AVAHS – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Review

Rating: 1/10

Plot: Following the story of the popular novelty Christmas song (not really), this movie follows a boy named Jake Spankenheimer as he tries to figure out what happened to his grandma one fateful Christmas morning.

Breakdown: *deep breath*

*sigh*

I knew this day would come.

Gather ‘round, children. Let me tell you the story of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, both the movie and the song.

The year was 1978 – veterinarian Dr. Elmo Shroshire, known as Dr. Elmo, and his wife Patsy, who are a folk singing duo as a hobby, get an offer to sing a new unique Christmas song by writer Randy Brooks.

That song was Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

After it was picked up by a radio station in 1979, it enjoyed modest success in other local radio stations for a while, and year after year it would spread to more stations in more states. In 1982, after finding quick success in mass producing a quarter of a million copies of the song, Dr. Elmo sold his veterinary hospital to pay for a music video (Which is kinda terrible when you think about it. Yeah, why save the lives of innocent animals when you can make a music video about a silly redneck Christmas song?)

A year later it was picked up by MTV and history was made.

Annoying history.

Even though popularity for this song had a steady pace upward since the early 80s, I feel like it didn’t hit its peak until the mid 90s. I remember my dad listening to this song for the first time with me, and we both found it to be fairly funny and enjoyable. My family was fairly redneckish for northeastern yankees, particularly my camo-lovin’ hunter dad (he refers to himself as a redneck so I promise this isn’t a jab to him.) so we enjoyed the song for quite some time.

But then it was like the radio stations were playing it after every other song when the holidays rolled around. Christmas songs are well-known for oversaturation, which is one of the reasons why retail store employees quickly grow to loathe them, but something was different about Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

First of all, it’s an earworm. If you hear it once during your day, congratulations, because your brain radio will now play the chorus on loop no matter your cries for mercy for a random, but always long, period of time.

Second of all, it’s an earworm, which means you’ll either be humming or singing it a lot, and you can’t not look like an idiot singing this song.

The song was so popular that in 2000 it spawned an animated version. I wish I was kidding. But hey, you know you’ve really made it as a beloved Christmas song when you have an animated special made about it. Even Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You was made into an animated special. Again, I wish I was kidding. (I tried to get through it last year for AVAHS, but it’s dreadfully boring…)

Before I get into that, though, let’s talk about the story of the song. It’s pretty self-explanatory even with just the title. Grandma is the victim of a hit-and-run with Santa at the helm. Grandma’s corpse is found outside of her grandson’s house the next morning, and despite Santa being guilty of negligent homicide and fleeing from the scene of an accident, he’s neither pursued by authorities or given punishment for his actions because no one believes in Santa. And apparently Santa’s such an amoral bastard that he never turns himself in or cares that he murdered an elderly woman.

The rest of the song is the family mourning her death and, according to Dr. Elmo himself, implications that Grandpa is rather happy that his wife is dead. Also, a warning to everyone to beware on Christmas because Santa’s a crazy driver who already got away with murder once.

Now, you may be thinking that I don’t need to go over the movie since I just explained the song full out.

Nope. Because that is one of the core of the problems for the movie.

If you thought the story of the song sounded way too short for a special, you’re not alone. In fact, most Christmas songs don’t have stories long enough to fill a movie, which is why most of them pad the run time with new plots and characters. This song is rather unique however in that it not only needed be ridiculously stretched out (Grandma doesn’t even get run over until 15 minutes into this 50 minute long movie) but they needed to basically make an entirely new story from scratch to make an actual movie.

What’s even worse is that they must have thought the actual song was too dark in tone and subject matter to make a kid’s movie about it because two major things are changed – Grandma doesn’t die and Santa was not responsible for the accident.

I’m of the mind that if you think a song is too raunchy/dark/mature etc. to make a kid’s show about it, maybe don’t make a kid’s show about it. It’s like Kids Bop and their complete scrubbing of any song they cover so they can have songs that were originally not appropriate for kids at all to be kid-friendly. Because, gosh, it’s not like kids who enjoy the song would ever seek out the original version, which is probably readily available on Youtube, Spotify, Pandora or one of many other music services.

Even so, you’d probably think that’s par for the course for a kid’s special. It’s no big deal. Well, it kinda is when they play the song over the movie and clearly show that what’s happening on screen is not happening in the song.

It’s almost like they expect you to not pay attention to the lyrics as the song is playing, but it’s a comedy song. If there’s one type of song where you’re really supposed to pay attention to the lyrics, it’s a comedy song. Otherwise it’s not a comedy song, it’s just a song.

They had an out to not follow the song’s story and they purposely put the song over the scenes to point out how they don’t match. Why!?

You may be wondering why I just spent two pages talking about all of this….Well, quite frankly….I’m stalling because I really don’t want to watch this movie again.

Alright, let’s get into it.

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The movie starts with the title card and the song you expect to be playing when ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ is front and center on the screen…..Jingle Bells!….Okie dokie. I should mention that this special is also littered with other songs written and performed by Dr. Elmo, so why they randomly threw Jingle Bells at the start makes even less sense. I guess the melody of the main song sounds quite a bit like Jingle Bells, so maybe that’s it, but still it’s weird.

Speaking of Dr. Elmo, he not only provided several songs for the movie (whether made for the movie specifically or otherwise) but he’s also the narrator, the voice of Grandpa and he co-wrote it. Give the guy some credit, no matter if you love or hate this song, the guy seems to find genuine enjoyment in his work and is pretty proud of it.

Once the animation actually starts, we see Grandma getting run over by Santa’s reindeer (This is a flash forward, so my comment earlier still sticks.) and somehow she didn’t spill a drop of her drink.

Our narrator decides to flash back a bit to explain how we got here. In the bustling city of Cityville, because the Powerpuff Girls didn’t want this to take place in the city of Townsville, it’s the holiday season, and Grandma’s store is busier than ever. She also has a sign that says ‘Store time’ for some reason.

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Grandma is nuts about Christmas. Her store is filled with Christmas goodies, and she loves reading to the kiddies while their parents are off shopping. Enter child version of the narrator, Jake….Jake Spankenheimer. I’m convinced they had a competition to see who could come up with the stupidest last name imaginable….

Jake is warning Grandma that cousin Mel is chasing away another customer. Just because it’s way too subtle and my sarcasm doesn’t carry over into text, let me just get this out of the way – MEL IS A BAD PERSON.

However, this instance is kinda strange because….she’s not wrong. A woman is trying to walk out of the store with a gingerbread house without paying for it and Mel is trying to stop her from shoplifting. Grandma comes and pardons her, claiming her credit is always good there and she can pay her next time she gets a paycheck.

From what I can tell, this woman just waltzed into the store, grabbed a gingerbread house and left without telling anyone. Even if the owner knows you and is willing to pardon the purchase, that’s still wrong. You go and ask someone beforehand, because otherwise how will they even know you took it? It’s like having a tab open in a bar and, when no one’s looking, going behind the bar to make yourself a drink and leaving with the drink.

Mel, however, is less angry about moral integrity and more angry about Grandma’s business practices. She views her as too lax and is concerned that they’ll never get rich unless she shapes up. Grandma, however, doesn’t care about being rich. She just wants to live a happy life being nice to people.

Later, in Jake’s room.

Daphne: “Adding to your Christmas wish list?”

Jake: *sigh* “Sisters…”

…….What? What does being a sister have to do with wondering if you’re adding stuff to your Christmas list?

Jake still believes in Santa, but his sister mocks him for it and his parents seem to be at that point where they believe they should slowly reveal the truth to him.

His dad comes home with an inflatable Christmas tree, which disappoints Jake since he wanted to cut down a tree like they always do.

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Daphne: “Nobody gets a tree anymore. It’s not cool.” Pbbtttt…..Ahem. I know of more than a dozen Christmas tree farms within an hour of me that are consistently sold out of trees, are riddled with tagged pre-bought trees or are waiting for more tree growth since they got wiped out the year prior. And places where you can buy pre-cut trees, like the local hardware stores, Walmart and clubs, always sell out too. I don’t recall any year in which tree farms were starving for sales or artificial trees were flying off the shelves for any reason.

For the record, no matter if you prefer artificial, pre-cut or fresh, an inflatable tree is just stupid.

Austin Bucks, who is one of those ‘owns everything in the city’ types – his company is even named ‘Own All Corp.’ – comes to Grandma asking to buy her store so he make it the hub of his new robot Christmas gift delivery sleigh.

Also, cursed screenshot.

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Grandma and Jake turn down his offer, which makes greedy Mel angry. I don’t really understand why. She’s clearly not the heir to the business (Grandma states she’ll never own it) and she doesn’t own any stake in it now, she’s just an employee. If Grandma sells the business, that really won’t benefit her at all. In fact, the dude will probably just fire everyone and hire new people for his sleigh thing.

How fitting that this next (pointless) song break happens to cover a topic I was talking about in my last AVAHS entry. Like I mentioned there, it’s weird that the special showed how much people seem to like fruitcake now when, back when I was a kid, it was a running thing for fruitcake to be a joke. Hard as a brick, tastes terrible and is used as a lazy holiday gift (Again, I’ve never had fruitcake so I’m not anti-fruitcake.) And now we have a song and segment of the movie where people are running in fear of Grandma’s “killer” fruitcake. It even has a warning on the label because of how bad it is.

If Grandma is such an amazing baker, to the point where her store basically rests on the income of her baked goods, why am I to believe she wouldn’t make good fruitcake?

Anyway, Mel poisons Grandma’s fruitcake (to make people sick, not kill them) so no one will ever shop at her store again and she’ll be forced to sell the store to Austin Bucks. Jake witnesses this, but doesn’t say anything. Also, I guess she’s banking on one tainted fruitcake being the thing that topples the business because that vial is really tiny and she only poisons one cake.

Meanwhile, Jake helps Grandma decorate the house for Christmas, she tucks him in and they talk about Jake’s Santa-existential crisis. Grandma believes in Santa, though, and tells him there’s nothing to worry about. Jake’s relationship to his Grandma is, admittedly, pretty sweet – so sweet I’m actually pretty glad this version doesn’t have her get downed in a vehicular homicide.

As she walks away and we zoom out on Jake’s sleeping head, before we even cut away….

♬ “GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER!” ♫

Geez, song, at least wait for the cutaway before you start blasting that.

They don’t even start it when she’s actually walking home from Jake’s house Christmas eve – they play the first few lines while Grandma’s getting ready to leave, pause it while she discusses leaving with the family and then, right as she’s leaving. She says she has to take cookies and cakes to some charity volunteers, even though we can plainly see that she’s only holding one fruitcake and no cookies. *shrug*

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♪ “She’d been drinking too much eggnog.”♩

Dad: “You’ve been drinking too much eggnog!” (With nary a lip flap)

So, obviously, this line in the song implies that Grandma’s been hitting the sauce and is too wasted to go out safely. In the movie, they establish that she has an egg allergy and she’s been sucking on eggnog all night. She must not have too severe of an allergy to it if she can stand drinking a ton of eggnog and not be affected for hours on end.

♬ “And we begged her not to go.” ♫

Grandpa: *On his hands and frickin’ knees* “Please don’t go!”

Mom: “We’re begging!”

If everyone’s so worried about Grandma not being able to walk outside safely, why is no one getting off their asses to walk with her? Or go in her place? And I mean this in response to the song and movie. What lazy twats.

♪ “But she forgot her medication…”♩

Grandma: *shakes empty medication bottle* “Besides, I forgot my medication at the store.”

It’s never really mentioned what Grandma’s medication is for in the song, but it can be surmised that it’s for some condition that impairs her judgment, mental condition or motor skills. In the movie, it’s allergy medication that she apparently doesn’t need because she’s still perfectly fine.

♬ “And she staggered out the door into the snow.”♫

“Staggered” is more implication that she was plastered, but in the movie, again, it’s like they expect you to not pay attention to the lyrics because she’s walking perfectly normally.

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So here’s a development. Jake actually witnesses Grandma get run over by Santa (we never actually see it happen on screen because I guess even that’s too violent for this movie.) Obviously, no one believes him, but then we get another development…..Grandpa watched it happen too!….And then….spent several moments just staring out the window…..And…he’s acting like it was….cool….He gives a long dramatic retelling of the events like he’s a sportscaster doing a replay.

……Okay, so it’s also a thing in the song that Grandpa’s kinda overly chill about his wife being dead – I mentioned that earlier – his apathy is part of the joke, like he was sick of her and was okay with it…..but here, Grandpa’s being a sadistic asshole. Here he WATCHES his wife get mowed down, gets all jazzed about it and just goes on like nothing happened. The fact that he watched this happen is also never brought up again, and even he doesn’t insist on searching outside for her. *More shrugs*

It’s kinda implied that he might be joking, but it’s also heavily implied that he’s not and we never really find out for sure.

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They open the door to check, but Grandma’s gone. Dad calls the cops at Jake’s insistence.

Dad: “Yes we’ve been drinking too much eggnog. *dial tone* Hello?” …..Wait, why does everyone drinking eggnog imply anything wrong with your mental state? Do you all have egg allergies or are you acknowledging the spiked eggnog thing?

Dad: “Eh, they’ll be out first thing in the morning.” How do you know that? They hung up before you were able to get out two sentences.

The next day….

Jake: “I saw Grandma get run over by a reindeer!”

Cop: “Sorry, son. Impossible. Right here in the manual. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.” He said Grandma got run over by a reindeer, not Santa. Reindeer still exist.

Here’s where the song gets really nonsensical in regards to the movie’s story.

♪ “When we found her Christmas morning….At the scene of the attack.”♩

…………Grandma is missing. There’s no body in the snow. They, in fact, did the polar opposite of finding her Christmas morning.

They did not.

♬ “She had hoofprints on her forehead.”♫

There’s no one there. There’s no forehead to examine for hoof marks.

♪ “And incriminating Claus marks on her back.”♩

This line never once made sense. I get it, haha, Claus sounds like claws, which isn’t even good grammar in this context, but it still doesn’t make sense.

First of all, if this was just a hit-and-run, why is Santa himself leaving whatever marks he’s leaving on Grandma….do…do I even want to know?

Second, if she had hoofprints on her forehead, then she got hit from the front, which must mean she most likely fell backward, physics and whatnot. So how did any marks from Santa end up on her back?

Finally, as we’ve already gone over, there is no body here so where are these ‘Claus’ marks?

What we see in the movie is marks from a sleigh, hoofprints in the snow and an imprint of Grandma’s body.

