If you have ever been to Japan you might be familiar with a treat called “cream soda.” Unlike the American soft drink, this is more of an ice-cream float made with vanilla ice cream and bright green, melon flavored soda.
It’s a travesty that it isn’t more popular in the U.S. because what kid wouldn’t love a bright green ice cream soda? It doesn’t even taste like melon. The best way to describe the taste is green. It’s tooth-achingly sweet and every time I drink it, I can feel the sugar coursing through my veins.
Watching The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants is basically like chugging down several of these. It’ll bring you back to your childhood, though you’ll be left with the feeling that something is not quite the same. And that you don’t have the same tolerance for it as you did when you were a kid.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The flash animated series is based on the DreamWorks’ film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) which I reviewed earlier this year. There’s not a lot of continuity from the film to the series, and absolutely none to the original book series; the show is its own story.
Besides animation, the show has different producers, writers and voice actors than the movie. The show also relies more on potty-humor than the movie, which is definitely one of its weak points.
The series is formulaic to the point of parody much like Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.
There are a few events that can be counted on to happen in each episode: George and Harold are introduced in the same way by the narrator. Early in the episode, they’ll get into some kind of trouble and end producing a comic book. The villain they create for the comic book will inevitably show up in real life and then it’s up to Captain Underpants to save the day.
But there are a few overarching plot lines for the season, so there is continuity.
My favorite part of the show is how it incorporates the books’ “Flip-O-Rama.” Instead of using the same technique in every episode, each one does something different. My favorite ones are the claymation, Post-It Notes, memory game and the one where they “upload” the fight to Youtube but ads block out all the action.
It’s a great way keeping the spirit of the books, while allowing the animators and writers to express their creativity. It couldn’t have been easy to come up with a new style for each of the 13 episodes.
By far the best part about their formula is that once it’s established, it allows the show to play around with expectations. There are some plot-twists including a cliffhanger that sets the show up for another season, and possibly establishes the show’s main villain. I’m interested in seeing how it will play out.
The narration can be distracting, especially since some of the same things are repeated over and over again, taking up time that could be better used on establishing motivation, settings, or character. It works better in some episodes than others.
In the first season, there isn’t a main antagonist and no “end game” established. Principal Krupp and Melvin Sneedly are the only constant antagonists, the other villains are typically teachers or students who were accidentally transformed and then brought back to normal by the of the episode. Unfortunately, none of the villains were from the books and Professor Poopypants doesn’t even get mentioned.
I guess the established villains are reserved for the movies.
And because the series seemingly follows a different continuity than the movie, Enid the Lunch Lady is nowhere to be seen. This eliminates Mr. Krupp’s key character development from the movie and puts him back at square one. He’s also a more genuinely terrible person in the show; he doesn’t have much of a soft spot for George and Harold, and George and Harold don’t even feel bad for him.
I really enjoyed that aspect of the movie where Krupp’s insecurities were explored, and the boys try to help him. The show has none of that.
The show also adds Erica, a well-loved, hyper-competent Mary-Sue classmate of George and Harold’s. Somehow. She’s kind of like the Daria to their Beavis and Butthead, except the boys actually respect her and she them. I’m not her biggest fan.
It seems like they added her because they thought they needed a female character and went in the direction of making her hyper-competent to show they weren’t sexist.
They do try to address this in-universe when Erica complains that girls don’t like the Captain Underpants comics because there aren’t any strong female characters. The episode does a poor job of addressing the issue and there’s not a lot of pay-off. It would have been better if they just didn’t bring it up at all.
I do think she’ll play a larger role in future episodes and that she has a secret of her own. After all, she’s the only classmate who kept her memory after one of the time-travel incidents so there’s obviously more to her than meets the eye.
If I didn’t have the movie as point of comparison, I think I would have enjoyed the series more. It’s a solid cartoon. Some episodes were definitely stronger than others; the finale was definitely one of the best, if not the best episode of the season. The show is fun. It’s light. It’s silly. I just liked the movie more.
Obviously, as a 23 year-old woman, I’m not the target demographic. But is a seven-year-old boy going to like this show? Absolutely.
And it’s something I can imagine a lot of adults can enjoy as well.
Overall, The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants is a solid show and I’ll definitely watch another season.
And that’s the scoop!
Overall Score: 7/10
Rating: Y7 (appropriate for ages 7 and up)
Length: 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Producer: Todd Grimes
Developers: Peter Hastings, Mark Banker
Voice Actors: Nat Faxon, Ramone Hamilton, Jay Gragnan, Dayci Brookshire, Sean Astin