Adult Animation in the United States can sometimes feel one-note. “Crossing Swords” is, unfortunately, a wooden comedy.
Unlike Japanese anime that come in a wide variety of genres like thrillers, comedies, sci-fi, dramas, or a mix of multiple genres, American adult-animated shows are almost always comedies. Some of the more successful and acclaimed modern adult-animated shows like Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman, and Archer understand the importance the balance humor with clever writing through world-building and character arcs. A good show needs more than yelling and dick-jokes. A good show needs characters and stories worth investing in. Unfortunately, that’s what Crossing Swords is severely lacking.
Crossing Swords is a stop-motion animated fantasy series created by John Harvatine IV and Tom Root, most famous for creating Robot Chicken. The series is about Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) a young squire on his journey to become a worthy knight for King Merriman (Luke Evans) and Queen Tulip (Alanna Ubach). His journey leads him through the seedy, sleazy, crooked, and aggravating world of his kingdom’s monarchy. The series features a plethora of vocal talent including Adam Pally, Tara Strong, Seth Green, Tony Hale, Maya Erskine, Yevette Nicole Brown, and Breckin Meyer.
The stop-motion animation in Crossing Swords is excellent. The woodblock style lends a timeless aesthetic and immerses the viewer into this fantasy world. Moreover, the voice acting is top-notch, especially Nicholas Hoult, who infuses Patrick with his likability and charm. The rest of the cast is also great, with standouts including Luke Evans and Alanna Ubach as the King and Queen respectively, and Maya Erskine as the insane Princess Blossom. With all of this talent from both the animation and the cast, it’s unfortunate that the writing is so disenchanting.
The character arcs are not compelling. There is little build-up in the character-development, so changes are abrupt rather than organic. The characters feel one-note, as there are only so many jokes before characters need to grow. By the end, it feels like the writers jammed all the development into the last two episodes with few, if any, seeds planted throughout the show. The character-arcs are incredibly predictable, hitting the basic notes of any underdog story, with little subversion or innovation. Considering the creators’ greatest success came from Robot Chicken, which is a sketch comedy show, perhaps they weren’t prepared or experienced enough to make a comedy based around a narrative story.
Moreover, the kingdom they created feels bland and doesn’t have anything new or interesting that compels me to invest in their world. The kingdom feels barebones, stock, and cliché with nothing much beyond the animation to hold my interest. A better example of this type of show is Disenchantment, another adult-fantasy animation series that understood the importance of giving your fantasy world an identity and lore on-top of funny jokes.
Overall, the series was a disappointment, but not without hope. There is talent in front of and behind the camera, and the show did get a chuckle out of me here-and-there. There is potential with this show and I hope the creators learn from this rocky start and get another chance if the show gets picked up for a second season. I eagerly await this series’ opportunity to grow the beard.