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The cops are kinda assholes about the situation. I can’t tell if they’re being overly serious for comedic effect or if they’re just mocking Jake. I want to say the former, but they were doing the latter just a minute ago.

Cop: “Better look for the old broad.”

Were you not planning on doing that in the first place? Also, you might not want to say something like that in front of the ‘old broad’s’ family…

A year goes by with no Grandma in sight. The next part of the song occurs here, but they, oddly, don’t play the song. They recite a vastly changed version of the next verse. Here’s what was originally said.

♬ “Now we’re all so proud of Grandpa, he’s been taking this so well. See him in there watching football, drinkin’ beer and playing cards with cousin Mel.

It’s not Christmas without Grandma. All the family’s dressed in black. And we just can’t help but wonder, should we open up her gifts or send them back? (Send them back!)” ♫

Here’s what the movie says.

“Grandma’s Christmas gifts remained unopened. And people dressed in black. Grandpa tried to cope by playing cards with cousin Mel.”

That’s it.

I can understand them not wanting to show Grandpa being so blasé about his dead/missing wife, instead showing him more mourning and trying to deal with it….by playing a lot of cards with someone who would never play cards with him in the first place, but that sentiment is kinda lost when you remember the guy damn near cheered as he watched his wife get t-boned by a sleigh.

Changing the thing about her gifts was also understandable. You don’t want to open the gifts since Grandma’s just missing. She might want to open them when she gets back. And sending them back is just as bad.

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Looking real mournful, Daphne. Also, why would Mel dress in black?

I don’t get why they didn’t change the part about dressing in black. They’re ALL doing it, even Jake. Doesn’t that imply that they’ve given up hope and believe Grandma’s dead? And why are they doing it in September? They don’t dress in black all year round now, they’re wearing regular clothes outside of this scene, so….why?

The main issue I have with this overall change is, if they were fine taking the lyrics and fudging them like this for the sake of changing a scene in the movie…why not do that with the first verse? I get it in a way because it defeats the purpose of having a movie about a song if you don’t put the song in the movie, but if none of the song can be used in the movie due to content or not matching the scenes, why even bother?

Like I said, they don’t finish the song in the movie. Only when they play the full song in the credits do you hear the third verse. And if they were fine with playing the full song in the movie (the credits are still the movie) why did they feel the need to write it like this?

So, since we’ve gotten through the song parts and I’m already eight pages into this review and not even 20 minutes into this 50 minute long movie, what say we turbo through the rest?

Mel schemes to sell the store, we have one of the most random song breaks in history with the supposedly grieving widower Grandpa singing a song that clearly acknowledges Grandma is dead in the original version…..But it was a song specifically written for this movie….….*sigh*

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Since Grandpa’s a complete idiot and tool, he signs over the business to Mel as well gives her power of attorney, granting her total control over his financial affairs. Jake has one week before the deal is finalized to find Grandma since she’s the only one who can legally stop them.

Jake decides to send an email to Santa asking if he can reunite him with Grandma..

Santa: “Not a single letter from Cityville! It’s as if they’re too busy with their prefabricated and mass produced lives to need me anymore.” Subtle as a brick to the crotch, writers.

Also, maybe Santa would get a few letters from there if he waited until December – Who sends Santa a letter in SEPTEMBER!?

His email works, and you’ll never guess where Grandma is….The North Pole.

She got amnesia from the accident and has been spending her days being cared for by Santa’s people. Santa, the omniscient being, didn’t know who she was so he did the logical thing and just kidnapped her and held her for nine months. Just to be clear on this, he proves that he knows everyone, Grandma is seemingly the only other person in Cityville besides Jake who believes in Santa, and he explains to Austin Bucks later that he remembers exactly what he asked for on Christmas when he was six. There is absolutely no reason Santa would not know who Grandma is.

And even if he somehow didn’t, there are ways he could have easily found out, especially considering all of the ‘Missing’ posters her family put up around town. I would say he can’t reveal himself to other people so it’s not like he could go around asking who she is or something, but as we see later, he just waltzes through city without a care. Even when he learns of who she is, he doesn’t hop on his sleigh to give her back, he just says to send an email reply back to Jake. He either doesn’t give enough of a reindeer crap to try and actually figure out Grandma’s identity or the writers don’t give a single reindeer crap about being coherent.

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Santa’s right-hand elf, Quincy, decides to meet with Jake about it and they ET finger touch for literally no reason. *Shrugging intensifies* He brings Jake to the North Pole via song break about sharing I guess. Jake brings back still-amnesia’d-Grandma to help save the store.

However, like the idiots they are, they leave Grandma in the sleigh outside, presumably because her tummy’s upset from the ride….but she is literally the only who can do anything soooooo…..

Mel contracts her lawyer, who is, not kidding, named I.M. Slime, to make Grandma disappear again so the deal can happen. It works.

Santa relays the real story of what happened with Grandma. His reindeer were drawn to the fruitcake she was holding and he couldn’t control them, so they slammed into her.

We see Grandma with the hoofprints on her forehead, good job, but unlike when we see Jake witness the crash, and when we saw the crash in the opener, Grandma is now on her back, not her front. Santa decides to leave a note explaining what happened….in the snow I guess, because that’s where Mel found it before she hid it. Everyone in this movie is a goddamn idiot.

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Still no incriminating Claus marks on her back, but I’ll let it pass because I really, really don’t want to know.

Austin: “I’m eager to see Grandma and tell her the sale is off.” But…you were the one buying it. If it gives you so much relief to not buy it….why did you ever try to buy it in the first place? They keep trying to flip flop on whether this guy is good or bad.

They realize Grandma is missing again, and since Santa just relayed that story he’s being charged with the disappearance of Grandma……in a case that has no actual evidence with a confession that was taken with no police present, wasn’t recorded, can easily be rescinded and Grandma is still missing, so this story could all be BS anyway.

Mel wants to additionally sue Santa over this, thinking she’ll get even more insanely rich with his money, which leads to a painful song break that is so difficult to get through it’s like the audio/visual version of chewing on tin foil for a minute and a half. They repeat the same line over and over, “sing” with their terrible voices, and “dance” in samba outfits. I’m not lying when I say I really, truly, with all my heart and soul, wanted to shut off the movie in the middle of that ‘song.’ But I have barely over ten minutes left, so might as well bite the tin foil and trudge through it.

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It takes them way too long to consider Mel responsible for Grandma’s second disappearance because, again, they’re all idiots. Mel’s holding Grandma in a cabin in the woods, Jake and Quincy break in, retrieve Grandma and get—

….….Okay, so you’re telling me Mel kept Santa’s note for nearly a year and she left it on the counter in the cabin under the same vial of poison she used in Grandma’s baked goods the year prior?

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Fuck it. I don’t care anymore. Grandma gets her memory back after eating her fruitcake, Jake proves Santa’s innocence, the poison Mel put in the fruitcake was what attracted the reindeer, no one bats an eye at Jake poisoning the jury to try and prove all of this, Mel admits to literally everything she did for no reason, and then she’s put in jail because she kidnapped Grandma, this trial is ridiculous and everyone’s stupid.

The end.

Bottomline: This movie is a trial of patience. It doesn’t even attempt to make sense, especially in regards to adapting the song, and some scenes are really trying my last nerve.

Granted, there are some moments that have jokes that sort of work, and Jake’s relationship with Grandma is kinda sweet, but other than that it’s a very poorly written, horrifically animated (Courtesy of Film Roman, so that’s a warning sign off the bat) holiday slog to sit through. The songs range from ‘Passable’ (Feels like Christmas) to ‘I can feel my soul rotting’ (Grandpa’s Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa), and they all have that same country/folksy twang to them, if that matters to you.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to try to make a movie about this song should be run over by a real reindeer. Usually, I would try to write ways the movie could be better, like how you could change certain plot elements or characters to improve things, but my mind just seizes up when it tries to think of ways to make a good Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer movie. I just don’t think the concept works enough to make one. It barely works enough to be a song.


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Zetsuai 1989 Review

Rating: 1/10

Plot: Nanjo Koji is one of the most popular singers in Japan. Takuto Izumi is a rising soccer star in his school. When Koji was in fifth grade, he saw a brief glimpse of a boy playing soccer and was instantly captivated by his gaze. Now 16 years old, he finds himself face to face with the young soccer player he saw way back when. He was was kind enough to nurse him back to health after finding him passed out on the sidewalk. Koji soon falls head over heels for Izumi, though he resists these feelings since Izumi does not appear to feel the same and their professional lives threaten to tear them apart either way.

Breakdown: Oh boy.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Oh….boy.

Let’s enter the world of yaoi, shall we?

It’s weird how yaoi seems to be off in its own little world. You know it’s anime, it still follows many anime tropes, but it just feels like most of it is its own….melodramatic soap-operaish thing. And if there was ever a good example of that, it’d be Zetsuai 1989 (Desperate Love)

First of all, let’s go over the obligatory yaoi tropes here, since they’re also a separate category of their own.

Yaoi trope bingo

And no, I’m not kidding on the injury/illness tally.

– Koji is passed out in the street at the start. Develops a bad cold.

– Izumi catches his cold, passes out on a bridge.

– He tries to play soccer while sick; passes out at soccer game. Finds out he has pneumonia.

– Koji gets hit by a car and breaks his arm.

– Koji passes out in the rain in the soccer field because (enter reason here).

– Koji gets accidentally stabbed by a falling piece of glass.

Technically it could go as high as eight because Izumi kinda injures his leg in a soccer game and Koji’s face gets cut when Izumi throws a vase at him.

Oh and by the way, this all happens in a 45 minute runtime. It’s just that melodramatic.

This story is….something. It’s actually pretty creepy. I have to wonder how many stories I’ve read or watched that were supposed to be romantic but ended up being creepy.

Koji is completely hung up on Izumi just because he likes how he looks when he’s all intense and focused. That’s pretty much it. That’s the only reason he loves him so much.

Izumi’s an asshole who goes to great lengths to push people away due to his *pokes bingo card* tragic backstory . So there’s not really much to fall in love with. He’s kind enough to care for Koji when he saw him passed out on the sidewalk (no idea why he didn’t call an ambulance or something. Yeah, just take any drunk hobo (Koji was indeed passed out because he was drunk; he got sick because he was passed out in the rain) you find on the street and bring him home. Oh and make sure you leave him there while you head to work. He’s too hot to steal your things or kill you when you get back.) But other than that he’s an angry jackass who is constantly blowing up at people.

Izumi may warm up a bit to Koji as time goes on, but he really only gets to a point of tolerating him since Koji keeps wedging his way into his life, uninvited and unwelcome. Koji is also negatively affecting his life since everyone in the media is spreading rumors about them and Izumi’s younger sister.

He especially dislikes that Koji keeps picking at the scab that is his obligatory tragic backstory . When Izumi was a kid, his mother killed his father because she loved him too much or something. She also attacked and nearly killed Izumi, leaving him with a literal scar on his hip and a figurative scar on his heart (see, I can be melodramatic too).

The story is that there is no story. Basically, Koji keeps butting into Izumi’s life, annoying him and sometimes protecting/caring for him. Koji realizes he’s falling in love with Izumi. When he has Izumi alone in his apartment, full in the knowledge that Izumi will soon be going away to pursue a professional soccer career in Italy, he decides to try to rape him.

But when Izumi fights back, he takes a big shard of glass from a window Izumi broke that ended up embedding itself into Koji’s back. Brandishing the glass, he tells Izumi that, if he stays alive, he’ll find Izumi wherever he goes, and if Izumi leaves him, he’ll kill him. So he hands him the shard of glass and tells Izumi to kill him before Koji kills him instead.

Because, wow, what the fuck?

First of all, Koji, could you be a little creepier? I should mention that we know absolutely nothing about Koji’s past, so why he’s such a creepy little obsessive murderous/suicidal wackjob is beyond me.

Second, Koji dear, maybe try explaining your feelings to Izumi and try to work things out instead of jumping to attempted rape and requested assisted-suicide? You’re a damn pop star. You travel all the time and are probably rich. Why is him moving away, temporarily or permanently, such a huge unavoidable issue?

Third, are you seriously asking a guy who is obviously still traumatized beyond belief at his tragic backstory that instead of having the balls to kill yourself…..yourself, you decide to put a huge shard of glass in his hands and tell him to stab you to death? What is wrong with you?

And how does it end? Izumi has a flashback that we’ve already seen of his mother killing his father and attacking him, then Izumi yells at him for making him think about that. Koji breaks down and says if he won’t kill him he’ll commit some ambiguous horrible atrocity to him and then we fade to Koji alone kinda implying that he either raped Izumi or killed him (Izumi is nowhere to be seen), then he cries tears of blood and says he can never achieve true happiness. Now no one can stop him, not even himself.

Again, what the fuck?

What does any of that mean? Did he let Izumi go? Did he rape him? Did he kill him? Is he now going to go on a rampage to kill Izumi because he left him?

This whole OVA is just weird, creepy and unpleasant. It’s definitely not romantic or all that interesting for that matter.

But of course it spawned two sequels because yaoi fangirls were really hard up for some fanservice back in 1989.

Sneak peek; I’ve already seen Bronze: Zetsuai Since 1989 and it is miles more melodramatic than this drivel, if you can believe that. Also, spoilers, in the sequel, Izumi’s fine, seemingly not raped or murdered, they’re kinda in a relationship and Koji is not hell-bent on killing Izumi or dying. So this whole ending seems pointless or retconned.

And don’t even get me started on the high school film project that is Bronze: Cathexis.

Art and Animation: Another addition I should’ve made to the Yaoi Trope Bingo card is pointy, long awkward art and terrible animation. I swear, Koji looks he spent his youth on the rack. His fingers are as long as strands of spaghetti, his eyes are like mail slots, his legs and ass don’t even look like they belong on the same body as his torso. It’s a mess. Izumi is only slightly better, and everyone else just looks lazily done.

Being a romance, this show already doesn’t have much movement, but even then the animation is obviously cheap, which pains me to say because this was done by Madhouse.

Music: Some of it’s alright, but for the most part it’s forgettable and bland. Which is weird because Koji’s a singer and actually sings some of his songs in the OVA.

Voice Acting: Japanese: Ranges from blah to melodramatic, but the latter is probably how they were directed.

Bottomline: Even if you’re hard up for yaoi, just skip this one. There is really nothing here for anyone; not in story, not in characters, not even in fanservice. It is unbelievably cheesy and overly dramatic, and the romance isn’t even so much a romance as a frightening obsession and I’m disgusted that this eventually becomes a legitimate coupling. Creepy, unhealthy relationships played off as ‘true love’ is, sadly, still a thing in romance titles even now, but it’s disappointing that these situations are especially common in yaoi and yuri. I think it’s getting better, but the process is very slow.

