CSBS – Danny Phantom Episode 2

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Plot: Jack shows off his new invention, the Fenton Ghost Fisher, a device meant to capture ghosts, to Danny when he leaves the room briefly to go to the bathroom. Danny grabs the fisher and catches a dragon ghost. He combats the ghost for a while before knocking off the dragon’s amulet, which lands in his backpack. The dragon reverts to the form of an 18th century English girl who runs back into the Ghost Portal stating she wanted to go to the ball.

Danny, thinking the whole event is over, resumes his day. A school dance is coming up and Danny decides to ask out Paulina, the prettiest and most popular girl in school. However, he makes a fool of himself in his nervousness thanks to his ghost powers. Sam steps in to defend him, insulting Paulina in the process. As revenge and believing Sam to be his girlfriend, Paulina later accepts Danny’s invitation. She also mistakenly believes the amulet in Danny’s backpack is hers.

It’s up to Danny, Sam and Tucker to retrieve the amulet before Paulina also turns into the dragon and causes havoc at the dance.

Breakdown: This episode always annoyed me a tiny bit. While we’re amping up the stakes with the Dragon Ghost, the way that it works basically amounts to ‘bitches be crazy.’

We see the Dragon Ghost three times in this episode.

The first, the 18th century English girl reveals that she turned into the dragon because she was upset that she couldn’t go to the dance.

The second, Paulina triggers it by getting upset that they don’t have a trendy new and discontinued fleecy tee in her size.

The third is the most understandable with Sam turning into the dragon when Paulina reveals that she was only dating Danny to get revenge on Sam, believing them to be dating, and she plans on dumping him in the middle of the dance since Sam revealed that they’re not dating. While this is more admirable, it’s set up like Sam’s more upset that Paulina’s shallow (she keeps repeating ‘shallow girl!’ in dragon form) than she’s upset for Danny, who is soon to be heartbroken.

Not to mention that this makes no sense anyway. Why would Paulina think Danny’s dating Sam when he’s asking her out? I’d think if my boyfriend asked another girl out to a dance while we were dating, the relationship would be beyond over in a millisecond.

I do like the different reactions all three of them are having to this dance, though. Danny’s getting up the courage to ask his crush out to the dance, Tucker’s asking anyone with boobs and a pulse and consistently gets shot down. He somehow lands Valerie, who will become very prominent later, but Danny forces him (through possession) to dump her for Sam. She’s been badmouthing the dance the whole episode, and they only catch on right before the dance that she’s partially upset because no one’s asked her out. Danny possesses Tucker to claim Valerie canceled and to ask out Sam, and while Tucker initially protests, he changes his tune rather quickly when Sam comes out looking beautiful.

The sub-plot with Danny’s dad was insanely unnecessary, though, besides to show off Danny’s newly discovered possession capability. Lancer understands that Danny keeps dropping his pants because they, seemingly, don’t fit well (it’s really his ghost powers) and fixes the situation by giving him a belt, yet he still calls in Danny’s dad for a parent-teacher conference because this is somehow a fault of Danny’s that needs to be discussed with a parent.

Then he, of course, has to invite Possessed!Jack to be a chaperone to the dance purely to keep this plot going further and fabricate tension.

All in all, the episode’s pretty good, but there are a few major things about it that irk me. It just felt a little on the sexist side, is all.

Oh, and just because I feel I have to mention this because meme(?) this is the episode where they have that line exchange –

Sam: “Promise me you’ll keep your pants up.”

Danny: “I’ll do my best!”

I don’t know why this became a slight thing. I mean, it’s a funny-ish joke in context, but outside….is it just hurr hurr, this is kinda innuendo? I don’t really get it.

Rating: 7.5/10 Still staying at a good pace with the action and some of the story, but the mechanics of the amulet, at least the way it’s portrayed here, are a bit annoying and Jack’s subplot was entirely pointless. Also, it seems weird that they kinda poked at TuckerxSam here, yet went nowhere with it.

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Rugrats Episode 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/10

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

Parenting Fails

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

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

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

No one noticing that Chuckie had batteries.

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

Tally – 14

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

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

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

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

CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 2

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Plot: X-Middle School is undergoing the arduous test of the Satty-9, and it’s been tearing the students apart. Some protest the test’s existence, other freak out over the their performance and Ingrid, despite her certain high score, undergoes an internal struggle of the true importance of the Satty-9. So many students have skills, knowledge and creativity that simply cannot be measured in the multiple choice nightmare. When the completed tests are suddenly stolen by someone in the school mascot’s uniform, Ingrid finds herself contemplating whether it’s for the best.

Breakdown: I remember this being one of my favorite episodes when I was a kid, and I have a deeper respect for this episode now that I’ve gone through several CATs and the SATs. I never stressed much over the CATs but the SATs were a nightmare for me. Everyone crams and stresses over their grade, and a surprising amount feel like that one number score will be a defining characteristic stuck to their lives. It’s hard to have that moment of reflection where you say ‘Whatever happens, this doesn’t reflect my actual intelligence or worth as a person.’

I also appreciate that Ingrid was the one struggling with this, because typically genius characters don’t find tests to be such a big deal, no matter their weight. They seem relatively blind to the hardships and stresses of the non-geniused students around them. Ingrid sees and appreciates the various kinds of skills and talents that everyone has around her and feels bad that the test doesn’t care about intelligence or achievements in these realms, no matter how much these same students prepare for it.

