Once again, while doing an online search for lesser but great/better cartoons that were previously unknown and new to me, I came across this. And it's another great find I made. I decided to check this out on Youtube some time last month and it's become another favorite but underrated animated series of mine I love, not just from the '90s, but of any decade. Since it's based on a celebrity (albeit loosely), it happens to be one of those rare, better, and stronger celebrity toons. I didn't watch many of those growing up and it's even rarer that I show interest in any of them now, as shows like that aren't really my first choice and I can see why most of them are so unworthy. But this is one that's exceptional. So exceptional, in fact, that to me, it's one of the best ever made. Most celeb toons are rubbish, not this one. The titular character also became one of my favorite voice roles by Cree Summer. Because of the reimagining of the famous person on which it's based, it's done well and doesn't disappoint.
Like the real-life Princess Tenko, the cartoon Princess Tenko's real name is Mariko Ikatura. And as the latter's real counterpart would become, this other Princess Tenko is an aspiring, advanced magician. She is admitted into a magic school by the head/teacher/master of it and ex-leader of the Guardians named Hikita Tenko. There, she meets her diverse trio of male classmates, Bolt (Caucasian), Hawk (Native American), and Steel (American Black), and they are the other Guardians of Magic, forming a team. Twin brother and sister, Jan and Jason, attend the magic school as well. Jan is envious of Princess Tenko, because she self-righteously feels she's more entitled and deserving of succeeding Master Tenko, despite slacking off on her training, unlike Princess Tenko. Despite Jason trying to convince her to just let it go otherwise, Jan is determined to take the position that she feels is rightfully hers and will stop at nothing to get it. But Princess Tenko and the Magic Guardians won't let that happen as long as they're around. Their goal is not to let a magical wardrobe that contains enchanted gems, known as the Starfire Gems, from getting into the wrong hands and keep them away from anyone who plans to use them with malicious intentions and purposes. Each of the gems has different, superpowers that aid each of the Guardians. The twins use two gems (or pieces of a gem), that when they're put together, the twins shape-shift into a conjoined dragon. Not long after, Princess Tenko and the others meet a troubled, teenaged, runaway girl named Ali, who later joins the team. From there, they travel from place to place all while being pursued by the twins. There, Princess Tenko leads a double life: One as a magic show performer; the other as protector of the Starfire Gems. So, she and her friends work with extraordinary magic, more than just the kind seen and used in magic shows.
The art and animation equally go hand-in-hand in terms of the quality being good. Each of the characters is fine in his and her own way. The stories are written with care, especially when they contain a social message. The music isn't too bad at all. The graphics, backgrounds, and layouts aren't bad neither, nor is the voice acting, even if I'm not familiar with most of the cast. The live-action, magic show segments featuring the real Princess Tenko and follow the episodes are enjoyable treats. The social message thing I just mentioned that's incorporated into the plots just may be why this celebrity, animated series seems to work so well to me, as it has more meaning than most, other, like-minded programs.
Before discovering this, I hadn't heard of the real Princess Tenko nor the illustrated/animated Princess Tenko. I don't remember ever being aware of this show when I was younger, but if I did, I wish I had seen it sooner now. In my view, although it's one of the better '90s T.V. series (animated or otherwise), it was also one of the most slept on and simply didn't garner enough attention that it deserved. And it truly deserved so much more. As a result of this, the show was dropped from continuing after it's one and only season. It's become a favorite for me by Saban. Anybody who may be reading this and is considering checking out this show, I say give it a go. It's one of those shows that's worth watching more than once. I know some of the episodes were brought to DVD in the U.K., but I'd love to see it get a U.S. release in that format as well. Recommended.
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