13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
K. T. Ong
- Published on Amazon.com
I remember catching glimpses of Blackstar on TV during my younger days but never being able to get to watch a full episode for some reason; hence I purchased the DVD without hesitation when it finally came out. Always had a special fascination for mixtures of science fiction with sword-and-sorcery -- especially when they feature handsome, near-naked muscle boys as their protagonists! :p (Another two examples would be the Warlord from DC Comics and John Carter.)
So what's my verdict on this series? The sound and color reproduction are good on the whole. Occasionally the image gets a bit spotty and you can see that the producers have laid transparencies one on another for working on the animation, but on the whole such things aren't too noticeable. The characters and creatures are mostly quite well-drawn, though the backgrounds could use a little more finesse and detail. The overall concept is interesting and there are lots of fun and clever ideas -- a shape-shifting elf, energy-shooting swords, stone lizard-golems, aquatic races, flying cities, a box in which spring is locked away and winter stays until it is opened, a scepter that wreaks havoc with time, a sphere that imprisons the souls of living beings, and so on. The trouble is that most of these ideas are not further developed upon; apart from the central figures in the saga, creatures, characters and special objects that appear in one episode almost never appear again in another. This gives the whole story an amateurish feel: one throws in new ideas as one pleases, uses them in one episode, and leaves them. It feels especially unsatisfying when many of the characters/creatures are supposed to eventually become our heroes' allies in their fight against the Overlord. Couldn't there be a couple episodes in which some of these new allies turn up to lend a hand?
Also sorely missing is an overall account of the world of Sagar: its history and geography, the different races and creatures that inhabit it, and above all the backgrounds of the central characters in our epic. What are the origins of the Overlord, the Trobbits (who resemble all too strongly the Seven Dwarves from Snow White), Mara the enchantress, Klone the shape-shifting elf, and Warlock the dragon? Who forged the Powerstar? How did it split up into two halves in the first place, and how did one of the two halves wind up in Blackstar's hands? Why are there only seven Trobbits, and all male at that? Are they an endangered species, maybe? And what's so special about the Sagar Tree -- are the life forces of the Trobbits (and maybe all of Sagar even) somehow linked to it, or is it just a tree for them to build a nest in? Does Warlock belong to some species of dragons or is s/he a unique creature? What was Blackstar's life-story back on Earth before he crash-landed on Sagar? These questions are never answered anywhere in the entire series (except for the last one, and only in a very partial way); you're just expected to take everything for granted. Don't know about most viewers, but I find this highly unsatisfying. Episode 6 (`Spacewrecked', the best episode perhaps), in which Blackstar's lover from Earth (Katana -- odd name, and she hardly looks Asian) comes to Sagar in a spaceship to bring him home, could have provided a setting for answering all the above questions: she could be curious to learn more about Sagar (I would be), and Blackstar and his friends could then tell her everything. But no. She never seemed to express the least desire to learn about this strange alien world at all.
One more thing. Doesn't Blackstar ever miss home? He never showed any hints of such emotions in the whole series. And when the chance came for him to return home in Episode 6, wouldn't he feel torn between staying and going home? I certainly would be.
Well, maybe I can shelve away my endlessly inquiring mind and simply enjoy the series as nostalgic entertainment, but here's where my most serious complaint comes in: the action often feels stiff, unnatural and unreasonable. Example: bad guy knocks special item out of good guy's hands. Bad guy stands there and spends a few moments grinning evilly while good guy likewise stands where he is for a while and pulls a long, sour face. Is this a good action sequence? NO! Both parties must be made to follow up quickly on their last moves! (With appropriate facial expressions of course.) There's no time to stop and make faces! Another example: Bad guys chase good guy. Good guy blasts hole in the ground for bad guys to fall into. Bad guys run what look like a couple dozen feet before falling in. Problem here is, if I had to run that long before I could fall in I probably would have seen the hole long beforehand and got out of the way, right? Yet another example: Blackstar, Mara and Klone the shape-shifting elf are at a cliff's edge with bad guys closing in from behind. Oh, no! What are they to do? Well, couldn't Klone turn into some sort of flying creature, pick up everyone and fly off, as he did in a couple other episodes? Why couldn't he do it this time? Unfortunately, the kind of unreasonable scenarios I just described turn up time and again in the series. Watching it all I almost felt a bit embarrassed for the producers.
My final verdict is that Blackstar is a series with enormous potential, except this potential was prevented from being exploited to the full by the problems listed. If not for them, this would have been a truly wonderful animation series. Certainly, watching the interviews with the producers, one cannot help being infected with the same enthusiasm.
By the way, just for the fun of knowing, there are more than a few ideas in this series which either can be traced to or were reused in other media productions. Hence the pods from which evil doubles of characters and creatures are formed (episode 9, `Tree of Evil') can be traced to `Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. And Blackstar's sword being tainted by an evil creature with potentially disastrous consequences (episode 10, `The Air Whales of Anchar') seems to be borrowed from the Hong Kong film `Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain'. Indeed even the idea of a set of twin magical swords, whose powers are vastly augmented when combined, might have been borrowed from this film, too. Finally, in the concluding issue of the DC comic series `The Warlord' -- which also features a guy from modern times who wound up in a lost, mystical world and decided to stay on and play the role of a near-naked, sword-wielding muscle boy -- there was this ugly fat slob who trapped people's souls in pearls, just as there's also one in the concluding episode of Blackstar!