Hell Girl Episode 3: The Tarnished Mound Review

Hell Girl Episode 3

Plot: Iwashida and Moroi are best friends and part of a high school baseball team with a fast-rising baseball star named Hanagasa. One day, Hanagasa suddenly smacks Moroi in the stomach with a baseball bat and tells Moroi and Iwashida to keep their mouths shut, which Moroi is happy to do in order to prevent the baseball team from getting in trouble and Iwashida reluctantly does. It merely seems like a bad situation that they’ll have to deal with for the sake of the team when something horrible happens.

Breakdown: If you weren’t angry enough with the bitches from episode one or creeped out enough by the stalker in episode two, prepare yourself because we finally have someone who’s fully ‘go to hell’ worthy with Hanagasa.

He is a smug conniving asshole who only cares for himself and has absolutely no remorse for anything he does.

The story goes that Hanagasa, for some reason, suddenly slams his baseball bat into Moroi’s stomach in the middle of the woods. Iwashida witnesses this, but Moroi tells him to back down. Hanagasa tells them to lie to anyone who asks and say that Moroi fell off of the pitcher’s mound. Moroi happily agrees since he doesn’t want to create any complications with the team seeing as how Hanagasa is the star player.

Iwashida reluctantly agrees to this, but tells Moroi’s mother that they were horsing around too roughly which is how he got the wounds. This doesn’t seem like a big deal until they later reveal that, after three days of pain and suffering, Moroi died from his internal injuries.

As if being responsible for the death of his friend wasn’t enough, Hanagasa plays it completely innocently and even hams it up at Moroi’s memorial service, stating that he’ll work hard and become a pro baseball player in his memory. Yeah, do something you were planning on doing anyway but preface it with ‘in his memory’. That’s noble as hell.

Iwashida is enraged by how Hanagasa is acting, but he’s in trouble of his own. Since Iwashida told Moroi’s mother that he got hurt from them playing around, he’s the main suspect when the detectives reveal that they know he died from blunt force trauma, probably due to a baseball bat. Everyone immediately suspects him even though they only have a piece of a story and Iwashida has no reason whatsoever for smacking his best friend in the stomach with a baseball bat.

Even his own parents immediately believe their son is responsible. Without knowing the story, even with no evidence or motive whatsoever, they just instantly believe Iwashida’s the killer. His father punches him in the face as he’s trying to give his side of the story and his mother openly gets down on her knees and begs Moroi’s parents for forgiveness. What the hell?

You’d think this was just horrible luck and everyone’s tempers are high due to the circumstances, but no. Apparently, Hanagasa, by his own admission, somehow planned this whole thing. And the reason why is insanely ridiculous.

He somehow knew Moroi would die three days after receiving his injuries, I guess, knew that Iwashida would get blamed for it, even though the story he told them to tell other people didn’t involve Iwashida and would turn it into a complete accident that was Moroi’s fault, then he knew the team would get banned from the upcoming tournament for shared responsibility of Moroi’s death, even though no proper investigation has been carried out outside of the autopsy confirming that he died of blunt force trauma.

Why did Hanagasa, their star player, need to resort to this incredibly complicated and contrived scheme to get the team out of the tournament?

Because participating in the tournament would put undue stress on his shoulders and he didn’t want them to be in any way negatively affected for his bright professional baseball career. For a high school tournament, it’s not worth it in his eyes.

….He committed murder and framed another boy for the crime, subsequently ruining his life…..to relax his arms…………I don’t know what to say. Why he couldn’t just remove himself from the tournament is beyond me. He was a shoe-in for college or pro deals with the scouts who were basically humping the fence for him. Why not just say you felt the need to rest your body for your future career and skip the tournament? Or make up an excuse? Or something….anything. There are hundreds of thousands of things you could’ve done to get out of the tournament that are far more understandable and acceptable than first degree murder.

Hanagasa gives zero shits that either Moroi’s dead or that Iwashida’s life is completely ruined. He got what he wanted, and that shit-eating grin never leaves his face. I hate that Justin Cook is so good at playing assholes. I want to love you so much, yet you keep taking these roles.

In the end, you know how it goes, but even the absolute end isn’t as hopeful as the previous episodes. Whereas in those episodes where it seems the victim’s troubles all get washed away when the string is pulled, Iwashida isn’t as lucky. Hanagasa was properly accused of the crime, and his hellish torture was definitely scarier this time around with some pretty good visuals and creepy moments. but apparently there was still so much heat on Iwashida at school that he had to move away to his aunt’s house and no one, not even his parents, are seen apologizing to him for treating him that way. He’s just left to wait everything out with that black mark emblazoned on his chest. His best friend’s still dead, he’s still somewhat vilified for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’s now damned to hell.

This episode also gave us a little bit more about Ai. Her ‘grandmother’ states that she has no choice but to do what she does, even though it seems like Ai doesn’t like it. It is her duty.

Rating: 8/10 – They go way overboard with Hanagasa as a despicable character, and his reasoning is just ridiculous, but it’s still a really good story with nice payoff.

Advertisements

Cartoons Step-By-Step: Dave the Barbarian Episode 2

CSBS DTB EP2

Plot: 2a – Pet Threat: It’s dragon appreciation week and Dave the others have completely forgotten to do anything special for Faaffy. They rush out on the final day of the week to get him a gift, and Dave decides to buy him a new best friend – a diseased weasel he names Carl. However, Carl is not nearly as sickly and innocent as he seems, and no one will believe Faffy when he tries to warn the others.

2b – Lula’s First Barbarian: Lula spots her first owner and lost love, Argan the Ageless, at the marketplace and the flames of her love instantly start growing again. Despite the fact that he’s an obvious jerk who left her for stupid reasons thousands of years ago, she is more than willing to drop Dave the instant he seems to want her back. Worried about her welfare, Dave, Fang, Candy and Oswidge band together to save her heart from getting broken again.

Breakdown:

2a – Pet Threat: This is a rather tired plot that is predictable from start to finish. Not to mention the fact that a good chunk of it doesn’t make any sense.

Dark Lord Chuckles, the Silly Piggy, is actually the diseased weasel, Carl, and he plans on stealing the magical grape of bobobidobo from Faffy’s room. Okay, that’s fine. But uh, how did Chuckles know Dave would be in that marketplace? Or that specific store? Or that the owner would pull him out of that basket to show Dave? Or that Dave would even be remotely interested in buying a diseased weasel? Or that he was buying the diseased weasel to be the new companion to Faffy? Or that the grape was even in Faffy’s room?

Not to mention the fact that Faffy gets treated fairly badly in this episode for no reason. Oswidge eats the ham Dave’s parents sent him for dragon appreciation week. The others forget dragon appreciation week, which depresses Faffy. They buy him a ratty diseased animal as a gift and don’t take Faffy’s feelings into consideration. Dave even completely writes him off when Faffy explicitly points out that Dave is treating Carl better than he’s treating him, when it’s completely obvious. (Then again, Dave is an idiot.) No one believes him for a second when he tries to warn them about what Carl is doing. He runs away, no one notices or seems to care. He comes back, no one notices or seems to care.

They show a little bit of concern when Faffy appears to sacrifice himself to beat Chuckles, and you think for a second they’ll actually do something nice for him on the final day of dragon appreciation week. They seem like they do by preparing a nice meal for Faffy only to reveal it’s Chuckles dressed as a ham. Dave breaks the fourth wall and tells the audience that Faffy’s not really going to eat him and that it’s all for a joke and Faffy’s in the background with a distraught look on his face.

So, in the end, Faffy gets treated like crap for dragon appreciation week and the one moment of redemption for the others is just a visual gag that screws Faffy out of a meal. Lovely.

Not only that, but there weren’t very many jokes in this segment that worked for me and several were gross-out gags.

This was not a very enjoyable segment to me. It just seemed mean-spirited and lacking in several departments.

2b – Lula’s First Barbarian: This segment basically has the same problems as 2a, but at least the plot makes more sense. Again, you know from the very instant you learn anything about Argan, which is the first minute he’s on screen, that he’ll be a complete dickhead to Lula, she’ll fall for him anyway and Dave and the others will rip off her love goggles before she gets in too deep.

Lula’s being an idiot and a bitch in this episode because not only is she completely denying that Argan is anything but an amazing love muffin, no matter how he continues to treat her and has in the past (he literally uses her as a nose for a snowman tens of thousands of years ago and just left her there, never to return.), but she’s also more than willing to leave Dave because he’s such a prissy barbarian.

And, again, Dave doesn’t seem to care. He cares about Lula’s well-being enough to help create a plan to get her away from him, but even he doesn’t see what a jackass Argan is until his newer sword, Judy, explains that he traded her away to some toothless villager for a potato. I don’t know if this is a testament to how much of an idiot Dave is or he just doesn’t have strong connections with the people (and dragons….and swords) who are supposedly closest to him.

Candy was surprisingly supportive of this clearly unhealthy relationship, even making a montage out of her using tips from a teen magazine to help Lula bag her man.

Fang’s the only one with an ounce of sense in this episode and she doesn’t get to do much.

This episode was light on jokes that worked but, like 2a, there were some smile-worthy moments.

Overall, I’d give 2a a rating of 3/10 and 2b a 4/10, giving the overall episode a 3.5/10

Hell Girl Episode 2: The Possessed Girl Review

Hell Girl Ep 2

Plot: A high school girl named Ryoko is being stalked and harassed by a mysterious man.

Breakdown: I feel like, for some reason, I wasn’t as creeped out by this guy as the show wanted me to be. He sends her some creepy gifts, breaks into her room when she’s not there and he even has the scary aspect of being a cop, with the power and authority to get around being suspected or charged.

However, he still doesn’t come off as fully scary to me. There was no moment when I went ‘Oh holy crap, this sick bastard needs to go to hell.’

I also felt more sympathy for the victim this time around because she was trapped in every sense of the word and basically had to send him, and subsequently herself, to hell for something she couldn’t control.

How she knew who he was before even her father knew is beyond me as well. She had to have known his name in order to input her grievance into the Hell Girl website, yet their lone suspect was the wrong person at that time. Maybe it was a flashforward I didn’t quite get. I dunno.

The torment this time around was fairly fun, but nothing fantastic or particularly memorable.

Rating – 6/10 In the end, it’s a blasé episode that didn’t get me riled up enough to want to root for this guy to ride the river Styx, though, by all means, take him there.

Baccano! Review

Rating 9.5/10

Plot: It’s the 1930s (for most of the show) and old-style gangsters are all over the place. Mostly following the story of incidents on a train that is currently being hijacked (by two separate gangs) called The Flying Pussyfoot, a much larger and more complex story is unfolding behind the scenes with one of the main focal points being the power of immortality.

Breakdown:

…..I’m in love with this show. I really am. They nailed everything in this show. If I make it sound in any way bad from my plot synopsis, I am sorry and do not even begin to think that way. Baccano! Is a breath of fresh air in a wave of mediocrity and crap that I’ve had to sift through in recent time.

I don’t want to spoil anything at all, so let me just give you my main highlights and my few bad points.

Isaac and Miria are awesome. I usually hate characters meant to be comic relief, but they are hilarious and I adored every second of their screen time. Their schtick never got old, they never resorted to dumb cliché jokes, they were just awesome.

In such a dark anime, you need to have talent in order to make comic relief characters truly work and they work overtime. They also actually affect the plot….in good ways! That is just awesome. They’re the kind of characters that you’d love to meet in real life. They’re thieves, but they’re incredibly nice and funny. Hell, they’re not even really bad in a thief regard.

Jacuzzi has the best name ever. Jacuzzi Splot has the worst last name ever. He also was the breakout character for me because he was really grating on my nerves in the first handful of episodes since all he seemed to do was worry, cry and panic about everything, but as we learned of his backstory and as the episodes go by we learn that he’s incredibly brave and one of the sweetest guys ever. When you learn why he got his famous sword tattoo, you’re going to smile. You’re going to go ‘awwwww’ and you may even cry. This is normal. Simply cuddle the nearest cute animal, preferably one that does not have rabies, and enjoy it.

Baccano! definitely tries to do something different than most other anime. Not many anime take place in 1930s New York. Immortality’s not a new thing, but the way they handle it is pretty unique. And the relationships to all of the immortals both old and new are really interesting.

The show is crazy and insanely entertaining to watch. There’s hardly a moment where it feels slow, and when it does it’s for good reason such as tension or to create atmosphere. The story is great even if things get confusing sometimes, and I loved watching every step of the way.

Another aspect of this series that is fairly unique is in the fact that the story is out of order. And not Haruhi Suzumiya out of order, like in you can just watch episodes in different orders, I mean episodes jump around 1, 2, 3 or even hundreds of years without a moment’s notice. This is both a positive and a slight negative to me. It’s pretty clever in its execution since it allows you to piece together the plot on your own and slowly gain more pieces and views of the story which makes it more interesting and fun to watch, and it is fair to the viewer because they notify you when a date shift is taking place and what year they’re jumping to.

However, I can definitely see how it’d be annoying to some people, especially in the beginning. Once you get used to the format, it’s way easier to follow the story and piece everything together and it is fun to watch scenes and figure out how certain events came to pass. Even so, during the first few episodes, it kinda throws you off and makes it somewhat confusing.

All of the characters were enjoyable to watch, and some were a downright blast to see in action. The only ones I might say were on the lower end of the spectrum would be Dallas and maybe Ches. Dallas just didn’t do much and Ches was the only character who started to annoy me a bit.

The ending is left a little open-ended, but according to the dialogue, that was intentional. The ending to all of the events that happen on the Pussyfoot actually end in episode 13, which seems like it was set up to the final episodes of the series as we get no next episode preview, no ending theme song and the credits roll over the final scene. However, there’s a three episode epilogue of sorts where the only real connecting action plotline involves a new character named Graham Specter, a crazy mechanic who uses an unreasonably huge monkey wrench as a weapon. He worked under the crazy murderous gang leader Ladd Russo – one of the hijackers of the Pussyfoot. Some new things do get explored such as the origins of Jacuzzi’s tattoo, a continuance of the storyline between Chane and the Rail Tracer, we see how Nice got her scars and lost her eye, and a few other things.

This epilogue technically doesn’t need to be here, but it’s a good continuation, Graham’s entertaining to watch to say the least and dammit I did not want this series to end. 😦 Oh well, guess I can read the manga next. I can also kick up Durarara! On my watch list since that’s a spiritual successor, possibly an actual successor since they take place in the same universe, and Isaac and Miria also make an appearance in it! Yay!

Art: The art and animation are fantastic. The animation is very fluid and a joy to watch while the art has it’s own distinct style without straying too much from the average anime formula. The fight scenes in particular were very well done. Even the lighting was beautifully done.

Music: The music is fantastic. The OP, ED and BG music are all amazing and I would love to buy the soundtrack to this series. It fits the chaotic mood while also suiting the time period and characters perfectly.

Bottomline: I’m gushing over this. I hardly ever get to gush on my reviews. If I ever get around to making a favorite anime list, this will be at or near the top. There are some aspects that may not be perfect and the format may get confusing, but it is well worth it.

Additional Information and Notes: Baccano! Was directed by Takahiro Omori, director of Koi Kaze, Hell Girl Durarara! It was written Noboru Takagi, who has also written for Attack on Titan, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, all of the Durarara and Hell Girl series. It was based on a light novel written by Ryohgo Narita.

Baccano! Was produced by Brain’s Base and is currently licensed by Aniplex of America.

Episodes: 16

Year: 2007

Recommended Audience: No nudity, no sex, some swearing, but the most you need to worry about is gore. It gets pretty damn bloody up in here. Because some of the characters are immortals, we see some graphic displays of violence and gore. I really shouldn’t limit it to that as some of the characters are crazy murderous psychopaths who may as well wear nothing but black and red to avoid paying outlandish dry cleaning bills for all the blood stains. It drives me nuts that Ladd Russo, one of the craziest and blood hungry sons of bitches ever, actually leads a gang where they all wear white suits. WHITE SUITS. For the gore alone, I’d say at least 15+ If you want a comparison, I’ve seen Elfen Lied and Shigurui Death Frenzy and this made me cringe.

