Shazzan: Diamond in the Rough, but Still a Flawed Gem

So for reference purposes I bought the box set of the old Hanna Barbera cartoon Shazzan. I enjoyed it, it’s something where if you’re a fan of animation it is worth the watch. For those who don’t know Shazzan is about these 2 white kids finding this ring that was torn in half. When they put it on they are taken to ancient Arabia. They encounter the genie Shazzan (more about this later) and he sends them on a quest to return the ring to it’s owner in order to go home.

I’ll be honest, I love the premise (which I borrowed some things from for Brandy & Gin), however they rarely mention their mission and at the end of the series, they never return the ring. This is not uncommon, Samurai Jack (original run) and Case Closed/ Detective Conan is left open-ended like that. No, throughout the show the two stupid kids (they are pretty dumb no joke) stumbling into the villain of the episode, or they help some friend they made while in this mystical land.

One thing that is really promising about the show is that the villains in the show are interestedly magical. For example, in one episode they encounter a pirate on a flying ship who pillages shahs, or a sorcerer who leads a gang of thieves who wants to steal the magic ring to control Shazzan (this episode is an exception to the usual format in that it ties in with the kids’s general mission). There was even an episode with a rival genie!

However once Shazzan gets summoned he easily defeats his foes. I will admit this is one flaw of the show. Since Shazzan is O.P. there is no drama in the magic pissing contests he gets into. You could make the case of him being a Mary Sue, but it feels rather uncomfortable labeling Shazzan as such. The awkwardness is like bring up the highlights of the orgy you went to the night before bible class.

Now one thing that Shazzan does better than similar shows like Captain Planet, is that the two mere mortals moping moronically while Shazzan does the fighting, actually does stuff. Throughout the series in order to create drama the pair get separated ergo, they can’t summon Shazzan for help. During these times the guy of the group (hey, keep in mind this show came out in the 60’s, give it a little slack) uses magical objects like a cloak of invisibility or a lasso of truth (or was it the strap-on of power, I forget).

One thing that makes the show unique is how it meshes western and arabic iconography together, for example, the kids pet/ride Kaboobie, who is a flying camel, in the vein of the Pegasus. Pirates that look like a hodgepodge of The Arabian Knights and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Another highlight of note is the character designs by Alex Toth. In the past year or two I kept searching for his artwork. It has a level of detail like a comic book drawing, yet is streamlined enough to be able to animate well (for an example of how vital this is look at the 1960’s Captain America cartoon).

It’s not often you find a show that is centered around a genie. Despite it’s age it still feels fresh. The villains have interesting designs. Even though the show is formulaic, the writers make some interesting stories. Like other Hanna Barbera cartoons, like Space Ghost, it is imaginative. While it is easy to dismiss Shazzan, it’s worth a watch, even if it is on YouTube.

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