Her moment of faltering was truly just one moment, but it was a pretty powerful one.

Fillmore: “The Satty-9 may be beat, but there’s a right way to fight it. Protests. Giant banners. Editorials. Hard jams with even harder rhymes. Going the other way’s a sucker move. We have a job. We don’t make the rules.”

Ingrid: “I only forgot that for a second.”

Fillmore: “But Ingrid….you forgot that.”

I’ll also give this episode props because I honestly didn’t catch on to who the perp was. Like so many instances, I figured it was a person who only ended up being the second-to-last suspect. And I will admit, it was pretty clever the way they set it up. We even get some pretty funny jokes and references. I honestly don’t remember Fillmore ever including a Pokemon reference, but there it was.

This episode was also a nice build on Fillmore and Ingrid’s friendship. Fillmore doesn’t chew Ingrid out for what she did. He understands her feelings and leads her to a place where she’ll learn the lesson on her own. Plus, that scooter and helmet are awesome. Damn, I wish I had a Razor scooter when I was a kid. Stupid kids getting hurt making my paranoid parents say no.

Rating: 9.5/10

CSBS – Xiaolin Showdown Episode 2

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Plot: As the group is training, they start mocking Clay for bypassing an obstacle course just to grab the goal item off the platform and his ‘old man’ style of kung fu. Master Fung chastises the group for mocking Clay’s style since it’s an effective and smart approach to complex problems.

A Shen Gong Wu is detected, and this time it’s the Fist of Tebigong; a super powerful glove that delivers a mighty punch. They start selecting their own Shen Gong Wu to wield if they encounter Jack Spicer. Raymundo and Omi fight over the Eye of Dashi, each believing they have the rights to it (Raymundo had dibs on it, Omi actually won it in a Xiaolin Showdown) so they leave the selection to Fung, who gives it to Clay since he technically won the obstacle course challenge.

Fung also hands out the Mantis Flip Coin to Raymundo and the Two-Ton Tunic to Kimiko. Since they only have three Shen Gong Wu, Omi doesn’t get one. They arrive at the Shen Gong Wu’s location and find Jack. They have a battle with his robots, though Clay is taking his time preparing. In his delay, he and Dojo are knocked off a cliff and hang on a branch.

Meanwhile, Kimiko, Raymundo and Omi take care of the robots. Jack reveals he has a new ally; a mime. The group laughs at this, but soon come to realize that he’s no ordinary mime. He has magical powers that allow him to make anything he mimes become real. He mimes a box around Kimiko, Omi and Raymundo, trapping them and allowing Jack Spicer to go after the Fist of Tepigong.

Clay climbs back up and realizes that with his three comrades out of commission, it’s up to him to find and retrieve the Fist of Tepigong, though his friends have absolutely no faith in him whatsoever.

Clay comes face to face with the mime who pulls the old mirror gag on him. But Clay knows exactly how to take him out – by taking himself out. He punches himself in the face, causing the mime to do the same. Clay is tough enough to take the hit, but the mime is not.

Dojo manages to stumble upon the Fist of Tepigong and Clay tries to make off with it, but Jack uses his Third-Arm Sash to grab it from him.

Meanwhile, Omi, Raymundo and Kimiko try in vain over and over to get out of the box. In an effort to get the mime’s attention, Raymundo clacks the Mantis Flip Coin on the bars of the box, which makes them question why they never realized the box had bars before. Kimiko and Omi come to the conclusion that the bars appeared because Raymundo imagined there were bars. By that logic, Omi imagines the box has a door. The door appears, allowing them to escape, and they go off to help Clay.

Jack has Clay cornered, but Clay uses the Eye of Dashi to blow up some of Jack’s robots, making him lose grip of the Fist of Tepigong. Clay and Jack fight over it, causing a Xiaolin Showdown. The challenge? First to catch a nearby robin wins.

The challenge starts and Jack uses his heli-pack and Third-Arm Sash to chase the bird, but Clay is taking his time doing basically anything. After preparing, he rustles through a nearby sunflower patch and starts filling his hat with seeds. As his friends look on in exasperation, Jack crashes into a tree and the robin gently lands on Clays hand to eat some of the seed. Clay wins the Xiaolin Showdown and is granted the Fist of Tepigong and Jack’s Third-Arm Sash.

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This episode was alright, mostly because Clay’s my favorite character so far. He’s calm, cool, collected, kinda funny, uses my favorite element, and he’s the only one of the group who’s not really an asshole so far. However, I will say it was dreadfully predictable. You can tell the first scene is obviously setting up the big lesson of the episode (which is actually meant to be learned at that very moment, which is weird and redundant). Not only that, but it’s also nearly giving you a blueprint on how the Xiaolin Showdown at the end will turn out, especially when it’s revealed that the challenge is a race – first to get an animal no less (the goal in the obstacle course at the start was a stuffed dog)

The fact that the group is shaking their heads and groaning at Clay moving slowly during the race is both unwarranted and nonsensical. We never saw Clay physically moving slowly before this point. He bypassed the obstacle course to just grab the dog and then spent too much time warming up before the battle with the robots. Plus, they know that he won the obstacle course challenge because he found an easy solution to a complicated problem. They just escaped from the mime’s box with that lesson on their shoulders too, yet no one has a drop of faith in him.

Omi’s being even more obnoxious in this episode than he was in the last, and everyone’s being a bit of an ass to each other. There’s some playful ribbing in there, but they take a lot of shots at each other for no reason.

