DVD: Skyland Season1 Part1
Often when I sit down to review a DVD I’m already well aquatinted with the material: In the case of something like My Name is Earl or Stargate Atlantis, I’m sitting through episodes that I’ve already seen (Yes, I really do re-watch an entire season of a show before reviewing the DVD). However, this is less likely to be the case over the coming weeks, as I start to delve into some of the new titles in Madman’s catalogue: The first being the CG animated series, SKYLAND.
Set during the 23rd century — some time after an unexplained catastrophic event which left the Earth shattered into millions of (inhabitable) pieces — the series tells the story of seventeen year old Mahad and his twelve year old sister, Lena. The siblings are fugitives from an evil dictatorship, known as The Sphere, which rose to power by taking control of the human race’s most valuable commodity, water.
Mahad and Lena seek refuge amongst a group of ‘pirates’ after their mother allows herself to be taken prisoner by The Sphere’s troops (robot soilders known as Brigadiers) in a effort to ensure her children are able to successfully elude capture. During this confrontation with the Brigadiers it is revealed that the pair’s mother is a powerful Seijin (An evolved human who can absorb and manipulate energy from sunlight), and that she has been hiding from The Sphere for many years.
With Lena’s own Seijin powers growing rapidly, she and Mahad — with the help of their new found friends — being to search for their mother. However the siblings soon learn that their family has greater ties to the pirate rebellion than they could have ever imagined.
Developed primarily in France for the likes of ABC (Australia) and the NickToons Network (USA), Skyland is clearly aimed at a younger audience. It’s safe to say though, that if you enjoy the likes of Avatar: Last of the Air Benders then you’re going to get into Skyland.
As with a lot of shows which are aimed at a younger audience, some of the character development is a little lacking. Characters tend to act without any definable logic or with some kind of baffling motivation which leaves you scratching your head. But with a series like this — where people live on floating chunks of Earth which inexplicably hang in a breathable atmosphere — you’re already so comfortable in your seat on the ‘suspension of disbelief’ bus that you tend to just shrug your shoulders and roll with it, even if Mahad does sometimes come across like a kid desperate for a guest spot on The Officer Riviera Show.
Conceptually, Skyland borrows liberally from established archetypes and will even have you flashing back to a particular batch of Lucasfilm offerings on more than one occasion. However where Skyland really stands on it’s own is in the combination of Alexandre de Broca’s art direction and the direction by Emmanuel Gorinstein (being a series it’s hard to pin down exactly which episodes who directed, but these appear to be the two guys with the overall vision which gives the series it’s polish).
Visually this series is nothing short of breathtaking. The environments are detailed and textured like a 17th century English oil painting. A great deal of thought has clearly been spent on how light will interact with both the scenes and the characters. Shot composition and ‘cinematography’ go well beyond anything that I’ve seen in a modern animated series before. Quite frankly, none of the promotional material that I’ve been able to find for Skyland comes anywhere near doing the look of the series justice. (You can view a trailer here, which is essentially the show’s opening sequence).
My only negative regarding the look of Skyland, is that I’m not a fan of the particular cell-shading technique that they’ve chosen to use for the characters. However this is not a dislike reserved just for this series, I’m simply not a fan of the technique.
The two disc DVD set features the first thirteen episodes of season one and that’s about it. There are no extras to speak of, but considering the target audience of this release are unlikely to be interested in listening to a directors commentary or sitting through interviews with nerdy animators, their absence is understandable.
On the whole Skyland is an interesting and entertaining series and it appears that there is more to come. While no second series is in the works there is a movie currently in pre-production with the possibility of another two following it. In the mean time though, you can pick up a copy of the first thirteen episodes from Madman as it was released about two weeks ago. [source] [source]