Animation Round-up: Gwen and Kevin Return to Ben 10, Droid Rage on The Clone Wars, and Adventure Time Takes Down 'Shippers?

There was no new episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this week (in the United States, anyway), so this week's round-up is a show lighter than usual. But never fear, there’s still plenty of animation goodness to go around, as old friends of Ben’s returned on Ben 10: Omniverse, droids were drafted for a secret mission on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Trixie and Twilight Sparkle squared off again on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and Finn collected all the mini-versions of the inhabitants of Ooo on Adventure Time.


Ben 10: Omniverse S01E12: “Many Happy Returns”

“Many Happy Returns” was the episode I’ve been dreading since I have absolutely no connection to Kevin and Gwen, let alone a baseline for them as characters (I don’t have the time to catch up on 150 episodes!). As a result, I urge everyone to take my opinion with more than a few grains of salt as I talk about the two characters and the episode.

I urge the healthy dose of salt grains because I found Kevin and Gwen to be kind of a pair of jerks by the end of "Many Happy Returns," when they packed into Kevin’s car—the source of all the problems in the episode in the first place!—and skedaddled. I get that Kevin was trying to avoid marrying Looma, and figured the best way to do that was to rope Ben into it instead, but then he tricked Ben into getting engaged to Looma. Not okay (and only passingly funny). And Gwen just stood by and let it happen since, well, she had reading to catch up on. Not a great first impression, though Gwen had my favorite line of the episode: “It’s probably just a misunderstanding, a cultural-relativism thing.” So college-y!

Gwen and Kevin aside, I did enjoy the big set piece in the construction yard. The Tetramands should give up the warrior culture stuff and become a pop-up wedding service, because they have really got their stuff together! The fight between Ben and Looma was entertaining (so many aliens this week!), and I enjoyed the color commentary from Rook and cheering from Kevin.

But seeing as how this was a big fan-friendly episode, I’m really eager to see how you felt about Gwen and Kevin stopping by.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E10: “Secret Weapons”

One of the more visceral memories I have of The Clone Wars is Cad Bane torturing C-3PO back in the Season 3 episode “Evil Plans.” It was dark and intense, and in similar fashion to the Onderon arc from the start of this season, attempted to grapple with real-world political issues in a kid-friendly way.

My problem with “Evil Plans” was that it short-circuited any honest discussion about the ramifications of torture by having the droid duo’s memories wiped. Certainly neither of the droids experienced trauma as they don’t have emotions or senses, but the ease with which everything was wrapped up irked me. And so I was on my guard during “Secret Weapons.” Here, a squad of astromechs—including R2-D2, and a DUM-series droid—were led by the frog- and slug-like Colonel Meebur Gasscon on a mission to retrieve a CIS encryption module from a Separatist dreadnaught.

My guard was largely unnecessary, as the episode did what I was hoping it might do: It demonstrated that the droids have personality and loyalty beyond their programming and mission. I was rather worried, due to the lingering shots of the inoperable M5-BZ, that the droid was just going to be left behind. I was glad when the other droids stopped and made a point of carrying BZ back with them as they made their escape.

Beyond that, I really liked the episode overall (except for the pink droid being named QT-KT), from Gascon and WAC-47’s development over the course of the episode to the zero-g showdown at the end. It struck the right balance of humor, action, and emotion to feel well-rounded and complete.


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S03E05: "Magic Duel"

So after last week’s heavy-handed moralizing, “Magic Duel” went a little lighter as Trixie returned to seek revenge after Twilight bested her in the Season 1 episode “Boast Busters.” This time Trixie had armed herself with the Alicorn Amulet, a trinket that turns her magic from general flimflammery into actual powerful spells.

