Top Five #024: Top Five Things We Are Too Old For, But Love Anyway

Top Five #028: Underrated Cartoon Shows

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

Cartoons come, and cartoons go, but what cartoons are so underrated that they must be talked about and shared for more to enjoy?


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  1. Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but my criteria for underrated is basically whether they crack anyone’s Top 10 when reminiscing on good cartoons:

    – The Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot (1999) – So Frank Miller and Geof Darrow got to make a cartoon out of their comic. This series is NASApunk (~70’s era steampunk-like approach) at its finest (barring, perhaps, The Middleman).

    – Men In Black: The Series (1997) – What was clearly a cash-in, in my opinion, vastly surpassed the original comic and film franchise. No wonder with creators like Darwyn Cooke and Greg Weisman as regular contributors. They took advantage of the hidden fantasy-world the rules of MIB provide and gave us a bit of everything from western themed episode, to time travel, to dealing with clones, to gladiatorial combat, to slasher tropes, etc.

    – Superman (1988) – This Ruby-Spears series aired on CBS and was caught in licensing limbo until it was recently re-released on DVD in 2009 by Warner. John Byrne’s “Man of Steel” had just come out in 1986 and “Superman IV: Quest for Peace” in ’87 so this cartoon series was an amalgam of the Bronze Era Superman with film trappings and hints of Byrne’s modernization. They weren’t great, but in many ways, they trapped the essential essence of Superman with a broader stroke than more narrow and rendered interpretations of the character. By contrast, the Family Album segments fairly nailed down Clark’s Smallville years more than any other adaptation (until the WB/CW’s “Smallville”) in saccharine, but digestible, glimpses. Despite the cheese, this seems the most convincing “Superman’s a good guy with a good upbringing who saves the day” series to me.

    – Superman: The Animated Series (1996) – Not so much underrated as routinely trumped by Batman and Justice League, but I don’t think Superman gets the credit it deserves for spawning the DCAU. Batman was incredible, but it was Superman that created a context that all the heroes could play together in. Superman is where the creators cut their teeth on more serial storytelling (B:TAS were more like individual cinematic experiences where S:TAS relied on on-going threads), guest appearances (which would evolve into the League), and modern science fiction. If you try to watch the first season of B:TAS and then Beyond or Unlimited, the experience is jarring, but from S:TAS you can go anywhere in the DCAU and feel at home.

    – Thundercats (2011) – This show is currently on hiatus and on track to be cancelled and it saddens me because this show is a fantasy epic (spoilers: scifi as well) with dynamic character designs, good action, an over arching plot, and loads of cool ideas (not to mention merch potential). Andrea Romano does the voice direction and casting, and the actors are all top notch with what they’re given. At the same time, I recognize there’s something off about the pacing or delivery that causes me to yawn most episodes, but given time I sure it would have found its footing and become something even more epic than the original (which, to me, doesn’t really hold up at all).

    That’s it for now…

  2. The Little Wizards, a Saturday morning cartoon (early morning!) for kids but surreal enough for adults. Get your sandwich on!

  3. Revenant Sorrow on

    1 Since we’re going with under ratted why no start out with an old personal favorite The Centurions. I came to know this show in a different way then I learned of any other cartoon. I actually received the toys as a hand me down from some cousin that outgrew them. We refereed to them as ‘the guys’ because we didn’t know the name. Then one day watching TV I saw Ace McCloud and Max Ray. I thought to my self hey these guys look familiar. Then Doc Terror (who’s name I find funny and stupid all at the same time) and knew for sure these were the same as the toys I got as a gift. We started to collect more of the toys which I still have to this day although some of the pieces have long since gone missing. The show had some awesome henchmen like the traumatizers and a bad ass villain side kick called hacker. It’s from the mid 1980’s so I can forgive the bad names and all. This show is really what launched my cartoon love affair.

    2 I loved the mighty morphin power rangers when it came out back in it’s hay day. Even more then that I loved the cartoon it out right ripped off of Voltron.
    Another show from the mid 1980’s. This was cool in that everyone had the same kind of animal. A team of lions that form up to become Voltron. Again it’s the 80’s so if you can make it past the horrible naming and the 80’s puns (which I can) then you get down to what the show is awesome for. A giant robot kicking the shit out of other things. Seriously I don’t think we have enough giant robots on TV today.

    3 Despite all of the horrid power up for 9 episodes so I can punch you into hell it’s self only for you to come back in 5 minuets and be 10x as strong so i have to power up for another 9 episodes. I really enjoyed and still do the entire Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT series. This was the show that I had to make sure I was home in time from school so that I never missed it. Even if I’ve seen the episode where GoKu dies (as if that only happens once) saving the planet from Raditz. I Have seen every episode of this series at least 5-10 times. To me the more powerful moments of the series always came from Gohan when he was just a boy. Those moments where he would tap into that sayin level power and even for a moment was strong enough to hurt freeza (even thought it was only he’s 2nd form). The horrible moments of the show where the bad guy goes oh you’re stronger then me well ha ha I’ve been hiding my super awesomeness. I never had a problem with because for me this show did it first.

