Anything seems possible in the modern landscape of animation. Colors burst, complicated stories unfold, art styles reinvent action, and laid-back comedy dips, at times, all the way down to the meta level.
The challenge, of course, is committing to any one series. Here are five we think you should watch ASAP.
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes
One of Cartoon Network’s freshest action comedy series is influenced by ‘80s retro gaming and cartoon styles. Created by Steven Universe veteran Ian Jones-Quartey, OK K.O. follows a passionate and optimistic young character training to become a legendary hero while working with his two superpowered friends in a bodega. The team is funny, vibrantly designed, and distinctly lovable due to their good-natured friendship, and their battles against evil robots, mad scientists, and wizards, are regularly heartwarming.
Over the last two years, the series, built on 11-minute segments, has managed to win the hearts of viewers with razor-sharp writing that allows characters to physically and emotionally evolve. Animated in a traditional hand-drawn style, a throwback to everything from Hanna-Barbera to anime which mostly comprised of crude, the thick outlines and imperfections adds to the essential charm of the series. An unpredictable tone and expressively fluid movement keeps the energy of show accelerating at a fast pace.
Besides standing on its own, the show has managed to deliver crossover episodes with unexpected characters that trigger your nostalgia. So far, the likes of Captain Planet, Raven of the Teen Titans, Ben 10, and the Ghoul School have made appearances. And just recently, in time for its 100th episode, it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con that a crossover episode with Sonic the Hedgehog entitled “Let’s Meet Sonic” that just recently aired.
Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?
Out of all the Hanna-Barbera properties, Scooby-Doo is the sturdiest franchise, finding new life every few years or so. The 13th iteration of Scooby-Doo recently arrived on Boomerang and, after a few episodes, we can say it’s surprisingly humourous and enjoyable.
Bearing a similar premise to the 1972 series The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? finds the Mystery Gang paired up with special guests, whether it’s a celebrity or a historical figure. This version stands out by channeling its inner Harvey Birdman and using deep cut of characters set in the Hannah-Barbera catalog. In an early episode, the gang is forced to team up with The Funky Phantom, a mystery team buried so deep in the Hanna-Barbera library that it’s hilarious how quickly the writers addressed the blatant cloning of their existing properties during the heyday of the company’s rule on television.
With announced guests including Sia, Halsey, Ricky Gervais, Kenan Thompson, Wanda Sykes, Bill Nye, and fictional characters such as Batman and Steve Urkel — with Jaleel White returning to do the voice for the first time in nearly 20 years — the mystery-solving Great Dane still has new tricks up his Scooby-Dooby sleeve.
DC Super Hero Girls
Teen Titans Go! Is not the only DC series on Cartoon Network. Based on the popular web series of the same name, and in the style of her cult-favorite shorts titled Super Best Friends Forever, Lauren Faust’s action series DC Super Hero Girls is a vibrant and action-packed series with many themes of friendship similar to the previous series Faust developed.
The show centers on Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Bumblebee, Zatanna, and Supergirl as teenagers attending Metropolis High School. When they’re not in school, they hang out and fight crime against the likes of Harley Quinn, Giganta, Catwoman, and other famous DC super villains. The action sequences are brilliantly animated and the humor contains a ton of spunk, heart, and unexpected zaniness. There is an episode which begins with a parody of the Leroy Jenkins meme, with Supergirl impulsively sprinting into action. With only 13 episodes aired, this fresh new show has proven to be a truly great series that appeals to just about everyone.
Continuing the legacy of Trollhunters, the second installment of Guillermo Del Toro’s Tales From Arcadia series, 3 Below switches the Netflix animated saga from fantasy to sci-fi. In its second chapter, the series focuses on two royal alien siblings who crash on Earth after a mutiny breaks out on their home planet. With bounty hunters hot on their trail, they must camouflage themselves as high school students. For a completely CG series, the show delivers great action sequences, violent moments where creatures are eliminated on screen even though it’s rated TV-Y7, mature themes on responsibility and immigration, and great voice acting from Diego Luna, Tatiana Maslany, and Nick Offerman. If you’re a fan of Del Toro’s Trollhunters (also spectacular), you might enjoy this.
This TBS and Adult Swim series started off as an animated one-off short by YouTuber/animator Olan Rogers and is currently midway through its second season. This original space series is one of the best sci-fi shows on TV right now. The series follows an astronaut named Gary and his space crew as they journey through the galaxy to uncover the mystery of the titular Final Space. The second season leaps and bounds over its first. Having found its footing in its tone, its set of characters, and a dark sense of humor, this gorgeous animated series features beautifully designed intergalactic worlds and a fun lineup of characters you root for. Thanks to the animators at ShadowMachine and Jam Filled Entertainment, Final Space plays with scale, beautiful art design, and nonstop sequences of destructive action that are bloody and violent.
Even when its violence is rooted in dark humor, it’s effective. The drama and comedy are well-balanced this time around, along with the lead, Gary, who is no longer a hyperactive nuisance as much as he was in the first season. Now more story-driven at an urgent pace, Final Space is one of those series that encounters early turbulence, but steadies out in the second season. Stick with it, and you’ll find the beauty in the art.