Shout! Factory // 1989 // 540 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // December 23rd, 2011
"Got to get tough. Yo Joe! You know you've got to stand tall when it comes down to the wire. You got to play rough when you cross that line of fire. You got to have guts to stand for your rights..."
I was born in between the G.I. Joe series in the '80s. While I'm not so much of a geek that I define my entire calendar in relation to G.I. Joe incarnations, being a child of 1985 gave me a confused enthusiasm for these real American heroes. I dug Snake-Eyes and Duke and all the cartoons from the original Sunbow series (which ended after the feature-length film G.I. Joe: The Movie), but I had all of the toys from this colorful, lesser DiC continuation. Revisiting this forgotten second series, thanks to Shout! Factory, provides an explanation to my Toy Proliferation Theory.
Picking up a few years after G.I. Joe: The Movie, this DiC animated series presents a largely new cast of Joes. The series debuts with a five-part miniseries called "Operation Dragonfire," which introduces Scoop, Grid Iron, Hawk, and the rest of the newbies. It also reintroduces Cobra Commander (who is literally a snake), and chronicles his return to power alongside the gold-headed Destro.
The remaining 19 episodes play out in familiar fashion: Cobra tries to take over the world and the Joes thwart their plots.
It's silly to think these kinds of cartoons were created for any other reason but to sell toys. The successful cartoons, the ones that really hold up, mask that objective well enough that they are enjoyable years later. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Series 2 doesn't pull that off as well as the original series. With a smaller budget, cheap animation, and a weird cast of dozens, the show just accentuates what happened to kids' cartoons at the end of the '80s: they started to really stink.
"Operation Dragonfire," which opens the series, follows a new Joe named Scoop who may or may not be a double agent for Cobra. The miniseries is very similar to the "M.A.S.S. Device" story that launched the original cartoon: the Joes and Cobra are traversing the globe trying to collect things in order to use a game-changing weapon. All the while, Cobra is split into two factions: the old guard, Destro, and the awkwardly costumed Serpentor. I always enjoyed the inner power struggles within Cobra (something that never happens with the Joes, and by extension makes Cobra a little more interesting), and this series really plays up the conflict. It's a shame, then, that our heroes, led by real-life pro wrestler Sgt. Slaughter, are so bland -- and yet, so colorful.
The series has all the tropes and devices of any other G.I. Joe cartoon, but it's just not as enjoyable. For starters, the animation isn't as fluid or as detailed as the Sunbow stuff. DiC, which was just getting started in the American animation business, filled the screen with bright, colorful costumes and vehicles that were all kinds of ugly. It's no wonder I had so many of these toys growing up: every vehicle, character, and military base was different, plasticy, and awesome with little regard for consistency or practicality. Obviously, 5-year-old Mike wanted all of them.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Series 2 is a collection for die-hard fans only. While it's certainly great of Shout! Factory to release these lost episodes on DVD, but they aren't even good enough to be saved by nostalgia. From the strange theme songs (hey, they're "international" heroes now!) to that weird Joe that wears a football helmet, everything here draws attention to the fact that it's not as good as what's come before it.
The four-disc set features an average video transfer and mono sound. The colors can get a little fuzzy, especially the reds, but overall it's a decent transfer given the cheap source material. The set is devoid of special features.
When I was a kid, I loved this show because the toys were great. Who cares that, in reality, all of these vehicles and soldiers (with their strange accessories and oddly-placed utility belts) would be completely inefficient? I didn't. Now, no longer blinded by the tiny plastic missile launchers and vehicle decals, I can see that this series is a less interesting iteration.
DiC's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Series 2 is a colorful but average cartoon that could only be enjoyed by the most die-hard Joe fans.
Guilty of breaking my rubber band torso with mediocrity.
Review content copyright © 2011 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 540 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated