Jan 30, 2014

[TV] Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light

The 1980's is celebrated for a variety of reasons - sometimes even the crazy, pattern-overloaded fashion of the time. But for those of us who grew up during this very colorful years, there will always be something about the cartoons of the period that will remain with us forever - usually in internet memes.

Most cartoons of the period were pretty much just half-hour commercials for their respective toylines. And when toy sales didn't pick up, shows got cancelled pretty quickly. But that doesn't necessarily mean these shows were quickly forgotten.

A great example of one such beloved show is Visionaries, which quite frankly was a cartoon that was way cooler than the toys that spawned it. The series featured an almost post-apocalyptic reality mixed in with some magical high fantasy. The toys relied on a single gimmick - hologram stickers. Otherwise, the figures were more boring that G.I. Joes or something. And yet I'll proudly admit that Visionaries made a heck of a lot more impact on my childhood than G.I. Joe ever did.

Synopsis: Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was an animated TV series created to promote the Hasbro toyline of the same name. It only lasted for a single season of 13 episodes.

On the world of Prysmos, all electronics on this technology-advanced world suddenly fail, leaving the society to collapse back into some sort of feudal structure. There were two notable groups that gathered during this dark time. The Spectral Knights did their best to uphold the peace and somehow reclaim the former glory of the lost age. In opposition to them were the Darkling Lords, a group of thieves and cutthroats who were determined to rule all of Prysmos.

Both groups are eventually invited by the wizard Merlynn. Those who manage to reach his sanctuary despite many different traps and obstacles are granted magical boons. The most basic benefit is that each of the Visionaries, whether Spectral Knight or Darkling Lord, were granted a magical tote animal. They could transform into this animal at will and thus gain any advantages from that form. Select individuals were granted magical power staffs which offered even greater powers when the proper poem-spell was chanted.

In my opinion, the toys failed since there was no actual way to transform the figure into their totem animal. All you could do was shift the figure in the light to see the alternate form of the Visionary on his chest That was it. Sure they had a few vehicles that helped flesh out the line, but it still wasn't enough to really sell the line.

The joys of this cartoon centered around the poem-spells, I feel. Sure, it was annoying that each spell could only be used maybe once per episode unless part of the story was returning to Merklynn in order to recharge the staffs. But few kids who watched the show could resist trying to memorize at least one spell, which made for some really fun play time.

Oh yeah, I totally ran around with my friends trying to recite various poem-spells as quickly as I could in order to defeat the my enemies. Admittedly that was a little tricky since I really had a thing for the Bearer of Knowledge. It was a pretty easy spell to memorize, but not particularly useful in combat.

The show had its mix of stories - many of them in search of focus. Most of the time the central plot involved a quest from Merklynn in exchange for the option to recharge power staffs in his mystical pool. More than anything else in the show, it was clear that Merklynn was a dick. And he had a lo of fun being a douche since he'd keep sending the Visionaries on all these weird missions. He didn't care if he was supporting the good guys or the bad guys. He just wanted to make sure there were magically-empowered individuals available to run errands for him.

And that last episode with the Sun Imps? Ugh, what a tragically stupid episode to end the series with.

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light may not have been all that successful as a toyline but it was certainly a show that forever remains vivid in my memory. And I have no regrets about that. The series as a whole gets 4 demonstrations of magical power out of a possible 5.

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