The amulet allowed Trixie to easily best Twilight in a duel, and Twilight was banished from Ponyville as a result. Trixie enslaved everyone in Ponyville and erected a magical fish bowl around the tiny village, making us assume she was actually a Stephen King character. Twilight sought out the assistance of Zecora in the Everfree Forest, and supposedly received some Dagobah-esque training, but we didn’t see a lot of it. There was another showdown, this time with Twilight outwitting Trixie thanks to some misdirection, the power of friendship (of course), and by appealing to Trixie’s thirst for power (and ruining one of Zecora’s paperweights).

The episode’s lesson was a little vague, but it didn’t matter as some bits were generally pretty funny. Pinkie Pie’s lack of a mouth and a nose continued the show’s body horror/humor with the character (it felt very Georges Franju); Fluttershy’s insistence at being heard, then ignored, and then finally drafted for the secret mission cracked me up. I also really enjoyed Trixie’s power-hungry insanity, from her mistrust of wheels to her insistence on applesauce facial cream. All in all, a perfectly fine episode.


Adventure Time S05E05: "All the Little People"

I’m eager to hear what you all thought of this episode, as I’m sort of split on it. The premise is easy enough. That mischievous Magic Man returned and looped a bag of Little-Oooians onto Finn’s pants following a discussion between Finn and Jake about how you know when you’re attracted to someone. Realizing that the Little-Oooians are sort of a live-action The Sims, even in how they talk to each other, Finn started pairing them off into couples in an effort to determine his own best course of action.

On the one hand, I adore the interactions between the Little Oooians because in many ways they mirror that toy chest analogy I’ve been using to describe the show. Here’s Finn with his own set of his friends, enemies, and “C-listers” (“They’ll get involved eventually.”) to play with and he starts pairing them off to hilarious effect, including Little Princess Bubblegum using Little Lady Rainicorn’s tears to extinguish Little Flame Princess, and then Little Princess Bubblegum turning to exercise to deal with the break-up. Everything felt sort of wonderfully fitting with the characters and their miniature versions.

But it also felt “All the Little People” was an indictment of ‘shipping culture. Finn paired off characters who had no business being together, ignoring canon (Poor Little Jake!), and the Little world devolved into chaos, with Little Finn staring off a ledge, mulling over the effects of Finn’s interference on their lives. Finn was so distraught over what he’d done that he was “staring into the shadow of [his] darkest mindhole.” It’s a weird contradiction that the episode engaged as a result: Adventure Time’s anything goes creativity is one of its biggest strengths, and ‘shipping culture is a facet of that same creativity.

I think that “All the Little People” was ultimately a cautionary tale about ‘shipping, and perhaps even fandom as a whole, since can it often be carried to painfully unnecessary extremes that can ruin a show (*cough The Vampire Diaries cough*). I can imagine that Adventure Time suffers from this as there are no doubt some people who hate Flame Princess for distracting Finn from being with Princess Bubblegum, allowing such concerns to crowd out the pleasures of the narrative itself, even as there is some pleasure to be gained from ‘shipping.

Final bit: I normally don’t watch the second episode in the half hour, but this week they attached “I Remember You” to “All the Little People” and now I am really sad. Again. Thanks, Adventure Time!


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

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No poll for MLPFiM? The other shows got polls.
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Couldn't think of one that I liked.
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It was great to see Gwen and Kevin return. The best thing about Gwen's new look? She now looks like Velma? I don't hate Kevin because of how he looks in Omniverse but I will admit that he needs a haircut and new clothes.

I hope Gwen and Kevin return in more episodes of Omniverse.
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I want to know if Disney is going to take Clone Wars away from Cartoon Network now that they own Star Wars.
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I wouldn't be surprised, but I guess it depends on the contracts Cartoon Network signed with Lucas and the contracts that Disney signed with Lucas... there may be clauses in there saying all current TV media contracts are to remain status-quo until their period runs out. Like if the Cartoon Network contract originally stated that it would expire in 2014 then Disney might have to wait.