Additional Information and Notes: Zetsuai 1989 was based on a manga of the same name written by Minami Osaki. It was directed by Takuji Endo, who also directed three episodes of Paranoia Agent (?!) Phantom Quest Corp. and Stitch! The music was done by Kenji Kawai, and, wow, I think I might be stepping on toes calling the music here bland, because he has a rather impressive resume including the first two Ghost in the Shell movies, Ranma ½ and Fate/Stay Night….It was animated by Madhouse, and it’s never been licensed in the US.

Runtime: 45 Minutes

Year: 1992 (the manga came out in 1989)

Recommended Audience: Attempted rape, mentions of murder, moderate levels of blood, no nudity, the actual sexual activity is rather low; they barely kiss. 13+


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AVAHS – It’s a Spongebob Christmas! Review

Plot: It’s Christmastime in Bikini Bottom, and Spongebob’s filled with holiday cheer. Plankton, on the other hand, isn’t. He’s sick of getting coal for Christmas, so he decides to ruin the holiday by lacing fruitcakes with jerktonium – a compound that instantly turns people into jerks, putting them all on the naughty list. Spongebob accidentally helps him distribute the fruitcakes to everyone in town, leading to complete catastrophe.

Spongebob remains unaffected due to his pure heart and love of Christmas, but Plankton solves that problem by creating a chaotic robot replica of Spongebob to create even more destruction and trick Santa into putting Spongebob on the list too. Can Spongebob manage to save everyone from the jerktonium and the naughty list, or will Plankton ruin Christmas for everyone?

Breakdown: Since Christmas Who? was an instant classic Christmas special, it was hard to imagine that any followup would meet or surpass it. Well, they somehow managed to do it. It’s a Spongebob Christmas! is just as good if not better than its predecessor.

First and foremost, taking a note from the beloved Rankin/Bass holiday specials, this episode is done entirely in stop motion. The crew admits that they used some modern day digital tricks in the animation, but make no mistake that this is true blue stop motion animation. And it looks really great. Sure, some aspects look creepy, like Santa – he looks downright gross for some reason, especially in his first shot (when Spongebob’s looking at a vision of him in the sky. He’s like a weird bug-eyed puppet version there) – but it’s actually very cute, and I love how they rebuilt Bikini Bottom with this style. Sandy and Spongebob in particular were adorable.

I love how you could see the textures so clearly on everyone. Sandy’s tail looked very fluffy, and Spongebob looked…well, like a real sponge. I loved how they were able to marry the style of the 2D animation with the 3D stop-motion. They created an entirely new look and feel without sacrificing the well-known comedy, style and antics Spongebob is known for.

The story is a little on the predictable side, but I honestly didn’t mind. They added enough charm and wit to the whole experience that it wasn’t a big deal. It’s hard to overlook the general convenience of jerktonium, but I think I can overlook that too because Spongebob is littered with ridiculous and convenient things like that. I mean, if I get irritated at that, what am I expected to do with the fact that the cure to its effects is a song?

The songs were really catchy and fun. They crammed three songs into this half hour long special, and I think that was just the right amount. Usually, specials of this length only get one song, so it was impressive that they made three that were really good. I especially loved Don’t Be a Jerk, It’s Christmas. It’s quite the earworm, and, truth be told, it’s a really good moral.

Most Christmas specials will be a little too corny with their message, but Spongebob hit the nail on the head. Don’t be a jerk. You don’t have to be loaded with Christmas cheer, you just have to not be a jerk. Be respectful, do good where you can and just try. This is really reflected in Squidward’s small role. He wasn’t affected by the jerktonium because he didn’t eat the fruitcake, and Squidward being Squidward is a grump, but they don’t try to force him into the cheer and even though he’s still being snitty, he also still passes on the present in the song, sings along a bit and helps catch Spongebob at the end.

There’s a jerky elephant in the room I need to address, though. Patrick.

For those not in the Spongy know, for some reason, later seasons had Patrick consistently being a jackass for seemingly no reason. He was still an idiot, but he was less innocent, naive, heart of gold idiot and more aggressive, selfish asshole idiot. Maybe this was to differentiate him more from Spongebob, I don’t know, but the point is that Patrick was super hard to like for several years. Sadly, this episode is no exception.

Our first scene with Patrick is him building a box-and-stick trap for Santa so he can capture him, hold him against his will forever so he can have a never-ending Christmas.

Now, I had heard about the jerktonium plot before I got the chance to watch this episode, so I thought Patrick was somehow already affected by it and was being a jerk. Because, let’s be real, that plan really sounds like something a villain would do. I’m actually surprised Plankton didn’t come up with it and had it be the real plot of this special.

Nope.

Patrick just came up with a supervillain plot all by himself and Spongebob doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with that.

Jerk!Patrick…..or…maybe just SlightlyWorseLaterSeason!Patrick still holds this plan, only this time he’s building a tiger trap for Santa. A tiger trap is a hole with a door or a thin layer of sticks or wicker on top designed to look like normal ground. When stepped on, the door would flip around/the covering would collapse, and the person would fall into a spiky pit of death. And just to add more Christmas cheer, Wikipedia notes that the spikes in these traps sometimes had rotten meat smeared on them so there would be a high risk of infection if the initial wound didn’t kill the victim first, and they would more surely die….(And just to be clear, Patrick straight out says that what he’s building is specifically a tiger trap.)

Thanks writers. You not only had me researching horrific Vietnam booby traps for this review of a Spongebob Christmas special, but you also showed Patrick jumping from jerk to maniac. Granted, the pit isn’t filled with spikes, of course, but still.

You’d think that after the jerktonium effects wore off that Patrick would be much better, right?

Nope.

Our last shot of the main special is Patrick ambushing Santa in his sleigh with a butterfly net, capturing him and causing him to careen out of the sky.

Stop-motion Patchy also has segments in this episode, but outside of one or two good jokes, it’s not really necessary.

Overall, I absolutely love this special. It’s definitely a worthy successor to Christmas Who? and it’s such a unique experience for Spongebob fans as a whole. The comedy hits well, the sentiment is nice without going overboard and just the way it’s animated makes for a great experience to come back to over and over again. Patrick’s scenes may have been alarming, but they’re very short so it’s not that bad. Whether you’re a Spongebob fan or not, I really suggest checking out this special at least once around the holidays. You won’t regret it.

Final Notes: How strange is it that I grew up in a world where the stereotype was that fruitcake was horrible and no one ever really wanted it to a special where people are sucking it down like it’s the best thing ever. I’ve never actually had fruitcake, but what is the actual general consensus? Was it just wrongly condemned in the past?


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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Wakfu

Plot: Yugo is a mysterious child who was adopted by an innkeeper named Alibert. When Alibert found Yugo in the forest, a message was magically conveyed to him – This boy has incredible power; the ability to manipulate Wakfu, which, as of now, manifests itself in the creation of portals – and when he grows up he’ll need to embark on a journey to find his true family. Several years later, Yugo discovers his latent abilities and Alibert reveals the secret of his past to him so he can finally start his journey and find his real family.

Breakdown: This series is based on Wakfu, the MMORPG, which is a sequel to another MMORPG, Dofus. I’ve never played either game, though I have heard pretty good things about them.

That being said, I’ve also heard great things about this series. It’s even popular to call it France’s answer to Avatar the Last Airbender. I think my jury’s still out on that claim for now.

Yup yup, this is a French cartoon (and just to sate people who might bring this up – it can also qualify as an anime) And my experience with French animation is surprisingly limited, mostly contained to Totally Spies, Code Lyoko and Sonic Boom, which is weird because I love those shows…well….two of them.

Other than that, I’ve seen a handful of French short animations, which tend to be largely and heavily artsy. Not that that’s bad at all, but I have to be in the mood for that.

As an intro, this first episode does okay. It’s a bit too quick with the pacing, though. Especially near the end where they basically jump from ‘Oh Yugo has portal powers’ to ‘Yugo, you’re destined to embark on a journey to find your real family. I know because the magic floaty glowing text told me when I found you.’ in about five seconds.

It doesn’t really do proper world-building though. I was struggling to write the plot section because I wanted to include aspects of the world but I soon realized that they didn’t really explore it very much. I caught glimpses of dragons and magic and Wakfu, though they don’t really explain what Wakfu is – I know Alibert and Ruel are bounty hunters, but I don’t understand why their main weapons are shovels.

The main enemy is a robot guy thing named Nox, and he seemed really interesting and cool, but I’m kinda unclear on what he is considering this is a largely fantasy-based world yet he’s clearly a robot/cyborg thing.

Speaking of characters, I found myself liking mostly everyone so far. Yugo’s a cool little kid. He’s responsible, he’s always helping out his father and I like his comedic moments. I especially enjoyed his brief bits of banter with Alibert, such as when they’re being attacked by someone possessed by a demon, customers run out of the inn and Yugo starts panicking because they didn’t pay their bill, but Alibert assures him by saying he’ll remember their faces.

Alibert is pretty cool too. He seems like he’s a great dad and an equally great bounty hunter.

Ruel is greedy, but entertaining. He provides some good information and can seemingly hold his own in a fight, despite his age.

The only one I didn’t much care for was the mysterious cloaked dragon guy who left Yugo in the woods. However, I’m 99% sure that’s just because his voice acting coupled with his animation really throws me off. I was shocked to learn that he was voiced by a woman. No wonder the insanely deep voice sounded artificially distorted and weird.

Speaking of voices, apparently, despite the love of this show, most Wakfu fans vehemently suggest not watching the dub (Especially S3, which features an entirely new cast.) I kinda brushed it off because most people bark ‘Dub bad!’ without any real justification for it, but yeah….it was kinda justified. Half of the cast is perfectly fine. Not amazing, but fine. I especially liked Yugo and Nox’s acting. However, the other half is either unfitting to the point of the voice not really fitting any living being I can think of, like dragon dude, or the acting is really strange like they’re reading from a script that only has one to five words per page.

I’m not going to harsh on the dub too badly, however, because the English dub was produced by the series own producer, Ankama, done at Flix Facilities LLC. and it was funded through a Kickstarter. The third season, however, was co-produced and dubbed by Netflix.

I really liked the art in this series. It’s very stylized while still being fairly simplistic. The colors pop, the landscapes are quite beautiful and the characters are all very distinctive from each other with easily identifiable silhouettes, there some cool design choices in regards to hair and clothing. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I want Yugo’s hat thing.

However, the animation will take some time to really gel with me. This series is animated entirely in Flash, which, while being a joke to a lot of people, is still an incredibly useful animation program. And let me make it clear that I am very aware that there are many great and beautifully animated series that were animated in Flash. Some of my favorite cartoons were made with Flash.

The thing is, it’s also cheap and easy enough for most animators, no matter their experience or skill level, to use, which leads to the market being oversaturated in series that tend to look like trash and give the software as a whole a bad name.

Flash animated works tend to have what I like to call ‘Paper doll syndrome.’ Basically, you can instantly imagine where all of the hinges are when something is animated. Instead of moving naturally, it looks like a bunch of separate parts moving together because some unseen puppeteer wills it that way.

They also tend to have a weird bounciness to them. Like once they start moving, no matter how slight, once they stop their bodies feel the need to bounce in the other direction a bit for no reason.

Wakfu has both of these problems, but it not due to lack of skill, experience or budget. As far as I know, Wakfu’s budget was very high. The show is praised for its animation in spite of the aforementioned trends – and I can see why. It’s extremely dynamic, flows fairly well and the action scenes are done in a manner that is fast-paced without looking sloppy or weird. I definitely feel like characters, creatures and objects are interacting with their environment and that everything is real within their world.

A good chunk of my unease here is likely just a general dislike of the bouncy paper-dollness as a whole. It’s incredibly distracting to me and reminds me a lot of those cheap badly produced Flash shows that do that a LOT.

Hopefully, I just need to get used to it here.

The music is also REALLY good. I love the opening theme song, and the background music is very fitting and well-made.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

Honestly, I’m really not expecting Avatar-level quality here, but I think it will be a fun watch, and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series. I think I’ll switch to subbed, though.


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A Very Pokemon Holiday Special Analysis: Snow Way Out!

Pokemon Snow Way Out Review 1

CotD(s): None

Pre-Analysis Notes: This set of notes will be very brief since, unlike Holiday Hi-Jynx, this episode was treated like any other once it was finally released.

Snow Way Out was an episode that also got bumped back in air date due seemingly to focusing on snow and winter (it’s not really winter, they’re just on a snowy mountain) when the episodes, due to being reordered after the Pokemon Shock incident hiatus, would not air in wintertime. Instead, the episode aired alongside Holiday Hi-Jynx (Rougela’s Christmas) on October 5th 1998, and one week after Holiday Hi-Jynx in the English dub in America on December 18th 1999.

Like in Holiday Hi-Jynx, this airing spawned some confusion because, again, Charizard was back to being a Charmander and actually showcasing his care and devotion to Ash.

Unlike Holiday Hi-Jynx, which left me feeling mostly confused and weirded out, this episode turned out to be one of my personal favorites. It’s not perfect by any means, but I’ve always really loved it.

You may be wondering why I’m lumping this in with my holiday special series…….Well………Snow…..Errr…..LOOK OVER THERE! *runs away*

Plot: On his way to his next Gym match, Ash and the others come to a fork in the road. They don’t know which way to go, but the path Ash wants to traverse surely goes through a mountain range. Misty and Brock try to talk him out of going that way, but he won’t listen – welcoming the challenge of the mountain like a ‘true Pokemon Master.’

They quickly realize the mountains are vast and frigid, and it doesn’t take them long to get lost. When a blizzard hits, they try to set up camp, but Pikachu suddenly gets blown away. Ash pursues him, but Brock stops Misty from following out of fear of them all getting even more lost, leaving Ash and his Pokemon out in the snowy wilderness alone.

Ash finds Pikachu through the snow by the echoing sounds of his voice. He’s hanging from the edge of a cliff side. Ash nearly loses Pikachu, but uses Bulbasaur to save him. Realizing Misty and Brock are nowhere to be found, Ash decides to make a snow cave with Charmander’s fire. Once him and his other Pokemon seal the cave off with snow, they warm up by Charmander’s tail flame.

