"3Below: Tales of Arcadia" - TV Review

"3Below" is Guillermo del Toro's follow-up to "Trollhunters," both subtitled "Tales of Arcadia" (although perhaps retroactively in the case of "Trollhunters"). Both are animated kid's series on Netflix. I was only peripherally aware of "Trollhunters" and watched "3Below" first - unfortunately, it's almost but not quite a stand-alone product. We'll get to that. This review covers the full run of this Netflix show, two seasons of 13 episodes each, each about 23 minutes in length.

Our heroes are Princess Aja (voiced by Tatiana Maslany) and Prince Krel (Diego Luna), the presumptive queen and king of a far distant planet. (The King and Queen, their parents, are a married couple: the weirdness that the next King and Queen are apparently going to be a brother and sister is never addressed. It works in kid's logic ...) The evil General Morando (Alon Aboutboul) takes over their planet and attempts to kill the royal family so he can be in charge. Aja and Krel escape with their guard Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman) and the "cores" of their parents (their parents can be rebuilt from the cores, but this is difficult - and in the mean time, the parents are essentially dead). They end up in exile on Earth, the prince and princess trying to blend in with the local teenagers in high school and the warrior Varvatos trying to be an old man with a cane.

The first episode is about escaping their home world, and the next several are mostly fish-out-of-water jokes as the three try to blend in on Earth. Once that's established, we move on to their technological woes with their busted ship and busted parents (never forgetting the fish-out-of-water jokes), bounty hunters trying to kill them, and eventually the brewing revolution against Morando on their homeworld (although the focus remains squarely on Aja and Krel on Earth).

In episode 9 of the first season, we encounter trolls. Having not seen "Trollhunters," this was a big surprise. It wasn't a gentle introduction: the episode starts with trolls and no one we know from this series, and stays with them for five minutes. This is really confusing when you think you're watching science fiction, but we now have what are clearly terrestrial trolls and thus fantasy - as opposed to the science fiction aliens we'd been seeing so far. Had I watched it in the other order, this would have been much clearer as the majority of both series are set in the town of Arcadia, California - including the same high school and overlapping characters.

The series is a little lighter weight than "Trollhunters" (at least season 1 of "Trollhunters," which is what I've watched as I write this review), with somewhat more broadly drawn (and thus less effective) characters. As with "Trollhunters," there's a certain amount of humour aimed at adults: again, that's slightly less effective in this series. But overall, it was fun. And during COVID-19, that's all I ask.