Shounen Step-By-Step: Yu Yu Hakusho Episode 1

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Plot: Yusuke Urameshi is a punk. He frequently skips class, doesn’t try in school, gets into street fights all the time and has run-ins with basically every type of authority figure that exists. His home life is no better with a drunk lazy mom who seems to pay him no mind at all while loafing about the house. He does have friends, the model student Keiko and the fellow street punk Kuwabara, but they seem to have just as poor of a view on Yusuke as everyone else does.

One day, Yusuke sacrifices his life to save the life of a little boy by pushing him out of the way of a speeding car and getting hit in the process. Yusuke appears near his body as a ghost and is quickly greeted by a flying girl on a boat oar named Botan. She is a shinigami or grim reaper, but she’s not greeting Yusuke to take him to the afterlife, she’s there to give him one more chance to live. See, he was not set to die that day and no one in the other world believed Yusuke would ever risk his life to save a child, one that would’ve, ironically, not have died or even been hit anyway. So, Yusuke is getting a second chance to live due to the error.

Yusuke, however, is not sure he wants to return to his life since he believes everyone dislikes him and everything seems to dump more crap on him. In an effort to get him to see the true value of his life, Botan gives him some time to think about the decision.

In the meantime, Yusuke visits his wake and sees how utterly devastated most of the guests are from his mother to Keiko and even to Kuwabara and one of his teachers. He even sees the grief of the mother of the little boy he saved.

After visiting his wake and taking everything into consideration, Yusuke meets with Botan again to agree to her offer, and Botan starts setting everything up to bring him back to life.

Breakdown: This has been my favorite pilot episode to an anime for a long long time. It is just so wonderfully written, so heartbreaking and so gripping that you can’t help but care for each character, even Yusuke, deeply from the get-go.

It’s also a shining example of how English dubs can really be just fantastic. There’s so much passion and emotion put into their line-reads here that it is just one of my favorite dub jobs ever.

The only negative I really have about it is the fact that two of Yusuke’s teachers really seem like they’re over the top. I mean, one has a character design that just screams ‘weasel’, the other looks like a serial killer and they’re both such complete assholes that they’re at Yusuke’s wake being thankful that he’s dead and even making jokes about how he probably died on accident while trying to steal the boy’s lunch money.

While Kuwabara makes the most impacting scene here, you really have to appreciate the subtleties of Yusuke’s mom’s short scene. She’s just sitting on the floor not saying a word or even showing any real emotion for much of the scenes, almost like she really didn’t care, and then suddenly she just says Yusuke’s name and bursts into sobs. Even the short scene with the little boy and his mother was very well done. It reflected the kid’s inability to really process the death of Yusuke and the gravity that the entire situation had on the mother. She’s both incredibly happy that her boy is alive yet devastated that another kid had to die to save him.

I will say that, while this is just an amazing opening episode, they don’t delve at all into the actual plot of the entire series yet, that being Yusuke eventually becoming a spirit detective and this show becoming essentially a tournament fighter.

The main characters were all very well-established from the start, the atmosphere was great and this really does seem like a pretty original story.

The art basks in that lovely 90’sness that makes me smile and while the animation isn’t amazing it’s still pretty damn nice for its time, the music is wonderful and the OP and ED for this season stay very near and dear to my heart.

This was a great way to start off this awesome show, and I definitely look forward to going over this series again.

Next episode: Yusuke is brought to the spirit world to meet Koenma, ruler of the spirit world, in order to get him started on the task that he will need to complete in order to be brought back to life.

Episode One-Derland: Bartender

Plot: A secluded warm bar called Eden Hall welcomes its guests with a mysterious bartender they call The Glass of the Gods, known for remembering a customer’s orders from years ago. He uses his keen observations, insight and gentleness to help customer’s through their problems.

Breakdown: We all know the bartender trope, for lack of a better term. Bartenders are kind and friendly people who offer solutions to problems or just an ear to listen to your problems while pouring you a nice drink. Well, what if there was a show about that?

I don’t think Bartender is the greatest candidate for Episode-Oneland since it seems pretty episodic to me at first glance, but the main gist of the whole thing is indeed the Bartender. Ryuu Sasakura, is one of the best bartenders in the world and seems to be the only bartender at Eden Hall. He makes spot-on observations and analyses on completely minor things like Detective Conan and makes perfect drinks to sate the worries of the customer. And yeah, in this episode anyway, the customer’s problems were seemingly solved just by making the guy a really nice drink.

The customer is a man who has been contracted out to renovate a hotel bar. However, he despises bars and especially has a poor view of bartenders as pretentious people with no real skills and even refers to them by the ‘slur’ of ‘barten’. Despite this, he seems to have a vast knowledge of drinks and liqueur as a whole. He enters Eden Hall through chance and has a complete 180 on his opinion of bars and bartenders after meeting and getting a custom drink from Sasakura.

That’s the whole story. No I’m not kidding.

Also, the reason behind this man’s hatred of bars and bartenders is kinda….dumb. When he was a college student, he went to his first bar. Like you do. Well, he chose one of them fancy-ish bars and went alone, so he’s already making all sorts of mistakes for a first-time run. He feels really uncomfortable right as he enters the door, noting the door’s heaviness as feeling like the bar is actively trying to keep people out. He’s appalled at the high cost of a bowl of nuts and feels like an outsider for not being there on a recommendation.

He orders a beer and feels like a cheap-ass for doing so, so he orders a whiskey in order to feel more proper, all the while believing everyone in the room is either silently judging him or laughing at him. He reaches for his wallet and finds that it fell out of a gigantic hole in his pocket that I can’t believe he’s just now noticing, and then believes everyone in the bar is staring at him, laughing at him, judging him and whatnot. The bartender then gently touches his hand and tells him that they can settle the bill some other time.

So, yeah, he hates bars and bartenders because he’s a paranoid schizophrenic and had a slightly embarrassing experience with a bartender who was actually really nice about the whole situation.

This show puts a lot of focus on the….for lack of a better term ‘psychology’ behind drinks and bars. Drinks are highlighted and explored, we’re told when a drink is appropriate for certain situations and we even get a recipe at the end. More importantly, though, as Sasakura explains, why you drink what and when and when you’d be better suited for what drink over another depends on both you as a person and your current state of mind. A drink can be a soothing experience, a getaway, something fun, nostalgic etc. Most of all, the bartender’s job is to create an openness and gentleness to the patron’s experience, creating a safe and warm atmosphere for everyone who wants a place to go just to feel like they belong or want a hideaway.

The art is alright for the characters themselves and not much animation is needed here, but a lot of detail and animation focus is put on drink preparation and presentation, which is pretty damn nice. Plus, the environments are nicely detailed. The direction is also fairly stylized and pleasantly arranged.

The music is pretty reminiscent of lounge music to a degree. I enjoyed it.

While the story is definitely….different and, admittedly, a little on the odd side, I will say that I never lost interest and I did feel relaxed through the whole thing, which may be one of the main points of this anime; to emulate the bar experience.

So I will give this a;

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If anything, it’s a short and relaxing series and really makes you wish more bars were like Eden Hall.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Bar Rescue and completely ruin everything I’ve felt during this watching experience.

Amon Volume 4 (Manga) Review

Plot: Satan has gone missing, and while Amon has saved many of the demons, he’s also not making himself known. A new greatly powerful demon named Asura arrives and offers the demons a chance to become as powerful as Amon. All they have to do is merge together over and over. Most of the demons are more than willing to go through with her plan and see her as leader, especially the demon who wishes for nothing more than be beautiful. However, Silene’s not giving into her claims. Asura has more going on behind the scenes than just a lush future filled with demon gods.

Breakdown: Our first chapter title page is a butt shot. Starting out well, Amon.

This whole volume was just very uninteresting. It focuses mostly on Silene, Demiko (still given no name) and a new enemy named Asura, who seems like a half-human, half-demon crazy person who is trying to take over as leader of the demons since Satan mysteriously disappeared. She’s trying to convince all of the demons that they can be like Amon if they agree to merge together over and over. However, her true intentions are to use the demons in their merged state to find Satan and kill him for revenge on how her body looks and acts.

Asura is two beings, Earth and Terra, merged into one. She used to be angelic-like with beautiful white wings, but when Satan fucked up in the last volume, the two were merged into one crazy being with two personalities, a weird body and small black wings that couldn’t handle flight.

In the end, Demiko gets killed by Kaim who kills her after she tries to steal Silene’s wings for Asura, under a semi-brainwashed delusion that she could be made beautiful if she helped Asura.

Silene’s part is almost entirely stagnant through this whole volume. She meanders and mopes, longing for her precious Satan to return. She’s not buying into Asura’s lies, especially in her statement that they can surpass Satan, but she mostly whines and mopes and cries out for Satan.

The very last chapter is where the only thing of interest happens, though it’s a bit confusing. We find out why there seem to be contradictions between Devilman and Amon. The events of Devilman did happen, but they’re also in the future. God, as punishment for the events of Devilman, apparently put Satan in a time loop so he’ll constantly be tormented by losing his love (Amon, or moreso Devilman, though I thought Akira was a bigger part of that) He’s destined for the events long passed, and he’s damned to start all over again when it’s over with no memory of what happened.

It’s still not entirely clear in some respects, but it’s an explanation at least.

Amon’s role is mostly just to escort Silene to Satan as Asura goes to him with her new pile of merged demon goo to take him on, but she’s ironically defeated by the demons she gathered, granted powers or abilities by the sleeping Satan, who all turn into little Saiyaman angel things that range in size from a few inches to a few stories tall. The little ones stab her over and over with a bunch of tiny needles and they mutate her into some glob. She tries to assimilate with Silene, but gets stopped by Amon who’s again mostly just annoyed by everything around him. He rips off Silene’s wing as it’s trying to be merged with Asura and kills her.

Then the weirdest part of the volume…No….weirdest part of the manga happens. A gravely wounded Silene rides on Kaim back to their nest and quickly becomes pregnant. She reveals that silene continue to grow larger and larger in preparation for childbirth. However, if a silene’s life is put in mortal danger before then, they can basically force asexual pregnancy and give birth to one child very quickly before they die. She does indeed give birth to a young child (not a baby) that Kaim names Silene and starts to raise.

So….does that mean the Silene we see in Devilman is actually this Silene?

The very end has some nice action, answers some questions and ends….interestingly, but it didn’t hold my attention very well through the read. It was either boring or confusing. I don’t know what the next volume holds, but hopefully it will at least make more sense and be more interesting.

Oh and fewer butt shots, yeah that would be nice. Seriously, what is with all of the lone panels with pure butt shots? What is the point, Mr. Nagai?

Recommended Audience: Still lots of gross imagery, gore, and damn near full frontal nudity. 16+

Pokemon Extravaganza – Movie 03 (Dub): The Spell of the Unown

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A little girl named Molly has mysteriously lost both of her parents. In her grief, she starts writing their names together with tiles that her father collected that are somehow connected to the mysterious Pokemon, Unown. As her tears fall on the tiles, they magically summon a group of Unown into her house (Because tears are magic, haven’t you learned anything from these movies?!) and grant her any wish that she desires.

Her first wish? To have her father back.

An Entei appears as a creation of the Unown since Molly and her father previously joked about him being like Entei and he tasks himself with doing everything in his power to make her happy including kidnapping Ash’s mom to complete their family. As Ash and the others go to save his mom, Molly becomes more comfortable with her newfound abilities and gives them a run for their money. Can anything truly beat the power of the Unown?

Breakdown: Pokemon movie 03; my favorite Pokemon movie ever.

I love this movie. Not just as a Pokemon movie, but just as a movie period. It has a touching story, a great legendary, exciting moments, great music, Charizard returns to be a badass, and practically everything has a point! Also, the fate of the world isn’t on the line for a change. Not to say it’s perfect, it’s not obviously, but I still believe it’s the best out of all of the Pokemon movies I’ve ever seen by far. Well, let’s get started so I can eventually have nothing really to look forward to in terms of the Pokemon movies….except maybe Heroes and possibly the Lucario movie but meh.

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Our movie starts out overlooking a mansion where a little girl named Molly Hale is being read to by her father Spencer Hale. Her father as well as Entei are voiced by Dan Green. Mandatory cheering session everyone!

And damn I want that Ponyta rocking horse. I don’t care if I’d look like an idiot riding it, I want that.

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He’s explaining legendary Pokemon through a book filled with pictures of said Pokemon. They talk about Unown and it’s gently hinted at that Molly’s mom was taken by the Unown. According to sources online, that is the canon explanation in the dub.

However, they don’t really explain what happened to her mother very well in the dub. In fact, they don’t explain at all, making the whole situation confusing.

They eventually start talking about Entei, one of the legendary beasts. Molly really likes Entei and believes her father is like him because he’s big and strong while also being really nice. They play make-believe Entei for a bit and have a bunch of fun even riding the Ponyta rocking horse. Lucky bastards.

However, their fun is interrupted by a video call by Spencer’s associate, Schuyler. Look, I hate to be an ass, but naming your kid Skylar is already pretentious enough without spelling it like that.

He says they’ve found a temple with signs of Unown in it and he should come to the site right away. Spencer agrees, tucks Molly into bed and bids her goodbye while telling her that he loves her and to keep him close in her dreams.

Well, he’s a goner.

Seriously, even if I hadn’t seen the movie before, a picture-perfect scene of family togetherness like that can only result in his instant disappearance or death. It’s just a given.

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As the scene pans out, we see a picture of Spencer and Molly with Delia and a younger Ash implying that they are pretty good friends with the two….I have no clue why this picture is in Molly’s room. Keeping that picture on her desk next to a picture of her family must mean that it means a lot to her, but she doesn’t recognize Ash or Delia at all later. Spencer was pretty good friends with Delia, but I doubt Ash and Molly were good enough friends to do that.

Also, there’s only a two year gap between Molly and Ash according to the wiki. Must be quite the growth spurt between 8 and 10 in the Pokemon world because I assumed she was like 6. In addition, if they’re so close why do we never see these characters again ever? Alright, I’m just confusing myself. Let’s move on.

Spencer arrives at the dig site and it is indeed a pristine Unown temple. Spencer finds some tiles with Unown markings on them, which triggers the presence of the Unown who promptly kidnap him.

This is another thing that bothers me. In the dub, the explanation for Molly’s mom’s disappearance and supposedly Spencer’s fixation on the Unown is that she went missing while investigating the Unown too (Again, this is based on outside sources and largely assumptions as the movie doesn’t explain practically anything of her mother). Why do the Unown keep taking people? And if they do just randomly take people who touch their tiles, why did Molly get fairy godmother treatment instead? Sure, they were basically holding her in their dream world, but she wished to be there.

Schuyler and their butler or whoever that is tell Molly the bad news and Molly actually tries to investigate what happened to her dad by looking through his laptop….shouldn’t the police have that? Oh right, cops in the Pokemon world. They’re sure helpful. They’re probably collaborating with the Gotham Police department on the case of how to continue to get other people to do their jobs for them. How long has it been since he disappeared? Because it seems like they just up and stopped looking for him the night after it happened.

She spots pictures of the Unown on his computer and drops the priceless ancient artifact on the floor to play blocks with the also priceless Unown tiles. She spells out ‘Papa’ ‘Mama’ and ‘Me’ with the tiles in Scrabble fashion and this prompts the floating Alphabits to appear.

It’s at this point where I really feel compelled to mention that the CGI for the Unown is just blech. Every other instance of CGI is pretty damn nice looking, but it’s like they didn’t put as much effort into the Unown. They look like Gamecube graphics….which might make sense considering when this was made and what company owns the system….

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“Come play Pokemon Colosseum with us, Molly.”

They start turning everything to crystal because…I really don’t understand what the Unown do at all. I guess they’re allowed to be confusing because that’s their namesake and whatnot, but if there’s one general problem about this whole movie it’s that the Unown don’t make much sense in what they’re doing or why.

Remembering her father’s words on the legendary Pokemon and looking at the picture book on the page with Entei, she strongly wishes that her father would return. A dream Entei appears to grant her wish. I really love Entei. It’s one of my favorite legendaries. Just seems like a really cool and majestic lion.

The entire mansion is soon covered in crystal and we get our title screen. It’s really nicely done, but I should note something. 4Kids decided to add a little plate at the bottom of Spell of the Unown that says ‘Entei’ in Unown letters. That’s fine and dandy and it is kinda neat that they spelled it in Unown letters, but…I guess…Why? I know I said Entei seems like the more prominent legendary (Unown aren’t even legendary, technically) in the movie, but he’s still not part of the given English title.

Hey, including the short, it’s been nearly a half hour. Isn’t it about time we got Dumbash and friends? Yes! We see Ash, Misty and Brock continuing on to Theyreallyneverspecifiywherethey’regoinginanyofthemoviesland.

Narrator: “As they travel into unknown territory.” HAHA! I get it! Unknown and Unown! It’s funny!

Ash and the others run into another trainer, Lisa voiced by Lisa Ortiz. I’m actually more bothered by the fact that they specifically named this chick Lisa when she’s voiced by Lisa Ortiz than I am by the fact that she’s voiced by Lisa Ortiz.

I do like her hat, though.

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She challenges Ash to a battle, he accepts and we get our movie theme song version of Pokemon Johto. I really like this theme and the battle is set very well to the music.

Ash calls out Totodile while Lisa calls out a Granbull, but Granbull gets beaten by one Water Gun. Also, Ash and Totodile do an almost cheesy high-five in sunlight shot.

