I’ve never seen an episode of Critical Role, nor was I aware of their Kickstarter to raise funds to create an animated series based on their D&D-themed YouTube channel (which apparently raised something on the order of $11 million, which is pretty darned impressive.
The show ended up getting made, of course, and the first three episodes are now streaming on Prime Video. There was a lot of chatter about it on social media, so I figured I’d check it out.
The animation is very reminiscent of Avatar the Last Airbender, and they set the tone right at the beginning with lots of profanity and gore, and the whole settles into rather adolescent humor, with plenty of dirty jokes. That is pretty much the tone of the whole show; a bunch of goofy misfits looking to save the world as long as they get paid, making a lot of jokes and saying a lot of “naughty” words (how transgressive!).
Imagine Avatar where almost all the characters are Sokka, with gore, profanity, and jokes about anal sex.
That said, I didn’t hate it.
I don’t love it, but I do think it has potential. If they can tone down the sophomoric humor a bit, I think it could get really good, in the same way that The Orville improved immensely in its second season, which still had humor, but was just a little more on the serious side. The plots so far have been decent, with interesting characters and some nice twists. But the humor tends to take me out of the moment, because it feels so 21st century.
I know they’re trying to go for a vibe of what it’s like to be at a table playing D&D, but a little more “straight” fantasy will go a long way towards improving the show, at least for me.
I give it 2/5 stars, with the potential for a solid 3.5. We’ll see how the rest of the season progresses.