Hey, everyone, your friendly neighbourhood Sunny Fox speaking... so I thought I'd start a new series on my blog... Cartoon Show Classics. This will basically be an exploration of the cartoon shows I grew up watching, delving into setting, characters, story lines, etc and why I feel they were awesome, while still being aware of their faults (every show has them, after all). While I may occasionally delve into the creators / context in which they were created, this really is not supposed to be the Wikipedia Lite version of these shows, but more my own opinions and feelings about them. While definitely being beasts of different colour, please don't be surprised if one or two anime manage to sneak in with the more western style of cartoons. It will take me a while to ramp up, and the release schedule may be a bit all ova da place, but I hope you like it. First up, the nearest and dearest to my heart: the amazing world of ReBoot. (That's the name of the show, it's not a reboot of anything, those pretty much always suck. Anyhoo...)
I come from the Net… through systems, peoples and cities… to this place… Mainframe! My format: Guardian. “To Mend and Defend.” To defend my new-found friends; their hopes and dreams. To defend them from their enemies…
<<Music and Clips from the current season>>
They say the User lives outside the Net, and inputs Games for pleasure. No one knows for sure… but I intend to find out… ReBoot!
The Opening Narration by Bob – For the first two seasons, anyhow…
The Setting: Mainframe and the Net
Did you ever wonder if the characters in your favourite game had their own sentience? Their own lives, their own experiences, beyond just what happens in the game itself…? Well, that’s pretty much what ReBoot is about – the world inside your computer, where the games you input for pleasure are a life-and-nullification reality for its inhabitants. Set inside a computer called Mainframe, the series deals with the adventures and escapades of the inhabitants of the computer, visualized as a modern city with skyscrapers, parks, office buildings and restaurants, floating in an infinite sea of energy. The people of this world are divided into sprites, who are more human looking, and the decidedly less so binomes. Mainframe itself is merely one System within the broader world of The Net. No prizes for guessing what that represents. Our main character, Bob, comes from a more advanced System merely referred to as the Super-Computer, and is frequently faced with the reality that Mainframe is decidedly less sleek and sophisticated than what he is used to. (Think of it as Ponyville vs Canterlot.)
One of the main conceits of the series is that Mainframe at large is aware that something called the User (aka you and I) exists, but is so much greater than and removed from their current reality so as to seem positively Lovecraftian in nature. What is certain, though, is that from time to time, the User sends Game Cubes to the city. Any part of the city, as well as those who live there, that end up inside the Cube are trapped in the Game and forced to battle the User (or more specifically, an avatar controlled by the User) for their very existence. If they lose, the section of the city where the Game Cube sits will be destroyed, and all the inhabitants will become Nulls, mindless slug-like creatures with very little semblance of who they once were.
What keeps this from being straight up horror is that there is something the Mainframers can do when trapped inside a Game. By double tapping their icon (a badge-like thing that contains their Personal ID – long story, will explain more later…) and intoning “By the power of Grayskull!”, I mean “ReBoot!”, the Mainframer's appearance is altered and they can access information and equipment from the Game Cube itself, putting them on a more even footing with the User. So, if you ever were on the verge of winning a game, but then the computer “cheated” and got the best of you… well, now you know why!
Apart from the User and the Game Cubes, the world of Mainframe presents many challenges and dangers for our heroes to overcome. These include (of course) our villains, but there are also tears (pronounced like tear in paper, not as in crying), glitches in their world that appear as shining orbs of light, radiating enough energy to wreck a room. Guardians, such as Bob, can either repair tears, or harness the energy to create portals to other Systems. (This is pretty much explained all within the first episode, so no spoiler warning for you.) And there are a few more surprises to be had, too.
As the series progresses, it moves from being very episodic in nature, with occasional double episodes, to having long continual story arcs, as the characters change and develop… sometimes so much as to be virtually unrecognizable… but that is a story for another time. For now, let me introduce you to our cast:
Bob, a.k.a. Guardian 452
Our hero and protagonist (plus opening narrator) Bob arrives in Mainframe just prior to the events of the first episode. Bob is a Guardian, basically an elite kind of police officer. The two main facets of the Guardian Code (To Mend and Defend) pretty much sum up his two main tasks within Mainframe… to fix tears and to defend the general population from the actions of viruses (not viruses as in it-that-shall-not-be-named - here viruses are humanoid characters, like sprites.) His companion Key Tool (unique to Guardians) is named Glitch, a Do-Anything Robot that sits on his wrist and does most of his work for him (you’ll see what I mean). Bob is known for being very intelligent in a lateral-thinking, flies-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of way. He’s not big on planning, but generally astute enough to handle whatever comes his way so as to seem like he had it in control the whole time. This is pretty much the opposite of the way that Dot (described below) does things, so it’s a source of much of the Belligerent portion of the Belligerent Sexual Tension between the two in the earlier parts of the series.
