Ulysses 31: Volume 2 Review
The adventures of Ulysses continue in volume two of three. Ulysses, Telemachus, Yumi and Nono have been drifting in space for quite some time, still so very far from home. They have faced and conquered many dangers but the path toward freedom is still rocky as the gods anger has yet to fade. Ulysses must brave many more trials if he is to get any closer to Earth and rescue his beloved crew.
Ulysses 31 comfortably carries its tale much like it did in Volume 1 but this time the strains of the crew onboard the Odyssey are beginning to show a little more. In the past they've seen death and destruction and at present are uncomfortably detained in their own ship, with only their hopes preventing them from giving up. Ulysses braves as much as he can while comforting his own children who are frustrated at having spent so long in space and wish to join Ulysses as he is called by the gods to partake in more tasks.
As the series progresses we see that Ulysses, although our hero is still just an ordinary man, easily tricked and tempted but this gives the series an added boost as it shows not everyone is perfect. Ulysses' impulsiveness is perhaps a flaw that he should examine more closely within himself.
The dark nature of the series continues and is what separates Ulysses 31 from most children's shows. I would go so far as to say that children may not even enjoy this to the same extent that adults would, because even though it tries to lighten up the events with Nono and his silly antics it doesn't ever stray from the core of its story. There is barely anything here to make you smile, aside from the occasional piece of voice acting that should have been better.
Ulysses 31 is still very much a show to appreciate. It is designed purely to tell an updated classic and does so gracefully, with some remarkable episodes that appear in this volume. The series is a rare example of 80's television whose purpose was not to sell toys but to offer something a little more educational for the masses.
It must be noted though - for while the series does indeed take on familiar tales it also reconstructs certain events and does not always match the original legends – something which is acceptable due to natural, modernization of stories. Those looking for a true account of the legends tapped can always visit the library.
Volume two contains a further nine episodes, as listed here:
The Temple of Lestrigones
The Odyssey arrives at a planet where Antipodes lives. He is a wicked man who collects rare animals and artifacts, shrinking them down with his magical prism and keeping them as pieces for his ever growing museum. Antipodes soon spots the Odyssey and shrinks it, forcing Ulysses to crash land at sea. Soon after heading outside, Ulysses is captured and his son, Telemachus races to his rescue.
The Seat of Forgetfulness
After seeing a Trident transport vessel fly past, Ulysses decides to follow and is led to the gods' base. The Odyssey is transported to some unknown place and Ulysses and his children take it upon themselves to investigate. They are soon warned off by a mysterious voice but Ulysses ignores the warnings and is soon drawn into a game that sees his children being taken away and placed on a never-ending loop where they will surely die unless Ulysses makes a decision. He is offered two seats: One shall give him the route back to Earth that he so desperately needs, the other will free his children from their imprisonment
Trapped Between Fire and Ice
Sherka detects an old spaceship and believes that it may be from the year 2001. Ulysses receives an S.O.S. from the ship that confirms it is an Earth vessel and so he and the children go to investigate. They make it to the craft and enter, where they discover it is quite empty, save for a man placed in suspended animation. He turns out to be the ship's captain and as he awakens he tells Ulysses to save his crew who are also in suspended animation at Base Station Central - located between two planets: The searing hot Charybdis and the freezing Scylla. Ulysses soon uncovers some strange truths before being told by the gods that he will be forever trapped, with a choice of either the fire or ice planets.
Phantoms from the Swamp
A meteor passes by the Odyssey, which Ulysses ignores but soon Yumi runs to the bridge, having sensed her home planet Zotra and begs for Ulysses to follow the meteor. Ulysses decides to do her this favour and follows the meteor to a swamp-planet, where it crashes. Ulysses and Yumi head to the planet in a shuttle but are soon confronted by a race of mud creatures that have the ability to shape-shift into anything they desire. Soon this causes problems back on board the Odyssey, with only Telemachus and Nono left to defend it.