Next up, Ash calls on, *sigh*, Chikorita, who obviously snuggles Ash before battling while Lisa calls out a Girafarig. After a bit of battling, Girafarig defeats it with a Psybeam.

Ash calls out his Noctowl while Lisa uses her own little partner Pokemon, Aipom, but it seems like Aipom doesn’t have those almighty partner Pokemon deus ex machina powers like Pikachu because he gets beaten with one tackle.

Lisa calls out Butterfree while Ash calls out Bulbasaur and he easily gets beaten with a Sleep Powder and Gust combo. Wow, it’s not a good day to be a Grass type apparently.

Cyndaquil’s up next and he’s up against a Mankey. Hehe, hey Mankey, steal Ash’s hat!

The match goes to Cyndaquil with a shot of Flamethrower. If there’s one thing that kinda bothers me about these theme song battles it’s that, because they have to fit in the time frame of 2-3 minutes, all of the matches are incredibly short and almost unrealistically won. Doesn’t help that they’re commonly 6v6 battles either.

Uh oh. It’s a tie. I wonder if Messiahchu can win! Messiahchu is matched up fairly badly as Lisa’s final Pokemon is the doofy Quagsire. Pfft. Considering Pikachu’s beaten Onix, Golem, Rhydon, Nosepass and all sorts of other Ground types with irritatingly little issue, I can’t see this–

*one failed Thundershock later*

Alright, I’m confused on so many levels.

Pikachu tries to physically battle instead, to no real avail, until it launches itself off of a nearby swingset and headbutts Quagsire in really funny shot. Here’s the deal. The Wiki says this match ended in a draw (which, if that’s true, is a rarity.) but this last shot is set up like Pikachu won because it stood standing, albeit wobbly, longer than Quagsire did. Ash is cheering in the end, so it just seems like they’re implying that he won.

They have lunch together and Misty states that their match was the fifth battle Ash has had this week. Wow, five battles in a week!? That’s almost like training and work!

Misty asks where the nearest Pokemon center is and Lisa replies that there’s one in a nearby town called Greenfield. Misty’s super excited to go to Greenfield since it’s supposed to be incredibly beautiful, but when they arrive they find that the entire town is covered in the Unown’s crystal. Also, there’s a sloppy zoom-in during this scene…and Team Rocket’s here.

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Cut to a news crew who is talking about the phenomenon and they also mention that Spencer’s wife did indeed disappear, but we move away from the TV before we can hear how or where. It was supposedly two years ago, though. We see Delia watching the news and when she hears that Spencer’s house is in the midst of it, she rushes to the fridge and peels off a bunch of papers to reveal the same picture that Molly has in her room.

Hm. Molly keeps that picture framed in her room on her desk, Delia keeps the picture pinned on the fridge under Chinese restaurant menus, grocery lists and likely a big sign that says ‘REMIND ASH TO WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR EVERYDAY’. That’s a contrast right there.

We cut to Professor Oak who is also watching the news with Blandy and he talks about how Spencer was his best student. Supposedly Delia was also his student according to some online sources, which is how Spencer and Delia were friends, but seeing as how her knowledge on the Pokemon world is extremely limited and she seems like an airhead, I can’t imagine she was a good student. I don’t know what she was studying for. Did she want to be a researcher?

Also, we get this screenshot littered with Engrish which I’m not sure I can blame 4Kids for.

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…Dammit, I have to peak at the subbed version.

Nope it’s the original’s fault. You win this round, 4Kids. But, trust me, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to mock you in the future. Still, what happened there, TPC? There’s really no reason to put that text into English. I know they’re wary of using Japanese at this point and people can’t read Poke-ese, but if you felt the need to make that snippet English, at least pay for a proofreader.

Delia arrives and asks Oak if he’s seen the news. He says yes and that he’s planning to go to the scene to investigate. Delia says she’s going too because she’s worried about Molly. Here’s hoping Oak actually does investigate some stuff and be useful instead of just spouting science babble that makes no impact to the plot.

They arrive at the scene and meet up with Ash and the others. I love how blasé Delia is about first seeing Ash. I think the ten-year-old kid that you only see like once or twice a year warrants more than an ‘oh hi honey’ when you randomly bump into him.

Molly sees Ash and Delia hugging on the news because that’s really vital to put on the air right? Town turning to crystal? Bo-ring. Turn the camera to the people who have nothing to do with this occurrence hugging! The ratings will go through the roof!

Molly looks at her pictures and tells Entei that she wants a Mama too. Entei says he’ll grant her wish and we cut back to Ash and the others who are…eating lunch? How many lunches do you people need?

Delia and Ash talk about how Spencer used to live in Pallet Town before he went off to be a Pokemon researcher and moved to Greenfield. They visited once two years ago which is where the picture of them came from. I find it hilarious that Oak taught Spencer yet he lives in a small research facility in Pallet Town and Spencer goes off to live in a huge mansion in the most beautiful town in Johto shortly after he becomes a researcher.

Ash says he somewhat remembers them, which I actually think contradicts a later line where he tells Molly that they used to play together all the time when they were little. That’s also in contradiction to saying they only visited once.

Entei comes down from the mansion and hypnotizes Delia into being Molly’s Mama.

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“I do not have a son named Ash…Huh, suddenly I feel like all my dreams have come true.”

He kidnaps her and Pikachu tries to stop him, but to no avail. Wow, Pikachu’s sucking today.

Ash also tries to pursue Entei, but Brock stops him because he thinks it’s too dangerous.

I’m a little confused again. The Unown had no trouble making Molly an Entei Papa, why did he need to kidnap Delia to make her a mother? All she asked for was a mother – and in both of the pictures her real mother is there, so why not make a fake version of her real mother…In Pokemon form, I guess? He also could’ve made a fake Delia.

Explnation: Unown – we don’t need a reason to do stuff.

I’m also a little confused as to Molly’s delusions. It’s somewhat understandable that she believes that her dad came back to her in the form of an Entei, but she believes her mom is Delia? Is this part of the Unown’s powers or is she just going  ?

A hypnotized Delia has accepted Molly as her child and now they’re all a big happy family. After a quick scene explaining things we already know back at the lab, we cut to the Charicific Valley where we see Liza watching the news report of Delia’s abduction with Charla (Huh, I’m just now realizing that’s another character voiced by Lisa Ortiz that has basically the exact same name.). Outside the window, Ash’s Charizard watches the report and looks up into the sky.

Cut back to Greenfield where it’s now nighttime, and someone with a bulldozer is trying to plow through the crystal fields. However, Molly won’t stand for that and demands that they leave them alone. Her declaration causes the Unown to become more powerful and they knock the bulldozer away and cover it with even stronger crystals.

Back at the lab, we get more stuff we already know until Oak gets an Email from Molly which contains a video file warning them to stay away from the mansion and leave them alone.

Cut back to the mansion where we see Molly riding around her room on Entei who actually looks like he’s smiling. I have to say this is a really adorable yet also very sad scene. It’s cute because of what they’re doing, but it’s also sad because she’s trying to mirror what she did with her actual father and seeing it from a third-person perspective just showcases the sad state of the delusion she’s in.

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Ash is fed up with waiting and decides to run off to the mansion on his own, but Misty and Brock soon follow behind. Lisa also stops them to give them her Pokegear so that he can communicate with Professor Oak while he’s there. And now Lisa can leave because she’s served her only functions of battling Ash for the opener and giving him the Pokegear. Is this our first sighting of Pokegear in the series? Since Ash doesn’t know what it is, I’ll guess it is.

They go through the unaffected stream to get to the mansion….since no one ever thought to do that before now. I have no clue why this crystal stuff doesn’t affect water.

Explanation: Unown – We don’t like water. We’re part cat I guess.

And we cut to Team Rocket following them in their balloon. They believe since Ash and the others are going into the mansion, there must be valuable Pokemon in there….Well, okay. I’m not going to expect Team Rocket to think of anything beyond food, digging holes, building insane contraptions and valuable Pokemon. They also have some fairly humorous banter involving how Meowth hears the word ‘wading’.

Entei spots them and blasts them out of the sky, but they surprisingly don’t really blast off, they just sorta fall and crash into the crystal and end up in some weird part of the mansion.

Entei doesn’t notice when people are just walking up the least protected part of the mansion?

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Molly and Delia are watching the news as Entei returns and we see that Ash is using Bulbasaur and Chikorita’s vine whip to climb up the stream into the mansion. Delia watches but isn’t really reacting since she’s under the Unown’s power until Ash suddenly slips. Delia suddenly snaps out of her trace state and freaks out that Ash is doing something so dangerous. Molly asks why she’s upset but Delia just decides to pretend that everything’s alright.

