When looking at the landscape of adult animation in the US, there is no doubt that there has been a step in the right direction as more variety enters into the fold. Shows like Invincible and The Boys Presents: Diabolical show that the superhero genre can be adapted to the medium beautifully. Arcane brought League of Legends to life. Even comedies like Star Trek: Lower Decks show that even long-standing live-action properties can be animated. For the high fantasy adult animation, The Legend of Vox Machina reigns supreme.
As Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) approaches its 50th anniversary, the perennial tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) has experienced a rise in popularity over the last decade. Undoubtedly a driver behind the new wave of DnD is the popularity surrounding Critical Role and the weekly stream of their campaigns. Look no further than their record-breaking $11.3 million Kickstarter to fund The Legend of Vox Machina season 1 as proof. When Amazon Studios approved additional episodes, fans rejoiced as the most popular DnD campaign in history would be getting at least two seasons. Following a successful first season, the expectations for the series’ future are at an all-time high. After defeating the dreaded Briarwoods last year, the unlikely band of heroes known as Vox Machina faces their toughest test in The Legend of Vox Machina season 2, the dragons of the Chroma Conclave.
Who better to bring a story to life than the people who created that story in real-time? The members of Critical Role ( Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey Travis Willingham, Matthew Mercer, Taliesin Jaffe, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, and Sam Riegel) return as executive producers and titular cast members for The Legend of Vox Machina season 2. To bring their vision to life on Prime Video is the longstanding adult animation studio Titmouse.
Like in season 1, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 will also feature a host of guest stars who add to the star-studded cast. Henry Winkler, Lance Reddick, Will Friedle, Billy Boyd, Cree Summer, Alanna Ubach, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Troy Baker, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Ralph Ineson, and even Cheech Marin are set to make appearances this season. While the cast will draw you in, the awe-inspiring set pieces, tear-jerking character moments, relatable trauma, and crass humor will keep you around for all 12 episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2.
The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 wastes absolutely no time jumping into the conflict. Opting out of a reintroduction episode, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 picks up exactly where season 1 left off. After defeating the vampire Brairwoods in Whitestone, our heroes Vex, Vax, Grog, Scanlan, Percy, Pike, and Keyleth all gathered in Emon for a celebration. That celebration is cut short when four dragons appear on the horizon. Their appearance instills absolute dread in all present as they reveal havoc on the capital city of the Republic of Tal’Dorei. All seems lost as our heroes desperately try to flee as the city crumbles around them. At this moment, I knew The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 was going to surpass everything its predecessor did last year.
The first episode of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 may be jarring but fits perfectly in the experience of what the team at Critical Role experienced at the table seven years ago. So often do we hope as fans that our favorite books and video games are adapted true to the source material. Those who remember the dragons slowly appearing on the crude dungeon map remember the terror that Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer instilled in his friends. In animation, those moments are dialed to 11. Hearing the great Matthew Mercer describe what would happen when an ancient dragon spews acid on townsfolk is one thing. Seeing it animated is a whole different experience. It is a depiction of dragons that rivals just about any that I have seen before as the animation does not shy away from the mayhem and brutality of it all.
The Chroma Conclave is led by Thordak (Lance Reddick), an ancient red dragon who is determined to change the world order on Tal’Dorei. While all might seem lost following the attack, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 remains true to the role-playing game format by giving our heroes a means to defeat the dragons. However, the journey will be perilous as they are tasked to find the Vestiges of the Divergence: items of immense power. Throughout the journey to acquire these items, nearly every member of Vox Machina goes on their own character arc which is where The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 truly shines.
During the stream of campaign one for Critical Role, the Chroma Conclave arc took 44 episodes to complete taking place over a year’s worth of streams. This is a huge jump from the Briarwood arc, which only took 14. That is a lot of content to pack into only 12 episodes. Thankfully, that wasn’t a worry as The Legend of Vox Machina was approved for season 3. This allows The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 not to rush one of the largest arcs in their 371-episode campaign. As the series continues its 3 episode release format, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 captures what it is like to do side missions during a TTRPG campaign in the midst of a larger crisis dedicating mini-arcs for nearly every character in the series.
At its heart, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 is about facing the past to be better equipped to deal with the present. In season 1, fans Percy’s backstory highlighted in the most heartwrenching ways but saw his character come out on the other side stronger than ever. Expect to see those kinds of moments but for the rest of Vox Machina as they desperately try to obtain the Vestiges of the Divergence.
Even moments not explored at the table but in comics and pre-stream recaps are brought to life giving even the most devout stream watcher something new to experience. It is something that I believe really sets The Legend of Vox Machina apart from other adult animations. The series is able to balance humor, action, violence, and story in a way really only seen in my favorite anime and video games. No surprise considering many of the cast are prominent voice actors in the industry with a wealth of experience telling stories and bringing characters to life.
While it is not a surprise that The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 is incredibly well acted given the aforementioned cast, it is the animation that deserves a special shout-out. I can certainly admit that there are times when the animation isn’t as crisp as I would like. There are certain moments in the lulls in the action or during side conversations where it is clear that the animation takes a back seat to the words that are being spoken.
However, when the animation is on, it is on full throttle. The series continues its seamless incorporation of DnD spells and abilities and is done in a way that will excite those who can play DnD regularly and thrill those who love high fantasy action sequences. Coupled with the fact that the project was originally crowdfunded, it is easy to forgive the very small lapses in animation quality when things like the fey realm, battles with dragons, and divinity are done so beautifully. If this is how well the Titmouse is able to produce in the show’s infancy, I can’t wait for future seasons.
Overall, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 is the perfect blend of high fantasy and adult animation. Somehow, the events at the table seven years ago are even more epic in the hands of Titmouse’s animation. Fans will be placed in the shoes of our heroes who, even with all their fantastical abilities, are still relatable in their struggles through the season. The cast’s dedication to not only their own character’s journey but those of their fellow cast mates is contagious as the world from the mind of Matthew Mercer is built around them under the threat of the Chroma Conclave. If you are looking for character development, world-building, humor, and violence at its finest, look no further than The Legend of Vox Machina.