Death, propaganda and illegitimate government in Pac-Man and the ghostly adventures

The Pac-Man animated series features a teenage Pac-Man trying to save the world from a bunch of ghosts, helped by his friends who look like misshapen M&Ms. There’s a lot more plot than I expected, but the characters are annoying and the comedy is lacking.

The series starts with backstory explaining how evil Commander Betrayus (!) led an attack on Pac-World, summoning ghostly forces from the Netherworld during the Ghost Wars a century ago.

However, there has obviously been aggressive propaganda from Ghost War deniers because none of the students at Maze Prep School even believe in ghosts, let alone the Ghost Wars. That is, except naïve protagonist Pac-Man.

Pac’s belief in ghosts attracts the attention of the class bully, who chases him through the school until he hides in the nearby ‘Level 256 Maze’. This is a fun reference to a glitch in the Pac-Man game that causes level 256 to be unplayable. Why they decided to build this formidable maze right next to a school is beyond me, but Pac gets lost and wanders into a forbidden area, despite the warning signs – ‘Dead end? That’s just what they want you to think. This is probably the way out.’ He’s not that bright, and this is just the first annoying thing he does.

Naturally he ends up opening a portal to the Netherworld, unleashing a flurry of ghosts into Pac-World. It’s not clear what threat the ghosts pose – they squirt slime at someone, talk in New York accents and insult people – but somehow the risk is high enough that leader of the free Pac-World President Spheros needs to get involved.

A group of ghosts chase Pac into the school, but get scared when they realise he’s yellow. I have no idea how they didn’t notice this before. Pac screams and accidentally eats the fearful phantoms, spitting out their eyeballs in another knowing wink to viewers who have played the Pac-Man game.

Meanwhile, Betrayus appears on TV to send a message to Pac-World: surrender or be destroyed! But rumours of the Yellow One who eats ghosts are spreading around the Netherworld. It turns out that yellow pac-people, including Pac’s dead parents, used to rule Pac-World (albeit peacefully) in some sort of highly stratified ethnocratic system. Some might call that problematic.

Pac is kidnapped by government agents and taken to President Spheros. The president shows him the ‘Paculration of Independence’, which includes a prophecy that the Yellow One will one day save Pac-World. Pac could well be that Yellow One!

President Spheros then shows Pac the Tree of Life, which somehow protects Pac-World from Betrayus. It grows many different berries that will give Pac some undisclosed powers to defeat the ghosts. This leads to the best line in the show: ‘We’re not sure which powers come from each berry, but we do know they give you the power to defeat ghosts.’ Of course!

As the ghosts swarm around the president’s office, Pac manages to eat most of them, using an ice berry to defeat a fire ghost. But while his back is turned a group of sneaky spirits steal the Tree of Life and take it back to the Netherworld. The fight to save Pac-World has begun!

This show is a lot more complex and darker than it seems, with themes of genocide, the deliberate distortion of historic atrocities and ethnocratic governments. But there is also a character called Dr. Buttocks, so let’s not get carried away. Unfortunately, the characters are all really annoying, especially Pac himself who’s greedy and stupid. I’m not sure how Pac can be a ghost expert – it’s shown that he’s read a stack of books on ghosts – and not know how to defeat them, or that the yellow pac-people were victims of a mass genocide as part of the Ghost Wars. But I guess this was only the first episode, so I’m sure more will be revealed…

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10 comments

  1. Having seen a handful of episodes, the pacing is rushed, the animation is excessively bright, and the characters are definitely annoying. Trying to adapt an arcade game with very little plot can often lead to failure, but it seems like they were successful by how it lasted three seasons.

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