2013
05.21

Last year, Marvel fans were greeted with the worst April Fools’ Day joke of all time: the abysmal Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, which – despite involvement from writer Brian Michael Bendis – has absolutely nothing to do with the excellent comic book series of the same name. While many fans of the previous (and much better) series, Spectacular Spider-Man, were sore about Ultimate‘s mere existence, the truth is that SSM actually ended because of licensing issues between Marvel and Sony – not to pave way for a replacement. Fast forward to 2013, and the same studio behind Spidey’s most recent television outing has made its own Avengers cartoon, one intended as a tie-in to 2012’s summer blockbuster movie. The difference here is that the previous show, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, actually was cancelled to bring about this newer iteration.

As it stands, the first installment of Avengers Assemble is slightly better than any given episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, which is to say that watching Avengers Assemble is a more pleasant experience than discovering you have hemorrhoids. It’s extremely boring and obviously made to sell toys to children, but it’s also not outright offensive or insulting like USM is, so that’s a step up, I suppose. It doesn’t do a very good job of tying into the film, though; the characters look and sound almost nothing like their live action counterparts, and the writing is a couple (hundred) notches below that of Whedon’s screenplay.

The first thing you’ll notice about this show is that it looks like it was made in Flash for cheap. The character designs come across as very unnatural, like they’re paper cutouts pasted onto a screen rather than inhabitants of a cartoon world. Meanwhile, the 3D CGI stuff blends in poorly and already looks extremely dated. The whole production is a mess that barely manages to surpass the 90’s X-Men cartoon in terms of aesthetics. And I feel bad for anybody who tries to watch this show on a standard definition TV – on top of the letterboxing they’ll already experience from the show being made in widescreen, many shots randomly add humongous black bars to the top and bottom of the screen to give the action a “cinematic” feel, meaning SD fellas probably won’t even be able to see what’s happening during these moments. The pointless fake letterbox effect takes up so much of the screen that it actually becomes jarring whenever scenes decide to jump in and out of it (and almost all of them do).

With the huge pool of A-list writing talent Man Of Action supposedly employs (such as Paul Dini and Joe Kelly), you’d at least expect the story and dialogue to be somewhat interesting, but no. The script features very little in the way of wit or charm, and the plot… well, the plot tries to present M.O.D.O.K. as a credible villain. And if you don’t know who M.O.D.O.K. is, I’ll just let these screen caps from the episode fill you in:

That’s really all you need to know.

— Foggle

(Please note that I have only seen maybe three episodes of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and this is not intended as a rage post due to its cancellation. I’m just giving my first impressions of Assemble.)

2013
05.05

I know what you're looking at, and I'm ashamed.

The short-lived animated series Immortal Grand Prix, a racing show co-produced by Cartoon Network, recently returned to screens to much fanfare. Much praise has been given to Toonami for this idea, with the consensus being this represents a return to the good old days. However, that contrasts with previous apathy for the show in favor of desire for shows like Sym-Bionic Titan or Teen Titans to return. In fact, the interest in bringing back IGPX seemed nonexistent in the months before the announcement. Nostalgia was sparked out of the return than memories of the actual show, and that asks a question: Was IGPX even good to begin with?

Aside from the CG racing sequences, the animation presents nothing notable or surprising. Sure, the design if usually on model, but points can’t be given for a basic expectation. Plots and characterization don’t go beyond the basic “sports anime” concept, with Takeshi, Amy, and Liz never going beyond their already flat archetypes. As their character interaction offer little chemistry and real flavor to the show, these scenes ends up detracting away from the supposed center of the show. While the casting is impressive for a Saturday night cartoon, which seems like the only distinction this series has from other anime. After all, Michelle Rodriguez is always welcome. But besides that, what’s there to make this series better than any other racing show? The plot moves at a pace contradictory to the show’s theme. While the series’ quality may have been must better than contemporary programs at its original airing such as Zatch Bell and D.I.C.E., does that say anything in the grand scheme of things?

Within the anime subculture, the show’s title seems as obscure as the Super Mario OVA. Search through any “Top 00s Anime” or “Shows To Get Nostalgic Over” lists, and I assure you that IGPX will seldom be on those charts. Hell, when was the last time you even heard of someone not into Toonami speak of the show? Yet, the show’s return brought cheers equivalent to the new Pope being announced. Exactly what is going on to incur this spur? When shows like Samurai 7 or even Soul Eater were announced, they only received a fraction of this anticipation. So what gives?

Perhaps this signals how the revival of Toonami has turned its fans rabid with anticipation over any kind of news. And what’s better than a return of Toonami’s first original animated series? Even if the series wasn’t actually good to begin with, getting a show from the previous era back on-air simulates the feeling of finally having the Toonami we knew and loved. But then that raises a further question: Do we want good shows or do we just want Toonami back?

Maybe I’m exaggerating and looking at a genuinely good show through biased eyes. There’s the possibility that the years have given IGPX a new generation to please. But looking onto the show with a personal view, I look with confusion as to what exactly makes this a victory in the eyes of action-animation fans. In a few years’ time, we’ll probably see Wulin Warriors come back and be viewed as a classic that deserved another chance. Hey, if Citizen Kane was mocked during its initial release, then surely a couple shows have gotten the same treatment?

Right?