Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 1

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I think you know the drill by now.  I watch a DVD I own and blog about it.  This time, I'm going to crack into an entire series.  We're watching volume 1 of Shadow Raiders.  This is originally in my notes at January 26, 2019.

As I was going through my DVD shelves the other day, I came across my complete series collection of Shadow Raiders.  Man, I loved that show when it first premiered 20 years ago.  When I got my first DVD player, I vowed I'd collect the whole series.  They were put on on DVD back in the early 2000s buy a company called ADV Films, which specialized mainly in anime.  A lot of my otaku friends were suitably impressed, as Vancouver's Mainframe Entertainment was the first North American studio that ADV Films signed a distribution deal with.  Since online shopping was just starting to become a thing in the early-2000s, I even went so far as to order the DVDs directly from ADV Films down in the States. 

Shadow Raiders was the third series to come out of Mainframe, the world's first animation studio dedicated to making CGI programs for television.  They already had two hits under their belt:  the first being the cult-classic ReBoot, and the second being the much beloved reboot of the Transformers franchise, Beast Wars.  And Mainframe went all-out on Shadow Raiders, utilizing most of the same talent behind their critically lauded third season of ReBoot.  Under showrunner Dan DiDio, who's now the publisher over at DC Comics, he ran a writers room containing comic book legends like Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and television vets like Jem and the Holograms creator Christy Marx. 

Like a lot of the greatest cartoons of the 80s and 90s, Shadow Raiders was based on a toy.  The toy was known as War Planets, and it was in the same mold as Polly Pocket or Mighty Max.  You had a little tiny playset full of little tiny toy soldiers, and it would fold up into a sphere...a planet.  Hence the name.  I don't know why the cartoon was called Shadow Raiders.  I speculate it's the same reason why Beast Wars was known as Beasties here in Canada.  The Canadian children's television network YTV was actually a co-producer on a lot of Mainframe's early stuff, and they refused to run a cartoon with "war" in the title.  In fact, if you read the fine print on the Shadow Raiders logo, the full and proper title of the show is War Planets: Shadow Raiders

I'm not sure how to describe my love for the series when it first debuted.  I was watching pretty much every CGI series back then, as it was new and exciting.  Plus, I already loved Reboot and Beast Wars, so to hear it was from the same studio...well, I was hooked.  And I just really fell in love with the world they created.  

So, remembering my past love, I decided to crack open volume 1 (the entire series is spread across six volumes) and revisit the series. 

Mainframe followed the same model they did with ReBoot: Season 3 in that the series can be divided into 4-episode-long story arcs.  And with four episodes on each DVD, it's prefect for binging.  So I popped volume 1 into the DVD player today.

Our story takes place in a distant star system.  There are four inhabited planets:  Rock, Fire, Bone, and Ice.  These four planets are perpetually at war with each other, as they constantly raid each other for natural resources.  But then, one day, an alien armada appears.  These are emissaries of the world-devouring Beast Planet, and this star system is next on the Beast Planet's path.  If they are to have any hope of surviving, these four eternal enemies must band together to fight the Beast. 

Our first four episodes:

Behold the Beast - Planet Rock is carrying out a raid on Planet Ice.  Ice's ruler, King Cryos, personally leads his forces to stop them.  But, their battle is interrupted by a strange ship.  It carries Princess Tekla, the lone survivor of Planet Tek, and the Beast armada is hot on her tail.  The Beast armada wipes out the forces of Ice and Rock with little problem, leaving only Cryos, Tekla, and Graveheart of Rock.  Graveheart is able to pull some Rock weaponry from the wreckage, and is able to turn the tide.  With her dying words, Tekla charges Graveheart with his crusade:  unite the four worlds, for only together can they defeat the Beast.  Cryos, seeing how bravely Graveheart fought along side the soldiers of Ice, is the first to join the Alliance. 

This introduces us to our hero, Graveheart.  A soft-spoken man of action, who would rather find a peaceful solution than fight.  And that voice actor, Paul Dobson.  He also voiced the grown-up Enzo on Reboot, and he's got to have one of the most badass voices in voice acting.  I just love Graveheart's introduction.  Graveheart is a Miner.  While the army secures the site, it's the miners who dig up the needed resources.  When they first arrive on Ice, an army soldier starts barking orders at the miners.  They all look to Graveheart, Graveheart just nods, and then they move out.  Shows how much he's already respected as a leader. 

On the Rocks - Cryos escorts Graveheart home to Rock, with the hopes of getting Rock to be the second planet in the Alliance.  But, as Graveheart is the lone survivor of the raid and he returns home shoulder-to-shoulder with an enemy, Rock's ruler, Lord Mantle, immediately has Graveheart charged with treason and locked up.  The Beast's forces attack Rock, but Graveheart, with the help of his old friend Jade, are able to fight them off.  Sadly, rather than convince Lord Mantle of the direness of the situation, this convinces Lord Mantle that Rock can stand alone.  Mantle offers to waive all charges against Graveheart, if Graveheart stops this nonsense of an Alliance and swears loyalty only to Rock.  Graveheart refuses, and so Mantle has Graveheart exiled.  Graveheart leaves his homeland, but Jade comes with him, to serve as an advisor.

This episode also introduces us to the leaders of the Beast's forces:  the violent Blokk, the diplomatic Lamprey, and the mute Voydd, who decides which of the two is the best course of action. 

Born in Fire - Our heroes next travel to Planet Fire to recruit them into the Alliance.  The young Prince Pyrus has recently become ruler, and is open to new ideas and this alliance.  His advisor, though, the Grand Vizier, is old and set in his ways, and reluctant to side with these off-worlders.  To prove their worth, Graveheart and Cryos volunteer to go through a rather literal trial by fire.  While this goes on, Cryos's daughter, Lady Zira, tries to negotiate with Pyrus, and they wind up fighting off a squad of Beast troops together.  Graveheart and Cryos complete the trial, and with some help from Zira's words, Fire joins the Alliance

Bad to the Bone - Last stop:  Planet Bone.  When our heroes arrived, they are shocked to find that Emperor Femur has already entered into an Alliance with the Beast planet.  But, Lamprey promptly double-crosses Femur and opens up Bone for a Beast invasion.  Femur turns to the Alliance for help, and Bone joins the Alliance. 

And there's our first four episodes down.  I still love the look of this show.  Yeah, the computer animation is now 20 years out of date, but it was so cutting edge back then, and it's still as shiny as ever.  

Anyway, like a lot of forgotten cartoons, it's all over YouTube now if you want to check it out

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