Cartoons, who doesn’t love them? Sure, the names may change and the animation may improve, but also all kids grow up with animation in their life. Much like music though, everyone assumes they lived in the golden age of animation, and the stuff that airs today is just junk. It’s really not much of a point to get into a discussion on which era shined the best and brightest.
What we can do however is look at some of these cartoons because let’s face it, we’re all still kids at heart here.
Double Dragon has an interesting personal history, and to be honest until I started writing this article I really had no idea which direction the series flowed. And by flow, I meant like most popular brands, Double Dragon crosses over to many mediums. Its a video game, its a movie, its a cartoon, and of course it has toys. Now, I know the movie comes last, but never really knew if the game was based on the cartoon or the cartoon on the game.
In hindsight that may seem a bit silly, but you have to realize 1)I was like 2 when the game came out and 2) Double Dragon really hasn’t been a popular brand in nearly 2 decades. So yeah, Double Dragon was originally a game which eventually turned into an animated series and finally a movie. We are scheduled to watch the movie sometime this year for 151 Proof Movies, but this article will focus on the animated series.
The animated series began airing in Sept of 1993, about 5 years after the release of the original game. The show starred brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee. The two boys were separated shortly after birth, and wouldn’t reconcile for almost 18 years.
This is where we begin the series in the first episode. We see that Billy Lee is given to Oldest Dragon (this is as best as I can find for a name for him) by his father who runs out in search of his other son, Jimmy. As far as I know, we never see their father again for the rest of the series, not even in the pilot.
Anyhow, the series then jump cuts to 18 years in the future. Billy Lee has been trained to become the next Dragon Master, and his teacher (Oldest Dragon) gives him the Dragon Sword before leaving the Dojo. It is heavily implied that the master is going off to find death, and we never do see him again in the first two episodes so it makes sense. Billy makes his presence known to the world when some event is being held up. This is also when we are introduced to Marian Martin, a police officer. The two meet, and we learn of some backstory about the “Code of the Dragon” and that is pretty much the moral guide the characters follow throughout the series so get accustomed to hearing about it.
More importantly, a shadowy figure sees the events as reported on by the news, and figures that this is the new Dragon Master. He remarks something like “Not him!” We cut again, and surprise surprise, Jimmy Lee happens to stumble into his brother’s dojo just hours after the Dragon Master is revealed. They reconcile and explain what’s been happening.
Not too shortly after becoming buddy buddy, Jimmy and Marian are kidnapped. Billy follows them, engages in battle with the shadowy figure who turns out to be the Shadow Master, who in turn is revealed to actually be Jimmy, who has been brainwashed by the real Shadow Master since birth.
Of course, Billy feels betrayed by this, but due to the Code of the Dragon (which I guess is more than just a code, seems binding) neither brother can bring harm to the other. There’s also the part about if one feels pain so does the other. Thus, the two of them can’t do battle and the episode ends.
I’ll get into the second part of the pilot/origin in a bit, but wanted to make some general notes. I realize that this cartoon is nearly 20 years old, but it animates so poorly even against some of its peers (I watch Batman: TAS religiously and that’s slightly older). Animation is one thing that always stand out to me in cartoons as it should, and when its stiff and lifeless it really takes you out of the experience. I just kept watching that in mind when cartoons wouldn’t move much and then like would move all at once (if that makes sense!) The animation isn’t fluid is what I think I’m trying to say.
The other thing is the voice work isn’t that great. Granted, not the biggest Double Dragon fan so its probably more in-line with the characters than I know, but for my personal taste it really does nothing.
Finally, the theme song/opening, which I hope to one day cover in Nostalgia with a Twist, is pretty catchy. Like most of the shows at the time, it does kind of harp on the name of the show and explains the plot. I’ve always been of two minds about that, I think its a great way to recap the show every episode, but I also feel like you’re treating your audience like they are idiots. Either way, the theme is catchy and upbeat enough for me to ignore that factor.
Back to the episodes! The second episode begins with Billy and Marian at the opening of some event (this town seems to do that!) and her lamenting that the Shadow Warriors haven’t attacked. Well, you know be careful what you ask for because of course they do attack. Stuff happens, and then we count to the Shadow Warriors in a Museum, and the reveal of the REAL Shadow Master, who turns 2 of the villains into part of a picture, and Jimmy is about to be given the same fate when he is given one last chance to retrieve the Dragon Sword.
They engage in battle once more, finally one of the kids who is too annoying which is why I haven’t mentioned, is used against Billy and he relinquishes control of the Dragon Sword, but it disappears. He is taken to the Shadow Master, who betrays Jimmy. The two brothers finally bond, and are able to reveal their true Dragon Master abilities, which is their chest glowing, their sword glowing and getting some funky dragon masks. And this was before Power Rangers or just around the same time.
Good triumphs over evil. Billy and Jimmy are now Dragon Masters or the Double Dragons, and Marian is in on their secret.
All in all, the first two episodes were interesting, but don’t offer enough of a hook for me to continue watching. Between the janky animation, and really a predictable format there’s nothing that makes this show special or age-less. It is on Netflix, but wouldn’t recommend checking it out.