Thoughts on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Yep, the original cartoon. A while ago I purchased a big He-Man collection, featuring the entire original series, the “best” of “The New Adventures of He-Man”, and the entire 2002 series. I had, of course, watched at least the original series and the 2002 series the first time, but that was a few years ago so I decided to watch all of them again and see how they held up.

It’s actually amazing how well the original series has held up.

The thing about the series is that it has what I recall someone commenting somewhere at Shamus Young’s site saying was generally true about the 80s: while it was odd and quirky, it was just so damn sincere about it that it was endearing. While sometimes the plots and even the overarching premise were very, very odd, the series for the most part took that and itself seriously, and yet not too seriously. They mixed in a lot of humour, even from Skeletor himself, which is what made him such a good villain, with the ability to be utterly menacing and yet utterly goofy at times as well. One of my favourite gags was when Evil-Lyn and Webstor stole some critical artifact without Skeletor’s knowledge, but he had seen them bring the thing into Snake Mountain right before He-Man shows up demanding it. He turns back from the window and asks them if that was what He-Men was asking for, they confirmed that it was, and he replies to He-Man “Sorry, haven’t seen it!”.

And the plots did work a lot of the time, even if they weren’t particularly complex. At the end, they dragged because there was only so much you could do with that premise, and some of them — especially in the later seasons — were just plain stupid, but for a half-hour children’s cartoon show they worked really well to provide light entertainment. Which is really all you could expect or want from a show like that.

The characters also worked. Stratos seemed to be the butt-monkey most of the time, but for the most part the characters — including the Attack Trac — were generally quirky but fit their roles well, and most of them even got some time in the limelight. This also included Skeletor’s minions, although by the end they were pretty much just a joke, except for Evil-Lyn, whom I really did like, especially as she allowed for a power struggle behind the scenes between her and Skeletor while making it clear why she would still work with him and he’d keep her around: they both needed each others’ abilities too often to ditch each other. Evil-Lyn also had a bit of a rivalry with Teela, but they both respected each other from the times that they had to work together to get things through. Teela herself is strong without being (too) annoying, which is more than a lot of modern strong heroines can achieve.

People often laugh about the terrible animation of the show, but I didn’t see that as a problem. Yes, the animation was primitive, but when the direction was good things were set up that the action didn’t need complex animation. Things were repeated from show to show and even in-show, but in ways that made sense and so didn’t detract from the action. It was rare that I noticed the animation failures, and most of those were, again, in the later seasons. In the early seasons, things flowed so much that the animation seemed “natural”, even though, again, it was primitive.

Ultimately, the original series was, for the most part, just plain fun. Not over-complicated, and not generally overly preachy, even in the ending “So now you know” sequences. It had some decent characterization and character development — the big one being Teela being the Sorceress’ daughter — but all of that tended to be in service to the show and the fun. Again, while at times it was idiotic in general that only lasted for a couple of episodes before it got back to being fun again. This is definitely a series that I’d watch again.

2 Responses to “Thoughts on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”

  1. Thoughts on “She-Ra: Princess of Power” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] as a follow-up to watching the three He-Man series, I sat down to watch “She-Ra: Princess of Power”, to remind myself that […]

  2. Thoughts on “Star Trek: The Animated Series” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] was a Filmation work, and while it isn’t quite up to the standards of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” it still retains its ability to have fairly poor animation that you don’t notice most of the […]

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