Do all heisters really want to retire? Do they really dream of that beachside villa or that log cabin in the mountains, where they can live out the rest of their lives with pipe and slippers at hand? It always has to be one more job for them. Johnny Bolt is getting old, but knows that one more job will be enough, especially when The Heat, the world’s most beloved super crook, is in trouble. While he’s languishing in prison, The Heat is up to his neck in debt; either he pays it off in cash, or that debt will be paid in blood. So even with retirement looming, Johnny Bolt puts together a motley crew of misfits to stage the heist of their lives, so they can pay off The Heat’s debt, and get themselves filthy rich as well. But they’re planning to rob Christopher Matts, the world’s most dangerous supervillain. What could possibly go wrong?
Super Crooks began airing on Netflix on November. 25. 2021. Produced by Bones (My Hero Academia, Eureka Seven, Space Dandy), and directed by Motonobu Hori (Carole & Tuesday), this show is a comic book adaptation that has been on the table for a long time. Created by Mark Millar (Civil War, Kick-Ass, Kingman: The Secret Service) and Leinil Francis Yu (Civil War, Superior), Millarworld (Millar’s company) had been campaigning for an adaptation of some sort since 2016. A year later, Netflix acquired Millarworld’s library, and soon after, announced they would push for it, along with many other Millarworld works to receive adaptations, either live-action or animated.
At the show’s premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Hori explained Super Crooks would take place before the original comic book. This gave Millar the chance to work with the team to develop additional back story, and younger character designs to be made by the script and animation team. The show’s scriptwriter, Dai Sato, is well-known in the industry, having been on the script team not just for Cowboy Bebop, but Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Eden of the East. But does all of this prestigious talent together work to make a crime caper show?
The show begins with a backstory of the lead character, Johnny, where we get to see him as a plucky young boy sick of living with his single mother in his boring town, who somehow awakens a superpower: generating and controlling electricity. Viewers would be quick to compare this kid to one certain other young boy from another more well-known show who worships superheroes, but we should remember that the original Super Crooks comic came out before the My Hero Academia manga. Anyway, with Johnny seemingly unable to fully control his electric powers, he decides that getting rich quick (by activating cash machines) is the better solution to getting out of town.
After the first episode, we get to the present day, with the adult Johnny being released from prison and already eager to get back in the game, despite his girlfriend Kasey pleading that he be patient and wait for a really big job. It isn’t long before we learn about The Network, a shadowy organization that offers protection and support for supervillains, so long as they get a percentage of what they do. It is this Network that acts as the chief antagonist of the show, with its head, Christopher Matts, as someone not to be underestimated. Curious how the ‘heroes’ we see only act as a sideshow; more like super-powered police than the kind of bad guy we see in the shadowy Network.
What’s interesting about this show is that the big heist itself does not come until much, much later; towards the end, in fact. This gives us more time to connect to this motley crew and find out more about who they are and what motivates them to do what they do. Unlike something like Ocean’s Eleven, where the only real character design is centered around just Danny Ocean, here in Super Crooks everyone has their time to shine. For instance, Forecast can manipulate the weather, TK McCabe uses their telekinesis to pickpocket, and even Kasey uses her psychic powers to get people to do what she wants them to do. And it isn’t just the good character design that hooks us in either. The stylish animation and action sequences that begin right from the very start make us want to really binge watch the show. It gives a mixture of fights with our supervillains and the superheroes that the rest of the world look up to, along with all the people connected to the Network. And when it comes to the big heist itself, a big casino owned by Matts, it’s like the action is turned up even more.
With all of this, I can’t help but wonder whether a show like this will be eclipsed by other anti-hero shows. Amazon Prime’s Invincible and The Boys stand out in particular, with its characters using their abilities to do whatever they want instead of doing what is right. Don’t get me wrong, all of these characters are fun to watch and people we want to cheer on for; it’s just whether they will disappear with far more well-known anti-heroes taking the spotlight in bigger shows. And with that, I can once again only mention one other big-name anime that everyone knows. You see, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to comparing this to My Hero Academia, which has its own organized supervillains with rich character designs. I have only ever seen one episode of it (the first one), and have no intention of ever following it. This means I know next to nothing about any of the antagonists Deku and the others have to face. Instead, I turn to an older show from Cartoon Network that the characters of Super Crooks remind me of a little: The Venture Bros. That show, however, portrays itself as more of a satire or parody to the real superhero comics of the 1950s and 60s, with their supervillains (organized as ‘The Guild of Calamitous Intent’) seemingly having no actual powers of their own.
But what about the English dub? Hard to tell, to be honest. As you watch each episode, you begin to wonder whether the dialogue is pretty good or pretty corny. You can tell straight away that the dub team didn’t choose to go down the direction of a straight translation, which is good to hear. Some of the show’s voices like Johnny Bolt (Jonah Scott) are fairly solid and okay, however, some others like Kasey (Abby Trott) sound maybe a little forced. Having reviewed past dubs of Netflix shows, I’m glad to see that dub teams are taking things more seriously, and are treating the shows they do with some more care… even if they don’t always sound 100%.
I left this show feeling very satisfied. These were all characters we wanted to see succeed. I wasn’t really a fan of the Ocean’s Eleven movies, mostly because I thought the character design could have been much better. Here in Super Crooks, these anti-heroes turn into heroes themselves, and as they work to get to that big casino heist, we desperately want this dangerous kingpin to fall. And I haven’t even mentioned the awesome score yet. We are treated with an amazing mixture of piano, funk music and jazz – almost perfect for a crime caper like this.
The opening theme is ‘Alpha‘ by Towa Tei with Taprikk Sweezee. The ending theme is ‘Sugar‘ by Towa Tei with UA. Here is the Netflix trailer for the show:
I can’t but worry, though. We have seen rich character designs in other shows featuring anti-heroes and supervillains like all the ones I have mentioned in this review. The Venture Bros. The Monarch is a good example, purely because of how ridiculously great he can be. Johnny Bolt, Kasey and the others are all people that we grow to like straightaway, and the antagonists (all of them) are all people we actively want to see fall. I suppose this worry I speak of is all on me, and the fact that I’m overthinking too much about an anime show that is extremely fun and worthy of binge-watching.
Super Crooks is very stylish and can be an addictive watch. The English dub has its own issues but is still a solid effort. I fear viewers are going to be quick to compare these cool characters to those we see in better-known shows featuring stand out anti-heroes like My Hero Academia and The Boys. But if you look beyond all of that, you’ll find a very fun, engaging and action-packed watch.