Hidden Gems: Delta State

Hidden Gems: Delta State

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. 

Juli

My name is Juli, and I am an avid viewer of Western animated television and film—so much that I've created a blog that takes a critical dive into Western animation. From Phineas and Ferb, to Avatar: The Last Airbender, my list of must-watch series is large and growing. But aside from immersing myself in animated worlds, I love art, cooking (with a 65% success rate), morning runs, and blogging! Thanks for stopping by.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Hyu

    I can see why it hasn’t gathered much attention. As a kid I barely understood this show and the graphic style was putting me sligthly off.

    Now I’m a “sucker” for that kind of street art stylized comics and animations with cyberpunkish plot. Not much of that can be found nowadays, if any.

    There’s one more thing that attracted me in Delta State after ~14 years – looking from today’s perspective at the then-current “trends” like short tops to make belly button visible. Every girl was wearing them at that time!

    It’s not GREAT show, but it definitely has something attractive. And the value of this show is only increasing with every new year.

    1. I absolutely agree with you! Delta State premiered well before it’s time. It has such a unique concept and story with incredibly intriguing elements.
      And you’re completely right about the cyberpunk genre being unfortunately uncommon in the world of animation. The only other series I can think of that has a comic book/cyberpunk feel is Motorcity—but many of the characters fall flat in comparison. The main characters of Delta State are refreshingly organic. It’s a shame that not many people know about it. Thank you for reading this post and taking the time to leave a comment! It means a lot 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    Feeling proud of being a participant in this show, delta state changed my perspective of seeing things , all thanks to Jeremy , under his supervision , I had learned a lot many things .

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  5. Hannah Flack

    An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you ought to publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but generally people don’t speak about these subjects. To the next! All the best!!

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  7. A A

    Does anyone know where I can watch this show today? I can’t seem to find anything past episode 13 online?

    1. secret

      retro rerun on youtube

  8. PillBoxHead

    Fantastic. I love to see this take on something from my childhood. I remember staying up late just to catch Delta State on teletoon, it was what we’d all talk about the next day at school trying to figure out what it all meant and what was happening. I’ve never been able to sit down and watch it all in order so to hear it explained how you did, so much makes more sense about it now. I’m trying to find it all so I can enjoy it again now as an adult. This was my first experience into the surreal and really set the pace for what was to come next like David Lynch and beyond. Just fantastic, thank you.

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