thirteen lessons of rule in rhyme.
To find the jewels in secret places,
follow where the compass faces.
If returned from the shore beyond,
a new day dawns for Octopon.
But if they should fall into evil hands,
darkness descends on all the lands.
For these riches two shall vie,
in the realm of Dark Water where the Treasures lie.”
Short-lived but fantastic 1991-1993 Hanna-Barbera cartoon series which switched off between syndication and ABC. It began as a five-part miniseries which aired on Fox Kids as simply Dark Water. It's well known as one of the first animated television shows for children to have legitimate high-stake adventures and an epic storyline.
On the largely ocean-covered planet Mer, Ren is the prince of a fallen kingdom, and he has to find the Thirteen Treasures of Rule to restore it to its once pristine glory. Rounding out his "unlikely but loyal crew of misfits" are ecomancer Tula, roguish Ioz, and the monkeybird Niddler.
However, Ren learns that his quest is far more urgent than simply personal career advancement: the menacing substance called dark water that consumes everything it touches is spreading and it threatens to destroy the world. Only the thirteen treasures can stop it and Ren must find them before it is too late.
The high production costs and drop in art quality after its Channel Hop dealt the series a fatal blow and it was canceled 21 episodes into its run (only eight of the thirteen treasures had been collected). All 21 episodes were later released on DVD on August 31, 2010, listed as The Complete Series. Additionally, in 1991 Marvel Comics released a comic book series based on the show.
The series was created by David Kirschner, producer of Child's Play and writer of An American Tail. It was also Hanna-Barbera's first animated television series to have a far more substantial budget and more streamlined animation.
This series provides examples of:
- Abnormal Ammo: Guns filled with Dark Water.
- And a gun with a venom-spitting lizard contained inside.
- Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The tunnels inside the Maelstrom are literally large enough to hide a small civilization, and a giant sea monster.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has "Dark Water ~Beloved Soldiers~" performed by none other than Hironobu Kageyama
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Ioz has a younger sister Solia, and depending on the interpretation she is either this or the follower of the Rule of Cool.
- Big "NO!": Episode 3, Tula after Ren is knocked out. Also, episode 13 when Tula falls into the Dark Water.
- Body Horror: It turns out that using Dark Water as a component for a potion of youth is... unwise, as poor Cray finds out.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Bloth's crew ride around on dragon-like creatures called... dagrons.
- Combat Tentacles: Morpho's left arm is a tentacle, he uses it for fighting and strangling people.
- Cool Boat:
- The Maelstrom, Bloth's huge ship made of sea monster bones.
- The Wraith, the main characters' ship, has a detachable sail-glider.
- The Corruption: The titular Dark Water, which devours all it touches.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: There are a few nasty ones, but Cray getting devoured from the inside-out and having her body turned into Dark Water by that same substance (which she'd used for her youth potion) easily takes the cake.
- Death World: The Planet Mer has Middle Ages level of civilization in a few island kingdoms. But everywhere else is filled with vicious pirates and bizarre beasts, with occasional savage tribesmen or fiendish swindlers to boot. And, large areas of the planet are getting eaten away by a substance of pure evil called Dark Water.
- Disney Death: Tula is devoured by the Dark Water. She does not die, however, as the Dark Dweller decides to use her as bait for Ren.
- Doomed Home Town: Octopon. It gets undoomed in the first season finale, and in the second season shows signs of being a viable seaport again.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Bloth, surprisingly enough, although it could double as The Only One Allowed to Defeat You in some cases. Notable examples include:
- "A Drop Of Darkness" — Bloth won't kill Ren until after he's performed Ren's supposed wedding (though it should be noted that the woman who arranged this promised Bloth the compass and treasures in exchange for this).
- "The Game" — Bloth helps Ren defeat the Korb monsters hunting them after they are no longer chained together, as payback for Ren not abandoning him earlier in the episode when he had the chance (and just after said chains had been broken).
- "The Dark Dweller" — Bloth captures Ren just after the latter has lost Tula to the dark water and is in the midst of a Heroic BSoD. Does he throw him to the Constrictus? Heck no! Instead, he keeps Ren around as a ship slave because he "would rather watch Ren die a thousand deaths by guilt..." In the same episode, when Bloth forces Ioz to battle one his pirates, he decides to "be a fair man" and tosses him a sword. All Ioz has to do is get past the pirate to reach it... the pirate who has four arms and a weapon in each hand.
- Fantastic Racism: Monkeybirds were used as slaves, and the first mini-arc even went so far as to show the slave markets. While it was swept under the rug later, Niddler does mention on occasion that he can't enter certain pubs because monkeybirds aren't allowed there, and characters in general seem to consider Niddler a lesser being even before he has a chance to prove himself as the Sidekick Creaturenuisance.
- Female Misogynist: The female warriors in "The Living Treasure" appears to hate outsider women as equally as men in general. A woman is one of the slaves. Granted, they (or at least their queen) will welcome a female outsider who openly voices her hatred for men.
- Flanderization: In the first episode, Niddler is concerned about getting something to eat because Bloth starves him. It doesn't come up in the rest of the miniseries after he is free from Bloth. After the network jump, Niddler possesses an all-consuming desire for food.
- Food as Bribe: Niddler loves minga melons and can be bribed into doing almost anything with the promise of them.
- Fountain of Youth: The alchemist Cray was able to restore her youth using a potion she created, Unfortunately, the dark water she used in it causes her body to eventually break down into Dark water itself.
- Forgot About His Powers: Tula finds out she has the power to influence nature, weather, plants, and animals... and promptly forgets that when the ship could use additional wind, or a toxic fog should be dispersed, or when she's in danger from animals...
