Genres: Animation; action; adventure; fantasy
My rating: 9/10
Lastman is a French comic series that came out in 2013. Its premise pivots around a pretty familiar to those of us who spend time immersed in animated features: a tournament. An annual grand tournament to be specific, held in a world where magic is accepted as reality.
Lastman the series came out in 2016, and is a prequel which explains how Richard Aldana, an amateur boxer with little prospects and little interest in changing the direction of his life, ends up going from our world to the Valley of the Kings.
To my knowledge in the states this series is only available on Vrv, which comes with a low premium of 10/mo but a 30 day free trial. Although I don't have a subscription with them right now, I enjoyed their selection when I did and am considering going back. Just this series is worth the trial.
This review is about the series.
And what a series it is.
If you take a look at the IMDB page you see an unassuming 500 or so reviews. Nothing that's going to break the bank. But it has an 8.8. At a few hundred reviews, that's nothing to sneeze at. And although the animation may not be as immersive as one might be used to with a higher budget, it makes up for this with substance squared.
Each of the 27 episodes is only 10 minutes long. If you're familiar with other short run animated series like Regular Show or Adventure Time this is probably not that odd to you, but if you aren't you may think that this isn't long enough to tell a good story. For Lastman at least, you'd be wrong. Each episode has a minimum of fluff on it. Every minute of it is essential to the story and the story is beautifully crafted without being just a port of an already written story into animation.
The main character, Richard, reminds me of John McClane. He's rough around the edges, he's pretty much rough all the way around. At first you may not think of him as a traditionally good guy but his actions define him very early on, and you can tell even if unconventional (to the mainstream; my comparison to Die Hard makes it clear he isn't totally unique either) Richard is a strong hero protagonist. He doesn't have any powers in the context of the truly supernatural characters, here called Wrens, but he does have the Power of Luck, which is common among action heroes.
None of the characters introduced are wasted. Every person you see means something to the story, sometimes to your surprise, sometimes with much more meaningful influence than you might think.
The environment / milieu is what I would consider "urban fantasy" or "low fantasy". Think Angel, Supernatural, and even Harry Potter. Instead of roaming hills and underground caverns and castles in the sky, you get skyscrapers and city streets and sewers. But there are magic and monsters, and how each gets dealt with by our protagonist is very "classic action hero meets grim fantasy world".
The exposition, the pacing, the plot, the rules of the fantasy, and character progression, are all laudable.