Despite the opening narration, Bob never really does attempt to learn the truth about what the User is, possibly because it's literally impossible for him to do so. You can't casually call up Cthulu and ask him if he exists, now can you?
Dot Matrix (named after an old type of printer) is an entrepreneur and business owner of (eventually) most of Mainframe, although her main business is Dot’s Diner, a popular fast food joint and one of the most frequently visited locales. An intelligent, no-nonsense kind of person, she likes to have everything planned down to the fine details, to a point where it can become unhealthy (a focus of some episodes). She does through planning and foresight what Bob does with quick wit and athleticism. Although when called upon to do so, Dot has shown a few times that she is force to be reckoned with, Action Girling it up with the best fiction has to offer. Underestimate her at your peril. (Oh, and her voice actor, Kathleen Barr also voiced Trixie - so if you want to hear her as an actually enjoyable character, definitely watch ReBoot! Hmm? What's that? No, I will not stop taking potshots at Trixie! Silly rabbit.)
For the first two seasons, Enzo fills the tagalong kid archetype. Dot’s little brother, he is wide-eyed and idealistic, and really looks up to Bob, frequently leaping onto him to knock him over and sit on his chest while babbling a-mile-a-minute about the latest events and aspiring to be a Guardian. Despite being prone to making mistakes and looking before he leaps (he is a kid, after all), Enzo is at heart a good sprite who wants to help his sister and Bob keep Mainframe safe. He is also lonely due to having few other sprites his own age to play with. He does have a companion of sorts, though.
Why do I hear "Back in Black" playing in my head? Oh, well...
Frisket is a large gold and metallic red dog that, while feral, has adopted Enzo and generally hangs around him when not off on his own. (He also has an engine under his nose – just thought you might like to know that.) Frisket is willing to defend Enzo to the death, but he really doesn’t like Bob, and will growl at him or chew up his stuff if given the chance. While he is unable to talk (although he clearly understands what others say to him) and is entirely canine in behaviour and mannerisms, he is in fact a sprite. He has a great sense of smell he can use to track others, and he is strong enough to catch a cannon-ball in mid-flight, as well as prevent an ABC, a kind of flying tank, from lifting off (until the tailgate breaks off, that is…) Despite his great qualities, he is not someone Enzo can relate to on an intellectual or emotional level. Enter…
A second season arrival, AndrAIa is a young game sprite, an artificially intelligent game character that Enzo meets and befriends in her introductory episode. Being a denizen of a game, AndrAIa is doomed to leave Mainframe when / if our heroes win… luckily, she thought to download a backup version of herself onto Enzo (specifically his icon), allowing her (or this version of her, at least) to exit the game and live within the “real world” of Mainframe. Since the game in which she originated was set in the ocean, her clothing and accessories have a Little Mermaid, under-da-sea kind of aesthetic. She also has scaled skin, gills and poisoned barbs for fingernails, but all in all, she’s a sweet and naïve girl who quickly attaches herself to Enzo, becoming his inseparable companion thereafter.
The binomes form the bulk of the population of Mainframe, and therefore serve as background characters, for the most part. Binomes, representing the zeroes and ones of binary machine language, come in two principal types. Zero binomes are basically balls with arms and legs and have two eyes, while One binomes are three stacks blocks, with a single eye and mouth on the top block, arms coming from their middle block, and legs attached to their lower block. Both types of binomes can come in both genders, and there really is not much to distinguish one from the other – except in certain cases, such as…
The Crimson Binome aka Captain Capacitor aka Gavin
A software pirate (which in this world means “pirate” with all the trappings thereof), Captain Capacitor is the one binome leader of his ragtag crew of rapscallions and Captain of the “Saucy Mare”. After initially being introduced raiding Mainframe and stealing things, he eventually becomes a useful ally.
Mr. Christopher (See image above)
Captain Capacitor’s first mate, Mr. Christopher is rather timid, and is always keeping a running tally of potential profit vs. damages/downtime/resource management.
An Amazonian one binome, Princess Bula is taller than most sprites, and bulkier, to boot. She speaks with an exaggerated slow and simple voice, but is physically a match for even Bob. She is also not really a princess, but no one is brave enough to tell her different. (Oh, and Kathleen Barr voices her too… it’s probably why she talks the way she does, so it’s not so obvious it’s the same person.)
Perfectly piratical pirates, they’re all about swilling grog and leaping to trim the main mast when shouted at. A number of them get names over the series, but all in all, they’re pretty much the same character.
