Animation Round-up: The End of the Crystals Arc on The Clone Wars, Bullying on My Little Pony, an Epic Tree on Adventure Time, and More

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Nov 27, 2012

It’s time for this week's animation round-up! In the last few days, the Plumbers had to deal with a malfunctioning Omnitrix on Ben 10: Omniverse, the younglings and Ahsoka teamed up with Hondo to escape Grievous’s clutches on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Cutie Mark Crusaders dealt with a bully on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles acquired a new mode of transportation, and Finn climbed the most epic tree ever on Adventure Time.


Ben 10: Omniverse S01E11: “Outbreak”

The entire premise of “Outbreak,” that Dr. Psychobos needed to retrieve a component from the Omnitrix for his Nemetrix, begged the question of why Malware and Pyschobos bothered with Khyber in the first place—especially since Psychobos had very little trouble getting the component. Psychobos and Malware were at odds, as Malware (and then Khyber) wanted Ben destroyed and Psychobos was after Azmuth, so already their scheme was strained under the weight of their different goals.

I imagine that the episode was still a bit of a delight for longtime Ben 10 fans as the malfunctioning Omnitrix released its transforming energy around the Plumbers’ HQ, turning various occupants—including some captured villains—into some of the Omnitrix’s alien forms. Of course all the villains got the cool and powerful aliens while the Plumbers got the less-awesome villains, including an adorable chibi-fied Rook-turned-Upchuck. It was the kind of fan-service-y episode that shows like Ben 10 can—and should—do every once in a while.

Me, I was just a little lost given my lack of familiarity with the villains, but the episode was still fun. I do find myself wishing that Ben grew a little bit between episodes; some acknowledgment that he’s not invincible or as smart as he thinks he is would be most welcomed, and episodes like this one are small slices of humble pie that Ben never seems to fully digest.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E09: “A Necessary Bond”

We’ve reached the conclusion of this arc, and "A Necessary Bond" was probably the most exciting of the four episodes. And David Tennant was back (though sadly in a much smaller capacity).

The episode was actually mostly good. The opening chase sequence was one of those virtuoso action sequences that contained plenty of thrills and made the inevitability of the Jedi's recapturing something more interesting than it would have been otherwise, even if it included a cliff turn at the last second. The same couldn’t be said for their chase through some canyons on the way to Hondo’s vault, which fell into podracing territory in look and levels of excitement, but it was going to be difficult to top the opening.

Grievous’s arrival on Florrum, on Dooku’s orders, wasn’t exactly the most riveting of plot developments, but it served its plot purpose in uniting the Jedi and Hondo’s pirates. Given that Hondo has lost his base of operations, most of his ships, and many of his men, I hope that this is the last we see of the Weequay pirate for a while. Meaningful nod with Katooni aside, the character is still a little overly flexible for narrative means.

I was annoyed by two things in this episode, though only one of them is legitimate. The first was Ahsoka’s duel with Grievous. Grievous’s skill and cunning is always something that varies depending on the needs of the show, so Ahsoka holding her own against the general was difficult to buy into. I’ve come to terms with that sort of thing from The Clone Wars.

My other, in-no-way-legitimate complaint has is that Huyang mentioned that this whole ordeal was as exciting as when Yoda went to go get his lightsaber crystal. ... ... ... WHY DIDN’T WE GET TO HEAR THAT STORY, SHOW?! I WANT TO HEAR THAT STORY. I mean, don’t you want to see Yoda and Huyang teaming up and being awesome? I do!


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S03E04: "One Bad Apple"

My Little Pony generally has a lesson to offer, and that’s fine. It’s actually one of the show’s strengths, as it balances being genuinely entertaining while still imparting a moral or life lesson. And more often than not, the show also excels at not being too on-the-nose about it. Except when it’s a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode, and then the show tends to fall victim to painful after-school-special impulses.

