Not to be confused by the legend of Vox Machina by Critical Role.
They are, at its core, the same, but this is an animated show while the original Vox Machina is a table top RPG.
A little bit of history lesson is required here. Originally, Critical Role started a kickstarter campaign in 2019 to raise just 750,000 USD to produce half an hour Vox Machina animated film.
Well, long story short, they got 11 million. Yes, 11,000,000 USD instead of their goal 750,000 USD. This would allow them to produce 10ish episodes. But the popularity prompted Amazon to invest in the series. They invested to add 2 additional episodes to what is now called season 1 and they greenlighted a whole season 2. So, a total of at least 24 episodes.
Due to Covid though, the official release got delayed. Fast forward to 2022 late January, it has finally been released to Amazon Prime.
Now, it is not required you to know the original tabletop game to understand the story, but it sure helps in some cases. At the same time, if you have already watched the original table top game, it may also frustrate you because some parts have been dumbed down.
Regardless, we have it now, Vox Machina in essentially anime form. Yes, Japanese dub also exists, and it’s surreally good. Dub exists in 10 languages or so. Among them, Japanese dub really stood out. It feels almost better than the original voices, but nope. NOPE. If you’ve watched Vox Machina from Critical Role, you WILL want the original voice.
The story begins as Vox Machina, a group of seven misfit mercenaries, struggling to find their identities as well as lack of any meaning coins. Their first job is given by a king to hunt down a blue dragon. It may seem odd that they get such a big job so soon but they are given the job because options became very limited for the kingdom.
This covers the first two episodes and serves as an introductory phase for the whole story.
To be honest, the first two episodes suck. It has pacing issues. Basically, the story flows way too fast with little meaningful context. To this, I felt that this is their way of trying to introduce and set the basic lore of Vox Machina.
Remember that there are seven characters with their own backgrounds and clear personalities. It was never going to easy to introduce them. It’d take time, but with just 12 episodes for season 1, I don’t think they felt they could do slow introductions for each characters. Instead, what we have, for the first two episodes at least, is a rather chaotic and fast-paced story telling.
Additionally, and probably most importantly, Travis specifically mentioned in 2019 that they were going to shrink what was supposed to be four-episode introductory story into two because he wanted more on meaningful parts (such as the Briarwood arc). So, the pacing issue within the first two episodes is expected.
Of course, if you didn’t follow the kickstatter campaign, you wouldn’t know this because they don’t mention this anywhere else. They really should have since the first two episodes alone is enough to turn down new comers.
Once you get over the first two episodes, you get the real juice. Episode 3 begins the Briarwood arc, the golden jewel of Vox Machina. And this 3rd episode does not disappoint. Oh, yes, no mercy Percy. It has been slightly dumbed down from the original version, but you will still see the fucking no mercy Percy.
However, as said, it has been dumbed down. In original content, Percy speaks names of his family members as his voice progressively becomes broken with tear. It was a very powerful moment but does not make it. What a shame.
I am sure they had their reasons, but it was something I was really looking forward to be animated, so it was a letdown for me.
In the end, what we have is an adult, fast-paced, action Western cartoon that is essentially anime with extremely impressive Japanese dub. If you turn Japanese dub and English subtitle on Amazon prime, this is basically an anime series.
I’d like to also mention that the show carries quite a bit of what one’d call “mature jokes”. It may work on you. Then maybe not. Most of jokes will click but they do sound cheap at times and even unnecessary. In the original table top game, those jokes were funny and entertaining, but I am not finding them as good in the show. The jokes quickly die off in episode 3 though.
Meanwhile, the animation quality isn’t that great. I’d give 6 out of 10 at the most. Compared to Castlevania, it’s clearly worse but I feel it is on par with the Dragon prince. It looks kinda cheap at times. Action scenes are fine though. I am not going to compare this to Arcane because it runs on an insane budget, allegedly 10 times more. When you have that much budget, you can make it look awesome.
It’s alright is what I am trying to say in the end. Its quality is not the best but not the worst, either. It’s sits in the middle. It gets slightly worse and better at times.
To be brutally honest, if I were complete new to Vox Machina, there is a good chance that I may brush it off as meh. For critters, this show will hold sentimental values. And, if you were a backer of their kickstarter, you may even shed a drop of tear or two.
That is because, unlike other animations that simply popped out of nowhere, LoVM had to take slow but progressive steps which, if you are a follower of Critical Role, could have participated. Their kicksrtarter, buying their merch, subbing to their Twitch channel, fans sending pizza to their game room, buying out their t-shirts even before they would finish advertising them.
No animation has had that kind of intimate relationship with its fans like this. LoVM is, as far as I know, the only one that is on a commercial level that is also fan-founded.
Be proud, critters.
In conclusion, do I recommend this? Plus a little bit of history lesson.
Well, depends? The first two episodes suck. At the same time, those two episodes are there for new comers who know nothing about Critical Role. If you are a new comer and can stomach the first two episodes, give it a shot. Or even try the original D&D version as well. Do mind you, please, that the original content of Vox Machina is … 460 hours of content.
Yes, you read it correct, four hundred sixty hours of content.
The animated version is available exclusively on Amazon Prime only. Of course, if you know where to look, you can find it elsewhere as well. I’ve had Amazon prime membership for years, not because I use Prime video frequently, but because I use Prime shipping very frequently for family members. I do watch and like the Expanse by the way. It’s another show that has had its share of bumpy roads.
Now, if you are a fan of Critical Role rather than Vox Machina, I bet the overall animation quality shouldn’t matter too much to you. As a CR fan myself, I am just glad that it’s there. As Travis and Matt have repeatedly told us during their Kickstarter campaign, it took them a long time to reach this far. It was initially a far away, wet, dream that couldn’t be reached. They could only dream it.
Their first step was the D&D beyond animation intro. It was crude. It looked cheap. But it was the first step.
Then they released the Mighty Nein animation intro which was a clear improvement.
Personally, when I watched the Mighty Nein intro for the first time, I felt it was only a matter of time before they’d go for a full animated series. It was clearly on their agenda.
Long story short, we have it now, sort of. The bigger question is, how far they can go. Can they survive beyond the second season? I reckon around 4 to 6 seasons is required for Vox Machina to be fully animated. Only 4 seasons would make them rush it or cut off a large amount of events.
They NEED to make LoVM successful. Otherwise, animating the Mighty Nein will be a lot harder. And, if they can do the Mighty Nein, the ultimate goal of …. Critical Role Land may not be too far.
Well, we will see.