Review of She-Ra (Season One)

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For the honour of Grayskull! Time to review another cartoon that I have watched on Netflix. In spite of the unimpressive trailer, which has received much ire online, I recently decided to check out the thirteen episode She-Ra reboot. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the original show, I was curious to see how the series would turn out, due to its connection with Masters of the Universe. Back when I was a kid I dug watching the adventures of She-Ra’s brother He-Man, and I also owned several of the Mattel toys. He-Man was an awesome superhero who protected the fantasy world of Eternia. Just like Superman, I never understood how he managed to preserve his secret identity. When prince Adam transformed into He-Man the only things that would differentiate the two was a tan and fewer clothes.

OVERVIEW

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power follows the exploits of an orphan girl named Adora. The first episode establishes that she is a rookie soldier serving the Evil Horde empire. Adora is a model officer and has recently been promoted to the rank of force commander. Her allegiance to the Horde ends however when she witnesses first hand the atrocities they commit on Etheria’s peaceful populace. Who could have possibly predicted that the Evil Horde is evil? Adora defects to the Princess Alliance, a group made up of mostly female warriors who possess a range of elemental and magical powers. Not to be outdone Adora soon acquires a special ability of her own, courtesy of a magical sword she discovered in the nearby Whispering Woods. By lifting up the blade and yelling out her catchphrase, Adora is able to morph into the titular Valkyrie who is blessed with enhanced strength.

Most of the series follows Adora as she travels across the land with her new pals Glimmer (a teleporting royal) and Bow the archer. The trio are tasked with securing aid from neighbouring kingdoms, in the hopes they can all band together to repel the invading Horde. Instead of Sylvanas, this Horde’s leader is a scary chap named Hordak. He only makes fleeting appearances in season one though. Adora’s chief antagonists are characters from her past. The first of these is the person who raised her – a witch named Shadow Weaver. She-Ra’s other rival is childhood chum Catra, who feels hurt that Adora decided to abandon her in favour of joining the Princesses. Although too proud to admit it, Catra starts the series off wanting to bring Adora back to her side. Later however, when Catra’s achievements begin to gain recognition, the relationship sours. Catra begins to view Adora as someone who has always held her back.

VERDICT

My rating for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is three stars. I went into the series with low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was. That said, I still prefer the reboots of Thundercats and He-Man over this Netflix production. I would say that those shows were more to my liking, as they had better action and were less goofy. On several occasions She-Ra’s dialogue and gags made me cringe (now I know what He-Man’s cat Cringer felt like). Although the individual storylines of each episode were nothing special, I dug Etheria’s lore. Hopefully next season will delve deeper into the sci-fi origins of She-Ra’s power. Rather than sorcery, it’s hinted that her sword is linked to an ancient race of interstellar travellers. Another thing I am looking forward to, from future episodes, is how the Adora/Catra dynamic develops. Can the pair patch things up or has the cat girl gone past the point of redemption? We will have to wait and see.

One thing that will put off many potential viewers, from giving She-Ra a chance, is the hideous artwork. It’s hard to believe that DreamWorks were behind the creation of this series. They used to produce films that were on Pixar’s level. I would blame the TV sized budget, for the lacklustre visuals, but the studio’s work on Voltron proves they are capable of much better. Another stylistic choice that won’t go down well with old school She-Ra fans are the character redesigns. Virtually all of the cast have had their race or skin colour altered. Depending on where you stand this may be a triumph for diversity or an example of SJWs trying to indoctrinate young kids via children’s programming. Apart from those changes, some characters have had their body sizes tweaked too. Glimmer has gone from being a super model, in the eighties series, to a plus size teen. I blame her powers for that. Maybe if she walked more, instead of teleporting everywhere, she would lose a few pounds.

Review of Castlevania (Netflix)

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Greetings and salutations everyone. The Otaku Judge here with another animated series review. Usually I focus on anime from Japan, but this time round my critique is on Castlevania – a U.S produced cartoon based on Konami’s video games. Scripted by comic book scribe Warren Ellis, Castlevania’s four-part first season is presently available to view on Netflix. After finding success with superhero adaptations, the popular streaming service is now tapping into console games for TV show ideas. Whether the experiment works out remains to be seen, but at the very least Castlevania convinced me to finally take advantage of Netflix’s free trial. I like trials… and I’m not just saying that because I am a judge.

A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT

One thing that surprised me about Castlevania is that it dedicates all of episode one to Dracula. The inaugural chapter, of this series, explains why the legendary vampire hates humanity. Years ago a doctor named Lisa Tepes braved the bloodsucker’s mansion in search of medicinal knowledge. She found what she sought and a new husband in the process, as Lisa tied the knot with Dracula shortly thereafter. Unfortunately the couple’s romance ended in tragedy, when the church learned of Lisa’s research. Mistaking the drugs Lisa concocted for witchcraft, she was burned at the stake. Dracula vowed revenge against mankind for his beloved’s execution. The evil clergy have doomed us all! Religious folks may want to avoid Castlevania, as it doesn’t paint priests in a good light.