Meanwhile, Jessie enjoys herself in the snow with fond memories of her mother feeding her foods made out of snow – what she called a ‘snowgasbord,’ much to the disgust of James and Meowth. However, later, they find themselves wrapped up in the same blizzard and try to keep themselves warm in an igloo with a candle and some burned out matches, to no avail.

Back with Ash and the other Pokemon, Charmander’s tail flame is weakening. He’s expelling too much energy, but doesn’t want to go back in his Pokeball because he both wants to stay by Ash and he knows he’s a great source of heat for him, being his only Fire Pokemon. Ash forces him to go anyway – same for Squirtle and Bulbasaur, who are equally resistant. He can’t force Pikachu, however, who is desperate to help keep Ash warm no matter what.

Ash further keeps his Pokemon warm by wrapping up his Pokeballs in his vest. However, his situation soon becomes worse when a large hole develops in the snow wall that is sealing up the cave. He uses his back to plug the hole and retain the warmth in the cave, but his back being exposed to the wind is causing him to become much colder.

He once again demands that Pikachu go into his Pokeball to keep warm, but Pikachu is adamant against it. Ash’s Pokemon all release themselves from their Pokeballs and cuddle around Ash to keep him warm.

Touched by their sacrifice, Ash relents and tearfully allows them to stay out, holding them close as they try to bear the cold of the storm.

The following morning, the storm lets up. Ash is found by Brock and Misty who relay that they had a remarkably comfortable night near a hot spring that Onix dug out for them when they were making a snow cave of their own. Furthermore, they reveal that they found Team Rocket’s balloon. It’s out of fuel, but Brock utilizes Vulpix’s flame to get them airborne and head to the nearest town for some much needed warmth and food.

Team Rocket, seeing their balloon, tries to give chase, but they fall into a hot spring. The delightful warmth is most welcome after the chilly night, but they soon find themselves in a pickle. It’s too cold to get out of the spring, but it’s also too hot to stay in. Don’t worry, though – they’ll eventually find their way back.

————————-

– I love how Ash calls Pikachu ‘Pik’ here. Apparently I’m in the minority, though, because most people seem to hate it.

– It should be noted that they did pack blankets – Brock and Misty are draped in a couple – but Ash didn’t? I guess Brock might be carrying all of the important items – afterall, he does carry the camping stuff, the cooking tools, the map, the compass, the medicine etc. but do they not realize how misguided and, quite frankly, unfair it is to have one person carrying all of this important stuff? I mean, golly, it’d sure be unfortunate if Misty or, say, Ash got separated from Brock in a dangerous area, leaving them without any survival gear or even the bare necessities….But that’d never happen! 😀

– Wow, Ash using Pidgeotto in a clever manner. Consider this moment cherished.

Pokemon Snow Way Out Review 2

– I understand that it’s still snowy and cold, but it seems weird that James, who is the most dressed person in the main cast (Wearing a long-sleeve shirt with an undershirt as well as gloves and boots) is shivering. Meanwhile, hothead Ash is walking along in his regular clothes with no blanket and is not bothered in the slightest.

– I actually find it kinda funny that Meowth is also taken aback by Jessie’s childhood story of eating a bunch of ‘foods’ made of snow. Yes, it’s weird, but Meowth, being a former street cat, most likely had to eat out of the garbage for a good chunk of his life.

– Since we’ll probably never get a chance to discuss this here, let me take some time out to explore more of Jessie’s backstory – more specifically, her mother. (Courtesy of Dogasu at Bulbagarden who gave a great synopsis of the radio/CD drama in which this story unfolds, which I highly suggest you read if you’d like to learn more about this story or the backstory of Pokemon the First Movie)

Prepare yourself, because I’m about to make a super depressing episode of Pokemon about a million times sadder.

Our story starts 20 years ago (which kinda adds more confusion to Jessie’s age…) Jessie’s mom, who is never given an English name, but whose Japanese name is Miyamoto, was a Team Rocket agent who was hard up for money because she wanted to give her daughter a good life. One day, Miyamoto recorded the sounds of a Mew in the Andes Mountains in South America. If they could capture Mew, her boss, who was Giovanni’s mother, would be extremely pleased and Miyamoto would be able to give Musashi (Jessie) a great life.

Spurred by this information, Miyamoto is sent on a mission with two other Team Rocket agents to explore the area in which the footage was recorded, find Mew and capture it.

Sadly, she would never return.

And even sadder, this story would take a turn that, probably very unintentionally, is somewhat reminiscent of both Jessie’s story and the current story unfolding.

Miyamoto and her team got lost in the snowy mountains. Her two teammates were separated from her some time ago, and she’s been lost for years, constantly keeping hold of a lone photograph of her and her daughter. Despite the horrible situation she’s in, she continues the pursuit of Mew in hopes of capturing it, returning home and giving Musashi that great life she always planned to give her.

As she’s caught in a blizzard, the snow suddenly stops and Mew appears close to her. She’s ecstatic. She actually ASKS Mew if it will let itself be captured because she wants to use the money to pay for pre-school and daycare, but Mew runs off. Miyamoto takes chase, but ends up getting wrapped up in an avalanche that propels her even further into the tundra.

They seem to imply that Miyamoto dies, but the other episodes show brief glimpses of Miyamoto – she’s still alive. She’s been lost in the snowy mountains ever since then, waiting for Mew, each time skip giving her a new reason to want money for her daughter (elementary school, entrance exams, a wedding etc.) Eventually, she develops mental problems or memory issues because she seemingly forgets Musashi and why she needed to capture Mew in the first place, but she knows she’s determined to capture Mew no matter what.

According to Team Rocket’s logs, her whereabouts remain unknown and she’s considered dead.

I’ve known for quite some time that Jessie’s mom was a fellow Team Rocket member, but I never read the drama’s full story before. And all I can say is…..wow. Miyamoto was so concerned over giving her daughter a good life that she basically sacrificed hers to have that chance. (Also, the other Team Rocket members who were with her supposedly died, considering the narration states none of them were ever heard from again.)

Now she’s a mentally-diminished old lady waiting on a frigid mountaintop for a Mew who might not even be there at all (It’s quite possible the first sighting was a hallucination – but I’ll concede that the audio recording was real) all for…something she can’t even remember anymore.

That hits the top of the list of saddest stories told in the Pokemon anime. Sure, she was still a criminal, but she was a criminal for the sake of her daughter – a daughter who probably doesn’t remember her at all since she was likely just a baby when Miyamoto left.

And let’s not overlook the fact that I guess Musashi never had a father either.

It’s especially sad considering how Jessie turned out. She’s incredibly vain, selfish and mean. I won’t go far as to say she’s evil, but she aspires to be. And she lives a rather terrible existence otherwise. She spends her days starving to death in a hot air balloon following around a ten year old potato and his Pikachu in the hopes of maybe catching some Pokemon to make her boss happy.

She did need Miyamoto. She did need that money. Who knows how Jessie’s life would have turned out had Miyamoto caught Mew or even if she simply returned and waited for another big score while caring for her daughter.

I doubt Musashi even knows this story. Her mother is seldom brought up in the first place, this episode being pretty much the only allusion to her, and she doesn’t bring up how brave her mom was or how much she misses her or a desire to get money so she can go to South America to find her mother.

Pokemon Snow Way Out Review 3

It’s questionable whether the woman in the episode is Miyamoto given the timelines. It’s quite possible it’s a foster mother/adoptive mother or guardian, but I like to believe it is Miyamoto just because it’s even more depressing to believe Miyamoto did all of that for a daughter who doesn’t even remember her while simultaneously suffering for a daughter she doesn’t remember. Maybe just have it so Musashi never knew her mother was a Team Rocket member or something, or that she was so low-ranked that no one else bothered to tell her about her.

……….Merry Christmas!

– Wait, so all of their food and supplies are in the balloon. Jessie, with a brilliant idea to keep them from starving, offers to make snow rolls. However, she can’t make snow rolls without soy sauce, which is in the balloon, so she decides to continue pursuing the balloon, but James and Meowth don’t seem to want to do that, which is weird because if they find the balloon….they’ll get back their food and supplies and really won’t need to eat Jessie’s weird soy sauce’d snow rolls.

– So either no one offered Ash a blanket even when the blizzard started rolling in, he was too stubborn to take one, he doesn’t have his own and/or Brock didn’t pack one for him. All of these options are equally stupid.

– It was really a good idea to get Ash to relent on making camp by explaining that a real Pokemon Master would never wander around in a snowstorm in the dark. However, a real Pokemon Master probably wouldn’t choose to traverse a snowy mountain range for no reason simply as a ‘challenge’ when there is a perfectly safe and warm trail available.

– The wind is strong enough to blow Pikachu out of Ash’s arms and hurdle him like a quarter mile away, but Ash’s hat stays firmly on his head.

– The entire sequence in the blizzard is very powerful. I remember being legitimately shocked when Ash couldn’t grab Pikachu’s paw and he fell.

– Hey he’s using Bulbasaur’s abilities cleverly too. Yay!

However, in any other circumstance, like the one that follows, Bulbasaur would just grab Pikachu by wrapping him in the vines, not have Pikachu try to hold onto the vine in all this wind and snow.

– Lol Pikachu’s Brock impression.

Pokemon Snow Way Out Review 4

– Brock never said anything about making a snow cave. He just said ‘It’s best to dig in and let it (the storm) blow over.’

– Using Charmander in a clever way! I like Ash so much in this episode….I mean….not in the minutes leading up to them getting lost because he’s being a stubborn idiot, but now I do!

– Another good use of Charmander, but if Charmander is shivering too, how will his own tail flame heat him up? Does that make sense or no?

– You want to know what else I was thinking about during this particular part of the episode? It sure reminds me of the Orange League episode where Charizard finally behaves.

In that episode, Charizard was frozen in a block of ice by an enemy Poliwrath. His life was in danger because of it. In a desperate effort to warm Charizard up and keep his tail flame from going out, Ash spent all night rubbing Charizard with blankets and his bare hands, resulting in his hands getting roughed up and him becoming exhausted. It was through this display of caring and devotion that Charizard finally broke free of his dumbass-with-amnesia-I-guess syndrome and finally stopped being a jerk.

I have to wonder if either of them remembered this moment in that Orange League episode, because it’s rather poignant. When Charizard was a Charmander, he suffered to save Ash’s life by warming him up, then much later down the line Ash does the same for him.

It’s something sweet to ponder anyway.

– Team Rocket has no emergency supplies, blankets, nothing….but one of them, for some reason, had a birthday candle on them.

Pokemon Snow Way Out Review 5

(I’m aware it’s a digitally painted match)

Being fair, though, warming up by a candle is much more efficient than using a match.

– Wait, what? When it’s lit, they have to paint the match to look like a candle. But when it’s not lit/burned out, they can show the matches no problem. Again, 4Kids, you’re kinda screwing up your message. I assume you don’t want kids to play with matches, which is why you censored the lit one, but showing a lit match shows kids that matches start fires, which is important information for them to know and acts as a warning to not play with them

Also, for the sake of transparency, 24 seconds of footage was removed from this episode purely because of shots with Team Rocket holding lit matches. Time well spent…

– It’s really sweet how none of the Pokemon want to leave Ash to go into their Pokeballs…..but why is Pikachu the only one he allows to stay out?

– I refuse to believe Ash doesn’t have anything useful in his backpack. Surely he at least has 30 changes of underwear his mother packed for him that he can huddle under.

– I love how Ash is freezing to death but he’s more concerned about his Pokemon, who are even now in their Pokeballs.

– Ash sacrificing his vest to help keep his Pokeballs warm is really, no pun intended, heart-warming.

– I really do love this episode, but Ash is a major idiot for jumping at the hole in the snow wall and plugging it….with his back. The snow wall is meant to help keep the warmth contained and him from freezing to death. Kinda doesn’t work if you’re using your back to plug it up. Use your useless backpack or get more snow – anything instead of using your body.

– This whole climactic sequence still brings tears to my eyes. From Pikachu vehemently refusing to go in its Pokeball to the point where he’s refusing it as an order, to the music, to the other Pokemon letting themselves out of their Pokeballs to all of the Pokemon cuddling Ash to keep him warm to “You win….guess we’ll all be cold together.” – it is by far one of the best and most touching moments of the series. (I especially love Bulbasaur on Ash’s lap. That is too adorable for words.)

Pokemon Snow Way Out Review 6

– I love how Ash is gone all night, him and his Pokemon nearly freeze to death, and the first thing Misty tells him is that Onix dug into a hot spring (poor Onix – it hates water.) and they were super comfy in their snow cave. Tact it up, Misty.

(By the way, in case you were wondering as to what the hell the Japanese title of this episode means – Iwark the Bivouac – Iwark is Onix’s Japanese name and bivouac is a term for a temporary camp. Of course, Iwark MADE a bivouac, it didn’t become one, so the weird title doesn’t even make sense in context.)

Bonus points for creative use of Onix, though.

– Bonus points for creative use of Vulpix!

– Ash and friends just stole Team Rocket’s property. Good job.

Also, Ash and co. show absolutely no concern over Team Rocket when they find their crashed balloon in the snowy mountains. They could be dead for all you know. Double good job.

– Team Rocket’s predicament is actually rather serious because, if they get out of the hot spring, it’s not just that they’ll have to deal with the cold. They’ll have to deal with the cold while being soaked to the bone, which basically guarantees they’ll suffer severe frostbite.

—————————-

And that was Snow Way Out! an episode I remember loving a lot when I was a kid and I’m happy to report I still love with all my heart. It has its flaws, of course, but it’s such an emotional and surprisingly serious episode. The moments between Ash and his Pokemon were absolutely beautiful, their situation was realistically dire, even if Ash being a dunderhead was the reason they were in that mess to begin with, and so many Pokemon got utilized creatively and appreciated properly.

About the only person who did jack squat in this episode was Misty, but considering she only has Water Pokemon, she can’t be of much help anyway.

I also like how Team Rocket’s plot was completely separate from Ash and co.’s (A Team Rocket run-in would’ve somewhat ruined this episode.) and I like how, in the end, they weren’t really pointless. In fact, they facilitated the group’s escape to civilization…..even if Team Rocket had to die a horrible death to do it.

This episode is made substantially sadder when you put Jessie’s mom into the equation. I know the backstory of Miyamoto hadn’t been written back then, but it’s still extremely sad that, in canon, Jessie’s mom has been lost on a snowy mountain for 20 years, losing her memory and endlessly searching for Mew in the hopes of getting money for the daughter she doesn’t even remember anymore.

