Episodic Reviews: Thundercats (2011) 07 & 08

Ah, the back-story episode. As straightforward as they are, the glimpse of the past from episode 6 was enough for me to wonder exactly what happened a long time ago in a galaxy supposedly far, far away. Yeah, expect those kinds of references this post.

Seriously, what up with the Star Wars references throughout the series? Seeing the weird elephants had me anticipating a separate cell full of Jabba the Huts, which actually really grosses me out now that I think about it.

“I can’t airbend in the Spirit World.”

Eeyup, and if it’s not Star Wars references, it’s gonna be Avatar references. Still, good to know that Jagga’s found a place even after death as the Roku to Lion-O’s Aang. Hopefully this won’t lead to crappy live action movies where director’s insist on racist casting. For one, I don’t think cat-people exist anymore.

… or Planet of the Apes references. As hokey as the trailers were, I couldn’t help but take some kind of interest in the movie. Maybe not enough to watch it, but still… any movie that’s able to trick me into thinking it’s actually the trailer for Spider-Man 4 gets kudos in my book. As to what flavor kudos, that’s debatable. Damn you, James Franco.

Must Cree Summer be the voice of every strong female protagonist in a series? Not the I mind. I frikkin’ loved Disney’s Atlantis and while I never bothered to backtrack to it, at the least I do support the Ducky-style circle glasses in A Different World.

Good to know they’re giving plenty of toy options for those taking a pass on the Mumm-Ra Mobile. I just wish the armor didn’t remind me so much of Magnamon, which for the record still sucks in comparison to the likes of WarGreymon. Just saying.

And end the episode with a shot straight out of Empire Strikes Back (with an even creepier kiss between Lion-O and his possible great grandmother). I guess if you’re gonna reference something, reference something good. And seriously, Empire is hands down the best of all six movies. Especially when considering the new changes being made for the Blu-Ray releases. Hell yeah for bringing life to inanimate Yoda muppets.

Right, I get that Lion-O’s the main character, and he has gone on solo missions in the original series, but it just doesn’t feel right. Thundercats is more of a team series than a solo hero series and should be treated as such. Translation: where the hell is my Kit and Kat screentime? Not only do I feel like they’re underutilized, but as a whole, it just feels like the writers don’t know how to write for younger characters and simply sees them as immature, annoying and in the way just because they’re not old enough to be angsty and broody 24/7. Five shame, guys.

Okay, so last episode, we learn that a good number of other anthropomorphic creatures crash-landed on Third Earth along with the Cats… so who the hell is this guy? For all we know, his people could have been the planet-wide equivalent of Native Americans and he’s just trying to make a living, earning respect from those that insist that they were the first to colonize the planet. Seriously, can someone pick me up as a script writer?

…insert your cross between David Carradine and Lucky Seven Sampson and the rest of the episode pretty much handles itself.

Pretty solid episodes so far, but I’m still waiting for the one episode to blow me away. And considering that the DVDs are taking the 3-4 episode per release route, that’s even more reason to up their writing. I’d rather not buy that kind of release, but I’d gladly break the rule for something along the lines of A:TLA’s Blue Spirit… or Teen Titans’ Haunted… or DBZ’s Super Saiyajin 2 episode. The list goes on.

Episodic Review: Thundercats (2011) 06

I was gonna combine episode 6 and 7’s reviews, but going through the nonsense that happened last week’s episode, I couldn’t help but give it its own post. So here’s basically what went down at the start of the episode:

And with even Cheetara’s erm… “influence” not getting Lion-O’s “sword to work,” it looks like it’s time for another character-building adventure.

Normally I’d nitpick at just how easily the gang was able to find the entrance to the Tower of Omens, but believe me when I say that there is just so much more to nitpick this episode that I’m gonna let this one bit slide.

