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DIC Season 2

GI Joe
by yo go re

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. Sure, we all like the things we watched, read and played with when we were kids, but it can blind you to the actual quality of the product. MotU Classics looks like bigger versions of the '80s toys, but that doesn't make it a good product. Don't try telling that to a He-Man fan, though, or you might get in trouble with the fansite moderators.

Anyway, the point is this: nostalgia's fine, but it makes it hard to judge whether the things you liked were good, or if you just remember them that way. You have to try to step outside yourself and judge them impartially, which is tough: for instance, are the Sunbow episodes of GI Joe really any better than the DIC episodes, or is it just the rosy haze of nostalgia that makes it seem that way?

The battle rolls on in the final season of GI Joe: A Real American Hero, Series 2! General Hawk returns with his new team of Joes, ready to take on any challenge by Cobra, a ruthless criminal organization out for world domination. And Cobra Commander's clearly left the toughest challeneges for last! Does GI Joe have what it takes to stop them?

The DIC series (or A Real American Hero Series 2, as these Shout Factory DVDs call it) started in 1990, and I know for a fact that I never saw a single episode of it. How can I be so sure of something that happened 23 years ago? Because the show got a new opening themesong that was drastically different from the "fight for freedom wherever there's trouble" version you know and love. The new opening is more of a hard rock thing (or at least a TV executive's idea of "hard rock"), with clips culled from the series rather than being original animation. Yes, the Sunbow series used clips the same way, but they did it under the closing credits, not the opening.

GI Joe has never been a realistic military show, but Series 2 goes full-on into Crazytown. The writing is a step down from the first series, which as you know wasn't the best to begin with; sure, there was decent characterization and a kind of internal logic, but most of the plots were about fast food missiles or gypsy ghosts. DIC's version of GI Joe keeps the second half of that equation, but the characters run the gamut from blandly one-dimensional to actively insulting: for instance, Storm Shadow speaks like Krusty the Clown's impression of a Chinaman, and at one point Scarlett can't be bothered to fight Cobra because she's having too much fun shopping.

The writing is also incredibly lazy. The plots jump from storypoint to storypoint without any coherent connection between the two, and when the dialogue isn't just having characters announce what's happening, it relies on repeating cheesy jokes and catchphrases. And several of the important voice actors have been replaced, so the characters will even sound weird to anyone who has been watching the Sunbow years. At least they kept Chris Latta as Cobra Commander - any change there might have been too much to bear.

The season is split between three discs, and the image quality is pretty good. Granted, we're not talking about Blu-ray quality transfers, here, but the picture doesn't look like it came off an old VHS tape, either. It's certainly the best this show is ever going to look. There are definitely some visual flaws, but we're willing to bet those have been there since the day they were animated - it's not the fault of the disc. The sound quality is good, allowing you to hear every terrible, soul-wrenching line as it was meant to be heard, in hot, speaker rattling mono. Woo! Mono!

Series 2 Season 1 had no special features, but Series 2 Season 2 beats that number by one. Disc three only has six episodes instead of seven, so the final space on the disc is taken up by "The Toy Team Remembers," a nine-minute retrospective with Hasbro's John Warden, Rik Alvarez and Dave Kunitz. It's actually a fairly interesting look back, discussing why the '90s toys looked the way they did (and tying it into modern figures like the Jungle-Viper) and even telling us the secret origin of the Python Patrol. It's honestly worth watching for those of us who love the toys and want to know more - this isn't just a featurette that "reveals" things we already knew.

I'd never seen any DIC episodes before (and probably still wouldn't have if Shout Factory hadn't sent us this DVD for review), but trust us when we say that these seasons are just not as good as the Sunbow ones - the quality isn't the same. However, it's worth watching at least once, if only to say you've seen the entire run of GI Joe, and definitely to see the bonus retrospective. This is a good choice for young kids, due to the bright colors and simplistic storylines, but for older fans it will probably just make you appreciate the Sunbow show more.

-- 07/06/12


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