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) The Amazing World of Gumball

Plot: Gumball and his brother, Darwin, ruin a DVD they rented. Afraid of facing their mother, they decide to plot and scheme to either replace the DVD or get the money needed to pay off the fee.

Breakdown: Gumball is a show I’ve seen in passing a few times on Cartoon Network, and I always felt divisive about it. I liked some of the jokes and comedic timing, but the art style put me off, and sometimes it seems like they’re being far more annoying than they are funny.

After sitting down and watching the first episode (first segment, DVD, I should say), I just can’t help but feel the same way. Again, I ended up liking some moments – there are pretty good jokes and clever writing in there, but Gumball and Darwin sometimes piss me off with their voice acting, Gumball annoys me with how stereotypical he is as a character (irresponsible scheming troublemaker – that’s new) and the art style has its moments where it works and others where it’s just odd.

This particular episode was also very cliché. Two brothers do something wrong so they get into a bunch of wacky shenanigans while trying to fix it without their parent knowing. I think that plot is a legal requirement of any sitcom or comedy cartoon with children that was ever made.

The actual art style is fine, it’s the fact that it’s always coupled with live action shots that puts me at odds – add that to the fact that you also have fully CGI characters and shifting art styles between characters and I just don’t know what to make of it. At the very least, it’s pretty unique.

Final Verdict:

ebzss3e

I’m not sure I’ll ever get off the fence about this show.

Hell Girl Episode 1: From Beyond the Twilight Review

Hell girl ep 1
Cannot unsee the derp face of the girl in the lower right.

Plot: A young girl named Mayumi is blackmailed by a classmate named Aya and her two friends when they give her a loan to replace money that had been raised for the school and trusted to her. When Aya’s abuse becomes too much, Mayumi contacts Hell Correspondence.

Breakdown: Hell Girl or Jigoku Shoujo, is an anthology series that I’ve already reviewed as a whole in the past, for season one anyway. But I don’t really like tackling series such as these without analyzing every story that comes along with it (See: Yami Shibai) So, here we are.

Hell Girl’s concept and subsequent structure for each episode is simple. Someone has been wronged or is currently being harassed or tortured by someone else, they use the Hell Correspondence website to demand vengeance upon them, Hell Girl/Ai gives them the trademark straw doll with a scarlet string around its neck and tells them that their vengeance will be taken upon their tormentor when they pull the string. When the string is broken, their target will be instantly sent to hell (after turning the tables and tormenting them for a while) and, as payment, upon the set/natural death of the contractor, they will also be ferried to hell.

The main reason to watch is for the characters of the day, their specific stories and that sweet, sweet release when that red string is pulled. Because of the structure, however, the stories are slightly predictable. Hardly anyone refuses to pull the string, and plot twists and mysteries are hard to come by. Still, it’s the ride that you want and that’s what you typically get, outside of the off-color episode about Ai and her associates and their respective backstories or involvement in the story, rare as that may be.

Here’s the thing. This is a horror anthology, which almost always means wildly fluctuating quality in regards to story. There are several episodes throughout each season where you sit there actually feeling bad because you don’t believe the target deserved to get sent to hell, or you feel unsatisfied because the reasons for sending the dickwhistle of the week to hell were unsatisfactory.

Then again, every episode usually makes you feel sad either way. Remember, the price for using the service is damning your soul to hell as well. The only difference is that you get to live out whatever remainder of life you had before you go instead of going instantly like the target does.

There are some upsides for the client. First and foremost, the tormentor is obviously gone from their life and it even seems like Ai and her associates do some sort of retroactive rewind because not only is the disappearance of the target rarely ever brought up, but most of the problems that stemmed from the target also seem to just vanish, leaving the contractor with basically a happy life. I’d dare say some clients even aim to live their lives better than they were before purely because they know of their fate. If all you have in regards to happiness is the here and now, you might as well make it the best you can.

This episode involves a young teenager, which makes it hard to truly want the target to go to hell….but that doesn’t mean I didn’t. This bitch is so heartless and cruel for absolutely no reason. Mayumi did nothing to her yet she steals the class’ money without Mayumi knowing, gives her a loan of the money so she has her under her thumb both financially and under the blackmail that she’ll tell the class if she doesn’t obey her orders. After a slue of little potshots and overall assholery, she aims to ruin her life by bringing her downtown in the middle of the night, nearly getting her sexually assaulted by some creeper just to get a free dinner then leaking a picture of her in the guy’s arms to the school, which puts her over the edge.

I do have to say, though, uh, Ai, what the hell took you so long in giving her the damn doll? You seriously had to wait until she was desperate enough to ATTEMPT SUICIDE to say ‘oh hey, here’s your doll.’ She usually does it immediately because, what’s the point in waiting? Yet here she waits a full day before giving it to her.

It is sad that Mayumi is marked for hell now. I find it particularly heartbreaking when the client is a child. They likely have the most life ahead of them, but it’s still hard to cope with the fact that a child is destined for hell. It’s even worse when you consider that kids don’t really have a good grasp on making huge life-altering decisions like this, yet there seems to be no age requirement for the service. At the very least, it seems Mayumi has made peace with this fact and has decided to live a happy life as long as she has it.

Rating: 7/10 Not a terribly creative story, barring the main plot of the series, and it’s a bit too black and white, but still has that sweet vengeance we’re here for.

 

Pixar’s Lamp: A Bug’s Life

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A colony of ants has been essentially been enslaved by a group of grasshoppers lead by the cruel…well, Hopper. They’re tasked year after year with gathering a food offering for the grasshoppers in addition to the amount of food that they need for themselves before the rainy season comes. An ant named Flik who tends to cause trouble all the time with his gadgets and inventions accidentally knocks the annual food offering in the waters surrounding their home. As punishment for their lack of offering, Hopper demands a double offering after summer and fall have ended when the final leaf on the tree above the ant hill falls. Flik gets an idea to find help outside of the colony by bigger and tougher bugs and the colony’s princess and soon-to-be queen, Atta, agrees in order to keep him out of trouble while the rest of the ants gather food.

Flik eventually finds a circus troupe whom he believes are actually warrior bugs. Likewise, the troupe believes him to be a talent scout with his story of the grasshoppers being the story of the show and agree to help him. However, everything falls apart when the truth is revealed and the last few leaves begin to fall from the tree.

Breakdown: I’ve already reviewed Antz and explained the little ‘who ripped off who’ war with Dreamworks. I also noted how it’s somewhat unfair to compare these two movies in terms of being ‘rip-offs’, whichever one you may believe is the rip-off, because they are two fairly distinct movies with seemingly different target audiences, plot points, characters, art styles and side characters.

So since it wouldn’t be entirely fair to compare these two side by side, let’s do it anyway!

Let’s tackle the art and animation first, shall we? The art is set more towards being cartoon-y with huge eyes and blue colored ants. I mentioned in the Antz review that the blue thing bothered me because ants aren’t blue and at least Antz was more realistic with having brown ants. I did find something called a blue ant, but it’s not blue (if anything it’s black with a metallic-like coating and red legs) and it’s more of a wasp than an ant. Then again, it seems like Antz was going more towards an older demographic that would probably want realism over cartoon style whereas A Bug’s Life is clearly aimed more for a younger audience. I can’t say either of them is really better in the art department. A Bug’s Life is definitely more visually appealing, but Antz was more of a stickler for details.

Animation-wise, though, there’s no denying that Pixar’s is a lot smoother.

In terms of characters, our main lead, Flik, is more relatable and likable than Z, end of story. Z, while meaning well, was a big whiner who was constantly complaining about how the conformity within the colony was stifling. While he had a point, that doesn’t mean I liked to hear his constant complaining.

