This DUCKTALES review contains spoilers.
There are times when you can feel from the very jump that a DuckTales episode is going to be special. The opening scene of ‘Astro B.O.Y.D.’ laser focused on Huey’s problems relating to other kids. His love of rules and order are made fun of and he’s teased as being nothing more than a robot that can’t even act like a kid. It cuts right to the core of Huey and makes you pour out your soul for him. Whatever reason he’s this way, whether it’s just the awkwardness of being a kid or perhaps he’s somewhere on the autistic spectrum, you feel his instant relief when he meets B.O.Y.D. Finally, someone understands him!
All of Huey’s actions in this first scene speak volumes. His perfectly cut sticks for s’more’s, his lockstep following of procedures, and even the way he plans to make his s’mores. To him there’s a “right way” to do things and if that’s deviated from his brain doesn’t quite know how to deal with it. It’s no wonder he’s made fun of for being a robot, that’s probably how he feels sometimes even if he can’t put it into words. It’s easy to feel that way when you’re so different from the rest of the world.
If this episode was just about digging into Huey’s character it’d be great but, as all the great episodes of DuckTales do, this goes above and beyond. B.O.Y.D. is revealed as being far more than “a definitely real boy” and actually one of Gyro’s early experiments… and one he considers a failure. B.O.Y.D. was supposed to be the protector of DuckTales’ version of Japan but his malfunctions caused him to take out a large chunk of the city.
Gyro is so fearful and ashamed of B.O.Y.D. he even brings along Fenton/Gizmoduck to protect them. Huey is baffled at all this and tries to come to B.O.Y.D.’s defense.
“He’s a kid, like me. Just wired a little differently.”
It’s obvious that Huey sees a lot of himself in B.O.Y.D. He empathizes with B.O.Y.D.’s robot like ways but he doesn’t see it as a bug, he sees it as a feature. He’s the only one who thinks so. Gyro, Inspector Tezuka (nice reference for the obvious Astro Boy homage), and even Fenton all distrust B.O.Y.D. Like with Huey’s bullies or even the kids who just laughed at him, they only see B.O.Y.D. for what he is on the surface and assume the worst in him.
It’s heartbreaking because we see how trusting B.O.Y.D. is. He sees the best in everyone and deep down doesn’t want to cause any harm but he’s regularly taken advantage of. Whether it be by Mark Beaks or even his original creator, Akita, they don’t let B.O.Y.D. be who he is and instead try to mold him into what they want.
Not Huey though. Huey and B.O.Y.D., lost in the city, decide to do what the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook says and take in the culture. This excites Huey to no end, happy to have someone who understands his need for rules and order. In a killer dialogue exchange, after Huey has gone on and on about the history of one of the local shrines, he says,
“Are you sure you’re not bored? Usually my brothers are begging me to stop.”
To which B.O.Y.D. responds, “Are you kidding? I’m having so much fun!”
This doesn’t just mean the world to Huey, someone who’s never had anyone understand him like this, but also to B.O.Y.D. Huey doesn’t want B.O.Y.D. to be anything other than who he sees himself as, just a regular boy.
It becomes clear just how important this is as the episode goes on. We see the experiments that were conducted on him and how Akita treated him. Like Lena, everything B.O.Y.D. has experienced feels like a metaphor for some kind of trauma and abuse. B.O.Y.D. deals with it by falling back on his preferred programming of being a boy but when pushed he goes into full defense mode and unintentionally hurts others. This is exactly what happens to some people, especially kids, who deal with this kind of trauma. They can lash out and hurt others, even if they don’t mean to.
This makes how it’s all wrapped up all the more important and impactful. It’s revealed Akita overrode Gyro’s original programming and forced B.O.Y.D. to be a weapon. Once Gyro learns this he stops B.O.Y.D.’s attack on the city by shouting, “You’re more than your programming!” and gives B.O.Y.D. a hug.
That’s all he needed. Kindness. Understanding. It’s not B.O.Y.D.’s fault he was hurt like this by Akita. He, like Huey, just needs to be shown some compassion and understanding for who he is and not be forced into something he’s not.
This episode moved me in ways only the absolute best of DuckTales has done. It used every minute of its runtime to dig deep into Huey and B.O.Y.D. and utilized it’s premise to tell a story that can only be read as one that calls for compassion for those who are not only abused but those who interact with the world differently from others. It’s also powerful to see the parental figure in this situation, Gyro, admit he was wrong. That says a lot and is the perfect contrast to Magica and Lena, a relationship where the parental figure refuses to admit any wrongdoing.
We should also return to Huey’s part in all this. He’s now not only found a friend but also, perhaps, found some deeper understanding of who he is. He doesn’t have to be ashamed for how he views the world, he can celebrate it with someone else whose just like him.
I’ve discussed Huey needing to lighten his strict adherence to rules but maybe I was being overly judgmental about it. Perhaps Huey doesn’t need to change so much. Perhaps he simply needs to embrace who he is and understand why he likes rules and order. Once he does that, he won’t feel so much like a robot but a boy who just sees the world a little differently. And that, as this episode demonstrates, is amazing.
This episode was a treat and I don’t even have the space to talk about all the great little details. Let me try really quickly though. The action was phenomenal, someone clearly loves the Macross Missile Spam because Gizmoduck unleashing it on B.O.Y.D. was one of the most glorious action sequences DuckTales has ever done.
We also see an ad for what appears to be an energy drink… with Glomgold as its sponsor! What?!?! That is… That is magnificent. And Huey puts a helmet on over his hat. Perfect Huey.
Major kuds to everyone involved in this episode. Christian Magalhaes crushed the writing, alongside everyone else who worked on the story. Sam King, Stephan Park, Kathryn Marusik, and Rachel Paek provided incredible storyboards, and give it up Jason Zurek for that fantastic direction. Toon City brought their A-game to the animation with extra goodness by Studio Yotta.
The voice actors were also in top form, with Danny Pudi bringing a ton of warmth to Huey, Jim Rash giving a hell of a turn as Gyro, and Noah Baird absolutely owning this episode as B.O.Y.D. Also big ups for getting Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in as Akita and Tamlyn Tomita as Inspector Tezuka.
DuckTales is often one of the best shows on TV but an episode like this takes it to another level. It makes it truly special.
DuckTales Quotes To Make Your Life Better
“Happy National S’more day. A very real holiday according to one source on the internet.”
-“Has the sun gotten brighter in the last twenty years?”