“One Bad Apple” fell squarely into this camp as Babs Seed (voiced by Bryanna Drummond, laying on a Brooklyn accent a little too thickly), a cousin of Apple Bloom’s from Manehattan arrived in Ponyville. Babs—like Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo—doesn’t have her cutie mark yet, and so the young ponies were very excited at the prospect of a new member in their blank flank club. But Babs very quickly threw in her lot in with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon and began to bully the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

And so the episode relied on standard bullying PSA rhetoric, including informing an older person about the bullying (in this case, Applejack). Of course, the Crusaders first had to play a prank on Babs during the Summer Harvest (a rigged golden apple float) before learning that Babs arrived in Ponyville to escape some bullying in Manehattan, and that her bullying was just the result of not wanting to be teased in Ponyville as well.

It was all just so pointed and overly reinforced throughout the episode that “One Bad Apple” didn’t completely fit with the show’s overall tone of gently weaving in a lesson. Sure, there was some good stuff, like Pinkie Pie’s delightful yelling of “VEGGIE SALAD!” as her lettuce float crashed or the “Babs Seed” song, which conjured up old memories of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in its execution and style, but it wasn't enough to balance out the heavy-handed nature of lesson.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles S01E10: “Panic in the Sewers”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been on a small roll the past couple of weeks, with strong episodes that've pushed the series forward in really productive ways. If those episodes were the “two steps forward,” “Panic in the Sewers” was the very definition of “one step back.” Maybe even three steps.

When the show first premiered, I questioned its reason for existing, beyond selling toys. My big gripe with "Panic in the Sewers" is that it felt like exactly that: a very long, plotless commercial for some new toys. Which isn’t totally fair, because there was the semblance of a plot: The turtles got word that Shredder (and/or Bradford-now-Dogpound) was planning to flood the sewers with a chemical concoction to wipe out their lair, and they had to stop it. And that was pretty much it.

The episode never came together in an interesting way for me. It was jumbled mess of scenes, with Splinter’s concern for the turtles’ well-being never the core of the episode as it likely should have been. Instead, we got a chase after the chemical truck in a new turtle buggy that Don had built, and of course it broke into four parts, laying the foundation for a neat toy in the future. (You can actually buy a Ninja Stealth Bike that comes with an exclusive Raph figure for about $23 bucks.)

Perhaps I’m just being jaded and cynical, but I didn’t see the big vehicle sequences in The Clone Wars this week as a thinly veiled attempt to sell me some toy versions of pirate skiffs or the Jedi ship the younglings were on. “Panic in the Sewers” was just so... half-baked that it doesn’t seem like it could be anything else.


Adventure Time S05E04: "Up a Tree"

When I started covering Adventure Time for this round-up, fellow TV.com writer Cory Barker asked about the show in the comments, and I told him that the best way to think about it was from the point of view of a kid with a mismatched toy chest on a rainy Saturday afternoon. “Up a Tree” took that premise and moved it outside as Finn climbed the most epic tree ever to retrieve his throwing-and-catching-disc (because Frisbee is a trademarked property).

The big charm of Adventure Time has always been the way it stretches a simple premise to the fantastic without crossing over into satire or irony. And so this notion of retrieving a lost toy in a tree, something anyone who has played outside can relate to, became a quest—just like it may have seemed when as a kid you attempted to climb a tree in real life. Branches break, animals get in the way, fear settles in, and then there’s the matter of getting back down.

“Up a Tree” played on all of these aspects with its twisted wit, particularly the cult of the tree. The whole “In the tree, part of the tree” mantra from the animals was just creepy enough to be delightful but not distracting (I loved that the owl wore a tee-shirt that said “Owl” on it), and for me stirred up memories of the Great Deku Tree in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Finn’s eventual escape with the non-flying squirrel was cute (though the “yes and no” gag wore itself out), and the last-minute save by the throwing-and-catching disc was indeed “the perfect throw” with which to end the segment.


What'd you think of this week's episodes?

