I haven't done a nostalgia review in a while, and I happened upon Cubix not too long ago- so here we go.
“When a foolproof plan fails, it’s not necessarily proof that the planner himself was a fool, right?” - Dr. K
If you were a kid in the late 90s- early 2000s, chances were that you were watching the recently popularized anime Pokemon or Yugioh. A lot of people don't know this, but before Funimation really took off (DBZ was their biggest license prior to acquiring One Piece from 4Kids, and they rescued DBZ from Saban), before Viz Media, before Aniplex America showed up on
the scene, you had basically two companies that were licensing the majority of Japanese animation for western audiences: Pioneer/Geneon, and 4Kids.
Nowadays, 4Kids Entertainment is the butt of many jokes and the easy target for "bad English dubs" and censoring, after their mishandling of One Piece and subsequent loss of licenses for a pair of golden eggs: Yugioh and Pokemon.
However, 4Kids was an important step in shaping the anime licensing and dubbing scene of today. With the smash hit of Pokemon in 1998, then again with Yugioh in 2001, 4Kids proved that not only was there a huge market for children's animation, but that it could be supremely profitable. Back in a time where very few movies series received licensing treatment- let alone TV shows, (which were always niche at best)- 4Kids was paving the way for the aforementioned companies to come.
Now, onto Cubix- a long forgotten and overshadowed production of 4Kids.
Artwork and Animation: 1
Starting with the bad: the animation, and boy, is it ever odious. It's that early 2000's 3D CGI that looks so fake, you would rather eat melted down plastic on your pancakes than margarine. Seriously, it's bad. I would rather spoon out my eyeballs, hammer nails into them, dip them in gasoline and light them on fire than watch something with this style of 3D CGI again.
Cubix combines the elements of an episodic kids' show with an overarching plotline, mostly to good effect. It doesn't get ultra formulaic like its stablemate Pokemon, and it doesn't get into stupidly long single fight arcs like Yugioh. The basic premise is that the Machiavellian evil Dr. K is attempting to capture an energy source called "Solex", which, in a crystallized form, provides a source of nearly unlimited energy with which to power his various robot creations and rule the world.
The issue with Solex is that when it manifests, it causes the robot it exists in to go insane and attack people/destroy things, which forms the conflict of the first season. Connor, Abby, Chip, Mong, and Hela are trying to dispose of the Solex so that the robots return to normal, meanwhile, the nefarious Dr. K is foiled time and time again. He even gets blasted off.
Connor and Abby are the pair of protagonists- Connor is the new kid on the block, loyal to a fault, friendship, all that kids' show stuff. Chip is the token nerd kid who quips and makes sarcastic comments, some of which are fairly adult, but mostly just bad puns. Mong is the token fat, strong kid with the temper. Abby is standard fare female protagonist- she helps and contributes, but ultimately everyone falls to the wayside for Cubix, Connor's robot. Cubix is a modular cubic-block robot (wow such naming conventions) that is naturally the hero of the show. He has his own magical girl transformation sequence that's used about 5 times per episode, and transforms into whatever form necessary to defeat the villain of the week, whether it's flying, tunnelling, super OP, or Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann. (I think I just imagined that last one.)
Now, finally, something good. One more thing about 4Kids: they produced some fine voice talent, and while they were employed in-house, similar to how Aniplex does, they were also compensated well for their talents. The names this show has on the credits list reads like an A list Hollywood ensemble of voice acting.
Connor is voiced by Andrew Rannells, a guy that's made the successful jump from VA to TV and movie acting in some recent NBC productions, but he's of less note than the other main characters. Veronica Taylor (Ash in Pokemon) voices Abby, and sounds fantastic as usual; her counterpart Rachael Lillis, also of Pokemon fame voices Hela, the engineer and repair lady.
Dan Green, of Yugioh fame voices the robo-hating, angry dad character.
The late Maddie Blaustein nearly reprises her role as Meowth in Dr. K, the squeaky, scheming villain who seems to be equal parts Dr. Robotnik and Team Rocket. My personal favorite, Megan Hollingshead, also appears as Raska, the self important, arrogant TV star.
Lastly, they even got the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin himself to do a role as the bogan (Aussie slang for redneck) robot, Kan-it.
The question is not "did I enjoy Cubix as a story with characters and a cohesive plot", but rather, "did I enjoy Cubix for what it is"? and the answer to that is yes. As far as a kid's show goes, Cubix is absolutely run of the mill generic, and completely forgettable. Even as far as being a production of 4Kids, it's been largely forgotten in favor of much more important and big shows like its stablemates Pokemon and Yugioh. Cubix wasn't important enough to remain relevant, not to mention that it's not even Japanese!
What I liked about Cubix was how this cast of voice actors that have gone on to do awesome things later were together on this little, long abandoned show for just a few months, 12 years back in my childhood. I watched it as a kid, and maybe I enjoyed it then, I don't remember. Now, I'm viewing it with a different perspective and am still finding things to like, and I have 4Kids to thank for that- not to mention what they did for the industry, of which Cubix is just a microscopic part.
If obscure 4Kids licenses with good Voice Actors and the occasional one liner geared towards adults appeal to you, this will be right up your alley.
Cubix, excuse me, Saiko Robot Kombock is one of the series I obsessed over as a child. I'd flip to Kid's WB at whatever time it was on and make sure I caught every episode. I had every one of the toys (not very many, if I remember) and it was, oddly enough, the show that got me sort of obsessed with mecha. I'm hesitant to say that because I'd already had my fill of Gundam Wing and bootleg copies of G Gundam (how I obtained those as an 8/9 year old is a story for another time) but it made me feel as if
I could have a robot of my own.
Knowing a bit about rose-colored glass and all that, I decided to take a crack at this one as an adult. I couldn't remember much about the actual story or the characters as I was really just focused on the robots (read: toys) so this was for all intents and purposes a fresh watching.
I watched a few episodes of the sub before I quit caring and went back to the sub.
Let's start with the animation and models. Even for the time it was just bad. The models quality was inconsistent and it was easy to tell who was not going to be a repeat character. The animations themselves were clunky and it didn't feel as if much effort was put forth. The robots mostly got away with this but the human characters did not feel fluid and felt like robots themselves. I will say that while several look quite generic, many are original and refreshing designs.
The voice acting in both the dub and the sub were horrendous. The mouths didn't even try to match with the audio in either. The acting was over the top and the voices didn't match the characters meaning the antagonist had an overly squeaky voice despite not looking at all that he should.
The story and characters were generic. A generic 'Gary sue' for a lead, his female friend who explains things to drive the story, a smart kid to be used as a McGuffin when the group is stuck in binds, and the lovable dumb oaf. It really could not be more cut-and-paste. Plot development is predictable, even for a children's show. No attempt is made to be original here. It felt like a twisted knockoff of the Mega Man plot but much, much worse. I can't think of what else to say on this, really. Just plain bad.
Overall, the series did not live up to my memory. Everything was bland and just plain awful. This one seems to have been forgotten by most and it deserves to stay that way. I should have left it dead in the past but my curiosity got the better of me. I can't think of any reason for anyone to watch this one in the modern day. Even if you're thinking about it for nostalgia's sake, just don't.