreal humor and wacky characters are the gift that keeps on giving, after all.

Fighting Foodons: The Show That Wasn’t a Fever Dream

Believe it or not, a part of most people’s childhood is their fertile imagination. We imagine crazy things or bizarre scenarios, things that could never exist in the real world. As kids, we are allowed to craft a world atop our already existing one. Another thing kids tend to do is watch really crazy cartoons. More often than not though, people tend to chalk certain shows up as being fever dreams that they had as kids.

These are shows with such insane premises that they couldn’t possibly real, but some of them actually are. I’m going to talk about one of the most insane anime made for kids ever made, a show most people thought they had just dreamed up in their early years. I’m talking about Fighting Foodons, an anime about food turning into monsters and fighting each other!

Fighting Foodons was a show that was originally released in Japan under the title “Martial Arts Cooking Legend Bistro Recipe”. This was a show that involved around kids using magical cards to bring food to life, which were then used by both the heroes and villains to fight each other. I’m not sure how well the show did in Japan, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume it wasn’t very well.

This probably comes down to the show never being acknowledged, never receiving that much merchandise in Japan, and the fact that it ran for only 26 episodes before immediately becoming forgotten. It also doesn’t help that show was based off an already fairly obscure Shonen manga that only got 2 volumes. So, Bistro Recipe ultimately ended up as this forgotten and rather obscure anime.

That’s in Japan though, not so much in America. You see, 4Kids was looking to expand their catalog of anime dubs in the early 2000s. So, naturally Bistro Recipe was just asking to be snatched up. 4Kids purchased the localization rights, dubbed it in English using their in-house voice cast, and aired it as a premiere show on the Fox-Box network block. Despite being a launch series for the new block, Fighting Foodons failed to garner interest at the time.

However, due to its ridiculous premise and characters, it eventually became a cult classic. Heck, it became such an underground hit that earlier this year it was given a proper DVD release by Discotek! Now, let’s go into a bit more detail on what this show is about. It revolves around a young boy named “Chase”, a kid who wishes to create the ultimate Foodons in order to defeat the “Glutton Empire”.

“Power Rangers: Delicious Force!”

Helped by his sister, his Foodons, and a group of motley rebels, Chase must defeat the evil empire and free all of the captured innocents. It’s a pretty standard plot, but the show’s constant need to play into its more ridiculous aspects makes it truly entertaining to watch. This show never takes itself seriously, resulting in a comedic action series that revels in its own insanity.

4Kids did a surprisingly good job on the dub, despite their infamous reputation with butchering anime. Still, 4Kids did change a lot, including editing out several scenes. You may be asking yourself: Can’t I just watch it subbed and uncensored instead? Unfortunately, that’s kind of impossible at this point. The Japanese version of Fighting Foodons is near impossible to find. Some clips are floating around Youtube, but they aren’t subtitled.

Not even Discotek has released the Japanese version, at least not yet. It’s a shame too, considering how catchy Bistro Recipe’s theme song is. Still, I think Fighting Foodons is a decent enough adaptation to watch on its own. This isn’t a show with a whole lot of substance, but it’s got heart. You can tell that the people who made it enjoyed what they did.

Fighting Foodons is one of the few food-based anime that I can fully recommend. I never got much into other food anime, such as Toriko. FF is a rare kind of anime, one that revels in how bizarre its world is. This is what makes the show great! Sure, it’s no Escaflowne or GaoGaiGar, but it’s awesome nonetheless. Here’s hoping the Japanese version gets that release soon, so people can enjoy that version as well.

Wakfu: Terrible Name, Fantastic Show

There was once a time in my life where I was really into French shows. YTV and Teletoon were flooded with French, and French-Canadian cartoons. As a result, I would these shows religiously. I’m talking shows like Martin Mystery, Team Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country, and Monster Buster Club. I found shows like these to be fairly entertaining, though after a while I fell out of love with French cartoons.

