BCI has done a fantastic job when it comes to the He-Man Universe. Each show from the original Masters of the Universe to She-Ra has been handled with a determined enthusiasm that has kept fans in mind. To hardcore He-Fans still missing spots on their shelves it should be no surprise that BCI's latest release is none other than The New Adventures of He-Man.
If you're sitting there thinking to yourself "they made another He-Man?" then you no doubt weren't watching TV for the single season that the show was on. In 1990 Mattel tried to reinvigorate the He-Man series most likely because they felt that were still toys to be made. It's no secret that the original show was little more than a glorified toy commercial as most cartoons of the 80's were.
New Adventures wasn't very different in this regard but it arguably offered more continuity and better animation. Among fans it's not really up for debate which series was better; the original wins. Part of this could have to do with the fact that Filmation closed its doors before the series was produced. Jetlag Productions was tapped with the dubious task of creating this new show. After watching the 33 episodes available here I do have to say that I have many mixed feelings but they still did a decent job; just not as well as Filmation did. The biggest source of my uneasy feelings has to do with the concept behind New Adventures.
There is a planet called Primus 10,000 years in the future in the original series' timeline. This settlement of humans lives peacefully behind a protective barrier that surrounds their entire planet. One day these nasty mutants come by and try to shoot down the shield and kill the humans; you know... that annoying thing that mutants do. Well, Master Sebrian gets the idea into his head that a hero from the past could help them out in the future. He whips out a time machine and sends two cronies, Flipshot and Hydron, back in time to find this mythical hero. Back in the land before science fiction they are kidnapped by Skeletor and fall victim to his deception and think that he's the good guy. He-Man naturally shows up to stop his nemesis but things go haywire when Flipshot and Hydron bring both of them back to the future (pun intended).
Once in the future He-Man vows to serve Sebrian and the residents of Primus and Skeletor becomes a flunky of the band of mutants. It's good versus evil all over again but this time there is technology abound and a new group of characters to get to know. To say that this blueprint for a sequel to He-Man: Masters of the Universe was a stretch was putting it lightly. Apart from Adam fighting Skeletor fighting and the Sorceress popping in to say hi there really was nothing that bridged the gap between the two series. Things felt disconnected to me and in only small doses did it remind me of the original show. That doesn't mean New Adventures is a complete failure as a cartoon; just as a continuation of a concept.
For my personal taste there were a few things about the show that just didn't jive with me. Skeletor for instance is more of a bumbling joke rather than a sinister menace. I understand that at the end of Masters of the Universe and mostly through She-Ra he was kind of a boob but he really takes the cake here. Another thing that didn't work for me was the cast of secondary characters. They came across as little more than filler and were basically there for humor or distraction.
Despite these gripes there were quite a few decent episodes. The introductory storyline for instance stands out as behind the best on this set. Even though I thought the concept was kind of hokey it's hard to deny that these five episodes weren't entertaining. Written by Jack Olesker there was quite a lot of continuity between then and the storytelling was pretty solid. The same could be said for "Skeletor's Victory" and "He-Man in Exile"; more bits of continuity slathered with decent entertainment.
In the end the first volume of The New Adventures of He-Man was equal parts success and failure in my opinion. I approached it with an open mind but with the hope in my heart for something similar to the original He-Man series. The concept and tone were too different to really be compared to Masters of the Universe and it really was too silly for its own good at times. I'm certain that there is an audience for the series out there but before you think about picking it up I'd evaluate how strong of a He-Man fan you really are.
A New Beginning
Quest for the Crystals
Attack on Onnor
The Ultimate Challenge
Sword & Staff
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword...Or is it?
The Youngest Hero
The Festival of Lights
He-Man in Exile
The Battle for Levitan
Crack in the World
Escape from Gaolotia
The Mind Lens
Planet of Junk
Council of Clones
Slaves to the Machine
The Galactic Guardians
The Siege of Serus
The Children's Planet
The New Adventures of He-Man was originally broadcast in 1990 so it's not shocking to see that the DVD gets a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Given the fact that the video here is over fifteen years old I was pretty impressed with the quality. The picture is often clear with fine definition and perfect contrast. Jetlag's production was kept in good condition though some grain and aliasing cropped up from time to time. This DVD offers a strong looking transfer for a show of this age and frankly is about as good as this series has ever looked.
English and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo is all that you're going to get out of the audio for this release. It's not surprising considering this is how the show aired and that other BCI DVD's have retained the original presentation. The quality is pretty good with some diversity to the soundstage but not as much depth as you'd hope for. Dialogue remains crisp throughout even though there were a few points where it came across as slightly muffled. Other than that it's smooth sailing for The New Adventures of He-Man.
Just like other BCI He-Man Universe DVDs, New Adventures offers a bevy of special features on its sixth disc. The most prominent is a documentary about the creation of the show. Writers and others discuss the finer details about the show's conception and even get down and dirty with information about particular episodes. It's a very insightful look at the series and will definitely please fans.
Another informative documentary involves the creation and publication of the He-Man comic books over the years. It spends a good deal of time showcasing some of the older comics from Marvel and DC. Most of the time in the featurette involves He-Man.org and the work they did in making a new series of comic books. Up next is a pile of character profiles, a few seconds worth of commercial bumpers, and a gallery of images. That's basically it on the DVD but collectors will be pleased to know that two more 4" x 6" have been included in this set as well.
The New Adventures of He-Man is considered by many to be the black sheep of the He-Family. Its lack of relevance to the Masters of the Universe and drastically different tone hammered a spike right down the middle of the audience; which is where I found myself. I liked roughly half of the episodes here and just couldn't get into the other. Whether or not you'll enjoy New Adventures really depends on your passion towards the He-Man franchise. Even so I'm going to recommend this release based on the quality of the DVD and decent moments found in the show (as light as they are).
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!