Ash and the others make their way through the mansion when Oak calls on the Pokegear. He’s upset that he left suddenly and without telling him, but decides to help him find his mother either way. He relays more information about the Unown and how apparently they can read the thoughts and dreams of people and create their own realities, which they seem to have been doing for Molly…..Still doesn’t explain why they kidnapped Spencer and his wife, but whatever. Maybe they dreamed to be kidnapped.

Ash tries to break through a crystal structure with Cyndaquil’s Flamethrower, but they soon realize that it just closes up instantly. One of them, surprisingly, decides to be smart and they come up with the plan of using Cyndaquil and Vulpix to burn a big hole in the crystal then using Staryu and Totodile’s Water Gun to keep it open. It works and they make it through.

That’s another reason I really like this movie. Many of the Pokemon, even ones from Misty and Brock, are actually getting plenty of stuff to do instead of just making slight cameos in the opening or just being let out for no reason like in the first movie. And what they’re doing is actually needed and makes sense.

As they make their way upstairs, the Unown change the reality again and make the staircase into a bunch of floating panels that lead into a room that looks like a beautiful meadow.

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Cut back to Team Rocket where they discover the room with the Unown but nothing really happens.

James: “I haven’t seen this many strange letters since the last time I placed a personal ad.” Haha! Team Rocket’s actually getting some good lines today.

Molly’s still watching the news (yeah kid you have a pet Entei and an entire alternate reality that you have complete control over all to yourself, but watch the news for five hours. That’s much more interesting.) and she believes that Ash and the others are in the mansion. Entei asks if she wants him to send them away, but Molly, knowing that Ash is a Pokemon trainer, decides that she wants to battle them instead.

She dreams of being a trainer and Entei disappears with a fake version-ish-maybe-her-consciousness-I-dunno of Molly who says that maybe she’s not old enough for Pokemon. Entei tells her to believe that she is and she magically transforms into a teenager. The minimum for being a Pokemon trainer is supposed to be ten years old, but sure why not?

Teenage Molly confronts Ash and the others for a battle, but Ash just wants to know where his mom is. They realize that the teenager is actually Molly and Ash decides to accept her challenge, but Brock decides to battle in his place so they can find Ash’s mom while he staves her off.

Molly dreams up a battle field and they begin their battle. Brock uses Zubat while Molly uses a dream Flaafy. Brock gets the upperhand with Confusion, but Zubat gets felled by a Thundershock.

Next up, Brock uses his Vulpix and Molly calls out a dream Teddiursa.

Brock: “Figures a cute Pokemon trainer would have a cute Pokemon.” GAH! Brock! She’s still eight years old, you sick bastard!

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They’re pretty even for a bit, but Teddiursa wins by I guess a Fury Swipes or Tackle, it’s hard to tell. Technically this match should be over since they’re only dealing in one-on-one matches with no previous Pokemon continuing on into the next matches, meaning Brock already lost, but they keep going anyway.

Brock: “Guess if I want any chance at beating you, I better really start to rock and roll. *releases Onix*” Hehehe, get it? Because Onix is made of rocks? Hahaha! LAUGH!

Brock: “And using Onix is just how I like to rock and roll.” YES. We understood your pun. Thank. You. Brock.

Molly calls out her dream Phanpy who Rollouts towards Onix and flings it across the battle field. I’ll just take these physics books and burn them.

Misty and Ash make it up into Molly’s next reality, a beach covered in red flowers.

Dream Molly appears, indicating that Brock lost. Molly asks which one of them wants to challenge her next and Misty steps up to the challenge declaring that she used to be the gym leader of Cerulean City. Molly then realizes that you don’t have to be an adult to be a gym leader so she turns herself into a ten year old for some reason. I guess there really is a growth spurt between eight and ten because now she’s just as tall as Misty, basically.

Misty tells Ash to go on ahead to find his mom. He agrees and runs off while Misty stays to battle. She says she’ll only use Water Pokemon since she’s a Water Pokemon trainer and Molly agrees that she’ll do the same. She then takes the water from the dream ocean and floods the whole floor for the battle, but since it’s a dream world they can breathe and even talk under the water. This is a really cool part of the movie. I’d love to see more themed battle arenas like this outside of gyms, but this whole ‘breathing underwater’ thing is obviously a one-shot.

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Molly calls out a dream Kingdra while Misty calls out GOLDEEN!? GOLDEEN’S IN A BATTLE! QUICK, SOMEONE TAKE A PICTURE!

Despite its efforts, Goldeen loses from a Headbutt. Because why would anything good happen to Goldeen?

Team Rocket pops up again, breaking the fourth wall by Meowth asking if they’re going to get a bigger part in the next movie. Your part in the last movie was bigger than most of the regular side characters – quit whining.

Misty calls out Staryu while Molly calls out a dream Mantine. It catches Staryu in a Whirlpool, but Misty cancels it out by having Staryu use Rapid Spin. They then have a battle of Take Downs vs. Tackles and we cut back to Ash who finally finds his mom in Molly’s room.

Delia: “I’d like to know where you got such a reckless streak.”

Ash: “Well, I guess I got it from you.”

Considering we have no clue who Ash’s dad is, that probably is the only explanation. Also, considering Delia went off in a helicopter though a natural disaster on the off-chance Ash was in the midst of it all, yeah, that’s probably likely.

Ash gets Delia up to speed on what’s going on and Delia wakes Molly up. She tells her the truth about how she’s not really Molly’s mother and that she’s really Ash’s mother. She’s shocked at this, which still is confusing to me. Maybe it’s possible that she confused Delia with her real mom since they’re in the pictures together, but that would indicate that she doesn’t remember what her real mom looks like. She’s only been gone for two years, so I’m not sure how plausible that is.

Anyway, Delia and Ash try to get Molly to leave with them, but Molly doesn’t want to go. She freaks out, which causes the Unown to go crazy as well. They create huge spikes of crystal all around Molly’s room and separate Ash and Delia. Entei returns to see what’s going on, and Molly alerts him to the fact that Ash is taking Delia away.

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“You can’t possibly be my mother’s child. You don’t have random lightning bolt shaped lines on your face.”

While trying to get his mom out, another huge spike separates Ash and Delia completely while Entei confronts Ash.

Sooooo….I’m guessing Misty lost? That was all we got for her battle? One and a half matches? We never even saw the outcome of Mantine vs. Staryu. I mean, since Molly’s dream Pokemon are so unreasonably strong, she was probably doomed to lose anyway, but I still would’ve liked to have seen the full battle. Especially when you’re in such a cool battle environment as that. How disappointing. 😦

That actually means that Poliwhirl and Psyduck, Misty’s most-seen Pokemon outside of Togepi, don’t get seen in this movie. Weird.

Ash challenges Entei to a battle and uses Totodile, but it’s quickly defeated by Entei’s weird purple energy ball attack things.

Next up, Ash uses Cyndaquil. Yes, use a base evo Fire starter to beat a Fire legendary. That won’t fail miserably or anything.

After that fails miserably, Ash makes Molly upset by vehemently stating that Entei is just an illusion. Due to her outburst, the Unown create even more spikes and Entei charges at Ash. Pikachu tries to fight off Entei, but ultimately doesn’t do more than just just stave off its attacks and run. Entei gets in one good shot and blasts Ash and Pikachu out through the wall, sending them to a fifty story fall.

Well, they’re dead.

Except.

Could it be?!

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Yes! It’s Charizard to save them in the completely unrealistic and insanely convenient nick of time. Awh but we forgive him mostly because that was awesome and everyone loves Charizard. Plus this means Entei vs. Charizard. Hell yes.

Charizard and Entei fight for a bit and nearly knock Ash out of the gaping hole in the wall again.

Well, he’s dead.

Except.

Could it be!?

Yes! It’s Misty, Brock and Team Rocket making a human chain to save the day. Congratulations Team Rocket, that is the only thing you’ve done this entire movie. Seriously, all they’ve done is walk around.

They also mention that the reason that they saved Ash was because if anything ever happened to him they’d be out of show business. While this is yet another instance of breaking the fourth wall, I can’t say they don’t have a point. If the creators of Pokemon ever decided to ditch Ash in lieu of someone else, I can bet you anything Team Rocket wouldn’t be there. Their whole schtick relies on Ash and Pikachu. Unless Ash handed off Pikachu to someone else, they’d be out of a job TV-wise.

Through all the examples of friends and family, Ash tries to convince Molly to come with them, even offering the chance to have real Pokemon. However, Molly still won’t believe them and freaks out again, prompting Entei to go on the offensive.

They have a really awesome battle, probably one of if not the coolest and best choreographed ones I’ve seen in Pokemon to date. That coupled with the really good cinematography makes this look amazing.

Entei eventually knocks Ash and Charizard out of this sky and pins Charizard’s neck with intent to kill him with an energy blast…..Damn. Things just got real….or imaginary. I’m not sure anymore!

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Molly steps forward and tells him to stop, which he immediately does. Molly runs up and hugs Entei while pleading for him to stop the fighting. Entei looks gently at Molly and removes his foot from Charizard’s neck.