Don’t get me wrong, I really dig French TV shows. The problem is that most French cartoons nowadays just fail to hold my interest. In fact, for a while the only French show I was really into was Miraculous Ladybug. Since ML has been on hiatus for a while, I thought it was time I find a new show to fill the void while I wait. That shows happens to be a little known series called “Wakfu”.

When I say that it’s little known, I mean that the series really hasn’t taken off outside of France. In France, Wakfu is a highly successful animated spinoff of the MMORPG game “Dofus”. Some may argue that Wakfu is more well-known than Dofus, due to its immense popularity. Wakfu even got a ton of spinoff games, including its own MMORPG adaptation.

Despite the show’s weird-sounding name, it’s actually quite entertaining. The series itself takes a ton of elements from anime, mostly from the ever popular Shonen genre. The series uses flash animation, but manages to make it look really good. While characters look semi-static while talking, the animation usually amps up during action scenes.

Fights that would often look very cheap in lesser show are given full reign to look impressive here. On top of this, Wakfu has a stellar and entertaining soundtrack. Each episode is beautifully scored and sounds really good! Now, most of you are probably wondering what Wakfu is about.

This show focuses on a kid named Yugo, who is trying to find his real parents. After being attacked by a villainous robot-man named Nox, our young hero says his goodbyes to his father and decides to travel the world. Yugo forms bounds with new friends allies, and sets off with his party to discover his real family.

Wakfu is a show that starts off kind of bland. The first thirteen or so episodes barely feature the main villain at all, relegating his appearances to the two-part pilot. Even there, the villain only appears in a few scenes and comes off as being rather basic and underdeveloped. However, that’s only if you haven’t seen the later episodes or the special “Noximilien The Watchmaker”.

It’s a hard Nox life!

This special depicts the events that lead Noximilien to becoming the vicious robotic villain of season 1. Noximilien goes from a humble clock-maker to a vicious cyborg named “Nox”, one who’s only goal is to literally turn back the clock and rewind time. In the second half of the first season, Nox becomes a more present threat for our heroes and their allies.

Nox isn’t the only character that I ended up liking a lot, I also adored two of the show’s protagonists: Ruel Stroud and Sadlygrove. Ruel Stroud is an old miser, a shovel-wielding adventurer, and a mysterious man with a ton of power. The reason I enjoyed Ruel is that he reminds me a lot of myself. Much like him, I hate spending cash even when I have more than enough of it.

Despite his penny-pinching ways, Ruel proves to be a loyal ally and a powerful warrior. Likewise, the hot-blooded hero known as Sadlygrove is another strong fighter. Sadlygrove’s idiotic tendencies often get him into trouble, though he usually gets out of it by knocking out anything that stands in his way. To me, these two characters are really what made the show for me.

The constant struggles these characters go through, combined with how they interact with each other make for some solid entertainment. The show itself starts off with portraying both its characters and its world in a humorous light, while slowing peeling back the layers to show the darker tragedies at work.

Unfortunately, Yugo’s portals don’t get that awesome until later in the series.

While the plot and its lore can come off formulaic, the way it is handled at times is executed well. I loved the various touches the animators and writing team put into the show, such as having Nox’s movements mirror that of a clock at times, or starting off an episode in unexpected way. I still can’t get over how much I enjoyed watching the start of a particular episode, one featuring two of its primary characters engaged in some fancy ballroom dancing. Something like that is very uncommon in this show, or shows in this genre for that matter.

Wakfu isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a perfect show, it actually has a fair bit of flaws. Like I mentioned, the main villain barely appears in season 1. Season 1 is mostly dominated by inconsequential filler, which I often find to be less enticing than the story-lines dealing with the main antagonist. Don’t misunderstand, there are several goofy filler episodes that I enjoy, but the amount of filler can be a bit overwhelming.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for one thing: The show’s heavy continuity. Despite the first half of season 1 coming off as episodic, almost everything that happens gets referenced in some way. There isn’t an episode that I could fully consider skippable, even if what happens in the episode doesn’t amount to much. For example, there’s an episode where they go to an island and we’re introduced to the plant people known as “Sadidas”.

