Thursday, March 22, 2007

And now for something you've never heard about

If you're someone who's actually kept an eye on this blog, I'm both surprised and a bit thankful. Sorry I've been neglecting it as of late, but I've got plenty of stuff to talk about now.

The show I'm about to discuss is something I'd be willing to bet money you've never heard of if you're American. However, it's apparently pretty popular in Germany, Arabic countries and France (Its country of origin), and possibly Canada. Not sure. In the U.S, however, it has never really gotten a chance.

The show goes by the name of Dragon Hunters (Les Chasseurs de Dragons originally), and is a fantasy-adventure mix. Taking place in a world made of numerous floating islands (Think Skyland, only good), it usually focuses on a team of three: Lian Chu, the muscle, Gwizdo, the diminuitive negotiator, and Hector, a tamed dragon and assistant. The world they live in has dragons of many varieties scattered throughout it, and they are a common problem for people trying to make a living. Our heroes go about looking for bounties and people in peril, slay the dragon/s, and collect their reward (Sometimes- the show reminds me of Cowboy Bebop in that the guys rarely manage to get cash for their efforts.) The three take up residence as tenants at The Snoring Dragon Inn, a restaurant and lodge run by a portly brunehilde-type named Jennyline and her young daughter Zaza.

One thing notable about this show, and one of its greatest strengths, is the character of Gwizdo. Whoever translated the scripts to English (As well as Rick Jones, his voice actor) did a great job. The guy is a total penny-pincher, coward, and sneak- but it's all pulled off in a way that makes him funny. His dialogue is very natural and often funny- there are very few times where he does stuff that seems out of character. The other two hunters have their merits. Lian Chu, despite being a hulking warrior, spends most of his time knitting and playing with Zaza, and Hector spends a lot of time panicking and speaking pidgin English.

This show has some nice backgrounds. The concept of floating islands is one that I've always liked, and this show does them nicely. They're of all shapes and sizes, and while most of them only serve as scenery, they do a good job of giving the show some atmosphere. When the hunters are on land, the landscapes look very nice and appealing as well.

What keeps me from heralding the show as a true gem is the side characters. The leads are designed and voiced very nicely, but I can't say the same for most of the others- they often look ugly or simply unappealing (Is this a French thing? No offense.), and while the French version might be another story, most of the English actors used for them are awful- apparently the dubbers felt that the main characters should be the only real priority, as they're well-voiced.

Also, this is not a show where you're guaranteed good writing with every episode- there are many well-done ones, but there are also some total duds. Plus, the show has a tendency to do the completely awful "lame joke that everyone laughs at for 30 seconds fade out okay" shtick that wasn't funny when it started in the 70s and isn't funny now.

The reason I'm willing to bet that American cartoon fans haven't heard of this is because Cartoon Network, being the trainwreck they are today, totally botched their plans for it. Originally, they showed it for about a month on Saturday mornings in early 2006 with no promotion other than a 5-second bit in a single commercial for the block it was in, and it was unceremoniously pulled after that, randomly put in months later, than pulled again after two weeks. Whether it was because of ratings or the network just didn't like the show, I'm not sure. But maybe if they had actually made people more aware of its existence, and maybe put it on a prominent block like Toonami or Miguzi, it would be a different story. As it is, the only way Americans can watch the show now is CN's online on-demand service, which will require a PC located in the U.S.

So go give this show a try, as you've got nothing to lose. If you like what you see, Geneon has released a couple of DVDs in all of North America that can easily be obtained through online retailers. Give it a chance- broadcasters certainly haven't.