The He-Man universe was certainly robust but more importantly it was one of the biggest cartoon icons from the 80s. "By the power of Grayskull!" was on the tongues of kids everywhere when the show was on and even today the DVDs are ushering in a new audience. Granted when you boiled the series down to its bare structure it was little more than a glorified marketing tool to sell action figures, but darn it all, there's just something fun about it. As time went by, the Masters of the Universe franchise began to dwindle in popularity. Something was needed to rejuvenate the concept and bring in new audience members; that something was She-Ra: Princess of Power.
She-Ra wasn't quite as popular as He-Man but it went on to be pretty successful in its own right. Historically spin-offs typically don't surpass the original. Many shows have tried and failed over the years but thanks to the change in mechanics for She-Ra the pieces all seemed to fit. You see, He-Man's audience was practically all male. When you have a big beefy guy running around with a sword and fighting monsters that are controlled by a goofball with a skull for a face your viewership is undoubtedly riddled with testosterone.
She-Ra change all of that for the most part. Filled with a mostly female cast, horses with glittering manes, fluffy animals, and a lot of bright colors She-Ra: Princess of Power was designed to appeal to girls in addition to boys who loved He-Man. Depending on your personal preference the degree of success varied but looking at the show as a whole leaves one pleased; if you are a fan of the He-Man universe that is.
The same argument could still be had about the show being little more than a marketing tool though. Many (and I mean many) plotlines throughout the 93 episodes of the series bring a new character into focus whether they are good or bad. The sole purpose was to make a commercial without actually paying for advertising in order to sell a plastic toy. Even so this was a sign of the times since many shows from this period followed the same formula with success. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats and Ninja Turtles were all proponents of this ideal and as a kid who grew up watching them it never really bothered me (back then anyway).
She-Ra tells the story of a girl named Adora who actually turns out to be He-Man's twin sister. She lives in a place called Etheria and fights with a band of rebels against the evil and mighty Hordak. With the Sword of Protection Adora can turn into She-Ra at a moment's notice and become invincible. She's not quite the one man; er... woman, army that you'd think she would be though since she's accompanied by a group of fellow freedom fighters.
One of the original rebels Bow joins She-Ra's side. He's armed with a magical bow and shoots arrows with some different abilities. He's kind of like the Green Arrow from the DC universe but he has a big red heart painted on his chest and has a silly moustache. Along with Bow there is Glimmer who has control over light. She is the daughter of Queen Angella who can fly. Other characters like Madam Razz, Kowl, Castaspella, Frosta, and Mermista eventually rounded out the ranks of the Great Rebellion.
With the cast in place She-Ra began its run and didn't look back. The basic structure of the series and episodes are virtually the same between She-Ra and He-Man and truly there were only subtle differences between the two. To help solidify the fact that the show took place in He-Man's universe, Prince Adam would drop in from time to time. Occassionally Skeletor would come by as well to butt heads with Hordak.
Previously She-Ra was only available on DVD in the form of a limited Best Of offering. Finally a definitive release has started to get underway and fans can now start saving space on their shelves for She-Ra and friends. Season One Volume One has just come out and features 32 episodes of Horde busting goodness.
Like any television show the first season reveals many good episodes and others that aren't quite as savory. Things get started with five episodes that made up the original "Secret of the Sword" movie. "Into Etheria", "Beast Island", "She-Ra Unchained", "Reunions", and "Battle for Bright Moon" lay out the groundwork for what the show would become. The introduction of many characters happens here but more importantly these episodes pass the torch from He-Man to She-Ra.
"The Sea Hawk" was another favorite episode of mine from this set. When some elves find themselves plundered by pirates She-Ra must change into her alter ego Adora and go undercover to change the ways of the buccaneers. The leader of the pirates is Captain Sea Hawk who is a decent guy deep down but finds himself under the thumb of the Horde. As Adora works to free him from the Horde's clutches Catra comes by to make everything go from bad to worse.
Another strong episode from the first volume of She-Ra was "King Miro's Journey". In that episode Adam (He-Man) brings grandpa to Etheria to visit with Adora. After seeing the old coot it's easy to say where the power twins get their tenacity from. Anyways, Hordak gets a visitor as well, though it's not grandma Horde. His leader Horde Prime sends an inspector to check up on him. In the process a plan is conceived to encase Whispering Woods with this big lid. Naturally this dome is no match for the power of Grayskull.
Featured on the Best Of collection "The Stone in the Sword" was a good episode that involved She-Ra losing her powers and becoming regular old Adora when the gem in her sword cracks. She is forced to climb to the top of Sky Dancer Mountain to find the Crystal Castle and get it restored. It's not quite that easy though since she has to go to the Etherian Underworld and pass a series of trials before the stone can be made whole again.
There are plenty of other adventures on this set that easily make it worth the price of admission. Granted you have to be a fan of the He-Man universe in order to really appreciate the tone and you also have to enjoy the tackiness that stemmed from 80's cartoons. Stilted dialogue, limited animation, and cheesy plotlines are found all over She-Ra but to be fair that's part of the charm.
The only real complain I have is that some of the episodes seem to be misplaced. Episode 18 "Horde Prime Takes a Holiday" and episode 24 "The Mines of Mondor" have been omitted. Instead we get episodes 35 and 42 "Gateway to Trouble" and "Enemy With My Face". It's kind of odd from a collection's standpoint but as far as overall enjoyment of the release it doesn't affect it at all. Check it out if you're looking for some classic 80s action or were ever a fan of She-Ra and He-Man.
Battle for Bright Moon
Duel at Devlan
The Sea Hawk
The Red Knight
The Missing Ax
The Laughing Dragon
The Peril of Whispering Woods
The Prisoners of Beast Island
King Miro's Journey
He Ain't Heavy
Return of the Sea Hawk
A Loss for Words
Gateway to Trouble
Three Courageous Hearts
The Stone in the Sword
The Crystal Castle
The Crown of Knowledge
Enemy With My Face
The Eldritch Mist
The Price of Freedom
Play It Again, Bow
The Reluctant Wizard
Friends Are Where You Find Them
When I saw the video quality for the Best Of release I was pleasantly surprised. The transfer was gorgeous given the age of the material and though the quality was a little spotty in some areas, it had more to do with the original print than the DVD. I'm pleased to report that this collection looks as good with mostly solid colors and very little to complain about. Granted there is dirt and degradation here and there but as a whole the release is solid. The quality of animation is something else that you have to take age into consideration. Characters move in limited fashion and most animations are reused frequently so unless you have a nostalgic connection to the show it doesn't hold up.
It should be no surprise that She-Ra is presented on DVD with Dolby Digital Stereo. The sound is pretty decent considering the age of the material though there are times where it sounds almost like a mono track instead of stereo. There were a couple of times where the sound became muffled and the volume pitched but again it probably had more to do with the original material rather than a byproduct for the DVD. This is a decent sounding release for what it is but it's nothing compared to the 5.1 surround that our home theaters have become accustomed to.
On the first disc there is an audio commentary for "The Sea Hawk" episode. It is hosted by Andy Mangels and features Writer Larry DiTillio and Editor Rick Gehr. The trio begins by discussing the concept of She-Ra and gradually they shift into talking about the episode. They have a decent banter and provide some interesting information. I definitely enjoyed hearing about what it was like behind the scenes back in the day. "King Miro's Journey" on the second disc also features a commentary.
The bulk of the special features reside on the sixth disc in this collection. Starting at the top is a new documentary (meaning different than the one that appeared on the Best Of set) that discusses many aspects of the first season. Much of the show's original staff talks about their responsibilities and various episodes that they had a hand in. It's definitely interesting to see things through their eyes and really adds a deeply personal twist to the show.
One of the best features in my opinion is the inclusion of a storyboard comparison for "Into Etheria". For the length of the entire episode the video runs with a streaming collection of storyboard images matching the picture. It's definitely cool to see how the episode progressed out of the very early draft. A wealth of profiles also makes their way onto this set with a collection of subjects ranging from characters to technology. In total there are 50 profiles to check out. If you're feeling extra diligent you can find Loo-Kee throughout every one of the discs and enter a password on the final disc for some interactivity. Rounding things out for this She-Ra release are an image gallery, a collection of trailers, and some DVD-ROM stuff; a series bible, coloring book, scripts, and a comic.
While it may not have reached the height of popularity that He-Man achieved, She-Ra was a decent show with an entertaining cast of characters. The difference in concept and tone were enough to separate this series from the adventures of Prince Adam. The only thing is with a release like this the main audience is niche to say the least. You have to like cartoons from the 80s in order to appreciate She-Ra and He-Man so if you don't know whether or not it's your thing I suggest you check out the Best Of collection first. However, if you are a fan of either of these two shows then picking this set up is a no-brainer. Recommended
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