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  • JT_Kirk Nov 28, 2012

    Clone Wars did nothing for me, it wasn't a character-driven episode, things merely "happened" to get the kiddies off Florrum. There was no wizardly Jedi creativity, none of the kids' characters did anything to help or hamper the story, even Katooni's saber assembly was merely going through the motions, there was no more time for struggle or storytelling it seemed. Huyang played only the C-3PO role, no longer clever and wise and mysterious until one comment at the end. Grievous is merely the Deus ex Machina that sets the plot in motion, there's no reason for him being there at that time, and it doesn't even jive with last week's episode where during these events he was engaging and then running from Obi-Wan's flagship.

    As for Hondo, your criticism is right on the money, they overplayed him here switching sides to be arbitrary - perhaps this was meant to feel like Cap'n Jack Sparrow's unpredictability but the writing lacks the nuance required to sell that.

    On Ahsoka vs. Grievous pt 2, I agree there too, but that's a failing of EVERY saberwielder on this show. At first it seemed like Grievous was limited to only 2 lightsabers which could have justified the balance shift - they showed him pulling 2 sabers off his waist, but then they cut away and he's got 4 and it's ridiculous.

    I didn't hate this episode, but it didn't really work as a story, and it wasn't very well-thought-out or polished, so it was just "a thing that happened".

  • noelrk Nov 28, 2012

    I totally agree on the "things happening" view. I tend to feel that way about most action-driven episodes of shows, so I often judge such episodes on how things go based on the enjoyment of the spectacle around the small narrative moments (as nonsensical as they often are, and as you accurately outline).

    I really really like your Jack Sparrow comparison with Hondo, and I would not bet against you that it was the inspiration. The key difference, not only with the writing issue, is that Jack was always a step or two ahead of everyone, or could improvise that it seemed like he was. Hondo doesn't have that quality, which makes him more plot device than character. Very good idea. Oh well, next week it's all on the droids. We'll see how it goes.

  • EsmeBuffay Nov 28, 2012

    Why the hate on the pod race? Did people actually not like the pod race in episode one? Sometimes I think people just hate on the prequels just because they're not as old in in hipsters tiny minds that means they aren't as good. It was pretty reminiscent of the scene on Endor with the Ewoks and the Stormies so I'm convinced if anybody has something against the pod race it just because they're bandwagon idiots.

  • JT_Kirk Nov 28, 2012

    The podrace is less essential to Ep I's plot, it's like watching Batman Begins and all of a sudden halfway through we meet Robin while he's in a NASCAR race... and we have to watch nearly the whole race... from every racer's point of view... via every crazy angle and hyper-cut edit. And Robin's a 7-year-old actor portraying a 9-year-old character that the writing, concept art, and even first half of the storyboards show the character originally being a mid-teens character.

    I saw Ep I three times on opening day - 12am, afternoon at the Chinese theater in Hollywood, and evening across town. I went on to see it several more times - including both digital-projection prototype versions (Texas Instruments' DLP, and the digitial transmission one that was awful so I can't remember its name but, I have a t-shirt of it somewhere), plus 2 different videotapes, DVD, and blu-ray, as well as reading cover to cover the illustrated screenplay. I was seeing this movie and judging it long before "hipster" had the modern connotation. Maybe some other folks should consider having a little discerning taste before labeling others and so harshly at that.

  • kanniballl Nov 28, 2012

    Yeh, the movie wasn't too bad. The fight scenes were great and they did set things up nicely with the senate and Palpatine. The young universe was also decent: droids, different factions, more primitive ships (yet not war-worn).

    I just wasn't a fan of the POD race, JarJar, or that Gungan army. And as even you mentioned, the kid was just too young.

  • mcepin3 Nov 28, 2012

    I just wanna know....what is it about Jar-Jar and Gungan's that people hate or dislike so much?(please,if you can, also comment on other things that you didn't like,if you wanna)

    And on the age thing: if that kid was 7 and him portraying 9 year old,isn't that much age difference. You got people on tv(not just tv) in their mid twenties and they portray high school kids of age even as low as 16. And kid did great as Anakin.

    to JT_Kirk saying it's like watching Batman Begins and in a middle of it comes Robin,while he's in a Nascar race, is the most crazy comparison I have ever saw to date.
    Yes it comes down to a person's taste,whether they like something or not and form opinion from it.

