The Legend of Vox Machina

Tal’Dorei is the most powerful and prosperous continent on the world of Exandria; but in recent times it has been beset by a powerful evil that destroys the farmlands and farming communities that supply the great metropolis of Emon. No-one quite knows what this evil is; they only know that the bands of heroes who set out to destroy it never return. When the last remaining heroes are annihilated, Sovereign Uriel Tal’Dorei agrees to the desperate expedient of advertising for mercenaries brave enough to dare death in return for a substantial reward. In return, he is presented with a motely band of cutthroats who call themselves “Vox Machina”. The group consists of: Percival de Rolo III, son of the former ruler of the client state of Whitestone; Vex’ahalia Vessar, a half-elfin ranger who suffers from crippling headaches in the presence of dragons; her twin brother Vax’ildan, an expert knife-fighter and thief; Pike Trickfoot, a gnome dedicated to the service of the deity Everlight; Keyleth, a half-elfin druid undergoing the final trial of her apprenticeship; Scanlan, a gnome bard whose libido is as large as his singing voice; and Grog, a dim-witted and mindlessly-destructive goliath barbarian. More used to fighting bar brawls over unpaid bills than combatting cosmic evils, Vox Machina are nonetheless pressed into service against the unknown power threatening the kingdom; and when, against all odds, they manage to succeed, they are praised as heroes and offered access to all the comforts Emon can offer. But it is at this very moment, when the future seems at last reassuringly bright, that Percival encounters Lord Sylas Briarwood and his necromancer wife Delilah – the very people who slaughtered his family and wrested away the rule of Whitestone. Consumed with murderous rage, Percival persuades the rest of Vox Machina to accompany him on a mission of revenge – a quest that will lead them not only into the dark heart of the Briarwood’s ambition, but into the tortured soul of Percival himself…

Based on the online D&D game Critical Role and co-produced by Critical Role Productions and Amazon Studios, with animation by Titmouse Inc., The Legend of Vox Machina premiered on the Amazon Prime streaming service in January 2022. Animated with a visual aesthetic and character designs reminiscent of the most wholesomely family friendly Disney feature, the series proceeds to gleefully overturn initial impressions through its profanity laden dialogue and chaotic violence. At the core of the narrative, however, lurks a knowing cynicism that at once pays loving homage to the tropes of high fantasy and isekai anime, while at the same time poking fun at their more pretentious or absurd inclinations.  This is embodied by the core characters themselves, who are at once both noble and banal, capable of the most serious-minded contemplation or the most hilariously ignorant faux pas. Drama and comedy are thus deftly welded to produce a narrative that proceeds at a good clip, while at the same time allowing character development and surprising revelations about each of the main protagonists.  Laughs come at the most unexpected points, while the dramatic moments never feel mawkish or overblown.  The animation can at times appear a little static and two-dimensional; but it is the narrative and the characterisations, not the visuals, that are the stars of the piece and which ultimately make The Legend of Vox Machina a gloriously rollicking adventure. Slyly knowing, grittily realistic, and by turns both hilariously crude and entertainingly violent, this is “adult fantasy” at its very best – and which has, unsurprisingly, been renewed for a second and third series.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.