Weekend Animation Round-up: The Clone Wars, TMNT, and WTF Happened to DC Nation?

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This week's round-up is a bit lighter than usual, as Cartoon Network has very suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the DC Nation Block—Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice—from its schedule, and according to the DC Comics and Cartoon Network Twitter feeds, the programming block won’t return until January. Consider this, as a friend of mine called it, a “Crisis on Infinite Saturday Mornings.”

Neither party has announced the reason for this sudden hiatus, or whose idea it was. But you know, a two-and-a-half month hiatus following two weeks of new episodes that started after a nearly three-month hiatus makes perfect sense. Really. It does. ON EARTH-2. I don’t get it. At all.

Anyway...


Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E03: “Front Runners”

We were still on Onderon as “Front Runners” began, and the Jedi-trained rebels were beginning their campaign against the droids stationed in the capitol, Iziz.

I have always liked when The Clone Wars engages in urban battles; it’s a nice change of pace from wilderness or spaceships, because those tend to feel very same-y after a while, and the urban battles encourage a sense of place. And that sense of place was pretty important this week, as the episode dealt with rebels/terrorists (depending on which side you’re on, as the episode made clear) who were fighting on their home turf.

The episode didn’t take full advantage of that impulse, as the quasi-leaders of this little cell—Lux, Saw, and Steela (who became the full-blown leader at the end)—never felt completely attached to the setting they were in, at least emotionally. I say this because it strikes me as odd that no one said, of the big plan to knock out the power grid for the city, “But if we knock out the grid, won’t the citizens of Iziz lose their power, too?” For the episode’s talk about winning over a populace, the non-combatants seemed more than willing to give up some comforts for the sake of removing the droids.

Which I thought that King Rash, the Separatist ally ruling Onderon, would turn to his favor, but instead he just called Dooku for better reinforcements. Maybe he’ll still pull a PR attack in the next episode, but given that Dooku’s sending a new general to organize things (and perhaps take Rash out?), I suspect we’ll get more blaster battles instead.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles S01E04: “New Friend, Old Enemy”

Last week I posited that the latest incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could prove to be something in the vein of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in how it uses an episodic conflict to teach a lesson or moral about, well, anything. "New Friend, Old Enemy" made gestures toward this notion, but didn't really stick the landing.

The turtles have, throughout all their various incarnations, struggled to gain acceptance among humans. Sure, characters like April and Casey Jones have become allies, but wider understanding is always elusive, no matter how much good the turtles do for New York City. It's natural for them to want to reach out beyond their clan—they're all pretty sociable, after all—so Mike's desire to become friends with Chris Bradford, a Chuck Norris-y martial arts celebrity, made sense.

I liked that this week's episode decided to use a social networking site (handily supplied by April in a very brief appearance) to make the connection with Bradford. Mike assumed that online "friendship" through the site translated into friendship in person as well. It was a step toward addressing current societal issues and trends that TMNT should take more of, in order to help differentiate it from its predecessors and make itself more relevant.

But the episode never fully connected all its dots. While Mike experienced, in an extreme way, the dangers of assuming that online friendship and real-life friendship were equal as he was captured by Bradford and Xever (Shredder's streetwise henchman whose fighting style has a hip-hop feel, of course), the link between the social networking site and the perceived friendship was never made explicit, leaving that particular message muddled.

On the upside, the show's humor is becoming a bit more confident (an important thing to have in a Mike-centric episode), and while the action sequences still feel a bit stiff (due more to the animation than anything else), I like that there's not a lot of cutting during them. Fights are shown in a medium or long shot, and all the moves are visible and animated, which gives them some energy. It'd be easy to cut them into pieces, and it would save money, so I'm glad that the series has decided against that style.


What did you think about this week's episodes? And since we're without our comic book superheroes for a while, would you like to see something in their places? (I'm not exactly keen on Dragons: Riders of Berk.) Perhaps a capsule review of some older animated fare? Or maybe something from the new fall anime season? Leave some ideas in the comments, and I'll see what I can do.

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