First things first – You can completely enjoy the 2022 animated series ‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical ‘ only if you’ve seen Eric Kripke’s live-action series ‘Boys’. They are both set in the same universe, share some major characters and have the same amount of profanity. It’s not like you won’t understand this animated show if you haven’t seen the other, but you’ll be missing out on some context. It gets good, goes bad, picks up pace again, heads towards crazy, messy, sometimes plain fucking shitty and then lifts itself again. We have a mixed bag.
With 8 animated shorts, things are never the same, both in terms of story-telling and animation style. It does retain the explicit language and mindless violence, so expect a lot of blood spilling everywhere, with ruptured body parts splattering your screen. For fans who like gory action, each short makes for a good little break (lunch, dinner or whatever), but most others may not want to be munching their favorite snack while streaming this on Prime Video.
Here’s an episode-by-episode review of the show –
Episode One: Laser Baby’s Day Out – Inspired by the 1994 classic ‘Baby’s Day Out’, it even has the iconic scene of the toddler atop a building while dozens of security personnel are on ground… except that they want to kill and not rescue the baby. The episode starts with a super-baby organization that trains and puts the demigods up for adoption. All hell breaks loose when one baby marked for ‘extermination’ gets out on the streets while a kind-hearted employee tries to save it. Despite a very 1990s cartoon-network aesthetic, there are no dialogues in this episode, giving it a vintage touch and might remind viewers of cartoon greats like Tom and Jerry. But since this a ‘diabolical’ show, there’s a lot of explicit violence. The wicked juxtaposition is quite brilliant – a cute baby smiling against a trail of brutal deaths. ‘Laser Baby’s Day Out’ is a tragi-comedy of sorts, but for those not interested in deeper meanings, long review short – it’s entertaining enough.
Episode Two: An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents – This one is exactly what the title suggests – a bunch off supes discarded by their parents due their ‘useless’ powers, decide to get back at their folks. You get to watch some really shitty supes send their mommies and daddies to hell. This one was just random madness, with minimal story-telling and close to no jokes. The unhinged violence and the dozens of ridiculous ways the supes kill their families was between entertaining and chaotic.
Episode Three: I’m Your Pusher – Billie Butcher, the primary protagonist from the live-action show, finally makes an appearance in this collection. He blackmails a drug-dealer to spike a superhero’s fix, what happens next forms the rest of the plot. Too bad they couldn’t get actor Karl Urban to voice Butcher, because the animated version just doesn’t look right and it took me a while to realize who he was! Nevertheless, this drug-themed short with some creepily dark humor was hilarious, especially the first-half. The climax wasn’t as engrossing as the build-up, yet it was fun to a see a psychotic super-hero go down. The animation is flashy, colorful and catchy in this episode.
Episode Four: Boyd in 3D – One of the strongest stories of the lot, it follows an ordinary boy-next-door who uses a face-changing cream made by Vought that transforms his life. ‘Boyd in 3D dwells’ upon the theme of ‘body dysmorphia’ in the times of social media and the society’s obsession with distorted standards of beauty. The story is about a couple who are first users of the magic face-cream, turning them into social-media darlings. But their meteoric rise is met by an equally lethal low. It’s a disturbing and cautionary tale with some clever writing.
Episode Five: BFFs – This was the only episode I did not watch in one go, because the animation style was distinctly different from the others and not very appealing. The art is a mash of American ‘Bratz Dolls’ visuals and Japanese Chibi anime. I lost interest even before the weird stuff begins, but resumed the show later. The story is about a girl who drinks ‘Compound V’ and shit happens. Literal shit. It’s a bizarre episode that tries to be absurd, cute and funny, but is just random rubbish. “That’s the grossest thing I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some gross things” a character yells at one point. I completely agree. Definitely do not watch while eating something.
Episode Six: Nubian Vs Nubian – When a famous superhero couple decide to get a divorce, their little daughter devices a devious plan to keep them together. Will her plan work? Nubian Vs Nubian was a simple-breezy and engaging short. The plot could’ve used a better conflict, it’s too simple, but thankfully the animation style changes and is back to being more on the lines of ‘X-Men’ than the childish-chibi anime art meant for school kids.
Episode Seven: John and Sun-Lee – An old man who works as janitor in Vought’s HQ, steals some ‘Compound V’ to save his dying wife. But the old couple isn’t prepared for the dangerous consequences. This short had an interesting plot, but the makers just exaggerate things to the point that it gets boringly annoying. This is a cartoon meant for adults, the writers can go wild wild wild, but they do it in such a senseless way, they end up ruining a potentially great emotional tale.
Episode Eight: One Plus One Equals Two – Thankfully, ‘Diabolical’ saves the best for the last. Although ‘Boyd in 3D’ was my favorite of the 8 short films, this one starring the biggest superhero from ‘Boys’, gives viewers a great flashback story to how Homelander joined the big league of supes. He is a lot younger, and the animated version is adorable, betraying the true diabolical nature of the man. What makes this episode fun is the fact that the original cast lends their voice to the animated version. So Anthony Starr is Homelander, and the moment his manager Madelyn Stillwell says something, you know it’s Elisabeth Shue. It’s an interesting piece of origin story for Homelander, the great American hero, and wittily displays everything wrong with Vaught – the organization that’s turned superheroes into commercial depraved entities.
This series was an interesting attempt, could’ve used better imagined characters and plots. It’s a 6/10 from me.
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