Universal // 1993 // 287 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 27th, 2009
Sometime in the distant future the human race finds itself in quite the interstellar pickle. See, Earthlings have begun terra-forming or whatever it's called when you make Mars or Venus inhabitable by building smokestacks. To expedite the process, they've created a workforce called Neosapiens. The fellas on Mars quickly grow weary of the piss-poor working conditions and egregious lack of unionization, and kick off a violent rebellion. To respond, humans build E-frames -- which are essentially mech suits -- and end up on the winning end of the conflict.
Fast-forward and we're at the start of the series, which finds the Neosapiens back on the attack, hungry for some sweet, sweet revenge against their fleshy counterparts. So it falls to Commander J.T. Marsh (didn't DJ Tanner once date him?) and his crack warriors from the Exosquad to push back against the menace. And that's not all they're fighting against: pirates, turncoat humans, and weak-kneed Earth Congressmen also stand in their way. Huge mistake, because these guys fly around in big-ass robot suits.
First thing you're sure to notice, if you give these discs a spin? The hairstyles. The show aired in 1993 and the animators obviously thought that a) if you go far enough into the future, fashion trends will inevitably circle back to the '80s or b) if they toss in some bodacious 'dos maybe their stock in Aquanet will skyrocket. You've got flattops, new-wave flares, and coiffures that would make Bananarama drunk with envy. If you can get past the horrendous fashion statements, Exosquad isn't too shabby.
I don't remember this show though. I was in high school when it aired and, while I was too busy playing NBA Jam to focus my attention on the cartoons of the day, I did try to keep aware of what the kids were digging. Frankly, this show never even crossed my radar. I have no doubt there is a rabid underground fan base out there with scale model E-frames built to spec in their basement, so I'll do my best to escape their wrath with this review.
Exosquad boasts a surprisingly complex mythology, especially for an animated show. The Neosapien/slave/revenge saga is considerably more nuanced than your average "He-Man rescues Orko and eats candy" storyline, with scenes featuring political double-crosses, senate hearings, and theoretical discussions about the nature of appeasement. Add to that, there are no stand-alone episodes in the heavily-serialized first season. 13 episodes are divided into three larger stories -- the five-part "Fall of the Human Empire" opener, the "Veil of Doom" four-parter, and the four-part "Into the Heart of Darkness" closer. The writers are definitely invested in getting deep into the story.
It's not all plot and dialogue and senate hearings, though. These dudes do have dope mech suits to fart around in and there are plenty of over-the-top space battles to soak in. Unfortunately, the animation can be fairly crude. Plenty of stuff goes down onscreen, but the animators have a tough time rendering the action convincingly; movement can be clunky and frequently cells will suddenly lack details (the Neosapien head markings tend to flicker in and out of existence).
Video quality (full frame) is also touchy, with the color work of some scenes taking a big hit in the transfer process. We're talking VHS quality at times. The stereo sound is okay. Extras, however, are nonexistent, a head-scratcher considering that old-time fans will surely be turned off by their absence.
Not Guilty. Now pardon me while I take my E-frame for a spin.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 287 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated