Sunday, July 19, 2015

Review: X-Men (the 1992 animated tv series)

There was a good portion of my childhood where I was convinced that there were no good live action shows on television.  Rather, when I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, I decided that animation was amazing and before my love of anime I had a deep love for just cartoons.  X-Men was one of those and it was by far my favorite when it came to comic book cartoons.  I never really liked Spiderman and I remember getting into Batman The Animated Series a bit later, so X-Men was it.

To childhood me the series was amazing.  I had comics in my room, I had sketches and fanfic I wrote. based on the show, I was a regular little fan.  So now that Hulu had all the episodes and I needed something to watch while I was sewing, my partner and I decided to marathon it.

Right up there with the Nostalgia Critic, I'll agree that the X-Men opening is the most epic thing ever!  I mean, what series other then this one throws the logo up on the screen and explodes it in your face?  The animation was awesome and it really got you hyped for the show.

The show itself, now that I've rewatched it, didn't always live up to the opening.  Looking at it now as an adult (or rather cleverly disguised as one) I realize that the pacing was way too fast for these characters.  There are characters that show up without introductions and yet everyone knows their names.  There are inconsistencies in plot that can't be explained by episodes being aired out of order and... well... there's more then one Mojo episode *shudder*.

I still love all the characters.  The main X-Men are awesome.  You are handed such a wide range of characters that it's hard to not find one to attach yourself to and identify with.  My partner was always partial to Storm growing up and I know I flopped between Rouge and Wolverine, depending on the storylines and who was in each episode.

The villains were just as a diverse as the heroes and the show played a cool trick on you.  This is one of the few shows where the villains are not just evil. Magneto is the definition of waffling in his friendship with Xavier.  Mr Sinister is evil, but calls Xavier when he needs help.  Mystique is.... well, we're better off not guessing her side because the minute you do, she changes.  I like all of this and I wish I'd see it more in other shows.  X-men did a really good job of showing all of it's characters to be 3 dimensional beings and you can just feel the years and years of comic book history behind them.  You know there's so many more stories then what you're watching and in the end, you're not really sad about the ending (with the exception of reasons I'll tackle below) because you know there are many other stories abut these characters you love out there waiting.  The series might end, but oh man - this is how comic book addictions are made and man did it ever catch me in High School.

Now, to tackle the ending.  Fair warning, that as much as I loved this cartoon series as a kid and like it as an adult, watching it through to the end pissed me off to no doubt.  I'll admit that in writing this I had a whole rant about the ending season that made no coherent sense, but it was so good to get it out.  Here's the more coherent version.

There's a pattern in cartoon series that I hate.  I don't know if the cause is always the same, but you know it when you see it: when they stop caring.  It's painfully obvious in X-Men when you watch the fifth season.  Sure, we get a few good episodes like Storm Front and Bloodlines,but in watching you can tell the series has been winding down since Apocalypse's 'death' the season before.  The episodes are just a teeny bit more random and other characters you don't much care about get far too much spotlight - Jubilee, Longshot, Cyclops - and their episodes feel like filler waiting for something better.

So the last episode should be good, right?  I mean they know the ending is coming, so they should go out with a bang, right?


Nope.  Graduation day is the WORST episode I've ever seen and I'm not kidding when I say I was yelling at the screen and swearing from how upset I was at seeing this play.

Keeping my ranting in check, you have quite a few things that explode in this episode to make it so bad.  A cheaper animation studio holds the episode in it's hands, so the animation quality change is jarring.  A mysterious sickness comes out of no where to hit Xavier and then you're treated to this convoluted plot of them seeking Magneto's help so he can call the Shi'ar and get Xavier the medical help he needs.  Which of course means that he has to leave earth, because with human medicine he'd die.  Essentially, it's an episode long death scene that is arguably more awkward then long anime death monologues.  Oh, and there's one of those too where he addresses each X-Men by name, saying how he feels about them.

With the almost 'death' of Xavier, the series dies a painful death, much better left forgotten in the back memories of your childhood.  Luckily I never saw this ending as a kid, I'm sure I was too tied into Batman, Gargoyles and Power Rangers.  I don't know if the ending would have made me as upset, because endings when you're watching TV on air as a child isn't as important  but I'd like to think I would have been pissed off back then too. But luckily there's plenty else to move on to and in that vein we immediately moved to watching X-Men: Evolution right afterwards ^__^

So, overall, I still have a special place in my heart for this series and over all it's still good.  Watching it now is a wave of nostalgia, reminding me why I got into comic books in the first place and how awesome it is to see them EVERYWHERE now with live action and animated movies that you can tell people care about and put endless amounts of time and effort into.  Beyond that, this show also brought an understanding to me of being able to write for characters in a large team.  Not every show had to have Jubilee in it, nor did every episode have to have Xavier.  Instead, there were times when it was just about Rouge and just about Storm - you could have a team and still take time to explore the individual members pasts and feelings without feeling like you were discluding someone.  Oddily, it showed that it was ok to go out on your own adventures and still be part of a bigger team when you came back home.

If I were to recommend the series to someone now, I would honestly give them a list of story arcs that were my favorite.  I wouldn't recommend marathoning it, but I would say that if nothing else they need to watch this specific set of stories, and then they're good.  This is not a series you watch from beginning to end.  You can skip the fairy-tale and Christmas episodes with Jubliee, it's ok.  You're not missing much.  But over all, it is a series worth watching - especially if you are a comic book fan.

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