Some minor nitpicks – why do they instantly change into their Xiaolin outfits when a Xiaolin Showdown is called? And how did Kimiko have the time to dye and style her hair like that before they had to leave for the Shen Gong Wu?

Rating: 6/10

Next episode, our first Kimiko focused episode. Kimiko’s short temper is getting the better of her. When she obtains a Shen Gong Wu that requires full attention and calm to work properly, she struggles with it. With her temper make her lose her first Shen Gong Wu?

CSBS: American Dragon Jake Long Episode 2 Review

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Plot: Jake battles a mysterious creature in the sewer and comes out supposedly victorious. However, Jake is more preoccupied with the upcoming Fall Dance than he is his normal dragon duties.

The next day, he gets up the courage to ask his crush, Rose, but finds she already has a date with the resident blockhead jock, Brad. In order to save face, Jake lies and says he also already has a date to the dance, so it’s a race to find a date before it’s too late. Jake tries to ask nearly every available girl he can find, but he has a big problem. His breath is horrible. Despite many efforts to freshen it up, the stink eventually gets so bad that they actually evacuate the school to find the source.

Grandpa says his horrible breath is perfectly natural for a dragon his age. His firebreathing glands are reaching maturity, and the bad breath problem should clear up in a week or so. Jake can’t wait that long with the dance coming up, but Grandpa is more concerned over the creature they battled earlier.

Fu Dog, always one to offer a suggestion, brews up a potion. As long as Jake wears the concoction in a small flask around his neck, his bad breath will be gone. Jake’s ecstatic to be minty fresh again, but is still dateless. Having asked out every free girl at his school. Fu takes him to the magical realm to ask out a nice supernatural girl.

Jake’s put off by Fu’s first choice, a half-girl half-spider, but is quickly enamored by a pair of twins nearby. Fu explains that they’re oracles. Not only that, but they see different things in the future. Sara, a bright and cheery girl, can only see negative events while Kara, a gloomy punk girl, can only see the positive events. Despite liking how they look, Jake can’t handle their sudden blurting of predictions, so he moves on.

Jake sets his sights on a beautiful girl at the potions counter named Jasmine, but before Fu can offer his two cents, he gets grabbed by two thugs he owes money to. Jake is able to make a date with Jasmine, despite her incredibly precise curfew, and he saves Fu from the thugs.

Jasmine and Jake head to dance while Grandpa stumbles upon pictures that Jake’s mom took of him and Jasmine before he left. Seeing her red eyes in all of the photos yet none in Jake, he deduces that she is a Nix, a creature that is perfectly normal and harmless during the day but becomes a soul-sucking demon at night when the moon reaches the center of the sky.

Jake flaunts Jasmine to Rose and Brad and his classmates. Everyone’s so impressed with Jasmine’s looks, that Jake takes advantage of the attention and starts taking over the dance, leading everyone in rapping and DJ-ing. Everyone’s having a good time, but Jasmine notices the position of the moon and asks Jake to leave. He says they’ll go soon but he wants to stay for a while longer. Realizing Jake won’t go, Jasmine tries to leave on her own, only to be stopped by Brad who also ignores her requests to leave so he can pressure her into a dance.

Jasmine starts her transformation and steals the souls of Brad and several other boys, turning them into mindless zombies. Once the moon is precisely in the center of the sky, Jasmine finishes her transformation into a full Nix, quickly sucking up the remaining souls in the room. Jake calls Fu, admits to what he did, and Fu starts whipping up a potion to combat Jasmine while Jake stalls her in his dragon form.

Jake struggles with Jasmine, but is soon saved by Dragon!Grandpa and Fu, who also give him a potion to help him beat the Nix. As Grandpa stalls Jasmine some more, Jake downs the potion without thinking and Fu reveals that was actually a potion which strips you of your powers temporarily and he was meant to pour it on Jasmine.

Jake, now dragon-less and with Grandpa quickly zombified, starts getting pummeled by Jasmine until he gets the idea to use the one piece of his dragon nature he has left; his horrible breath. He rips off his necklace and breathes right in Jasmine’s face, throwing her for a loop and knocking her out cold, releasing the consumed souls back to their rightful owners.

Fu and Grandpa take a now un-transformed Jasmine to the shop where she’ll be contained until sunrise and then sent back home. Jake tries to skew the attention of the confused students back to his DJ-ing, but without the necklace everyone soon starts dispersing at the smell. Jake starts to leave when he’s stopped by Rose who thanks him for the dance. They state that they both came to the dance with the wrong person and promise to make better choices in the future.

After a pratfall, Jake returns Jasmine back home with them exchanging apologies, and it’s revealed that Trixie and Spud accidentally switched bodies when their souls were returned.

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– Jake was seriously going to ask out the school janitor? She has to be in her 50s. I know the joke is haha, she’s ugly and gross so it shows how desperate Jake is to get a date, but, still, major creepiness factor for even suggesting this as an option, especially when he does actually try to hit on her.

– The main point of this bad breath part of the episode is trying to meld something akin to an embarrassing result of puberty with something dragon-like, so we can have a cliché teen problem episode still tied into the main plot. But I gotta say, having the problem be bad breath….uh, that’s still pretty normal. You could easily change that to body odor and nothing would change. Since the issue was with his firebreathing glands, maybe he could spontaneously spout fire? Dangerous? Yes. But being in a cartoon universe could easily dispel the gigantic risks and just make for comical burns.

– Jake seriously got a girl to pay an iota of attention to him after using the line “You come here often?”? This really is a fantasy world.

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– Why is Jake lying to Fu about getting a date? He just says ‘I’ll be fine’ not ‘don’t worry, I got a date!’ The only reason I can see for this is that if Jake told Fu he got a date, he’d have to tell him her name or point her out to him, which is obviously something they’re trying to avoid. It’s already obvious that there’s something very wrong with Jasmine both by Fu’s warning beforehand that some of the girls in that part of town were dangerous, with the sudden shift in tone when she conveys her curfew and, of course, the obvious shot of her shifting her eyes as they glow red.

It’s like they’re purposely writing this part incredibly poorly for the sake of moving the plot along.

– Let’s just get this out of the way, many people, particularly Jake, are being complete assholes in this episode, and Jasmine is being treated like a piece of meat. Not only is Jake referring to her as ‘My Hot Date, Jasmine.’ but he’s also completely ignoring her requests to leave by her established curfew time, ignores her saying she doesn’t feel well, every guy in the dance clamors around her and, for some reason, treats Jake like a king because he got a hot date, which is weird because everyone else, barring Brad, starts ignoring her after Jake starts showboating with his rap skills.

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Then Brad ignores her saying she has to leave because she doesn’t feel well so he can pressure her into a dance. To top it all off, when people finally start shifting attention back to Jasmine, Jake and Trixie basically call her a cheating hoe for dancing with Brad (even though this dance doesn’t even involve touching each other. Plus, Jake is way too busy being a showboating DJ to pay his date an ounce of attention: I’d say she has a right to dance with someone else at this point.). Jake doesn’t even care about this anyway because, with Brad preoccupied, Rose is free for him to pounce on. And hey, as a bonus, she’s on the rebound after being dumped by Brad to dance with the ‘prettiest girl in the room’

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– *Jasmine in full Nix form* Jake – “Oh now you want to dance with me?” Uhhhhhh, you never asked her if she wanted to dance or even implied it. The instant you got her through the doors you were flaunting her around to your friends then to Rose and Brad then the other students. The only other reason I can think of for this line is her dancing with Brad, but, again, he didn’t give a crap about that other than giving him an opportunity to dance with Rose.

– Of course Jake uses the potion on himself before asking 1) what it does and 2) what he needs to do with it.

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– So as long as Rose is within stank distance, Jake’s visibly green nasty breath doesn’t come out? How convenient.

– Any reason Jake can’t fish the necklace out of the garbage and continue the dance? It’s not like it broke or anything. Any reason he chucked it in the garbage at all, for that matter? He really only needed to take it off his neck or even drop it to the floor.

– I will give props to the ending for acknowledging that Jake was being an ass, but not entirely because 1) They clearly put more of the blame on Jasmine, even if, admittedly, she should’ve told Jake what she was (to be fair, it must be hard to get dates if you explain that you turn into a soul-sucking she-beast when the moon is in the center of the sky. Cinderella this is not.) and 2) He only apologizes for not leaving when she asked. He doesn’t apologize for only asking her out for the sake of making Rose jealous or flaunting his ‘hot date’ in front of his classmates like she was the aforementioned piece of meat or thinking badly of her for dancing with Brad when it wasn’t her choice.

– Also, why is Jake now free of bad breath while walking Jasmine home? You can’t make rules for bad breath.

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This is a pretty bad episode. Not horrible, but still bad. The action isn’t that good, the running gag about his breath is just dumb, and you can see it coming from a mile away that he’ll use his bad breath to beat Jasmine. After-all, if he didn’t, that would mean the breath thing would just be a plot device for the sake of getting Jake to date Jasmine and there are much less contrived ways of doing that. Maybe it was so close to the dance that every other girl had a date so he had to go to the magical realm to get one?

Speaking of the ending, that was an incredibly stupid way of beating her. If his breath is bad enough to knock out a Nix, surely it’s bad enough to possibly kill people. Or at least make them physically ill. It’s like his breath had a worse effect on her than it did regular humans.

I can’t believe I’m bringing this up, but this ending was much in the same vein as Naruto beating Kiba by farting in his face. And I really can’t believe I’m saying this, but whereas the Naruto thing was stupider, at least it was more of a surprise and kinda funny in a ‘hurr hurr farts’ way. This was entirely predictable from start to finish, made even more predictable right before the finale due to Jake losing his powers. By the way, apparently Jake’s bad breath problem doesn’t exist in his dragon form, even though it’s caused by his dragon form. Figure that out.

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Not to mention how much of this story either doesn’t make sense, was badly written for the sake of convenience, or wrote Jasmine into being purely an object. They downplay Jake’s level of fault here at the end by a lot. I’m almost convinced the ending where he walks her home and makes that weak apology was merely thrown in when test audiences complained about how Jasmine was being treated for the whole episode. I’m surprised Jasmine wasn’t more angry at him bragging about his ‘hot date’ to everyone then ditching her to enjoy the limelight. I know she had more pressing matters to attend to, but I’d still be pretty mad.

Jake’s also terribly stupid in this episode, moreso than usual. He asks out a girl in the magical realm without asking what exactly makes her magical even after Fu warns him about the girls in the market, and the previous girls he met all had some weird issue that he couldn’t deal with – two of them being seemingly normal looking girls with powers that annoyed him. Then lying about it to Fu for no reason, drinking the potion without asking what it did or how to use it (hell, that could’ve been a poison for all he knew). I know Jake’s not the smartest person in the world, but this is overkill for the sake of plot convenience.

