Adult animation has been one of the most interesting new venues where stories of all kinds can be told in ways that were unthinkable before. For decades in the eastern hemisphere, of course, anime has been doing just that in Asia and Europe, but in America, animation has always been treated as something aimed only at kids.
Shows like Castlevania and Invincible have shown that more adult material can be translated successfully to the screen via animation. Characters can be as expressive and nuanced as in any live action performance, action can be just as exciting, and storylines can be developed just as deeply. Because of all that, it is a shame that the Guardians of Justice might be here to throw us backward in time. We end up with a show that, perhaps, thinks too highly of itself and, as a result, becomes overindulgent, messy, and, sadly, boring.
Guardians of Justice is produced by Adi Shankar, one of the producers of the fantastic Castlevania adaptation, also for Netflix. The show stars Diamond Dallas Page, Sharni Vinson, Derek Mears, Christopher Judge, Jane Seymour, RJ Mitte, Denise Richards, Hal Ozsan, and Andy Milonakis, among others. Adi Shankar himself takes on the roles of producer, writer, and director.
The show tells the story of Marvelous Man, a Superman-type hero who has been the savior of Earth for more than 40 years, but things change one day when Marvelous Man commits suicide in front of a global audience. It falls upon his peers, the Guardians of Justice, to explore and solve the mystery of Marvelous Man’s death, which might be more than it seems.
The premise of the show is interesting: a superhero committing suicide and then his peers trying to find a reason, if there is any, to explain why that character made that decision. However, while intriguing, it lacks originality, as it is basically the premise for Watchmen, the most famous of superhero deconstructions. And so, from its first opening minutes, Guardians of Justice shows that it isn’t interested in telling an original story, but it is content with rehashing the same old story over and over again, until it makes you sick.
It is made clear that Adi Shankar, while pivotal in bringing Castlevania to reality, wasn’t the main creative force behind it. All the elegance, cleverness, and style of that show are missing here. Guardians of Justice is clearly a low-budget production, and so, it is trying to do things on a scale that it is impossible to do with their available resources. To conceal this fact, the show opts for a hybrid of animation and live action. While the idea sounds interesting on paper, the execution is lackluster from beginning to end.
The animation, the few that exist, as it is mostly still frames being shaken around, looks ugly, and it is clear that the chosen style has been chosen only for the reason of being ugly, almost grotesque. You see, Shankar and his team are not only deconstructing superheroes, but also today’s media and the way events are covered. As a result, the show presents its events and story in the form of a news flash. It is flashy and almost nausea inducing. It might be a good way to represent the informational overload people are subjected to every day through the internet, and social media, but it comes across as silly, and as a kid trying to be edgy for edginess’ sake.
The live-action bits also suffer from this news flash type of presentation. The story never stays too long in one place to matter. Characters are being thrown around left and right at every moment, and right when you’re trying to remember someone’s name, they don’t matter anymore and the story is onto the next plot point. It is chaotic, and it makes you wonder if it is really worth it to try to spend energy trying to follow what is going on.
For many, the answer will be mostly no. Guardians of Justice lacks character, good action, and tries to be all style, and it is successful at that. It is a show with its own style, but it might be a style that only a few might like. It is like one of those dark Adult Swim sketches, the idea might work for a five-minute sketch, but when you try to extend it beyond its stretching point, it becomes annoying and boring at the same time.
The actors, including the well-known faces, don’t do a particularly good job here, and the whole production comes across as sort of cheap and unprofessional. Even Max Landis’ The Death of Superman and the Wrestling isn’t wrestling YouTube videos look more professional than this. They are also way more entertaining. The point is, good stuff can be done with very few resources, but the Guardians of Justice seem to have wasted the few resources they had in the wrong places.
Castlevania might not have existed if it hadn’t been for Adi Shankar. That show was amazing, and it is a pioneer when it comes to adult animation in the west. However, maybe next time Shankar should once again gather a team of professionals that can execute the ideas at a high level, just like what happened with Castlevania. Of course, those who will love Guardians of Justice will love it, but they will be few. For the rest, it really feels like a waste of time.