Even if she found and captured Mew, what then? She doesn’t remember her daughter, so she can’t track her down. She might not even remember she’s in Team Rocket anymore. She might not be able to get out of the mountain range either. It’s a really dark story, especially for Pokemon.

At least Jessie probably still has fond memories of her mother. I choose to believe that, anyway.

I would say I hope they reunite some day, but, to be blunt, I don’t really trust the anime writers to handle this story well enough to be a decent payoff. Hopefully, maybe, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up, especially when the story is so old.

Stay warm, everyone. ~♥


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Hell Girl: Two Mirrors – Episode 18: That Person’s History Review

Hell Girl Two Mirrors Ep 18 Screen1

Plot: Rina is forced to care for her disabled estranged mother, Michyo, who seemingly hates her guts and those of her father and pretty much everyone else. Rina’s suffering. Her father is suffering. And it’s all caused by this one woman. If only she weren’t around….

But is Michiyo’s story may not be as clean cut as Rina believes.

Breakdown: I’m going to level with you guys for a second. I had a full review written out for this episode, but I had to rewrite the entire thing because most of my discussion points leaned on a plot point that I misunderstood until I was already done writing it. As a result, my score for this episode went down from a 7.5/10 to a 6/10.

Because my misconceived version was actually rated higher, I’m going to swallow some pride here and discuss what mistake I had made. Plus, it actually makes for some constructive criticism on how this episode could’ve been made a little better, so it works out.

This is an episode that I definitely remembered from when I watched this season several years ago. I couldn’t really pinpoint why because, at the end of the day, it’s fairly cut and dry. Woman is a complete asshole ruining everyone’s lives, so call Hell Girl and put that bitch on a boat. In addition, the more I thought about it while rewatching it, the worse the story became.

That’s not to say that the story is really all that bad. I disliked Michiyo enough to want her to go to hell. I liked Rina enough to want her to not go to hell. And their situation was understandable and not overblown to the point of ridiculous supervillainy. It was simply a case of a woman imposing on the lives of people she hurt before, continuing to be a nightmare for seemingly no reason. Her mere presence and the fact that she required round-the-clock care over the tiniest things was taking a severe toll on Rina and her father on top of that.

But as I mentioned, it’s really not so so simple.

Michiyo is put in the care of her ex-husband after she suffered from an accident that left her almost entirely disabled. Since the accident was deemed her fault, her insurance isn’t covering her nursing care.

Hell Girl Two Mirrors Ep 18 Screen2
Okay. Ingrate: Confirmed.

Rina despises her mother since she abandoned her and her father when she was young. She never remembered her mother smiling or bonding with her as a child. As time has gone by, Michiyo’s personality has only gotten worse. Now she’s bitter, angry and cruel.

Rina can’t make heads or tails of why her father is willfully accepting the arduous task of caring for her mother night and day. However, she loves her father deeply, so she eventually helps him care for her, no matter how cold and cruel she continues to be.

Eventually, it gets so bad that she believes the only way to solve the problem is by making Michiyo go away by using Hell Girl. She sits on the doll for a while, but adamantly believes she’ll use it sometime in the near future.

When faced with the question yet again of why he lets Michiyo treat him like garbage, Rina’s father shares a very surprising story with her. He owes Michiyo a deep debt because he feels guilty for her being the way she is now, both physically and mentally.

He reveals that Michiyo is not Rina’s biological mother. Michiyo has always been unable to have children. Realizing that Rina’s father deeply wanted children, she begged him to use a surrogate instead of adopting. After a long while of debate, he eventually conceded, believing Michiyo would welcome the child as her own, but he was wrong.

Michiyo changed for the worse almost immediately after that. She never accepted Rina as her child, stopped smiling and grew a horrid personality. After a few years of pretending, she ultimately decided to leave.

Hell Girl Two Mirrors Ep 18 Screen3

Here’s where I had the major misconception. The dialogue, which at this point was Rina’s narration on the matter, lead me to believe Rina’s father had developed a sexual relationship with her biological mother. That’s why Michiyo was really so bitter. Not only was the child they were raising not hers, biologically, but it was the child of a woman her husband was cheating on her with.

Because of this misconception, I was able to sympathize with Michiyo a little more. I definitely understood her reasons for leaving and refusing to return anyway. However, I was much less sympathetic to her attitude towards Rina because none of that was her fault. Even if she could never accept her as her child, she still should have had it within her to apologize and try to establish a good relationship with her, but she never bothered even trying.

When I rewatched that scene a few times, because I was trying to understand if I missed why or if he and her biological mother broke it off, I finally realized that she was saying he was secretly seeing MICHIYO, not her biological mother, behind RINA’S back after Michiyo abandoned them. He was trying to mend bridges and get Michiyo to accept Rina as her child, but she consistently refused.

In my defense, I was watching and writing that at 3AM.

Rina’s father later states that he should’ve known Michiyo was testing him when she made that request. This was another aspect that kinda confused me at first. She was testing him for what? To see if he’d actually make a child with another woman (I certainly hope through artificial means) instead of giving up his dream of having a child? She never makes it clear why she doesn’t want him to adopt. He just wanted a child – he never made any statement about wanting to continue his bloodline or anything.

He blames himself for her personality shift because of this, even though that’s still pretty flimsy. Michiyo couldn’t have children, and this whole thing was her idea. Maybe she just never wanted to be a mom. Maybe she really did see him accepting this offer as some massive backwards betrayal. I dunno.

As for him being the reason behind her physical condition – during one of his visits to see Michiyo secretly, Rina’s father again tried to convince her to come back home. She felt like she was being pitied and that he was only offering to take her back to make him feel better about his own ‘mistakes.’

She suddenly makes the decision to put an end to his misery herself and jump in front of a tractor trailer. She didn’t lose her life, but she became severely disabled.

Hell Girl Two Mirrors Ep 18 Screen4

Despite hearing this story, Rina still wasn’t giving up the doll.

The next day, she tries to find it to no avail. Ai tells her that it belongs to someone else now. Here’s where I got confused on a more technical level. Is Ai implying that Rina’s father stole the doll and used it? Because he did see her with the doll and might have known what it was. Or is she saying Rina’s father took out a contract himself on Michiyo? I thought that Hell Girl worked on a ‘dibs’ kind of system. If someone has an existing contract on someone, they have the right to the target. You can’t take out a new contract unless the old one has been terminated, which it wasn’t in this case.

I’m inclined to believe he stole it, because it is the same black doll, but does that mean that, when you pull the string on someone else’s doll, you take the contract? Because he was the one marked after that.

Rina’s father takes her mother out to their favorite spot by the river. He asks her one final time if she’ll ever find it within herself to accept Rina and forgive him. Even if she can’t do the latter, do the former for the sake of Rina because she’s precious to him and doesn’t deserve this treatment.

Michiyo refuses, stating she’ll never be able to forgive him or accept Rina no matter what. In response, Rina’s father pulls the string on the doll, sending her to hell, saving Rina from both Michiyo’s terrible treatment and suffering the fate of being sent to hell.

This was another issue that arose with me only because my initial misconception was now gone. Now that I know Rina’s father wasn’t cheating on Michiyo with Rina’s biological mother, I feel 1000x worse that he’s destined for hell. He did it for the sake of saving Rina, but also for the sake of atoning for mistakes that were never actual mistakes. His wife put a slimy and vague ultimatum in front of him, literally begging him to take this weird bait, and he made a logical choice.

Michiyo overreacted to ridiculous levels over something so stupid, and Rina’s father bore the guilt of making her feel that way when it was completely unwarranted. I can understand if she eventually regretted her decision to push him to having a child via surrogate and that she could never find herself emotionally connecting with a child that wasn’t biologically hers – for all we know she never wanted to be a mom in the first place – but to have such malice against Rina’s father for that and to put such guilt on Rina for literally just being born is disgraceful. She put absolutely no blame on herself for any of this happening and kept playing the victim.

When Rina arrives, her father walks off in a daze and she spots something in the empty wheelchair – a marble.

Hell Girl Two Mirrors Ep 18 Screen5

One of the Rina’s only memories of her mother involved her giving a marble to her, but she didn’t remember Michiyo accepting it. As we’ve already discussed, she never remembered her smiling. However, when Rina picked up the marble, her memories cleared up a bit more. She accepted the marble and gave the faintest of smiles. That may have been the one and only time Michiyo ever even slightly accepted Rina, and, considering she was keeping hold of it during the entire episode and refusing to give it to Kikuri when she popped up on occasion, it’s believed she was holding onto it as a sort of thread to her humanity. But now Rina will never know.

No answer would make up for anything in the slightest, though.

Michiyo’s ride to hell is entirely silent. She has no emotional response whatsoever. No words to say. Nothing. She’s basically emotionally dead.

————————————–

And….I just feel miserable again. A terrible person got sent to hell, and an innocent person was spared from that fate for a change, but Rina’s father doesn’t deserve that fate, nor does he deserve to seemingly fall into a pit of despair for his actions.

I liked how Rina was narrating the entire episode. That was a change-up from most episodes. The Hell Team also wasn’t really involved at all here outside of a few visits from Kikuri, which were tolerable anyway and served an actual purpose.

I don’t think the little side-plot of her fiance starting to distance himself from her seemingly due to his parents starting to disapprove was necessary mostly because it just added more misery to her situation and wasn’t even really connected with the main plot. None of what she was doing with her mother or father was affecting her relationship with her fiance, and his parents got on just fine with her father at the start of the episode. But she suddenly learns that his parents are starting to disapprove midway through the episode and we never see him again.

I really believe that this episode would’ve been improved if my misconception was a reality. If Rina’s father had cheated on Michiyo with Rina’s biological mother, so much more would make sense and be less miserable. Michiyo’s reasons for becoming so cold and callous would be more understandable, especially in regards to Rina. Her leaving would be more understandable. I’d be a little more content with Rina’s father damning himself to hell as penance for his actions. And even the part with the marble would be a little sweeter.

But nope.

She was just a terrible person who might not have been quite as terrible as we perceived by about a millimeter.

What a twist.

Overall, I’m disappointed that I had to redo this review just to gain a much worse perspective on the episode and lower the score significantly, but it can’t be helped. This is an alright episode for what it’s worth, and I think I finally have the word to describe this episode that I haven’t been able to grasp in the past – sloppy. The components for a really great episode, even if you don’t use my suggestions, are there. It’s just disjointed and doesn’t build upon that foundation well at all.

Rating: 6/10

Next episode, we learn even more about Wanyuudou’s past as we learn about how he came to meet Ai………..Also, obligatory hot springs episode.


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A Very (Somewhat Banned) Pokemon Holiday Special Analysis: Holiday Hi-Jynx

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 1

CotD(s): None, unless you count Santa and…is it really necessary to talk about him?

Pre-Analysis Notes: Hah! Gotcha! You thought I had reviewed all of the Christmas specials for Pokemon? Nope! There’s still one, technically two-ish more, but there’s a reason why I haven’t reviewed them yet.

You guys remember how I talked about the Pokemon Shock incident and how it screwed up the episode order? Well, Holiday Hi-Jynx, their first foray into Christmas, and Snow Way Out were both booted from the planned lineup entirely, which is the main reason why they were subsequently thrown off my analysis lineup for the moment as well since I’m strictly going in numerical order as listed on Bulbapedia. Technically, these episodes have no official numbers. They were originally set to air right around Christmastime in 1997, but since the producers didn’t want to air a Christmas special and a winter-themed episode in April/May, they opted to air the two episodes as specials much later.

I don’t why they bothered, really, because they ended up actually releasing the episodes both on October 5, 1998. Yeah, airing Christmas/winter themed episodes is so much more fitting in the dead of fall, a month before Halloween. Good job.

At least the US had their ducks in a more uniform row, because they aired the dub on December 11, 1999. (Snow Way Out airing a week later on December 18th.)

Despite this being a more fitting airing spot, this did cause some major confusion. Back when I was a kid, these episodes premiered with no fanfare or explanation of what happened. And the reason this was necessary was because, out of nowhere, Ash’s troublesome Charizard was back to being a lovable Charmander, and Misty no longer had Togepi yet still had her Starmie and Horsea, which she had left at the Cerulean Gym at that point. I chalked it up to being an old episode I must’ve missed, but it still nagged me, especially considering that, at the time of this airing in the States, Ash was prepping for the Indigo League tournament.

The trouble doesn’t end there.

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 2

Say hello to Jynx! She is the reason this episode is kinda, sorta, somewhat, ehhh maybe, but not really, depending on how you look at it, banned.

Jynx was heavily criticized as being a racist depiction of a black woman shortly after this episode aired in the US. As a result, the episode was taken out of rotation after a handful of airings and has never reappeared in syndication.

Unlike most banned episodes, however, you can still find this episode fairly easily. It’s on the VHS and the original volume 3 of the Indigo League DVD set, it’s on Cartoon Network Video and Cartoon Network’s On Demand service, it’s available on Boomerang and you can find it on the Japanese versions of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu.

Subsequent airings have been edited to change Jynx’s skin color to purple to avoid controversy (Kinda like how Mr. Popo’s skin was changed to bright Genie-from-Aladdin blue during his appearances in DBZKai.) but several sources and countries show the original version.

Despite this, the episode is still quietly banned in certain regions. It’s not listed on Pokemon.com, it’s not available on Netflix, it wasn’t included in the re-release of volume 3 of the Indigo League DVD set, and it’s not included in the Indigo League complete collection DVD set. Additionally, the episode is fully banned in South Korea, and India only aired it once before taking it out of rotation entirely.

The edited version has not been applied to the English Dub, so that makes up for a decent amount of the trouble in obtaining this episode.

This initial backlash caused a ripple effect. While Jynx is not a forbidden Pokemon in the anime like Porygon basically is, 4Kids opted to skip over another episode – Ep250: The Ice Cave – because Jynx was so prevalent in it to the point where removing her scenes would destroy the footage and reduce the runtime too much. Episode 287 – All Things Bright and Beautifly – was also edited in the English dub to remove a sequence with Jynx.

Even the Gen II games and the manga were retroactively edited in the west to change Jynx’s skin to purple. Eventually, Game Freak would choose to officially change the character’s skin color to purple to allow it to be featured in the anime and games without additional edits in other areas.

As for why Jynx was designed this way, well, I can’t bring myself to say outright that the designers gunned for a clear black woman stereotype for the sake of being bigots. I don’t like slinging accusations of that caliber around so flippantly without firm evidence. However, it’s hard not to see it.