Then again, Disney has their own channels including some very cartoon-heavy channels. So, it's possible they will want to force Cartoon Network to drop it.
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as i read the contract ends at 2013 does this mean that disney might take it away by then??
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I dunno if the show will even run another season, it's had 5 years to span 2 movies that were only 3 years apart in real life and in that universe's chronology. The ratings have slipped a bit as well since its early days. Disney may take it to XD or may just let it run out and start something new.

Of course, what happens to SW Detours? Wasn't that set to premiere in '13 on Cartoon Network? That's a brand new show.
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I think it's clear that in the Star Wars universe, droids do have emotions and senses. There is a unique spark to C-3PO and R2-D2, they express feelings in various ways, have loyalties beyond simple programming, are easily identifiable even through nonverbal cues of posture and behavior. So when any SW material treats them as lesser-than, it becomes a fork in the road: is the author trying to make a statement about a lower class being perceived as "lesser than" as George Lucas was in the original Star Wars with several direct and indirect statements, or is the author simply falling into the trap of seeing the droids as mechanical and therefore cold? Generally on Clone Wars it seems to be more of the column B variety, but only in pieces.

In this episode, "Secret Weapons", it felt like the story didn't really work or even get started until well underway into the mission, 2/3rds into the runtime of the episode itself, when the droids got to do something and express themselves and make noises, when it wasn't just Colonel Ridiculousness and WAC the pit droid pilot yammering at each other.

Why didn't you like QT-KT? The "cutie" aspect, or because they had already used another homage to the R2-KT droid on the series and couldn't use that same droid name here? (Because they didn't want 2 droids named "artoo" in the same mission.) Personally, I didn't mind either issue, but knowing it's based on the late Katie Johnson's actual droid always makes me a little sad.

Anyway, this episode didn't work for me too well, the first 2/3rds were way too much of these 2 new characters who both were out of place for the show, plus the creepy mech-doctor bit that was way out of place, but the last third worked very well once we got that out of the way. I also kept wondering why they brought a pit droid (one that could talk, no less) to pilot when we've had tons of episodes with R2-D2 piloting ships, couldn't they have thought of a different reason to bring WAC along? The adding of upgraded powers was interesting, but I think only QT's was impressive - the laser that is too much to control was a stretch, and Artoo's extra booster power seemed no different from his regular booster power in Episodes 2 and 3. I did love Artoo finally putting his arms up though, as so many toy-owners have done in the past.

BTW, Lucasfilm described this as a "new story arc", so I'm wondering if this story is complete, I'd like to see more brave droids fighting with secret powers (and less springy, silly, blustery Colonel Frogguy).
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From a story standpoint, I guess it was easier to have WAC articulate how he felt and his conversations with Colonel Ribbit than leaving it up to the audience to just get the emotional vibe from R2D2's beeps and chirps.

And, I can get that. There's only so much "mono-logging" I could stand if Ribbit would ask R2 a question, and repeat R2's response like "So what do you thing? You think it's a dumb idea! Well the heck with you" etc. At least here we had a computerized voice.

Plus, it proved that not all droids are created equal. He seemed more intelligent than the Seperatist army droids but not near R2's level.
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I didn't have a specific problem with WAC being there, you are right that he helped convey the non-verbal astromechs more than just Col. Froggie, my problems with WAC were mainly the role he was playing - pilot - are better served by astromechs most of the time anyway, so they should have given WAC a better reason to be there. Col. Froggie being the only understandable voice would have been unbearable, not unlike Bumblebee on Transformers Prime where the character paired up with Bumblebee ends up doing all the talking and repeating of the beeped questions, so now you're tired of 2 characters at the same time.

WAC's personality was odd, he was an underachieving go-getter, an individual pit droid where usually they're seen in pairs or trios, usually hyperactive ones at that, and they never talk. I would have liked to have seen how he met up with Clone Commander Neyo and how Neyo found WAC valuable. And despite the writer portraying WAC as an underachiever, he actually was smart enough to recognize a potential boobytrap, and he got them into the right ship with minimal effort, it was a tad odd to present him one way and behave another.
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Clone Wars is tends to be very column B, hence how I phrased things above, despite the fact that I tend to think of the droids as being beyond their programming, regardless of the droid. Their insistence on taking the body of R5 demonstrates that here.

