Cartoon Network's lineup has been stronger than ever in recent years as the network has brought on new series with more unique perspectives that also stand out from one another in several ways. It must have been challenging for these series attempting to follow the path left by series like Adventure Time and Regular Show, but each new cartoon series of this gen only further proves they can carve out a new path all of their own. That includes the likes of Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart.
The first few episodes of Mao Mao, an action-oriented comedy series, promise a show brimming with the "heart" its title suggests. Full of slick action, strong character design, and adorable nostalgia, Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart also happens to be pure bliss.
The show follows the titular Mao Mao, a warrior who's been chasing the dream of becoming legendary like the rest of his adventurous family. He takes on all enemies and challenges with the help of his best friend, Badgerclops, who's a bit of a slacker. But while fighting a group of pirates one day, Mao Mao and Badgerclops accidentally damage the Ruby Pure Heart, a giant heart-shaped crystal that was concealing and defending the Pure Heart Valley.
With the citizens of Pure Heart Valley being completely defenseless, Mao Mao resigns himself to defending them to fix his mistake. But the fact that he might one day gain the "legendary" moniker by protecting such a "legendary" place helps grease the wheels. Especially when he gets a new sidekick to admire him, Adorabat, who wants to be a hero warrior just like Mao Mao.
Heroes of Pure Heart oozes with nostalgia, while never quite leaning too much into it. It's a fine balance as the citizens of Pure Heart Valley give off major Care Bears vibes, for example, but it never feels like new audiences would miss out on the joke. Bright colors, an amazing opening theme, and even a few anime influences all make for a series that perfectly captures the fun of late '80s adventure cartoons like He-Man: Masters of the Universe, but sets itself apart from what's come before by not being afraid to revel in the wackiness inherent in these premises.
But it's not all nostalgia as Heroes of Pure Heart definitely makes some major improvements to the action-adventure genre by providing a trio with interesting personalities and flaws right off the bat. If you noticed the use of the word "resigns" when talking about Mao Mao, it's because he's got a compelling character arc already as he might be doing things for the wrong reasons. It's not malicious, and instead imbues him with an all-too-relatable level of anxiety bubbling just under the surface.
Badgerclops and Adorabat have their own share of flaws as well, and seeing each of these characters bounce off of one another is a joy to witness as the series has no problems highlighting these character quirks for jokes. Each episode has a palpable joy and emotion bursting at the seams, and then you have the action as the cherry on top.
Thanks to gorgeous backgrounds and bold line work, characters move with an impressive fluidity. This helps in the smaller moments too as the visual gags get an extra bit of juice from the animation work. The foes of the series are just as fun to watch, too, as their Sonic the Hedgehog-esque fusion of quirky animal and robotics results in delightful exchanges of both dialogue and sword swings.
Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart has the potential to become a massive success for Cartoon Network. An action-adventure comedy series full of characters that are already showing different facets of their personality, the groundwork is there for an incredibly fun adventure.
Rating: 5 out of 5