Canadian animated tv series (2018-2020). Slap Happy Cartoons. Creators and Executive Producers Josh Mepham, Kathy Antonsen Rocchio, Greg Sullivan and Vito Viscomi. Directed by Josh Mepham and Greg Sullivan. Writers include Whitney Ralls, Laura Sreebny, Steve Sullivan and Vito Viscomi. Voice cast includes Ashleigh Ball, Connor Parnall and Adrian Petriw. Twenty 24-minute episodes. Colour.
Three teenagers awaken in a room with Amnesia due to a Memory Edit. In their pockets are name cards: Adam (Petriw), Kai (Parnal) and Mira (Ball). Escaping, they find themselves in a succession of habitats, including: deserted research station; Spaceship graveyard; Fantasy quest; graveyard with Zombies; predatory Alien lurking in a spaceship and a 1950s kitchen with soul-sucking housewives. They discover they have skills and Superpowers and find themselves competing with another trio; noticing the scenery glitching they speculate they're in a Videogame. At the end of season one, in a live action scene, they are revived in a Television studio to learn they have won a Virtual Reality game show called The Hollow. Kai then notices a glitch in the eye of one of the losing team ... but the obvious inference will prove to be wrong.
Season two opens with the trio seemingly back in the real world, but with a gap in their memories. There are anomalies: Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851) is blank save for page one (significantly, the extent of Adam's reading); also, they still have their powers. Though no one else has heard of The Hollow, the television studio exists, deserted but guarded by laser-toting Robot drones, which they escape by jumping through a portal. Again they move through a sequence of worlds, their experiences including: a giant carnivorous snail, Lou Carcolh from French folklore (see Monsters); sacrifice to volcano god (see Gods and Demons); Gravity at different angles; the Monty Hall Problem (see Mathematics); Military SF; a giant robot and a big-band version of Radiohead's "Creep".
The team beaten in season one is also present; the two teams (eventually) work together, seeking the game show host's Avatar for answers. He initially dismisses them as coding errors (see Computers), but later explains the Hollow company have been making illegal digital Clones of competitors' personalities to populate a simulated life game: but a glitch during the last game meant the copies – that is, them – retained their memories and are conscious. The host agrees to transfer them to another server to live out their lives, but needs time: they must delay the current game's finish, otherwise they'll be wiped. They succeed and escape, seemingly to a copy of the real world, though (inevitably) the last scene reveals a surprise.
Save for the final scene, season one is mediocre – the invention unexceptional, with familiar computer game settings and weak humour. However, season two is a noticeable improvement: it is solidly good. The characters are not particularly memorable, but do develop. The show explores the nature of reality, Perception and – most notably – of consciousness (see Identity; Metaphysics), attaching great weight to the importance of Memory. A third season shaped around these themes, and the limits to their online life, could be interesting. [SP]
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