Judge Paul Pritchard would love to see classic movie robots go head to head in battle. First up, Johnny-5 versus Mechagodzilla. Let's see how Johnny's sunny demeanor is after that particular tussle.
"I knew it would come down to this, you and me in the final. Prepare to kiss your 'bot goodbye!"
Prepare to Robattle!
Facts of the Case
In contrast to Pokemon, where cute creatures are incarcerated and brainwashed into becoming rabid fighters by small and allegedly innocent children, Medabots takes the more moral approach and instead has children entering robots into competition to become champion of the World Robattle Tournament.
The hero of our story is young Ikki, unable to afford a decent robot due to his parent's refusal to help subsidise his hobby, he stumbles across a medal that is the equivalent of a soul for Medabots. Upon witnessing his friends being bullied by the Medabot Bandits, Ikki scrapes together what money he can to buy an older KBT model, which he names Metabee, and sets out to help his friends. When Ikki inserts the medal into Metabee he finds himself in possession of a serious ass-kicking machine, but one with a serious attitude problem.
Before long, Ikki, Metabee, and their friends are facing off against enemies ranging from schoolyard bullies (The Screws) to evil, world-conquering wannabes (The Rubberobo Gang).
Medabots: The Complete First Season contains the following episodes:
Growing up in the eighties, I feel I was blessed with some of the greatest cartoons to ever grace TV. From He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors to Thundercats and Battle of the Planets, I admit I had it pretty good. Hell, we even had Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles—no, that's not a mistake; over here in merry old England, the word ninja was considered too violent, so the show was re-titled and edited to remove Michelangelo's nunchucks, probably because such weapons are so readily available over here. Anyway, I digress. Now in my late twenties, I still have a fondness for cartoons and, while more adult-based shows, such as Family Guy and The Simpsons, have made this more socially acceptable, I sometimes yearn for a good old Saturday morning kids show. Can Medabots ease my yearning, or am I doomed to scour the channels on a Saturday morning, with only the fleeting appearance of a hot female TV presenter to raise my interest?
With its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, Medabots came as something of a surprise to me. Though it's fair to label the show a clone of the infinitely more popular Pokemon, Medabots managed to win me over thanks to its great sense of humor and character interaction.
Central to Medabots success is the relationship between Ikki and his Medabot, Metabee. Unlike other Medabots, who are loyal friends and servants of their human owners, Metabee, thanks to the special medal that powers him, is very much his own robot and refuses to tow the line and obey Ikki's orders. By having our two heroes frequently clash, the series never feels too child-friendly and offers plenty of laughs for adults. Since it's aimed at children, the two form something of an understanding resulting in them, developing a friendship as the story progresses. Thankfully, Metabee, in particular, still can't resist the odd pop at his human cohort as the following exchange shows:
Metabee: "Well, according to the map they drew us, this must be the
Though there is no real season-long story arc, other than Ikki's attempts to become the number one meda-fighter, as the series moves forward, it begins to reveal a little more depth. While we're not talking something like Lost, where people can discuss its meaning endlessly, Medabots introduces new characters and subplots that ensure the show doesn't become stale. One of my favorite ongoing subplots involves the identity of The Phantom Renegade, a superhero/vigilante who steals powerful medabot medals to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands. What keeps the Phantom's storyline so entertaining is how it's so obvious to the viewer what his secret identity is, yet the other characters still remain oblivious. It's a joke that riffs on the dual personality of superheroes and works thanks to the characters' sheer goofiness. A clumsy oaf, the Phantom will frequently smash his head into an iron girder or a tree while making his escape and, in the next scene, his alter ego will be seen sporting a bandage, yet none of the other characters seem able to put two and two together.
Like The Phantom Renegade, some of the other support characters add far more to the show than their limited screen time would normally dictate, all adding their bit to make the world of Medabots that little bit richer. Rokusho, the mysterious medabot with a conscience and no master, sporadically appears throughout the season; unlike other medabots, he only fights to defend someone or something. Then there are Seaslug, Squidguts, Gillgirl, and Shrimplips—the members of the Rubberobo gang—whose attempts to take over the world and increase their finances include opening a zoo, which is actually full of penguins dressed up as other animals. And who can forget the Chick Salesman, the "wise old man" whose cliché-ridden monologues are thinly veiled attempts to sell his chicks?
The quality of the animation is typical of Saturday morning cartoons, with overly simplistic character design coupled with limited movement; the show is nothing to write home about visually. Robattles are typical anime fare, with backgrounds reduced to streaks, as the two combatants fly at each other at full pelt. What saves the robattles from being a damp squib are the one-liners spat out from the Medabot warriors and the appearance of Mr. Referee. Whenever a robattle is about to go down, Mr. Referee appears out of nowhere, in increasingly ridiculous, yet hilarious, ways. It's the little touches like this that make Medabots such good fun.
As stated earlier, Medabots' tongue-in-cheek style goes a long way to making it so enjoyable. What helps this no end is the English dub, which, while never resorting to silliness, is unabashedly enthusiastic about the material and, unlike most dubs that seem to lose something in translation, actually proves a strong point. Just listen to the enthusiasm of Mr. Referee every time he springs up before a battle, or the foolhardy declarations of The Phantom Renegade before he, once again, fluffs his escape.
The only extra to be found on this release is on the fourth disc. Here you'll find an episode of Oban Star Racers, a French/Japanese collaboration utilizing a mix of traditional 2D and 3D animation. Definitely worth a look, it's a shame this is the only special feature Shout! Factory chose to put on the set.
Audio and video are nothing more than serviceable. While it would be easy to argue the image is soft and flat, I have to point out this is more a result of the show's age and budget than of the DVD transfer. Like many cartoons of its ilk, Medabots, on DVD, looks about as good as it possibly can.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Fans of the show may have noticed that three episodes are actually missing from the DVD release. For reasons I cannot find, three episodes ("Once Frostbitten Twice Shy," "Heavy Medal," and "Bridge Over Troubled Squidguts") are not present here despite being parts of the original run. To counter this, Shout! Factory have put a sticker on the packaging which states, "The Complete First Season As Seen on Fox Kids." On a similar note, the original Japanese audio tracks would have been nice to have on the discs.
Coming into Medabots with very little in the way of prior knowledge of the show, I really don't feel I've suffered due to the lack of three episodes, but still, it would be nice for fans of the series to do see their show justice.
While younger ones should eat this up, the older members of the family should find plenty to enjoy in Medabots. The highest complement I can give the show is that you could put on a random episode from this box set and be entertained for 20 minutes. Isn't that pretty much all you can ask for from a Saturday morning kids TV show? Plus, who could fail to enjoy a show with such great lines as:
Seaslug: "Come on, Ikki, be reasonable. You can't take Shrimplips
captive, especially today; he's got inflamed diaper rash!"
Not guilty. And I'll robattle anyone who states otherwise.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Bonus Episode: "Oban Star Racers"
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