Flik, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to help the colony do bigger and better things. He makes inventions and has ideas that sometimes end up screwing up and ruining everything, but he only wants to make things better and easier for the colony as a whole. He does mope for a bit, but it’s relatable moping of feeling like you’re a big screw up no matter how good your intentions are. In addition, he only does it a couple of times. He doesn’t spend half the movie doing it like Z. Dave Foley is also much easier to listen to than Woody Allen.

Princess Atta is much different than Bala. Bala wanted nothing more than to shed her royal duties and just relax every now and then with the commonfolk, which is pretty much a common princess plotline. Atta is the complete opposite as she wants nothing more than to do a good job as a princess and later on as a queen. She’s obsessed and a bit of a worry-wart about running everything and doing everything right. Therein lies her connection with Flik. Despite their drastically different stances in life, they both feel like they’re big screw ups.

Atta is definitely the more fleshed out and unique character, plus she actually evolves through the movie. Bala is pretty forgettable and has a cliché princess personality. She doesn’t change much throughout the movie.

The big conflict in A Bug’s Life is the fact that a group of grasshoppers, lead by the most originally named grasshopper ever, Hopper, have been terrorizing a colony of ants for a long time under the excuse that they protect them from harm, even though they live about a day away from them and would never be able to prevent trouble in time. Every year, the ants are forced to gather food for the grasshoppers in addition to themselves. The major issue is that they live on a very small island that has a limited supply of food. When Flik accidentally knocks the food offering into the water, which they can’t retrieve because they can’t swim, Hopper and his gang get pissed and demand that they offer twice as much food before the final leaf on the one tree of their island falls.

So they have to not only collect the double offering, but they also have to collect food for themselves, which will be difficult, if not impossible, under the circumstances as they barely manage to make their singular offering in time.

The conflict in Antz really doesn’t come to light until later, but the major issues are that the ants are a bunch of mindless conformists who only do what they’re told and nothing else. One of the soldier ants creates a Nazi-esque plan behind the scenes to wipe out all of the worker ants so only the princess and the more deserving soldier ants will live.

Two very different stories, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought A Bug’s Life’s was more interesting and could hold a longer run time. That is one of my main issues with Antz. To me, it was good, but forgettable. There are problems with A Bug’s Life that are glaring and will be addressed in a minute, but at the end of the day, despite those problems, A Bug’s Life was just more entertaining and enjoyable to me whereas Antz I could really give or take.

Finally, the message of A Bug’s Life was a combination of strength in numbers, the ‘power of one’ to unite them all, and standing up to bullies, as well as maybe being proud of the fact that you’re different no matter how much you may screw up because of it.

Antz’s message was a little confusing. It seemed to be that conforming, especially to the point of basically being robots, and living for nothing but work was bad, but then you have the fact that the ants were mindless drones no matter what they were told. They did shake off their blind obedience when Z showed them the error of their ways, but then they showed that non-conformity lead to complete and utter laziness and uncaring for your community. Then when they started to question Z in the slightest, they revolted against him in an instant as well. Perhaps the message is that conformity and living for work are wrong, but going too far in the other direction is just as wrong. Living a life in balance is a good lesson, but if that is the main message, they muddled it up horribly.

I should also mention that the little kids didn’t annoy me as much as I remember them doing. Those two little snots who tease Dot are still brats though.

Well, let’s stop with the comparison and get to what’s wrong with A Bug’s Life as a movie, in terms of story anyway. Three things, really.

First, this movie eventually gets to a point where it relies on the “main character lies to his friends and eventually gets found out” trope. Flik enlists the help of a circus troupe made of a (male) ladybug named Francis, a praying mantis named Manny, a black widow spider named Rosie, a dung beetle named Dim, a walking stick named Slim, a pair of pill bugs named Tuck and Roll, and a gypsy moth named….Gypsy. Besides the issue of ‘I hate this trope and it only makes for that incredibly awkward ‘reveal”, it also raises another issue. Flik never lied to begin with. At all. He told his story straight out to the troupe and even a second time to the pill bugs who don’t speak English and speak some kind of made-up language, but he wasn’t aware of that.

If anything, the troupe was at fault for making the totally unprompted assumption that he was a talent scout just really invested in this grasshopper story. They even fully believe it when they arrive at the colony and everyone’s cheering their heads off for the arrival of ‘the warriors’. It’s only until after a welcome dinner that the troupe figures it out and gets mad at Flik for lying to them even though he never ever did.

Hell, in addition to getting pissed and insulting him, the pill bugs slap him! FOR THEIR MISTAKE. Granted, once Flik finds out the truth, he eventually decides to actually lie to the colony about the troupe, which leads to the predictable awkward reveal, but the fact is that the troupe should have been the ones who looked like they were lying or at the very least made a grave error, not Flik.

Second, one other thing I will say in favor of Antz was the fact that they highlighted a big problem with A Bug’s Life. In Antz, the ants were divided up into workers and soldiers at birth and they remained widely segregated in their regular day to day lives.

In A Bug’s Life, there’s a noticeable lack of soldiers. They’re all workers. They have to be in order to be so firmly under Hopper’s thumb. That creates a problem and dare I say plot hole that could’ve just been patched up by saying that the soldiers all got overpowered by the grasshoppers or were killed or abandoned them or something. I’m not an entomologist, so I don’t know how likely it is that this species or specific colony of ants would just straight up have no soldiers, but it’s a noticeable issue to me.

Finally, the climax has a pretty big problem to it. All of the bugs, understandably, have a huge fear of birds. Hopper especially has a fear of birds since it’s implied that he got the big scar on his face and lost sight in his right eye because of a bird attack and is traumatized because of it. Flik, who is already in the trenches of his deception, decides to just screw the whole idea of the warriors in lieu of a new idea – making a mechanical bird made of sticks and leaves that will scare Hopper and the others away.

They complete the bird and are really optimistic about their chances. However, the colony finds out that the ‘warriors’ are really circus bugs and that Flik lied to them. Flik is then banished from the colony and goes off to join the circus troupe in shame while the colony panics because they spent all summer and fall mostly making the bird and hanging out with the warriors instead of gathering Hopper’s food because they no longer intended on paying him his tribute.

They scramble to gather food, which ends up not being nearly enough to offer to Hopper without leaving themselves to starve to death otherwise and completely lose hope.

The problem I have with this is…what the hell happened to the bird? Why is the bird thing no longer a feasible idea? I know it was Flik’s idea and he lied to them thus they might have lost some faith in the bird. Hell, Flik even loses faith in the bird as he’s riding with the troupe. But you have to remember something – the idea of the bird was presented to the circus troupe, who thought it was a great idea. The idea was then presented to the queen, Princess Atta and the royal council, who also thought it was brilliant. The idea was then shown to the entire colony who also had so much faith in it that they were cheering at the presentation. Why did they suddenly lose faith in the bird idea?

It can be argued that the stuff with the ‘warriors’ was moot by the time the bird was done, and the reveal was actually at a celebration party for the completion of the bird! In fact, Flik was figuring out a way for the troupe to escape without being noticed at the party so they could leave before the grasshoppers came. The troupe stayed of their own accord because they liked the colony and had recently lost their jobs anyway.

The bird was completely unrelated, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t have stuck with that plan in the end despite Flik’s deception and banishment. Did they really think they had more of a chance of gathering a double offering in a matter of days? It’s not like they couldn’t have done it since Flik comes back and actually pilots the bird just fine with only a girl scout troupe to help him operate it.

Bottomline: Despite those plot issues, I have to stick by my stance and just say it’s a more enjoyable, memorable and funnier movie than Antz. I commend Antz for trying to be more realistic in their designs and I still enjoyed the movie just fine, but in the end the one who will always win out for me is A Bug’s Life. I’ve gained much more appreciation of Dreamworks productions in recent time, despite the fact I haven’t gotten to their later work, but I still remain as a loyal soldier in Pixar’s colony……Oh wait. Damn you, ant puns!