Up until this point, the only Sadida that was seen was Princess Amalia.  If you skip out on this episode, you miss seeing these creatures before they are properly introduced several episodes later. In a way, we get a small taste of the culture and general personalities of this fictional race. The problem is that the episode feels very inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We are introduced to this tiny little monkey god named “Moon”, who never shows up again despite his grand power.

Adorable, yet pointless

Another problem with the show is its cheap English dub. Despite Ankama (the production company behind Wakfu) starting a Kickstarter for an English dub of this series, it ended up being pretty awful regardless. Characters lack the raw emotion they had in the French version, and most of them sound like they would fit right in with a badly dubbed 90s anime. I usually prefer my dubs to my subs, but this one is just downright bad to listen to. It’s why I always stick to the French version while watching Wakfu.

Still, things like this never stopped me from enjoying the show. It was flawed and had a bit of a generic plot, but it handled itself very well. I’ve just completed season 1 and I’m only a few episodes into season 2 at this point, but I like what I see. Wakfu is one of those few cartoons that I enjoy enough to binge and I plan to spend the next few weeks doing so. It’s one of those rare cartoons that manages to not only entertain me, but also bring a tear to my eye.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Hit or Miss?

Talk about split identities!

Who doesn’t love superheroes? After all, they are a big thing right now. Comic-book superheroes used to be such a niche market. Usually, only nerds would be into superheroes. However, we’ve reached a point in our society where superheroes are immensely popular. They may not exist, but people love partaking in stories involving these would-be protectors of our realm.

When it comes to superheroes, there are few that come close to the kind of popularity Spider-Man has! The stories of Peter Parker and spider-based alter-ego have become synonymous with the genre. With a hero as popular as Spider-Man, it was inevitable that there would be many variations on the popular franchise.

Never was this more present than television, where many adaptations of the classic comic book were made. Classics such as: Spider-Man 1994, Spider-Man Unlimited, and Spectacular Spider-Man. However, in 2012 we got the (arguably) worst possible adaptation of Spider-Man ever: Ultimate Spider-Man. I’m not talking about the comic or video-game of the same name, I mean the infamous Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon.

This was a cartoon that ignored many key principles of the Spider-Man mythos, presented Peter Parker and his alter-ego as complete idiots, and ran way too long for a show that was mostly a comedy series. Did this show really need 104 episodes? Seriously?

Shortly before the series ended in January of this year, another Spider-Man cartoon was announced. This show would bring Spider-Man back to his science geek roots, and promised to be better than its abysmal predecessor. So, is this new Spider-Man show any good? At the time of writing this, there are only 5 episodes available, so it may be too soon to say.

Regardless, I thought I would get my opinions out on this new series of Spider-Man. So, is it any good? Well, it’s decent. It’s not terrible, and it’s not great, just acceptable. Let me discuss what I liked, and what I didn’t like about this show. Let’s start off with the good: The voice acting is pretty dang solid. The voice actors fit each character well, and aside from a few vocal performances thus far, things have been good.

Some characters are fairly well-designed, and the show possesses a rather pleasing anime-like art-style. I also liked how this show focuses on villains who are more obscure, such as The Jackal and the Spider-Slayers. Those are some of the good things, how about the bad?

Unfortunately, this new Spider-Man show has a lot of bad. Remember how I said this show has some well-designed characters? Unfortunately, a majority of the cast don’t share this philosophy. A lot of the older characters look downright ugly, and some designs barely resemble their comic book counterparts.

Worse still, some character designs don’t fit at all. For example, in this show Dr. Octavius is meant to be in his 20s-30s. Here he just looks like an overweight teenager, not unlike the principle cast. Also, the animation can be fairly choppy at times. Characters can float into the shot, or just randomly appear.

