Plot: The world is filled with mythical beasts who try to live normal lives among humans who aren’t aware of their existence. Each part of the world is protected by a dragon who is tasked with protecting these creatures and maintaining their secrecy. Jake Long, a reckless but determined teenager, is a dragon in training with New York City, and ultimately the United States as his main domain. His grandfather, the previous American Dragon, is getting too old to do the job, and is training Jake to pass on his title and responsibilities to him. However, Jake seems to want all of the fun and action with as little work as possible.
Jake comes from a long line of dragons, but it is purely on his mother’s side. His mother does not possess the ability to transform into a dragon, but his little sister, Haley, does. She, however, is not tasked with protecting the country/city. She merely has to keep her powers a secret. Speaking of which, Jake’s father is completely unaware that he married into a family of dragons, so they have to keep their secret even when they’re in the house.
As Jake is out training with his grandpa and his magical talking gruff bulldog, Fu, they find signs that the Huntsman, a man that leads a group of hunters who target mythological beings, specifically dragons, has been in the area. His target tonight? Unicorns.
Grandpa sends Jake out to fight the Huntsman on his own, and while Jake screws up his first attack, he does succeed in scaring the Unicorns into running away. The Huntsman targets Jake, who is only half transformed at the time, and as he manages to transform entirely, he’s knocked out by the Huntsman’s protege, Huntsgirl. As the Huntsman calls for Huntsgirl to finish Jake off, Grandpa intercedes and rescues him, prompting both Huntsman and Huntsgirl to retreat. Seeing his extreme difficulty in even keeping up his transformation in battle and his previous failures in battle, Grandpa decides to amp up Jake’s training.
After school the next day, Jake is forced to blow off skateboarding with his friends, Trixie and Spud, to go train. Grandpa’s training for the day turns out to be a lot of chores that incorporate certain aspects of Jake’s dragon-ness such as grasping a toilet brush with his dragon tongue to clean the toilet and sweeping with his tail.
After getting fed up with Grandpa’s weird training, Jake decides to skip training for the day and go with his friends to the new skate park. As Grandpa and Fu wait for Jake, the Huntsman and Huntsgirl show up to capture Grandpa. He tries to fend them off, but ends up falling into a trap.
Fu witnesses this and runs off to find Jake. After Fu finds him, he tries to convince him to find help, but Jake insists that he save Grandpa on his own since it was his fault that he was captured in the first place. Jake arrives and starts fighting the two, and he finally sees the benefit in his odd dragon training when Grandpa directs him to fight using actions that he learned in his chores. Jake and a freed Grandpa cause Huntsman and Huntsgirl to retreat yet again and Jake apologizes to Grandpa for blowing off training and putting him in danger. As they return home, Jake promises to take his dragon training more seriously from now on.
– Dragons can fart fire. I didn’t need to know that.
– Apparently Grandpa sounds like a lion when he uses his dragon breath.
– This isn’t really relevant enough to include in the plot synopsis, but Jake also has a teacher, Mr. Rotwood, who is obsessed with magical creatures and teaches mythology class….Yeah apparently there’s Mythology class in high school now. If anyone has been lucky enough to have mythology class in high school, I hate you.
Getting back to Rotwood, though, he’s basically a less crazy Mr. Crocker (Fairly Oddparents). He believes that these mythological creatures exist, and he’s right, but everyone thinks he’s nuts for having such a strong belief in them. Unlike Crocker, though, I don’t believe he’s ever made out to be a real threat. For the most part, his scenes are relegated to either harassing Jake in class and going on tangents about mythological creatures to eventually trying to out Jake as a dragon.
– Another thing I couldn’t really squeak into the plot synopsis was Rose’s role. Jake has a crush on a girl named Rose, who is seemingly perfect in every way. She is secretly the Huntsgirl, though this secret is not kept a secret from the audience due to the dragon birthmark connection. Jake’s relationship with Rose and the big secret that Jake is the American Dragon while Rose is Huntsgirl is a big overarching part of the series.
– Who exactly screamed when Jake shot off that fireball in the house? Haley? His mom? No matter who it was, burning someone with fire kinda warrants an apology, Jake.
– I find it a little stupid that Grandpa fell for Huntsgirl’s trick. I mean, as a serpentine dragon, surely enemies have tried to force him into tangling himself up before. If he’s such an experienced master, why would he have fallen for something so obvious?
– Huntsman and Huntsgirl know grandpa’s human form and that he’s a dragon. Isn’t that….really bad? I mean, surely the Hunts Clan is knowledgeable enough in dragons to know that the trait is carried through blood. If they know who grandpa is, it’d be incredibly easy to hunt down his family members, Jake included, and capture them. At the very least, Huntsgirl/Rose would know from the start that Jake is Lao Shi’s (Grandpa) grandson.
– While I’m no stranger to transformation sequences, the one for ADJL is a little…cringy? Especially the awkwardly placed 360 shot of CGI Dragon!Jake.
– Grandpa knew the exact move for blocking the magical net. Why didn’t he use it in his fight with the Huntsman? He was tangled up not completely immobile.
– Another dragon fire fart….sigh.
I did follow American Dragon Jake Long in its entirety when it was on Disney Channel back in the day, but I can’t say I followed it too strongly. While I liked the stories and loved the premise, Jake and Trixie’s mannerisms and the rap got on my nerves on more than one occasion.
As a first episode, this does its job quite well. It explains the world that they live in, the main character’s role and many of his powers just fine. It also does a good job of establishing his family dynamic and the villains. Rose’s dragon birthmark is not the most subtle way of showing that she was Huntsgirl and personally I would’ve preferred that they waited a while before revealing who she was, but it’s not that big of a deal. I suppose it was meant to create some early drama in allowing the audience to know something that the main character doesn’t.
While they also establish Jake’s friends, Trixie and Spud, just fine as well, I really never got into Trixie. I mean, at the very least, she’s not made out as an obvious love interest for the main character like most female best friend characters, but she basically acts exactly like Jake with much fewer instances of responsibility and character development. In essence, she’s annoying most of the time. Her voice is annoying in itself, but giving her gangsta speech just makes it grating.
Spud can be funny on occasion but for the most part he’s also exactly like his friends, just stupid. His slow and dimwitted manner of speech coupled with his gangsta-isms can also get annoying, but he’s the most tolerable of the group in that regard.
I’ve always had a bit of love/hate with Fu dog. On one hand, he can be really funny and he’s arguably the most unique character in the series. On the other hand, he can be really unfunny and annoying. He’s voiced by John DiMaggio, so I guess I have to side with liking him.
Jake as a character can seem really one-note. He’s a ‘gangsta’ teen who is egotistical and wants to do everything cool without putting up with a lot of work and responsibility. However, when he’s actually serious, he becomes a pretty cool character. He has plenty of flaws, but he always seems willing to accept when he’s wrong and do his best to protect others.
The story of this episode as a whole, however, is very predictable. Absolutely anyone who’s seen The Karate Kid can predict how this episode will go once they see Jake doing those chores. The episode seems to take more time in establishing necessary things about the series than the actual story of the episode….and that’s fine I guess. There is a lot to go through in first episodes, and trying to work all of it into an original pilot is very difficult. Points are still taken for going the predictable route, but still.
Next Episode, Jake tries to get a date for the dance, but when he’s unable to get human candidates, he goes for supernatural girls.