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Harley Quinn: The Complete First Season (DVD Review)

No, you’re seeing that correctly. Something Harley Quinn related is being reviewed on Why So Blu and the name “Brian White” is not attached to it. Is the man too cool for animation? Well, no, actually. Does he have it against subscribing to another streaming service? Nope, he subscribes to the DC Universe service. And yes, while we are at  it, he LOVES the animated Harley Quinn show (check out his Interview w/ Patrick Shumacker HERE). Won’t shut up about it actually. But, when it comes to the decision to release it on DVD only for physical media…well…he’s none too happy. Though, I tried to explain to him that its animated and the type of animation it was done in wasn’t going to make it matter much, he wasn’t having it. Personally, I watched the freebies offered on YouTube for the show and wanted to seek more, so I thank him for the opportunity to do that now with the review. If you’re wanting to actually own the show, you can do so by pre-ordereing it in time for its June 2nd street date on (sigh) DVD.

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Harley Quinn has finally broken things off once and for all with the Joker and attempts to make it on her own as the criminal Queenpin of Gotham City. With the help of Poison Ivy and a ragtag crew of DC castoffs, Harley tries to earn a seat at the biggest table in villainy – the Legion of the Doom. She’s got her eyes on the prize and nothing can stop her, except maybe Batman and Commissioner Gordon or her jealous, deranged ex. But don’t worry – she’s got this. Or does she? So strap in for this non-stop, demented thrill ride!

Harley Quinn is a raunchy, but fun and surprisingly clever comic book show in its own right. DC’s animated show itself is a twisted, comical view on the Batman world of Gotham City while keeping everything true to its history, character and lore. A zany animated comedic jaunt is fitting with its lead, as its through the eyes of the deranged and recently set off to do crime’s work on her own Harley Quinn. Struggling through a disastrous first episode (It tries WAY too hard, very overloaded pilot and a bit too impressed with juvenile things like showing “Hey look, CUSS WORDS!”), the show immediately settles down and relaxes in the second episode and through to the end of the series. One issues that does still remain is that time to time it does sit and unnecessarily explain jokes which at times ruins how funny they were in the first place. But, that is more few and far between. In addition to the humor and comedic spins on the characters, the show also relishes in violence as comedy and has plenty of vicious deaths and blood splatter galore to shock and make you laugh at the same time.

Harley’s world, friends, characters and antics fit right at home with some of the most fun and best to offer on Adult Swim. You could easily slot it in there on a Sunday night and not even blink an eye. DC creators have obviously been studying and taking notes as the style and cadence with the animation and humor feels quite inspired. Its not unlike a Robot Chicken sketch is being fully fleshed out here in this animated series. Its animation style is bursting with color and looks that of a show aimed at kids while having some really fun and classic looks to its notable villains. The characters are all quite nifty takes, especially when Bane shows up (Which surprisingly they do not abuse him, where they could easily have made you tired of the schtick). Clayface has a fun approach and what they do with Robin is honestly gut-bustingly funny that you have to see it.

Kaley Cuoco leads a pretty stacked cast of regulars and guest stars. She makes a fine Harley Quinn, keeping her a little more sane than some of the other iterations. But, that may more be attributed to the writing at the end of the day. Lake Bell is a very nice Poison Ivy and her and Cuoco level in a a good way with their performances. Alan Tudyk’s Clayface as I mentioned is quite fun. Jason Alexander goes balls to the wall here. The show does have possibly some of the most genius casting in having Giancarlo Esposito play Lex Luthor in this thing. Yeah, I can hear you know thinking “Oh shit, that’s brilliant.”

Count me as a surprised fan of Harley Quinn. When I first heard of the show, I was kind “Eh” about it and it wasn’t one to convince me to sign up for the DC streaming service. It still isn’t, but I’ll happily wait for Brian to get angry and pass me another DVD of it to catch up after Season Two is done. The show is genuinely funny, plays with the best of them in terms of adult cartoons and has a pretty decent (Sneaky) serialized story to it. If you’re able to via DVD, rental, streaming trial or whatnot, you should give it a fair shot. There have been plenty of comedic approaches to all things Batman in the past, and this is one of the better efforts!

Episodes

Til Death Do Us Part

A High Bar

So You Need A Crew?

Finding Mr. Right

Being Harley Quinn

You’re A Damn Good Cop, Jim Gordon

The Line

L.O.D.R.S.V.P

A Seat At The Table

Bensonhurst

Harley Quinn Highway

Devil’s Snare

The Final Joke

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Encoding: MPEG-2 NTSC

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: DVD-9

Clarity/Detail: Yea, this sucks. No Blu-ray, just a standard DVD which we all swore off eons ago. However, lets look on the brighter side if we can. First, the show is done in a not very demanding 2 dimensional animation style. Second, this looks pretty impressive and likely the best the DVD format can possibly offer. It is bright, bursting with color and plenty vivid. The colors are plenty well saturated and the image sings quite well. The one lacking area is in the sharpness, where moving objects and sometimes showcase a bit jagged/blurred outline. When in a static screen, its quite possible the difference between this and an HD image are a little negligible. But in motion its much more clear this is DVD.

Depth:  Without seeing the DC HD stream to compare, this one looks pretty fine overall. The animation style helps lend to that. There are some moments that definitely could probably beef up with a better format, sure. Motion is a rather jolty by nature, but blurring and jitter is at a minimum but not distracting at all when watching.

Black Levels:  Blacks are quite deep and actually impress with shadow and shading on characters. With it being simplistic 2-D animation, the black is used for outlining and straight coloring, not hiding any sort of texture or patterns. Crushing issues are surprisingly not abound here at all.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are quite strong, plenty bold and pop right on off the screen. With the limited palette used in the animation, its easier for it to saturate better on DVD. The strong colors really help to make the image bold.

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Aside from any note regular, expected DVD shortcomings, this one is surprisingly plenty clean.

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Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Harley Quinn is equipped with 5.1 mix to come to life. While the lossy format, its still plenty loud and features some decent intricacies. Its also plenty deep, bumpy and gives a good cranked feeling to engage you in loudness despite not being the most loose track due to the limitations of the format. For what it is, this is pretty much the best you could ask for.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer provides a solid amount of boom when it comes to explosions, gunfire, tanks(!), smashing, punching, crashing and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: Most of the mix hangs toward the front three channels, but things do collect and provide some extra bump from the back when action and the like ramps up. Sound placement and travel follows plenty accurate to what is happening on the screen.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and have a pretty surprising amount of depth to them. They are pretty much the forefront of the show and are available the luxury of having a bit better attention in the mix, some when compressed down here, they don’t suffer as much.

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Harley Quinn: The Complete First Season is a 2-DVD disc set and has no bonus features.

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Harley Quinn‘s first season is quite a nice, genuine surprise with how not only funny it can be, but clever at the same time. Its a bit of quality entertainment with good reviews, that quite possibly is getting overlooked right now. Perhaps more people will be checking it out with this new <<Pauses. Closes eyes. Takes deep breath. Opens eyes>> DVD coming out from Warner Brothers. Giving credit where credit is due, the audio and video on her are top notch and push the limitations of the super compressed and lossy format as far as it can go. Its quite an enjoyable, non-distracting watch. Really, the biggest shame is that there are no bonus materials at all. They could have included a convention panel or interviews and footage of the stars recording their vocals. Maybe even a sneak peak of the second season (Which started just a little over a month after season 1 ended). Regardless, if you’re gonna own it to want to revisit down the line, this isn’t a bad way to go, despite the format.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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