Exosquad is the best cyberpunk sci-fi cartoon ever made
Exosquad is a show that I never saw as a kid and I barely even remember the toys and yet I was recommended the show a few times comparing the show to Gargoyles and Avatar: The Last Airbender. For some reason every time I heard Exosquad I thought of Centurions, a cartoon that I always hated and now think is a prequel to Visionaries, and every time I decided to check the intro or read the synopsis it seemed terrible to me and I just didn’t want to watch it. I finally watched the so called “anime of the west” Exosquad and well I was definitely impressed but not to the level of hype the show seemed to have.
The setting of the show is the beginning of the 22nd century and Man has colonized both Venus and Mars. To help colonize and terraform the planets they had to create an artificial race; The Neosapiens, because of the harsh conditions for life on the planets. The Neosapiens were treated as slaves for the most part and they eventually revolted but humans created the Exo-Frames which are basically a type of exoskeleton or even mechas and won the war, while the Neosapiens are given more freedom for the most part they seem to still be treated fairly bad. The show itself deals with a new Neosapien revolt which based on the backstory you’d think they are the good guys but they aren’t and they try justifying it by saying their leader is evil. You can say there are shades of grey in the war and its definitely true however it’s mostly shown to you as the good guys vs the bad guys and the shades of grey are just for the audience to pick up. Lets look at the more interesting characters .
Marsala: A member of the ExoSquad and a Neosapien, he is a loyal soldier and is fighting for the human side because he took an oath though later he seems to be fighting because it’s the best outcome for both races and does think the humans were unfair to Neosapiens. It’s also shown later that he led the first revolt which I never thought made sense for his character. He seems to have an affection towards Nara but he never does anything about it, no interspecies reationships here.
Nara Burns: Member of the ExoSquad, her parents were killed by the Neos when the war started and she has another tragedy later on. She is always fond of Marsala and she pretty much seems to fall in love with him, however Marsala is the one who brings up the differences between them.
Phaeton: The leader of the NeoSapien revolt, he is evil and because of it, it takes away from the sympathy you may have on the Neosapiens since he’s portrayed as a Hitler type of villain by having a genocide of the human race that he commanded. We do see him grow a bit as a character even if its a little towards the end so that was nice.
Jonas Simbaca: The leader of the pirates which are humans who live in space and for some reason have been at war with Terrans for many years, well its explained in the show but it was a generic explanation in which they seem to be the victims of the humans… again why are the terrans the good guys here? by the way they are called Terrans even if they lived in Mars or Venus. The Pirates eventually become allies with the Terrans to fight the Neos. They aren’t as important later on which is kind of a shame and Simbaca’s personality is altered a bit to make him less rough, oh well.
There are plenty more characters that are important, in fact there are way too many and that’s the problem. I just don’t care about any of them and because of all the different characters like ExoSquad members/Pirates/Neos none of them are ever given proper screen time even if we do get a few of their personalities they aren’t that important overall, not even the leader and main character J.T. Marsh who in my opinion is a rather dull character and is just written to be the hero. Its not that the characters are bad but they don’t stand out enough.
Now onto the actual show, it is an epic war over the course of 52 episodes. It’s a fantastic ride and a great cartoon. Now it does have flaws and the biggest to me seems to be both the pacing and the way they handle stuff. The show is establishing a neat status quo only to radically finish it just a few episodes later without a satisfying resolution and they jump into the next thing. Sometimes because of it some things don’t make much sense, like how were the Neosapiens were able to slaughter most of the human race in such a short time and then a small army can give them so much trouble for so long? The same can be said with how with just a few defeats in battle later on the Neos are able to lose the war.
The show has fantastic ideas but they are never used to their full potential because they move on to other ideas that even if they are good you never saw the real potential of the previous one. Like the Neowarrior / NeoMegas / Neolords which were new species of Neos. With all the ideas they had they could have easily stretched the show another 50 episodes and easily keep it very interesting in all of those. With that said I am glad the war was over by the second season since that’s when the show was cancelled pretty much and if they hadn’t we would have never seen how the war ended, so it was good even if there was a ton of missed potential in the end.
Season 1 is mostly seeing how the humans are barely surviving while all of season 2 is mostly terran victories and of course there is one episode of season 3 which acts both as a nice epilogue and of course ends with a cliffhanger of whats to come. Apparently the next season would have dealt with an alien invasion which is alluded to in one episode of season 2 and the only episode of season 3. I am not too crazy about an alien invasion since even if the show was sci-fi it had a specific universe that Aliens seem too out there so I don’t mind that the show didn’t continue, I’d be more angry if the war had ended on a cliffhanger, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have loved more episodes and the war with the alien species.
There is also one comic book which mostly just re-tells the first episode so nothing important or relevant, it was supposed to be a mini-series but it didn’t survive. I highly recommend this show since its indeed great, it does have flaws and a ton of things I would have liked to have seen but that doesn’t take away from it. I would love to see this franchise revived and hope Universal does one day as it would make an epic movie and it’d be great to see another animated show. I almost forgot, there is a ton of betrayal in this show, you can’t get 6 episodes without some shady stuff going on, its almost a recurring gag and it’s handled well, always liked it when it happened.