Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Scene 65: Review of Dan Vs.

I've always found it interesting and a little surreal to think back to what got me into a television series I've loved. Most of the time my favourite shows were just recommended to me, or other people were watching them, such as How I Met Your Mother or Game of Thrones - but, occasionally, I search out a show because I see something that just catches my attention and intrigues me.  

This time it was memes featuring a guy in a black T-shirt with JERK on the front and sharp teeth. They intrigued me. Who was cartoon character that just oozed annoyed, and mean? It was Dan, from Dan Vs

So first a little background. Dan Vs. is a Flash animation created by two friends, Dan Mandel and Chris Pearson, and the two main characters in the show are not only named after them, but are apparently based somewhat on their own negative traits. So far the show has run for three seasons on the Hub Network.

The show is basically about this guy called Dan who has anger issues, and when he gets angry- either with something, someone or even a whole country or state - he explodes with rage and goes on a quest for revenge. These quest for revenge can often start of quite mundane, but can often have very surreal twists to them, for example in one episode Dan's cookies are stolen - by a ninja

Being dragged along on all these adventures are Dan's best friend and sidekick Chris, a nice guy with a more than healthy appetite, who generally pays for everything and drives them everywhere. Chris has a wife called Elise, who is a super spy and ninja - though he doesn't know. Often there will be either a subplot about Elise's work or something she is making or inventing will end up being involved in Dan's revenge plans. 

So, first the gushing, why do I love this show so much? Well first of all I fell in love with the animation style, and in particular the way Dan has been designed and how he is animated. His character has a lot of energy, and a really open face with a load of expressions. 

I recently found out that Dan's character, and the other main characters too, were all designed by Chris Battle. If you have't heard of him, he also designed the Power Puff Girls and characters for Dexter's Laboratory. 

Dan is written very well too. I have habit of liking characters who have big flaws with redeeming qualities - and I think he falls into that category. On the one hand he has serious anger issues, is mean to Chris and has no sense of boundaries. On the other hand sometimes his anger is totally valid - for example when a fast-food restaurant gives him cheese on his burger, when he asked for none, clearly, six times. Whilst despite all the crap he gives Chris, you sense there is affection and loyalty there. I did read somewhere that one of the creators thought of Dan as sort of like Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, if his life went badly wrong somewhere. I have to agree that there is a very Calvin-equse look to Dan, especially when he does a certain wicked grin! 

Then there is Chris. He's your typical, straightforward nice guy, who's not really good at anything. He may seem like a bit of a push-over, but he surprisingly doesn't always take Dan's crap. He's also a big eater, and he will eat anything, including plastic food. The fact that he's always wearing sandals just seems to sum him up for me - this is a guy who wants to relax, eat and enjoy himself.

Finally we have Elise, who as I said is a spy. So she's very efficient, very intelligent and very deadly - she loves Chris loads but keeps the true nature of her work hidden from him. I like the fact that despite all this strength Elise has her own weakness too - such as her parents, who drive her nuts. My only problem with Elise is that, she started out pretty relaxed about Dan, but in the later seasons it was changed so that she practically hated him and Dan, who never really liked her, didn't like her even more.

I realise this development in her character is fair enough, as Dan regularly manages to get Chris, her beloved husband, thrown in jail and once even poisoned. However, its still a bit sad, as that she's become so mean after being so relaxed and almost part of Dan and Chris' little gang. Dan's has also become meaner to her too, see the example below.

Which brings me to another thing - why is Dan Vs. is on a network for children? I've never quite understood this. I know its a cartoon, but it's sense of humour feels adult, all its characters are adults and they live adult lives. There is also a serious edge to the cartoon. Chris and Elise refer to Dan having not only anger problems but possibly mental issues several times, and its hinted that Dan probably had a neglectful, even abusive childhood. 

Personally, having kids watch Dan also worries me a little. As an adult or teenager you understand that Dan's behaviour is unhealthy and you know things he does are socially unacceptable - like borrowing Chris' toilet paper at 4am in the morning or not paying for a rented cabin. However, young children might not understand that and might even think this behaviour is okay. Then again, I might underestimating the intelligence of kids and worrying a bit to much here - I don't want to go all Mary Whitehouse! 

Nonetheless I do think Dan Vs. should be considered a cartoon for adults too.  Adults would not only appreciate the humour more, but for its also more fun to watch Dan take revenge and win because we can't do that when people annoy us or wrong us, we have to act grown-up.  

I also find Dan Vs. is a refreshing change from other cartoons actually aimed at adults. I'm thinking mainly of Seth McFarlane's cartoons here - which is ironic as the actor who voices Dan also voices Snot from American Dad! Now, I like all McFarlane's cartoons and I enjoy watching them but they seem to rely on shocks alot of the time. And you know what? Just because something is for an adult audience doesn't mean it always needs swearing, sex references or shock jokes. The Simpsons and Futurama managed it without swearing or shock, but let's be honest, the Simpsons has gone past their prime and Futurama is in its last season. 

Okay, I better wrap things - in summary I think Dan Vs. is brilliant. I love the characters, I love the design and I think the stories are great. I think children could watch it, but I personally think adults would get this series more and get more enjoyment out of it. 

At the moment there might be a fourth season on the way, I'm not sure, there has been rumours of a cancellation and the Facebook page has pretty said to stop asking about a fourth season or further DVDs, as its up to the money men, not them. In light of this, I suggest to anyone who likes this show to give it some support. It would be sad to see such a great series go the way of The Critic. 

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