Speaking from experience, it’s rare to revisit a show from our youth and find that it still holds up today. Animated series especially have been known to be a product of their times, and more often than not, the shows we heralded as classics result in disappointment upon later viewings. Reboot avoids this trend, with its recognizable characters and quirky sense of humor. While the CGI leaves something to be desired, it’s not so bad as to distract from how enjoyable the series actually is. It pushes the envelope, even by today’s standards, and paved the way for similar works.
Reboot is best known for the distinction of being the first fully computer animated series. The show has had a spotty history on DVD, with the first two seasons remaining absent until now while the third and fourth seasons were released a while back, only to go out of print. Shout Factory! picked up the rights for the release and have gone the extra mile in making sure their edition truly lives up to the term “definitive”.
The plot imagines a world within computers inhabited by programs that act as humans do. The city of Mainframe plays host to much of the series’ setting. Bob is the guardian of the city and protects it from viruses and The User, a benevolent force that is never seen but constantly felt. Backing him up is the brother-sister duo, Dot and Enzo. Dot is the brains to Bob’s knuckleheaded bravery while Enzo idolizes the guardian and hopes to be just like him.
Counteracting them is Megabyte, a power-hungry virus that seeks to wreak havoc upon Mainframe so as to mold it into his vision. Even more dangerous is The User, whose avatars appear in the form of giant purple cubes called games. Each time a game is lost, those who played and the area around them are wiped from existence.
The first season acts as the introduction to the characters and their world and is mostly padded with one-off adventures that are episodic. While their personalities are fleshed out and some detail concerning their back stories is revealed, the episodes lack an ongoing narrative.
The second season is where the series begins firing on all cylinders. The tone and complexity of the story undergo drastic changes, with the show’s setting expanding beyond the confines of Mainframe. Bob is taken off the table for a stretch of episodes and Enzo transforms into a significantly darker persona called Matrix. The show’s light-hearted nature is replaced with a more adult oriented program that allows for more risks to be taken without fully alienating its audience. For children, it became an excuse to see more action while older audiences could appreciate the compelling story being told.
The final season was originally released as a pair of made-for-TV films but is divided here. The first arc details the rise of the super virus Daemon and the threat she poses to the prosperity of Mainframe. The season re-establishes its effervescent tone while still being accessible to adults and children alike. The final arc ends on a cliffhanger that left a sour taste in my mouth due to the fact the series was canceled before it could be resolved. While there have been rumblings of revitalization in the franchise, nothing substantial has materialized.
One of the things that allowed Reboot to enjoy its success is its irreverent approach to satire. Littered throughout the episodes are references to other well known series and games of the time that serve as hilarious winks to fans. While many of these will fly over the heads of kids today, it was especially fun seeing the characters garbed as Power Rangers or battling an Ash knock off from Evil Dead.
The DVD comes packed with a 20 page booklet that houses episode summaries, fan artwork, character bios and stills from the show. Also included is a lenticular postcard featuring new artwork for the first run if the set. On disc extras include a making of piece, a retrospective, and a look at the original character animation. These are all great to sit through, especially for diehard fans, however they are to short to be all inclusive. Commentaries reuniting the voice cast and creative team round out the bonus features.
Reboot is a great series. Embarking on nostalgia trips can be tricky, with the worst results being utter contempt for a series long held dear. Reboot avoids this with its inventive premise and colorful characters. Everything that made the series fun is just as prevalent now (perhaps more so) than it was when I was watching it from yonder years. Whether you’re an old fan returning to the series or discovering it for the first time, Reboot represents one of television’s landmarks in animation and deserves a spot on every animation fan’s shelf.