There I was on an ordinary Monday afternoon minding my own business and ignoring Teen Titans GO! on my television when suddenly a promotion for OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes interrupted me from my trance. I remembered a time when pitched pilot episodes for Cartoon Network shows were being leaked all over YouTube. It was then, about four years ago, that I first started rooting for this little show that combined video games, anime, and 80s style dialogue. Originally titled Lakewood Plaza Turbo, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is finally making its run on Cartoon Network and after seeing a few episodes, “I am Dendy” in particular, I’ve deduced that this might be one of the purest shows ever to exist.
The animation of O.K. K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes can be described as “great for what it’s trying to accomplish.” It’s not super fantastic animation, but it’s not cheap either. It found a happy medium. There was one fake fight scene that showed off the potential way the show’s animation would portray a fight scene should any serious story arcs start to manifest. The opening was storyboarded by Hiroyuki Imaishi who is one of the co-founders of Studio Trigger, an animation studio you should all know and love, and his influence is felt in every single frame.
Let’s talk about the story because THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL. As far as I can tell the story goes a little something like this: The year is 201X. A boy named K.O. has a mom who was a great hero back in the day (and still is in the present). She’s a level 11 hero, which may be the highest hero rank in the show. Oh yeah, this show has hero ranks so you know it’s gonna get good. Carol, K.O.’s mom, has a fitness dojo in Lakewood Plaza right next to Mr. Gar’s shop. Mr. Gar is a Mike Haggar-type character with a hero rank of 11 as well. He gets all flustered whenever Carol is next to him; it’s kind of cute.
K.O. desperately wants to be a hero so he uses his mom’s super-ultra credit card to buy a bunch of crime fighting gear from the shop as a birthday gift for himself. He tries and fails to defeat a villain with his new gear and after Mr. Gar straight up PERFORMS A PEOPLE’S ELBOW FROM THE HEAVENS to defeat the villain, K.O. realizes that the only way he can become a hero is to work at Mr. Gar’s shop and learn from him and his employees.
The employees I’m referring to are, Radicles, who is an alien with a hero level of 2 and can move things with pink telekinesis and Enid, who is a kunoichi with so much sarcasm it puts her at a hero level of 3. Both of these characters are great, and they’re the exact opposite of each other which makes for some fantastic character interactions. The main villain is Lord Boxman who literally has an evil lair across the street. Lord Boxman is a mixture of Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr. Wily from Megaman because he creates robot masters. Get this though. GET THIS! Lord Boxman is voiced by JIM CUMMINGS! DA GAWD OF CARTOON VOICE ACTING. His voice brings the character to a new level. The other side characters are pretty amazing as well. Did I mention K.O. is sometimes voiced by Stephanie Nadolny, who voiced kid Goku and Gohan in Dragonball and Dragonball Z? Cause he is and it’s glorious.
Now let’s get to the episode that got me hooked, “I am Dendy”. This episode is the epitome of why this show is a purity punch right in the mouth. The episode centers around K.O. and a girl named Dendy (tell me that isn’t a sly Dende name reference) who sits behind him in his class. Dendy needs help from K.O. when she’s trying to find parts to fix her high tech backpack. Throughout the episode, Dendy is shown as a weird girl who doesn’t really care about others while she’s trying to find the parts to repair her backpack and K.O. tries to show her that she should think about others while she’s accomplishing her goal.
There’s a part where they need a token at an arcade and K.O. looks in his pockets, with no money in them, and moths fly out and he yells “OH NO! MY MOTH COLLECTION” and I lost it. Anyway, there are hints that Dendy might be a robot or that she might be secretly evil and there’s a scene where K.O. gets eaten by a robot and she just collects data to increase the suspicions of her evilness even more.
It turns out Dendy’s backpack was never broken and she just made the problem up to spend some time with K.O. but she was too shy and awkward to just ask him. The episode ends with Dendy writing in her notebook where she jotted down all the data on K.O. and next to his acquaintances she puts herself as a friend and IT’S SO PRECIOUS. The episode plays with how characters like her are usually written. Most of the time they actually are secretly evil, and the episode truly shows that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a stereotype by …well the character’s stereotype. The ending of that episode made my heart grow ten sizes that night and I’ve vowed to spread the gospel of K.O. because of it.
The episodes contain countless references to old games and include a few video game tropes to make fun of as well. There’s a scene where K.O. sneaks into Lord Boxman’s stronghold he says “oh wait, I forgot this is a stealth mission” and his face turns into Snake’s face from Metal Gear Solid. Another example is when K.O.’s mom spins a giant lizard dude over her head and throws him while saying “So long Senior!” the same way Mario says “So long Bowser!” in Mario 64. There’s a trading card character named Chip Damage like the type of damage in a fighting game. K.O. has a punching move that could be a Jojo or a One Piece reference depending on which show you follow the most. THERE’S SO MUCH GOING ON IN THIS SHOW. It’s truly a Kamehameha wave of fresh air.
There’s a part in the same episode where Carol, K.O.’s mom fights the giant lizard dude and a bully tells K.O. that his dad can beat K.O.’s dad. At first, K.O. is a little sad, and he says “I don’t have a dad, but I have a mom, and she can beat anyone!” That short line and the way he says it, I don’t know, it got me too.
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes might not be perfect, but it’s pretty close. It’s an action show full of heart and life lessons. The way the show can twist certain stereotypes of characters to bring a unique take on them is something I can’t get enough of. The show creator has said that there will be actual story lines eventually and I’m just trying to ensure all of you hop on the train before it leaves the station.