Feeling down and isolated? Why not perk up with these five classic cartoon series?
With the current situation around the world, people are left with free time that normally would be a luxury. Knowing how to fill this newly-found free time can be hard, but a possible solution is going to the nostalgia well conjuring back good memories. I spent a large part of my early years watching cartoons and anime. Going back to these fond memories helps take the edge off and serve as a distraction from the outside world. So, with that being said, I figured a top 5 list of nostalgic cartoons might come in handy in time like this.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+)
While the 2003 series brings back fond memories, I don’t think it’s controversial to state the 2008 CGI version is more iconic. If you are a Star Wars fan, The Clone Wars is a great series apart from some questionable episodes from the Netflix season. Following Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Clone Wars paints an interesting biopic of Anakin that expands the Star Wars Universe during an interesting time within the timeline. The Clone Wars acts as a complementary piece filling in the holes in the often-maligned prequel trilogy.
The best part of the show is arguably the character development adding depth to established main characters and creating interesting new characters. Darth Maul was redeemed in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, going from a cool designed villain with little personality to a full-fledged character. Maul’s transformation starting with the Nightsisters and Savage truly gives a depth that was actualized when he bands together with the Death Watch and takes over Mandalore. Ahsoka Tano quickly steals the spotlight in the show and has a great amount of development reaching its peak with the finale of season 5.
The continuation of the series this year puts Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the top of the list. Star Wars Rebels is also another great series to watch that acts as a great continuation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Maul and Ahsoka make appearances in Rebels and act as important characters within the series. Canonizing elements from legends such as introducing Thrawn also are a great reason to watch Rebels.
Batman: The Animated Series (DC Universe)
The ‘90s were full of great superhero shows and picking between X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman: The Animated Series was not an easy choice. Ultimately, I chose Batman: The Animated Series because I believe it had more of an impact on the property moving forward. This series brings something new to a franchise that’s been around since the 30s. The introduction of Harley Quinn warrants this series to be on the list alone, but this also demonstrates how great the rogue gallery was adding in interesting villains.
Sticking out from the rest of the afternoon cartoon block with a darker tone makes the series remembered despite it being nearly 30 years old. Batman is a character that seems to either be too campy or too brooding with a darker tone being more prevalent in recent years. However, Batman: The Animated Series is well rounded and strikes the perfect tone between dark and light.
Being able to hold up better than the Batman films at the time is not that surprising as Burton’s and Schumacher’s films were suspect upon release. Batman Beyond is also another series that furthers the franchise taking Gotham into the future. Picking between Beyond and the Animated Series is a tough decision, so picking both is the best answer.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (Netflix)
The best story told on Nickelodeon is the Avatar: The Last Airbender. Avatar is arguably the best storytelling of any cartoon series period. The main concept of a child prodigy bringing balance to the world and saving it in the process has been done to death, but Avatar: The Last Airbender does it better than almost all series. Weaving philosophy and life lessons with comedy and decent action make this show one of the best animation series of all time.
Character progression of this series is one of the best parts of the show with most characters seeing growth. This is best seen with Prince Zuko where he was originally an angry outcast banished by his father but ultimately becomes happier and confident when he lets go of trying to appease his father. Uncle Iroh helping Zuko trough this transition proves to why many fans love Iroh as he is a supportive figure for a character that badly needed encouragement. Not even mentioning the main character Aang this far into the review shows how deep this show is. Aang ties Zuko with the most character progression through the series as he slowly becomes what the avatar should be ultimately uniting all the nations.
The Legend of Korra is a great supplemental piece to this series building off the ending of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Darkwing Duck (Disney+)
Leaving the house these days is enough to warrant saying the show’s catchphrase “Let’s Get Dangerous.” Action cartoons were a common occurrence in the 80s and 90s, but Darkwing Duck flipped the script and acted as a satire to the genre bringing a breath of fresh air.
The character dynamics are a good reason to watch the show as Darkwing is an ego-driven hero that is only a superhero for fame and glory. This is perfectly balanced by the addition of Gosalyn who has a heart of gold albeit her bouncing off the wall energy. Gosalyn’s presence in the series is best seen in the episode “Time and Punishment.” In this episode, Gosalyn goes to the future, Leaving Darkwing Duck behind. This goes as well as you’d expect. Darkwing Duck becomes a megalomaniac putting the entire city in martial law arresting people for the smallest of crimes.
The Disney Afternoon programming block is full of great shows like DuckTales, TaleSpin, and Rescue Rangers that could’ve easily replaced Darkwing Duck on the list. In the end, this comes down to personal preference and which cartoon I believe breaks the mold more. Darkwing Duck’s deconstruction of a genre beats out what essentially are cartoon versions of Indiana Jones.
As for a more adult-oriented cartoon, Futurama would be the best option to binge in my view. With 140 episodes, it allows for a manageable workload to watch in the newly found downtime. Shows like South Park and The Simpsons could easily be on the list, but a larger episode count and less consistency throughout seasons detract from their bingeworthiness.
The level of abnormality in the setting of Futurama is an easy distraction from any concerns people might be having in these uncertain times. With this show being canceled a few times before receiving a worthy finale many people might not have seen the full run. Going back and watching the series allows for finding forgotten gems following an interesting group of characters. Honestly, this show is worth watching for Bender alone, but the other characters create great character dynamics.
Though mostly a comedy this show knows how to shake up the mood from time to time. Emotional episodes in series include “Jurassic Bark” where Fry’s dog, Seymour, waits years for the return of his owner with the audience seeing the seasons pass without Seymour losing the will to see Fry once again. Futurama also looked retrospectively at the universe at large seen in “The Late Philip J. Fry” where the passage of time moves forward with Fry, Bender, and Professor Farnsworth overlooking the destruction and recreation of the universe. Eagle-eyed viewers know this episode briefly pops up in Matt Groening’s new show Disenchantment.
Let us know your thoughts. What nostalgic cartoon shows are you watching?
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