I also realize that their treatment of droids in terms of violence is to help remain kid-friendly. It's "just a droid" so S&P don't care. Green Lantern does the same thing with Aya, including dismemberment. Drove me up the wall, especially since Aya is very gendered. Anyhoo.

It was the cutie aspect. It's a minor annoyance, I freely admit, and I'm hyper-sensitive about those sorts of thing, so don't let it bog you down. I'm loony.

R2's arm thing killed me. I loved it.

Gascon and WAC were disruptive, but I'm just so used to new characters popping in that I tend just to roll with it depending on their personalities. So them versus the younglings. Less positive feelings about the younglings at first (though I sort of came around-ish), but I was generally okay with Gascon's bluster.

And, yes, this is a new arc, which is a bit surprising. I figured this would be a one-off.
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True enough, and Episode I was very guilty of using droids as a bloodless centerpiece for violence against the enemy as well, it's a significant shortcut but at the cost of the story's humanity (and I mean of the spiritual variety, not the literal one). It just frustrates me to have astromechs derisively laughing at a being that was mean to them, then go on to pretend like they are without any semblance of that humanity.

I hear ya with the "Cutie/QT" thing, and had they played her as Smurfette I could see why it'd be grating, but she didn't act overtly girly or cute in any way, and she did add to an action scene.

You are right about Clone Wars shoehorning new characters that don't really fit into the mix, for every Peppi Bow that feels passable you get 5 or 6 Lt. Divo types that couldn't be more out of place.

Froggie's bluster felt very un-Star Wars to me. How does a character like this exist in the role he's playing in this mission, and how did he get there? There's never been anything physically like him before in this universe, as tiny as he is and bouncing around as much as he does - Yoda was the smallest thing before, and he needed a floating platform to interact with the world of the Republic for some interactions. But Froggie also has no actual experience in the field and is actively seeking glory, that's another oddity that Star Wars usually smashes down with a mallet, and certainly isn't something the Jedi would otherwise put up with. To top it off, he's cruel to the troops to hide his inadequacies yet puts heavy demands on them because he needs each one to find his own success as he's incapable of completing the mission on his own, and a strategist should be keenly aware of that.

The Younglings, by comparison, are merely stripped-down characters, simplified to a single personality quirk, they otherwise fit right in with what we know of that universe both as creatures and in behavior (*although I still argue the Jedi should have monk-like children around, serious and studious and thoughtful, not goofy regular kids).
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Forgot to wrote about that doctor-droid....yes he was creepy,but I loved that about him. Voice acting on him was superb as well as animation. I also sometimes ask why do this or that,but generally I don't go into too much of it,because they already did it and no way to change it,so no point in loosing my beauty sleep over it:P
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I sort of liked the droid doctor (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) in terms of the creepiness and whatnot, but I do agree that out of all the potential elements that could be out of place, he was the most clearly out of place.
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Michigan J. Frog had a cooler head and didn't bounce around like a coked-up kangaroo. Also, Col. Gascon clearly wasn't manipulating some poor construction worker schmo into frittering his whole life away on a miracle that only worked when nobody was looking... OR DID HE?!?

Col. Gascon (fine, we're doing this name thing now) reminded me of the Gremlin in how small he was and how he moved.
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Weird, I typed a reply earlier to your question about the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Falling Hare", the Gremlin, but it seems to have been eaten. Anyway, I said that the mad doctor bit wasn't the gremlin, but Col. Froggie absolutely did remind me of the Gremlin, so that was an odd coincidence.
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Why must you be wrong about everything? Gascon is Michigan J. Frog. OBVIOUSLY.
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I was unclear about what I meant about the doctor. I felt he was out of place because he was a very cartoony doctor, something you could expect to see from a WW2-era Bugs Bunny cartoon. *BUT* he worked for me on his own level, his own thing, unlike Col. Froggie and to a lesser degree WAC the underachiever pit droid (WAC in of himself isn't a thing that's out of place, his attitude and behavior is what came out of left field).

