UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, this article is one week past due and thus could not review last night’s episode. I’ll try to avoid such things in the future
Well first off, i’m glad to be finally be here at the Outer Haven with my fellow peeps from Shadowhaxor.net. I’ll try my best to put out some great comic news, reviews and editorials… or DIE TRYING.
Hmm… perhaps I should rephrase that. But we got the ball rolling, so too late for re-writes.
Last Friday, the newest episode of Cartoon Network’s new hit action show/potential meal ticket Thundercats was on today, delivering on the eagerly awaited (but-not-so long) debut of fan-favorite Pantro (a.k.a THE ONLY BLACK MAN ON THUNDERA, emphasized by being voiced by the MOST WANTED BLACK MAN IN ANIMATION, Kevin Michael Richardson ). It also revealed a bit of backstory regarding why Pantro took so long to join the team and why…wait, I’m assuming that you guys have been following, right? Yeeeah, it’s on CN, a network that has been rapidly decaying in the past 7 ears due to executive incompitence, a poor change in direction, a lot of the old guard leaving, rapidly changing demographics, the economy, the slow death of traditional animation, and a myriad of many other factors (NOT JUST THE DEATH OF TOONAMI, as my other co-horts would like you to believe). But, all of this aside, it continues to be a place for some of the best (if not most of the best) WESTERN Cartoons in the world; I had to emphasize this because (as I stated before in paragraph form), some viewers won’t accept animated products unless it’s the newest animated series from Japan streamed onto the computers. Luckily for them, The new T-Cats meet some of those standards and then some.
A reboot of the old 80’s cartoon, you’d be very surprised how much of the Thundercats had it’s roots in Nippon. Most of the main animation was done in conjunction with a Japanese studio. Aside from the obvious well animated intro with the catchy theme song, the character design where a mesh ofHe-Man meets Tatsunoko, with their wild hair, bright eyes, mech designs,bad voice acting and especially, their fantasy origins. If it wasn’t for all the gadgets, the formulaic plot structure and all the tights and loincloths, you think they would be a fit for an RPG.
Well years later, when Sam Regald would decide to produce a reboot for the 21st Century, he decided to take the concept full circle. He hired Studio 4C, an anime company who is behind such hits as Tekkon Kinkreet and a personal fav, Detroit Metal City, to create a new direction for the Cats, more immersed in the fantasy tropes Square Enix and Atlus has shown us rather than J.R. Tolkien or Robert. E. Howard. Ok, maybe they did keep a few dark elements from Conan The Barbarian than they would admit to.
Gone is the aliens landing on another planet schtick that permeated a lot of 80’s/90’s action shows, now everything is located on one planet for your convinience – Third Earth. Thundera is just one of many kingdoms throughout the world, but they’re the big do- er cats on campus, ruling through a benevolent mix of arrogance and racist slavery. Did I mention the moral ambiguity and caste system. Ye-aaaahh…. good times.
Lion-O is the young king-to-be, voiced by Will Friedle ,once again, tasked with being the second-in-line to a bigger legacy, like he did in Batman Beyond and Batman: Brave and The Bold. To emphasize this point, original Lion-O Larry Kenney is the voice of Claudus, his father, who shows up to put down his son and nails the point home by shouting a throwback “Thundercats, HOOOOOOOOO!!” Do you find that annoying? Too bad. You’ll be hearing this once an episode. The prince is not really respected, because he’s kind of a tech-head, kind to “inferior species” and lover of superstition. Civilization demands that people with such odd hobbies be branded a NUURRRRRRDDD!!
The entire kingdom (as well as half of the cast in the show) reminds him of this fact by praising his adopted brother, Tygra, voiced by Matthew Mercer (Street Fighter fans will known him as Fei Long, the rest of the internet knows him as Luigi. YES, THAT Luigi.) A tool, a troll and a total douchebag, he only shows up to tell everyone that he is Tygra, he is awesome, and he should be king cause he is awesome. Pretty much a 180 from his previous, bland self. Sure, he still has the magic whip thingy but he’s also packing a gun and gung-ho attitude to boot. I thought by the end of the first 2-parter, the show would be called Tygra is better than you at everything and we love him for that – starring the Thundercats, and yet the show manages to keep to it’s unsure protagonist and simply let Tygra upstage him from time to time.