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Even Trixie and Spud don’t escape stupidity and asshole-ism. Their role in this episode is to convey information to Jake that he would’ve discovered seconds later anyway and to just be there. Trixie is taking it upon herself to ‘perform charity work’ by taking Spud to the dance so no other unfortunate girl will have to suffer through being his date. That’s almost exactly what she says. With Spud like ten feet in front of her. Not like any girl who agrees to date Spud won’t be aware of what she’s getting into. Spud really wears his personality on his sleeve. If you agree to something along the lines of;

“Hey, uh, pretty girl. Would you, uh, like to go dancing at the dance with me at the, uh, dance. We can totally wear matching shirts.”

Then you can’t say you didn’t think he was a stoner-esque doofus when you’re at the dance.

This also could’ve been made a lot better with just a small tweak. Spud can’t get a date to the dance because he completely forgot to ask anyone until it was too late so Trixie takes it as a ‘charity case’ to be his date, perhaps also covering up that she didn’t have a date. There, was that so hard?

Then, at the dance, Trixie doesn’t want to dance or do anything. She lays down ground rules at the start that she won’t dance, get him punch or take pictures with him. She just sits at the table being miserable while Spud is forced to stay with her also doing nothing at the table because I guess he doesn’t want to abandon his date no matter how much of a bitch she’s being. Then they switch bodies at the end because…..we needed to end on a joke. Really makes you wonder why they even went at all.

Ya know what? I change my mind. This is a horrible episode. Maybe not insultingly horrible, but still terribly written, uninteresting and just not fun. Not to mention there’s an influx of cocky!Jake during this episode with even more painful slang to sit through. Yes, I realize how old I seem typing that.

Rating: 2/10

Cartoons Step-By-Step: Dave the Barbarian Episode 1

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Plot: Episode 1A – Dave, Fang, Princess Candy and Oswidge rush into the Enchanted Forest to take down a giant muffin monster. While attempting to vanquish it with Lula, Dave’s magical sword, he accidentally gets her stuck in a stump. While they manage to defeat the muffin, they find that they cannot pull Lula out of the stump. The sprite of the stump reveals that whosoever manages to pull Lula out shall be ruler of Udrogoth. But what happens if no one can?

Episode 1B – Dave feels lost in life and, after reading some self-help scrolls, decides to become a psychofloobocologist to help people. When his ‘helping’ unleashes an ancient evil monster upon Udrogoth, he decides to talk the beast down.

Breakdown: Alright! Dave the Barbarian! This is another one of those short lived shows that I really loved, and I hate Disney for cutting this show’s life so short. It was a self-aware clever and fairly meta show about a royal family trying to manage protecting their kingdom while the king and queen are off battling evil. Candy is a self-absorbed teenage girl, Dave is a prissy yet super muscular and kind ‘barbarian’, Fang is a vicious wild girl who loves nothing more than beating things up and Oswidge is a subpar wizard. With them is Lula, the wisecracking magical sword, and Faffy, a little dragon-like creature who looks somewhat crossed with a pig.

They get into all sorts of ridiculous situations in the medieval fantasy land of Udrogoth and usually just barely manage to scrape by. Dave the Barbarian came into play right as the Disney Channel was starting to get less invested in fun and creative shows and more interested in manufactured pre-teen drivel.

But how does it really hold up?

Episode 1A is basically a parody of the story of King Arthur, just with a gross and prick-ish stump sprite shaking things up….oh and yeah the giant muffin.

It really is just awesome how you can easily hook into everyone’s personalities and the atmosphere just in a few minutes. I think almost all of the jokes hit just as well, if not better, with me than they did when I was younger. You don’t really predict many of the jokes, and it’s not too in-your-face with meta humor. It’s just taking a very typical setting and having some fun with it by making weird monsters and insane situations that you’d never expect.

I do have to ask though; how is the person who pulls out Lula the ruler of Udrogoth? Sure its owners are the royal family, but technically Lula ‘belongs’ to Dave, and he’s just a prince. He’s not even the oldest child. Candy is the only one usually referred to with her title intact, and she was the one put in charge while the king and queen are away.

There are some pretty good jokes in here, though not every one is smile-worthy. I especially liked Lula in this episode, though she’s great all the time.

Episode 1B is basically one big poke at psychology, going through all of the tropes like constantly asking ‘how does that make you feel?’ over and over, thinking talking is the end-all solution to everything, and of course, ‘all of your problems are because of your mother’. I gotta say, as a psych major, this episode kinda irked me. I’m fully aware that psychology is not an exact science, but I find myself getting increasingly annoyed by the TV tropes of brushing off psychology as a joke. It’s not so much that I don’t like poking fun at something I find interesting; it’s moreso that it will just keep perpetuating stereotypes about psychology and mental health issues as a whole.

That mini-rant out of the way, this episode is pretty entertaining and warranted a few smiles out of me, but I find it to be not as funny or well-written as the first episode. Mostly because, not only is it mostly a big psychology joke, but they also keep repeating the same jokes, more or less.

