Mythbusters – Paper Armor Review

Adam and Jamie explore the physics of shock waves in water, while Kari, Grant and Tory find out if paper battle armor can compare to steel.

Mythbusters - Depth Charge Disaster

Paper Armor

I love it when the Mythbusters do historical myths. These are usually the most fun myths to watch, and it is interesting on a historical level as well. The Ancient Korean Hwacha in particular was one of my favourite myths in recent years.

The myth on display here was actually one that I’d heard of before. Apparently, the Chinese sometimes used paper armour rather than the usual steel. According to the expert they had on the show, this paper armour was used up until the 18th century, so obviously it was useful. But how effective was it really? This was a perfect challenge for the Mythbusters.

While the silly antics of Grant, Tory, and Kari are in full display in this episode (unsurprising given the fun value of ancient weapons and armour), it didn’t feel over the top. The sequences of them playing around were usually shown while the narrator was explaining something, so it didn’t feel like it was taking away from the rest of the show. This is a really nice way to keep the silly nature of the trio that is so ingrained in their screen personas without making the show feel silly as well.

The various testing methods that the team went through to gauge the potential effectiveness of the paper armour were well thought out, but I felt that they could have done a bit more digging into the history of the paper armour to explain why the Chinese used it for so long. This is something that I think is vital for historical myths, you can’t just show a YouTube clip or a drawing to explain things, if a country used this method for hundreds of years there’s probably a fair bit of documentation around.

The show’s focus on this myth allowed the trio to have a lot more screen time to test the armour in various circumstances, and it really helped the myth. Seeing the full tests gave the results a lot more impact than the usual montage. I think this really shows how having all five of the Mythbusters working on a myth over a whole episode more often would make things a lot more interesting.

Depth Charge Disaster

This myth felt a little odd. While it was very interesting, and the analytical nature of the myth balanced out some of the antics from the other team it definitely felt like the secondary myth in this episode. I’m not sure if this was a one-off or an indication of things to come. Past myths have seen Adam and Jamie’s segment turn out far less interesting than the other myth, but it has always been the primary myth in the show. Even the name of the episode seems to indicate that Grant, Tory and Kari’s segment is the focus of the episode.

That aside, this myth was a lot of fun. The premise of the myth wasn’t something that I’ve ever thought about before, but once it was explained I was definitely intrigued. The idea that lying on the surface of the water would make you more likely to survive a depth charge doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. There’s not really a huge amount of difference in the distance of your body from the blast.

We all knew that this was a myth that demanded full-scale experimentation (Adam even commented on it), but it was nice to see the methodical Mythbusters go through the series of experiments to test out the theory behind the myth. There was actually an element of tension there after the disaster that occurred the last time they tested a myth in the shop using a tall thin water tank.

The eventual full-scale testing was as impressive as ever, the Mythbusters always seem to work better with explosives. One aspect that I liked was that they waited until they had done all the tests before sharing the data to give a nice full picture, and not spoil the surprise.

Overall, this was a fun episode of Mythbusters. I hope that the secondary nature of Adam and Jamie’s segment isn’t a sign of things to come. Adam and Jamie are the heart and soul of the Mythbusters, and if they take a back seat I think it’s a good indicator that it’s time to bring the show to an end.

What I Liked – 2 solid interesting myths. Depth Charge Disaster was nice and analytical to balance out some of the silliness in Paper Armor.

What I Didn’t Like – I felt that they could have done a little more looking into the historical records of paper armour. While fun, the Depth Charge segment felt like an afterthought.

Rating – 4 out of 5 (Really Enjoyable)

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