I was a big fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was growing up and because of my love for it, I also became a fan of martial arts as well. While I was still watching cartoons into the early ’00s (mostly Pokemon), I was a high school student so of course I skipped past a lot of the animated shows of the time. Jackie Chan Adventures was one of those shows even though it shares a lot of common ground with TMNT due to its martial arts theme. I wish I had watched it though as, after watching a good portion of Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga, I know I would have loved it back then. Even now, in my thirties after watching the show for the first time (and thus having no nostalgia for it), I was quite impressed by the series. It’s a very good cartoon with excellent action, a solid amount of comedy (even for adults like me), and serialized storytelling.
While this DVD release is called Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga, it is effectively the complete second season of the show just with a weird title. The title is due to the show’s changing story arcs each season. The first season was about Jackie Chan (an anthropologist in this series) preventing a crime syndicate called the Dark Hand from collecting talismans (imbued with powers like levitation, shape-shifting, and super speed) for an evil dragon demon named Shendu. He has help in the form of his Chi master uncle Uncle Chan and his mischievous niece Jade who is always getting into trouble (despite Jackie doing his best to keep her safe) but also helps save the day on multiple occasions. Appropriately enough this arc is called the “The Twelve Talismans” and runs throughout season one. In season two, the story shifts to Shendu’s new goal, using the Dark Hand to open up a series of portals to release his demonic siblings (as they have placed a curse on him until he releases them). While the talismans still play a role in the season, the focus is on Shendu (now inhabiting Dark Hand leader Valmont’s body) and the demon portals. Episodes are heavily serialized and there are even some “to be continued…” episodes thrown in for good measure.
One thing to note, due to a strange episode broadcast schedule in season one, some episodes that were originally meant for that season’s arc are included here in the early parts of season two (the first three episodes). These episodes are quite confusing, especially for first-time viewers like me, because they come from all over the first season. One thing that really sticks out like a sore thumb is that Tohru is still a villain in these episodes and then suddenly in episode four, he is redeemed and working for Uncle. This only affects the first three episodes but if you were wondering why the story jumps around so much, its because they were aired out of order. After a short thirteen episode first season, the show’s episode order ballooned to three times that in season two (for 39 total episodes).
While I didn’t know it at the time, Jackie Chan Adventures is one of the most beloved cartoons from the early 2000’s. Again, I was mostly over cartoons at that point so a lot of good gems got by me. I am trying to watch the ones I missed and based on the show’s stellar 7.4 IMDB rating (on a surprisingly large amount of ratings), I figured this would be a good one to check out. I thought the show would be good (especially since the show’s creator is John Rogers who was also one of the showrunners of Leverage, one of my favorite hidden gems from cable TV) but I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I have absolutely zero nostalgia for the show (something that is almost always a must in order to still like a cartoon when you become an adult) but I loved almost every episode I watched. Jackie Chan Adventures is one of the most impressive cartoons from the early 2000’s era. I would have loved it as a child and even in my thirties, I still got a lot of enjoyment out of it.
One thing I can’t do is compare this season with season one as I haven’t watched it yet. I know it’s a bit odd that I watched season two before the first one (and as a guy who has mild OCD, I hate doing it), but I don’t own the first season on DVD and I really wanted to review this Mill Creek release. I have no idea how good the first season is and how the Demon Portals Saga compares to it but I can say I was very impressed with the season in general.
Jackie Chan Adventures is one of the rare cartoons intended mainly for boys that actually stars a girl. Of course Jackie Chan is also a big part of the show but Jade gets even more time and attention than Jackie does (so much so that I would almost consider her to be the main character of the show). Jade is your pretty typical mischievous teenager but there’s something much more lovable about her than the rest of your cartoon rebels. She’s got so much spunk to her and she comes off far less annoying than most characters in the archetype. I applaud this show for having a heroine in a “boys show.”
Most of the time, cartoons are absolutely hilarious when you watch them as a child and then when you watch them again as adults, you only sort of half chuckle at the jokes (and often times cringe at what you used to think was funny). While there are certainly some eye-rollers in Jackie Chan Adventures (like the joke about Lo Pei sounding like “low pay”), I actually legitimately laughed out loud on several occasions while watching this show. This is one of those shows that has a lot of jokes that only adults will get (not necessarily bad ones, just ones that will get past you when you are younger), helping its humor stand up to time. I’m not even nostalgic for this show and I got a lot of laughs out of it. If you do have nostalgia for Jackie Chan Adventures, I would highly recommend watching it again as an adult as the humor mostly stands up and there will be new jokes to discover that you didn’t “get” as a child.
Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga looks decent visually but due to compression (thirteen episodes per disc means a lot of space had to be saved) and the age of the cartoons, its only acceptable in terms of video quality. Mill Creek Entertainment is known for releasing value-based releases and this is no exception. They prefer to cram all of the episode onto three discs to keep the price down and for something like this that is never going to look great anyway, it’s probably the right decision. This season was also released by Sony Pictures on DVD-R back in 2012. While the episodes were spread onto four discs (instead of three for this release), this also means you have to deal with DVD-R discs which have a much shorter life. The Sony release is also much more expensive (almost $40 versus this release’s $13.99 Amazon price at press time) but if you value video quality, I’m sure the episodes look slightly better on that release (due to less compression). Personally, I’m fine with the video quality on this release especially considering the huge difference in price. Like the Sony release, Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga includes no bonus features but very few cartoon DVD releases do in the first place.
I suspected that I would enjoy Jackie Chan Adventures, but I had no idea how much the show would impress me. Considering I enjoyed it with no nostalgia for it, I’m sure those who did watch it as a kid will still enjoy it today. I also wouldn’t be surprised at all if kids of today would enjoy this release as well. Even if you are an adult who never watched the show as a kid, I think you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga is a great mix of action, comedy, and serialized storytelling and comes highly recommended from me.
Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga was released on DVD on June 4, 2019.
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We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of Jackie Chan Adventures: The Demon Portals Saga used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.