Saturday, 9 November 2013

Series REVIEW: Beetleborgs Metallix

Beetleborgs Metallix

Big Bad Beetleborgs has quite the reputation for being awful nowadays, but back in 1997 it must have been pretty popular to get a second series. Or more likely it was still riding off the back of Power Rangers and there was another series' worth of Metal Heroes footage to use, but still. After the first series ended on a pretty big cliffhanger, the show jumped back a few months later for Beetleborgs Metallix using new costumes and villains from Juuko B-Fighters sequel series B-Fighters Kabuto. Metallix also had a much shorter lifespan than its predecessor, lasting for a total of 35 episodes.

With the Magnavores gone Drew, Roland and Jo thought that their lives as superheroes were over. But as usual, once one villain group is defeated another one quickly turns up. After betraying the Maganvores at the end of the first season, the evil Nukus turns his attention towards the Beetleborgs - stripping them of their powers and freeing Art Fortunes' twisted brother Les (his creator) from prison. He then brings Les' drawings to life to create his evil band of Crustaceans. Powerless, the three heroes turn to Art once again to design all-new powers, which Flabber can then bring to life as he did before. The end result is the new improved Beetleborgs Metallix, who renew their fight against evil while also having to deal with the crazy antics of the Hillhurst Mansion monsters.

Nukus
More of a dinosaur than a crustacean to be honest...

So gone are the old blue, green and red suits, replaced with "Chronium Gold", "Titanium Silver" and "Platinum Purple" respectively. While I especially miss the glowing eye look of the original suits (now in its place are typical black visors), these three new suits come across nicely as upgrades of their original powers. The switching between American and Japanese footage is handled a lot better this time around (the weapons are actually the right colour for a start), but the age certainly shows and doesn't make it particularly seamless. Brittany Konarzewski settles into her role as Jo #2 nicely after a poor start in season one, to the point where I honestly forgot that changeover happened for a little while.

Horribelle & Art Fortunes
Obligatory female henchman (Horribelle) and the surprisingly fun Les Fortunes

Our big new characters for the series are the Crustaceans - Nukus, his henchmen Horribelle and Vilor, and finally Les Fortunes. Nukus is an instantly better leader than Vexor ever was, taking to the field and usually having an active involvement in his plans. Horribelle and Vilor are also far less bumbling than Vexor's three stooges, so while their rate of success is roughly about the same at least they aren't as grating on the nerves to watch. And for a series that was blatantly never going to get super serious about anything, Les Fortunes is a great character to provide a comical edge to the villain team (plus the drawing thing is a lot more interesting than season one's "pull monsters out of the comic" gimmick). But a lot of my praise comes from a surface view of the characters, and when you get to the details it becomes clear that the Crustaceans actually AREN'T that much better than the Magnavores. Despite clearly being able to hold their own against (maybe even best) the Beetleborgs in the early episodes, its just pathetic monster after pathetic monster. Yes that's the way these shows usually go, but Nukus making an active attempt to be part of the battle is what makes it so glaringly dull.

Then of course there's the Hillhurst monsters, who on Earth could forget those? Adding a new jawa rip-off character to the bunch in the form of Little Ghoul (who sadly doesn't once say "utini"), this motley crew are even more obtrusive than they were in the first season. While Big Bad Beetleborgs problem was that the Magnavore story/Hillhurst story leaned too much towards the latter, Beetleborgs Metallix answer to this problem was to COMBINE them. So you have the Crustaceans reacting to things that happen at Hillhurst rather than trying to further their quest for conquest or whatever it is they are trying to do. The show becomes even more about them then it did before, and after 50 odd episodes of that previously it's sad that things didn't really change here.

The Astralborgs - Fireborg, Dragonborg, Ladyborg & Lightningborg
The Astralborgs

Beetleborgs Metallix does have its prize moment though, just as the previous season did with the Shadowborg Arc. This time its the turn of the "Lost Comic" arc, in which an old project done by Les and Art as children leads to Astral Borgs, new power ups and even two giant robots (because if there's one thing Beetleborgs was lacking, it was giant robots). Despite a few of these episodes centring around the Hillhurst monsters AGAIN, the continuity between them and actual plot development make them an enjoyable experience to watch. Unfortunately the biggest problem is that these episodes come much too late into the game - the Beetleborgs get their new upgrades in episode 30, leaving only five episodes to use them. This is even worse when you consider Metallix doesn't actually have an ending. Much like Masked Rider, the series just ends with nothing resolved and presumably the fight continuing. Episode 31 sees the arrival of Boron, an evil giant robot to battle the heroes' ally Roboborg, but what episode do you think he finally comes to their side? 35. What a waste.

Roboborg & Boron
I still want their toys though.

Many fans seem to consider Beetleborgs Metallix a better season than the original (though take note that it's still working on a scale of awfulness), but I actually found it inferior. It has all the makings to be better certainly, but then squanders them by doing everything the original did wrong worse and only realising the story can actually go somewhere when it's too late. At just over half the length, one would expect Metallix to be more bearable just because it's shorter. Worth continuing with if you've been checking out the original, but otherwise a show that is probably best left in the nostalgia bank.


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