July 07, 2006

Not on DVD : THE MAXX - very dark US animated series

Not on DVD: MTV's THE MAXX (1996, TV, USA)

If you thought Batman was moody, wait till you meet Sara

Deeper and much, much darker than the series of Aeon Flux - this is the MTV animation that I most want to see on DVD. The exquisitely twisted story, the painfully real characters - it's essential, though morbid viewing...

Based on the comic's by David Kieth, the TV version of The Maxx only got so far in telling the story. But it still sort of stands on its own.

Julie is a freelance social worker with a history of abuse, but in Maxx's fantasy world she's his Jungle Queen. The Maxx is a masked musclebound hero in a purple skin-tight suit (looking like The Phantom with a massive overbite). He protects Julie in two parallel universes, one of which is a grimy, crime-soaked metropolis. Mr Gone is the villain of the piece, a bald bearded serial killer, who controls little lumpy eyeless creatures, called Isz.

Fathoming out the mysteries on both planes is rather challenging. Even after several viewings, I'm still not entirely straight on exactly what happened in each character's past. But the series is a dark place I like to revisit to work it out all over again. I'd suggest you try and stick with it before bailing out to read all the spoilers in websites like Wikipedia.

Besides providing humour, action and enjoyable disorientation, the series manages to visualise various aspects of mental illness in an inventive and entertaining way, no mean achievement! Julie seems to be in denial, Max is living on the streets and has problems remembering, Sara, a friend of Julie's, is accurately portrayed as extremely depressive, but still manages astute and humorous observations while engaging, but not seeking, our sympathy.

If I remember correctly, The Maxx went out on MTV in 10 minute episodes, many with cliffhanger endings. The VHS compilation (pictured above) presents the entire series without any breaks. But this means we miss out on the recaps and teasers from the original transmissions, which were narrated by Mr Gone and were valuable in providing extra hints and clues to the ongoing mysteries.

The Maxx mixes up bone-crunching superhero fights with psychological horror. It's unique in animation from the west, one of the few animated series firmly aimed at adults.

Here's a clip from THE MAXX on YouTube.

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