Recommended Audience: There’s some drawings of bug gore by the little kids (their teacher actually told them to draw one of the good guys as dead to make it more dramatic. The amount of flying that wouldn’t do in an actual school setting is amazing.) no swearing, no innuendos that I remember. Some minor violence, some grasshoppers get killed although not graphically. It’s fine for all ages.

AVAHS Finale – Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Plot: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was an adult on Christmas Eve.

What the hell’s with these sequels?

They don’t get continuity.

I guess I can justify it,

Young Rudolph sells more toys.

Parents, go out and buy one

for all your little girls and boys.

Rudolph needs more stuff to do, so he’s going after New Years now.

Franchises aren’t a brand new thing – this is a 60’s 70s cash cow.

Maybe I’m exaggerating – they probably didn’t know.

That in 40 years Rudolph would become,

a retail nostalgia ho!

Breakdown: We haven’t done enough Rudolph this year, right? Plus, this is pretty much one of the only New Years animated specials in existence. As many times as I’ve watched Rudolph, I don’t give as much attention to Shiny New Year. I still watch it fairly regularly on the holidays, but, truth be told, I usually forget to watch it before the holidays are over. I usually have to catch it in passing on ABC Fam…Freeform or ABC or something.

Twelve years after the release of the first movie, Rudolph, who has undergone de-aging surgery between when he left to deliver presents with Santa and when he came back home, is tasked with finding Happy, the baby new year. He’s gone missing, and without him the new year will never come. It will just be December 31st forever.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 1

I want to question so much about what that really means. Will the earth halt in its orbit? Will calendars be unable to show future days? Will all of the pre-printed calendars for next year vanish? Will the day just repeat itself, like Groundhogs Day? Will time and space warp around us? Isn’t everything fine as long as Happy is alive? Shouldn’t Happy be born on January 1st? When was Happy born if not the start of the next year? Is there really a press of time if December 31st will keep happening until Happy is found? Pretty sure we can survive a few December 31sts.

The only person who can go out and look for Happy is Rudolph because the storm from Christmas is still going on. Why Rudolph has to go by himself without Santa or anyone else is beyond me. Seems really irresponsible considering Rudolph’s basically a fawn again.

While he goes out by himself, he’s eventually joined by General Ticker – a character that literally comes out of nowhere. He suddenly appears by Rudolph’s side when Father Time (Who strangely carries around a scythe for no reason. Is he standing in for death?) narrates that he was soon joined by him. This movie will be less than ten minutes long if you just keep narrating things into existence.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 2

Here’s something to rejoice about, though – Rudolph’s nose no longer makes that horrible noise! YAY!

When they reach the desert, they’re met by Quarter Past Five, a camel with a clock shoved in its back…..I don’t understand this character’s concept, but whatever.

The big bad in this movie is Aeon the Terrible – basically a giant vulture. He’s not nearly as terrifying as Bumble, but he does the job.

Aeon’s on the hunt for Happy because he’s a creature that only lives for one eon. After that eon, he turns to ice and snow. His eon just happens to be up at the end of this year, so he’s searching for Happy to ensure that the next year never comes.

Through a nice but rather forgettable song break by Father Time, we learn that the baby New Year is actually Father Time. It starts out every year as a baby and grows throughout the year until it’s reached old age in December, where another baby New Year is born and starts the process over again.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 3
And for a few months he turns into a girl.

I really like this explanation of Father Time and the baby New Year. With the confusion from earlier, it’s nice to see something like this that makes a lot of sense. I was worried the baby New Year was just a novelty to herald in the new year. Speaking of which, they make a nice workaround to mentioning the ball drop in Time’s Square by saying there’s an identical event just with the ball called ‘the magical diamond’.

Now let’s get back to things about this story that don’t make sense to me. Father Time explains that Happy ran away after some people in the castle laughed at him for his big ears.

While it’s obvious that the baby New Year ages much faster than a normal child, are you seriously telling me this baby, who should be essentially new born age, has the cognitive capacity to understand that people are laughing at and mocking his ears? And that he understood this to a point where he rationalized his only option as running away?….And that he was able to run away as a new born baby? In a massive dessert? And not die? How poorly are you watching this incredibly important infant anyway?

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 4
Thank God I’m being watched by the parents from Rugrats.

Rudolph asks where he might go and Father Time says Nanny Nine O’Clock mentioned that he always wanted to go to the archipelago of last years—alright now you’re just making stuff up. This baby not only knew what an archipelago was, knew there was one for the previous years, and had a wish to see it too?….and shared it with others? When he can’t talk?

The islands are the homes of all the previous Father Times from the years that has passed. Each island stays frozen in time for the year that the specific Father Time reigned. When their last day of the year comes up, they retire to that island.

He sends Rudolph off, again, by himself. I can understand why Quart isn’t going, he’s too big, but why isn’t Ticker coming?

He’s directed to the islands through what is probably the stupidest method of directing someone I’ve ever seen. There’s a sundial on a beach with a hand pointing out into the ocean, and that’s the way he’s meant to go…..NOOOOOOOOOOO. Really?! He’s meant to find these ISLANDS out in the OCEAN? I thought they’d be underground. It’d be different if you could take the sundial and it directed you as you traveled, but it just stays on the beach.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 5
Someone’s screwing with me, right?

Not only that, but how is he supposed to ensure that he stays straight ahead in the boat? Especially when the designs are so wonky that it looks like Rudolph has no other view besides the back of the sail during the whole trip. On the calmest ocean ever.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 6

Rudolph gets attacked by Aeon and gives off the angriest look I’ve ever seen a reindeer give.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 7
His nose is red from the blood of his enemies.

He’s saved by Big Ben, a whale with a clock on its tail. Okay, you’re really just shoving clocks onto animals and calling it a day, aren’t you Father Time? Rudolph hitches a ride on the whale, and no, they never explain why Rudolph can’t just fly everywhere. He just flew around the world in a night, but he has one week to find this baby who might be in mortal danger and he’s literally hoofing it everywhere.

To be completely honest, the next ten minutes is just padding. Rudolph, Big Ben, OM (One Million – the first Father Time), and Sir 1023 (A knight, the Father Time from 1023, which is apparently when every fairy tale ever told took place) just search through the various years for Happy with little actually happening. They even take a detour for them to reenact, beat by beat, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, just with Happy taking the role of Goldilocks.

The central theme of each place they visit is that Happy makes friends with the people there and then they see his giant ears, laugh and he leaves again.

Aeon grabs him, and Rudolph and the others quickly run after him and knock Happy from his clutches. He saves himself in the fall with his hat as a parachute, only to lose him again in a freak gust of wind that carries him off.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 8

Happy meets another Father Time, this time a Benjamin Franklin look-alike called 1776 or Sev for short. In the island of 1776, every day is the Fourth of July. Don’t question it – just accept it.

Also, if there’s one thing I want to listen to in a New Year’s special or a subset of a holiday special, it’s song about the Fourth of July. Save it for Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, please.

At this point, I’m really having a hard time believing that this baby who can’t even walk keeps outrunning Rudolph and the gang. Again, would be really useful for you to fly, buddy.

He’s kidnapped by Aeon again. Rudolph and the Father Times can follow him at night because Rudolph’s nose glows. Gotta keep giving that thing purpose. It’s a glorified tiny flashlight that would actually be insanely difficult to deal with in real life due to the red color, but it’s his schtick.

Aeon has taken Happy to his nest on the frigid Island with No Name. As Rudolph and the others climb the mountain to get to the nest, Aeon shrieks and causes an avalanche, encasing them all in balls of snow.

Rudolph is able to break free because of the heat from his nose—oh come on! You can’t add powers to this thing. Even if his nose did emit heat under the logic that the energy used to make the light also creates heat, it’s about the size of a grape. He’d have to have a laser nose for that to even begin to work.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 9
Rudolph was born on Krypton….we mentioned that in the last movie, right?

With Aeon fast asleep, Rudolph climbs the mountain to get to Hap—uh, Rudy, aren’t you forgetting something?…..Freeing the other Father Times?…..Let them freeze to death? Okay….Wait, what happens a Father Time dies? Are we putting the space/time continuum at jeopardy here?