First time I watched the episode, I could have sworn that they re-used the same frames for Tygra and Lion-O, but a second time through, they’re clearly different. Still, I’m no animation major, but the fact that it even crossed my mind couldn’t be a good thing. I mean, it’s not like pointing up or giving a thumbs up is Tygra’s thing—he just does it these episodes and it comes off as just plain weird.

Still not as weird as Mumm-Ra’s coffin being able to morph into a fully-functional land vehicle. Growing up, there were plenty of series out there with according toys that would have the most bizarre capabilities. In particular, I remember having a Power Rangers figure of the White Ranger that came with a sword that could shift into a car. Yeah, never in the series did that happen, as bizarre as the series itself was. So to have Mumm-Ra’s coffin also act as his means of transportation just screamed “available at a Toys R Us near you” even moreso than it should have.

Next up is Panthro’s complete pussification. I get that given his bad-ass re-introduction, it only made sense for the writers or whoever to tone down is bad-assity for the sake of giving the rest of the cast their time to shine, but to think that the head of the Thunderian army rushed in headfirst into such an obvious setup to a classic Indie-style trap. I can forgive that he can’t swim (given that he was awesome enough to hold his own breath for that long, he kinda redeems himself), but walking square into a trap like that… unforgivable.

Even if you were to accept all the previous stuff that’s happened this episode so far, I can’t help but think that everyone had to have realized just how awkward and old-school Scooby-Doo the animation got when Panthro lifted up the cage to free the rest of the gang. I mean… they were all just there like they were posing for a family portrait or something—no signs of fatigue, or even struggling to get out of the flooded room into the dry one, just lazy all-around.

Then there’s the fight against Mumm-Ra itself. You’d think something like this would have been used as a mid-season finale kind of dealie, but no… episode six. You barely have any of the characters that well established and yet you move right into a fight with the final level boss already? Iunno, additional weird.

And to top it off, the episode literally went from this shot:

to this one:

Seriously, who the hell was the intern that storyboarded this episode? If it’s not one thing that’s taking me out of the action, it’s something else. And considering that I’m already suspending enough of my disbelief with the whole anthropomorphic cats having the most pun-tastic names available… just… just, no.

btw, awkwardly long shot of Cheetara holding a lantern is awkwardly long. And if that wasn’t enough…

I get how in cheap animation back in the day, things like opening up books right square in the middle and somehow being able to read page 1 of the book was a thing, but in 2011… really? Okay, so the twist here, is that the animation did get things right and have Lion-O open up to the first page of the Book of Omens, but then for him to assume that there was nothing in the rest of the book just because there was nothing on the first book is just absurd; surely, not every book he’s opened in his life didn’t start with the meat and potatoes of things. If anything, he should find it typical for the first page to be empty (it’s one of those things I never really understood, especially in our current “go green; don’t waste paper” age).

Iunno, this episode was just plain weird. Weird and sloppy.

Episodic Reviews: Thundercats (2011) 04 & 05

Okay, as much as I like the heartwarming series that is Bunny Drop, one can only say so much about the series before one starts repeating um… oneself. The same doesn’t exactly apply to an action animated series featuring anthropomorphic animals. I only wish more of them were sporting eyepatches and mohawks. So yeah, if anything, expect a combined episodic review for Bunny Drop, which I guess wouldn’t be considered “episodic” anymore, but whatever.

So, IMDB tells me that Eamon Pirruccello and Madeleine Hall voice WilyKat and WilyKit, respectively. From their filmography, I’d assume that they’re actually playing their age. But then I scroll down to the part where Hall’s credited as a director and producer for three documentaries—one of them dating back to 1994, so iunno. Maybe it’s the nostalgia glasses, but I like the concept of kids voicing kid characters, even if it does result in some Charlie Brown-style dubbing every now and then.

