Review by Sean Boelman
A new adult animated series from some of the producers and writers of the popular anthology show Robot Chicken, Hulu’s medieval parody Crossing Swords seems like a direct answer to the recent trend in flashy, big-budget fantasy television shows. Simple but far from one-note, this series has no shortage of laughs, especially when it gets into a veritable rhythm.
The series follows a peasant who dreams of becoming a squire for the King, only to find himself in over his head when he actually gets the opportunity to fulfill his dreams. The core series arc is an underdog story, a common trope for both adult animation and the genre which it is parodying, but what makes this series stand out are the individual adventures on which the characters embark.
After the first episode establishes the characters and kicks everything off, each subsequent one places the characters in wacky fantasy-based hijinks. Although some of these are more compelling than others (an episode set in a minotaur maze is hilarious, while one centered around a single chastity belt gag feels derivative), there is enough diversity in the styles of humor for the series to consistently work.
Those moments in the show which go all-in on the darker humor work best, eliciting the strongest laughs. At times, there are anachronisms used to poke fun at more modern phenomena (such as music festivals), but even more impressive is when the series uses its fantasy as an allegory. (The single best episode involves the characters visiting a supposedly egalitarian utopia.)
One of the areas in which the series has substantial room to improve is in developing its characters. Although the core characters work — the protagonist, his comically dumb sidekick, the King, and the Princess are all very compelling — there is something left to be desired from the rest of the players. For example, a storyline involving the Queen is introduced but left underdeveloped. Perhaps she can be explored more in future seasons.
The voice cast that was assembled for this series is filled with talented comedians and dramatic actors alike, and it is very effective. An almost unrecognizable Nicholas Hoult voices the protagonist and is absolutely hilarious in the role. Other memorable performances come from Luke Evans, Tara Strong, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Tony Hale in the supporting cast.
Of course, from people who worked on Robot Chicken, one would expect creative animation and director John Harvatine IV delivers. The series is made with an advanced and detailed form of peg doll animation, and it surprisingly immerses the viewer within the fantasy world of the story extremely well.
Crossing Swords can admittedly feel a bit all over the place at times, but it has no shortage of laughs. Creators John Harvatine IV and Tom Root are obviously very talented at writing comedy, resulting in an entertaining and bingeable watch.
Crossing Swords debuts on Hulu on June 12.