He tries to connect with Happy by showing him his nose and saying he used to be made fun of for it too, but now it doesn’t bother him. The current Father Time explains that Rudolph was too modest to tell his own story so the wind, trees and mountains helped him out by singing his song. I’ll only forgive this weirdness because it’s accompanied by a rather cute, but crude, traditionally animated version of Rudolph’s story….though that also begs the question of why is this part in traditional animation?

I’m redacting some of my forgiveness because holy hell, they made Santa look horrifying.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 10
Totally get the Santa=Satan thing now.

Rudolph tries really hard to not make it sound like ‘I gained social acceptance because my deformity proved to be useful’ and gives Happy a pretty cute wink.

I can’t really avoid the message of the movie anymore, so here goes. Rudolph laughs at Happy’s ears when he shows them but then explains that he wasn’t trying to be cruel – he was just filled with so much happiness when he saw them that he couldn’t contain it anymore. No one that he had met with was being cruel either – they felt the same way.

Obviously, this movie was making another go at the message of accepting your differences and those of others and celebrating what makes you special, but this just seems weird to me. Are you seriously trying to tell people who have been laughed at for their differences that the people weren’t being mean, they were just really happy? Hey, Rudolph, remember when you were laughed at all the time for your nose? Do you reckon those people were really happy or just dicks? Because I remember a whole lot of dickery.

I’m just…kinda confused on how to take this. On one hand, I can sorta see how telling a kid this would be a good coping mechanism for when they get laughed at. On the other hand, you’re condoning mocking by excusing it as pure happiness. Most people who laugh at others for their differences aren’t laughing because they’re filled with happiness – like I said, it’s likely because they’re showing their dickish side. They may not mean to hurt the other person’s feelings, but the fact of the matter is that the source of the humor is coming from the oddity. Even people who can laugh at themselves for their differences can still feel a pang of hurt when someone else laughs at them for it.

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 11
He’s adorable, though.

Aeon wakes up, and Rudolph tells Happy to take off his hat. When Aeon sees his ears, he breaks down in laughter.

Father Time: “Well, it’s the first time that monstrosity ever laughed in his life. He laughed so hard that he laughed himself right out of his nest. He laughed right down the side of that mountain….”

And broke his spine in several places on all of those jagged rocks he is clearly hitting his back on.

Rudolph: “Old Aeon won’t give us any trouble now. He’s cured for good. Heck, nobody can turn to snow and ice when he’s all warmed up inside with laughing.”

How do you know that he’s cured? How do you know he won’t turn around and peck your nose off? It’s not THAT funny – he’ll stop eventually. Are you for real about that warmth from laughing thing? Because my bullshit meter’s having a fit. They’re seriously saying this creature who’s been reigning terror on the sands of time and the archipelago of last years since the beginning of an eon suddenly was filled with happiness and will never be bad again because he laughed a baby’s big ears? What?

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 12
Too adorable.

Midnight strikes and they panic because Happy’s not back with Father Time. Rudolph wonders how they’ll manage to get Happy back before the twelfth bong of the clock when Santa suddenly shows up with his magic sleigh and flying reindeer and a slue of shit that would’ve been extremely helpful FIVE DAYS AGO.

He offers them all a ride, and I’m still calling foul because by the time they all got in that sleigh that clock would’ve definitely hit it’s final bong. Someone get the TARDIS. Actually, you really do need the TARDIS because midnight doesn’t start on the final bong of a clock – it starts when the clock hits midnight, which is when the bongs start. The bongs aren’t a countdown to midnight. You’re going to get there right before 12:01.

Santa does justify his ability to get there in time by saying he travels the world in one night so this isn’t a problem, but we’re watching in real time – the disbelief has to be sent into orbit. Also, again, that ability really would’ve been helpful for the past FIVE DAYS. Is saving the world from eternal December 31st not important enough to get you off your ass until you’ve had nearly a week’s worth of naps and cookies or something?

AVAHS - Shiny New Year 13
Ho ho ho! My presence in this movie completely destroys the fabric of the plot.

Happy rings in the new year. Rankin/Bass do their damnedest to make this timeless by saying his year is 19-wonderful, but, sorry fellas, we’re in 20-eh-well-we’re-getting-by-it’s-alright-sometimes.

As the movie concludes, we’re played out by the only fairly memorable song of the movie – Happy New Year.

The End.

————————–

Forgive me if this review seemed a tad harsher than it needed to be. I’m always a bit of a grump on New Years. At this point in the year, I’m still bitter that the Christmas season is over and I never really look forward to the new year.

My sour grapes aside, this isn’t a bad special – it’s just not that good. It definitely has its interesting concepts in regards to the Father Times and baby new years and even the archipelago of last years. However, it doesn’t really have nearly as much charm as the Rudolph special and a lot of it seems like padding. Some of the new characters were nice, like Big Ben, but the other Father Times had absolutely no purpose besides a duty to find the baby new year. They contributed nothing. Big Ben was basically just the movie’s Lapras, Quart was also only useful as transportation. Everyone else was just there.

Plus, even for a movie set in this universe, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense. A lot of the nonsensical decisions seem like they were made purely for plot convenience as well.

The music was fine. None of it was bad, but the only song I ever bothered to remember over the years was ‘Happy New Year’.

The moral of the movie is either terrible or insanely confusing. Were wires crossed or is this just a bad message to give kids? Notice how no one laughed at Happy in the very end. Shouldn’t apologies have been made? Shouldn’t Happy have been shown happily sharing the happiness with his huge ears and the happy laughter of non-dickishness that everyone would’ve been sure to give?

I do like how previous years and snippets of time were shown to give nods to how each new year is different and brings about major changes in the world, but they didn’t seem like they knew the asset they had with this because they don’t take the time to properly appreciate each time period. One Million years ago is just one big unrelated song number. 1023 is skimmed over for the sake of exaggerated olde English and exploring a lot of fairy tales. 1776 is literally one big Fourth of July party, which takes away from the immersion significantly.

I really like what they were trying to do with this movie, especially since most New Years specials, the few there are, typically focus on that tradition of kissing someone when the ball drops. Having a special that aims to do something creative for the holiday is a much needed breath of fresh air. I’m very uncertain over whether Rudolph was necessary here. It seems like they were jumping through hoops to justify why he and he alone needed to find Happy. However, I do love Rudolph and it’s nice to see him on screen, so I can’t complain too much.

Lastly, despite having no lines besides saying ‘Happy’ at the end, Happy is a very adorable little baby. I wouldn’t have laughed at his ears. They make him even cuter.

This is definitely something nice to show the kids around new years, especially since, if they’re anything like my parents were, they won’t be allowed to stay up until midnight so practically every new years celebration is barred from them until their teens or so. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia for adults, and it can be a fun ride sometimes, but it just doesn’t have a lot of substance.

And with that I close out this year’s A Very Animated Holiday Special. I hope everyone enjoyed the entries this year, had a happy holiday season and will have a great new year. 🙂

AVAHS – Fairly Oddparents: Christmas Everyday!

Plot: After enjoying another awesome Christmas, Timmy wishes it could be Christmas every day. His fairy godparents grant him his wish, and he enjoys toys and time with his family for weeks to come. Too much of a good thing is never a bad thing……right?

Breakdown: There aren’t many Christmas specials that I would say are better enjoyed after Christmas is already over, but if there’s one that makes that list, it’s this episode.

So many Christmas specials leave you wishing that Christmas came every day, but it’s really not a great idea. Eventually, you will get sick of it because one of the reasons amazing things like Christmas are so special is because they only come once a year. If you had it all year round, you wouldn’t appreciate it anymore.

I mentioned this episode in the Stuck on Christmas segment in my Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas review. In that segment, the only ones aware that Christmas was repeating itself were Huey, Dewey and Louie. Donald, Daisy, Gertie and Scrooge were none the wiser, making it have a Groundhog’s Day effect. In that version, it would be damn near hell because you’d be hearing the exact same words and experiencing the exact same events over and over and over.

