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Whyboy Spotlights: Detentionaire

Detention, a time where troublemakers are forced to just sit and think about what they have done and “supposedly” teaches them to never do it again.

When really they are back to doing whatever got them in trouble as soon as they are out the door. In short, it comes off as a ridiculously lenient punishment. But now we got Detentionaire that may just take it too far in the other direction. The story goes that Lee Ping and his best friends, Holger Holgaart and Camillio “Cam” Martinez are starting their first year of high school at A. Nigma High. That is, until Lee is falsely accused of pulling off the biggest prank in high school history and sentenced to one full year of detention by the new half cyborg principal General Barrage. Now, every day, Lee must escape detention, infiltrate a new social clique (Nerds, Jocks, Goths etc.), and unravel the gigantic, mysterious prank and deduce who is the culprit who framed him who simply is titled “Radcircles.”

Already by the time I heard this in the dozen of teasers I saw on Teletoon I was really looking forward to Detentionaire. It had the one thing that makes me love shows uncontrollably and that is mystery. I’ve been starving for some animated mystery shows like the criminally under-appreciated Disney’s Filmore and Detentionaire truly quenched that thirst. When I started watching the show the theme song became the perfect first impression. One of my major factors as to whether I like a show or not is the intro and Detentionaire doesn’t disappoint in that department. The opening’s addictive theme music gets the adrenaline pumping and puts you in the right mood for a grimy, solo sleuth, comedy show which I just love. The into’s use of contrasting sizes and colours creates a visually beautiful array of textures and this creates the one thing I absolutely crave for in an opening. Flow. All the visuals match the music dead on and the visuals flow directly into one another creating the flow that I love.

Detentionaire is definitely one of the more shining examples when combating the “All of today’s cartoons suck” trolls because Detentionaire’s story balances both quirky comedy and mystery to a fantastic degree… well most of the time. The mysterious plot lines of “radcircles,” Lee’s past, and putting together how the big prank came together fleshes out the mystery and makes the viewer almost NEED to find out what happens next. That’s exactly what happened to me. But sometimes Detentionaire’s mystery is overpowered by its quirky comedy ending in our characters acting completely moronic like in the episode “28 Sneezes Later.” Get it “28 Days Later”. “Ha. Ha.” Short story is that while Lee escapes from detention again chasing after A. Nigma High’s mascot the Tazelwurm, who looks like a rejected character from Spliced, Cam, Holger and two other students are fighting “Flu Zombies” with supersoakers. Yes, really. While this is going on Barrage is having a chat with… “Colonel Von Virus.”

…yeah, the show can turn the silly dial up to 11 creating a real jarring feeling. Thi isn’t even the only example of this in the episode “Welcome to Factory Island” Lee is trying to escape from an exploding soda pop factory, by going into, an about to explode, underground passageway but then robotic Tazzelwurms pop out of no where and they are beaten just like that. After that the robotic murdering worm monsters is met with a mild head scratching moment for Lee. Wouldn’t the next logical step be… oh I don’t know… asking the factory owners why there’s a secret passage way with robotic worm lizards ready to rip people’s faces off under there smoldering crater of a factory? This will probably be explained in a later episode but it still is jarring to throw in murderous robots and then immediately erase their existence until a later episode.

The most irritating episode by far is “15th Grader” which is this series’ special public service announcement on bullying and let me just say my one thought on that episode. BLEH! Please we’ve seen probably hundreds of these bully PSAs in cartoons and in always amounts to some of the most ham handed speeches ever uttered that are so unbearably sappy it makes you want to puke. But really the good episodes outweigh the total embarrassing one’s. The only thing I hate is that the worst episodes turn out to most of the time to bring the most important key clues to the mystery. *Groan*

Moving on from the episodes to the characters. While most in the show are stock characters like the Goths, the nerds, and the skater dudes, they fulfill their purpose of moving the story along and I do find some of their stereotype humour quite funny. They remind me of the cliques from Rock Star’s, Bully (which is one of my favorite games of all time. Basically picture GTA for kids). Every clique in Bully was the most outrageous stereotype of school cliques they even manage to bring in a clique called “The Greasers.” But what I love is that the creators pushed these stereotype characters to such an extreme it reached point of parody and still be relatable. I think this point can be cemented by saying that the nerd clique has a DDR machine that works by “dancing” equations on a humongous calculator. It’s freaking hilariously surreal.

The main focus is on our main character Lee and his three friends; Holger, Cam and the school bully, Biff Goldstien, and thankfully these four are quite interesting characters. Starting with the most stereotypical of the bunch Cam. Though loyal to Lee and helping with his endeavors when he can he’d just as soon ride Lee’s new found wave of popularity after the prank as long as it will last. Cam shows a rather strong interest in finding a girlfriend but fails due to using pick-up lines as charming as a tube sock, which drives his motivation to try and keep Lee from openly denying his status as the prank master, as Lee’s fame helps Cam score attention with girls. Now this is a very different spin on the best friend character basically Cam is Lee’s B.F. but he is completely fine with using him in order to make himself popular which at the time of writing this spotlight has placed him as a suspect for being the mastermind of the prank “Radcircles.” Interesting.

Holger, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite character archetype of Cam. While Cam’s loyalty sways by how it suits his needs, Holger is Lee’s obsessively loyal friend and A. Nigma High’s Scandinavian exchange student. Though he appears and acts incompetent in all things, on occasion having to be bailed out of trouble by Lee, the value of his few skills have proven to exceed his incompetence. Hoger is the definite comic center of the show hands down with most of his antics centered on his obsessive loyalty. Even when the show turns the silly dial to 11, Holger is always the one that keeps the silliness bearable and allows me to keep watching the sometimes lead paint drinking awful comedy bits.

Biff is the fan favorite of the cast and I can definitely see why. As the wiki for Detentionaire states Biff “…is a gentle giant with a soft spot for his pet cat” which definitely doesn’t sell who Biff actually is. The writers made sure that Biff wasn’t in any meaning of the world “gentle” except to his cat but he stills shows his true colors. Biff while in the middle of school acts like the big tough bully who’ll pummel your face in by just breathing funny to him and in detention… he still acts like he’ll pound your face in by breathing on him funny but Biff finds more enjoyment out of being a sarcastic wise ass, constantly mocking Lee and all the crap that he gets himself into. Sure Biff helps Lee out but not before verbally prodding him. If I were to compare Biff to another character I say he takes his snarky behavior from Patrick Jane from The Mentalist. Always two steps ahead of Lee’s thinking and definitely a genius despite how he acts. Biff isn’t a gentle giant masking as a bully. He’s a sarcastic tough guy masking as a bully.

Now onto my favorite character the framed prank master himself, Lee Ping. Lee is what we like to call the “straight man”, the character that plays normal to the wacky, mysterious crap that fluctuates throughout his life at school. Lee is the audience’s frame of reference to all the weird crap that happens in A. Nigma and because he the writers make him like this I feel he is definitely one of the most realistic student characters in all cartoons. Despite being part of a school, which even in reality is clique central, Lee couldn’t care less of being part of any clique even the popular clique. His only goals are to get good grades, talk to his love interest Tina Kwee (Lois Lane reference anyone?), and just hang out with his pals. I don’t know about all of you guys and gals but I couldn’t care less about cliques and popularity either which allows me to sympathize with him when Lee gets swept up in the popular crowd after he’s framed for the prank. Because really why wouldn’t you find the guy who covered you in puke and other crap cool? All Lee wants is to hang out with his friends but now he is forced to delve into the cliques of the school to find out who set him up which again, leading back to the calculator DDR example, leads to some hilarious shenanigans.

Nelvana, Detentionaire’s production company, who produced classics like Redwall and the Care Bears created a flash based art style reminiscent of 6Teen. But what I find brilliant is they added more of a grimy look to the backgrounds which creates a more mysterious, dingy feel to the series. There are only two major issues I have with the show’s animation. The first being its walk cycles. These walk cycles are just plain terrible with all their characters’ movements having the “flashy” look about them. The second thing and this is rather silly to notice but whenever the show does a close-up of Lee’s hands it, for some reason, becomes… this.

I mean come on seriously? This looks plain awful. It’s completely jarring to look at when the rest of the show is very clean. Overall I love this show. There are some definite low points of the show and some lazy flash animating tactics pulled in the show but the characters are funny and take interesting spins on old clichés, the story-line is mysterious enough making an incentive to want to know what happens next, and the animation is very distinct and immerses you to the world of A. Nigma High. If you’re in Canada check it out on Teletoon sometime and if you’re in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world there are full episodes posted on youtube if you want to check it out. Now in the words of Detentionaire’s Principal Barrage “DISMISSED!”

Illustrations by Jordan Tucker – Deviantart

Written by: Taylor “Whyboy” Wyatt

If you have any requests for a movie or show to spotlight please contact me at cartooncorner.whyboy@gmail.com

About the author

Chozo Ninpo

Chozo Ninpo is a founding member of Channel Zero and one of the hosts of The Zero Level. He is the Project Manager for the Orlando Nerd Fest and an avid gamer, as well as a nerdcore rapper, a cosplayer, and the real life inspiration behind the FX cartoon "Chozen".