“The New Adventures of He-Man” Review

naofhmHe-Man was a large part of my childhood. Any child, especially if you were a boy, during the 80s knew of He-Man.

There was the original series that first aired in 1982 and ran for two seasons. The show and toyline were one of the most successful children’s cartoons and toylines in history.

Even several years after the conclusion of the show, re-runs could be found.

In 1989, The New Adventures of He-Man (New Adventures the rest of the article) hit television. It is a pseudo-sequel to the original cartoon.

The premise of the show is that, in the future, a planet, called Primus, is under attack from a powerful race of mutants desperately wanting to take over the planet and to eventually rule the Tri-Solar galaxy. The Primans send out for a hero in the past. Hydron and Flipshot discover He-Man, who is locked in combat with Skeletor. In an attempt to bring He-Man to the future, they accidentally bring Skeletor along as well. Once on Primus, He-Man sides with the Primans and Skeletor sides with the mutants. The show continues a 65 episode series of the Primans and mutants locked in combat over the fate of Primus and the Tri-Solar galaxy.

It’s strange that I missed this show when it was on T.V. in ’89 and ’90 as I was five and six years of age; prime age for cartoon watching. Not to mention I owned three toys from this particular line including the He-Man Power Sword–a toy that I wanted really badly for Christmas in 1990 and got it that Christmas. Every other gift I got that Christmas paled in comparison to that Power Sword.

On top of that, I was, and still am, a huge He-Man fan. I am surprised I didn’t bother to seek out the possibility of there being a cartoon on television.

Yesterday, I completed the series. I had been binge-watching it the last 3-4 weeks while taking care of my son. I watched it on my two volume DVD set I purchased back in 2006 when the first of the two volumes was released. In the spring of 2010, I had attempted to sit down and watch the series for the first time since purchasing it. I made it through one and a half discs before packing it up for a while.

I’m not going to lie, out of the three incarnations of He-Man in cartoon form, I was weary of entering this one. It mainly had to do with the mediocre feedback the show had received from other He-Man fans I had read online over the years. I knew the show was different. Anyone who knew of the toyline and/or saw a picture from the show could immediately see it was different.

When I watched the first few episodes, it was difficult to get adjusted to this new world in which He-Man inhabited. I’m so used to a particular storyline along with gobs of sword and sorcery. New Adventures is more technologically driven in its premises. At first, I really didn’t know what to make of it.

However, as I went through the series, I began to enjoy it immensely. I loved the animation, which is in the anime style as many Japanese animators were working on the show at the time. It was more violent and less strict in tone than the original series. I loved the tweaks made to He-Man’s and Skeletor’s characters. Skeletor, in particular, was more Jack Nicholson’s Joker in personality and I thoroughly enjoyed that. (Believe me when I say that I made that connection before watching any of the special features that mentioned that same connection.) Skeletor did come off as more maniacal, intelligent, and manipulative. I felt this Skeletor was certainly more threatening than the Skeletor of the original series that seemed to turn tail when the tide of battle was beginning to go against him.

The new cast of characters is really fun, especially the mutants. While many of them play the stereotypical goons in many respects, I felt that they were more entertaining to watch than He-Man’s “sidekicks.” The heroes aren’t terrible, just more confined to being the standard goodie-too-shoes type. The scientists were the only ones that brought some sort of relief to the heroes side on a consistent basis.

The storylines provided a bit more complexity on occasion. It was great to see a show that didn’t think its audience was stupid even though some episodes were standard fare. The story is, for the most part, ongoing even though many of the episodes have self-contained stories. There are a handful of episodes that go into multi-part episodes. There was one that, if I remember correctly, was a five-parter in about the middle of the series where the mutants really had things going for themselves. They had He-Man on the run and were beginning to run some things on Primus. It was a very interesting storyline that is probably the best in the series.

While the animation was great overall, there were the rare occasions, especially in two of the final six episodes, where it got really sloppy. There were details missing in those two episodes and, one in particular, had Skeletor moving to a different part in the scene but, when it cut back to the heroes, he was standing there beside them. For whatever reason, a lot of things were overlooked in those two episodes. The vast majority of the episodes, however, had stellar animation where said mistakes were not made.

The conclusion of the series was middle-of-the-road. We get one final battle between Skeletor and He-Man, but the way it actually ends was cliched. Nevertheless, I wish, too, that they had shown He-Man going back to Eternia. Instead, the last we see of him is him high-fiving his fellow Priman warriors. But maybe he wasn’t supposed to return to Eternia?

Like most kids cartoons, certain concepts and plot holes are made simple and/or are left out. I don’t have too much of a problem with this as I know who the target audience is, but, as an adult who can catch these things easier, I would have liked to know more about He-Man’s fate after the mutants were defeated. It’s not a huge deal, but it would have been neat to get some further explanations.

In the end, The New Adventures of He-Man is a cartoon I wished I would have seen in my childhood. I think I would have loved it. It is a show that has better animation, battles, and stories than we got in the original. Not that the original was terrible. Far from it. It was a great show that I love dearly. In fact, I’m going through that entire series now. But The New Adventures of He-Man is a bit more complex in its stories for the most part. It brought more action and an ongoing story. Why this series is considered inferior by other fans is beyond me. I get that it is so different from the original that it really seems “out of place,” but it did so many things better than that original show and paid the occasional homage to it.

It’s a fun series that deserves a ton of respect. I was sad when it came to a close and was wanting more. I hope more He-Fans check this series out and give it a shot.

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