The swords and stars of Conan the Adventurer

Just in time for all of the hype around the upcoming Conan film, Shout! Factory is releasing the first season of Conan the Adventurer on DVD.

It had been a very long time since I saw any of the series, so the nostalgia factor was extremely high. Much more so than similar series of the era, like He-Man, which get so over-memed on the internet, that it feels like they never stopped being a part of my life. It’s fully possible to come into Conan the Adventurer with a fresh outlook, and very little expectation or bias.

To be honest, the series doesn’t give a good start to it. The pilot and second episode do a good job of establishing the plot, but the dialog is overly corny, and the voice actors, and even the artists hadn’t gotten a hang of the characters quite yet.

It’s in the third episode when the show really starts to find its voice. The jokes get funnier, and the action starts to make more sense. I was actually surprised at how much sense it really makes.

The story is thus: Conan’s father made a bunch of weapons, including Conan’s sword, out of meteorite ore (star metal), and sold them around to the markets of the region.

An evil reptilian sorcerer, Wrath-Amon needs all of the star metal in order to call down his god to enslave the earth, so he wants Conan’s sword, of course, and Conan was going to give it to him too, right up until the sorcerer turned his family to living stone, which can only be cured by destroying the sorcerer and his magic black ring. So now Conan searches the earth for a way to defeat Wrath-Amon.

The show has a coherent plot-line with the characters adventuring to the next place on their list which may be able to aid them in their over-arching quest. Conan picks up and drops off team members from episode to episode as they are able to help out, and the variety of locations they visit vary widely. From time to time he happens upon a potential cure for his family, but always ends up saving his friends or helping some innocent escape from a dire fate, knowing that there will be a better way to save his parents someday.

Through his adventures, Conan actually develops, changing from a goofy kid into a – sometimes nightmarishly fierce – force for justice and freedom. He begins the series arrogant and selfish, and his friends and his trials teach him, slowly, that this is not the way of real men.

The supporting characters are interesting, and don’t overwhelm the show or draw away from Conan. The exception is the ‘talking animal’ character, Needle the baby phoenix, who is annoying and not particularly likeable. It’s easily understandable, however, since I think it was against the law in that era to have a cartoon show without an annoying talking animal character in the mix, even if your protagonists were already talking animals.

One thing not to expect here, however, is a hi-def showing. The show doesn’t seem to have been “remastered” or anything. The quality is no better than the original broadcast. Not that it’s poor quality, It’s just that for those spoiled on hi-def content who might be expecting the crisp lines and high contrast colors of modern cartoon shows when putting this DVD in, it’s a bit of a throwback. Like with the writing and directing, however, it does continue to get better as the series progresses, and soon one begins to forget that it was animated twenty years ago.

Over all, the two-DVD set is great for any fan of Conan or of this era of adventure story cartoons. It may not match up with the story for the upcoming film, but having a Conan the Adventurer marathon with your friends would be the perfect way to get ready for the upcoming Conan film, which comes out later this summer.

Conan the Adventurer Season 1 is out tomorrow from Shout! Media and Hasbro.