About 6 years ago I did a blog about my top 10 cartoons up to that point, I did an updated list on my mates website (twobeardgaming.com) at the start of 2019 that factored in some new shows that I’d seen and loved in that time frame but here we are in the heady days of the shitshow that is 2020 and I’ve watched a fuck ton more shows so thought I’d write a bit about them. I’m not doing it as a top 10 this time as it’s just a ballache trying to organise stuff so let’s start off with the 2 shows that got added to the updated list. Just to forewarn though, there may be some spoilers in here though I’ll try to steer clear of anything that’s plot specific as much as I can.
Voltron – This Netflix show started in 2016 and was created by one of the guys who was responsible for Avatar. It’s a reimagining of the classic anime though I’m not overly familiar with the original to be sure on how faithful it is. What I do know is that there’s a distinct focus on the characters, their relationships and a genuine growth with the personas which is very enjoyable. It also largely does a good job of balancing the story with the humour and more emotional elements. They fucked up the final season, it was just nowhere near as enjoyable as the rest of the series which is a huge shame, but everything prior to that was excellent.
Gravity Falls – I discovered Gravity Falls after a discussion with mate and after watching a short clip we were pretty much hooked from that point. It only lasted for two seasons, but sweet baby Jesus were they good. The show follows Dipper and Mable as they go to stay with their Grunkle Stan for summer in the town of Gravity Falls and discover all manner of adventures and weirdness. It’s genuinely fun and in a way it’s a shame it only lasted as long as it did. On the other hand, it never outstayed its welcome and went out on a definite high and on its own terms too which is more than a lot of shows get. It’s one of those shows that’s fun to come back and watch episodes of when you’re at a loose end.
Then we move onto the more recent stuff I’ve been watching since the other pieces were done, and I have to say there’s quite alot of them. This is most likely going to be due to having more time to watch stuff when I’ve had free time this year due to everything else going on.
She-Ra – I’ve talked about She-Ra alot, it was one I was always going to get round to watching as I’d heard great things, I then found out that Noelle Stevenson worked on it and that was enough to make it a priority. I loved it because there were incredibly complex characters on display, Catra in particular has become one of my favourite characters ever but almost every character is fantastic in their own way and I love the diversity of them too and I hope it’s something other shows learn from and build on in future. It told the story it set out to tell in the number of episodes it had available, sure some of it is a little convenient at times but for the most part I think it’s very well done, there are alot of strong episodes to be watched and I’d go so far as to say the the final season might be one of the most amazing seasons of any show that I’ve ever seen.
Young Justice – DC do some pretty excellent animated shows and this is one of the best ones. It follows what is initially a team of sidekicks as they become their own team comparable to the Justice League but you get to see them grow into heroes in their own right, and the character work is outstanding. Over the course of the seasons you get to see things like Robin become Nightwing and have the replacement Robin be part of the team as it grows. It’s effective at having standalone episodes while also having an over-arching story for the season, I think the only real issue it has is that the cast of characters is possibly a bit too large by season 3 so not everyone gets their due which can be a shame but that’s a small niggle overall.
Disenchantment – The latest series to come from the mind of Matt Groening, who created The Simpsons and Futurama, this follows the adventures of Princess Bean, her demon friend Luci and Elfo who is unsurprisingly an elf. It’s set in the fantasy world of Dreamland and for me is very tonally similar to Futurama which is never a bad thing. The first season is a bit disjointed and didn’t really work as well as I would have hope but thankfully the second season was a vast improvement, it’s funnier and just seems to flow better, it feels like the people working on it became far more comfortable with the characters and what they were aiming for and the whole thing is much better for it. One of the other fun things is all the recognisable voice actors from the other Groening shows, and there are shitloads of them.
Kipo – Kipo is a bit of an anomaly, it’s had three 10 episode seasons put out in the same year which is just insane. Those seasons pack in a hell of alot of world building, character work and fun and humour so it’s mightily impressive too and by all accounts it told the story it set out to tell too which is always a plus. It follows Kipo as she searches for her father above ground in the remnants of Earth after some kind of apocalypse and on her adventures she makes various new friends, most notably Benson and Wolf. It’s gotta really great and colourful visual style and the soundtrack is really distinct too, it’s shame it’s over so soon but like Gravity Falls it’s better to have something like that than something that stays too long and becomes crap over time.
Bojack Horseman – Bojack is a hard watch at times, it’s funny too but it also deals with alot of the less pleasant aspects of life and it’s surprisingly uncompromising with it which makes it quite impactful at times. The voice acting is excellent across the board though it would be remiss of me not to single out Will Arnett (who I’m typically not a fan of) who does an amazing job of bringing Bojack to life and keeping him walking a fine line of just about keeping him likeable when he’s clearly a very damaged person and this has left him with a lot of less than desirable personality traits. It’s also a very weird show, which is to be expected from a show about an anthropomorphic horse who was formerly the star of a show called Horsing Around.