The show also employs CGI backgrounds and objects, which have a tendency to clash horribly with the 2D animation. The show is also trying too hard to be “scientific”. Almost every second line has something to do with science, and most scenes are filled with Peter prattling on about some obscure scientific fact.

It felt so forced and didn’t really add anything to experience at all. This gets annoying in some of the more recent episodes, as the characters have a tendency to talk about science facts without explaining them. There are points where the “science babble” gets so bad that I feel I can’t properly follow along.

It’s not as bad as other shows, such as “Betterman”, but it’s still rather aggravating. I’m not going to make too much of a comment on the story. This is mostly due to the fact that we are still very early in the show’s run, so it wouldn’t make sense to judge this facet of the show too harshly. So far, the series has done a good job of setting up future events, even if several of them probably should’ve been saved for season 2.

Those are my thoughts on the new Spider-Man show. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, though it definitely has some problems. Still, it’s a vast improvement over the previous series, and I’m willing to give it a chance. It feels like a more “authentic” Spider-Man story than we’ve been getting the past few years, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the writers can do with it next.

Robotech: The Wasted Potential

Gotta love ‘dem classics!

When it comes to 80s television, there wasn’t a whole lot of stand-out shows. The TV programs that did stand out in this era often found a niche audience, and some are often lauded as classics. I talked about particular 80s show, a cartoon called “Galaxy Rangers”. What made Galaxy Rangers unique for its time, was that the animation was done by a Japanese anime studio. The wonderful animators over at TMS put hard work into presenting well-animated action sequences and characters for this series.

Shows that used Japanese animation often saw success, as this animation style often allowed for more expressive characters and more fluid movements. Not only was there a demand for shows with Japanese animation in them, but also for shows that originated from Japan. Voltron was one such show, using animation from a failed Japanese television anime called “GoLion”.

Unlike its Japanese counterpart, Voltron sold well and became staple of American pop-culture. This is a show that got a ton of sequels and reboot, with some studios even talking about doing a live-action version of the series. Voltron was definitely a pioneer of this early era of anime translation, but it was not without its faults.

Voltron completely rewrote the entirety of the original series, reworking it into a vastly different show overall. New characters, elements, and even concepts were introduced. Heck, they even merged the show with a completely different series to create a brand new show! Hardcore anime fans were generally un-pleased, though Voltron definitely found an audience with the many people who tuned in during that era.

While Voltron was definitely the longer lasting series, no one could deny that GoLion’s source material had found its way into the hearts of old-school anime enthusiasts. Despite Voltron eclipsing GoLion as the head of the franchise, there’s still a small contingent keeping this dead show alive. Now, why am I bringing this all up? Well, Voltron wasn’t the only show of this era to combine footage from separate unrelated anime.

A lot of people often forget about Robotech, a series that also combined different shows into a singular continuity. However, Robotech has an advantage over Voltron: It used three different shows to help craft its own lore and timeline. These shows happened to be Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada.

These three shows are completely unrelated, despite the identical names of a couple of them. Macross and Southern Cross are considered to be part of the same series, though follow separate continuities. In Robotech though, they are all part of the same continuity. The same goes for Mospeada, which was an entirely different show altogether.

Unlike a lot of shows that attempted to merge multiple anime together, I’d say Robotech was mostly successful. While the series were watered down when compared to the originals, they still kept a fair bit of grit and dark subject manner. It was still fairly violent, and death was a constant. Not only that, but almost all of the main story was kept intact.

The show had its faults, such as sub-par voice acting and the obligatory name-changing. Still, it was a pretty solid localization for the time. Honestly, I prefer Robotech seasons 2 and 3 to both Southern Cross and Mospeada. Despite this, the original Japanese version of Macross trumps season of Robotech, in my opinion.

Robotech definitely had its share of flack. The creator of the series, Carl Macek, was often criticized for how he handled the show. A lot of people didn’t like that he was mashing up three unrelated series, especially the people who often prefer their anime to be close to the source material.

