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Whyboy Spotlights... Detentionaire
Detention, a time where troublemakers are forced to just sit and think about what they have done and “supposedly” teaches them to never do it again. When really they are back to doing whatever got them in trouble as soon as they are let out the door. In my experience with detention, only hearing second-hand info, it comes off as a very minor punishment and in no way teaches the you what anything while in there and only holding them for about half an hour before they are released. So, detention in my school may have been too lenient but now we got Detentionaire hat may just take it too far in the other direction. The story goes that Lee Ping and his best friends, Holger Holgaart and Camillio “Cam” Martinez are starting their first year of high school at A. Nigma High. That is, until he was falsely accused of pulling off the biggest prank in high school history and sentenced to one full year of detention by the new half cyborg principal General Barrage. You know what they say - do the crime, do the time. Now, every day, Lee must escape the detention, infiltrate a new social clique (Nerds, Jocks, Goths stc.), and unravel yet another piece of the gigantic, mysterious prank and deduce who is the culprit who framed him simply called “Radcircles.”
Already by the time I heard this in the dozen of teasers I saw on Teletoon I was really looking forward to Detentionaire. It had the one thing that makes me love them uncontrollably and that is mystery. I’ve been starving for some animated mystery shows like the criminally under-appreciated Disney’s Filmore and Detentionaire felt like it could truly quench that hunger and it did. When I started watching the show the theme song is the perfect first impression. One of my major factors as to whether I like a show or not is the intro and Detentionaire doesn't disappoint in that department at all. The opening's addictive opening music gets the adrenaline pumping and puts yah in the right mood for a more grimy solo sleuth show which I just love. The use of contrasting sizes and colours creates a visually beautiful array of textures and this has the one thing I love in a opening "flow." All the visuals match the music dead on and the visuals flow directly into one another creating the flow that I love.
Detentionaire is definitely one of the more shining examples when combating the “All of today’s cartoons suck” trolls because Detentionaire’s story balances both quirky comedy and mystery to a fantastic degree… well most of the time. The mysterious plotlines of “radcircles,” Lee’s past, and putting together how the big prank came together fleshes out the mystery and making the viewer almost NEED to find out what happens next. That’s exactly what happens to me everytime I watch a truly mysterious episode. But sometimes Detentionaire’s mystery is overpowered by its quirky comedy ending in our characters acting completely moronic like in the episode “28 Sneezes Later.” Yah I think you all know where this is going from the title. Short story is that while Lee escapes from detention again chasing after A. Nigma High’s mascot the Tazelwurm, who looks like a rejected character from Spliced, Cam, Holger and two other students are fighting “Flu Zombies.” And while this is going on Barrage is having a chat with… "Colonel Von Virus."
… So, yeah, the show can really turn the silly dial up to 11 creating the real jarring feeling where while Lee is trying to escape from an exploding soda pop factory, by going into another about to explode underground passageway, robotic Tazzelwurms pop out of no where and after they are dispatched it’s only met with a mild head scratching moment for Lee. Wouldn’t the next logical step be… oh I don’t know… asking the freaking factory owners why there’s a secret passage way to a place where there’s robotic lizards ready to rip people’s faces off? But it probably is that most of this will be explained in a later episode but it still seems like a jarring idea to throw in robots and then immediately drop them until a later episode. There was also the episode “15th Grader” which is this series’ special public service announcement on bullying and let me just say my one thought on that episode. BLEH! Please we’ve seen probably hundreds of these bully PSAs in cartoons and in always amounts to some of the most ham handed speeches ever uttered that are so unbearably sappy it makes you want to puke. But really the good episodes outweigh the total embarrassing one’s. The only thing I hate is that the worst episodes turn out most of the time to bring the key clues to the mystery. *Groan*
Moving on from the episodes to the characters. While most are stock characters like the Goths, the nerds, and the skater dudes, they really are more for stereotype humor, which I do find funny. It reminds me of the cliques from, Rock Star’s, Bully (which is one of my favorite games of all time. Basically picture GTA for kids) who were all shameless stereotypes but pushed to the extreme to the point of parody. I think this point can be cemented by saying that the nerd clique has a DDR machine that works by “dancing” equations on a humongous calculator. It’s freaking hilariously surreal.
