"ReBoot Seasons 1 & 2" Warning: Incoming Lame
He came from The Net. Protecting systems, peoples, and cities, he came to this world: Mainframe. They say the User lives outside The Net, and inputs games for pleasure. No one knows for sure, but Guardian Bob has sworn to defend his new home from these games. If they lose the game, they lose their home and their lives. Dot and Enzo have become Bob’s surrogate family, while evil like Megabyte and the insanity that is Hexadecimal threaten the world. When the heroes of the first computer-generated TV show need to enter the games and save the day, they just say one word: ReBoot!
ReBoot is easily one of the milestones of animation, being the first fully-computer generated television series. Hailing from Canada, ReBoot premiered in the USA on ABC in 1993. From there, it spawned four seasons (spread out over nearly a decade), an online comic book, two IMAX rides, a PlayStation video game, and action figures, all leading to a theatrical movie series that is currently in the works. Being the first of its kind means it had to do all the hard work that Pixar was doing at the time, with a smaller budget and on tighter deadlines.
The world of ReBoot takes place in a computer, complete with all of its elements. Episodes take place in nanoseconds, not minutes. Villains aren’t evil, they’re viral. While we may send in upgrades and games on a daily basis without much thought, the denizens of our desktops greet them with celebration or trepidation. Upgrades can improve their lives; games, if we succeed at them, cost them their lives. Ever wonder why games really put up a fight at times?
Most episodes in this box set feature a game coming down, and our heroes Bob, Dot, and Enzo, end up inside the game, fighting the User for their world. These games allow for new sets, designs, and elements. In fact, a later episode introduces a new character to the series via one of these games. At times, these games either act as segues or play an integral part of the plot of the episode, and are usually part of a Megabyte machination. For the most part, seasons one and two have each episode end with either a victory for the heroes or a stalemate, but no true advancement. These seasons were primarily created with the concept that broadcast order shouldn’t matter too much; seasons three and four, by contrast, will need to be watched in a certain order.
The characters are all well-balanced, especially for children’s television from two decades ago (Sidenote: Dear God, we’re all old). Bob is the stalwart defender, but he has his faults and is prone to being goofy. Dot is the serious, business-minded older sister, and one of the strongest female leads in a show. Enzo is the overactive child connection who tends to learn lessons. Megabyte is wonderfully evil, and is voiced by the late but equally wonderful Tony Jay, while Hexadecimal is just plain crazy fun.
Season One is the weakest of the bunch, but it’s a required step towards the later Armageddons. Consisting primarily of set-ups and plots of the weeks, Season 1 only gets decently into drama with its two-parter season finale, which actually features both a good amount of world-building and a haunting preview of what wouldn’t happen until a few episodes into Season Three. Season Two, likewise, starts off with much of the same day-by-day stuff, but definitely kicks into it with the final few episodes. The last five episodes of the season feature an overarching plot leading into what is easily one of the finest season-finale cliffhangers. This arc additionally features guest stars in an episode, with Gillian Anderson pulling a self-parodying Scully-esque character in an X-Files-inspired story. Undoubtedly, the finest episode in this box set is the season finale “Web World Wars,” if only for its willingness to throw away the standard routine that the series featured. Additionally, the episode features some meta-humor, as it was the final one to be aired by ABC, with the line repeated “The ABCs! They’ve turned on us!” Basically, Mainframe Entertainment threw a Hail Mary that managed to pay off in the completely revamped Season Three that wouldn’t air in the USA for years, until Cartoon Network premiered it on Toonami (and cofunded Season Four).
Extras are incredibly disappointing, but not all the blame can be put on Shout! Factory. The sole extra is a handful of commentary minutes, split up over three episodes on the first disc. Even then, there are glitches regarding this feature, and Shout! is offering a replacement disc. (They delayed the Definitive Mainframe Edition for the same reason). Some other features may be reserved for the Season Three/Four set or the Definitive Mainframe Edition, but producer Brian Ward confirmed that both EA Games and IMAX did not allow footage to be included. EA Games produced a ReBoot game that had a full episode’s worth of new animation and story, and two IMAX rides were produced, each with a complete story. This release definitely takes a hit for not including such things, but the attempt was valid. As it stands, fans will never be able to watch the IMAX rides, and can only view the video game if they track down an old copy.
ReBoot Seasons One and Two are not incredible, but they are required to understand the gravitas of Seasons Three and Four. Your best bet is to wait until the Definitive Mainframe Edition.