There is a terrible misconception in the US that cartoons are for kids. Oh sure, now we’re finally learning that that’s not true (thanks anime!) but still, it’s sad that so many adults turn off the TV when an animated character comes on. I’ve watched my share of ‘kids’ shows, and there are some really great American cartoons out there! Granted, there are twice as many mind-rotting, moral-degrading, poorly-drawn space fillers than there are good shows, but it doesn’t mean that American cartoons are all that bad. If you like anime, consider checking out some of these shows.
Gargoyles: 90s children will remember this absolute gem. I think it really has to be one of the best cartoons ever made and everyone I’ve met who’s seen it agrees. It’s a story that combines both ancient magic with modern day (oky, 90s) technology in a sci-fi magical mash-up that can compete with any anime. The story centers around Goliath, the wise and powerful leader of the Gargoyels, and Elisa Maza, the street-smart lady detective who is one of the few human friends they have. I would love to write an entire post on the series but there is just too much, I suggest you check out the link in the name to the wikipedia article.
Why it’s the best: with 78 episodes, a complex dramatic plot, deep character arcs, serious situations and the enticing mix of Shakespeare meets Star Trek, Gargoyles has long been controversial as it’s qualifications as a child’s show, but has been a cult classic anyway. And ok, so the animation may be a bit outdated compared to today’s glossy digital animation, but in my openion it can still stand it’s own against any anime.
Avatar: The Last Air Bender: In my opinion this is one of the few things Nickelodeon has put out that’s actually any good, and what’s more is it’s amazingly good. Heavily influenced by anime, this series is lighter than Gargoyles yet has a very good, continuous plot that only thickens as the show goes on. It’s funny as heck in many places and has some really heartwarming moments. The characters are extremely likable and human which is one of the show’s great charms. Based in a mystical world where ‘benders’ can control one of the four elements, it has a very oriental feel that will make many anime lovers feel right at home.
Why it’s the best: 61 episodes, fantastic comedy, a well done romance (that actually has a conclusion!), an epic end battle and intricately designed world make this show one to put on your must-watch list.
Toad Patrol: With the air similar to Watership Down (gahh, that was an awful movie to show little kids, wtheck were our parents thinking?) this show was marketed towards little kids but found a niche with many young adults due to the strong storyline, empathetic characters, occasional dark undertones and solid, connecting plot that made each season seem more like a long movie than individual shows. It seems silly at first – little ‘toadlets’ looking for the magical ‘toad haven’ which they have to find before the ‘fairy ring’ portal closes and they turn into toadstools. Add in the fact that the toadlets are all orange (yeah, that’s the color I think of when I think of toads) and the only adult toad encountered is called Mistle Toad, and well yeah I thought it was silly when I first saw it. But after the first episode I was hooked, and this is one seriously underrated show to check out.
Why it’s the best: unknown and underrated with 26 episodes under it’s belt that are more like two long movies, it’s a shorter series that has a light magical overtone with plenty of fuzzy, scary, and funny moments. There’s even a little bit of romance! It has a complicated plot and you soon find yourself rooting for the little toadlets to make their way home, no matter what your age.
I have several more shows I’d like to share, but this post is getting a bit long so they’ll have to wait ;)