Avoiding the possibility of them existing as grass-types in the Pokemon world, the general concept of the Petalars could have gone one of two ways: taking the serious route and falling on its face, or the somewhat tongue-in-cheek route just to play it safe. While I’m sure everyone on the writing team was fully aware of some of the ridiculously cheesy lines coming from the Petalars, it still ended up being portrayed in a way that leaned more toward the former rather than latter of ways. I like the general idea of a race that perceives time differently based on their short lifespan, but to integrate lines like being remembered “for centuries to come” just kinda brought things down for me.

…that, and the fact that you could overanalyze the Petalars’ lives to hell to the point that you’d much rather analyze the timeline of the Dragon Ball universe. I mean, you first see them in the middle of some kind of burial ceremony which takes a good couple minutes. Ignoring the fact that you don’t see them do the same for any of the other Petalars (maybe the guy that died was royalty?) you can’t avoid the fact that it must have taken their equivalent of a good chunk of their “lifetime” to hold the ceremony in the first place. It’s just… ugh… I think it was one of those concepts that’s better if you don’t think about it too much. I’m sure a chunk of the old-school fanbase was hoping the forest was enchanted to make the characters age a good chunk just so Lion-O would be closer to the same physical age he was in the original series.

So from what we’ve seen of the Sword of Omens, it’s basically the dues ex machina of the series, which I honestly don’t mind since I’ve already suspended so much of my disbelief for a show centered on anthropomorphic cats. That and well… it’s based on an 80s series, which you can only go so far with. Though that’s not to say I don’t like the series so far. On the contrary, anthropomorphic anythings put into an animated action series is pretty hard to screw up.

Oh yeah, and Panthro’s alive.

Honestly, I feel like even the series’ younger demographic knew that Panthro had to be alive. I mean, it’s 2011—I think we all grew tired of seeing the black character offed so early into a series.

Naturally, the following episode fills in the gaps, from Panthro’s Return of the Jedi-like betrayal by the hands of fanged guy, to his meeting with the rest of the crew. Understandable and enjoyable enough, but did that really mean having to leave the cutesy characters back at camp while the big kids went off to fight some kind of Ben 10 alien reject? While I’m sure Kit, Kat, and even Snarf will have their moments in the spotlight in later episodes, their exclusion in this one just stood out too much. I felt the same thing in season three of Avatar: The Last Airbender when they started leaving parts of their own cast “back at camp,” if only because it’d mean having too much on the plate to keep track of for the writers. If you’re gonna separate your heroes, at least do it in a more believable way. Seriously, if Digimon remains my standard for keeping track of multiple protagonists, then there’s something wrong.

As for Panthro himself… eh, he’s what I expected him to be. To draw something of a parallel, I had a haircut at a different barbershop than usual. The guy that cut my hair was a bald black guy. He was nice enough, and did a good job of cutting my hair, but I couldn’t help but notice a pinch of him looking down on me just because I didn’t know how to explain my haircut. It’s like he’s been presented with so much in terms of haircut challenges, that it almost seemed like a chore for him to do his job for the likes of plebs such as myself.

Panthro is kinda like that. I’m sure he’s a good guy, and his reputation as a skilled fighter seems to precede him, but to go from the King’s right-hand man, to finding that the King’s been replaced by his snot-nosed kid? It’s just not the same, and I can see where he’s coming from. Still, I prefer the company of the two Wilys over him any day. Actually, now that I mention it, I wouldn’t put it past the writers to come up with some goofy interactions between the siblings and Panthro. They’re such polar opposites, that the situation is practically being begged for.

Episodic Review: Thundercats (2011) 03

I was actually on the fence as to whether or not I should follow up my initial thoughts of the series’ two-parter with episodic reviews, but having read the entirety of the Bunny Drop manga, the chances of me dropping that series after a couple more episodes is high, so I figured.

While I was glad to find that the new Thundercats hasn’t deviated from its original series as much as other reboots have, I will say that after seeing the series premier, I was still skeptical of future episodes. You know how in Holes how they say “The second hole’s the hardest”? Well the same can be said for TV episodes, too. In some cases, too much effort may have been put into the first episodes that future episodes just don’t compare. Thankfully, in this case, it seems like Thundercats is slowly picking the pace, fleshing out their characters with each episode, no matter how filler-ey it comes off as (seriously, as cool as pirate fish sounds, you can’t get any more filler-ey than that).