The only man who can save us from Dracula’s demonic army is monster slayer Trevor Belmont. He has however given up on the family business, after the pope excommunicated his clan. These days Trevor is more likely to fight drunkards than creatures of the night, as he drifts from town to town looking for booze. Episode two for example sees Belmont brawl at a tavern, whose patrons include a family of goat fuckers… I “kid” ye not. Trevor cannot escape his destiny though and eventually gets embroiled in the Dracula conflict. In search of grub our whip-wielding hero stumbles into the city of Gresit, which is presently under siege by Count D’s legion of winged fiends.

DRACULA I AM BACK-ULA TO SMACK-ULA

We don’t get to see Trevor go all out until episode three, when he allies himself with a sect of mystics known as the Speakers. Much like Trevor, Gresit’s religious leadership hounds the spell-casting faction. Although benign, Speakers are reviled by the populace as their sorcery is deemed to be dark magic. One of the group’s members has vanished inside the local catacombs, where a fabled saviour is said to slumber. Trevor enters the crypt in search of the wayward Speaker only to find a Cyclops guarding the mausoleum. A battle ensues between Belmont and the hulking beast, which possesses a petrifying stare. Those unfortunate enough to get caught by the monster’s gaze will get more stoned than Snoop Dogg.

In terms of action, Trevor versus the Cyclops is an appetizer of things to come. The season finale is twenty minutes of non-stop carnage, as Belmont attempts to liberate Gresit from the clutches of tyrannical holy men and protect the citizenry from a horde of gargoyles. Blood and dismembered body parts rain down from the sky, reminding viewers why the show carries a sixteen plus age classification. Once the dust clears one more opponent remains for Trevor to overcome, although I will keep their identity a secret for the sake of spoilers. My lips are sealed, although I will divulge that ladies who admire shirtless pretty boys will approve of the final adversary. Hey can’t you spare some fan service for us guys too? We deserve a consolation prize after losing the gender war for Dr Who.

VERDICT

My rating for Castlevania is a three and a half out of five. Some reviewers are overrating the series slightly, but I can’t blame them given how rare watchable video game adaptations are. Overall I was impressed with the script, voice work and visuals – although the animation could have been stronger in places. The stiffness of Trevor’s cape is especially noticeable in certain scenes. When the end credits rolled I was left wanting more, partly due to the low episode count and partly because of its abrupt conclusion. Netflix are promoting Castlevania as “season one” but they aren’t fooling anyone. This is clearly a movie chopped up into four parts. Based on this impressive showing I can’t wait for season two. Like a Sesame Street vampire I will “count” the days until Dracula return.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Review

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Call me bloodthirsty if you must, but I have never understood why the DC comic book heroes are so merciful. Seriously Batman, how many more times are you going to allow the Joker to paralyse and maim your sidekicks before you put him down for good? Real life law enforcement has slayed criminals for a lot less. If you are of the same opinion as me you may want to give Justice League: Gods and Monsters a gander. This direct to DVD animated feature stars an alternate version of the Justice League, who lack the compassion of the traditional DC trinity. Terrorists who get on their bad side can expect to be cremated with eye beams, sliced in twain with an extra terrestrial blade or even drained of their blood!

OVERVIEW

Gods and Monsters’ trio of heroes are the world famous Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. In this dimension however Superman is the offspring of megalomaniac General Zod and was raised by Mexican immigrants. Wonder Woman on the other hand isn’t an Amazonian, but rather the daughter in law of Darkseid. The female New God relocated to Earth after her marriage ceremony ended on a messier note than the time when my uncle drunk a little too much at my sister’s wedding reception. Last, but not least is the Caped Crusader who happens to be Batman villain Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat.) Kirk transformed into a vampire vigilante one fateful day when he injected himself with a vial of genetically modified bat venom.

Just like their New 52 counterparts, this iteration of the Justice League is a force for good. Their relationship with the White House, headed by president Amanda Waller, is however strained. Aside from their ruthless streak the Justice League are disliked because they routinely flaunt regulations. When you are blessed with superpowers it is easy to ignore the law after all. If the courts struggle to punish celebrities, due to their fame and fortune, what chance do they have of making Superman follow the rules? Things eventually come to a head when the Justice League is framed for the murder of three prominent scientists. Can they find the real culprit and clear their names or will Earth’s protectors be forced to wage war against the United States army?

VERDICT

My rating for Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a three out of five. Legendary producer Bruce Timm once again delivers a highly entertaining superhero cartoon. I enjoyed this edgier take on DC’s all-star team; so it’s a shame that viewers aren’t given more time to experience this alternate universe. The seventy-minute duration means that once you deduct the origin scenes and action sequences there isn’t much time left for plot. When the villain is eventually revealed their cliché motivations are summed up in a few quick lines and the finale wraps things up a little too nicely. All the animosity between Superman and the government is patched up faster than an NES Classic goes out of stock.

Apart from the speedy storytelling, I don’t have any other complaints with Gods and Monsters. The visuals, although not spectacular, will appeal to anyone who grew up watching Justice League Unlimited and the voice acting was competent. Tamara Taylor gave the strongest performance, out of the whole cast, by convincingly showing how Wonder Woman can be tender during romantic moments and fiery in battle. Speaking of battle, the action set pieces were solid and didn’t make Superman seem too powerful. The Man of Steel was given a run for his money by the liquid metal bots he was pitted against and even regular soldiers, who were armed with Kryptonian countermeasures. Perhaps president Trump should invest in those weapons. I don’t think a humble wall will suffice to keep Mexican Superman out of the country!