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

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Cartoons Step-By-Step: American Dragon Jake Long S01 Ep01

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Plot Synopsis: 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.

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– 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.

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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. :X

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.

Rating: 6.5/10