A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Crossing Swords is an animated series with lots of mature content set in a historical fantasy kingdom in the Middle Ages. Violence is cartoonish but frequent and gruesome: characters are strangled, pushed off cliffs, stabbed, burnt alive, and more. Blood is rendered as pools of red jelly-like material so it downplays the violence a bit, and death is generally played for laughs, with characters making jokes after deaths and dismemberment. Many jokes have a vulgar aspect, like when characters kick each other in the testicles to win a contest. Otherwise, sexual content is also strong, with many jokes about sex, such as a queen who asks a parade of young men to service her one by one. Language is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "p---y," "s--t," "son of a bitch," "a--hole," "bastards," as well as words like "nutsack," "dildo," "crack," (meaning a body part) and "turds." One character is called "alcoholic" and frequently seems drunk; other scenes take place in taverns with characters drinking beer. Moral lessons are few and far between and tend to be cynical. Characters generally run the gamut from unpleasant to evil, but some are more grounded and occasionally have flashes of humanity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Created by some of the comic minds behind Robot Chicken, CROSSING SWORDS is an animated fantasy set in a kingdom of armless peg people in the Middle Ages. Ever since a terrible childhood incident involving dragon eggs, Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) has hoped to grow up and serve King Merriman (Luke Evans) and Queen Tulip (Alanna Ubach) as a noble squire. But when he's finally old enough to shoot his shot, Patrick discovers that not only are the royals corrupt, practically the entire kingdom is vicious and greedy. It'll take every one of Patrick's good intentions for him not to follow suit.
Is it any good?
This series with lots of sex jokes and not as many pop-culture references as other adult animation shows comes off as a relic from another time. Crossing Swords feels crass instead of refreshingly uninhibited, with a cynical meanness that renders every character unlikeable. Patrick is supposed to be the central heroic touchstone who leads us into a world where medieval foibles make ironic points about our modern lives, but he's so completely surrounded by agents of chaos that any spark of humanity the character has is utterly overwhelmed. Patrick's three siblings are evil, his parents are blithely unconcerned with their son's welfare, the queen and king he works for are corrupt, and every other character we meet can be located on a scale from unappealing to positively vile.
This was a gambit that worked when South Park was the hottest show on TV, but times have changed, and most viewers prefer a streak of sweetness in their comedy, or, failing that, jokes so hilarious that they can overlook mean-spiritedness. But even when a joke lands in Crossing Swords, it's buried by other fallen soldiers. In one episode, Princess Blossom (Maya Erskine) gets her first period and realizes she'll soon be forced to wear a royal chastity belt locked with a "patriar-key." Clever, right? It sure would seem a lot more clever if there weren't also dozens and dozens of jokes in the episode about how gross periods are. It's a shame, because there's an incredible, powerhouse cast voicing these subpar jokes, and the look of the show is fun, with its handmade look and visual puns (watch for plenty of material about how the people-peg characters function with no arms). Crossing Swords raises the occasional chuckle, but considering the amount of talent on board, it feels like a swing and a miss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Crossing Swords (and cartoons in general) funny. Why is it funny to see old toys put into incongruous situations? What is the inherent humor of seeing children's toys in adult situations?
Why does cartoon violence make us laugh, when the same thing happening in real life would be terrifying? How does Crossing Swords dampen its violent scenes so they're comic instead of horrific?
Why are cartoons, as a whole, so entertaining for kids? Do they enjoy the dialogue or the animation more? How can you tell when a particular cartoon isn't meant for younger viewers?
Our editors recommend
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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