There’s a theory that she is based on ganguro style, which was popular in the 90s. Ganguro involves dying your hair blond, heavy tanning and wearing a lot of makeup. The actual style, while being rather gaudy, shows the person’s skin as being very orange. You might remember Jessie and James sported ganguro style during the first part of the St. Anne arc.

With that in mind, it’s hard to say that it was taking inspiration from that. By logic, Jynx’s skin would be orange or burnt orange, not black.

However….

There are even more extreme versions of ganguro – Yamanba and Manba, where the tanning is much darker (being dark brown, not orange) and the makeup, accessories and hairstyles are even more outlandish. However, considering this gained popularity long after this episode was created, around 2004, I doubt either of these were the inspiration.

Plus, it’s really hard to seek justification in something where the name, ganguro, can literally translate to ‘black face’………

I’m having trouble getting that anyway because what relation would ganguro have with either psychic powers or ice? You’d think with the requirement of getting so much tanning you might as well jettison yourself into the sun that such a thing couldn’t be further from ice.

Despite having no connection to Santa in the games, it’s also been theorized that, considering Jynx’s role as Santa’s helper in this episode, it might be based on Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, who is a companion of Santa in Dutch folklore……………and…..it’s still racist because, even though the character himself is black, most portrayals of him are done by white people in blackface…

Also, I doubt that theory too because Jynx is clearly designed as a female.

Finally, there’s the theory that it was based on Hel, the Nordic goddess of the underworld who ruled Niflheim, a land of ice and snow. This theory seems to have the best logic to it, but Hel’s face is either meant to be half-blue and half-flesh colored or half-black and half-flesh colored; not fully black. So either they screwed up the facial design or this theory is wrong too.

I never much cared for Jynx either way. I find her to be very creepy on all fronts (Creepy design, creepy voice, creepy movement, creepy blushing, creepy kissing attack – creepycreepycreepy) but I think it’s a good thing that she was changed to purple over the years.

Even if her entire existence is a big question mark in regards to intentions, there’s really no getting around the implications, especially considering only one of the three viable theories I read didn’t include mentions of flatout blackface (It’s also theorized that Jynx are based on opera singers, given their overweight appearance and musical ability, but this confuses me just as much as the others, quite frankly.) Changing her to purple was a much better course of action than trying to justify her offensive appearance – if they even have a justification.

Keep in mind, everything I just discussed were fan theories on her origins – people coming up with less offensive possibilities for Jynx’s existence. I don’t think an official explanation was ever given, which is fairly suspect. Even if it is meant to be a racist depiction of a black woman, which is, of course, insanely messed up, what does that have to do with ice or psychic powers? What were they going for? I just don’t understand Jynx at all.

I don’t really want to press this matter into even worse implications, but I can’t help but ask this question. If people find that Santa’s elves are basically slaves…and taking Jynx as being a depiction of a stereotypical black woman…..Does that mean I’m technically watching a Christmas special with depictions of black people as Santa’s slaves? I really wish I had turned my brain off before it went down that route, because if you lock onto that idea, this episode just gets so much worse. It’s bad enough that Jynx technically are indeed ‘owned’ by their Trainers in the first place……

To be honest, other than having ice powers and being human-like, I don’t know why Jynx was the Pokemon chosen to be stand-ins for Santa’s elves to begin with. I know Delibird doesn’t exist yet, but certainly there’s a better option.

M…merry…Christmas…..I’m really uncomfortable now.

Plot: On Christmas Eve, Team Rocket plans on trapping Santa and taking all of the presents for themselves. Jessie has a vendetta against Santa, believing him to be a thief who stole her doll when he visited on Christmas ten years ago….Only ‘he’ was actually a Jynx working for Santa that she believes was actually Santa.

Meanwhile, Ash tries to capture what he thinks is a wild Jynx waiting on a beach. After a failed attempt, they surmise that it has a Trainer after seeing it holding a boot belonging to none other than Santa Claus! Jynx Psychically transmits her story to Ash and the others – some time ago, she was shining Santa’s boot when the ice she was standing on broke away. She drifted to shore and is desperate to reach Santa.

Ash, Misty and Brock agree to help her out, worried that Santa won’t be able to deliver gifts without his Jynx or his other boot. They grab a raft and head off in the direction of the North Pole, using their Water Pokemon to help pull them along. After a long, long while and exhausting their Pokemon, Ash finds one of Santa’s telepathic Lapras who has been following them for a while. Realizing their intentions are good, it decides to pull them along for the rest of the ride.

When they arrive, however, Team Rocket springs up. They trap Ash and the others in a net and capture Jynx, whom Jessie still mistakenly believes is Santa. They then head to the workshop to steal all of the toys. Jessie spots the real Santa and they hold him hostage so all of the Jynx will hand over the presents. Ash and the others try to intervene, but hold themselves back to protect Santa.

Jessie chats with Santa who asks why she’s doing this. After explaining her story, Jynx perks up and runs off to retrieve Jessie’s doll – now fixed. Santa explains that his Jynx had gone to deliver presents to her and noticed her broken dolly on the floor. She took it to get fixed, but they couldn’t return it since Jessie no longer believed in him and he’s not allowed to tread in the homes of hearts that don’t believe in him.

While she tearfully reunited with her doll, Jessie continues her plan anyway. However, they’re all stopped by Lapras, who freezes their sub with Ice Beam. Ash uses Charmander to free them all from the ropes and commands him to use Fire Spin on the sub. The ice melts and Team Rocket escapes.

Santa commands his legion of Jynx to use Psywave to pick up their sub, shake out all of the presents, destroy the sub and blast off Team Rocket.

With Santa and the presents safe, Santa heads off on his sleigh to bring Christmas to people all over the world. Jynx and Lapras deliver presents to Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu, bringing them all Christmas cheer.

Meanwhile, a beaten up Team Rocket lies in bed, waiting for Santa to hopefully deliver gifts to them despite their actions. He does show up, but all that happens is Jynx uses Lovely Kiss on them all to make them sleep. It may not be the best Christmas for them, but they certainly didn’t do anything to get on the nice list this year.

——————–

– Whose castle is Team Rocket staying in?

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 3

– I kinda understand why Jessie’s doing the title card read today, but it’s also a little weird.

– Jessie has a really nice house for a kid who supposedly grew up so poor that her mother fed her snow….

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 4

– If Santa sends out his Jynx to deliver presents….what…exactly…does HE do?

– Why is Ash so gung-ho about catching a Jynx?

– I love how Misty and Ash are claiming it’s very weird to leave a Pokemon alone outside, but they’ve left Pokemon in the middle of a street sitting in a kiddie pool before….

– Why is Jynx blushing when it looks at the boot? Is she in love with him?

– If Jynx could transmit messages telepathically, why did she even need to waste time with the boot?

– Couldn’t Jynx have just used Ice Beam to create a bridge to get back to shore?

– Is Brock seriously asking how Santa’s going to deliver presents without his Jynx? You don’t even know what she does as Santa’s Pokemon.

– Look, I’m trying to give this episode some modicum of leeway in the logic department, because it’s a kid’s show trying to talk about Santa, but Ash and the others are really planning to head to the North Pole on a wooden raft they either found or somehow made in about ten seconds. Unless the North Pole is much closer to Kanto in the Pokemon world than it is in our world, they’re either going to die, their Pokemon are going to die from exhaustion, both or they’ll all be lost adrift at sea for a long, long time.

– Huh, Misty’s actually being accommodating to Psyduck. It’s a Christmas miracle.

– Hey, the Gyarados sub! Yay!

– I sincerely doubt Ash has the strength to pull that raft at any reasonable speed. Also, did none of them think to just bring oars?

– So a non-Psychic Lapras can telepathically speak, but Psychic Jynx can only project images and only through touch……….Kay.

Also, why is Lapras glowing so brightly when it first meets Ash?

– I feel I should call BS on Misty not knowing what a Lapras is, but I’ll refrain from making a ‘Why Use the Pokedex?’ note since I have no way of knowing if she does. Would be weird of someone who is currently trying to be a Water Pokemon Master is all.

– Lapras has been watching them for ‘some time’ but didn’t think to offer them a ride or a tow? Jerk.

– Okay, so Lapras’ logic with not appearing sooner was not knowing their intentions….but she can speak telepathically, which means she must be able to read minds and thus easily know their intentions immediately. Or it could’ve just asked the Jynx telepathically if she trusted these kids. Also, Lapras, it’s a bunch of kids on a wooden raft in the middle of the ocean trying to get to the North Pole to deliver Santa’s Jynx back to him. You can’t get much more wholesome that that. You’re just a jerk, Lapras; which sucks because I adore Lapras.

– It’s really nice and cool of Jynx to use her hair as an umbrella for Misty…….That sure is a unique sentence.

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 5

– I just realized that they were heading to the North Pole without any winter clothes….now that I think about it, in the next episode they head into snowy mountains without winter clothes. Delia constantly asks Ash if he has clean underwear on but never thinks to ask if he has weather-appropriate attire for his journeys?

– Santa Claus lives on a spiky ice island of death?……COOL!

– Hah, I like how the motto music sped up when Jessie and James realized how cold it was.

– Neither Jynx nor Lapras did anything to the missile or net when it was being so slowly deployed.

– How does Santa not have a second pair of boots? Also, Jynx has been gone for some time, supposedly, so how has Santa not made or otherwise obtained another pair in the meantime? Has he been walking around outside with one shoe?

– This version of Santa’s pretty lame. Not only does he have a bunch of Jynx do most of his work, but he also apparently is not all-seeing because he doesn’t realize Jessie and James are bad guys and probably naughty list recipients.

– What is up with how fast Meowth’s lips are moving when he’s telling the Jynx to load up the gifts? That’s not typical Japanese to English lip flap syncing trouble, that’s almost like they sped up the footage.

– I’m realizing now that, even accepting the silliness of Jessie believing a Jynx is Santa, why is she still insisting SantaJynx is male? She keeps using male pronouns, but not only is Jynx clearly female-based, but her species is 100% female.

– I’m surprised Jessie was so emotionally impacted by Jynx stealing her doll…the one she broke in a fit of unjustified rage and didn’t react much when it happened.

– Okay, wait, wait, time out. Jessie broke her doll, Jynx came to deliver presents….didn’t do that, grabbed her doll off the floor and took it, ran off to get it fixed, but couldn’t return it for ten years because Jessie didn’t believe in Santa anymore after that?

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 6

First of all;

Santa: “There, you see? I knew my Jynx would never steal anything.” She took someone’s property from their house and didn’t return it. That’s stealing.

Second of all;

Santa: “I repaired it in my sleigh….” Wait, that means you repaired it right then and there….Why wouldn’t you just instantly give it back then?

Third;

Santa: “We tried to go back, but you didn’t believe in me anymore, and I’m powerless to go where hearts are closed.” Powerless to go where hearts are closed….that’s a new one. And a stupid one.

If you repaired it in the sleigh, that means Jessie instantly stopped believing in you when Jynx went up the chimney. That’s a bit extreme.

She never stopped believing in Santa Claus anyway. If she did, she wouldn’t be in the North Pole right now. She just mistakenly believed Jynx was Santa.

Does this mean Santa can’t enter most houses? Because most parents don’t believe in Santa, and many older kids don’t either. If he can’t enter the home of non-believers entirely, his trip must be much shorter than we think.

Even if all of that was true, why take the doll with you? Why not put it on her windowsill or, oh I dunno, send your non-Santa-and-thus-not-restricted-by-the-belief-thing back down the chimney to return what she stole?

– Oh my God, Ash, why would you have Charmander burn the ropes and give you all third degree burns when you could have just had him untie you? Come to think of it, you must have a decent amount of movement capability if you could find, grab and send out Charmander’s Pokeball….

– Yes, Charmander, Fire Spin the thing that currently holds all of the presents for all of the little girls and boys of the world. I hope they asked Santa for asbestos….

– I get that Team Rocket’s Pokemon are perfectly fine following the orders of either Jessie or James, but why does Jessie have Weezing’s Pokeball?

– Also, Team Rocket has a point – Ash just helped by thawing them out after Lapras froze them. Why would he even consider doing that?

– If these Jynx all know Psywave, then they’ve all been given the TM to learn it. I’d think another good TM to give them would be Teleport so it would make deliveries essentially instantaneous. You wouldn’t even need the sleigh and none of your Jynx would ever get lost.

– I should question the flying Rapidash, but I moreso want to comment on Santa saying ‘No reindeer.’ Oh, Santa, just wait a gen.

– That snow effect is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t even look like snow. It looks like fully white ladybugs crawling on the screen in four intersecting lines. I make better snow animations than that, and that’s just sad.

– Aw it’s nice that they got presents. I hope it’s winter clothes because some of you have to be losing some appendages at this point.

– Pikachu getting a gift is really cute and nice, but I really hope Santa has gifts for all of their Pokemon, otherwise this little note is actually quite unfair and more blatant favoritism – and this time not even from Ash!

AVAHS - Holiday Hi-Jynx 7

————————————

I’ve always remembered this episode as being really weird, really confusing and just strange, but I guess it’s not a particularly terrible Christmas special. There are so many other better holiday Pokemon specials out there that I certainly wouldn’t place this at the top tier of your Christmas must-watch list, but it’s alright.

Amid all of the controversy and other messes this episode was wrapped up in, you’d hope this episode would be one worth waiting for, but it’s really not. I still think it’s really weird, really confusing and just strange. There are so many questionable writing choices made in this episode, both Japanese and English, that it’s actually somewhat impressive what a massive tangle of nonsensical weird they made out of a Christmas special.

Jynx’s mere existence may be enough to put some people off of this episode, especially if your brain runs a little wild with the implications like mine did. I really hope I’m just reading too far into things again. Otherwise, it’s an okay-ish watch around the holidays. Nearly any other entry in the ‘Pikachu’s Winter Vacation’ series would be a better alternative, though.


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Dissecting the Disquels: Leroy and Stitch (2006) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: After reforming all of the other 625 experiments and finding where they belong, Lilo, Stitch, Jumba and Pleakley are all honored by the Galactic Alliance. Jumba’s access to his old lab is restored, Pleakley has been named a professor at the Galactic Community College as an expert in earth studies, Stitch has been given the rank of captain and has access to a brand new massive spaceship called the BRB and Lilo has been named ambassador of earth.

Trouble is, this means Jumba, Pleakley and Stitch will be staying in space while Lilo goes back home to earth. They feel guilted into staying with Lilo, but eventually Lilo encourages them all to go, realizing that their true place is in space.

