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"ThunderCats" Nostalgia Claims Another Victim

Ah, ThunderCats. One of the most popular cartoons from the 80′s, with an awesome theme song, memorable voice acting (though the quality of said voice acting is debatable), and, most importantly, the first show to ever be broadcast on this tiny little action block known as Toonami. But does the series still hold up? Especially in these DVD sets? Well, here’s hoping the second season at least stands tall.

Disc 1:

  • ThunderCats Ho! (Parts 1-5): After months of having a nightmare about his fellow Thundarians dying, Lion-O is finally told by Jaga that his countrymen are still alive, and conveniently, are on Third Earth! While the Snowman and Termagar the Tuska help our heroes out, Mumm-Ra employs not just the Mutants, but Hammerhand and Hachiman as well, to stop the ThunderCats from rescuing their fellow Thundarians. A rather decent 5-parter to start the season, but it feels very padded to make everything seem epic, and Hachiman was completely and utterly wasted here.

Disc 2:

  • Mumm-Ra Lives! (Parts 1-5): With Lynx-O, Bengali, and Pumyra joining the ThunderCats, the bad guys need some more strength. Mumm-Ra employs the Mutants to revive the Lunatacs, a band of space pirates who actually prove to be a match for the ThunderCats. This seems more like a 3-parter with 2 epilogue episodes than a real 5-parter, and it suffers as a result.

Disc 3:

  • Catfight: Disguising himself as Jaga, Mumm-Ra tricks Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, and Snarf into fighting Bengali, Pumyra, Lynx-O, and Snarfer. Meanwhile, the Lunatacs attack Cat’s Lair and try to take the Tower of Omens. This episode would’ve been better if the ThunderCats weren’t so damn gullible.
  • Psych Out: Alluro manages to find an ancient talisman that makes him practically invincible. When he takes out all the ThunderCats, Snarf is the only one left to stand up to the evil Lunatac. The end battle is pretty good, as are most of the “Snarf-is-the-hero” episodes, and it is nice to see Lynx-O beaten for once.
  • The Mask of Gorgon: Mumm-Ra employs the Lunatacs to steal a giant mask from the Warrior Maidens which will allow the mummy to revive a giant. It’s about time the Warrior Maidens appeared again, but it’s too bad their Season 2 debut isn’t all that special. Once again, Lion-O proves to be a real idiot and walks straight into an obvious trap.
  • The Mad Bubbler: Discovering a Thundrillium mine on Hook Mountain, the Lunatacs soon discover that it is the home of the Mad Bubbler, a being that can turn any creature into pure evil. Panthro, Tygra, and Cheetara become trapped in the mine and fight each other. A decent episode, but I just can’t take a villain called “The Mad Bubbler” seriously, especially with his freaky design.
  • Together We Stand: Mumm-Ra coats the Berserker’s Armor in Thundranium, the only substance that weakens ThunderCats, and has them attack the Tower of Omens. As the Berserkers take over the Tower of Omens, Lion-O and Tygra head out to save them, while the Lunatacs attack Cat’s Lair. This episode was pretty good in the beginning, but then crumbled near the end, and the Lunatac fight was just embarrassing.
  • Ravage Island: Mumm-Ra creates a beacon on Ravage Island which hypnotizes the ThunderCats and creates realistic illusions. Snarf and Snarfer, who are immune, must team up with the blind Lynx-O in order to save them. A pretty good episode with some nice animation and a good end fight.

Disc 4:

  • Time Switch: While burying a suspension capsule (why they waited until now is never brought up), Lion-O is exposed to a time gas which causes him to de-age at a remarkable speed. Meanwhile, the Lunatacs take this opportunity to capture the young Lord and the other ThunderCats. While the scene where a kid Lion-O uses the Sword of Omens on the Lunatacs is pretty fun, the overall episode is rather lackluster.
  • The Sound Stones: Vultureman steals a Sound Stone and creates a Sonic Cannon, allowing the Lunatacs to take over the Tower of Omens. To defeat them, Lion-O will need a Sound Stone of his own. A good episode in that Lynx-O isn’t the miracle worker he usually is, but still rather run-of-the-mill.
  • Day of the Eclipse: Every 100 years, Third Earth experiences a lunar eclipse, which allows Mumm-Ra to cast a spell that renders Cat’s Lair and all the ThunderCats’ vehicles useless and rotten. While the episode itself is pretty good, it does start a rather annoying trend of having the Sword of Omens’ ThunderCats signal solve all their problems.
  • Sideswipe: While traveling through space in order to bring back some Mexican Take-out from the Burbel village, Snarfer is attacked by Chilla. Luckily, Officer Mandora is there, and enlists Lynx-O to help capture Chilla. Luna takes this opportunity to steal Lynx-O’s Braille Board, but it magically disappears into Lynx-O’s mind! Yea, the plot makes no sense whatsoever, especially since Chilla comes back in two episodes without even a reference to Mandora.
  • Mumm-Rana’s Belt: Luna discovers that her grandmother’s magical belt is in Mumm-Rana’s pyramid, and seeks to gain her grandmother’s power back. The new Princess Luna proves too tough, even for the Sword of Omens. Aside from Luna looking exactly like her grandmother, the episode is decent, but the writers needed to give Pumyra a special trait that makes her stand out instead of having her as a poor man’s Cheetara.
  • Hachiman’s Honor: While on his way to visit the Tower of Omens, Hachiman is tricked by the Lunatacs and his sword, the ThunderCutter, is stolen! Lion-O and the Thunderkittens will have to contend with a samurai robot now! For such a cool character, Hachiman really does get screwed over by the writers, as they can’t seem to come up with a good story for this guy. And isn’t he supposed to be from a different time period than the ThunderCats?