The main focus is on our main character Lee and his three friends; Holger, Cam and the school bully, Biff Goldstien, and thankfully these four are quite interesting characters. Starting with the most stereotypical of the bunch Cam. Though loyal to Lee and helping with his endeavors when he can he'd just as soon ride Lee's new found wave of popularity after the prank as long as it will last. Cam shows a rather strong interest in finding a girlfriend but fails due to using pick-up lines as charming as a tube sock, which drives his motivation to try and keep Lee from openly denying his status as the prank master, as Lee's fame helps Cam score attention with girls. Now this is a very different spin on the best friend character basically Cam is Lee’s B.F. but he is completely fine with using him in order to make himself popular which at the time of writing this spotlight has placed him as a suspect for being the mastermind of the prank “Radcircles.” Interesting.
Holger, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite character archetype of Cam. While Cam’s loyalty sways by how it suits his needs, Holger is Lee's obsessively loyal friend and A. Nigma High's Scandinavian exchange student. Though he appears and acts incompetent in all things, on occasion having to be bailed out of trouble by Lee, the value of his few skills have proven to exceed his incompetence. Hoger is the definite comic center of the show hands down with most of his antics centered on his obsessive loyalty. Even when the show turns the silly dial to 11, Holger is always the one that keeps the silliness bearable and allows me to keep watching the sometimes-lead paint drinking awful comedy bits.
Biff is the fan favorite of the cast and I can definitely see why. As the wiki for Detentionaire states Biff “…is a gentle giant with a soft spot for his pet cat” which definitely doesn’t sell who Biff actually is. The writers made sure that Biff wasn’t in any meaning of the world “gentle” except to his cat but he stills shows his true colors. Biff while in the middle of school acts like the big tough bully who’ll pummel your face in by just breathing funny to him and in detention… he still looks like he’ll pound your face in by breathing on him funny. But Biff finds more fun in being a sarcastic wise ass, constantly mocking Lee and all the crap that he gets himself into. Sure Biff helps Lee out but not before verbally prodding him. If I were to compare Biff to another character I say he takes his snarky behavior from Patrick Jane from The Mentalist. Always two steps ahead of Lee’s thinking and definitely a genius despite how he acts. Biff isn’t a gentle giant masking as a bully. He’s a sarcastic tough guy masking as a bully.
Now onto my favorite character the framed prank master himself, Lee Ping. Lee is what we like to call the “straight man”, the character that plays normal to the wacky, mysterious crap that fluctuates throughout his life at school. Lee also is the audience’s frame of reference to all the weird crap that happens in A. Nigma and in doing so I feel he turns into one of the most realistic student characters ever. Despite being part of a school, which even in reality is clique central, Lee couldn’t care less of being part of any clique even the popular clique. His only goals are to get good grades, talk to his love interest Tina Kwee (Lois Lane reference anyone?), and just hang out with his pals. I don’t know about all of you guys and gals but I couldn’t care less about cliques and popularity either which allows me to sympathize with him when Lee gets swept up in the popular crowd after he’s framed for the prank. Because really why wouldn’t you find the guy who covered you in puke and other crap cool? All Lee wants is to hang out with his friends but now he is forced to delph into the cliques of the school to find out who set him up which again leading back to the calculator DDR example leads to some hilarious shenanigans.
Nelvana, Detentionaire’s production company, who produced classics like Redwall and the Care Bears creates a flash based art style reminiscent of 6Teen but adding more of a grimy look to the backgrounds which creates a more mysterious, dingy feel to the series. There are only two major issues I have with the show’s animation. The first being its walk cycles. These walk cycles are just plain terrible with all their characters’ movements having the "flashy" look about them. The second thing and this is rather silly to notice but whenever the show does a close-up of Lee’s hands it, for some reason, becomes… this.
I mean come on seriously? This looks plain awful. It’s completely jarring to look at when the rest of the show is very clean. Overall I love this show. There are some definite low points of the show and some lazy flash animating tactics pulled in the show. But overall the characters are funny and take interesting spins on old clichés, the storyline is mysterious making you really want to know what happens next, and the animation overall is very immersive to the world of A.Nigma High. If you’re in Canada check it out on Teletoon sometime and if you’re in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world there are full episodes posted on youtube if you want to check it out. Now in the words of Detentionaire’s principal Barrage “DISMISSED!”
NEXT: Whyboy Spotlights... Renny The Fox
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Written by: Taylor "Whyboy" Wyatt
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