The first three episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina were just released on Amazon Prime Video. The show is based on the first campaign of “Critical Role”; a Dungeons and Dragons live play podcast and twitch stream. So far three episodes have been released; it is difficult to judge whether or not the show is good, but it seems to be heading in the right direction.
I am a fan of the animation, the voice acting is great as was expected, and the music score is amazing. The fight scene music, for example, elevates the combat to epic levels. I love the violent and adult tone this show takes on. Lots of people die and the show does not hide adult themes. There is nudity, sex, and lots of drinking. I would argue that it would be impossible to tell this story without addressing any of these themes.
My only complaint with this show is the fan service. It isn’t bad. This show only exists because there was enough interest from the fans. It is only natural for a show like this to have fan service because it is a sign of gratitude. My problem is that I worry the fan service might be alienating for those who aren’t familiar with “Critical Role.” There are jokes, characters, and scenes that won’t make sense without some knowledge of the source material. There is a random character in this show who mumbles and shows up a few times that looks like Matt Mercer. His presence isn’t problematic, but people who don’t know who he is will gloss over his presence as a random character who just exists.
The show also requires some knowledge of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.” Understanding the rules help understand how magic works or explains why some scenes play out the way they do. Having an understanding of both the show and the rules of the game help provide a more meaningful experience, although it isn’t necessarily required. I feel that there are enough of these references to issue a warning. Keep in mind that this show is written for a specific type of fan.
This show is character-focused. The plot and its development rely heavily on character action and growth. The story is based on a game where the players drive the narrative so it makes sense that the focus is on the characters. These characters are not perfect. They are rude, selfish, and famously unpopular. I love that they fail consistently; it allows them to grow and develop as heroes. The characters start the show flawed and that is okay because they grow. They are not the same characters by the end of the third episode, although there is a lot of room for improvement.
So far, this is a pretty cool animated series. It is adult and gory; be warned if that doesn’t appeal to you. I fear that the fan service might prove a bit alienating to the uninitiated, but the story is solid enough to be watchable. You will need to do a bit of research to understand certain moments in the show, but you will be fine without it. It is a pretty solid show if you like Dungeons and Dragons. As a fan of the first campaign, I’m enjoying it so far.