Review by Phillip Donnelly
Shout! Factory comes through with their promise to deliver us all of the DiC cartoon with this release, G.I. Joe Series 2: Season 2. Now, whether or not you're a fan of the DiC episodes, it's impossible to deny its place in G.I. Joe history. This particular season is the only place to see animated versions of the toys released in 1991 and 1992. Amusingly though, you wouldn't be able to tell that from the front cover - except for General Hawk, every character featured is a Season 1 or Mini-Series design!
Let's get this out of the way up front - these episodes are not as good as those of Season 1. The animation is choppier, the movement is not as realistic, designs are more likely to be off-model, and the shading is practically non-existant. Of the Sunbow alumni who continued to lend their voices to characters in Season 1, only Chris Latta remains to voice Cobra Commander. And there's also that most dreaded of television filler - the clip show! Yes, the episode "Basic Training" probably isn't required viewing. That said, the writing is about par for the course - some episodes are fine, some are insipid. It's true enough of any television series, really, but fans are more likely to dislike these episodes more than any other animated G.I. Joe incarnation, with the possible exception of the Sigma 6 cartoon.
Now that we've talked about the content, which Shout! Factory has no control over, let's look at the set as a whole. You've got three DVD discs containing 20 episodes for about 20 dollars. The presentation is the same great quality you expect from Shout! Factory - nothing feels cheap and ready to break, and the design of the set itself meshes well with their previous releases. And prior to this release, the only episodes of Season 2 available for home viewing were El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold, Infested Island, and Chunnel. If you were desperate enough, you could also track down these episodes en Español! Three episodes does not a season make, so being able to get all of Season 2 in a watchable fashion is worth the price to me.
We also have a nine and a half minute retrospective of the series by Hasbro's G.I. Joe team. There aren't any big secrets revealed here, but it is nice to get a sense of context with how this show and the toyline as a whole responded to the pop culture sense of the early 1990s. (Should I really need to qualify that decade with the "19" already? I'm feeling old!) Intercut with the interviews are snippets of the commercials and even a bit of the arcade game intro! Sadly, you don't get to see the commercials in their entirety - likely due to the fact that at this time, we were well into the live-action ads, and tracking down all the actors could be quite a chore. Of course, we do know who at least one of them was!
Honestly, the best thing about this series is, to me, to see the figures and vehicles actually animated. The Sunbow years always seem to be the glory days of G.I. Joe, it's true, but that wasn't really my time. I've mentioned this before, I know, but as a kid, it was these years that DiC covered that were my glory days. While I had G.I. Joes for quite a few years before these episodes aired, my memory of that time isn't as defined - I was just too young. But here, in 1992, I started coming into my own. I got my grandmother to pick me up Destro; Big Bear came from my mom. I loved the missile launchers, I liked the bright colors, I loved the weapons trees of Battle Corps! So yes, I'm a bit biased when it comes to these toys, and maybe that makes me a bit defensive about this cartoon.
Where else can you watch the animated adventures of the Eco-Warriors? Ninja Force got their own episode, too. The Drug Elimination Force had a two episode story-arc about the evils of drug use, and featured the only on-screen death in G.I. Joe animation - something neither Sunbow nor Hasbro Studios could stick to (helps that it was a bad guy!). Even the Super Sonic Fighters got in on this show! I know that for some of you, this isn't necessarily a positive, but I eat it up. I may be one of the few people who would love to see shows about the Mega-Marines and Star Brigade. Monsters and aliens might not be the standard G.I. Joe fare, but then I always like to point to the Fatal Fluffies as the height of Sunbow ridiculousness.
Of course it pains me that these episodes were done with such flimsy animation. If I had the choice, I'd love it if every episode of every G.I. Joe cartoon were animated in the souped-up style of the Sunbow-animated commercials. But we're left with DiC (Do It Cheap!), so we'll have to take what we can get. It's better than not getting it at all, though I suppose backhanded compliments aren't exactly the greatest recommendation. But I truly do like these episodes. In small doses.
Ranting over, it's time to really discover if getting this set is right for you. If you're like me and grew up during this period, these episodes should be right up your alley. If you're also like me, and have an obsessive-compulsive desire to own G.I. Joe in all its animated incarnations, then you've already pre-ordered this set online and wiped down the keyboard to get rid of the germs. However, if G.I. Joe is only the Sunbow years to you, these DiC episodes are one of two things: a chance to expand your worldview of G.I. Joe's characters and adventures, or an affront to all you hold dear in the hobby. It's really your call!
Me, I'm happy to have this set. I'll gladly set it upon my bookshelf with the rest of my G.I. Joe DVDs, and the next time I'm
playing with examining my early 90s Joes, I may just pull out this set and watch an episode or two. Now, who do I talk to at Shout! Factory about getting some Sgt. Savage and Extreme DVDs??
G.I. Joe Series 2: Season 2
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Images from the collection of: Phillip Donnelly with Shout! Factory
DVD Set courtesy of Shout! Factory!