Sunday, April 8, 2012

He-Man...The Complete Second Season DVD

I buy cartoon DVD's on a fairly consistent basis for my own enjoyment and when He-Man became available in all it's glory I purchased it. I have Season One by another company, BCI, and I purchased Season Two by this company, Classic Media/Mill Creek Entertainment. I may purchase Mill Creek's Season One simply because they don't split up the episode, "House of Shokoti", on two separate DVD discs like the BCI release does. But this review is about Mill Creek's Season Two release which I have. There are 8 disc's...the first 7 contain episodes of the series while the 8th is the Extra features disc. The discs are housed in paper sleeves...stacked one after the other...which causes one to have to rummage through the discs whenever you want to grab a particular one. The disc I find myself watching the most are Disc's 1 and 4 through 6. I watch disc 7 on occasion but it has the least amount of episodes...BUT it contains the episode giving Moss Man a lot of screen-time: "The Ancient Mirror of Avathar". It's also on this disc that "The Problem With Power" can be found. This particular episode is very deep and is one of just a couple of episodes that shed the good vs. evil overtone and dig deeper into the individual characters. In that episode you see He-Man transform back into Adam for the only time in the Filmation series history and you hear the phrase that he uses to instigate the transformation, too.

Speaking of character studies we get to see plenty of in-depth character studies in "Search for the Past" where the history of the character's are put front and center: King Randor's father, King Miro, turns out to be alive and held prisoner by The Enchantress. We see Man-At-Arms and King Randor behave like young warriors while on the search for King Miro. He-Man comes to the rescue and saves King Miro, who parachutes down from lost mountain with He-Man where they're encountered by Man-at-Arms. The Enchantress, by now, has imprisoned Randor. The Enchantress' gopher, Drude, eventually frees Randor...leading to the eventual face to face reunion of Randor and Miro. He-Man changes back to Adam and in one scene you see three generations of Eternian royalty: Miro, Randor, and Adam.

In the "Time Wheel" we see a former king of Eternia, Tamusk, return to present-day Eternia thanks to a time wheel accidentally spun by Orko while snooping in an ancient laboratory. Tamusk, believing he's in his own time, flees for his palace only to see it drastically changed. Believing that this King Randor is some evil sorcerer who caused all these changes he attempts to do battle with the famously peaceful Randor. The remainder of the episode is spent tracking down Tamusk once he finally leaves the palace in an attempt to convince him that he's thousands of years in the future.

One of my favorites in this collection is "Orko's Return" where we have a departure, of sorts, from the usual dose of action/adventure. In a more comical story Trap Jaw and Beast Man become the possessors of what's called an Amber Crystal. The two use it's magic to build a huge fortress while abducting Orko from the palace. Orko happened to be in the middle of a magic performance when he disappeared...leaving Adam and Teela to continue laughing and applauding while Man-at-Arms, always alert, has a look of concern. In short, Trap Jaw and Beast Man use their newly acquired magic to control Orko and turn him into their slave. This ultimately backfires and the rest of the episode centers around the battle of wits between Orko, Trap Jaw, and Beast Man as He-Man and company track down the fortress. Orko uses his magic to make wishes come true...literally...driving the evil pair into fits of frustration and anger. It's later revealed that Trap Jaw stole the magic crystal from Evil Lyn.

Season Two, unlike the first season, relied very little on the Castle Grayskull backdrop...oh, it still appeared in mostly every episode and was always shown whenever Adam changed into He-Man...but there weren't that many stories about Skeletor and his warriors attempting to take it over. In Season One, for example, the first several episodes were centered specifically around the take-over or destruction of Castle Grayskull while further episodes always had some sort of Grayskull-referenced plot point. In Season Two the Evil Warriors apparently had moved on...even though there were a few episodes in Season Two that felt like a Season One episode, if you know what I mean!

Since the Castle wasn't used as a major part of the story-lines in the Season Two episodes that meant that the Sorceress appeared infrequently. Notable exceptions were the episodes "Teela's Triumph" on Disc 5 where the Sorceress (Teela's biological mother) spent much of the episode in her falcon form, Zoar, trapped in another dimension. Teela, unaware of who her biological mother is, awkwardly becomes the Sorceress at the request of the Spirit of Castle Grayskull, although Teela wonders why she was picked out of the hundreds of other women on Eternia.

In "The Origin of the Sorceress" on Disc 1 we see the story of how Teela'na (the true name of the Sorceress) becomes the keeper of the castle. In that episode we also see the Horde as invaders of Eternia...which ultimately leads to Teela'na becoming the Sorceress. The Horde, whose members wear a red bat logo on their chests, become more prominent in the He-Man spin-off cartoon, She-Ra. Interestingly, though, the Sorceress doesn't refer to them as The Horde in this episode...she simply refers to them as "an invading army" even though fans of the series will no doubt make the connection to The Horde.

There are comical moments in almost all of the episodes...particularly from Orko (his magical mayhem often backfires directly at Man-at-Arms) but often the humor comes from Skeletor and his warriors. Beast Man, for starters, in most episodes is portrayed as a dumb sycophant. There are a few where he's written as an actual sinister villain. Skeletor has his share of comical expressions. Beast Man is often called Beastie or Fur-Face by Skeletor. In the "Energy Beast" episode Skeletor not only delivers a line referencing the radio series, The Shadow, but he also borrows heavily from Edgar Allan Poe when calling for a spy that he sent to eavesdrop at Castle Grayskull. In other episodes Skeletor talks directly to the audience...often complaining about his warrior's collective ineptitude. The cartoon's complete name is He-Man and the Masters of the Universe but I refer to it simply as He-Man. In internet lingo the series is known as MOTU (the obvious acronym for Masters of the Universe).

The series used a relatively small voice cast and so you're going to have quite a few secondary and one-shot characters that pop up who sound the same. John Erwin, the guy who voiced Adam/He-Man can also be heard in numerous other roles. A lot of the Kings from other kingdoms on Eternia and softer-speaking characters were voiced by Erwin. His main roles were He-Man/Adam, Ram Man, Squinch (a Widget), Beast Man, Whiplash, and Webstor. Linda Gary did 99% of all the female characters: Queen Marlena, Teela, The Sorceress, Evil Lyn, Shokoti, and other female roles that appeared. Alan Oppenheimer's main characters were Cringer/Battle Cat, Man-at-Arms, Melaktha, Skeletor, and Mer-Man. Like John Erwin and Linda Gary, Oppenheimer did a lot of secondary characters as well. Erika Scheimer, the daughter of the program's producer, Lou Scheimer, often did female roles that sounded like teenagers or younger women. She didn't have a recurring character on He-Man. Lou Scheimer provided the voices for almost everyone else not mentioned: Orko, Montork, Stratos, Fisto, Man-E-Faces, King Randor, Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops, Two-Bad, and others.

I'm more into comical cartoons, which will become crystal clear if any of you've seen any of my other cartoon reviews, but He-Man and a couple of others from the same early/mid '80s time period will continue to be favorites of mine.

My picks from Season Two as the stand-out episodes:

1. The Origin of the Sorceress
2. Visitors From Earth
3. Day of the Machines
4. The Energy Beast
5. Teela's Triumph
6. The Time Wheel
7. Search for the Past
8. Here, There, Skeletor's Everywhere
9. The Rainbow Warrior
10. Orko's Return
11. The Island of Fear
12. To Save Skeletor
13. Capture the Comet Keeper
14. Monster on the Mountain
15. Into the Abyss
16. The Problem With Power
17. The Great Books Mystery
18. The Shadow of Skeletor
19. The Gamesman
20. Battlecat

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