First thing I noticed this episode: John Williams better be credited as the music composer this episode, because the first two tracks sound a lot like “A Window to the Past” and “Aunt Marge’s Waltz” from the Prisoner of Azkaban Soundtrack (sidenote: the last HP soundtrack worth your money). Doing a quick search, it seems that series music composer Kevin Kleisch “take[s] a lot of inspiration in John Williams.” Uh… right; the same thing can be said of Dragon Ball Kai composer Kenji Yamamoto’s score and legal stuffage with Dragon Ball Z composer Shinsuke Kikuchi leading to the latest in inconsistent Dragon Ball releases. Then again, the music industry in general’s pretty wonky, so I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing happened at all. Williams is probably too busy tending to his 5 Oscars to care that much, anyway. (Wow, 315 words in and I’m pretty sure I’ve already set a personal record for most hyperlinks in a post, so uh… check ‘em out?)

I’m still not that clear as to Tygra’s relation to Lion-O. They refer to each other as “brothers,” but they seem to imply it in a blood sense rather than a chumly sense. Oh. Either I was more bored during the series premier than I wanted to admit, or that’s something that really should have been brought up before.

So the gang’s split up between looking for The Book of Omens and Mumm-Ra, completely ignoring the possibility that looking for one may lead to the other. Really digging the whole Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe here—you’ve got your ragtag “chosen” characters on a quest for one thing, while at the same time making sure to defeat the greater evil behind everything else. From what we’ve seen, it looks like Thundera’s been surprisingly behind in terms of tech, so it looks like we’ll be abandoning the whole Dungeons and Dragons motif (thankfully) as the gang travels further along. Really digging the direction taken so far.

Really digging the Naruto cloaks, too. I’m guessing it’s some kind of traveler’s standard?

And ignoring Kat’s scandalous choice of new wardrobe, I’ll admit that I like the brother/sister duo. Their quest of heading to the treasure-laden city of Aldara, which apparently Kit has the only proof of its existence, is a believable goal for the characters to be striving for and makes me wish the city does in fact end up existing. Let the records show that I’m of the opinion that Aldara will end up being like Omashu in Avatar season 2, though; no good can come from a city of treasure.

So this series’ Sword of Omens is lacking in hokey Batman light-up signal and its call seems to be more to activate its badassery than to summon other Thundercats? Fine. Though I won’t be surprised if Lion-O’s able to unlock some kind of secret powers of the sword later on; all good weapons gotta be upgradable.

The fish captain’s your typical Ahab stereotype. Still, his interactions with the rest of the characters drove the plot forward and were more helpful than obnoxious. Rather odd to find that fish people operate boats over swimming, but I guess that’s expected when your sea is made of sand.

…and the cook reminds me a lot of Hachi from One Piece, which in turn made me think of Kit and Kat as little Saiyans with their ridiculous orphan appetites. But unlike the episodes music, all the character quirks come off as more of homage than subtle ripoff.

So besides that, there’s not much else to say. Oh wait. GIANT MUTANT IVYSAUR MONSTER.

Okay, besides that there’s not much else to say for this episode. I think it’s the fact that the last animated American show I enjoyed was A:TLA that I’m bringing up the occasional comparison to it… which is a good thing. I need something to whet my appetite besides endless amounts of Avatar reruns on Nicktoons to build up for the Legend of Korra.

btw, cutesy characters are cutesy. Glad to know the creative team’s realized Snarf for the child-marketable non-speaking alien cat-thing it is.