Brock and the others then praise Molly for her wise choice.

Brock: “A big part of battling, is knowing when to stop.” We interrupt this movie for deja vu from the first movie.

And now back to our feature presentation.

Misty tells Molly that she could easily be a gym leader in the future if she truly wanted to, and they try to convince her to go with them including one more cheesy line from Brock about friendship being real.

She’s still not sure, but Delia extends her hand to Molly and says that her papa would want her to go with them. Molly slowly walks towards Delia, grabs her hand and quietly wishes for everything to be real once more.

The crystals start to go away in response to Molly’s wish, and Entei starts to walk away as well. Molly asks where he’s going and Entei responds that he was created to be her father and make her happy in the reality made by the Unown. If she’d rather be in the outside world, he can’t stay with her.

Suddenly, the crystal starts reappearing in droves and surrounds them with spikes. Entei makes them a path to the exit with his energy blasts and the group tries to make their escape.

Back at the Pokemon center lab thing, Oak tells Ash and the others that the Unown have generated so much psychic energy in granting all of Molly’s wishes that they can no longer control it. If Ash and the others don’t get away from the crystal soon, they’ll be trapped in the Unown’s reality forever.

They continue to escape, but we see that all of Greenfield is being covered in the crystal as well. The only way to stop it is by stopping the Unown.

They find the Unown and you will never, ever guess what Ash decides to do when he gets there. Multiple choice time!

Does he:

A) Develop a sophisticated plan of draining the Unown of their power.

B) Want to have a Pokemon battle with them to see if he can defeat them and stop them from getting out of control.

C) Create a way to contain the Unown’s psychic powers through the use of thoughtful ingenuity

or

D) Charge headfirst into the cluster of Unown like a braindead antelope.

If you answered D, you obviously know our little Dumbash very well.

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I mean, what the hell? Is this becoming a movie staple or something? First he does this to Mewtwo in the first movie, then he does it to a cage that can restrain a legendary in the second and now this. Ash, sweetie, you are not a Pokemon. And even if you were, your Tackle attack sucks!

He hits a psychic barrier because he’s a dimwit, and then he calls on Charizard to try to blast through it. He seems to succeed, but ends up getting blown back by the psychic energy. Pikachu, in an effort to not suck for once in this entire movie, tries to do the same. He also enjoys a degree of success for a bit but gets blown back. What’s wrong with you today, Messiahchu? Did they nerf you in the movie patch? He and Charizard then try to blast the barrier together, but still fail.

Entei returns with roar (awesome) and starts blasting the crystal away. He jumps down and tells Molly that he was happy to be her father for the time that he was able to be, and the last thing that he can do for her is help her get out of the Unown’s reality. Molly asks how he can do it and Entei responds that he was created from her dreams and if she believes in him there’s nothing he can’t do.

This may sound corny, and it is, but this is actually a rare occasion where “you just gotta belieeeeevvvveee” actually makes a lot of sense. Entei’s right. He was created from the Unown’s power to grant Molly wishes. This entire reality was made to sate Molly’s wishes. If Molly believes in Entei, wishes he had the power to beat the Unown, then it’s perfectly logical that the wish would be granted and he’d actually be able to overpower them.

Molly gives Entei some encouragement, acknowledging him as Entei and not as her father. After some struggling, he shoots off a different blue and might I add pretty energy blast into the cluster of Unown, stopping them immediately.

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The secret’s in the flavor crystals.

Entei bids his farewell to Molly and damn, this movie still tugs at my heartstrings. I’m gonna miss you too, Entei. 😦

As he disappears, so do the Unown and all of the crystal that has covered the mansion and Greenfield. We also see Spencer being returned to the temple. Still don’t know why they took him to begin with. Guess the explanation will always be. *sunglasses* Unknown.

 

The group gazes in awe at the beauty of Greenfield and Professor Oak and the others arrive to meet them. As they greet each other, Molly sees a cloud in the shape of Entei in the sky and dammit movie, stop it! I’m going to cry!

Our last scene is Team Rocket basically stating that they’re stuck in the mansion because there’s too many police outside and after some blah blah, they bid everyone goodbye by saying Team Rocket’s fading out again…..Which, they shouldn’t be doing directly out that window because the cops will see them.

And we start our credits, but unlike the other movies, the end credits actually continue the story a little bit. We see Molly and her father reuniting at the mansion, Ash and the others bidding goodbye to Charizard (for now anyway.) and then the group saying goodbye to Lisa. We do get our regular miscellaneous shots of fields and the group traveling. We also see Oak and Tracey at the lab, Delia and Mr. Mime at home…Wait, it was more vital to see them saying goodbye to Lisa than his mom? That’s just rude.

We cut back to the mansion where Molly is playing around with a real Teddiursa that I guess she might own when Spencer comes out to meet her and he’s not alone. He brings out Molly’s mother and it stands that this whole mother thing is the most confusing thing about this movie.

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I’ve read that the dub explanation, as I stated, was her disappearing from the powers of the Unown since she was also researching them, but they couldn’t have been the same Unown from that temple or else she would’ve been released where Spencer was. Is she emotionally scarred from being in Unown purgatory for over two years?

Keep in mind, I didn’t get any of this from watching the movie even for this review. All they ever stated was her mother went missing and it was extremely slightly hinted upon that Unown may have had something to do with it. If I never looked it up, I never would’ve guessed that was the reason. In fact, when I first saw this movie, the best I could assume was that her mother was either on a long trip or randomly missing and suddenly found. Her mother could’ve been completely omitted from the movie and I never would’ve cared or questioned it.

In terms of ending themes, this is the first time that we only get one lyrical song for our ending, Innosense’s To Know the Unknown and I really love this song. I have it on my iPod, I sing along to it. It’s really nice. The only other song is gentle piano music that I think is Molly’s theme or something, and that is really nice as well. It’s very calming.

Bottomline: I do have my problems with this movie, but they’re not really important, and I stand by my statement in saying that this is my favorite Pokemon movie ever. It may be one of my favorite movies period. The art is crisper, the animation is better while some shots may still be shaky, the CGI is actually really great barring the Unown, the cinematography and battle choreography was great, the backgrounds are lovely and Ash is really tolerable in this movie too. He actually thinks for a change, has good ideas and all he really wants is his mother back. Okay, he’s insanely stupid once, but he’s Ash, he has a stupid quota to fill.

Misty and Brock actually not only get stuff to do but they get to friggin’ battle. I think that’s the first time in any movie that they’ve actually battled. Granted, you only saw half of Misty’s cool underwater battle, which is kinda a ripoff, but still. Hell, Delia even gets plenty to do, though I do find it weird that we never saw a scene with her and Spencer considering they were supposed to be such good friends.

The only ones who really did nothing this entire movie was Team Rocket. You could bring up that scene with the human chain rescue, but come on, they weren’t all needed to pull Ash back up. He’s a spindly ten year old boy not the Blob. Misty and Brock probably would’ve sufficed on their own.

Molly is also a very likable character. She’s a believable little kid without being whiny or bratty and you really feel bad about her situation even if she’s inadvertently causing chaos. I wish we had gotten to see more of her and Spencer in the series, but I guess they’re doomed to the fate of 99.8% of CotD’s.

Entei is one of my favorite legendaries and Dan Green just did a fantastic job voicing him. The relationship between Entei and Molly is also very believable, cute and sad at the same time. You can really tell that Entei truly loved Molly and Molly truly loved him even if he wasn’t her real father.

I’ll be a grouch here and doubt that they ever made another movie as good as this one. Granted, I’ve only seen movies 1-7, but they’d be really hard pressed to impress me anymore than they did with this movie.

Recommended Audience: It’s Pokemon. It’s 4Kids. It’s not Scarface.

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Rugrats Episode 1

rugrats episode 1

Plot: It’s Tommy’s first birthday, and his parents have pulled all the stops to make it great. Didi has plenty of entertainment and food setup while Stu is inventing a gift. However, Tommy’s much more interested in trying some of his dog, Spike’s, dog food, believing that it will turn him into a dog.

Breakdown: I don’t think I need to reiterate how much Rugrats means to me. It was a huge part of my childhood, and spawned my love of all things Nickelodeon (back in the good ol’ days when the execs weren’t braindead dimwits…Er were slightly less braindead I suppose.) I was obsessed with Rugrats for well over a decade, and I cherish the show to this day.

That being said, this pilot was always boring as hell to me.

To me, this first episode seems a lot more like it’s made for parents than it is children. One of the great things about Rugrats is, due to the premise, it is very easy for children and parents/adults alike to enjoy it, but this episode does seem focused more on the parents.

It takes a quarter of the episode before any of the babies even speak, and rarely is there a joke to be had until the climax.