I find this version of the setup to be more interesting because everyone’s cognizant of what’s happening. It’s not a matter of reliving the same day – it’s reliving the same holiday, which I find to be more complex and open to a wider range of possibilities.

I also find Timmy’s reasons for wishing such a thing to be better than Huey, Dewey and Louie’s. While Timmy obviously wants to bathe in gifts day after day, the main reason he wants it to be Christmas every day is because his parents stay at home with him instead of being away at work. For the three ducks, all they wants are gifts and Christmas dinner.

But away from the comparisons, we still have a very original and interesting interpretation of what would happen when wishing such a thing in this universe. After a while, everyone starts to get sick of the carols, dinners and basically everything Christmasy. They get so sick of Christmas every day that when they spot Santa in the sky, they try to shoot down his sleigh.

Businesses and schools remain closed, meaning people can’t buy anything or get anything done. (Plus, I assume, people would eventually lose their jobs and society would collapse…)

Not even the kids make off well for long since everyone starts getting fewer and fewer gifts each day.

After a while, Timmy finally realizes that Christmas every day wasn’t a good idea afterall and that everyone’s had enough, so he wishes for Christmas to be over. However, as we’ve learned is common whenever Timmy makes a bad wish, Cosmo and Wanda can’t reverse it. This time, they simply don’t have the magic for such a thing.

Every year on Christmas, the fairies all lend their magic to Santa so he can be the one to grant the various wishes of the children on Christmas. They get their magic back the day after Christmas, which creates the obvious problem. They can still do minor things like disguise themselves and poof places, but they’re ultimately powerless to make such a big wish.

However, I don’t quite get this. Timmy made this wish on Christmas night – meaning Cosmo and Wanda shouldn’t have had the magic to make the wish come true in the first place.

Another interesting repercussion of Christmas happening every day is that the other holidays can’t occur – meaning the representatives of those holidays are extremely angry. Not only do they already feel inferior to Christmas and Santa, but now Christmas has stolen whatever enjoyment they got from people celebrating their holidays.

They want to take Santa down by transferring his powers to them with the unwilling help of Cosmo and Wanda. After they do so, they plan on sending Santa to the imaginary date of February 33rd.

Meanwhile, Timmy snowmobiles to the north pole with the help of every Christmas celebrating kid with Internet access across the globe. When he arrives, the kids all follow to help save Santa.

Santa is extremely overworked and running out of presents to give the kids since he can’t make enough toys every single day to meet demand. Even with magic, he won’t be able to do anything if this continues.

The main confrontation is really my only major negative point about this episode. The other holidays very nearly succeed in taking over and banishing Santa, but Timmy tries to talk some reason into them. When the army of every web-enabled Christmas celebrating kid in the world comes, the other holidays can’t find it in them to fight off kids since their main intentions in the first place was to bring their own brand of holiday joy to the kids of the world and be loved.

Timmy says they are loved, just not as much as Santa. He brings them toys, and Christmas brings their families together. The holidays realize he’s right. They all then lament that their holidays are all kinda lame like Easter with eggs that go bad if you don’t find them, April Fools day with making kids play mean pranks on each other and Cupid saying Valentines Day makes kids fall in love, which he only realizes is a bad thing when the kids all express disgust.

Understanding that Christmas is just a better holiday and that Santa will always be loved more than them, they decide to let Santa go and reverse everything.

Just….what?

I know the important thing is that they know they’re loved either way, but the fact remains that this started with the other holidays being upset that they were being massively eclipsed by Christmas and Santa. Resolving this plotline by saying ‘well, yeah, that’s because he’s better than you guys.’ ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right. Guess we better fix everything.’ END. Just seems nonsensical and lazy.

A better option would’ve been to explain the reasons why those holidays are special to the kids too in their own ways. Like Easter is fun for egg hunts and candy, April Fools day is great to make up creative pranks for everyone to get a laugh, and Valentines day, as much as it makes some kids gag, gives them a bit of courage and hope to make a special connection with someone they like. Maybe say that Christmas may get the most attention, but all holidays have a special place in the hearts of children.

Everything gets changed back to normal, a new rule is made in Da Rules to never allow another kid to wish it were Christmas every day, and, to make it up to Santa, the holidays and Timmy take over delivering presents for next year’s Christmas.

All in all, I still love this Christmas special, even if the climax is a bit poorly written in my opinion. It’s a great way to ease out of Christmas highs as well. I’m sure many people have that same wish when December 26th rolls around, and this is a pretty good way to remind us that special rare events such as Christmas lose their magic and wonder if we live it every single day.

The song in this special is also one of the best Christmas special songs to debut in recent years. I Wish Every Day Could Be Christmas is catchy, Christmasy, funny and sweet. I listen to it on a fairly regular basis, and I sing it in the off-season.

AVAHS – Rugrats: Babies in Toyland Part 2

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 title

Plot: The adults are snowed in at a 19th century cabin. The babies are battling in The Nutcracker and trying desperately to make Dil’s first Christmas a good one so he’ll have more Christmases in the future. Angelica is hellbent on getting Santa’s toys all for herself. Is anyone going to have a good Christmas?

Breakdown: This review didn’t need to be two parts, but if they’re going to stretch out the special and yuk out some bonus points, I’m gonna.

This episode starts with five minutes worth of two things – Angelica being a thieving bratty bitch and the babies taking part in a mechanical representation of The Nutcracker.

Angelica grabs an armful of cookies that were meant to be taken one by one by the children listening to the carolers and they don’t do a damn thing about it. She took all of them yet no one even calls out to her to stop. Someone loses their snow hat in front of her so she just decides it’s hers now, even though that hat shouldn’t really fit her. Then she jumps into a group of carolers singing her rendition of ‘Joy to the World’ where she inserts herself as the main focus of the song. Yes, Angelica is now literally comparing herself to Jesus. Maybe not intentionally, but it’s there.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 1

I don’t understand why she’s screwing around so much. The only reason I can figure is that they want to keep showing Angelica being a witch so we’ll better understand why she’s supposedly not on Santa’s nice list…………………………….but……come on. Even people who have never seen a frame of Rugrats know that Angelica’s one of the most notoriously bratty bully characters to ever be shown in any form of media. She has her moments where she thaws her heart, but there is never any question that she is mostly a terrible and selfish person.

Even so, couldn’t they have put this in the first episode? She sent the babies off on a wild goose chase so she could find Santa’s toys first, yet she’s not even actively looking for them until she runs into the babies again.

Speaking of the babies, there’s not much to say about them for a while. Like I said, they accidentally partake in a mechanical rendition of The Nutcracker and all sorts of shenanigans happen. Some of it’s a little funny, but it’s still mostly padding. There’s also one aspect I don’t understand about it.

They’re first being ‘attacked’ by the Nutcracker and are saved by the Mouse King and his soldiers, but when Kimi decides they should fight too, she immediately decides to kick the crap out of one of the mice soldiers. I know they’re animatronics who aren’t taking sides, but from their perspective, Kimi is beating up someone who just saved them.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 2
I owe you my life, and an asskicking!

Then it turns around and the Mouse King is attacking them, but the Nutcracker saves them and winks at them. I don’t understand.

Once we get to the actual plot, Angelica has an acid trip after she breaks into a fake Santa’s Workshop. Nothing says ‘I deserve presents’ like breaking and entering. She imagines the workshop is real, along with the toy reindeer Santa handed her, named Prancey, and the employee elf from earlier, Hermie, being a real elf. He breaks the news to her that she’s not getting any presents since she’s not on the nice list and even Prancey abandons her after she called him a dumb toy.

We get an alright, but incredibly forgettable song called “Treat Each Day Like Christmas (And Your World’s a Holiday)” where Angelica learns to not be a bitch, I guess. The problem I have with this song is that it’s not really treating Angelica to be a better person on the grounds of just being a better person – it’s basically telling her to be a better person or you end up with no presents. Which is already pretty pointless because she already did get a present – the aforementioned reindeer doll Prancey. She didn’t like it at first, but obviously grew to like it. So, yes, if you’re a bratty little sack of reindeer crap, you do indeed get presents. Maybe not the one you wanted, but it’s far better than–

Hermie: “We give the good kids lots of toys and give the bad ones lice!”

