Tell me if this sounds familiar: a bunch of strangers from all walks of life are thrown together by mysterious events and find themselves stranded on a mysterious volcanic island. They are not alone, there’s monsters and other survivors in the trees, and an underground compound filled with strange tech, a self-destruct mechanism and what else. The main characters have different skills and backgrounds – there’s a doctor, a criminal, a fat nerdy guy, a bald savvy guy, a sportsman, a businessman etc – and they have to find a way to work together to survive, solve the mystery of the island and go back home. We get flashbacks of the characters’ previous lives, and the first season ends on a massive cliffhanger.
And it’s not Lost.
It’s a strange, derivative but cool animated series produced in China, and based on a comic book. It’s called Mi Yu Xing Zhe, or Uncharted Walker in English. It was aired early in 2018 and it is not half bad.
The premise of strangers stranded on an island is a classic of adventure fiction, and Uncharted Walker plays it to the hilt – the characters have been kidnapped and transported on the island for some mysterious reason. It all looks like a brutal game, with puzzles to solve and “players” being eliminated and killed off.
Going for variety instead of subtlety, the venue is a collection of classic adventure fiction clichés.
- Ancient pre-Colombian ruins? Check.
- Mummified bodies? Check.
- Quicksands? Check.
- Malaria? Check.
- Crocodiles? Check.
- Cannibals with poisoned arrows? Check.
- Giant snakes? Check.
- Mutant zombie monkeys? Check.
- Guys out to kill you and you don’t know why? Check.
- Bad guy with an eye-patch? Check.
- Horrid experiments and things man was not meant to know? Check.
Indeed, the level of threat of the island and the pace of the adventure make for a much snappier view than Lost (full disclosure: never liked Lost – so sue me).
The art is not great but serviceable, and the characters look like a collection of photocopies from other, more famous anime. But that’s OK.
If the venue is a patchwork of clichés, the cast is the same, often hilariously so.
The worst offender is certainly the Los Angeles PD police woman, a distractingly busty blonde called Tracy Candy (come on!) that wears such a skimpy outfit (the same she wears in the streets of LA in her flashbacks!) that it’s almost embarrassing. Fanservice is the name of the game. And yet she’s a tough, positive character.
On a par with officer Candy is the Russian mercenary Andre, whose anatomy is guaranteed to cause any drawing student nightmares (he’s so jacked you sometimes can’t tell where his abs end and his pecs start). But once again, a badly drawn but nicely characterized character.
We also get the archaeologist that can read the dead language of the natives, the computer programmer that’s totally useless in the jungle but then, ta-da!, secret compound with supercomputers, a medicine student that is apparently a genius in tropical herbal medicine, and a guy suffering from amnesia (cliché, remember?) that turns out to be the coolest badass in the whole team.
The characterization, within the limits of the genre, is always good.
What makes Uncharted Walker good, in the end, is the mix of three factors
- an intriguing premise: we want to know what will happen next.
- interesting problems, presented in a very video game-y sort of way: we want to see how the guys will solve this one.
- badly drawn but solid characters: we want to see what will happen to these guys. The fact that some of them die in a pretty rough way adds to the thrill of the ride.
And indeed as a game creator, what caught mostly my attention, apart from the characterization, was the way in which the puzzles are integrated in the plot.
Some of the dialog is cringe-worthy and some of the situations pretty wild, but all in all, this is like one of those 1980s adventure blockbuster ripoffs featuring Lou Gossett Jr and Chuck Norris. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s serviceable fun.
In case you are interested, you find the whole first season, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each, on Youtube – it ends on a cliffhanger, but hopefully there is a second season in the works.