Instead we have to watch the human paradox that is Didi have a fit over this birthday party. I swear, she will obsess over everything related to parenthood because her ultimate goal in life is to be a good mother (“like the ones on TV” ~Didi) but even this early on she is completely oblivious to what Tommy wants, needs or is doing most of the time.

Instead, she’d rather bow down to the glory of the almighty Dr. Lipschitz books, to the point where her catchphrase is ‘Dr. Lipschitz says…’, causing her to actually be a less effective mother. (I can’t find info on this, but is Lipschitz’ name a joke? Like everything he says is bull shit?) Not to say she is one without him. Didi let Tommy slide off of her lap and wander into the kitchen (which is closed off by it’s own door by the way, for anyone who might argue that she can still watch him), which was about his fifth time attempting to get in there without anyone noticing, and she is always losing track of where the kids are, which has become one of the most well-known tropes of this series. (Even though all of the parents are negligent in their own right).

At least I can say Tommy was always picked up and brought somewhere else shortly after these attempts, before the climax of course. But let’s address that later.

Stu is up to his goofball inventor tricks, but he’s mostly babbling about his Hover-rama, a flying remote control spaceship thing, that he made for Tommy. Though he never gets it working purely because he forgot the batteries. Maybe that’s supposed to be funny because he’s brought up how impressive his gift is because it takes like four different kinds of batteries about five times at this point, but he seriously ends up crying because he forgot the batteries for the remote. He barely looks for any, either. He checks his pockets, gets a sullen look, then sits down and cries.

There are three shining lights in the adult section, though. Betty is usually always funny in the early seasons. In the later seasons, she becomes more of a bitch and an idiot. She’s in direct contrast to Didi. While she is fairly negligent of her children’s activities in her own right, she definitely knows more about children than Didi does. Even small observations like the fact that the party hats Didi puts on them will be quickly discarded are made a little funny because of the stark contrast. When you think about it, both Didi and Betty are realistic parents, it’s just that Betty is more relatable and funny.

Next, Grandpa Lou also brings some grounding reality to the household with some of his comments, along with Grandpa Boris and Grandma Minka.

Finally, the puppet show is the funniest part of the episode. Stu and his brother, Drew, father of Tommy’s famously horrible cousin, Angelica, put on a puppet show after Didi messes up the scheduling for the puppeteers. Their bickering is pretty funny and just gets increasingly entertaining.

At the climax, all of the kids go into the kitchen while the adults are focused on the bicker-fest of Stu and Drew, who never break out from behind the stage and fight as puppets the whole time. Spike has eaten all of his food, so Tommy and Angelica try to reach a can of it on the top of the shelves by them both standing on the counter balanced on a bunch of bowls and colanders while Tommy balances on Angelica’s shoulders. See why many people grew to be outraged at the Rugrats’ parents over time? If they bothered to pay a modicum of attention to their kids, they’d realize that Angelica and Tommy were in a situation where they could easily both smash their heads in on the tile.

They can’t reach it, so Chuckie, resident scaredy cat and Tommy’s best friend, decides to use the Hover-rama to knock it down. Chuckie has batteries in his pocket for some reason, and he’s able to instantly put the batteries in correctly, meaning he has better battery skills than most adults I know. Chuckie, amazingly, pilots the Hover-rama perfectly from the living room into the kitchen, despite not being able to see it, and, with the skill of a surgeon, is able to position and maneuver the Hover-rama to the shelf right by the dog food and starts nudging it over.

Phil and Lil, Betty and her husband, Howard’s, twins, known for being more gross than most of the kids, ruin it by grabbing the remote and start trying to do the job better than Chuckie, which turns out like you’d expect. They accidentally grab Tommy with the Hover-rama and fly him all over the kitchen, knocking Angelica into a bag of flour, knocking the stack of bowls and stuff that they were standing on over, spraying the room with water from the hand nozzle from the sink, knocking over a stack of plates and all without any of the adults ever hearing a thing.

They even fly Tommy into the living room, where the parents are, and they still don’t notice a thing until the Hover-rama is crashed into the cake.

Chuckie was really funny when he was flying the Hover-rama, though. Not only does he have the skills, he also knows some pilot lingo.

In the end, Didi simultaneously shows us the insanity of a regular family and the insanity of trying to mediate one by pacifying everyone who is arguing by telling Drew and Stu they’re both wrong for what they did to each other as kids and telling both of her parents that they’re right on their opposing sides of what cake they should’ve had at the party (Boris was right, though. It should always be chocolate.)

And the babies did indeed get some dog food, which they promptly spat out. Which is weird, because they eat worms and bugs and stuff.

All in all, this episode is really boring, but it’s somewhat salvageable. The periods of no music don’t really help. I’m not saying every scene needs music, otherwise I’d have to apologize to 4Kids. But there are scenes that are just too quiet to keep your attention.

The funny moments are sporadic, but the ending is somewhat solid.

Rating: 5/10

Just for fun, let’s have two running tallies, because, trust me, this will be interesting to keep track of at each season’s end.

Parenting Fails

I didn’t count exactly, but let’s go with about eight times the kids sneaked away with no one noticing. (Let’s also include an ‘at blame’ counter, to see who comes out looking better as parents. In this case, though, while Didi and Stu technically have more, all of the parents are guilty. Stu, Didi, Drew, Betty, Howard, and even the grandparents, Boris, Minka, and Lou. Chas and Charlotte are innocent because they simply weren’t here.)

The entirety of the climax, which will count as three.

Stu thinking it’s not unsafe for babies to have a complicated flying machine as a toy, especially with tons of batteries. Also note that the battery compartment for the remote is not secured with a screw or anything. You push the door and it opens.

No one noticing that Chuckie had batteries.

No one noticing that Tommy has a real screwdriver (his later one is a toy).

Tally – 14

What the…They’re babies! (This category is for odd details that seemingly make no logical sense given these are babies, but this tally is mostly for fun considering some liberties have to be taken for humor.)

How did Tommy tape his screwdriver to the underside of his high chair?

How DID Chuckie know how to fly that thing so well? Especially considering that the controls look like crap.

How did Tommy and Angelica even get up on the counter like that?

Bamboo Blade Review

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: The Moroe High Kendo Team is in seriously bad shape. They have very few members and their instructor seems more motivated by food and money than actually helping improve his team. However, after building up a decent team of both newbies and experienced kendo fighters for the club in order to fight another school on the basis of a bet between their instructor and his old senpai, both he and the team get rared up and ready to fight harder, get stronger, celebrate the victories and deal with the losses.

Breakdown: Bamboo Blade isn’t your typical sports anime, and I say that for two reasons; 1 – it’s about kendo and 2 – the team being focused on is mostly girls. Boys really have the market cornered when it comes to sports anime.

I have to say, this show got me really interested in wanting to learn kendo. Too bad there’s no place within a reasonable distance of me to learn at.

It’s difficult for me to really analyze the story. It encompasses about one full year of the team’s various trials and tribulations. It’s a realistic look at what a team actually goes through instead of being one of those predictable sports anime, shows or movies where the underdog constantly wins because that’s the rules of sports shows.

In fact, the team is in three different tournaments in the entirety of the series and they don’t really put that much emphasis on them. I mean, yeah they’re pumped about them but they don’t showcase many matches, they don’t put a huge weight on the outcome and it’s clear that the entire tournament is really about one match or two. That’s both…disappointing and refreshing at the same time. I say disappointing because, in sports anime, it really is supposed to be a big event to have a tournament. Hell, even Pokemon gives their tournaments a few episodes at least, but in Bamboo Blade, the tournaments are always over within one episode.

Let’s talk about the characters.

Tamaki or Tama is an extremely shy (and by that I mean I had to keep my computer’s volume on high just to understand her most of the time) tiny freshman girl who also happens to be a prodigy at kendo. She was taught kendo since the day she was old enough to properly hold a shinai by her father, a well known and respected kendo instructor who runs his own dojo at their house. After showcasing her skills with a sword…..well, okay, broom, Kirino is itching to have Tama join their team, but Tama states that she views kendo as more of a chore instead of an enjoyable activity and declines.

Later, she finds out that the kendo club is being terrorized by two bullies who are the main reason why the kendo club has lost so many members. In defense of the members of the club, she beats the bullies in a match and officially joins the club.

Tama’s a very nice character and another welcome change from the loud and egotistical main characters that usually spawn up in sports anime. She’s also essentially our main focus in the show…..however, you may notice that I used a word that I really hate to use in sports and gaming anime…..’prodigy’.

Yeah, Tama’s a kendo prodigy who can’t be touched by anyone on their team, not even their instructor. She easily takes down people twice her size and age with ease and everyone is always amazed by her skills and speed. And yes, it does get annoying after a certain point because it essentially devolves into the messiah trope. Everything always rides on Tama’s shoulders and it really seems like, a lot of time, it’s up to the others to merely keep the team’s head above water while Tama ensures their win.

