A while back I wrote Top Ten Cartoon Series of All Time – Not just for Kids! With 2020 being what it is I’ve had time to watch a load more and thought I’d write about each of them. This time around I’m not putting them in any particular order and the first two have previously been mentioned. Irrespective of that, they are all well worth a watch so enjoy.
Just to forewarn, there may be some SPOILERS in here but I’ll try to steer clear of anything that’s plot specific as much as possible.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
This Netflix show started in 2016 and was created by one of the guys responsible for Avatar. It’s a reimagining of the classic anime, though I’m not overly familiar with the original and 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 humour and emotional elements.
Sadly they dropped a ball with 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.
I discovered Gravity Falls following a discussion and after watching a short clip online was pretty much hooked. 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 to do.
It’s one of those great shows that’s fun to come back and watch the odd episode of when you’re at a loose end.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
I like She-Ra a lot. It was a series I wanted to get around too as I’d heard great things, I then found out that Noelle Stevenson worked on it which was enough to make it a priority.
One of the things I loved was the 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. The diversity on display is commendable and hope it’s something other shows learn and build on from 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 it’s very well done. There are a lot of strong episodes throughout and I’d go so far as to say that the final season might be one of the most amazing seasons of any show that I’ve ever had the privilege to watch.
DC produce some excellent animated shows and Young Justice is one of the best. 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 each season, you get to see events like Robin become Nightwing and have the replacement Robin be part of the team as it grows. It’s effective at standalone episodes while also having an over-arching story for each season. I think the only real issue is that by the third season the roster becomes too large and not every character gets their fair share. A shame but that’s a small niggle in a great series overall.
Disenchantment is 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 similar tonally 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, what they were aiming for and the whole thing is much better for it. One of the fun things to try is to recognise the voice actors from Groening’s other shows, and there are loads of them to find.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
Kipo is a bit of an anomaly, it’s had three 10 episode seasons put out in the same year which is just insane. Each season packs in a hell of a lot of world-building, character development, fun and humour – it’s mightily impressive. By all accounts, Kipo 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. On her adventures, she makes various new friends, most notably Benson and Wolf. Kipo has a 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 that it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and suffer as a result.
Bojack is a hard watch at times, it’s funny but also deals with a lot of the unpleasant aspects of life and because of this, it’s surprisingly uncompromising which makes it quite impactful. 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). He does an amazing job of bringing Bojack to life and 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.
This is an adaptation of the video game series, 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 four episodes long and feels more like an extended proof of concept which was 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 three seasons are excellently written so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in season four and any other seasons that follow. It feels like there’s a lot of story still to tell and it’ll be compelling viewing.
The Owl House
I checked out The Owl House 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.
The 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 one 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 when it arrives.
Season one has just hit Disney Plus so all episodes are there to be watched if you have access.
This show is based on the graphic novel series by Luke Pearson whose previous credits include Adventure Time. It follows the titular Hilda as she and her mother move from their cabin in the woods to the town of Trollberg as 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, 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 although there is still a lot of character progression. It works brilliantly.
I was expecting big things from Harley Quinn given how much love it was getting on the internet, thankfully it didn’t disappoint. It’s incredibly violent, super sweary and also very, very funny. It’s more than 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 is very much a deliberate poke at Tom Hardy in the Dark Knight Rises, and honestly, it never stopped being funny. Everyone involved seems to be having a great time and it really shows, 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, I didn’t like the stories being structured into set episode arcs but thankfully Rebels has a more traditional storytelling about it boosted by an absolutely amazing cast of characters. There are links to the films and to Clone Wars and generally never done at the expense of the core cast, it really helps to make them feel part of the larger story.
Rebels is set in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and exists at a point where not much story had been told previously. The writers have convincingly managed to work old Expanded Universe characters, like Admiral Thrown, into canon. It’s also helped 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 Rebel’s is that it ends on a cliffhanger in terms of one of the characters fate. There’s talk of a follow on series at some point and characters appearing in The Mandalorian, so there’s a good chance this will be resolved.
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 four seasons so in theory there’s a decent amount of story still to tell which isn’t a bad thing.
So that’s my list finished for now but I’m already seeing new stuff hitting Netflix such as Blood of Zeus, which is getting decent word of mouth, and the He-Man reboot with Mark Hamill as the voice of Skeletor – which is just exceptional casting. With all the streaming services hopefully, this is a trend that’ll continue and I’ll be back soon!
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