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Bloth switches bodies with Ren (and Konk with Niddler) thanks to a powder by Morpho. It has to be noted, however, that their voices stay the same — so the audience has Ren bellowing Curse my eyes! through the entire episode.
- Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Several outfits have gold decorations.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Morpho is half human and half sea creature.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: The ghost pirate captain captures Ioz for this purpose, stressing her appreciation for his looks several times and going so far as to say that while being a ghost may be unpleasant, the sex will make it better.
- I'm Cold... So Cold...: Tula lowers Ren's body temperature to the point where he dies so he can fight a gang of ghosts. He gets better.
- Impossibly Cool Weapon: Most of them look like they were designed by Kit Rae.
- It Was a Gift: Ren's sword plays an important role in the show. It once belonged to his father and was given to Ren by Jenna, his caretaker.
- Jerkass: Ioz.
- Karma Houdini: Because the show ended prematurely, Bloth and his crew were never permanently beaten, and as such got away with their countless crimes.
- Lighthouse Point: Ren lived in a lighthouse before he found out about his heritage.
- Long Hair Is Feminine: Tula's hair goes to her waist.
- Magic Compass: Ren's amulet shoots a blue beam in the direction of nearby Treasures of Rule.
- Myth Arc: The quest to find the thirteen treasures to stop the Dark Water from spreading across the world. The show was notable as one of the first kid shows to actually have an over-arching plot. Sadly, the show got Cut Short with only eight of the treasures found.
- No Ending: The show ended with only 8 of the 13 treasures recovered. When it reran on Cartoon Network, a bumper flat out said that there was no ending and not to hold out for one as they had no intention of finishing the series. The Sega Genesis game finagles the plot a little to provide one, though.
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Ioz. So much so that one of the dislikes on his official character sheet is 'independent women'.
- Ocean of Adventure: The series follows the adventures of Ren, the prince of the fallen kingdom Octopon, and his quest to restore his kingdom by finding the Thirteen Treasures of Rule, traveling the seas of the world of Mer to track them down, dealing with the pirate Bloth who constantly hounds him, and the mysterious dark water, a substance that consumes whatever it touches.
- Ominous Obsidian Ooze: The titular Dark Water, which roams the seas devouring anything in its path - and is spreading.
- Opening Narration: The intro sequence features a narration to catch anyone up on the general premise of the series.
- Organic Technology: Making a submarine from a baby leviathan, starfish used as shuriken, and one episode shows a pistol-like arrangement attached to a glass bottle with a lizard that breathes noxious fumes inside.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons here are called dagrons and apparently on Mer they all are supposed to hail from one island. Unless someone is transformed into one.
- Pardon My Klingon: "Noy Jitat!" seems to be a version of "damn", and is often shortened to the adjective jitatin (probably "damned") as in "that jitatin monkey-bird". There's also chonga and chongo-longo, and "naja dog" seems to be the strongest as is said less frequently.
- Pink Means Feminine: Tula's outfit is pink.
- Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Both the Wraith and the Maelstrom just hunt the 13 treasures all the time. The Maelstrom crew might be composed of slaves (and Bloth is seen to have no concern as to what his crew eats, for example), and the Wraith's crew always complains of having no money, but it's still strange that they manage to keep it up at all. The Wraith crew in particular, despite presumably being the titular "Pirates of Dark Water", don't engage in any piracy, though Ioz used to before he joined. In "The Beast and Bell", he complains that a true pirate steals goods instead of bargaining for them like Ren.
- Plant Person: Tula is an "ecomancer" and has magical control over plants.
- Pocket Protector: Ioz is saved from a crossbow bolt by a stolen golden goblet in the second episode.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Stated outright in the Opening Narration.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Ren, and his father King Primus before him, both quite the adventurers.
- Sand Worm: The Golquin, though it is referred to, rather inaccurately, as a crab and a crustacean, definitely fits this trope, being a large, burrowing, aggressive worm-like animal.
- Sealed Evil in a Can:
- The Dark Dweller in the backstory. Unlike other sealed evils, he actually managed to free himself and the Dark Water.
- Kiroptus, one of the servants of the Dark Dweller, was also sealed in the backstory. Like his master, he managed to free himself with a little help from Ren — only to be sealed again by the end of the one episode he appeared.
- Ship Tease:
- Ren and Tula had a few moments, but the series came to an end before anything could really go anywhere.
- Ioz and Tula had a fair amount of it, too, though with far more sniping. But, again, the series ended before anything could happen in that regard.
- Too Dumb to Live: In "The Living Treasure", when the female warriors have captured the Wraith crew, they plead that they're on a quest to save the world from the Dark Water. Only for the captain to tell them their "quest has ended for good".
- Translation Convention: The odd-sounding swears and plant names and whatnot are meant to give the impression that the characters aren't actually speaking English, but we hear English for our own benefit.
- Unreveal: Cartoon Network aired a brief segment during commercial breaks in which they were asked about the ending of the show. It then cut to the opening sequence of the show until we finally see... that it has been taped over.
- Villain Decay: In the miniseries, Konk is a very capable bad guy saddled with incompetent minions, capable of giving the heroes a difficult time on his own. He is later downgraded to being an incompetent minion himself.
- Villainous Rescue: Unintentionally in "The Living Treasure", the pirates came along and the female warriors fought them. Giving the Wraith crew and the slaves the chance to escape.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The Lugg Brothers just sort of disappear after leaving Zoolie's gamehouse with Konk in the miniseries. Konk is later delivered to Bloth in a barrel by some woman, and the Lugg Brothers are never seen or mentioned again.
- You All Meet in an Inn: The first time the entire cast meets, it's in an inn.