Castlevania – This is an adaptation of the super old videogame series, apparently more specifically Castlevania 3, and while I have no idea how it works compared to the game it’s a brilliant show. The first season is only 4 episodes long and feels more like an extended proof of concept which was thankfully so well received that subsequent seasons were longer. It follows Trevor Belmont, part of a family of vampire hunters, Sypha Belnades , a mage, and Alucard, the son of Dracula, as they try to stop Dracula and his army. It’s brilliantly acted and suitably violent, the first 3 seasons are excellently written so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in season 4 and any other seasons that follow. It feels like there’s alot of story still to tell and as long as the quality doesn’t drop it’ll pretty compelling viewing.
The Owl House – I checked this out as it came pretty highly recommended from people who had seen She-Ra, plus the series creator had previously worked on Gravity Falls so my interest was piqued. I’m honestly glad I did as it’s great fun, it’s incredibly funny and does a great job of building the magical world of the Boiling Isles where the show is based without ever seeming to get bogged down by it which is impressive. Main character Luz is excellent as are the supporting cast, Eda and King in particular are great fun but Willow, Gus and Amity all get time to shine too. The ending to season 1 also sets up an intriguing storyline where the emperor, who doesn’t seem like a good sort, is looking to gain access to the real world where Luz arrived from so I’m looking forward to the new season whenever that arrives. The first season has also just hit Disney Plus so all episodes are there to be watched if you have access which is convenient.
Hilda – This show is based on is based on a graphic novel series by Luke Pearson who had previously worked on Adventure Time. It follows Hilda as she and her mother move from their cabin in the woods to the town of Trollberg and she makes new friends with people and the various creatures and spirits she meets along the way. It’s a really cute show and one to watch when you want something chilled and stress free to watch, there’s a new season due out this year and I honestly can’t wait for it. There’s not huge storyline over the first season, it’s more episodic though there is still character progression and it honestly works brilliantly in my opinion.
Harley Quinn – I was expecting big things from this show given how much love it was getting on the internet, thankfully it didn’t disappoint. It’s incredibly violent and sweary and also very very funny. It’s very happy to take the piss out of pretty much everything related to DC but naturally it pokes the most fun at the Batman franchise, be it Commissioner Gordon wanting to fly the Batplane or Bane having a voice that it very much a deliberately shit version of Tom Hardy’s Bane voice in the Dark Knight Rises, and honestly it never stopped being funny for me. Everyone involved seems to be having a great time and it really shows, and Kaley Cuoco deserves a special mention as she’s absolutely amazing voicing Harley.
Star Wars Rebels – Dave Filoni gets Star Wars, I wasn’t a fan of Clone Wars as I didn’t like the stories being structured into set episode arcs but Rebels has much more traditional storytelling with an absolutely amazing cast of characters. There’s links to the films and to Clone Wars on display and generally it’s never done at the expense of the core cast so it really helps to make them feel part of the larger story, and being set in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope it exists at a point where not much story had been told and it also manages to work old Expanded Universe characters like Admiral Thrown into the Disney canon which did away with pretty much all of that initially. It’s also set up some really awesome moments like Kanan’s voice being heard by Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, the only real issue I have with it is that it ends on a cliffhanger in terms of one characters fate though there’s talk of a follow on series and certain other characters appearing in the Mandalorian so there’s a good chance this will be resolved in some fashion.
The Dragon Prince – This might actually be the most pleasant surprise of all the shows here as all I really knew of this was that the visual style was interesting and that the eld character had a Scottish accent. I didn’t know there were links to the Avatar with the writers and the voice actor of the main character (who voice my favourite character in Avatar). The first season was a pretty by the numbers affair but with the subsequent seasons there’s been much more world development and backstory layered in which has worked incredibly well, it also helps that most of the characters are pretty well developed and have room to grow in future seasons. The thing that really grabbed me though has been the way the characters have grown and bonds have been formed and tested and it’s all felt incredibly organic. It’s apparently been renewed for another 4 seasons so in theory there’s a decent amount of story still to tell which isn’t a bad thing.
So as I say there’s been quite alot watched since the last blog and I’m already seeing new stuff hitting Netflix such as Blood of Zeus which is getting decent word of mouth and there’s a He-Man reboot coming with Mark Hamill as the voice of Skeletor which is just exceptional casting. I’ve also had Disney show Amphibia recommended to me so that’ll wind up being watched too no doubt. It does seem that Netflix are pretty decent with cartoons currently so hopefully that’ll continue to be the case but it’s going to be interesting keeping a look out for new things and new seasons of the stuff I’ve seen that hasn’t finished yet.