Luckily, he does have friends… or at least he gets pity from the lovely Cheetara, furry sex-symbol of the 1980’s and voiced by Emmanuelle Chirqui(Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Entourage); oddly enough, she sounds a bit like Cree Summers. Yeah, she’s beautiful and she’s super fast, plus she’s a “cleric”, which seems to be the cat-person version of a ninja. IMHO, Cheetara was never appealing to me except in those first minutes of the 1st episode of the old cartoon, when she was naked :P Her character was bland, she sounded like an old lady and now, her one unique ability is simply the mad skills she learns from Jaga (Corey Burton), who was the mentor and ghost guide from the 80’s show.But otherwise, she simply exists to be fanservice and a voice of reason, as well as create a love triangle between her, Lion-O and Tygra. His loyal pet Snarf, is back, but don’t worry, he’s not in much scenes and not that annoying, though it all depends on which fits your definition of annoying: the talking, nagging sidekick from the 80’s or a pudgy mascot that looks and sounds like a pokemon ripoff? Nay, most of the comedy relief comes from the adorable and scene stealingThunderkittens, Wily Kit () and Wilykat (). Both are re-cast as street urchins and thieves who join the gang, in search for the lost city of El Dara (which as t.v. teaches us, won’t be as we imagine or will tie to the main plot).
Anywho, to summerize the rest of the origin, General Grune comes back after being sent by Claudus to seek the Book of Omens, the mystical mugiffin that spoils the plot reveals the future for those who see it. Only the CHOHZN 1 with the power of “Sight beyond Sight” can read it (2 guessses who it is…really, I’ll wait). Pantro’s in the army too but Grune says he dies, so it must be true @_@ After Tygra humiliates Lion-O at some games, it’s time for the annual lynching of the negro lizards. But Lion-O is a reasonable cat person, and He, Tygra and Sex-Pot fight off the crowd, free the slaves, and everyone learns a lesson: Don’t release your prisoners just because it’s politically correct.
Turns out it was a setup by the lizard’s leader, General Slythe (the leader of the mutants from the 80’s, now voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) who pulled out a trojan horse with the help of … Grune?! I knew it! But what tipped me off? Was it the nasty appearance, his not subtle lust for power or is it because he is voiced by FRIGGIN Lex Luthor, Destro and that penny pinching Mr. Krabs himself, Clancy Brown?! Turns out he allied himself with the most crankiest old man you’ve seen since Martin Landau, Mumm-Ra (Robin Atkin Dowes) Now this fella is not as loud and cranky as the old version, more with an air of mystery and pure evil. He is also tied with technology, which just increases the mystery. So much that the show lampshades the overused transformation sequence from the 80’s, keeping us wondering if he’ll ever pump up by the end of the season. Obviously, he kills Claudus (by tricking him into thinking he was Pantro. What a troll.), and the brothers get captured, only to be rescued by the same slaves they rescued earlier (wow, karma DOES work!). So with his rag tag team of misfits, Lion-O sets off to avenge his people and find the Book of Omens. And this is where shit gets weird!
From the 3rd episode onward, you think every thing is set for a long and eventful journey throughout the exotic lands of Third Earth in the grand tradition of JRPGS. Instead, that is told through a brief montage which transitions into…a Moby Dick homage episode. This is where we find some flaws with the show: The pacing is too fast for the first season, with little to no room for character development except Lion-O’s, The Sword of Omens remains a plot device that solves conflicts too easily, and each episode seems like it was directed by different people. The aformentioned homage episode had Lion-O’s and Tygra’s role reversed, and thematically was very different from the pilot. It was followed by “Song of the Petalars” a beautiful episode that deals with the concepts of life, death, time and hope with characters that you bonds with you for a lifetime…literally, thas how long the Petalars live.(R.I.P Emerich ;_;)Finally, we reach the latest episode, Pantro’s awesome debut, which constantly gets interrupted with Pantro’s frequent backstory (and shows us that he has very poor choice in making friends). Yeah, it’s nice that they got that outta the way so we can have more action but next episode is heading toward finding the book and a confrontation with Mumm-Ra, and you got to wonder:
I wonder if the network had little faith in the show that it thought it was not going to last a season? Or are they dumbing down the potential of the series simply to push the action and teenage angst?
Well according to the synopsis, they do have to find some more sanagians along the way, known as the The Stones of Power, so maybe we’re not done yet. Plenty of old characters and references to dig through yet, and how in the world will CN sell those ThunderTank toys if they don’t let that kitty run for more than one episode (and where is the awesome theme song?! That was the best part of the show!)?
One thing is for certain, the show has an amazing design, great world building, wonderful animation, and when written well, it tells a great story with good character development, that deals with the consequences of loss, anger, pride and lot of mature subject matter almost on par with Avatar: The Last Airbender (Almost…ok maybe that’s an exaggeration.) However, none of that will matter if the lifetime of this series is as short as a Petalar. Hopefully, it’ll get another season and is given more chance to grow. Until then, THUNDERCATS…. HOooawwoowww…you know what I’m too tired to yell. Night.