Reviewed in Canada on May 1, 2014
I come from the Net – through systems, people and cities to this place: Mainframe. That one line launched a breakthrough television series in 1994. ReBoot is marked in history as the first completely CGI television program and, in many user’s opinions, one of Canada’s greatest pieces of television programming. Finally, the series has been released to DVD in a complete collection and I have recently just finished watching it. So, is ReBoot: The Definitive Mainframe Edition best viewed to Nostalgia-tinted glasses, or does this DVD collection do everything to Mend and Defend?
I won’t lie. I was giddy as soon as the first episodes started up. Remembering back to my youth when I first caught it on TV. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
ReBoot takes place in the computer system, Mainframe, and focuses mainly on Bob, a guardian from the Net, Dot, a sprite who operates a diner as well as a number of other businesses, and Enzo, Dot’s younger brother. The system, however, does have to deal with a couple viruses known as Megabyte and Hexadecimal. Not only do the sprites and binomes of Mainframe need to handle those two, but every now and then the user (a force outside of the computer world) loads a game which could nullify and delete entire sectors of the system should the user win. And I haven’t even mentioned the slew of other characters we meet over the course of the series.reboot_cart
Have I lost you yet?
Anyway, the first season and a half are pretty episodic and stand-alone. There are some little details here and there that carry over but each episode pretty much ties everything up by the end.
Midway through Season 2, overall arcs are introduced. This begins when AndrAIa, an AI game sprite, downloads her program onto Enzo’s icon so that she can exist outside the game. After this, a war between a creature from the web and Mainframe breaks out. Megabyte betrays the alliance with Bob (gee, didn’t see that coming) and launches him into the Web, leaving young Enzo as the closest thing to a guardian the system has.
In Season 3, Enzo and AndrAIa, about to lose a game, change their icons to and from game-sprite mode so that they can use the games to hop from one system to another, thus compiling (growing up) faster than the outside world. They eventually decide to search the web for Bob so they can return home. Though when they do, it’s pretty bad. Of course, everything eventually works out and there’s a musical number in the last Season 3 episode that recaps the entire season in case you are too lazy to watch the whole thing. However, there were hints throughout the season of a looming threat called Daemon.
Season 4 combines the two movies that was made (albeit years later) which involve the battle with Daemon and then the appearance of a second (copy? original?) Bob in Mainframe. Unfortunately, the series ends on a cliffhanger. It is said that Season 4 was supposed to be three movies (broken into 12 episodes) and a final, musical episode. Sadly, these were never produced. Though an online comic does exist that continues the story.
All 47 episodes are collected on 8 DVDs with a bonus disk which contains the special features. As for how it is all packaged… how to explain this? Ok. The DVDs are grouped up as follows:
Seasons 1&2 / Seasons 3&4.
Each volume has a slip case which holds 2 slim cases (each slim case holds 2 DVDs)
The two volumes as well as the 9th disk (in its own slim case) as well as a 20-page booklet containing episodes synopses and artwork, are housed in a larger slip case.
While it can be tedious to pull out the specific disk you want to play, this is essentially a box containing the two volumes that were previously sold separately, plus extras. So I can see why they did it. Still, better that those fold out, 6-disk television series (I’m looking at you, He-Man, Buffy….)
Seasons 1-3 are presented in their original 4:3 ratio with Season 4 being in widescreen. The transfers are beautiful and even season 1 (1994) looks good. Sure the animation may seem a little dated at times, but it still looks better than most traditional animation of that era. Watch an episode of the Simpsons from 1994 and you’ll see what I mean.
The colours are bright. The characters, though a little stiff at first, are well animated. But it’s the world that really steals the show. Mainframe STILL looks great and seems to be a character itself. The system lives, grows, thrives (sometimes gets pieces deleted).
The sound effects, the voice work, the ambiance and the music are all here, still intact from the original productions. The audio is extremely clear and the voice actors do an amazing job (for the most part). The only things I noticed were a few audio hiccups in about 3 episodes, but these are so rare and minute that they don’t really cause any problem. From what I’ve read about this, these are audio glitches on the master recordings.
I feel that this is where the package lacks. There are a total of three bonus features in this set (not including specific episode commentaries).
- Fast Forward: The Making of ReBoot – an episode-long special that I’ve seen aired on television once or twice where Megabyte “hosts” a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the production crew and the process they go through to make the show. This was made during the Season1/Season 2 time frame.
- A Look Back with Co-Creator Gavin Blair – an interview where Gavin regales what it was like to work on the show and offers a couple anecdotes. Again, not very long but still interesting to watch.
- Original Animated Character Models – This bonus begins with a title card telling us that the audio does cut in-and-out and that there’s nothing wrong with our televisions. It’s amusing to take a look at some of the original character models as well as the studio promo reels of a couple seasons and characters. Compared to the final product, it’s quite a leap.
Nowhere to be found is anything on the ReBoot Rides, any other animation from Mainframe Entertainment (though that may be due to legal reasons or whatever). For a show this breakthrough, I was really expecting more in terms of special features.
In conclusion, I love ReBoot. I did then and I still do now. Does the show hold up over the years? Hell yes. Would I like to see ReBoot come back? That would be alphanumeric. Although, with Tony Jay’s passing a few years ago, finding the right voice actor for Megabyte will be required.
Whether you enjoyed the show when it first aired, or if you are newly being introduced to the series, or if you are just a fan of animation, or if you want to show it to your kids…. I could go on with a list of reasons to get this and they would all be valid.