Ever hear of The Pirates of Dark Water? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t. This short-lived cartoon only lasted for 21 episodes and never exactly made it to the mainstream, if you know what I mean. Personally, I loved the show. Heck, I even have the Super Nintendo game in my collection. When Warner Brothers announced a DVD archive release of the complete series I simply had to see if my sense of nostalgia did justice to the show.
The Pirates of Dark Water takes place on the alien world of Mer. A legend persists there of Thirteen Treasures of Rule, which are rare and powerful artifacts said to hold great power and wealth. Mer is a dangerous place filled with pirates and an evil form of water that just so happens to be dark. There are those that would save the environment and protect their planet and those that would live in the darkness without morals.
On the side of good there’s a young boy named Ren who finds out in the first episode he’s actually a prince from a kingdom named Octopon. Growing up in a lighthouse outside the city meant he was rather a country bumpkin not aware of what was really going on in the world. When his father, the king, escapes from the clutches of an evil pirate named Bloth and washes ashore, Ren’s true destiny is revealed. With proper motivation Ren heads out on a quest to collect the Thirteen Treasures of Rule and stop the Dark Water from advancing. He’s joined by fellow adventurers Ioz, a surly pirate out for glory, and Tula, a waitress with great power. There’s also a monkey bird named Niddler that used to work for Bloth. Together they fight Bloth in every episode, find the occasional treasure, and do whatever it takes to help the people of Mer.
In all honesty the core concept in The Pirates of Dark Water is nothing special. It’s your typical heroes against villains plot with some environmental causes thrown in for good measure. Think of the show loosely as Captain Planet on an alien world with pirates and you’ll essentially be on the right track. The thing I’ll say for Dark Water is that the plot actually grows as the show moves forward. It’s not quite as episodic as other shows of the era and the story continually advances. This helps the characters to mature, the world to expand, and the conflict between our heroes and Bloth to escalate. It turns out to be a rich, rewarding experience which is kind of rare for a kids’ show.
Then again, with that being said, The Pirates of Dark Water is delightfully corny. The dialogue is downright atrocious at times and though the designs of the world are dynamic and interesting, the constant use of over-saturated colors leaves the show a little too bright. Then again, it’s possible Hanna-Barbera used this palette to try to alleviate the dark nature of the show. This is a cartoon where people die and the world is enveloped in darkness. I suppose the occasional pair of pink pants isn’t such a bad thing.
In the end The Pirates of Dark Water is entertaining and unique. It’s a shame the show didn’t receive a proper ending and suffered an untimely death, but such is the nature of television, I suppose. Fans of the series will want to pick this release up for sure!
As far as the quality of the DVD is concerned, there are a couple of things worth noting right off the bat. For starters Warner Brothers took several shortcuts when it came to putting this one together. I mean, the cover is poorly done with a Photoshop snafu on the cover that shows a fist coming out of Niddler’s head. Add to that the total lack of a DVD menu and mediocre at best picture quality, and you have a release that feels downright lazy. The video is comparable to broadcast, which isn’t horrible, but it’s far from great. Some slight artifacting is noticeable at times here, however. The audio is presented with English mono only and sounds about as good as one might think. No bonus features are available on the DVD.
Anyone who even remotely remembers The Pirates of Dark Water will want to pick this set up. The show is entertaining, original, and to this day I’d say it nearly survives the test of the time. Some corny dialogue and heavy-handed morals aren’t quite enough to take the series down, though in some respects the lack of a proper ending does. The quality of the DVD itself is lacking, though I suppose at this point fans should just be pleased the show has been finally placed in their hands. If you’ve been waiting for the show, consider it recommended.