Jumba wastes no time taking advantage of his old lab – getting to work immediately on a new experiment. Dr. Hamsterviel, freed from prison by Gantu, orders him to design it the way he wants it: almost exactly like Stitch, but better and more evil. He names the new creation…..Leroy. With an army of cloned Leroys at his disposal and Pleakley, Jumba and Stitch out of commission, Hamsterviel plans to take over the galaxy and destroy all 625 of Stitch’s cousins.

Breakdown: I couldn’t even get through the first fifteen minutes of the movie without needing to jump on my computer and start writing about this because, goddamn, rant mode was activated in record time.

It should be noted that this movie is not technically a Disquel…really. Lilo and Stitch The Series got a movie series finale. I guess the movies do link together fine without the series, but you’d definitely be left wondering about all of the other experiments, who they are, what they do and what their homes were – that’s pretty important.

Speaking of which, we never do get to spend adequate time with all 625 experiments in the series – far from it in fact. Given that the series was made in the time of Disney’s 65 episode rule, the show was ended long before it ever got a chance to showcase all of them. Kinda makes you wonder why they’d slap that premise onto a show that they knew would never get enough episodes to go through every experiment.

But that’s not what I want to focus on right now. I want to focus on the foundation of this plot. Jumba, Pleakley and Stitch are all jazzed to return to space when given these amazing opportunities, but they feel guilty when Lilo looks sad that they’ll leave, so they agree to stay. They’re miserable back on earth, basically spending their days dreaming of what they could have had, so Lilo makes the very mature and adult decision to let them go for the sake of their happiness.

Pleakley and Jumba are….well, assholes about it. They’re jumping for joy, they give zero shits about Lilo as they’re packing and Jumba even throws the consoling words Nani gave her earlier back in her face saying they don’t make sense. It’s not until Lilo gives them parting gifts do they show a modicum of caring about their departure. They don’t even give her a way of contacting them – Later, Lilo has to ask 625, who is properly named to Reuben here, to use the video phone in Gantu’s ship.

Leroy and Stitch 1

Stitch is more visibly upset, but he’s still making the choice to go. And Stitch is the reason my rant switch got flipped.

The whole reason Lilo and Stitch were given the task of finding proper homes for the other experiments and reforming them is because Lilo was able to do that with Stitch (And Sparky, but Stitch was the starter.)

His home was with Lilo. He said as much at the end of the first movie. His one true home is back on earth. So why is he so enticed to live in space without Lilo now?

He’s not excited to go back to space because of some fancy captain title and fighting bad guys – he just wants to pilot the shiny new spaceship they gave him. The entire time that he’s sulking about not choosing to go to space, he’s making a BRB out of pans and pipes and playing with it and looking at the hologram of the ship. He’s very clearly just enamored with the damn ship.

He cares more about the shiny spaceship than staying with his family on earth. Congrats, Stitch! You’ve joined Jumba and Pleakley in assholeland.

And what was that saying?…Uhm….They said it in the first movie….Errr, it was something like uhm….Oh yeah, yeah. Ohana means ‘family’ and family means ‘Nobody gets left behind.’ I understand that it’s healthy to let go of people and part ways if you believe doing so is for their betterment. Lilo was even ready to do that in the first movie (“I remember everyone that leaves.”)

That’s why I was okay with the idea of Jumba and Pleakley leaving, though they could have been less rude about it. Jumba belongs in space in his lab (though, considering his past crimes and the fact that he talked about all of the exciting EVIL work he could do in his old lab at the friggin’ ceremony where his access was restored, he shouldn’t be getting anything. And, whatdya know, the first thing he does when he gets his lab back is start creating a new evil experiment…) and Pleakley…should….maybe be an earth professor. He’d be happy doing it anyway and he has a passion for it.

However, despite having the opportunity to do good as a space captain, is piloting a ship and commanding a crew really something Stitch would be adept at? He is good at flying, but moreso in a solo fashion. Also, I must reiterate that he didn’t seem to give a flying fork about the captain job or fighting space crime – He. Just. Wanted. The. Shiny. Ship.

Leroy and Stitch 2

The main conflict of the movie is intertwined with this plot for the most part. Jumba makes a new experiment the instant he gets back to his lab, because of course he does. He may have helped Lilo and Stitch capture the other experiments and softened up a bit, but he has always stayed pretty consistent in wanting to be evil. Perhaps to take the blame off of Jumba, Hamsterviel and Gantu burst in demanding that he make the new experiment an evil and better version of Stitch – which seems pointless because, by all means, that seems like what Jumba was planning anyway.

If you follow the TV series, and I actually did this time, you’ll probably notice that this idea isn’t really new. You can guess as much by the fact that Leroy’s number is 629 not 627 (following Stitch’s 626)

Experiment 627, who was never reformed or named, was created as a better and more troublesome version of Stitch to knock Stitch down a peg after he had gotten cocky about his ability to find and reform his cousins. Even though he’s clearly a different design than Leroy, he’s pretty close. They’re both red, have more slanted eyes and are basically just slightly different versions of Stitch. Leroy looks closer to Stitch, has different ears and is a deeper color red – also 627 has a cone-head kinda going on. As I mentioned, 627 couldn’t be reformed (which was supposedly a purposeful programming choice of Jumba because he wants actual evil experiments) so he was dehydrated and kept in his pod form.

We don’t know what 628 was. He was only shown in pod form and foreshadowed shortly after 627’s defeat. I think we can assume, considering Leroy is also an ‘improved’ version of Stitch that 628 was another ‘improved’ version of Stitch that we simply never saw.

It’s just a shame because they could have used this opportunity to make a brand new experiment that was creative, innovative and more intimidating, but nope. It’s just another recolored Stitch…..Well, he did make hundreds of clones of him, which made for a pretty good army v. army finale, so I suppose that’s something.

Here’s another something – I really loved watching Reuben and Lilo team up. This is pretty much the first and only time we see Reuben actually utilize his powers. He’s always had all of the same powers that Stitch had, but he never used most of them out of laziness. He’d mostly just make sandwiches all day.

However, Lilo recognizes his potential and bonds with him, and he finally uses his powers – quite impressively, I might add. I really enjoyed watching him and Lilo just hang out as well. When he put his hand on Lilo’s shoulder when Hamsterviel told her that Stitch was launched into a black hole, it was very touching. I wish we could’ve seen them interact more over the course of the series, with Reuben being an active good guy.

Leroy and Stitch 3

Most people who watched the series probably wanted to see all of the 626 experiments being used in some way, and, congrats, you (pretty much) do! Even though it’s unreasonable to see all of the experiments in action, not enough time or budget, honestly, you still get to see a large amount of the experiments on screen at once and most of them get a time to shine during the finale.

Even though the overall galactic takeover plot was a bit too rushed for my tastes, the ending battle is extremely well done with plenty of action and comedic moments. It’s such an interesting battle because of all of the various powers of the experiments come into play. It’s also understandable that they get overwhelmed ultimately because even though there are 626 of them, there are just as many if not more Leroys, and Leroy was designed to be even more powerful than Stitch.

The ending of the battle might seem goofy to some people, but I actually found it to be very fitting and a little touching. Jumba thought ahead when he was creating Leroy and installed an emergency shut off program within Leroy. He used Lilo’s gift, an Elvis record, as the trigger. The song he chose was Aloha oe. Lilo, Stitch and Reuben sing it to shut off the Leroys, but there’s a moment where they all sing the part ‘Until we meet again’ straight to the camera.

It was then that I remembered that not only is Leroy and Stitch the end of the TV series, it’s also the ending of the main franchise. Lilo and Stitch would never have any animated features again to date. Stitch has starred in a couple of anime since then, but Lilo is not with him, instead having adventures with other girls while Lilo has aged and departed from him. (I might talk about those series in the future, but I never had much of an interest in them, to be honest.)

When they sing that part of the song to the camera, they’re telling the audience ‘Farewell to thee. Until we meet again.’ which made me rather sad, especially considering that part of the moral of this movie was learning to accept when you need to say goodbye. Even though the series has technically been ended for well over ten years, there’s still a pang of sadness that they’re saying ‘Until we meet again’ when, as far as I know, we won’t….

Leroy and Stitch 4

Lilo and the others are honored by the Galactic Council again, but this time Stitch realizes his true place of belonging is with Lilo and relinquishes his position as captain. Gantu….somehow gets offered the position.

To his credit, Gantu did help Lilo and the others at the end, but he’s still been an enemy and Hamsterviel’s right-hand man this entire series and two movies (Three if you count the first, but he was technically just doing his job.) In fact, if it wasn’t for Gantu breaking Hamsterviel out of prison, none of this would have happened. Does the Council just not care about past actions? I can understand giving Reuben a pass, he was too lazy to be considered a criminal, but Gantu not only being let off without penalty but also getting a captain position? Are you daft?

Reuben is named Gantu’s galley officer, and Jumba and Pleakley also relinquish their lab and professor position respectively and choose to go back to Hawaii with Lilo – this time happily. Lilo and the others return to Hawaii, happy with their ohana being whole once again.

…..But Mertle’s still a bitch. Yeah, if there’s one thing that’s always been really consistent in this series it’s been Mertle’s constant bratty behavior. She’s not too prevalent in this movie, thank god, but the brief moments she is on screen, she’s being her typically bitchy self.

When Lilo’s having a low moment, right after Stitch and the others leave, Mertle kicks her when she’s down telling her she’s weird and that Stitch probably ran off because of it. She’s always been unreasonably focused on bullying Lilo, to the point where she blames her for everything, and if there’s one thing I’m thankful for with this series ending it’s that I’ll never have to see this little shit stain’s face or hear her awful voice ever again.

However, that doesn’t stop them from trying to wrap up her character in a more even light. They hint that Mertle’s father either abandoned them or is divorced from her mother, which is weird because she talked about him in a good light in Stitch has a Glitch, and even advertised his store. Then, at the end, she says she still thinks Lilo is weird, but Gigi, her pet dog who is also an experiment, wants to be with her ohana, so she kinda just barges in on their group photo at the end, which is not in the least bit earned….

Leroy and Stitch 5

For a series that is mostly based on taking evil beings and reforming them, the writers really do a crap job at doing that when it comes to any non-experiment character. Jumba’s probably the best example, but he never paid for his crimes and he’s still a decent degree of evil. Gantu never pays for his crimes, either, and now Mertle gets no comeuppance. We’re just meant to sympathize with her because they wedged in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-and-is-questionably-canon-whatever-they’re-implying-here story about her dad being gone somehow.

I’m sorry – no. Lilo has NO parents and an overworked big sister guardian as well as a horrible bully who has barely ever said a positive word to anyone, even her mostly equally bitchy friends. My sympathy well for Mertle is so bottomed out that I’ve broken through the bottom and am making my way to the center of the earth.

As an added bonus to the end credits, they include a scrolling list of every single experiment. As I mentioned, obviously not all of these experiments were seen in this movie. However, I do really appreciate that the writers bothered to come up with names and (likely) powers for each experiment and shared them with the audience before the series came to a conclusion. It shows that they truly cared about both their product and their fans enough to complete the set, even if we only have names for a good chunk of them. You can find a list of every experiment here.

Bottomline: Leroy and Stitch is actually a pretty good movie and a great way to the end the series. The final battle adds a great touch of epicness, and I loved mostly everyone’s interactions with each other, particularly, oddly enough, Lilo and Reuben. The writing is very snappy and there are some really great jokes in here.

There is a depressing lack of Lilo and Stitch in this Lilo and Stitch movie, though, to be honest. They’re together for the first twenty minutes and don’t reunite until the last twenty minutes in this hour and fifteen minute long movie.

The pacing is fairly rushed in the Hamsterviel department, but I’m willing to overlook that. They did get a little too lazy with the redemption arcs for some of the characters with Mertle’s being ridiculously lazy, if you can even say she got redemption and if you can even call that an ‘arc.’ Also, there’s the obvious rant fodder at the start of the movie. I knew they’d stay with her in the end, but the fact remains that Jumba and Pleakley were jerks to her about leaving and Stitch left Lilo for a ship…..

The animation was really good, though again not really up to the original movie’s standards. That’s to be expected since this is basically designed as a TV movie.

Their use of music this time around was good, but not a lot that was new. We got the TV series theme song, Aloha e, Komo Mai, a bunch of Elvis songs, which is the franchise’s trademark, and the Hawaii Five-O theme song for some reason. I particularly liked their use of I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry. It was a great implementation of Jumba’s record gift and made for a nice montage of everyone after they departed for space.

Aloha, Lilo and Stitch. Hopefully, we’ll meet again.

Recommended Audience: I guess you can imply that some of the Leroy clones maybe died in the battle, and there’s a fair amount of violence, but it’s obviously not severe or graphic. These are the same people who couldn’t get up the balls to show Lilo with a scratch on her face. 5+


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AVAHS – Pepper Ann: A Kosher Christmas Review

AVAHS - Pepper Ann A Kosher Christmas

Plot: Pepper Ann is lucky enough to get to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas every year – Hanukkah with her mother, and Christmas with her father. She loves them both, but becomes very stressed when she believes her parents will force her to choose between the two holidays.

Breakdown: Pepper Ann is what you’d get if you mixed As Told By Ginger with Lizzie McGuire and maybe threw in some Doug. Despite watching Pepper Ann quite a bit when I was younger, I’d struggle to think of any episodes I remembered. I always liked watching Pepper Ann so I’m not sure why its stories haven’t really stuck with me over time.

Maybe it’s just because Pepper Ann as a character can be a little on the annoying side because of how self-centered she tends to be, or maybe the stories were rarely all that interestin,g or maybe the extended cast didn’t lend itself all too well to standing out among a slue of objectively better casts. No matter the reason, there’s always one reason to go back to Pepper Ann – it’s catchy as hell theme song.

I know I had to have seen this episode back when it first aired, but I honestly don’t remember it.

But, hey, thank god I finally found another special to cover that has Hanukkah in it. And Kwanzaa’s mentioned! So….yay!

Pepper Ann has it pretty good. She is able to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas since her (divorced) parents each celebrate one holiday. However, after she bungles the school holiday diversity play when trying to play representatives of both Christmas and Hanukkah, she believes she overhears her parents saying she needs to choose between the two holidays with Christmas day being the deadline.

AVAHS - Pepper Ann A Kosher Christmas1

She struggles with the decision though never thinks to actually ask either of her parents about it directly. Each holiday has so many good things about them that she ultimately can’t choose.

She tells her parents as much, and, of course, they reveal that they were never going to make her choose between Hanukkah and Christmas. They were actually talking about Pepper Ann’s grandma choosing a doctor because they didn’t know which one to call when she was hyperventilating at Pepper Ann’s play due to a mouse.