One might expect that in a digital world viruses would be the villains, and indeed they are. The first villain we are introduced to is Megabyte, voiced with delightfully elegant, yet still palpable malice by the late, great Tony Jay. Megabyte is Faux Affably Evil to the nth degree. He is well-spoken and largely Large and In Charge, presenting the façade of a gentlemanly Mafia don. Scratch the surface just a bit too much, though, and he can transform into a rampaging beast who will roar and claw his way through his foes with either spikes that he can grow from the backs of his hands ala Wolverine, or just his elongated finger nails, ala Lady Death-strike. Not only superspritely strong (he can pick up and shake this world’s version of a tank like a toy), fast (he ran down the tank in the first place) and endurable (nothing he is subjected to even shows him down for long), as well as incredibly intelligent in his own right, he also has a veritable army of binomes and military vehicles that he has corrupted into his service. Megabyte is the driving force of much of the conflict throughout the entire series… just as a good villain should be.
Hack and Slash
Megabytes Elite Enforcers… for a certain value of “elite”, at any rate. Your typical Dumb Muscle duo, Hack and Slash are a team of a red and blue sprite that look like top heavy robots with ball bearings for feet. While also being extremely strong, they tend to ruin whatever plan Megabyte has going due to their incompetence and lack of intelligence. It isn’t really until later seasons that they exhibit any real differences in behaviour. Slash (blue) is voiced by Garry Chalk (i.e Optimus Primal) and Hack (red) by Scott McNeil (i.e Rat-trap). While they fear and obey Megabyte, they are by no means as evil as he is, and eventually start exhibiting a kind inner nature (especially Slash).
Where Megabyte represents the far extreme of Order, Hexadecimal is his polar opposite, representing Chaos. Her powers are varied and fairly reminiscent of Scarlet Witch from the Marvel franchise. She can levitate at will, use telekinesis and create and launch gigantic blasts of red energy. She also shows an ability to control Nulls to a degree. Her power is often described as “transfinite” within the show, which pretty much means she can pack more of a punch than any other being, while still being limited. Her main feature is her face… or perhaps, lack of one. She wears a Tragedy/Comedy type mask that is static, her changes in expression for the most part taking place between scenes, or in jump cuts. If ever “shown” on screen, the actual transition is hidden by the movement of her arm or hand, usually with a subtle "whoosh" audio cue. The expressions she shows range from just slightly Uncanny Valley to utterly Nightmarish (just see her pictures above). She is simply Mane-iac levels of bonkers, which is usually why she doesn’t just wreck the show, either losing interest/focus or being manipulated into undoing her own works. She also has a pretty obvious crush on Bob, which may or may not be a plot point in any given episode. Her companion / familiar is Scuzzy, a combination of pet cat and looking glass. (Pictured below)
A so-called Super-Virus introduced during the events of Season 2/3, but unseen until Season 4. To go into too much detail would be to spoil a lot of the series, but she is extremely powerful, able to brainwash almost anyone into serving her.
The de facto leader of the system (its Command Dot Com), Phong has great wisdom and a deep understanding of the computer world, which he will bestow upon anyone… who can beat him at Pong, his favourite game. Although this does become less of an issue as the series progresses. Perhaps because Bob totally crushes him every time we see the two play. His two favourite phrases appear to be “Oh, dear…” and “This is not the Super-Computer, Bob”. He plays a sort of Confucian mentor, often making cryptic statements and calling sprites who are not his children “my son” and “my daughter”. He also looks more like whatever ET is than a regular humanoid sprite, but he is still one of the biggest forces for Good in the series.
Mike the TV
While he ostensibly belongs to Bob, who really, really regrets losing the remote, Mike is a sentient, animate TV with legs. He is frequently loud and annoying, prone to using his screen/face to show infomercials such as “Bucket ‘o Nothing for just 99.99.99!” He also moonlights as Mainframe’s main reporter / news announcer. Although he does get on the other characters’ nerves most of the time, he has in the past stepped up to the plate to assist our heroes. And sometimes he just flat out creates disasters, but we'll get to that.
An in-universe Hacker, Mouse is originally introduced as an antagonist hired by Megabyte to do covert acts of a nefarious nature. She also has a history with Bob, the two of them having clashed before in the Super-Computer, and Bob even managing to “arrest” her, despite her skills. After vanishing (literally) for a few episodes after her introduction, Mouse eventually returns and joins in as an anti-villain and eventually an ally of the protagonists. She also has a katana... And a ship... named "Ship"... look, nobody said she was creative in naming things. She also has a Southern drawl.
With all of our main (first season) cast introduced, I think this is a great stopping point. I’ll save a summary of the episodes for next time, and there will probably be some kind of wrap-up and general discussion before I most onto the next show I’d like to talk about. For some reason, I have a lot of time sitting at home these days, so expect those when they arrive.
So, have you watched ReBoot? If so, what are your thoughts on the series? If you didn't... might you like to now? Any other general comments of encouragement, condemnation or .... no, pretty much just the first one, please.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and of course, stay sunny side up!