Song of Danger
Yumi plays a song for Ulysses and Telemachus that she remembered from a dream. In her dream, this music was able to open a sealed coffin, coincidently Sherka detects a stone coffin and Ulysses has it brought on board. It turns out to be the very coffin that Yumi dreamt about and she plays her music to open it. Inside the coffin is an old astronaut, holding a card that displays the location of a planet that holds one of the maps to Olympus in the Sirenum solar system. Ulysses heads to the system and braves the waters of the Sirens. On his trail are a gang of pirates who are also seeking unknown treasures.
Before the Flood
Ulysses takes the Odyssey to a planet that looks like the Earth of 200 million years ago. Soon he and the children are attacked by giant vultures and they are forced to land where they soon seek shelter in a cave, before discovering a lift that takes them to an underground city. They find a room with large eggs that seem to contain life inside and Sherka quickly warns them she has discovered seismic activity on the planet. Ulysses opens one of the eggs and awakens a winged young woman, named Sauria. She tells him that her people are from Earth and had placed themselves in suspended animation to protect them from the impending flood. They were once slaves to the gods who roamed the Earth but when the gods left they placed giant birds on the planet to protect their ships. Sauria's people secretly built the Ark and placed two of each species of animal onboard, now they are under attack once more, having been awakened from their lengthy slumber, while the devastating floods rage.
The Magic Spells of Circe
The Odyssey nears the zone of Hades and Ulysses and his children quickly fall unconscious. As the Odyssey is taken to an unknown dimension its crew is transported to the main bridge and everyone is soon awakened. They pilot the Odyssey toward the planet where the enchantress, Circe captures the crew and turns them into swine, forcing them into slavery. Ulysses meets a man named Hermes who tells him that Circe also captured his crew and wishes to build a tower of knowledge. He tells Ulysses how to get to the tower and upon arriving, he and Nono meet the librarian who takes them to Circe. Circe tells Ulysses that she can help his companions get home but only if he agrees to stay with her forever.
Lost in the Labyrinth
Ulysses meets Aegeus who tells him that his son, Theseus has vanished and according to the Oracle only Ulysses can find him. King Minos of Crete has captured Theseus and refuses to allow him his daughter's hand in marriage. Theseus is thrown into the labyrinth and Minos' daughter, Ariadne chases after him. If Ulysses can find Theseus then he will be granted a way back home but the labyrinth awaits him, as does Minos' Minotaur servant.
At the Heart of the Universe
Ulysses takes a shuttle and investigates an ice flow, recently detected by Sherka. Yumi feels that she should accompany him, fearing for his safety. They soon come across two pillars of light, in-between lies Mercurious, grandson to the gods. He tells Ulysses that he has chosen him specifically for a task and if Ulysses helps him then he will be given a map home. All Ulysses must do is retrieve a jewel from the forehead of Atlas - the giant who holds the entire universe on his shoulders. Ulysses is told that he must not look into the jewel or he will die. With the help of Nono, Ulysses climbs the stone giant who will soon awaken...
Again Contender Entertainment release Ulysses on a bare bones disc. This is disappointing considering their effort on other cartoon releases - are there no fans for this show? This time the cover art used is a lot more pleasing that Volume 1, it is still created by the same artist but is more eye catching.
The transfer is the same as in the previous volume, exhibiting a lot of print damage and dirt. The overall look is darker than most shows, I believe this was always intended so it doesn't immediately come across as striking when compared to brighter shows like Dungeons & Dragons. The style of animation can get a little crude, particularly for distant shots, resulting in a lack of detail due to thicker outlines. The image shows a lot of softness in these instances but seeing as it is a fault through the animation process then there isn't much to complain about.
Like volume one there is a constant amount of hiss that isn't too bad but naturally sounds worse when put through a speaker system. Seeing as the show is presented in its original 2.0 mono track then watching through standard TV speakers are a better option or set your surround system accordingly. Otherwise I recommend not turning it up too much and you shouldn't have too much trouble.
Having recently seen Dungeons & Dragons and the great extras included I am disappointed by this DVD as I feel a little more effort could have been made. It would have been nice to have the original uncut title sequences and a couple of commentary tracks. Still, not to worry - we get nine episodes at a decent price.
Volume 2 is another fine addition to the saga but the most important question is "Will Ulysses and his friends get back home"? Well, I already know the answer to that one and in due course I shall be bringing you the third and final installment. Stay tuned.