Disc 5:

  • Runaways: Feeling useless due to their lack of action recently, the Thunderkittens run away and meet a new friend named Kunai. But Mumm-Ra’s up to his usual tricks, and tries to sabotage Cat’s Lair. A good episode, up until the predictable ending involving the Sword of Omens. And somehow, Mumm-Ra is able to use the Sword’s power.
  • Hair of the Dog: Mumm-Ra disguises himself as Snarf and successfully defeats Lion-O and takes over Cat’s Lair (well, it’s better than the Tower of Omens falling for the 300th time). Sensing something’s amiss, Snarfer enlists Bengali and Pumya to check things out. The main notable in this episode is Snarf becoming Snarf-Ra, the Ever-Living, but that kind of cheapens the Ancient Spirits of Evil.
  • Vultureman’s Revenge: Vultureman creates a Thundranium Cannon, and teams up with the Lunatacs in order to destroy the ThunderCats once and for all. Even Lion-O cannot stand up to the weapon’s power. A rather decent episode, but it has too much padding and the final battle is poorly-planned out.
  • ThunderCubs (Parts 1-3): Mumm-Ra reveals that he’s had a time machine in his pyramid this whole time and travels back to when Thundera still existed. He plans to get the Sword of Plundarr, which was thrown by Jaga into Thundera’s core, and the cause of the planet’s destruction (So, everything’s Jaga’s fault. Gotta love that.). Mumm-Ra’s influence causes Thundera to be reformed (but strangely, nothing else changes), and the Snarfs to be enslaved, as the ThunderCats rush to equip the Feliner with boosters to make the journey back to their original home planet. The Sword of Plundarr is pretty cool, but there are so many time loopholes used in this story that even Doc Brown would explode.

Disc 6:

  • ThunderCubs (Parts 4-5): The actual ThunderCubs finally appear, just as the Lunatacs take over Cat’s Lair and the Tower of Omens! As a young Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, and Snarfer head out in the Feliner, Lion-O must retrieve the Book of Omens, a part of the Treasure of Thundera, from the newly powered-up Super Mumm-Ra. While I do think the final battle between Lion-O and Mumm-Ra ended far too quickly, there are some really cool sequences here, though the ThunderCubs plot line seems tacked on to give the other ThunderCats something to do.
  • The Totem of Dera: Mumm-Ra discovers another Treasure of Thundera, the Totem of Dera, which has such powerful healing energy that it brings inanimate objects to life! OK, that makes little sense, but Jaga actually interacts with someone other than Lion-O and Snarfer does something, so that’s something, I guess.
  • The Chain of Loyalty: Mumm-Ra disguises himself as Snarf Egbert in order to find the Chain of Loyalty. Lion-O, in his haste, accidentally destroys the chain, causing the other ThunderCats to fight amongst one another. This was an awesome episode up until the deus-ex-machina ending. A shame, too.
  • Crystal Canyon: While everyone else is on New Thundera, Lion-O, Tygra, Lynx-O, and Snarf are tricked by Alluro and Chilla into crashing in the Crystal Canyon. There, Tygra finds the Keystone, a crystal of such power that it even enslaves Tygra’s mind! And when Alluro gets ahold of the Crystal, not even Lion-O can resist! A good episode with some good animation, and not even the Sword of Omens’ magical problem solver abilities detracted from this episode.
  • The Telepathy Beam: The Lunatacs want to head out to space to find some Treasure of Thundera, but need Panthro to make the adjustments. To distract the other ThunderCats, Vultureman creates a machine that causes Cheetara’s Sixth Sense to go haywire, causing her to go crazy. Why the Sword of Omens didn’t react to Panthro getting captured is a mystery. Other than that little plot hole, a good episode, and Cheetara gains a new ability.