Initial Thoughts: Thundercats 2011

I was born in 1989—that kinda awkward, but kinda not period in animation and TV where I got the best of both worlds in terms of American animation. Major networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were still establishing themselves in the industry while I was growing up, which led to them airing not only their own original works, but filling in a majority of their airing schedule with older shows. As a result, I’d be exposed to things like Tiny Toon Adventures, Inspector Gadget, and Muppet Babies alongside the newer shows of the time like Doug, Rugrats, and uh… honestly, those are probably the two major ‘90s cartoons I grew up on; #teamNick.

Sure, I’ve heard of the action cartoons of the ‘80s even well before VH1’s I Love the series brought out nostalgia posers, but I was never all that into them. I guess for some reason, seeing teenagers in spandex fighting galactic aliens made more sense in Powers Rangers than anything I’ve seen from Transformers or He-Man. So when I heard that a new Thundercats cartoon was in the works, I initially felt rather indifferent to it all, never really following it at all when I was younger.

But then I got to thinking of other older series getting re-makes for newer generations. Transformers alone has had not only a line of live-action remakes, but at least two new animated series riding off the coattails of the franchise’s new wave of popularity. And from merely taking a glance at how that franchise has been treated, it was obvious even from a non-fan’s perspective that it was getting popular for completely different reasons that old-school fans of the series desired. It was a re-make that was rewriting the series for a new audience of fans, leaving the older generation in the rubble.

Enter my repeated exposure to the new Thundercats trailer, playing before the start of practically every movie I’ve seen within the past few months. The action scenes looked well done, all main characters from the original seem to be present (from what I remember), and they even respect the original series enough to pay homage to it through keeping things like its original logo intact. Skimming through online discussions, it looked as if old-school fans were actually excited for this new series. While it was clearly a rebooting of the ‘80s series, it didn’t distance itself from its source material to a disgusting degree. Knowing that at least a minimum amount of care had been taken to pleasing both the old and new-school audiences, I was on the bandwagon. By the time I saw the trailer an umpteenth time before watching Captain America, I was anxiously awaiting July 29th.

Wanting to be as informed about the series as possible, I was pleased when Cinemassacre put up their own little summary of the original series:

I was also glad (albeit, initially confused) when Cartoon Network started airing classic episodes of Thundercats just this past weekend. Already having had my fill of the basics from the above video, I simply checked out the first two episode of the series just to get a more general feel for what I should be expecting come the new series’ premier. Ho-ly crap. First off, I noticed that the animation style was incredibly crisp for something made in the ‘80s. Second, I was surprised to find just how detailed the plot was. Within the span of an hour, I had a well-established connection to every character, generally feeling for each of them when presented with a difficult task to overcome, or in the case of the enemies, thinking how dastardly of a deed they were planning against the protagonists. If you can get past the ’80s hokey voice acting and the fact that you’re watching a show about anthropomorphic cat warriors, definitely check it out… or at least the first two episodes.

And now the moment of truth: the premier of the new Thundercats series. Long story short, it was okay. Having no real connection with the older series except for what was mentioned, I can honestly say that nostalgia glasses didn’t get in the way of my viewing of it, though I will admit that I preferred the original’s premier episodes better. As expected from the trailer alone, events are unfolding rather differently than in the original, with an apparent peace in the world of anthropomorphic talking cats ruled by one king. In that sense, it was rather drab (I’m not all that big on the whole “old-school villages, townspeople and kings” type of setting), but it did have enough call-backs to the original to keep me interested.

Hearing Tygra’s “Now you see me, now you don’t” line again was cheesy, but entertaining as all hell. Other scenes featuring each main character show that they still prove to be similar enough to their ‘80s counterparts to keep old-schoolers satisfied. I must say that while Lion-O’s scene with the Sword of Omens was rushed, I couldn’t help but get chills when he cried out “Thunder… thunder… thunder!” That said, however, I was disappointed when nobody said “The Thundercats are loose!” Still, as a whole, the new Thundercats series proves promising, keeping old and new fans on a similar page of interest.

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