Doc overly-excited-about-chopping-up-astromechs was animated very well (albeit that sequence had a sped-up animation which also lent to the cartooniness) but I did feel like for a Parwan species character there wasn't enough color in him so he got lost a bit in his drab surroundings. The voice acting was good though, for what it was trying to be, the "excited mad scientist" thing, and it was vastly different from the clones that DBB normally voices.

I feel like that bit with the doctor is riffing on a specific something WW2-entertainment-related, but cannot put my finger on what.
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Maybe you're thinking of The Gremlin from Falling Hare?
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"I Remember You" was a solid back-story episode, even though a rerun.

And yes, quite sad.

I like Marceline (and her stories) in general, but this one really nailed it especially when she found Simon's scribbled message to her on the back of those pages and then the flashback.

For such a stoner show, the episode was quite solid and if you followed the characters at all... quite sad.
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well R2-D2 is my favourite droid(big surprise:D),but he was kinda side-lined in this episode and more focus was on WAC-47(so I voted for him....and the world keeps on spinning:P ) and little guy Colonel Meebur Gasscon. Episode was great,WAC-47 was great and funny. Like you said,episode had great balance and first I thought,that by the end of episode,they will be trapped there or stuck somehow,but was nice surprise,that they managed to get what they needed and made escape.
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Interesting way of looking at the vote. I voted QT because her special ability impressed me the most and was the most effective.
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QT was also awsome yes and that fight with gravity was awsome. I laughed my ass off,when I saw WAC-47 dog paddle in mid air:D
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The Ben 10 episode was strange.

Gwen was always a pretty solid character until now. In the first season she and Ben were a bit antagonistic with each other, as you can imagine any 10-year-old "odd couple" might act. But she mellowed out and was a great friend + family member + ally.

Kevin, well it was a long journey. He went from Ben's nemesis to Ben's grumpy ally to Ben's friend. Even when friends they liked to give each other a hard time but it was alright.

But you're right: this episode put them in a negative light. Gwen was busy with college stuff and not very helpful. And Kevin really stuck it to Ben in the end that was kind of a funny prank. But on the other hand, we're talking marriage... to a warrior princess. That pushes it beyond prank even in cartoon land, though Ben has 3 years to think of a way out of it.

It was kind of out of character for them. Sure, the whole thing was kind of played as a one-off comedy episode but even still... that's more of a behavior I'd expect from some secondary characters from Ben 10. Not the previously main characters.
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Interesting! Like I said, I was very eager to hear from longtime Ben 10 watchers about the episode.

I totally grasp the comedy aspects, and apart from the general jerk-ish behavior of Gwen and Kevin, it's a pretty funny (albeit well-worn) set-up. They were just oddly distracting since I know they're pivotal parts of Ben's history. Weird, weird.
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Yeh, Gwen was always the smart / organized one and would either (A) figure something out (B) say something smart or (C) ridicule Ben for being an idiot. Plus, I dug the new hair dew... very much the kind of thing I saw in college in the day. Lots of girls went for a smarter hair cut once college started.

But... she'd never just decide to sit back and do her homework on her iPad while all heck was breaking loose. Plus, as much as they showed her being into Kevin, she would not have just accepted EVERYTHING that happened with just a "I'll be giving him a dirty look the entire car ride."

Kevin setting Ben up... not that out of the question. While they eventually became friends they would still mess with each other. And on the surface, it was kind of funny leaving Ben holding the bag like that.

Though once you factor in the wedding thing, it gets (A) dark and (B) would incite more of a reaction from Gwen than "oh well"
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