Ok, I finally went thru the series, and I'm ready to share my final thoughts on the subject.
Watership Down was the very definition of the buried treasure for me. I was watching some other -totally unrelated- thing when episode 1 was suggested to me by Youtube... and I suddenly felt the necessity to watch it, thinking something like «I could use a good laugh, I mean... a child’s version of that monstrosity? Ja Ja». Boy I was wrong.
Episode one came and went like a lighting, giving my mouth an old taste that I had mostly forgotten about. I just wanted to see more of it. The very next day I located episodes two, three and four and watched them all with a big smile on my face... I knew it was a non-stop trip right now, but... there weren’t anymore episodes outthere! I honestly felt betrayed (that until I «twitched» Google for the rest of them). Once I had access to the majority of the episodes, I started to realize how good the product I had in front of me was.
This isn't your average cartoon by any means, they really cared about the atmosphere and the characters they were writing for. Every episode has at least one memorable line, and there is only one of them that I can regard as a filler («The Great Game»). You just spend the whole series getting to know these characters, and see how they would react to certain situation, see how they overcome what «life» put on their way, and even seeing who they would play each other off in some of the most bizarre combinations imaginable. There is a lot of thought put it into the episodes, and I really appreciate that.
On my original commentary I said that the main villans are not engaging, but that was foolish. General Woundwort has to be one of the more memorables I have ever seen, and was granted with some of the finest dialogue this series is going to have. This is a really complicated villan and not your average «Muahahah I’ll kill you». He is a truly conflicted leader and suffers it’s position in a very unique way: in one episode he just woke up sweating and screaming that some character «didn’t hate him, but hated what he has done» and in another he gains sympathy with another character just because they shared the same fate when they were younger (even when his original plan was to kill said character). I appreciated him A LOT when I saw moments like that.
Your other main villan, Captain Vervain, is your average power hungry slug that would do anything necessary to scale positions (going as far as to backstab his own friends). But, of course, he is nothing more than a coward that sticks with Woundwort out of sheer terror. If you have ever seen the series «Beast Wars: Transformers» he is very similar to «Terrorsaur». But what truly makes him stand out is that he is often right about his conspiracy talking and was able to spot a LOT of traitors at first sight... he is just not taken too seriously by his chief to truly achieve anything, but he sure tries! Vervain is almost a comic relief made to soften the «bad guys» side, but his voice actor really nails the multiple states of this character, and -as a result-, he is one of the greatest this cartoon has to offer.
This cartoon is only 39 episodes long (quite short actually) but it manages to maintain a great atmosphere the entire time, and even those episodes that have not that much point come off reasonably good. It tries -and mostly succeeded- to build itself to the explosive finale while sidetracking a bit, and when the key moments arrive you are in an unique mental state that makes you appreciate it even more. The choices these characters made on earlier episodes would follow them, and the lesson they would learn is that one act of mercy today can result in your own doom tomorrow. I like it a lot.
One thing I don’t like is how easily Hazel and his warren can turn out deadly situations while just using their brain. I know that Woundwort is blind for the fury he holds towards them, but sometimes they won battles just by foolish him and his army with ridiculous methods. The Efrafan army has suffered heavy losses just because their enemies played some kind of Domino game with rocks or just outnumbered them by making other animals fight. The general is the same guy who talked his way thru the Efrafan leadership and see how he takes unbelievably stupid risks like marching towards an obvious trap or put his army out of the open in broad daylight is just weird.
Ok, this is getting awfully long, let’s talk about the visuals and the soundtrack in general before wrapping this up.
Visually this has to be one of the most beautiful cartoons I have ever seen. Not only the characters look great, but they also have enough eye-candy thrown in there to make this cartoon as watchable as it is enjoyable. Big irises, detailed forms, angulated faces, and some fluent animation all do the trick. One major thing I want to talk about are the climatic affects: both snow and rain work amazingly good here... the rain falls in various ways over the characters and you can even see some «windy» effect affecting the direction in which the water is gonna fall. The snow is much more weaker in that respect, but still makes for some terrific backgrounds that really set the mood for the stories they are just about to tell.
One thing I will have to complaint about is that they changed the art direction for worse in later seasons. The writing is still solid, oh yeah, but I had a hard time figuring out who was who on the secondary cast for a while.
I got the soundtrack of the series sometime in between my introductory experience with it, and I’m listening to it right now. It is only five songs long but every single one was crammed into the show at some point and some of them were even used as an specie of music clip within the series. It was a rare event, but when it happened it was pure gold.
But I can't end this without posting the best quote in the series, can I?
Woundwort: Prepare the troops for the attack.
Vervain: I would but there isn't that much of an army left, sir.
Woundwort: Then the slaves will fight, the little ones will fight, the does will fight. Everyone will fight.