Xavier: Renegade Angel (US - DVD R1)
Gabe takes a long vision quest with some kind of man-bird-horse-snake...
I’m pretty much at a loss for words here. Adult Swim is not known for subtle comedic entertainment, or its lack of weirdness, but Xavier: Renegade Angel might be the most flat-out nightmarish thing to ever hit the channel’s air. It’s possible I just don’t find the show’s particular sense of existential horror humour as riotous as it was intended, but it’s hard to not be rubbed a little terrified by the shows mix of uncanny digital characters, disturbingly taboo subject matter, drug-hazed visuals, and apathetic use of graphic, bloody violence. If the animation were any more realistic I’d probably be dry heaving right now. Unlike Tim and Eric Awesome Show, or the latter episodes of other Adult Swim shows that devolved into pointless oddity, Xavier is so pointedly weird it must be art. Right? That’s how art works, isn’t it?
The show, from the people that brought us the equally weird, and equally miss above hit MTV series Wonder Showzen, revolves around a bird-beaked, snake-armed, furry fawn-like creature named Xavier. Xavier wanders the desert like Cane from Kung Fu, on some sort of new-age guru inspired vision quest, and he helps those in need along the way. Unfortunately, Xavier is a borderline sociopath, and he isn’t very bright, so his existential assistance usually mucks things up worse than they were before he got to them. The animation is of the computer generated variety, and looks kind of like a Play Station game. There look is somewhat three dimensional, character movement is stiff, and extraneous elements like hair often overlap body frames and set pieces. The style choice seems just as pointed as the writing, and is possibly meant to evoke ‘The Sims’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto’, though any actual video game related story elements are apparently beyond the point. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going on, and there isn’t much technical information available on the show.
I hesitate to compare the series to what I’d consider ‘important’ art, but Xavier often recalls Alejandro Jodorowsky’s oddball feature films, specifically El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Most of the comparison comes out of the fact that both the series and Jodorowsky’s films satire religion, and spirituality, but there are enough visual similarities that I assume Xavier’s creators are familiar with Jodorowsky’s and his contemporaries. Way too much time is spent on Xavier’s dialogue, which is mostly made-up of obscene double-entendres. These are reasonably amusing, and kind of work as a repetitive theme, but in large doses it’s exhausting. Actually, pretty much the whole show is exhausting in large doses. In 15 minute incriminates, flanked by other, less abstract Adult Swim series, it’s a nice sprinkling of ‘alternative’ entertainment. The second season (the ten episodes on disc two) sees the show finding a more interesting footing, and a balance the between the dueling themes of balls-out weirdness, and more traditional comedy. At least as close as these guys are willing to get to ‘traditional comedy’.
Xavier’s Play Station quality visuals don’t inspire the greatest video expectation. Lumpy details, noisy colours, and jagged edges are expected. The colours are reasonably bright, and blacks are plenty dark, but nothing is particularly pure or sharp. Pixilation is to be expected, along with the ‘purposeful errors’ that go along with the dated video game look. The transfer’s real problem is the fact that it’s not anamorphically enhanced (though, for all I know the letterboxing might have been intended for some hilarious reason). The transfer is chunky enough that using your set’s zoom function isn’t a huge deal, but Adult Swim has moved on to high definition transfers. There’s really no reason they can’t anamorphically enhance all their 16x9 shows on standard DVD. I’m not saying Xavier could stand up any better if it were an HD transfer, but come on guys.
Xavier comes fitted with a television friendly Dolby Surround 2.0 track. The track is more impressive than the video, mostly because there’s just so much abstract and stylized noise. Sometimes the nightmarish sounds (outside of being bone chilling and bile pushing) erupts throughout all available channels aggressively enough to sound quite a bit like a full 5.1 track. There’s enough bleeding noise (no pun intended) to make the lack of discreet center and surround channels clear, but for a 2.0 track it’s pretty solid, and stylish. Listen, and enjoy Xavier’s echoing voice for yourself.
Dear Adult Swim: Please, God, please make future DVD releases’ audio commentary tracks accessible from either the ‘extras’ or ‘set-up’ menus. It’s really, really obnoxious to have to hunt for episodes with commentary as if they were Easter Eggs. Xavier: Renegade Angel’s extras begin with a few hidden fan-commentary tracks on select episodes (I’m going to let you guys hunt them down for yourselves). These tracks are pretty much entirely annoying, but you’ve got to love a show that asks its fans to record commentary tracks for the official DVD release. Disc two features the series’ extras, which begin with ‘Damnesia You: Inhonorable Unmentionables’ (14:30). The show’s producers held a contest for homemade Xavier skits, and the winners were shown as part of the episode titled ‘Damnesia You’. The runners-up, or at least 13 of them, are presented here. They run the gamut from unwatchable, to better than the show usually manages. ‘Xaviercize’ (3:30) closes out the disc. The extra is made up of the character dancing to very ‘80s sounding music, and devolves into flashing abstraction.
Xavier: Renegade Angel is bizarre enough that my opinion on the subject is moot. Most readers are going to find it revolting, and possibly even infuriatingly offensive, but others are going to adore its original comedic image and voice. I find myself respecting the show, but I don’t enjoy watching it for more than a few minutes at a time. One episode a week is plenty. Perhaps if I partook in hallucinatory drugs I’d be singing a different tune. If this is all too vague might I suggest the curious head over to the official Adult Swim website and watch an episode? Series fans will be disappointed by the disc’s lack of anamorphic enhancement and extras, but the audio quality is better than expected.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th November 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Surround 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish and French
Extras: Fan Commentaries, Damnesia You: Inhonorable Unmentionables, Xaviercize
Easter Egg: No
Cast: John Lee, Vernon Chatman, Alyson Levy, Jim Tozzi
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 226 minutes
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