Thus nothing was ever at risk and nothing really changed. Pepper Ann did learn a lesson about the holidays being about family, but…it’s not like she never knew this part. Family was near the top of her lists for both holidays as she was trying to weigh their benefits against each other. In fact, when we see her eating a holiday meal with her extended family, in the midst of them squabbling and complaining about ailments, she gives a small smile and writes family down on her list in that moment, so she even realizes that family is a benefit of the holiday even when they’re behaving like that.

Meeting a few homeless people was a part of her decision, but don’t be fooled – there’s much less weight to that part than would be given in any of the aforementioned shows that I said seemed like they were inspirations for Pepper Ann.

Pepper Ann has been pestering her friends all episode to help her choose, and when Milo halts her for a second to introduce the homeless men at the soup kitchen and explain that they lost their jobs, she tucks the list away and leaves……then it’s right back to choosing.

Speaking of pestering, Pepper Ann is pestering her friends for the entirety of this episode. Pestering Nicky and Milo to run lines with her after she insists on playing both Christmas and Hanukkah in the holiday diversity play (Not only is it unfair to play two parts, but 1) How were Christmas and Hanukkah not taken before she was able to ask? All the kids chimed in to ask for a holiday, and no one said either of the two most popular winter holidays that entire time. 2) It’s REALLY unfair to have one person play the two most popular holidays.) Pestering Nicky and Milo to help her choose between Christmas and Hanukkah several times. They have their own holiday problems, but Pepper Ann always forcibly redirects the conversation back to her when they try to discuss anything else.

Speaking of Nicky and Milo, their plots are a little more interesting than Pepper Ann’s. Nicky is a very generous person, and she takes it upon herself to spend her holidays thinking more of others than herself. She’s giving up her presents for the sake of giving them to the less fortunate, she’s gathering cans for the soup kitchen, she donated her lamps to charity, she’s volunteering at the soup kitchen etc. Her parents are also donating some of her stuff without her permission and any time anyone sends her a gift, it’s a notification that a donation has been made in her name to a charity.

AVAHS - Pepper Ann A Kosher Christmas2

However, we slowly start see her cracking with how overly generous she’s being, especially with Pepper Ann squawking in her ear about the struggle of choosing between two holidays.

It’s pretty interesting because most people want to make a charitable effort, especially around the holidays, but it’s hard to admit when you’ve gone overboard because you’re worried you’ll come off as selfish. The resolution to this is convoluted, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Milo’s plot is that he was planning on going to Hawaii to see his dad for Christmas, but was unable to go, so now he’s spending the holidays working as a delivery elf for his mom and step-dad’s muffin basket business. He’s very bummed about not being able to go to Hawaii and even more about needing to do this degrading job, but he never loses his Milo attitude in that he’s very open and humble.

He instantly makes friends with, hangs out with and plays games with some homeless men from the soup kitchen.

All three of these plots are more fully ‘resolved’ when, out of the blue, a news station gifts Milo a free trip to Hawaii for spending Christmas at the soup kitchen, which is just mind-blowingly ridiculous for several reasons.

1) He DIDN’T spend all day at the soup kitchen. He was making a delivery to Nicky and stopped to take a break. He at least had to have been spending all morning making deliveries and I can’t imagine he stayed too much longer. Even if he did, he would’ve been playing games with the homeless men not doling out soup.

2) It’s pointed out, but how did they not realize Nicky was actually spending all day there? Milo does give his trip to her for her work, but how lazy was the reporter to not notice this?

3) A free trip to Hawaii for going to a soup kitchen on Christmas? You might want to notify thousands of other people about that offer.

4) Speaking of which, when the gift gets passed back to Milo and Milo calls Nicky family, the news anchor not only extends the invitation to both of them since they’re family, but she further extends it to Pepper Ann who butted in to declare that she was also family. And then they FURTHER extend that to each of their extended family members. What is this news station thinking? Was the news anchor fired for this? That trip must’ve cost a fortune.

5) Pepper Ann didn’t deserve that trip. It’s nice that she went, but Milo had justification for going and Nicky earned it. Pepper Ann had a very superficial conflict in this episode, so allowing her to go to Hawaii too just seemed a little unfair.

But, hey, all of their family gets to go too so I guess it’s not too bad.

AVAHS - Pepper Ann A Kosher Christmas3

…..However…

6) How insulting must it be to be one of the people in that soup kitchen to hear that someone won a super expensive trip to Hawaii with around 20+ guests for spending ONE DAY in the soup kitchen when these people are, ya know, homeless. With the money used to finance that trip, imagine what could have been done for the soup kitchen or another charity.

I really liked how they (literally) balanced Christmas and Hanukkah here. Neither holiday is ever once given more weight than the other and that’s sooo refreshing considering how some other Proud Family specials that shall not be named failed so miserably in doing that with Kwanzaa. If there’s any good Pepper Ann’s list actually did it’s in highlighting all of the goodness in both holidays equally. We got to see her playing with the dreidel, eating latkes and remembering the story of the miracle of Hanukkah, and then we’d see her chopping down a Christmas tree and singing carols. It’s very well done.

They dinged Hanukkah a couple of times by showing that Pepper Ann hates blood pudding and didn’t care for getting socks as a present, but I don’t think that’s too bad. It’s either a preference or typical kid stuff (I love getting socks as gifts now. I even ask for them. Socks are awesome)

As a holiday special, I think this one’s just okay. It won’t give you the warm fuzzies, and it’s not particularly funny, plus Pepper Ann’s a bit too self-involved and abrasive in this episode, but it was an enjoyable ride and something I’d recommend for people who celebrate either holiday or both.


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One Piece Episode 4 Sub/Dub Comparison: Luffy’s Past – Enter Red-Haired Shanks

One Piece Ep 4 SDC Screen 36

Plot: After Luffy almost loses his precious straw hat, we’re told the story of how he obtained it. As a child, Luffy befriended a great band of pirates lead by the legendary Shanks. After being saved from a sea monster by Shanks, causing Shanks to lose his arm in the process, Shanks gives Luffy his straw hat with the promise that he’ll return the hat to him on the day that he indeed becomes a great pirate.

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In the original, you hear the pirates who were sunk by Nami yelling at her that they’ll get her for what she did to them before the title screen. In the dub, it’s silence and the title screen immediately comes up…..If they didn’t return later in the episode, I’d think 4Kids killed them off right there.

Title Card Change:

Subbed:

Dubbed:

Also, I shouldn’t have to tell you that all that pirate talk (Especially about swag and….whatever swigger means) plus the pirate puns when they get into her boat are dub-only.

They edit out some shots of the pirates drinking.

A bottle on the bar is painted away.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

They erased the word “Anchor” from Luffy’s shirt…..*sigh* 4Kids, that is a word that you would literally find in a book aimed at toddlers learning how to read. In addition, there’s a picture of an anchor right behind the word.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

They edit out a shot of Benn Beckman after Luffy asks Shanks to take him with him next time he goes on a journey. This is likely because he’s smoking.

They edit out the word ‘Yassopp’ (No idea why it’s misspelled) on Yasopp’s headband and later erase a bottle from his table.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

They edit out a shot of Makino, the woman who owns the bar, watching the pirates talk to Luffy as she dries a glass.

Also, in the original the pirates are laughing at Luffy after taking the glass of juice because a real adult/pirate wouldn’t drink juice, he’d drink alcohol like the rest of them. In the dub, they make it out like the real reason that this proves he isn’t an adult/pirate is because it’s APPLE juice and a real pirate/adult wouldn’t drink APPLE juice. Yeah! Real adults drink grape juice!

Bottle:

Subbed:

Dubbed:

Another shot of Benn is edited out probably due to his cigar (Is that a cigar, technically?)

In the original, the bandits want ten gallons of beer. In the dub, 4Kids actually decides to play around mentioning beer instead of saying it’s juice or something. They say they want “strong stuff.”

I give 4Kids semi-points for that, but in typical 4Kids fashion, they lose it immediately in the next scene. The color of the bottle that Shanks gives the bandit leader is changed from purple to orange…Why? I have no….friggin….clue. If anything it just makes it look like the beer they were so careful to avoid mentioning instead of whatever it was supposed to be. (Maybe wine? I can’t think of any other bottled drink that would be in a purple bottle and the label’s blank in both versions.)

Subbed:

Dubbed:

In the original, the leader of the bandits destroys the bar top with his sword and says that since they love cleaning up so much that they’ll enjoy what he did. He then says that, since there’s no beer there, that they’re wasting their time and they leave while calling them cowards. In the dub, well, if that bandit had stats like a trading card, he’d be listing them off. I’d say he’s bragging, but he really just seems like he’s listing off all of the stuff he’s done like he’s reading it from an info card.

They edit out another shot of Makino after Luffy eats the Gum Gum fruit.

They edit out a shot of the outside of the bar after Luffy eats the Gum Gum Fruit.

More Bottles removed.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

After we see Makino getting the mayor, there’s a series of still screens explaining what had happened with Luffy and the bandits. (Flashback within a flashback) It basically shows the bandits making fun of Shanks and his crew for not fighting back earlier in the bar. In the dub, they cut out the stills and go straight to Luffy yelling at them to stop making fun of Shanks.

In the original, the mayor gets on his hands and knees and begs for Luffy’s life. In the dub, while the dialogue is kept mostly the same, they don’t show the mayor getting on his hands and knees.

Okay, this is just sad. We have another instance of a gun, this time being pointed at Shanks’ head. So what do they do? Erase it? Make it some water gun?

Nope.

Even better.

They make it a CORK GUN! Yeah, you know, one of those old toy guns that has a cork in the end of the barrel and when you pull the trigger or push the stick thing the cork pops out and makes a POP noise? And the cork has a string on it to ensure that you don’t lose it when you use it? How could that possibly hurt him, 4Kids? HOW? It’d be slightly annoying to be hit by that. The end. It’s almost comical that 4Kids actually believes this is intimidating.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

In the original, the cork gun thing is made even funnier because Shanks says that pistols aren’t toys before one of his crew shoots the bandit in the head. Speaking of which, OH MY! Shooting someone in the head?! How will 4Kids tackle this?!

Well, Shanks tells the bandit that the weapon, whatever it’s supposed to be, misfires at such close range….uhh, how? Weapons don’t really misfire because they’re close, they misfire due to mechanical issues or stuff plugging up the barrel. Considering the edit makes it out to be a cork gun, I guess he’s not wrong. If you press a cork gun to something and try to pull the trigger, the cork might still come out due to the pressure, but it wouldn’t do as much because it doesn’t have the room to eject with full force.

Now about that head shooting. Well, first off, the gun that Shanks’ crew member had is changed to a bright orange color to indicate that it’s not real, I suppose. But the bandit still falls over. How to tackle that? Well, Shanks says that when he wakes up (from his mortal head wound) to tell him that it was a cap gun……..

A….cap gun….

A.

Cap.

Gun.

ALL CAP GUNS DO IS MAKE NOISE AND SMOKE! They don’t even produce any reasonable burst of air! The cork gun is a more legitimate weapon than a cap gun because at least it has a projectile! I can’t even say maybe they’re making off like the smoke is knock-out gas or something because the gun doesn’t really produce any smoke. Just BLAM and the bandit falls over.

Maybe, considering Shanks said that those weapons deliver quite a scare, we’re meant to believe that the bandit was so scared from the noise that he passed out? That’s quite the pill to swallow, 4Kids.

Also, 4Kids, are you friggin’ high!? You just told kids that it’s okay to shoot each other in the head because they’ll just get knocked out! If anything, yes, I’m gonna say it, the original version is actually more kid-friendly than what 4Kids just showed. At least it says that guns aren’t toys and they can result in death. 4Kids basically said that all guns are toys and they just knock you out. What the hell is wrong with you people?! 4Kids makes some pretty stupid moves, but this one actually pisses me off.

Subbed:

Dubbed: 

Oh and, cherry on top, in the dub, after the guy gets ‘knocked out’ one of the bandits says that he was their ride home. Hurr hurr.

After one of Shanks’ crew beats the bandits with his rifle, he points it at the leader. In the dub, despite the fact that the rifle is left unedited in the previous scenes, the rifle is painted away when he points it at the leader which results in his left arm being mysteriously missing.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

So….guns….bad.…

Alcohol….bad…

Cleavage lines….bad.…

Japan in any way, shape or form……bad……

Shot of Shanks after he just got his arm bitten off: A-OKAY!

Granted it’s not like it’s pouring blood, which it honestly should be, and you can’t see the stump, but they still acknowledged and showed that he did indeed get his arm ripped off by a sea monster and didn’t change the shot at all. They didn’t even paint away the blood-ish tint on the ripped sleeve. I’m so confused.

Also, can I just point out that dub Luffy’s crying is nowhere near the emotional impact of original Luffy crying? Original Luffy is bawling and I mean bawling after he sees Shanks in the water. Dub Luffy’s crying like he dropped his ice cream.

Dub Buggy Pirate: “Or you’ll be getting’ a knock-knock on the head you won’t soon forget!”

Hey 4Kids, knock-knock!

4Kids – Who’s there?

Bad dialogue!

4Kids – Bad dialogue who?

Go to hell! 😀

In the dub, the episode cuts off before the smoke from Luffy’s landing clears…like it’s some cliffhanger. We know who it is…Heck, if the previous scenes weren’t a big enough clue, the episode shows closeups of him falling from the sky.

What, are we wondering if Luffy’s still alive after that? He’s a rubber man! I’m pretty sure he can survive any fall. In the original, we see Luffy in the clearing dust, see him standing up and saying “Where’d that cannonball come from? Well, you don’t see that every day!” and we close in on Nami’s face before we see the TO BE CONTINUED screen which is also edited away.

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This episode was great. I loved the backstory on Luffy, Shanks is a fantastic character that I really love, there was plenty of action and emotional moments to keep things interesting, and I actually like the fact that Luffy eating the Gum Gum fruit isn’t a bigger event. He just mistook it for regular food and ate it. That’s definitely a ‘Luffy’ thing to do.

Dub-wise, holy crap, this is a nightmare. I will give them props for leaving in Shanks’ de-arming, but that’s about it. Everything else is either ruined at best and demolished at most.

Next episode, it’s the debut of Buggy. Luffy tries to get Nami to be the navigator for his ship, but Nami’s got enough on her plate trying to trick Buggy into letting her be part of his crew for the sake of getting a map to the Grand Line.


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