Overall, I’d give A an 8/10 and B a 7/10, earning this whole episode a 7.5/10

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Danny Phantom Episode 1

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Plot: One month ago, Danny Fenton’s life changed forever when he walked through a ghost portal of his parents’ invention and accidentally activated it while inside. The incident made him half-ghost, allowing him to maintain the look of a regular boy but also gaining ghost abilities and the ability to transform into a more proper ghost form, Danny Phantom. Unfortunately, Danny’s activation of the portal has also made it so that ghosts can sneak into the human world and cause havoc. Danny’s taken it upon himself to stop these ghosts with his powers while trying his best to keep his powers a secret from everyone else but his two best friends, Sam and Tucker.

In the series premiere, Danny’s first opponent is a lunch lady ghost that attacks Casper High after Sam changes the menu to exclude all meat items in lieu of an ‘ultra-recyclo-vegetarian’ menu, much to the lunch lady ghost’s disdain.

Breakdown: Ah, Danny Phantom. Arguably Butch Hartman’s best work. A simple tried and true tale that, to be honest, we’ve heard a thousand times before, but done in such a way that brought a fairly fresh spin on the story with plenty of memorable characters and storylines along the way.

Actually, put another way, it’s like the story of Spider-man but melded with Ghostbusters.

And, really, if you want to dissect this, it is a whole bunch of cliches, some even taken from Fairly Odd Parents. An unpopular kid who has trouble fitting in at school, bullied by the school jock who gets away with nearly everything, also targeted by jackass teachers, is given abilities that make his life even more complicated. The only two people who know about his powers are his two best friends, the tech genius Tucker Foley and the opinionated goth chick, who is obviously set to be a love interest, Sam Manson.

His parents are basically two bumbling idiots who never catch onto Danny’s secret in the least and are always causing trouble for him with their weird behavior in ghost hunting and odd inventions. However, they do help out inadvertently sometimes by inventing things Danny can actually use, even if his parents have no clue how to make them work.

His sister is the one who seems to break tradition here as she seems to fancy herself a psychologist in training who always tries her best to seem adult and mature. She deeply cares about Danny and worries about his well-being growing up in a household with such odd parents.

Our first enemy, the lunch lady ghost, is admittedly not very threatening. In fact, not many of the first season ghosts really were. However, that’s alright here. We’re just being introduced to the world and the characters, so having a somewhat silly ghost who actually can hold her own, even if her attacks are silly, is fine. They’re all mostly meat-based, even if she has some pyrokinetic abilities. Most of her abilities can be eaten or squished, but they can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when Danny doesn’t have a good grip on his abilities quite yet and even has trouble keeping his Danny Phantom form.

It’s interesting that the only reason the Fenton Thermos starts working is seemingly because Danny puts some of his ghostly energy into it, but does that fix it permanently or does he need to keep feeding it that way when he needs it? Because other non-ghost characters use the thermos in the future.

The conflict between Sam and Tucker felt a bit odd in this episode. Usually they reserve episodes where the main character is caught between two fighting best friends for when they’re a bit more established, but here they just jump right in. I won’t say it’s a bad part of the episode, because it does highlight one of the main character traits of Sam in a decent manner, though I don’t think the same can be said of Tucker.

I mean, I’m pretty sure the fact that he loves meat stays true throughout the series, but it’s never really given any actual attention in the future to my recollection. Plus, I find it kinda immature that Sam doesn’t drop the issue when the school starts being attacked because she changed the menu. I know I said the Lunch Lady Ghost isn’t a big threat, but it’s still possible for her to hurt people, especially with her minor pyro powers, and Sam still won’t budge an inch.

Other than that, the only real notes I have is that there aren’t many jokes that work very well in this episode. Either that or they just don’t hold up very well. Jack had a few entertaining lines, but that was about it.

Rating: 7/10 Not starting off very strong, but it does what it needs to do and some more in a pretty entertaining manner.

Next episode: Parental Bonding: Danny asks his crush, Paulina, out to a dance, but has to deal with a dragon ghost in the meantime.

Final Notes: Addressing the theme song, it is indeed the earworm we all know and love. However, I can’t say I’ve ever been crazy about it in regards to quality. The fact that it starts with ‘Yo!’ is already kinda cringey and there’s a serious scent of 4Kids music to the whole thing.

Like Fairly Odd Parents and many many cartoons from the 80’s and 90s, the theme song explains the entire plot in expositiony lyrics, which is actually kinda necessary because, as you can tell, the show does not start with an origin story. It was meant to, but apparently they scrapped it when the theme song was finalized. They explore the origin story in an episode that comes much later, however, when they decide to give Danny his own emblem.

Cartoons Step-By-Step: Fillmore! Episode 1

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Plot: When the brand new high-tech bathroom stalls are riddled with graffiti by someone calling themselves ‘Stainless’, Fillmore and Ingrid have to enter the world of artists and taggers to find out who the culprit is.

Breakdown: I absolutely love procedural dramas. NCIS, CSI, Castle, Criminal Minds, Bones etc etc etc., and I can thank Fillmore! For spawning that love.

Fillmore first aired on ABC’s One Saturday Morning as a school-themed parody of old 1970’s cop shows with the safety patrol replacing the cops. Think Recess if it was at a slightly higher age range and was a procedural drama. It was sadly canceled after a mere two seasons due to low ratings, even though the 26 episode run is essentially one season. Rumor also has it that the tone was a bit too serious and ‘dark’ for the ABC cartoon lineup. Pfft. What could possibly be dark about a show created by Scott Gimple?…….the executive producer of The Walking Dead……

Jokes aside, this show serious? Have they never heard of parodies? Yes, the subject matter they’re parodying is kinda mature, but they’re adapting it towards a tween audience. The stuff they cover in the series is ridiculous kid and school stuff presented in a serious manner; one of the main reasons why it’s funny.

