Shout! Factory // 1992 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 21st, 2011
By Crom! The complete first season!
From the animation studio Sunbow and Hasbro Toys -- the pairing that helped dominate and ruin animation in the 1980s with shows like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and The Transformers (which, subsequently, would help to ruin movies in the 2000s) -- comes Conan the Adventurer, the short-lived syndicated cartoon based on Robert E. Howard's legendary character. The show belongs to the tradition of fantasy cartoons like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Dungeons and Dragons and, best of all, Thundarr the Barbarian. The trouble is that instead of being based on an original idea or (ugh) a toy, Conan is based on a savage brute immortalized in books, comics and movies (including the upcoming "reboot" directed by the terrible Marcus Nispel). Yes, Conan, the murdering, savage brute, has been turned into a kiddie cartoon. It's not a great fit.
If Conan the Adventurer had actually aired in the early or mid-1980s, I might actually have some fondness for it. Instead, it ran in the early '90s when I had moved on past cartoons and onto much more mature, sophisticated fare like Saved by the Bell. Since animated shows had become considerably more advanced by the time Conan debuted (the long-running X-Men: The Animated Series started the same year), it's difficult to even give the show credit for the things that it does well -- namely, the serialized storytelling that carries through from episode to episode. That's most of what the show has to offer -- well, that and the fact that it represents an honest attempt to do serious fantasy in animated form. Sure, it's goofy and often lame, but it comes by these qualities honestly. It means well.
Here are the episodes that make up Conan the Adventurer: Season
* "The Night of Fiery Tears"
* "Blood Brother"
* "Star of Shadizar"
* "Conan the Gladiator"
* "The Heart of Rakkir"
* "Men of Stone"
* "The Terrible Torrinon"
* "Greywolf of Xanthus"
* "Shadow Walkers"
* "The Claw of Heaven"
* "The Serpent Riders of Set"
* "Windfang's Eyrie"
* "Seven Against Stygia"
Conan the Adventurer: Season One arrives in a two-disc set courtesy of Shout! Factory, a studio that continually puts out hard-to-find, sometimes forgotten cult movies and TV shows. For fans of this particular animated series, I'm sure the DVD release is a godsend, since the rest of us either forgot about the show or never knew it existed in the first place. If you are a fan of the cartoon, you'll have to be happy with getting nothing but that in this DVD set; the 13 episodes that make up Season One are spread out over two discs without any bonus material or special features (something of a rarity for Shout! Factory, who often pack their releases with extra content). All the episodes are presented in their original full frame TV aspect ratio and look ok at best, ranging from faded and soft to sometimes resembling old VHS. Still, it's probably the best version of the show anyone's going to see, and if you're a fan it will have to do. The 2.0 stereo audio track does fine with the dialogue and that incessant theme song, which also plays over the disc menus. After two episodes, you'll be walking around the house singing "Co-NAN!" for the rest of the day. And you won't be happy about it.
I really can't recommend Conan the Adventurer: Season One to anyone but the diehard fans who have lamented its cancellation since 1994. It's not particularly true to the character, the animation is crude and kind of lame and the stories aren't really compelling enough to hold anyone's interest. I respect that it remains true to its fantasy roots, but that alone does not make it worth watching. Hold off a few months until the two Schwarzenegger films are released on Blu-ray. They may not be entirely faithful to Howard's character, either, but they're bloody and fun and awesome. And definitely not for kids.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated