Invader ZIM: Complete Invasion (2001)

DVD Cover (Anime Works)
Genres: Animated Comedy, Animated Fantasy, Animated Television, Animation, Children's / Family, Children's Fantasy
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8.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: October 30, 2016
Back in 2001, Jhonen Vasquez's Invader Zim hit Nickelodeon. Aiming at an older demographic than Rugrats or Doug, this cartoon absolutely exploded among us goth kids.

Deep in space, the Irkens are a group of aliens bent on intergalactic conquest; their M.O. is to send a single Invader to the planet, blend in with the planet's inhabitants so they can learn enough about the species' weaknesses to take over the planet. The Irkens are just about to begin handing assigning planets for Operation Pending Doom II when they're interrupted by Zim. Despite being banished for wrecking his own home planet and ruining Operation Pending Doom I, the hopelessly incompetent alien is demanding an opportunity to prove his worth. In a bid to get rid of him, the alien leaders (The Almighty Tallests. You see, the Irkens hierarchy is based on physical height) send him to a "secret planet" that lies outside of their charts. As luck would have it, there IS a planet in the general direction they've sent them: Earth! Along with his robotic henchmen, GIR (naturally, The Tallests gave Zim a horribly malfunctioning robot), Zim begins his mission. Unfortunately for the alien however, a human named Dib is well versed in the paranormal. He sees right through Zim's disguise and takes it upon himself to foil his plans of global conquest.

At its core, Invader Zim's bread and butter is pure absurdity. Between Zim and Dib's incompetence, the incredible stupidity of the humans they're dealing with, and the general disarray of this world's society, there's absolutely no telling what direction the show is going to go. Maybe Zim has decided to stalk his classmates and steal their organs or maybe he's decided to get revenge by turning his enemy into bologna. Who knows. Furthermore, each episode is completely self contained, ensuring that there's no limits on the nonsense the show can go to. There are episodes that end with Zim getting launched into the sun or the entire planet relocated to a far off solar system, and everything is reset the next time we begin. Now, I do have to admit that when you binge through twenty episodes, it does get to be a bit much by the season's end, but Jhonen Vasquez had a few tricks to keep things from getting too monotonous. You see, this is not your average loony cartoon; Invader Zim was an insanely dark show, and underneath the comedy was a constant horror and sci-fi action tone. Some episodes would bring those genres to a greater emphasis. That organ episode I mentioned earlier was just as scary as it sounds. They were a nice change of pace, but the ratio of these episodes wasn't quite high enough.

Voicing the titular Zim, Richard Horvitz was obviously having an absolute ball. Overzealous and completely unaware of how terrible he is at his job, the alien's dialogue is made up of loud proclamations of his superiority over the puny humans, often trailing off with awkward repetition as he doesn't know how to end the sentence. Also, while he typically handles more of the artistic side of things, Rikki Simons lent his voice to GIR. The zany robot is a huge part of that unpredictable absurdity I was talking about earlier. He's a fan of dancing and pigs, doesn't have an attention span to speak of, and with antics like emptying his fuel tanks to make room for tuna or singing the nonsensical, six-month-long "Doom Song" it's easy to see why he became one of the most popular characters from the show. In a relatively more reserved role, Andy Berman handled Dib extremely well. I say 'relatively' because while Dib is every bit as excitable as his arch-rival, the invaders' personalities are completely off the charts. In tertiary roles, Melissa Fahn and Lucille Bliss both excelled as Dib's anti-social sister, Gaz, and their horrifying teacher, Ms. Bitters respectively.

Now when I said it exploded among us goth kids, it turns out our generation's counter-culture wasn't quite enough to keep an entire TV show up and running. With Invader Zim being the most expensive cartoon Nickelodeon has ever made at the time and the ratings just not there to justify it, the show was cancelled while the second season was in production. Out of the planned eighteen episodes and TV movie wrapping up the series, only seven were made. Perhaps the worst part is that even with less than half the season released, you can see some much needed growth. The absurdity was still there of course, but it was much less of a defining characteristic and the show's plot was given significantly more emphasis. In these episodes, we only saw this with the sub-plot involving Tak's ship, but I'd be willing to bet Tak herself and The Resisty would have had a bigger role in the overall season, not to mention any aspects we didn't even get to see introduced.

It's always a risk going back to relive your favorite childhood shows, but Invader Zim certainly held up well for me. If you're a fan of absurd and off-color humor, I definitely recommend sitting down with it. Plus, as depressing as it was that Nickelodeon pulled the plug on it before finishing that second season, the franchise was recently revived as a comic book. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but from what I hear it's a fine return to form. 8/10.
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