There are some good things to come out of this season that does change the status quo of the series. The new ThunderCats do look pretty cool, and the new vehicles (including the Thunder Strike, the Thunder Claw, and the Hover Cat) all look pretty sleek (at least I’d buy the toys). Furthermore, it is nice to see that the Lunatacs, even when they turn into bad-guys-of-the-day, still give the ThunderCats trouble from time to time, which is more than I can say about the Mutants. While the ThunderCubs 5-parter had a lot of plot holes, it does give us the Sword of Plundarr and Super Mumm-Ra, so it’s good in that respect. Finally, whenever the Mutants or Mumm-Ra take center stage, the episodes are rather enjoyable until the last 5 minutes or so. A shame most of the positives seem to be superficial though.

There is a lot wrong with this season. For one thing, the Lunatacs, though powerful, are just not as interesting as either the Mutants or Mumm-Ra, and often episodes that feature the Lunatacs themselves turn out to be a chore to get through. In addition, the writers have fallen into a slight rut, relying on the Sword of Omens and Lynx-O to get the ThunderCats out of almost every situation, and eventually it becomes tiresome. As if that wasn’t enough, it seems like the Tower of Omens got taken over every other episode, and we didn’t get to see a whole lot from the supporting characters who can actually fight (such as Snowman, Hachiman, or the Warrior Maidens). Many of the best episodes in the first season came from the ThunderCats interacting with these characters, and to have them missing detracts the season as a whole. And I still have a hard time believing that the ThunderCats know about Mexico…

With the new season comes an increase in the animation budget, which is put to good use during this season. Mumm-Ra gets a new transformation sequence which is much more fluid than before, and there are a lot of scenes where the animation is very fluid and colorful very well. While the majority of the show still has similar animation to the first season, there are a lot of nicely animated sequences, especially when there is energy involved. It makes the show a bit more enjoyable to watch, but at the same time, a bit on the stale side. I don’t know if that’s because so many things were introduced at once, giving everything a rather bland feeling, or what, but this season’s looks seem rather dull. Things do improve whenever the ThunderCats fought in Mumm-Ra’s pyramid though, so that’s good. If you have an analog TV, then the new animation will actually look good. If, however, you have a flat-screen/digital TV, you’re out of luck, as the transfer is horrible. Color bleeds, halos, interlacing, every video problem you’ve heard of is on these discs. Now, I wouldn’t mind as much if this were released back in 1999 or so, but this is 2006, where TV shows get released on DVD all the time, so this kind of transfer is inexcusable. It doesn’t help that the packaging seems cheap as well.

Anybody reading this has likely heard the ThunderCats‘ voice acting by now, and it’s no different here than in the first season. The acting is, most of the time, horrible, and should be a lesson of what not to do when recording in the booth. But, yet, for some reason, it works. Well, it doesn’t really work with the Lunatacs, but it does for most of the ThunderCats and especially Mumm-Ra and the Mutants. The bad voice acting makes these characters a bit more fun to be around, and gives them some added charm. I do have to give props to the voice actors though. There are only a handful of actors and actresses on this series, and they manage to make almost all their characters sound vastly different from one another. I mean, you can barely tell that Jackalman and Lion-O have the same voice artist, or that Mumm-Ra’s VA also does Jaga, TugMug, Snowman, and Vultureman. Obviously, one of the lasting effects of ThunderCats is the music, and it doesn’t disappoint here. The theme song is still as awesome as ever (though strangely, the visuals don’t change to reflect the Lunatacs and the New ThunderCats), and the background music makes the action so much more fun to watch. This series had one of the strongest scores of all the 80′s cartoons, and it still holds up even today.

Warner Video realized just how much the music rocked, and focused all the extras on that section of the show. The extras, all of which are on Disc 6, starts out with the Rembrandt’s music video of the ThunderCats theme song. I dunno who thought this was a good idea, but they need a good smack for putting this tripe on the disc and calling it an extra. As if the song itself wasn’t horrible enough, we have the ThunderCats “battling” Mumm-Ra on the stage itself, using cut-outs that are even more badly done than Kids’ WB!’s cutouts. After that, we have The Music of Thundera. The first half focuses on the background music for the show and composer Bernie Hoffer. This first half works, but the second half focuses on the Rembrandts making their music video, which was annoying. Next is a short music video of Bernie Hoffer singing the ThunderCats theme on a synthesizer. While Bernie can’t sing at all, I did like the pop-up facts that appeared during the video, and it is better than the Rembrandt’s video, so that gets a plus from me. Finally, we have a Superman trailer, which starts out with scenes from literally everything Superman-related, ending with a teaser for Superman Returns. While it’s a good promo, it feels out of place here.

Overall, ThunderCats: Season 2, Volume 1 isn’t as strong as Season 1. However, if you’re a hardcore ThunderCats fan, you will get some enjoyment out of this set.

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