Tama’s not without weakness. Like I said, she’s incredibly shy to a fault. She’s quick to get flustered in situations that she doesn’t know how to deal with, as long as it’s not kendo. But when it does come to kendo she’s nearly untouchable.

I say nearly untouchable because her biggest weakness in kendo is when anyone takes the high stance, an advanced stance that Tama’s deceased mother usually took when fighting. When people take this stance against her, she always tenses up and becomes extremely distracted. However, due to the fact that this stance is for advanced fighters, hardly anyone uses it against her.

Characters like that almost always have to succumb to the other trope of the ‘fallen hero’. Eventually Tama loses a match, and because she’s such a prodigy who has never once lost a match, she is utterly shattered by this revelation that she can indeed lose to the point where she actually resigns from the team.

It’s basically like Yugi’s first loss in YGO only without the catatonic state and having a loved one’s soul on the line.

I mean, I’ve never been nearly so good at something that I’ve never lost at it, so maybe I just can’t relate, but when you’re on a team of people who frequently lose and still manage to get back up every time and learn from it, what kind of message is that sending them to quit after your very first loss EVER? Hell, her first loss coincides exactly with another character, Miya-Miya, also basically quitting kendo because she also lost in the same tournament Tama did, but the reason she quit was because she had never once WON in kendo even after training her ass off for months.

Tama is a really good character and despite the messiah-ism, she is very enjoyable to watch while fighting. To be fair, she actually had a fairly good reason for being as affected by that loss as she was. She still viewed kendo as a chore with her ultimate goal being to do nothing but win, and it didn’t help that her team was constantly shoving it in her face that she was a shoe-in and would definitely win no matter what. When she finally lost, she also lost that sense of purpose and had to decide whether she still viewed kendo as a chore or if she now truly enjoyed it.

Tama has a strong sense of righteousness and justice, which is part of what drives her to join the kendo team to begin with. This is due to the fact that Tama’s actually quite the big anime geek, most notably with a Power Rangers (or more to the point, Super Sentai) -type series called Blade Bravers. Tama’s soft-spoken and generally passive attitude can easily be felled when Blade Bravers or anime is involved, She’s especially inspired by the leader of the Blade Bravers, the Red Braver, whom she bases much of her personal philosophy on.

Her one true rival over the course of the series is actually someone who idolized a character named Shinaider, a villain and I guess anti-hero in Blade Bravers.

Ishida is the team’s instructor and, at first, he really comes off as a lazy and somewhat flippant kendo instructor. He leaves most of the team’s activities to the team captain, Kirino, in the beginning and really only becomes inspired to actually make something of his team after gathering more members for a match between his girls’ team and that of his old senpai, Ishibashi, on the basis of a bet.

Ishida lives paycheck to paycheck and is constantly scrounging together money, even from his students, to barely be able to eat. Thus the bet is that Ishibashi will take him out to a sushi dinner if he wins and Ishibashi gets the trophy Ishida won from their last kendo tournament if he loses. Ishida doesn’t give a crap about the trophy, he just wants the sushi.

However, he eventually matures and grows to deeply care about his team and wishes nothing more for them than to grow and get stronger while also having as much fun as possible.

Kirino is the team captain and has been called the heart of the team by Ishida. Kirino is by far the most enthusiastic and optimistic of the team and she basically stood as the team’s sole member before recruiting the others.

Kirino is always the first to cheer on her teammates and she does it loudly and proudly. She is also not one to ever discount or look down upon fellow team members, no matter their skill level or even their attitude. She seems like a really great person to have as a friend. Kirino’s biggest weakness is the fact that she overextends herself to please others and always puts on a smiling face no matter how much she’s going through.

Yuji is one of very few male members of the team and he’s a very handsome lawn ornament—I mean character! Yeah that…Look as much as I like Yuji as a character, he’s very nice, well spoken, knowledgeable in kendo etc…..he doesn’t do much…He’s just kinda there. He gives pep talks to characters, usually Tama, but as a team member, he doesn’t do much.

See, since the focus is mostly on the girls’ team, this means that almost all of the male team’s activities are non-existent. Yuji usually spars with the only other active male member of the club, that he actually recruited, Danjuro or Donny and really that’s about the only person you even see him fighting at all. It’s a shame too because Yuji seems to be almost as passionate and knowledgeable at kendo as Tama. He was on his junior high team and was part of the dojo that Tama’s father runs. It’s also implied that Yuji and Tama have a bit of a thing going together, but the hints that are there are fairly subtle and they’re both clueless about the opposite sex.

It’s even worse considering that he doesn’t even really grow or change at all over the series. Donny at least shows that he’s getting better and has clear weaknesses that need to be addressed (his height allowing for easy head strikes) while also showcasing his actual strengths. With Yuji, there’s nothing. Again, he’s just kinda there.

Danjuro or Donny as he’s nicknamed in the English dub, is a very short and weird looking little guy who is full of enthusiasm and on some occasions himself. He’s recruited by Yuji after Ishida informs him that they need more members, though his membership is basically moot since, as I said, the boys’ team really does nothing.

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Donny’s a very laid back and kind individual as well as being Yuji’s best friend, but he’s mostly preoccupied with his girlfriend, Miya-Miya, who most people can’t believe he’s dating due to their stark contrast in physical appearance. They’re usually being incredibly lovey-duvey with each other. It’s somewhat weird in the first few episodes, but their relationship actually grows and becomes very sweet over time……even if Miya-Miya initially liked Donny because he reminded her of her old pet pangolin….

Speaking of Miyako or Miya-Miya, she was arguably the most complex character and a really surprising one at that. When she first showed up, she really seemed like she’d be an annoying ditz who only cared about her boyfriend and nothing else, but she evolves quite a bit and there is definitely more to her than meets the eye.

Miya-Miya is actually a very angry, dark and violent individual to the point where she’s almost a bully to some people, especially Azuma. When not talking to or being looked at by Donny, she presents a visible dark aura that freaks out nearly everyone. She’s recruited by Donny and initially finds kendo boring, but the darker side of her loves the fact that she gets to fight. She is the greenest member of the team alongside Donny, but whereas Donny (supposedly) grows so much to the point that Yuji says he might surpass him by the time they graduate, Miya-Miya struggles quite a bit and never once wins a match over the course of the series until the very end.

She has two big weaknesses; 1 – The fact that her anger and that she loves to hit people seriously gets in the way of her moves. She fights very aggressively and while this can sometimes work to intimidate fighters, it also results in very sloppy swings, attacks and footwork, allowing her opponents to easily find openings for attack. Sometimes, this anger even causes her to make possibly dangerous moves. For example, she’s the first to showcase a throat strike, which is considered the most dangerous legal move in kendo that only advanced fighters are supposed to employ.

2 – She has a stalker from her old school named Reimi who freaks her out so much just at a glance that she quickly loses concentration and ends up losing. She does eventually get much better both in attitude and skill, and I’m always up for an underdog story.

Saya is Kirino’s best friend and the only other lasting member of the kendo club besides Kirino and the bullies, Iwada and Toyama, before the others join. However, Saya’s initial participation in the club was widely unreliable because of how consumed she gets by wanting to create a wonderful song or great story.

She always finds failures in these areas, which commonly devastates her to the point where her friends treat her outbursts of depression and even suicidal remarks with flippant responses. Saya doesn’t really change much over the course of the series either, but she is a very close friend to Kirino and is always the first to realize when something is wrong with her.

Azuma is the final member of the team to join in order to make a full five member kendo team to be official in tournaments. It takes her half the series to actually become a character with only very brief appearances beforehand. There’s sadly not much to say about Azuma. Both the ED and the OP make her look pretty bad as I had assumed that she was going to be one of those incredibly annoying characters whose only schtick is constantly falling over, but she’s actually fairly bland.

She’s a talented kendo practitioner who ended up quitting kendo when she reached high school. Despite her hard work, constant studying and dedication to her schoolwork, her grades continuously falter because she’s so scatterbrained and makes little mistakes that end up costing her greatly. Since her parents believed kendo was only distracting her more and making her worse, she promised to give up kendo to improve her grades. However, it was noted that she is actually incredibly focused and calculating when she is fighting, and she was convinced by the team to hone these skills to actually help her grades. Along the way Kirino and Donny, who are actually some of the best students at the school, help improve her with her schoolwork. However, this plotline is never brought up again after she joins so we just have to assume it worked.

Azuma is somewhat of a doormat, and she’s the target of some abuse by Miya-Miya. However, despite this, Azuma actually becomes somewhat of Miya-Miya’s own personal kendo teacher, especially after Miya-Miya finds a drive to train much harder in order to beat an American opponent (who obviously has a bitchy attitude, snotty manner of speaking, red hair, huge lips and huge boobs) named Carrie who also has a crush on Donny because he reminds her of her pet armadillo.

Can I just say it’s insanely weird to want to pursue a relationship with someone on the basis that they remind you of an animal?