I loved the hell out of Fillmore! And couldn’t have been sadder when it was canceled. It’s even worse considering that the show isn’t even available on VHS or DVD. Everything about it was just so cool and funny. I loved how over exaggerated and film-noir-ish it was. The characters were great, the setting was great, the theme song was one of the best cartoon theme songs ever, and the writing was spot-on with only some minor cheese here and there. Well, now that I’m older and analyzing the show thoroughly, how does it really stand up?

Here’s the thing; before Fillmore! I had never really watched many police shows or movies. I was a tweenage girl at the time this came out. I was more preoccupied with anime, drawing, cartoons and boy bands. Even then, I still loved this show. Now that I have plenty of police and forensic shows and movies under my belt, I actually find this even more entertaining because I can tell what they’re spoofing at pretty much every corner. I can’t tell all the references, but I can definitely play ‘spot the trope spoof’

For instance, the crime itself is kinda played off like finding a murder scene where the murderer, who coins his own name through his signature, writes on the walls in blood….err, red marker.

In order to solve this crime, Fillmore and Ingrid recruit a master tagger and artist who is basically one big serial killer spoof. He’s kept under total detention lockdown every day after he went on a tagging spree. He’s held in solitary confinement with all writing instruments taken away from him, which must make his schoolwork a nightmare. He’s incredibly knowledgeable on his craft and loves teasing Fillmore and Ingrid with answers that he knows but refuses to share since that would just be no fun.

Fillmore and Ingrid are even police drama tropes. Fillmore is a former juvenile delinquent who became the safety patrol’s top investigator. He sips hot chocolate, makes witty one-liners, has incredible insight and is sometimes a ‘loose cannon’ who struggles with his past.

Ingrid is a new kid in school, new as Fillmore’s partner too, who is also a genius with a photographic memory, making her a fantastic researcher and sleuth. She has a goth look about her, but they don’t do anything with it. Unlike a lot of veteran cop/rookie pairings, Ingrid and Fillmore actually get along very well, which is more of a play on how procedural dramas are now with ‘tension’ between the leads a la Bones, CSI, NCIS, Law and Order SVU.

Of course, you also have to have the boss of the whole operation, in this case the Jr. Safety Commissioner Vellejo, who is usually there to scold Fillmore and Ingrid for any damage they cause while trying to catch perps and to put a fire under their asses to get the case solved quicker.

You even have the ‘politician’ or ‘District Attorney’ trope in Ms. Folsom, who is usually constantly stressing about the cases in order to keep up appearances and maintain the safety and integrity of the school. She’s also on the safety patrol’s asses to get the cases wrapped up quickly and cleanly.

We’ve got red herrings, evidence analysis, slight hints here and there throughout the episode as to who the perp really is. It is a bit easy to figure out who the culprit is if you pay attention, but it is a tween show.

This episode has always been one of my favorites because of how they portray Randall Julian, the ‘serial killer tagger’ who helps Fillmore and Ingrid, the fact that art is the main theme here and how well it sets up the series as a whole, all the while emerging you quite well in the fun world they have set up, distracting you from how silly it actually is and making it seem very cool…

Seriously, take yourself out of the show for a minute andsoak in the story; they’re hunting down someone who is drawing on bathroom stalls with a marker while getting help from a sociopathic macaroni artist turned tagger with the ‘street name’ of Flava Sava with their prime suspects being a guy who likes to draw toilets and pour paint on himself, a guy whose newest masterpiece is coloring in a black dot with 1000 layers of ink and a hippie girl who poops outside because she hates unnatural things.

Also, I won’t spoil who the culprit is, but let’s just say that the actual perp is even weirder that these three.

The action is also usually creative and fun, but there’s one thing you have to keep in mind when the culprit is revealed. It doesn’t matter how far or fast they run; they’re at school. They can’t leave school grounds and even if they don’t catch them, you can just as easily contact their parents. Really the only reason Fillmore and Ingrid need to catch the perps themselves is because Folsom is too fed up with the lack of progress in the case and threatens to shut down the safety patrol nearly every episode if they don’t have the perp by the final bell or within a day or so.

The final standoff between Fillmore and Randall Julian was also great. Hell, it was better than his confrontation with the actual perp. To be honest, the entire thing with Randall was better than the actual plot. As a bonus, Randall is voiced by Josh Peck. And yes, it is trippy.

While we’re on the topic of the voice work, which is great, Fillmore is voiced by Orlando Brown, who does a great job bringing that classic attitude and coolness to the character. Ingrid is voiced by Tara Strong, who I don’t believe needs an introduction. And Anza, one of the background safety patrollers, is voiced by Danny Tamberelli, and if you recognize that name, you get an Internet hug.

All in all, this episode was really great and I loved every minute of it. It’s just subtle enough to be a slight challenge to viewers to figure out what’s really going on while not being so complicated or even unfair in its storytelling that the viewer would have difficulty following along. The characters are all very likable, even most of the suspects and perps, and this series really did just get even better to me after I watched those procedural dramas.

Here’s to another 25 episodes, but is there a rat within this lost gem?

Rating: 9.5/10

Cartoon Step-By-Step: Xiaolin Showdown Episode 1

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Plot: Many years ago, the forces of good and evil battled against each other over the shen gong wu, numerous powerful artifacts with the collective ability to conquer the world in the wrong hands. Dashi, a noble warrior with the power of the shen gong wu fought fiercely against the Heylin witch Wuya and came out triumphantly, sealing her in a box. In and effort to prevent the power of the shen gong wu from ending up in the hands of evil, Dashi hid them and scattered them across the globe.

