Picks and Pans Review: Visionaries, Vols. 3 and 4

updated 06/06/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/06/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By the standards of animated TV series, the show that these tapes come from is so sophisticated as to border on the Kafka-esque. Which means 8-to 12-year-olds are likely to love it. The series' creators, Sunbow Productions, also did G.I. Joe. In this case, the Spectral Knights and Darkling Lords are subtler in their heroism and villainy. The setting mixes the Middle Ages and the future, with castles and spells as well as lasers and spacecraft. The characters have names like Arzon and Witterquick and can change into wild beasts. An old wizard, Merklyn, arbitrates the disputes and is not above sarcasm. In the half-hour Volume 4's only episode (the 70-minute Volume 3 has three), Leoric, the Knights' leader, fears being aged by a spell and tells Merklyn, "We're not afraid of you. We're afraid of being like you." Merklyn scowls and says, "How flattering." Among the bad guys, guest-star wizard Wheezer Squeezer says to a Lord who has become a snail-like creature, "I will release you before they imprison you or cook you in garlic and butter or something." There is generally more compassion and irony than kids' shows usually display, and parents will note that the Visionaries' toy series is relatively limited. (Hi-Tops, Vol. 3: $29.95; Vol. 4: $14.95)

(Thaddeus Novak, 8, says: "While most series make use of high-tech advancement, this one goes back to the magic stuff. It's terrific. And it's probably good publicity for the figures too.")

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