  • kanniballl Nov 28, 2012

    As far as the age thing, I wasn't complaining about a 7yr playing a 9yr (that's a bit petty). That was someone else. Though someone told me a few weeks ago that the story was originally written for a young teen (hence the "He's told old to train" Yoda argument) and they switched in the middle to an adolescent to appeal to the kids more. I have NO idea if that's true hence I didn't "go there" in my complaints (someone else did).

    As for JarJar and the Gungans. Too cartoonish (the behaviour, not the CGI). It was like watching Roger Rabbit stumble around (P.P.P.Pleeeeezze Eddie). There's "comic relief" and then there's... well... THAT. I'm all for comic relief (3P0 for example) but that was a bit too cartoonish. Add the rest of the Gungans acting similar. I came to see a Star Wars film, not a Star Wars / Looney Tunes cross-over. Seriously, the way he won the Gungan battle for them? Seriously?

    I won't get into the racial thing. People had big complaints about how JarJar/Wattoo/GuildAliens all appeared to be characatures of various stereotypes but I looked past that. Some people, they took offense.

    The POD Racer / Nascar comparison... it's not that far fetched though I didn't mind the race itself so much. For that entire segment it was kind of a different movie. Story/Drama, Story/Drama, Story.... Toy-e-tic racing event with a completely different tone, Story/Drama, Story/Drama. I didn't MIND it so much, though wasn't a huge fan of focusing so much time on the other racers' PoVs. But it was alright, though a friend made a solid comment the other day. It's sad that when the sporting events in Escape from New York and Escape from LA fit into a film better than fitting in that racing event into Ep 1.

  • kanniballl Nov 28, 2012

    This comment has been removed.

  • kanniballl Nov 28, 2012

    Looking back, I can't even watch much of the ORIGINAL trilogy any more. I love the universe / concept but the original films bore me now.

    That being said, there was a lot about Ep 1 I did not like. Namely: Jar Jar, the Gungan army, and it was a little too "kiddy." I realize Anakin was a kid, but even still... a bit to adolescent.

    That being said, I have mixed feelings about the POD race. It was a way to show off that Anakin actually had reflexes instead of just relying on Qui-Gon saying "Yep, he's force sensitive"
    But on the other hand, it did break up the actual story a bit for a little mini tv-episode in the middle of the show. Story, story, story, futuristic POD prep+race, story, story.

    Was Episode I good? No
    Was it horrible? Not really
    Was Ep 4-6 really the nirvana of cinema people say? Not really

  • mcepin3 Nov 28, 2012

    story wise,pod race wasn't just showing some futuristic version of Nascar race or what Anakin can do. Yes little bit both of what I said,but they also needed that pod race,so that they could leave Tatooine. Plus it's where Anakin lived and since he was slave,only things he could do,was build things and pod race. Episode I gave us better understanding of Anakin and his teen years. Without pod race,they would have no way to pay Watto for repair parts.

  • noelrk Nov 28, 2012

    I always appreciate being called a bandwagon idiot and that I have a hipster tiny mind.

    It's dull spectacle (the worst kind of spectacle), overly long, and completely kills any and all narrative the movie had going for it, which really isn't that much, making it all the worse.

    Here, the final chase mimics a lot of the feel of the podrace due to the pod-POV shots of a canyon. Perhaps it's just one chase too many, but also it summons up the specter of that podrace, hence the mention.

    And since you're so concerned about "hating" on the prequels (though I've never made mention of them beyond this gesture to the Ep1 podrace...), here's my brief rundown on them: The Phantom Menace is sort of boring, but hardly offensive. Attack of the Clones is pretty dreadful. Revenge of the Sith is good.

    Satisfied that I'm not a hating bandwagon hipster idiot, or do I need to prove myself through some particular geek cred trial you've devised?

