Of all the cartoon shows I watched in my childhood, probably the one I loved most was Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated Series
Ceri Young · December 27, 2006 | Of all the cartoon shows I watched in my childhood, probably the one I loved most was Dungeons & Dragons. I hardly ever got to see it—I could never seem to get the time slot right—but when I did, I was right in front of the TV screen, hooked. Any time I could get my hands on a videotaped copy I was in heaven—the three episodes I had were lovingly watched and re-watched.

Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated Series
Animation production by Toei Doga
Distributed by BCI Eclipse, 2006
Originally broadcast in 1983
594 minutes

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The premise is simple and perfectly Saturday morning cartoon: Six kids at an amusement park go on a Dungeons & Dragons ride; suddenly, something goes wrong and they're whisked away to a world where dragons are real. They're given magic weapons and minimal instruction from an enigmatic character known as Dungeon Master, and then they spend three seasons trying to find their way home. Sometimes they get close, but they never quite manage it. They're joined in their adventures by a baby unicorn named Uni and spend a great deal of time fighting the resident force of evil, a villain named Venger.

Like any show I loved as a kid, I expected this one to have paled a bit from the action-packed adventure series I remembered. Certainly the animation wouldn't have held up—and that unicorn was likely going to be more annoying. Yet when the DVD became available, I was unable to resist the temptation to revisit the show, to see all the episodes I'd missed, and to re-watch the ones I fondly remembered.

The show was both better and worse than I'd feared. Certainly, the animation hasn't aged well, but it does compare well with other shows of the era. My viewing eye has been spoiled by more modern efforts, but I still like the character design. In particular, Venger, with his wings and one horn, is still one of my favourite villains.

Watching the first few episodes, however, was painful. The show has no sense of pacing, and transitions from one scene to the next are abrupt. The plots are full of holes, and everything holds together just barely if you don't think about it too much. The bumbling Magician and arrogant Cavalier were several shades too annoying, and I despaired—what had I ever seen in this show?

But about four episodes in everything really started to settle. By modern standards this may not be a great show, but I started to remember what I loved about it as a kid. Dungeons & Dragons isn't about the character development, or the intricate plot. It's about kids fighting monsters. And they do. And for that, it was and still is a lot of fun to watch.

Not only that, but the characters do develop—a little—as the show goes on. They start to learn new tricks with their weapons. We find that the Cavalier has some redeeming qualities after all, and the Wizard gets control of his magic hat—at least partly.
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