Centuries later, a monk named Omi, the dragon of water, learns that three new students will be joining him under the guide of Master Fung; Raymundo from Brazil, Kimiko from Japan and Clay from America. While they’re very rough around the edges, particularly to Omi, they have to quickly get their act together when Wu Ya is revived and sent to partner up with the self-proclaimed evil genius bent on world domination, Jack Spicer. Since Wuya has no corporeal body of her her own, she decides to use to him to gather the shen gong wu and get a real body as well as allow him to conquer the world.

Omi, Raymundo, Kimiko and Clay set out after the shen gong wu with the sensing capabilities of Dashi’s old friend, a small transformable dragon named Dojo. They continue to clash with their personality and culture differences, causing them to lose the Mantis Flip Coin, a magical coin allowing you to easily flip and leap, but they manage to get the Two-Ton-Tunic, Dashi’s old armor that is seemingly impenetrable but weighs a lot.

When they get to a third shen gong wu, the Eye of Dashi, Spicer and Omi get to it at the same time, causing them to fight over it and triggering a Xiaolin Showdown; a contest between two beings set in an alternate dimension where the winner gains the right to own the shen gong wu. Unfortunately, it’s a race across several extremely tall pillars, giving Jack a major advantage with his Mantis Flip Coin and leaving Omi in the dust with his Two-Ton Tunic. Utilizing some lessons he’s learned from his new friends throughout their journey, Omi overcomes the Jack Bots that Spicer sends to attack him and manages to come out victorious. Later, at the temple, Master Fun reveals that he new students were meant to teach him as much as he was meant to teach them as they are actually dragons themselves; Raymundo, the dragon of the wind, Kimiko, the dragon of fire and Clay the dragon of earth.

Breakdown: Xiaolin Showdown is a show that I watched as a kid, but I didn’t keep up with it very closely. It kept my attention and I enjoyed it perfectly fine, but I never got around to sitting down and watching every episode.

First episode wise, this is a very good way to kick off the series, even if there are some very convenient aspects such as all of the dragons being assembled right before Wuya gets released from her box and somehow being able to utilize every minor thing Omi has learned from Raymundo, Kimiko and Clay. Like the ‘using your weight to your advantage’ thing works perfectly here, but the Jack Bots actually had huge on-off switches and Jack was so slow that he not only let Omi catch up to him, but he also let him pull down his pants?

We learn a fair amount about each character. Omi is a very serious, almost too serious, Xiaolin monk who treasures perfection and hard work, but also has a huge ego on him and is a bit headstrong. I do have to wonder if his character design could be construed as a bit racist though. I mean, I’m not sure why Omi was designed like that, but he’s a Chinese kid with bright yellow skin………..

He’s also voiced by Tara Strong.

Raymundo’s lazy and a bit of an ass, but I assume that will get better later. He’s voiced by Tom Kenny. Give the guy credit for range – I never would’ve guessed that.

Kimiko’s a bit too into technology with none of it being useful at all (even that Pac-man-like game. Who plays a game by poking one button over and over? And is it really playing a game if the little guy keeps eating even if you’re not touching anything, he doesn’t move, the food doesn’t move and there seems to be nothing to avoid?) but she’s kinda sweet in how protective she is of Omi. She’s voiced by Grey DeLisle who doesn’t seem to be sporting a voice that is very similar to any of the voices I know her as such as Sam from Danny Phantom and Vicky and Tootie from Fairly Odd Parents. She seems to have pretty good range.

Clay’s pretty cool and he seems to do the most outside of Omi. Plus, like I mentioned, his was the best advice. He was voiced by Jeff Bennet.

Master Fung also has a nice balance of traditional Xiaolin master and contrasting humor.

Jack Spicer still stands out to me as both a really good and a fairly stupid villain. All of the pieces are there, but he needs the opportunity to prove himself to me a bit more. Though, who cares? He’s voiced by Danny Cooksey and that’s all that matters.

The only one I didn’t much care for was Dojo. He’s a comic relief talking animal sidekick and that’s all you really need to know. He’s like a less-funny and less-energetic Mushu from Mulan….and I don’t even like Mushu. At least Dojo can turn into a huge dragon, though. Also, he’s voiced by Wayne Knight. Make of that what you will.

The story is, admittedly, on the ‘been there, done that’ spectrum with the forces of good and evil battling for items that hold great power, but the fact that all of these items have their own unique powers and not just some generic ‘power’ is a breath of fresh air. The main characters also having the power of the elements isn’t that clever either, but I will say that it’s nice that the main-main characters (Omi and later Raymundo) don’t have the power of fire. It’s also nice that the lone girl in the group wasn’t given the power of love or flowers or some crap.

The art is pretty stylized and nice, with only some things looking a bit ugly. The animation’s not fantastic, but it’s reasonably fluid and works to bring the characters and action to life.

The music’s also very fitting and nice to listen to.

This episode had quite a bit to plow through, and I think it did a pretty good job. It’s a bit fast-paced, but nothing overwhelming.

Rating: 8/10

Next episode, Clay gets some spotlight when he’s mocked for his slow and steady method of combat. He’s left on his own to get a shen gong wu when his friends get trapped by Jack Spicer.