  • mcepin3 Nov 28, 2012

    @EsmeBuffay make him do the trial:D

    I agree,scene where they were chased through canyon reminded me right away of podrace on Tatooine. But it didn't bother me, since I liked podrace in Episode I :D (Sebulba *crowd cheers* :D Jar-Jar: "Missa can not watch this. Hold on Ani... :D-still don't get it,why people hate Jar-Jar so much:D ).
    Seems I am one of few people that enjoyed prequel trilogy.
    The Phantom Menace was great to me. It had the biggets pressure on it's shoulder, since people wanted to know, what the "new" trilogy brings and how it will all lead to masterful piece that is Episode IV: New Hope. Story was also great and well written...Qui-Gon-Jinn(loved him,wish we had learned more about him-did read some comics about him) and Obi-Wan Kenobi send to aid Naboo. Then meet the Queen Amidala, escape from Naboo and Force leading them to Anakin(where he shows his moves on Amidala...Force is strong with that one indeed:D ). One podrace later,one slave free and Sith are revealed(yet again:D...saying yet again, because no matter how much time passes, there will always be Jedi and Sith. Even if one side were to win in one era, with time some will start to think differently and "change" sides. Or they will hide in caves or something and survive:D Cruel cycle we live in). Oh and we meet R2-D2 and C-3PO.
    Attack of The Clones was simply awsome to me and not afraid to say it. Loved it, when we learn more things about everyone, Anakin and Pamde in love, arena fight scenes, Yoda fighting, Dooku,etc. Best scene and I get chills when I watch this scene is, when they are in that ship chasing Dooku, ship gets hit little and Padme knocked down on sand. And then best thing follows...Anakin demanding they go back for her, Obi-Wan saying they have mission, Yoda turning his head...aaahh,pure ecstasy right there
    Revenge of The Sith had ALOT of things it needed to wrap up in that tiny time that it had:D It did great job with the time it had(how long was movie,2h30min or so?) to "wrap" things up. We got to see Chewie:D And transition of Anakin to Darth Vader. Such an emotional thing to see fall of Jedi and Obi-Wan saying to Anakin,that Obi-Wan failed him. He took responsibility for Anakin and what an amazing thing to see.
    I LOVE STAR WARS!!!! :D And even though I love young Obi-Wan, NO ONE can compare to true Obi-Wan played by Alec Guinness! EVER!!!

  • mcepin3 Nov 27, 2012

    oh,you actually write something about cartoons/animes and their episodes. I never really checked out this round-up before(butthen again,I don't read Revenge or Once upon a time reviews :D->though I watch both shows,just hate those picture reviews...HATE THEM),but maybe this will become weekly with Star Wars:The Clone Wars. I am huge fan of SW:TCW and love watching it. Just how awsome it is and how it spreads love through all kinds of characters. I agree with you, that Grievous's skill really depends on who he fights:D...man,if he would have fought one of the small ones,I bet even they would last against him:D Of course I would LOVE to hear more about Yoda(anything with him,I would love to know,watch,read,...),but think it wasn't shown,because these are Clone wars and Yoda has 800 years on them:D So showing how he got his lightsaber doesn't fit in this show....maybe they can do episode,where younglings ask Yoda about it and that way they show us...that would be cool.
    Hando had best scene at end with Kenobi.

    I watched old TMNT(very first ones and also few other versions),but this one I haven't watched yet. Is it good? Both from story and anime point of view. Turtles seem kinda funny to me(and I get it,it is meant for today's kids) and that's why don't watch it. But if it's good,I might give it a chance.

    P.S:: I know you don't write reviews for Revenge and OUAT

  • TVcom_editorial Nov 28, 2012

    Crap! Accidental deletion here... was trying to click "more." Please re-post if it's not too much trouble!

  • noelrk Nov 28, 2012

    ?

  • TVcom_editorial Nov 28, 2012

    Mysterious reappearance! Definitely accidentally "removed" @mcepin3's comment and then replied to the "this comment has been removed" message. And a possible bug investigation ensues...

