I enjoy a good cartoon as much as the next guy who's struggling constantly with his inner-child. I've found that The Hub, a cable channel, is one of my go-to places for entertaining cartoons. They air past cartoons that I used to love, but they also have their own series that have quickly grown on me. I was surprised that I liked 'Transformers: Prime' as much as I did. Sure, the episodes started rehashing the same storylines from a slightly different point of view as the season went on, but they were entertaining. They're fun cartoons that feel leaps and bounds above the nonsensical anime explosion that has taken over the Saturday morning cartoon slot on regular broadcast television.
Just like they did with 'Transformers' The Hub has gone full circle and taken on another childhood favorite, 'G.I. Joe.' They've updated the look and the animation to attract younger viewers, however the names and characters are the same.
This reincarnation of the 'G.I. Joe' franchise has been given the subtitle of 'Renegades' because that's the basis of the show's story. Cobra is still the all-powerful evil corporation only nobody knows that they're evil yet. They make everything from pies to satellites. Everyone on earth loves Cobra and their products. Everyone except Lt. O'Hara (voiced by Natalia Cigliuti). O'Hara is convinced that Cobra is up to no good but she needs proof. In order to get proof she enlists the help of a few "regular joes" to help her investigate a nearby Cobra factory. Duke (voiced by Jason Marsden) is the by-the-book team leader; Roadblock (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) is the wise-cracking muscle; Tunnel Rat (voiced by Matthew Yang King) provides comedic relief; and Snake Eyes is a mysterious ninja who is always accompanied by Asian flutes whenever he appears on screen.
The group thinks that this investigation is a routine military operation, it's anything but. O'Hara has unwittingly involved them in illegal activity and after things go south on their mission they become fugitives. Wanted by their government. With the full force of not only the U.S. military, but also Cobra, on their tail they have to flee. Only they've tasked themselves with bringing down Cobra and all their evil-ness.
As with all cartoons of this nature each episode is encapsulated into its own story with its own people that the Joes have to save. The episodes have a connective tissue of a story arc that continues through the season, still many of the episodes are standalones. In one episode they roll into a small town that is being terrorized by a biker gang, they help the townsfolk fend for themselves and vanquish the bikers.
I wasn't as engaged with the main story in 'Renegades' as I was with 'Transformers: Prime' and still it provides a worthy respite on a lazy afternoon. 'Renegades' goes down easy and can be digested pretty quickly. There isn't a lot of substance here and it gets a little ridiculous after the 35th time Snake Eyes appears on screen and the Asian flutes go crazy in the background. It is pretty fun though. For people that enjoy a decent cartoon escape, 'Renegades' provides it without really degrading childhood classics.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The show's 26 episodes come on three 50GB Blu-ray Discs. The discs are packed into a slightly oversized Blu-ray keepcase with a swinging arm that houses two discs in hubs back-to-back. The third disc is housed in a hub inside the back cover. Inside of the front cover is a list of the episodes and what discs they're contained on. Along with a list of the bonus features.
The 1080p presentation of 'Renegades' looks great. It's certainly better than 'Transformers: Prime' which suffered from some pretty bad banding issues at times. Those banding issues aren't present here. Instead we're treated to a colorful 2-dimensional artwork that is clean and precise.
The most interesting thing about the visuals here is that the characters are drawn with simplicity in mind. Clean lines and smooth color fills. The backgrounds are in high contrast to the simplistic drawings of the characters. The backgrounds look more like oil paintings or abstract pastels. The juxtaposition of these two styles works very well. Colors are strong and clear. Lines are precise and never appear jagged or rough. The backgrounds feature well-defined brushstrokes in the colors instead of steady color fills that have been used on the characters.
I really liked the way 'Renegades' looked. I was prepared for a banding nightmare, which happens with many of these cartoons, but it never appeared.
This is where the disc takes a dive. We're simply given a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which has noticeable drawbacks. Voices sound harsh and crackly. Sound effects like explosions and such feel underwhelming. LFE isn't nearly as deep as it could be.
Also, there is a very big technical problem with the mix. In the fourth episode at the 20:59 mark there is a loud brash bit of static that sounds like a radio when it loses a station. It only happens for a second, but it's there and it shouldn't be. Technical problems like this just shouldn't exist whether they last for half a second or a couple minutes. This mistake, along with the overall underwhelming lossy mix makes this a soundtrack that is really disappointing given the exciting nature of the show.
There are eight commentaries spread out amongst the 26 episdoes. They cover a vast expanse of animation knowledge and know-how. If you're into animation and want to know the steps that a cartoon like this goes through on its way to a final cut these commentaries are a must. Everyone from directors to storyboard artists, to voice talent directors are featured here. The commentaries, as a whole, paint a portrait of what it's like to work on a cartoon. So much more goes into its production than I ever thought possible. Having so many different voices on each of the commentary tracks proves invaluable as they each are able to give information on what their job is and how it relates to the finished product you see on screen. The following are the episodes and commentary participants.
"The Descent, Part 1": Executive producer Jeff Kline, writer Henry Gilroy, development & creative supervision Michael Vogel, and consulting producer Therese Trujillo.
"The Descent, Part 2": Kline, writer Marty Isenberg, creative supervisor Ted Biaselli, and director Randy Myers.
"Return of the Arashikage, Part 1": Writer Greg Johnson, Myers, composers Starr Parodi and Jeff Fair.
"Return of the Arashikage, Part 2": Director Kevin Altieri, storyboard artist Patrick Archibald, background designer Kenny McGill, and post production coordinator Tim Wolkiewicz.
"Busted": Director Scooter Tidwell, storyboard artist Arment Mirzaian, production coordinator Jeremiah Regan, and prop designer April Eriksson.
"Castle Destro": Director Nathan Chew, character design supervisor Steve Jones, Fain, and Gilroy.
"Union of the Snake": Director Scott Bern, storyboard artist William Ruzicka, background designer Edgar Carlos, and Jones.
"Revelations, Part 2": Isenberg, voice director Ginny McSwain, voice of Dr. Mindbender Charlie Schlatter, and the voice of Scarlett Natalia Cigliuti.
'G.I. Joe Renegades' is a decent enough cartoon that will be able to be enjoyed by adults and kids. It's something you may be able to sit down with your son and watch without getting bored, frustrated, or nauseous (I'm looking at you Saturday morning anime). The video is nice, but the audio needed a lot of work before being put on Blu-ray. It's worth a look if you're into having whole cartoon seasons on Blu-ray.