    4 The series I loved most of all and has to go on any cartoon list is always Reboot. From the mid 90’s to till early 2000. This show had it all for me. You live inside a computer and the user which insistently is all of us is considered a bastard. I love that dynamic thought because the user is a bastard and you always root for the user to lose. This means that when you play a game and kill some AI you’re really killing a sprite possibly a Binome or even worse Mike the TV. It suffered from what a lot of shows in the 90’s trying to get their start had to contend with. Networks we’re looking for something different. The writes did a lot of done in one type of shows with quick little lessons and you can almost see the moment when the network said they liked where it was going and the writers felt safer to write 2-3 episodes arcs and larger as the series continued. Sadly this show was canceled before it was finished and I would really enjoy seeing someone step in to finish out where the series was dropped 10 years ago.

    5 Last but no least I would have to say Beast Wars. I love the transformers but what transformers suffers from is that there are so many episodes and TV networks didn’t always show them in order. Also the separate series were not considered to be a issue with showing different episodes. You could see an episode that had the mini bots that would make you super awesome then the next episode they were in search of discs and the mini bots were gone. What I like about beast wars was if you had a basic understanding of Transformers and even if you didn’t the show was easy to follow. I think the story only ran for 3 seasons before they went back to cybertron and continued the story as Beast Machines. Another Fun series that I would like to get my hands on someday. They had the similar write a bunch of done in one stories like reboot did until the network really liked the show and then the larger stories and arc’s brought Optimus Primal face to face with (spoilers) Optimus Prime.

    Anyway that’s my top 5

    • I loved the mighty morphin power rangers when it came out back in it’s hay day. Even more then that I loved the cartoon it out right ripped off of Voltron.

      Other way around. Power Rangers as a concept predates Voltron by several years in Japan…

  4. 5: Sealab 2021 – While Sealab 2021 was pretty popular while it was on the air, it seems to have quietly slipped off the radar–I don’t think they even play it any more on Adult Swim. Sad, because after The Venture Bros. it’s my all-time favorite animated show. Sadly the show was never the same after the death of Harry Goz and it limped to a slow death shortly afterwards.

    4: Transformers: Animated – This is one of the few Transformers series I can stand to watch besides the original. It was highly styled, but featured a number of callbacks to the original series; my favorite being Wreck-Gar voiced by Weird Al Yankovic (while the G1 character was voiced by Eric Idle, he was introduced in the original animated film in a sequence that had Weird Al Yankovik’s “Dare to Be Stupid” playing in the background). Don’t know why it was cancelled, though I got the impression it was pushed aside to make way to the more Bayformer-friendly Transformers: Prime.

    3: Star Trek: The Animated Series – I was actually only vaguely aware of this show until it recently became available on Netflix, Strangely I read a novelization of a few of the episodes years ago without even realizing it was related. With nearly the entire original cast returning, and with the flavor of the show being so similar to the live action series, it was like finding two seasons of TOS that I never had seen before, which was pretty sweet.

    2: A Pup Named Scooby-Doo – Most people don’t even remember this installment of the Scooby-Doo franchise, which featured the Gang as pre-teens and their early misadventures. Several of the characters were very different than their grown-up incarnations–Fred is an often-wrong conspiracy theorist who fingers their classmate Red Herring in nearly every case; Daphne is a vapid, self-centered heiress; Velma is a human computer who slowly pieces together all the clues until her exclamation of “Jinkies!” signals that she’s figured everything out. The show itself was quite a bit zanier than most of the earlier (and later) incarnations and nearly every monster of the week had its own 50’s music-inspired theme song. Runner up to this was the preceeding ’13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo’, which featured real ghosts and a truncated form of the gang that excluded Fred and Velma in exchange for a little Mexican boy named Flim-Flam and a Warlock called Vincent Van Ghoul voiced by Vincent Price. I am not making this up.

    1: Mighty Orbots – This was a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon during the era of Transformers, Gobots, and Voltron. I loved this series from the second I first saw it and got up excited every Saturday morning to watch it until it quietly disappeared, much to my dismay (it seems a lawsuit caused ABC to pull it off the air). It featured a young human scientist who created a group of six robots called the Orbots, each with their own powers and personalities. In times of trouble, though, the Orbots would join together to form the giant robot Mighty Orbots to protect the galaxy. The animation quality was much higher than most cartoons of the era, but I just knew it was pretty and featured awesome combining robots. Years later when I was finally able to watch parts of the series again on Youtube, I felt like a little kid again listening to the opening theme song (“Go, Mighty Orbots!”–the tune stayed in my head all those years, though I had the lyrics completely wrong).

  5. Just as a note, the Clone Wars series that Stephen mentioned in relation to Genndy Tartakovsky is not the current running Star Wars: The Clone Wars CGI cartoon. Star Wars: Clone Wars came out in 2003 and was a group of several 3 minute, and later 12-15 mintue, shorts that usually ran between shows on Cartoon Network. If you’ve not seen the series I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Samurai Jack.

  6. The original dubbed version of the Guyver
    Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.
    Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles
    Batman Beyond
    Battle Tech

    Honourable mentions, the New Thundercats and GI Joe Renegades, Phantom 2040, Samurai Jack and probably many more I can’t think of right now.

  7. My list:

    5. Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force GO!
    4. Sheep in the Big City
    3. Legion of Super-Heroes
    2. Static Shock
    1. The Critic

    For more details (because I’m long-winded) and some honorable mentions, I have a response post at my blog. And I totally agree with Matthew that Mission Hill is awesome, and I desperately wish that I had seen Symbionic Titan before CN buried it behind the shed.

  8. Boes/Bof le boeuf/Gera gera boos monogatari a really strange series about a cow managing a farm with his tuttle friend. Really funny, its based on a comics from the netherland.

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