  • noelrk Nov 28, 2012

    Hm. I posted two comments in each thread prior to ones that appear here that never actually appeared. I figured it was a browser bug.

  • noelrk Nov 27, 2012

    I do indeed! :) The column's been running since the end of September, though the line-up has changed a tad over the months.

    I would answer, "Not yet, but maybe soon?" to your TMNT inquiry. The show's still trying to figure itself out, and I'm not sure it's ready for a full-hearted recommendation unless you're just a diehard TMNT fan. A friend of mine who has a young child (less than 6) watched this episode with me, and she declared that her kid would never watch it (albeit just based on this episode). Take it for what you will.

  • MrTerminator Nov 28, 2012

    Did she say exactly why she didn't like it? I haven't came across anyone who has seen the new TMNT Show and didn't like it. Keep in mind that was an opinion of a 5 year old so its still in its developing stages I guess. The show is geared towards 6-12 year olds in my opinion and it has everything what those people in that age group would like! As an adult, the show is even more enjoyable for its references to previous incarnations!

    I really liked "Panic in the Sewers". 1st of all, how can you go wrong with that Dream sequence? It was totally Nightmare on elm Street inspired. And I liked that the characters got a little more developed such as Splinter which was something new for this Series. He learned he was the one that drove the Turtles fears and made them panic. And that was a really good character moment for him! I didn't mind the go-karts. I mean if you're gonna complain about every single toy commercial within the episode, you might as well not review the show.

    Every superhero cartoon has vehicles. What's your point?

  • noelrk Nov 28, 2012

    She called it "plotless" and "inane."

    And the show is probably fine for a 6-12 group, but I'm also not in that group, and I'd hate to make assumptions about what they like or don't like since kids tend to have very definitive opinions about their tastes.

    Why would a critique about the show's commercialism be a reason not to review the show... (and have I complained every single toy commercial...I feel like this may be the first time since the pilot I've even mentioned it...perhaps one other time...)? It's a part of the show so I see it as a valid element to engage with and provide an opinion about. It's perhaps even more important to engage with those things since toy sales and possibilities have influenced a channels' treatment of shows (Sym-Bionic Titan, anyone?).

    And my point is that it's just crassly done. The buggy was the focal point of a large action sequence, and felt more like the focal point of the sequence, a "Look at what it can do!" by breaking apart, coming together, and so on, than an integrated part of the action.

    Compare this to other vehicles in the column, like the pirate skiffs on Clone Wars or even the Plumbers van on Ben 10, or, outside of the column, the Javelins on Justice League Unlimited. These are vehicles that, yes, have toy potential (as all things do, really, as the shows are produced as part of a capitalist society), but these are elements that are part of the show, not things that cause a rupture in the narrative flow of the episode. It's when that rupture occurs, as it did in TMNT, that it creates an annoyance for me.

  • mcepin3 Nov 30, 2012

    well depends how you view diehard TMNT fan...I am huuuge diehard TMNT in terms of "old school" TMNT. Also those were one of the first comics I read.
    I watched around a season of those new TMNT.
    Few days ago I got some episodes of old TMNT and I was on verge of tears. NO other TMNT can compare to them(in my eyes). Super excited that I will get all episodes of those old TMNT. When I watched first episode,volume was to max for that awsome theme song.


    I did watch these 2012 TMNT first 2 episodes and I can say I was surprised. Theme song is ok, liked the humor and I for sure saw influence from japanese animes(blank eyes,etc.). Was also glad,when I knew words yame(stop) and onegaishimasu(please) :D Other thing that shocked me,is how good voice acting was/is. No offense,but some amercian voice acting is the worst in some animes and cartoons. Splinter is just weird looking to me here and seems they changed origin story bit. Turtles are kinda ok...not a fan of their feet(how wide they get) and drawing a blank atm on how it's called on their front side. It just "sits" there,like a piece of armor. Will give them a chance.

  • bluecatcinema Nov 27, 2012

    It's been three days, and I still can't get the "Babs Seed" song out of my head.

  • noelrk Nov 27, 2012

    It's very catchy.