For my inaugural post on the new blog, I’d like to call your attention to one of the hidden gems of 90s-era animation: Exosquad.
As I’ve gone back and revisited things from my childhood, there are some which have not aged gracefully and others which have only gotten better with age. I’m very happy to say that Exosquad is firmly in the latter category, a truly wonderful show with a mature plot line and rich characters.
Exosquad is set in a future where Earth, Venus and Mars are collectively known as ‘the homeworlds.’ The terrans (Homo sapiens from the homeworlds– not to be confused with the pirates, Homo sapiens living at the edge of the galaxy) have genetically engineered a new race of humans known as neosapiens.
To make a long story short, the neosapiens take over the homeworlds, lead by the ruthless Phaeton, and the series follows the exofleet’s attempts to retake their home and free the terrans living under neosapien control.
This may sound like the setup for a shallow, forgettable action show, but don’t be fooled. While there certainly is a lot of action, there’s a huge focus on the dynamics of the war. Political backstabbing and intrigue is rife between the exofleet, pirates, terran resistances, and even the neosapiens have their rogue elements.
The effect of the war is also felt on the characters. One of the main characters is Marsala, a neosapien who joined exofleet prior to the war and who is the frequent target of mistrust and prejudice. Another, Nara Burns, had most of her family on Venus killed in the initial assault, a burden which weighs heavily upon her.
The show is not without its faults, of course. Like a lot of animation of the time, it suffers a lot in terms of quality and consistency. The video is blurry, but serves its purpose. There are many little details which change frequently. One in particular is the neosapien insignia, a stylized N. The shape and coloration of the insignia is wrong more often than it’s right, and it’s annoyingly common for it to change shape on the same character in the same scene, sometimes in the same shot.
Story-wise, the beginning of the series where the neos take over relies on a… rather large tactical blunder, namely sending the entirety of the exofleet out to attack the pirates. It makes a bit more sense when you come to understand that the pirates are basically an entire nation unto themselves, something you don’t learn until the second season, but even with that understanding the idea of leaving the homeworlds completely defenseless seems like a bit of a stretch.
I can’t say that I’ve noticed any glaring plot holes since that, however, and I’m currently halfway through the series. Season 1 consists of 13 episodes and season 2 consists of 39. Season 1 is available on DVD, but season 2 is not. Thankfully, the entire series is available on Hulu, and for the convenience of my American readers I’ve embedded the first episode below. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, people outside the areas Hulu serves are out of luck, as I know of no other way to watch the show.