In keeping with my nostalgic and obsessive-compulsive moods I’m looking back on many of my childhood favorite cartoons, most of which I haven’t seen since I was a child. I’m trying to avoid needless nostalgia and look at these shows as objectively and honestly as I can. At the same time, these aren’t meant as real reviews, this is just for fun, and I’ll be using these exact same questions for every cartoon in this series.
Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light (1987, 13 Episodes)
The Skinny: The planet Prysmos, located in another dimension, enjoyed state of the art technology until the day its three suns lined up, freezing all electronic technology forever. Two groups of knights — the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords — are given magical powers by the Merklynn the Wizard. The magical abilities include reflective animal totems which the knights can change into, power staves which each utilize a different magical power (destruction, wisdom, speed, etc,), but must be recharged, and war-ready vehicles.
However, to continue using the magic, the Spectral Knights and Darkling Lords must run errands for Merklynn, who mostly stands as an indifferent god figure.
Is it as good as I remember?
I can’t look on it as warmly with adult eyes, no.
Is it better then I expected?
It’s much better then I expected. The storytelling is interesting and fun, the dialogue is shockingly smart, and the character interactions are oddly human.
Do I hate myself for ever liking it?
Nope, this one’s not too bad.
Is the animation acceptable?
The animation fluxuates quite a bit in a single episode, but for the style (very similar to stuff like GI Joe or Transformers) this is above average. The character designs leave a bit to be desired, and the detail of the armour and tech leads to a lot of inconsitency.
Is there a MacGuffin?
There isn’t a single overriding MacGuffin, but almost every episode sees Merklynn sending the good guys and bad guys out on some kind of magical quest, usually to get some kind of magical item, which usually doesn’t have much baring on the rest of the episode’s plot. So then, there are several MacGuffins.
Is there a consistent plot point that makes no sense, even within the cartoon universe’s loose rules?
Merklynn’s motivation is often suspect, but that seems to be the point of his rather ambiguous character (though in later episodes he seems to be favoring the good guys). The presense of giant hexagons on the knight’s amour before they’re endowed with their totem animals is a little silly, though.
Is there anything interesting to note as an adult?
The most interesting aspect of the entire show is the treatment of the villains. In the ‘80s most cartoon villains were just the bad guys, but in [i]Visionaries[/i] the Darkling Lords are treated with just as much narrative respect as the Spectral Knights. There’s even a handful of episodes that revolve specifically around the villains, where the heroes only play an incedental role, and it’s not uncommon for the two sides to team up.
The dialogue is quite advanced for a children’s series. I wouldn’t say the Knights speak in Ye Olde English, but I also don’t think I’ve ever heard the word ‘sycophant’ used in even an adult animated series before.
And speaking of sycophants, Mortdredd’s obsession with his master Darkstorm goes far beyond flattery. We’re talking Mr. Burns/Smithers levels of deep seeded homoeroticisim.
In the episode titled “Honor Among Thieves”, Merklynn gives the Spectral Knights a special crystal that alarms them to impending danger. Feeling secure, the people of New Valarak force them to defer funds from security to the new botanical garden. Of course things go badly, and in an eerily prophetic turn of events the content citizens find themselves under terrorist attack (or, you know, plan old robbery).
Visionaries also has an all-star voice actor’s cast, and most of these guys are working at the top of their game. Unlike so many other ‘80s toons, these guys actually sound like they’re acting, rather then just shouting lines.
Did I remember the theme song?
Yes, but I had some of the words wrong. Instead of “Powers of Blinding Tranquility” the lyrics actual say “Powers of Mind, Strength, Skill, and Speed.”
See it here
Is the theme song still good?
Not really, but it’s catchy.
Are the toys still cool?
The Visionaries toys are very, very, very cool. The biggest draw is the hologram stickers, which as a child I could stare at for hours, but the articulation and general design is impressive as well.
Overall score as a grown up: 6.5/10
Check out www.visionariesonline.org for more information
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey