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REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF VOX MACHINA is irreverent high fantasy comedy and addictively watchable

Critical Role shines as an animated series that brings its beloved characters to life.

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Credit: Prime Video

After twelve exciting episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina, we’ve finally reached the end of the first season and it feels like we sped through that season with breakneck speed. Dropping three episodes a week, the series played out in less than a month after its long production period. Created by Matthew Mercer and based on the Critical Role Dungeons and Dragons podcast, Vox Machina first came to life via Kickstarter. After a tremendously successful campaign thanks to the dedicated listeners of the wildly popular show, the streaming rights were eventually bought by Amazon, who commissioned a second season and tacked on two more episodes to a 10 episode season. And thank god for that, because by the end of Season 1, aren’t we all clamoring to spend more time with the gang?

Finding a comfortable place between an irreverent comedy and high fantasy, The Legend of Vox Machina shines when it hits it stride, blending music and action and sprinkling in moments of heart. Does it sometimes veer a little bit too far into the syrupy? At times. There is a reliance on the hyperbolic that can begin to feel repetitive at times. The gang is fighting, hope seems to be lost, and one character (often Keyleth) manages to conjure something powerful to the entrance and awe the audience. It’s a classic fantasy trope but a tune that is perhaps played a little too often in this first season.

Credit: Prime Video

Animated by Titmouse, the graphics are stunning and you can see why they rely on these stunner moments because they do drive up the adrenaline, but the moments between the characters are often far more compelling. The season drops you right into your time with the gang, foregoing any story that tells you how our gang got together. Some of the connections are more obvious (a pair of twins, some old friends) and some are less so, but they’ve found each other and given how short the episodes are, they rightly leave that story to be revealed as we travel. The season opens with a massive battle but ultimately ends up centering on just one of the main characters: Percy de Rolo (Taliesin Jaffe).

Now because all of the Critical Role cast are voice actors, the translation from real-life to animation is obviously incredibly smooth. And while fans of the podcast will definitely recognize the voices of their favorites, these are not newbies taking on the task of voice acting the show. The series offers a streamlined experience from the tabletop game, and for those who might not be interested in the semantics of DnD, the show is much easier to enjoy and digestible.

Percy’s story is one of vengeance, trauma, and being haunted by the ghosts of your past. The Briarwood Arc, as it’s known, spanned upwards of 30 hours, and compartmentalizing it down was no easy feat. For the most part, it was successful. We watch as Percy relives the horrific loss of his parents, his hunt for revenge, the revelation of his deal with a demon, and his reconciliation with his sister play out in a clean fashion. What is less clear is the storyline with Pike’s journey of self-discovery. While it makes sense in a longer, extended campaign, Pike’s disappearance in the story is noticeable, and then cutting to her breaks up the tension of the scenes.

Credit: Prime Video

However, the season manages it the best it can, and at the end of the day, those half-hour episodes only leave you wanting more. Amazon has seen a lot of success with its adult animation thanks to Invincible, and Vox Machina will certainly scratch that high fantasy itch that so many people have. The comedy and action are on point, some of the highlights include the bard Scanlan (Sam Riegel) and the barbarian Grog (Travis Willingham), both offering some of the best moments of comic relief.

For fans, it’s obviously a relief to hear that there will at least be one more season, but with so much material to mine, perhaps Mercer and the team would do better to stretch out arcs rather than rush through them. Given how many stories they cultivated since 2015, the show could reasonably go on for many more seasons. For its first season, The Legend of Vox Machina finds its footing by the end of the season as a charming, magical, and addictively watchable series, making us hungry for more episodes.

Watch the entire first season of The Legend of Vox Machina on Prime Video now!

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