Critical Role Legend of Vox Machina

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

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It's really, truly impressive. For a cartoon, for a TV show, for a D&D product.
I wouldn't say so myself, on any of those counts except the last.

10 or 15 years ago I would have, but today? In 2022? When we've had decades of great cartoons with partial or primary focuses on an adult audience. As a TV show, so far it's pretty much "okay".

I think the main merits it possesses over most fantasy cartoons are:

1) An ensemble cast, rather than the slightly-annoying tendency to desperately have 1-3 "heroes" (often 1 hero and 2 sub-heroes) that is common in fantasy cartoons. This also gives it a lot more "long-term" potential than most shows, I think, as people could drift in and out of the "main cast", and you don't have to keep trying to fish up stories for the same played-out character.

2) Visual design, which, whilst not astonishing or anything, and a bit derivative/generic, is at least a bit more bold than most stuff. It's not something extremely impressive like Arcane, but it's good.

3) It's D&D, innit. I was slightly annoyed about how they did the Halfling Cleric's powers, but otherwise it seemed pretty good. I'm also enjoying the complete lack of a Wizard or Sorcerer, because it's way too easy for characters like that to become the focus of things, or the "go to" guy (I'm sure this will change eventually).

4) Whilst it's quite trope-y/predictable in certain ways, they're not quite the same ways as most cartoons or fantasy TV shows, so at least it's not just "more of the same".

The biggest problem it has is that it seems a bit try-hard re: being "adult" and thus fails to be "cool". I know some nerds actively enjoy this sort of over-the-top, performative, "adult-ness", in part I think because it's actually kind of safer and less demanding than the alternative, but it can get pretty old pretty fast unless it's balanced out. There have been shows which started out being try-hard about this stuff and managed to actually find a better approach eventually though, hopefully this will do the same.

The secondary and much lesser problem is that some of the characters have pretty weak motivations for their actions and/or reasons to be there (chopping off the guy's hand at the start seemed like pure murderhobo'ing, for example, and didn't seem to fit with the generally fairly nice-but-dim personality the character has, nor did the lack of reaction from the others seem to fit - you'd have expected the Druid or Cleric to be slightly appalled at least). I mean, okay, it's D&D, that's par for the course, but it seems a bit more obvious in a TV show. Hopefully this too will improve over time.

Worth noting I don't watch the actual show and know very little about it except everyone involved seems pretty cool.

Right now I'd give it like a 7/10 and I feel that's being slightly generous. But it's pretty watchable and I will certainly watch all 24 episodes at the current rate.

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