What if you were able to lucid dream on command? What if you tapped into a realm of the subconscious every time you did so? And what if skilled mind hitmen were attempting to control the human psyche by entering this realm?
Delta State is a Canadian animated series that premiered on Teletoon in 2004. It has one season of 26 episodes that completes an entire story arch, with plans for a second season being denied the chance to see the light of day due to low ratings. The series didn’t attract a huge audience, possibly, because of it’s unorthodox animation style, compelling storyline, and Canadian origin. But the main culprit for its unfortunate cancellation (based on keen detective skills) is over the fact that Delta State was simply too smart, unique and intriguing for its time.
In other words, animation in the early 2000s had the mindset of being a form children’s entertainment. And despite many people still holding this viewpoint regarding the subject, the new decade is known to have challenged this perspective many times over.
Delta State features four main characters, who are also roommates and best friends (though mainly as a result of circumstance above anything else): Luna, Claire, Martin, and Philip. None of them remember any details of their lives prior to half a year ago, so in having being able to enter the Delta Sate at will, they were placed into an apartment together protected by a force field created by their mentor, Brodie, to keep them safe.
Aside from being able to enter an alternate realm, the protagonists each have unique abilities related to the human mind. Claire has the ability of remote viewing, so she is capable of retrieving visible information of a person, location, or object that is physically unattainable in a specific moment of time. Luna is capable of precognition, thus can see both past and future events through sporadic visions that she has no control over. Martin has the ability of telepathy so is capable of reading people’s mind at will. And finally, Philip has the ability of psychometry, so is able to view the experience of past objects through physical contact.
Although these abilities sound very intriguing, they do not define these characters’ beings. Instead the four protagonists are portrayed as very realistic young adults who have to deal with the unwanted pressure of having to combat said “mind hitmen”, known as rifters. Unlike many series that consists of special abilities along with a literal “hero’s journey”, these roommates do not exactly settle into the powers that had been forced upon them. They do not have an inherent powerful sense of justice that transitions them into selfless beings who fight for the sake of mankind—instead remain as a group of 20-something-year-olds who, above anything, just want the memories of their past lives back. The bad-guy butt-kicking ranks second to their very self-focused goal. Even the people who they save from the rifters’ control usually have some kind of personal connection with the protagonists, which in turn motivates them to put their central objective aside momentarily to save whoever requires their assistance.
As a result, the characters are portrayed as very real people who face a combination of both common and otherworldly roadblocks. Delta State inexplicably answers the question of: What if regular everyday people where given special abilities and forced into a “hero” role? This realistic characterization is hardly seen in Western animation, as is a young adult roster. As a 22-year old, many of their worries and struggles are incredibly relatable, and for those of you who currently (or have) live(d) with roommates, the character dynamic is something I’m sure will give off a sense of familiarity.
Delta State was written primarily as a comic, however its rights were purchased before the comic’s release to create the series. As such, it definitely has a comic-book feel to it, in both premise and storytelling style. One very important fact to note is that the entire series was rotoscoped into animation; so the entire thing was filmed beforehand, then each frame was traced over. This makes for very accurate proportions and perspectives. Because this animation technique is so unorthodox, Delta State was actually the first television series to accomplish this feat in its entirety. And because it’s so unique, it definitely takes some getting used to.
After a while it’s easy to see that the animation definitely suits the premise of the series and sets its overall tone. It is definitely intriguing, and personally, made me want to keep watching.
Delta State follows a continuous storyline with the occasional self-contained episode. Almost every episode carries some kind of revealing plot and/or character moment that adds to the complexity of the series. Keep in mind, that the show is not something that can just be played in the background. It requires a degree of focus on the audience’s part, as it contains a thought-provoking story.
Overall, the best words to describe Delta State are smart and intriguing. The series naturally pulls its audience into the story, and its very real characters inspires the question of “what if?”. As in, what if I was placed in their situation? What if a realm within the subconscious existed and only a small handful of people could tap into it? What if a portion of this story is inspired by true occurrences/possibilities?
In my (self-proclaimed) professional opinion, Delta State is one of the most well-hidden gems of animation.
A/N: The other week I wrote an article covering the Canadian animation industry. And upon researching some Canadian titles, stumbled upon Delta State. It’s a really tough series to come by. Even when searching “Delta State” on Google, Delta State University returns higher on the search query. It is definitely a hole-in-the-wall within the animation sphere, and as such, I recommend it to anyone who appreciates a different and intriguing plot along with a unique overall style.