There are cartoons that enter our collective consciousness in a way that passes them on generationally. Usually, we think of cartoons like Looney Tunes, Batman the Animated Series, and Mickey Mouse as enduring classics that everyone is in some way familiar with.  But with the rise of more and more artistic cartoons, many more movies and shows are becoming well-known in unexpected ways. Studio Ghibli is world-renowned now, Pixar movies have worldwide impact, and even shows such as Spongebob Squarepants are universally recognized.

One of the most important creators in the modern Western cartoon field is Genndy Tartakovsky.  Chances are you may have heard of him from such shows as Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, and perhaps most of all, Samurai Jack.  Samurai Jack demonstrates the artistry inherent in the animation industry better than almost any other cartoon.  Initially starting as a science fiction samurai show, Samurai Jack turned into a five season piece of artwork demonstrating the potential for storytelling by using silence and lack of dialogue to accentuate scenes, negative space to show artwork, and surprisingly complex themes and concepts.

If you’re reading a review of Adult Swim’s Primal Season 2 on blu-ray, you’re already familiar with the first season but if you’ve never heard of the show before, surprise…it’s created by Genndy Tartakovsky!  It follows the exploits of a Neanderthal named Spear and a Tyrannosaurus named Fang who have become unlikely friends.  That explanation sounds awfully friendly, but let’s be clear, Primal is spectacularly violent.  There’s a lot going on in the first season and honestly, if you haven’t watched it…go watch it.  Right now.  

Primal is stunningly amazing and it’s not just the concept.  There is essentially no dialogue in the show, forcing the story to be told entirely through storyboarding and imagery.  You’re looking at a concise 22 minutes per episode where everything is structured to hold your attention incredibly well.  It’s hard to understate how difficult this is with today’s attention spans but to write an entire show with no real dialogue aside from a smattering of foreign languages and a bit of gibberish is nothing short of astonishing.  Viewers should also keep in mind that this is not a history-based show but instead a fusion of history and fantasy and the creatures and stories reflect that.  If you’re paying attention even a little, you probably figured that out anyway however as the T-Rex died off well before humans populated the Earth. 

Season Two picks up right where the first one left off with Mira, an enslaved human, captured and dragged off onto a ship and whisked away across the sea.  Spear is left screaming her name and trying to go after her and the entirety of the first episode consists of their efforts to chase Mira across the sea.  It would be an absolute travesty to go through the plot of Primal Season Two because to watch it is to literally experience a work of art, but suffice it to say on their quest to find Mira, Spear and Fang end up in a variety of particularly violent confrontations, some supernatural events may occur, and things go a direction you’re not likely to expect by the end of the season.  Word is that there is a third season of Primal coming and at this point, there are legions of fans awaiting it and rightly so! 

Now, let’s talk about the blu-ray itself.  This is a short show, only ten episodes per season.  Each season fits on a single blu-ray disc and the case and slipcover are pretty straightforward.  There’s a mature language warning on the slipcover, but if you’re watching Primal, you should probably be an adult to begin with.  The case is a standard single-disc affair with the recycling plastic logo cut out inside and is quite light.  The disc itself is a simple press with only line art on the surface and the inside cover lists the names of the ten episodes.  As collections go, this is pretty minimal, but not in a bad way as there’s no need for anything more substantial.

Once the disc is loaded up, you’ll find a simple menu that matches the cover of the blu-ray and a limited set of options.  In addition to the ten episodes, the collection contains a special feature: Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Inside the Evolution”, which is a 13 minute overview of the second season.  Other than audio and subtitle options (which you won’t need because of the lack of dialogue in all but one episode), there’s not much else going on here.  That’s fine though as the show itself is the star anyway. 

The sound is solid here, but as stated before, there’s not much dialogue so the vast majority of what you hear is sound effects and music.  It’s a challenging way to carry a show, but it’s done quite well, and the sound is mastered in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio.  Sure, it could be slightly better, but this is still a fantastic sound mix and unless you’re a hardcore audiophile, you probably won’t even be able to detect the difference on most sound systems.  The effects are rich and full, the spatial tracking is great, and the compositions themselves are fantastic, with lots of primal drums (no pun intended) and squishy, violent sound effects. 

Visuals are another matter.  This is a 1080p transfer in native aspect ratio, not 4K (and Primal DOES deserve 4K).  There are some issues with color banding in a few episodes and some of the higher-speed animation can start to feel a bit choppy here and there.  It’s frustrating because it draws you out of the action just enough to be noticeable, but unless things are absolutely flying, you won’t see it.   There are areas where characters are actually flying however and you’ll see those little pixelated areas a bit more than you should.   Regardless, when things are slow, the close-ups of characters are utterly spectacular here with the thick line art Tartakovsky is famous for stealing the show and making Primal feel like a gorgeous moving comic book.  Every tiny detail of each expression is powerful and the intentional roughness of the imagery and lines corresponds to the unrestrained and primeval nature of the show itself.  This is a stunning show on almost every level and a short episode can feel like an hour has gone by before you even realize it!

Primal Season 2 is a show that you absolutely need to have in your blu-ray collection.  At $25 it isn’t going to break the bank and while there are only 10 episodes, you’re almost certainly going to watch this one over and over.  Genndy Tartakovsky and his team have absolutely smashed it out of the park with this second season and Warner Bros. has done a pretty great job with the blu-ray transfer (4k please guys!), making this the definitive version of Primal to own for only $5 over the price of the DVD set!  You really can’t go wrong here and Primal Season 2 is one that you’ll remember for years to come after watching it, so don’t hesitate to grab it while you can!

This review is based on a physical copy of Primal Season 2 on blu-ray provided by the publisher.  It was played on a 55” Sony 1080p TV with 5.1 surround sound.  Primal Season 2 is available at fine retailers everywhere, both online and in stores.