Some call them heroes. Others call them outlaws. They, however, would describe themselves as ordinary Joes. However, ordinary is far from what this group is. As this animated series starts, a group of soldiers called the Joes are blamed for a crime that they did not commit while on a spy mission. Forced to go on the run by their own government, the Joes vow to clear their name and bring down the diabolical industry known as Cobra, a malevolent force with its fingers in everything, from arms dealing to biological warfare. This series follows their journey down a path towards ultimate victory over the malicious Cobra Commander and his henchmen and possible redemption for themselves.
I’ve never been a fan of the G.I. Joe toys or the many animated television series that chronicled their adventures, so I was surprised at the depth of this particular series. The characters are all very well developed and each one is given a distinct personality, from Duke, the impulsive and cocky, but always loyal and courageous one, to Scarlett, the logical, feisty one, to Roadblock, the brawn (but not always the brains) of the bunch, to Tunnel Rat, the one who always has something to crack wise about. All of the series heroes are likable, though flawed, heroic to a fault, and selflessly serve their country and their countrymen.
One character is of particular interest: the mysterious and silent ninja Snake Eyes. Two episodes, “The Return of the Arashikage, Parts 1 & 2,” are devoted to him and definitely stand out as emotional high points of the series, with a lot of the best action scenes as well. Speaking of which, another thing that impresses in this series is the level of intelligence put into them. These are animated series, and thus primarily aimed at kids, but they never talk down to their audience. Each episode is written with exceptional wit as well as complexity and drama. There is a lot of violent action and some characters actually die, although there is never any blood shown. This is a series that has a lot of fun with its characters, but treats them seriously.
The animation is crisp and engaging, although at times it feels more like Japanese anime in style than American animation. This is a good thing for the most part, but it does mean that sometimes the backgrounds and action seem to be more ‘animated’ than the characters themselves. However, the characters are engaging enough that this is rarely noticeable. There is also a surprising amount of fantastical elements as well, with plenty of weird monsters and giant robots thrown in the mix, although it never feels like a stretch.
In conclusion, I can say that this series is a lot of fun, for both the young and the young at heart (although it may be too violent for the very young) and, as this two-disc set only contains the first half of the season, I greatly anticipate the second half and look forward to seeing how these ‘ordinary’ Joes prevail over evil.