I’m certainly not against an adaptation being like this, the problem is that Robotech was not handled well after the original show. You see, the franchise was and still is owned by the company known as “Harmony Gold”. To this day, Robotech is still seen as their most popular and well-known franchise. Most of Harmony’s other dubbed anime fell by the waist-side, but Robotech remained somewhat relevant in the public’s eye.

I say somewhat, because Robotech isn’t as big of a series as Harmony Gold would have you believe. At least, not in the West. You see, after the show aired back in the 80s, every project in the series ended up either cancelled or delayed. Robotech II was cancelled and made into a TV movie, Robotech: The Movie bombed in the initial box office airings, Robotech 3000 never made it past the pilot, and the ambitious N64 game Robotech: Crystal Dreams was also cancelled.

Not only that, but Robotech Shadow Chronicles received a ton of delays. When it finally came out, it had mediocre CGI and a somewhat bland story. I still enjoyed the film, though mostly in a “guilty pleasure” kind of way. The thing that really irks both me and a ton of Macross/Robotech fans, is how the franchise is treated over here.

The problem is that Harmony Gold owns all the rights to the US distribution of Macross, due to a copyright loophole. One may think that Harmony Gold would want to bring as much Macross material over as they can, right? The thing is, Harmony Gold is very protective of their copyright.

They won’t allow DVD releases of Macross, Southern Cross, or related shows in any way. DVD releases of these shows did crop up, but Harmony Gold shut them down as quickly as the could. The problem here is that HG would only allow the American versions of Macross to be released, while refusing to release the original Japanese versions.

This meant that they only allowed their audience to watch the show in the ways they deemed fit, instead of allowing people to see the alternatives. The problem is that in the early years of DVD releases, this was the only way to watch the show. Anime streaming wasn’t really a thing yet, so it was pretty difficult to watch the Japanese version.

You either had to have the original DVD release before HG shut it down, or bootleg subtitled episodes from Japan. Even the Japanese version of Voltron got a proper western DVD release, yet HG felt it necessary to throttle all attempts to bring the show in its original format here.

This wouldn’t be a huge problem if HG had a lot of Macross and Robotech releases, however the franchise has become stagnant. The last time we got anything Robotech related was in 2013, with the release of the abysmal “Robotech: Love Live Alive”. This film was just a 90 minute summary of the third season of Robotech, with some new footage made just for the movie.

The new footage is sparse, and clashes horribly with the old animation. Love Live Alive was meant to act as a bridge between Shadow Chronicles and Shadow Rising, which is the planned sequel to the previous film. 4 years later and Shadow Rising still hasn’t been released, which is par for the course with this franchise.

To summarize, I feel Robotech is wasted potential. I’m not saying that because I hate the original show or the novels, I actually enjoy those quite a bit. I say this because of how poorly Harmony Gold handled its releases. They acted like Robotech was a household name, when it was really a cult-classic anime that should’ve stayed in the 80s.

Over 30 years have passed since this show came out, many voice actors and even the creator have passed away, yet HG is still obsessed with trying to bank on nostalgia. It’s impossible to watch the newer Robotech projects and be completely lost, especially due to all the elements and characters that lack explanation.

As mentioned earlier, HG also hoards Macross and Southern Cross like its going out of style. While they are legally viable to hold the rights to these shows, it’s still a shame that most audiences will never get to experience them legally in their original format. I’m not saying that HG is awful, nor is the franchise they helped build. Still, they handled the franchise so poorly, that I feel there is no coming back.

I’ve heard there are talks for a live-action Robotech film, which I feel is a bad idea. Why adapt a franchise that hasn’t been relevant in almost a decade? I’m not saying that it can’t be done, I just don’t think it’s the best idea. I think HG needs to get its act together before it commits to such a large project. Whether you love or hate Robotech, you have to admit that it deserves better than the treatment it got.

Exosquad: The Amazing Show That Time Forgot

Giant robot battles: They transcend decades.

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.