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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

EXOSQUAD Season 1 DVD Review


I have been meaning to post a review for this DVD for three months now. Better late then never, right? I felt even though the DVD has been out in stores for months and I'm sure there are plenty of other reviews online, it still deserves more attention.

I was never a fan of Exosquad as a kid. I remember watching the show and thinking the designs were awful....and those haircuts! Blargh!! I guess in the future you go bald on the side of your head first. Thankfully, with enough recent word-of-mouth online, I decided to pick up Universal Home Entertainment's Season 1 DVD set. The set contains the first 13 episodes of the series spread over two discs. After popping in the discs and watching the series pretty much in one sitting I can honestly say that Exosquad is one of, if not, the best cartoon from the 80's and 90's. He-Man, X-Men The Animated Series and Thundercats may be my favourite cartoons from the era, but Exosquad is so damn good.

The story is set in the year 2119 when humanity (aka Terrans) have expanded to other planets, having terra-formed Mars and Venus. However, not is all peaceful for humanity. They are under constant attack by rogue Pirate Clans (Criminal Terrans) who were banished to the Outer Planets of the solar system. They are also under attack by an artificial humanoid race called the Neosapiens - originally created by humanity and used as slaves to help colonize Mars.

In order to protect humanity from these attacks, the government has set up an "Exofleet" in hopes of maintaining order throughout the Solar System. The series follows one particular group of soldiers called Able Fleet (aka Exosquad aka Able Squad). Outfitted with high-tech suits called E-Frames, the Squad is humanities only hope of survival. The E-Frames are a lot like the suits in James Cameron's Avatar...only these ones can fly in outer space and are way cooler.

I really could go on and on writing about the story of the show. The show has so much depth to it's characters and plot, you would think it was written for adults...and maybe that is why the series only lasted two seasons. If you look at reviews for the show on any website, you will find that it is highly regarded as one of the best animated series ever created. I agree 100%. The series deals with political, philosophical and ethical themes not found in many children's cartoons...hell, even in most adult dramas you won't find as much depth and intelligence that Exosquad featured.

Universal's DVD is your standard bare-bones release. Besides the 13 episodes, not a single commercial or commentary track is found on the set. The audio and video quality is standard for a cartoon release. No complaints on my end. I'm sure you can find another website that goes into more detail on the audio/visual presentation. I really wish we got an interview or something from the creators...although we can't complain. We'll be lucky if Universal ever releases season 2.

I usually like to review each episode featured on the discs, however, it's a little more difficult with Exosquad. Unlike most cartoons of the 80's and 90's, each episode is a continuation of the last. I don't think I've ever seen a cartoon as serialized as this one. X-Men The Animated Series had a lot of serialized and continuing story-lines, but they also had a number of stand-alone episodes. Exosquad is a straight serialized drama...at least the first season is. Now-a-days with procedural cop shows and viewers attention spans waning, a show like Exosquad could never be produced. Look at any cartoon these days and most will be episodic. To have a show like Exosquad continue stories that go on for four to five episodes is amazing. To give you an idea of how the season plays out, below is a list of the episode synopses.

Episodes (SPOILERS!)
1) Pirate Scourge (Fall of the Human Empire 1)
The Pirate Clans have become an overwhelming threat to the Homeworlds' space fighters, so Earth Congress dispatches the entire Exofleet to stop their looting ways. The first few episodes are incredible to watch. They are very cinematic. I'd love to see the show adapted into a movie.

2) Seeds of Deception (Fall of the Human Empire 2)
J.T. (the leader of "Able Squad" - aka Exosquad) and the E-Frames continue to battle the Pirates, but a new threat looms in Phaeton City (Capital City on Mars) when Paeton (leader of the Neosapiens) makes a highly controversial speech.

3) Hidden Terrors (Fall of the Human Empire 3)
The battle with the Pirates escalates on an icy moon of Saturn, but just as J.T. and the Exofleet have the rogues in a corner, an attack on the Homeworlds changes everything.

4) Blitzkrieg (Fall of the Human Empire 4)
The Neosapiens are in complete control on the Homeworlds and, while Sean (a Neosapien resistance fighter) tries to escape the attack on Chicago, J.T. finds himself imprisoned on charges of mutiny.

5) Resist! (Fall of the Human Empire 5)
J.T. joins forces with Sean and the Resistance troops against the Neosapien forces who are trying to push forward with their plan to implant all humans with tracking devices.

6) Target: Earth (Veil of Doom 1)
The Neosapiens have put a new defence shield into place but, when J.T. and his team are attacked while trying to dismantle it, everyone involved with the Resistance comes under suspicion.

7) A Traitor Among Us (Veil of Doom 2)
J.T. communicates with the fleet about GRAF shields (shields preventing anyone from leaving the planets) on Earth and Venus, and a traitor is discovered in the Resistance troops.

8) Scorched Venus (Veil of Doom 3)
Marsala (a good Neosapien who is part of the Able Squad) rescues J.T. and his crew from a doomed journey to the sun and Nara learns that her family on Venus has been killed(!!!) with the exception of a brother who is a Resistance fighter. Can you think of any other kids show that would kill off an entire family?

9) Sabotage (Veil of Doom 4)
James and J.T. team up and launch a plan to capture Algernon (the scientist who created the GRAF shield) and destroy the Venusian GRAF shield.

10) Abandoned (Into the Heart of Darkness 1)
Captain Furlong and Marcus secretly take control of the fleet and plan to get rid of J.T. and the Exosquad by sending them on a mission to Mars.

11) The Brood (Into the Heart of Darkness 2)
Marcus leads the fleet into the heart of Neosapien flagship territory, causing them to self-distruct - but not before several escape pods manage to get away.

12) Betrayal (Into the Heart of Darkness 3)
When Marsala and Phaeton confront each other, their history is revealed and Marsala's allegiance is proven. Episodes 12 and 13 are by far my favourite. The twists and turns are amazing.

13) Defying Olympus (Into the Heart of Darkness 4)
Phaeton is injured during battle on the mountains of Olympus Mons, and J.T. attempts to make peace with the Tethysian Pirates.

If you are a fan of Battlestar Galactica and cartoons, I urge you to pick up the first season of Exosquad. If you can look past the goofy haircuts and mind-numbingly dumb costume designs, then I am sure you will be floored by the series. If you don't believe me that it is as good as I claim it to be, then just check out the rating on IMDB. An average show doesn't get a rating that good!

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