Yeah, lice……Wait, what?

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 3
Prancey is adorable, though….Man, I’m sure on a reindeer cuteness kick lately.

Plus, she’s guaranteed to get a bunch of stuff ‘from Santa’ from her parents.

Back with the adults, their plot literally resolves itself off-screen. They’re still trapped, but they learned to stop fighting, stop being angry about missing Christmas with the kids, stop worrying that they’re going to die from lack of oxygen, enjoy the rustic charm of the cabin, focus less on the Mega Corp stuff and commercialism of Christmas and have a nice Christmas together all doing various things like baking, making popcorn garland, decorating the tree and doing origami…..off-screen. Too bad every single scene in these two episodes has been everything but padding or else they could’ve had time to show all that.

They seem like they might get back to being Christmas grumps when Chaz accidentally sets off the sprinkler system and soaks everyone and everything, but, like before, when they return to the scene later, everything is mostly dry and they’re right back to singing carols and enjoying the holiday. They keep cutting out the most important parts of this subplot. It’s driving me nuts.

In the actual plot for the babies, they’re lead by a goat to a nativity scene, which in my opinion, is pretty much the only part of this special worth its salt. The babies all feel bad for the baby Jesus because he looks cold and itchy, barely clothed in a bed of hay. Though I don’t know why they’re not questioning why this baby is sleeping with his eyes wide open and isn’t moving at all.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 4
Baby Jesus went on to become a wonderful mime.

They believe Mary, Joseph and the wise men are all hoping the baby has a good first Christmas or else he won’t get any others, like Dil. In an effort to give him some semblance of a good first Christmas, they give the baby Jesus the special Christmas gifts they got from the Nutcracker battle. As soon as I saw they kept those things, I knew they’d reincorporate them, but the way they went about getting them and the fact that the items are totally random pieces of trash makes it seem like this was thrown together sloppily.

Lil gives her ribbon that she got from a ballerina robot, Phil gives a shoe that he took from that same robot, Chuckie gives the big walnut he got from the Nutcracker, Kimi gives a bell she got from the Mouse King and even Dil gives the hat that he got when it flew off of Angelica’s head (the same one she essentially stole).

Then the Jesus doll smiles.

……This is meant to be really cute and endearing and everything….but this is kinda creepy. Rugrats is known for the babies taking normal things and perceiving them as living or something else because they have such an active imagination. The Nutcracker battle, for example, kept switching back and forth between watching the robots fight to watching a real battle between mice and nutcrackers.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 5

They’re doing this with the Jesus doll…..but I just can’t shake off the creepy feeling. It’s not like they’re imagining the baby Jesus as a living, breathing baby now, fussing around like Dil does – they’re imagining the same doll just with a smile now. The smiling doll is cute, but the shift is what makes it creepy. It doesn’t even make sense with the way their imaginations work.

I will give this scene major props, though. They manage to make a mostly endearing and adorable scene of pure good will, kindness and charity, involving a nativity scene, and not shoving anything overtly Christmas-y or even religious down our throats – and this is coming from a Christian who loves having schmaltzy Christmas-y messages shoved down my throat.

With Lou, he takes up the Santa role since the last one quit, and pathetically dresses up for the job with nothing but his regular attire plus a Santa hat and a beard that is way too loose-fitting. It’s hanging so low on his face, it would never fool even the youngest child. He is being a good Santa, though, so I’ll give him that. He hears that six babies are riding a goat to the nativity scene so he rushes out on a sleigh and retrieves them.

Close by, he spots the cabin the others are trapped in and I almost facepalmed when I saw it from the outside.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 6

The snow is somehow only piled up around the cabin despite the snow machines being a fair distance away from it and the snow being spread out in a circular pattern. The only way to achieve this effect would be if there was only one snow machine and it was on the roof of the cabin.

They also don’t bother trying to open the window to climb out despite the fact that the snow barely reaches halfway up the window.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 7

In the end, Chuckie says Dil had a pretty good Christmas with or without presents because they had a lot of fun together. Angelica shows back up and somehow has a sack of gifts despite not being given one at the end of the ‘it totally happened’ acid trip. She kept the elf hat, but there was no sack of gifts. Angelica happily gives the babies their gifts. Chuckie gets a new snowsuit, complete with his trademark Saturn design, because his old one ripped during the Nutcracker battle. Kimi gets a glockenspiel….and she somehow calls it that instead of a xylophone, which is weird.

Yeah, they’re different, but most kids wouldn’t know the difference and much more commonly know the xylophone. How they mutter mispronounced words all the time but she manages to say ‘glockenspiel’ nearly perfectly is almost comical. Phil gets a new pair of snow boots. Lil gets a magic princess wand.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 8

Tommy doesn’t want to open his gift until Dil does (Tommy, you really are the best big brother) However, there’s, for some reason, nothing for Dil. I’m confused. If this bag is from Santa, there’s no reason why Dil wouldn’t get a gift. His name is even confirmed to be on the list from Angelica’s acid trip. If the bag is just something she put together herself, she wouldn’t say it’s from Santa and would’ve remembered Dil. Unless Santa wanted Angelica to give up her reindeer doll to make her story arc come to a head, I dunno.

Angelica tearfully yet happily gives Dil the doll and then prompts Tommy to open his gift. He says he already got his gift since all he wanted was for Dil to have a good Christmas. Then he offers his gift to Angelica since she doesn’t have a gift (you’re killing me, Tommy.) Angelica rejects it and tells him to open it. It’s a new camera, which may or may not be an intentional nudge at his future film career in All Grown Up. It’s a regular photo camera, not a video camera, so I can’t be certain.

The kids are reunited with the parents and they spend the rest of Christmas eve hanging out in the cabin.

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 2 image 9

The end.

———————————-

This special really didn’t need to be two parts, but at least most of part two was pretty good. Most of the plot with the adults didn’t have enough development on screen to have a strong impact, but it got the message across effectively enough.

The storyline with Angelica was poorly handled. Not only does she pull a complete 180 just because a song basically told her to be nice, but she magically gains a sack of toys from nowhere so we can wrap up the plot better. It is implied that the acid trip dream was real since she still had the elf hat and Santa does his tropey fly overhead in the last shot of the episode, but how and why did the warehouse instantly change back and forth to the mechanical representation? Please don’t say ‘magic’.

Like I mentioned, there was never any part where Angelica is handed a sack of toys and told to go deliver them for Santa or even saying ‘you’ll know what to do’. She just gets a sack of toys from nowhere and claims it’s from Santa.

Angelica was being a selfless girl at the end, especially giving up her reindeer for Dil and refusing to accept Tommy’s present as her own, but it loses a bit of its impact when you remember her parents will just shower her with everything she ever dreamed of at home. She doesn’t know that, so maybe it redeems her, but it was still a bit of a sloppy way of quickly changing her ways, which won’t even matter because Angelica is still a huge bitch after this even in All Grown Up.

The plotline with the babies was a good deal of padding, but for the most part the threads of it held together pretty well, even if I think it was also handled a tad sloppily. I did really enjoy the nativity scene…scene. It was definitely the best part of the episode, particularly with how unique it is. I can’t think of any Christmas special that has a scene even remotely similar to that. It was a very sweet and cute segment that didn’t seem forced or preachy. They weren’t even really giving their stuff over because it was Christmas, they legitimately felt bad for the baby.

All in all, this was an enjoyable Christmas special, but nothing fantastic. It had its funny lines and moments, but not enough to truly make the episode a must watch on Chrsitmas. It also had its touching moments, but only in part two. Tommy in particular is being a big sweetheart.

In all honestly, part two can be watched almost entirely on its own and it’s instantly made into a much better special. You could easily cut some fat from this and insert some exposition from part one to clean this up. The special is certainly worth watching, but it’s so hard to justify the 44 minute long cumulative runtime.