Review: “Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia,” Season 1

Remember how Lady Gaga was called out the other day, repeating herself with the same phrase about 100 people in the room, and one person believes in you? 

A line gets me every time, always used by journalists who don’t really mean it. “I binged on this!” A journalist interviewing Guillermo Del Toro when I was doing back research for this review told him, with a Cheshire Cat faux grin, she “binged!” on Trollhunters  before meeting him. Uh, no you didn’t. I watched all 26 episodes of this, about 3 episodes nightly. Do the math. A little over a week becuase I didn’t watch it back to back. Maybe two nights off? What did the female reporter do: skip through it catching the highlights, thinking he wouldn’t notice? He probably did, him ever being polite, acting like, “Anyway...”

Thus, my review as of now is thoroughly watched, passionately, honestly.  From what I gather online, nobody has reviewed an entire season by season take. Ba-ha-ha. I am.

Spoiler free!!!!!!! I’m reviewing every season. Today’s post: season 1!

The First Episode

Jim is an everyday guy whose deadbeat dad left him a while back. His life seems pretty boring until...a troll medallion?!? Before school?! 

OK, in episode 1, things don’t start off with an exciting start. The first scene is cool in that “but Nickelodeon did it a hundred times from 1991 onwards” in one form or another. Things pick up a lot when you meet the two troll sidekicks in episode 1: Blinky, with his six eyes, and AAARRGGHH!!! Had to double check I spelled the second troll’s name correctly. His real name, all caps and punctuation marks. Oh so very Prince of him. Maybe by Season 3, he’ll change his name to a symbol.

We don’t see much of them like we should in episode 1. 15 year old Jim ensures the required, awkward setup. The info is all needed for us to get  what will happen in episode 2. It’s really cool if you’re like me and secretly dorky.

...But It Gets Really Good, Really Fast

For people who are “adult” and “sophisticated,” you’ll like the show but won’t get invested until about episode 4 or 5.

The series is the first time I’ve ever felt like I am watching a book unfold on screen. You, like me, are probably used to viewing a series with an episode starting fresh and perhaps, if any, mentioning things that happened last time. Trollhunters  jumps into the next episode within the same scene or moments later. The pace doesn’t feel like a film, nor a TV show.  Book on TV is my best metaphor. You can’t watch one episode without having seen the last one.

Around 4-5, the characters blossom into full blown personalities. AAARRGGHH!!!’s personality is so funny and natural, like whatever you expect a real monster to be like if you hung out and did BFF stuff.  Blinky is sort of a father figure for Jim. Jim’s adorkable buddy Toby expresses their BFFdom outwardly from this point until the rest of the season.

We learn more about Claire Nuñez, Jim’s crush who as the season moves along, steps outside her initial ”girl exists to be guy’s crush” role into her own personality. Her being a stereotypical girl character bugged me a pinch, not gonna lie, until I viewed it as Jim. As Jim, he wouldn’t know much about Claire for a bit! He knows absolutely nothing about her  because they don’t talk much. He serves as her distant crush, silent and wishful. It all makes sense. The trouble with most kids’ shows is they don’t expand female characters beyond shallow objects of crushdom. Claire proves herself big time about three quarters into the season.

Lots of genuinely funny moments occur through the mix of G-rated action and dramatic moments. I LOLed when a faux baby changling ordered $900 of socks in the mail, telling Claire she should’ve given him a coupon code. Blinky has his own spin off story where a big physical change leads him on some sitcom scenario twists. The writers on the show, and I worry the credit will only go to Sr. Del Toro as the executive producer/book author/series creator, are outstanding with the charming, witty minor happenings between the major scenes.

The show’s cute monsters, and some scary-ugly ones, gives me the vibe like I’m watching a CGI Aaahh!! Real Monsters . Anyone out there watch that show? Aaahh!! Real Monsters  was a popular 2D animation Nickelodeon children’s show when I was much younger. Totally different premise; similar energy. If you were a fan, you will enjoy Trollhunters.

About the Animators!

I personally animate my own work. As a person watching all kinds of animated programs and films as inspo to keep that part of my brain running day and night, this little show around halfway through the series goes from “this is good animation” to “you’d see this in a big budget film release” to “the very first time I’ve ever seen a CGI object look real in my life.” That object, the first  ever where I viewed it as realistic texture, happens to be the school mascot mole costume worn in several episodes by Toby’s dream girl. Yes. :)


In the show when the mole comes on, her costume has this unbelievable, realistic foam exterior. 

The second time I noticed this was when Toby tosses a huge burrito into the lava. The foil on it reflects as it would real aluminum foil!

Little details throughout the story are perfectly animated. Did you see the mole costume’s glasses, teeth, and shadowing? I wish I knew the animators well enough to tell them I loved all the small touches. Gnomes tacked onto a bulletin board keeping score at a troll game. The blue light glowing from Jim’s medallion. The many angles when Jim fights an ancient world troll in his kitchen as his mom and changling school principal watch, angles and stylized action so well animated, you ask yourself if you’re watching The Matrix or a children’s show.

Wait until the plot talks about The Darklands. The Darklands are a scary, scary place from Tim Burton’s animation land. We don’t get to see much of them beyond teasers in season 1 until the ending cliffhanger gives us a giant teaser until—season 2.

Everything physically on this show is my definition of a good cartoon: a moving museum piece artwork.  I could sit here for hours writing detail by detail. If you don’t watch it for any other reason, watch it to the end for the artistry. The CGI gets so good as the season goes on, as if the animators had a great time forgetting they were working.

I Look Like Claire Nuñez; LOVE IT! 

And, on a personal note, I liked that based on when you meet me in reality and my face in the mirror saying hi back to me, I look a lot like Claire Nuñez if you change the minor hair/eye details. The giant eyed, round cheek face shape is me. Crazy! Never saw a cartoon character who looks that much like me . I’ll toss in a photo of Claire for you guys here at the end. OK, you know what? I’ll post some photos of me with my old black-black dyed hair for a better comparison to Claire Nuñez. When I’m not piling on the makeup, you’ll see what I mean!


CGI Claire Nuñez

With darker hair, it’s a thing! My face directly in front is pretty much a giant circle in person! Like a CGI girl.

With darker hair, it’s a thing! My face directly in front is pretty much a giant circle in person! Like a CGI girl.

OK, apologizing in advance for the below awkward selfie. Who takes a selfie in a dresser mirror photobombed by a pet mattress on the floor? I do. And in it, you totally see the circle-round face like Claire Nuñez! Told you so! My face thinks I weigh 60 pounds more. Every September, I store nuts for winter in those cheeks.


Read my other Trollhunters reviews:

Season 2

Season 3