There are various side characters, mostly opposing kendo teams, who get varying degrees of spotlight. Most of these characters are funny and likable, but they didn’t get enough spotlight in my opinion. I would’ve liked to have seen a sequel to get a rematch against most of the people we saw them fight.

In terms of learning about the sport, you do learn a fair degree about the footwork, stances, terms, strikes and strategies involved in kendo, and I really enjoyed learning about the sport as it’s always been one to intrigue me after seeing it showcased in several forms of media.

This show handles both the drama and the comedy extremely well. None of the drama was unbelievable or seemed like it was thrown in to hook audiences. Some of the situations seemed a bit hokey like the tournament involving a serious cheater (and by serious I mean she injures people before the match to either make them quit before the match even starts or to humiliate them and make them suffer during the match if they decide to fight anyway) but it’s nothing too drastic.

Art: The art was very sharp, bright and appealing. It mixed a shoujo-like style with more realistic very well. The animation was also very fluid and clean with nary a hiccup or odd scene in sight.

Music: I really loved the music, OP, ED and BG for the series. It’s somewhat generic, but it adds its own flare to make it more unique. Although, I’d like to know what ‘I’m calling the star rise’ means….I will say that one of the sentimental pieces of BG music was starting to get irritating. Considering that there’s one to five tender moments in nearly every episode, it starts to get grating, but only towards the very end.

Voice acting: English – Funimation provides superb quality yet again. The English dub was excellent, maybe one of their best works I’ve seen so far. Only thing I’d note is that Tama is just too quiet sometimes.

Bottomline: This is a very enjoyable sports anime with plenty to enjoy in terms of characters, story, comedy, drama and of course kendo. Even if you don’t like sports anime or kendo, this is still a good watch just for the characters, comedy and the actually believable storyline.

Recommended Audience: This show is basically as clean as you could possibly get. Even the episode that states ‘first public bath’ shows no nudity (in fact, I’d call foul on that title because they completely skip the bath scene entirely). There’s no real swearing, no sex, no blood, no gore. The absolute worse thing that happens is one of the characters injures their ankle, and even that’s just a bad sprain. E FOR EVERYONE!

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons): Slugterra

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Plot: Will Shane is a respected man of justice in the world of Slugterra – a world miles beneath the surface where people battle using slugs with various powers. While combating the evil Dr. Blakk, he is met with Blakk’s newest creation – corrupted slugs. One of them opens up an interdimensional void that sucks Will up, but not before he sends his faithful slug, Burpy to the surface world to notify his teenage son, Eli, of his fate. After Eli learns of his father’s fall, he follows the instructions on a letter he left behind to finally go to Slugterra and earn his rightful place as a shane, if he wishes it and only when he turns 15.

On his 15th birthday, Eli heads down to Slugterra and follows his father’s directions to find a place to live, a mode of transportation and some starter gear. However, he’s aggravated when he learns that Slugterra has been taken over by thugs in the years of the shane’s absence. Since Eli has no formal training and only one slug, he is quickly tossed aside when he tries to enforce law and order.

In order to help him out, a seeming burglar of his father’s hideout, Pronto, tells him to earn respect and training by winning a local tournament. Eli is pumped to finally start fighting, but since he’s just starting out can he even win a qualifier?

Breakdown: Okay, I really need to start paying more attention to Disney XD because they seem to get way better shows that whatever they sling on cable.

Slugterra didn’t look like much to me when I first glanced at it, but I was surprisingly intrigued by this show….they shoot animals out of guns at each other and they transform in mid-air into awesome monsters! Out of context, that’s seemingly a hair below animal abuse, but it’s actually really cool!

In just our starter episode, part one no less, we are introduced to all sorts of interesting slugs, creatures and characters that get you amped up to see more.

I even enjoyed the cel-shaded CGI animation and art, and that’s very rare for me because I have a really hard time enjoying CGI cartoons.

I do have some bones to pick, though.

First, the pacing is kinda break-neck. We go from Will’s battle to his fall to Eli learning of his fall to him being 15 and going to Slugterra in just a handful of minutes. I think we could’ve made this a bit smoother considering this is indeed a part one.

Second, Eli’s response to his dad ‘falling’ (IE Dying) is uh…less than emotional. I swear, he looks sad for about a second then gets pumped when he learns of the letter his dad left, instructing him on how to start his shane training and how to get to Slugterra. It’s really offputting. The families of soldiers and law enforcement officers are also prepared for something bad to happen to their loved ones, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have an expected emotional response to it happening. Especially when Will seemed like a single dad.

This lack of emotional response is even more offputting when he gets to Slugterra and has the gall to complain about the vehicle his dad left him. Gee thanks dead dad for leaving me full instructions on how to get to this awesome fantasy world and leaving me a place to live, new clothes, a blaster, a powerful slug etc etc. But this vehicle’s a hunk of junk. Pft.

It’s somehow even worse when it’s revealed that the vehicle in the hideout wasn’t even the one he was talking about and Eli’s real ride is super cool. You don’t deserve a cool ride when you’re a spoiled brat.

Third, for seemingly being the hotshot of the tournament, Shockwire’s battle with Eli was kinda lame. If it’s so well know that his slugs can misfire when they’re overworked, surely this crowd favorite would know about it and not shoot off his slugs willy-nilly. And after one hit by Burpy he surrenders? Come on, dude.

I do commend Eli for asking which of Shockwire’s slugs wanted to go with him instead of just taking one. That shows a level of respect for both the slugs and the world that no one seems to have.

Finally, I hate to say it, but the overall plot is cliché city. From the dead dad to the upstart son to the evil bad guy of badness who is named, of all damn things, Dr. Blakk, and the corruption that puts the world at risk. I’ve seen more creativity on the nutritional value chart on my multivitamins.

Overall, however, this is a very fun and engrossing show that I will be glad to continue. Sadly, this show seems to be in limbo because no new episodes have been made since October 2016.

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I hope to God this show didn’t get canceled on some horrible incident involving a small child, a gun and literal slugs. I don’t know what would happen in the solution to that equation, but I imagine something terrible….and slimy.

Pixar’s Lamp: Toy Story

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Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: In a world where toys are alive, yet pretend to be inanimate around humans, a boy named Andy’s favorite toy, a cowboy named Woody, feels threatened by the presence of a new toy, a space ranger toy called Buzz Lightyear. Andy slowly starts playing with Buzz more than Woody, and in his jealousy Woody accidentally causes Buzz to fall out the window. When Woody ends up getting lost as well, he and Buzz have to work together to make it back home and back to Andy.

Breakdown: It’s Pixar’s turn with their first baby; Toy Story and I LOVE TOY STORYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!

*cough* Sorry.

It’s one of my favorite movies ever. I’ve become fairly good at removing my nostalgia goggles when it comes to things that I used to love when I was a kid, but Toy Story holds up extremely well as still being entertaining, fun, funny, heartwarming and exciting. Best of all, it’s a movie that parents and kids can enjoy together; not a movie that you turn on just to humor your kids.

The characters are all unique and lovable. They all implement various parts of their designs into their own specific brands of humor. Even the minor toys get their own little times to shine and be memorable. Woody and Buzz in particular have great chemistry both as enemies and friends. They bounce off of each other with plenty of entertaining banter and they are really a joy to watch.

The story is fairly unique and never becomes boring or cliché (Also I never knew Joss Whedon worked on this.) Jealousy’s not really a new thing, but they implement it in a way that doesn’t come off as tired.

Love or hate Randy Newman, I love his songs here. He was perfect to do the music for this movie.

Art and animation wise, the designs are unique and memorable. The animation is believable and really brings the toys to life in more ways than one. I will say that the animation, usually involving the human characters and Scud (whose eyes are just weird), is sometimes not quite as polished as what we’ve come to enjoy from Pixar movies today, but this is hardly noticeable and nothing major. Besides, they were just starting out here anyway.

……Oh wait, no. I can never forgive the nightmare fuel that is Molly. *shudder*

It even does product placement right. It puts a bunch of existing toy brands with allusions to real brands with toys made specifically for the movie and manages to market all of them. I still, to this day, wish I had gotten that creepy baby doll robot spider from Sid’s room. That kid may have been a serial killer in the making, but that toy was cool. (Seriously, his parents just let him buy rockets, play with matches, blow up his toys and get an ‘I ❤ explosives’ bumper sticker on the wall and don’t suspect a thing?) I did have a big Buzz Lightyear toy that I actually still have in my closet somewhere with his rocket (non-cardboard version).

This movie stands up really well and never ceases to be entertaining and heartwarming to me. It is a very fitting opening to Pixar’s prestigious career.

Recommended Audience: There’s toy violence when it comes to Sid as he really likes torturing and blowing up his toys through various means. The final scene with Sid would also be insanely frightening if shown without context in any other movie. But eh, come on. 5+