Green Lantern: The Animated Series [2011] Season 1 part 1: Episodes 1-13

Power Rings for Everybody!

(Colors may vary; not available in all sectors.)

Green Lantern the Animated Series was a pleasant surprise, and for the most part surprisingly good. It only teased you briefly with a Green Lantern universe cliché before rocketing you away (literally) on a new adventure.

Cliche number one! The many, many trials of Hal Jordan…

The entire season in an emerald sentence: Outside of Guardian space, there are “frontier” Green Lanterns embroiled in a nasty war with vengeance driven Red Lanterns, although they are too far away to help until a friendly Guardian encourages Hal Jordan and Kilowog to steal an experimental ship run by a female AI who wants to be human (what else) and they arrive, marooned (conveniently) for the length of the season, where they make unlikely allies, encounter multiple shades of power ring, and teach the true meaning of love to an AI, a heartbroken Red Lantern, and the seriously messed-up Star Sapphires.

“Won’t someone teach me love?”

“…uh, except maybe you guys…” (Even an AI is smart enough to look for love advice anywhere but from the Star Sapphires.)

Aya the AI sounds a lot like this:

Placing the setting in a far-off region helps the producers with one Green Lantern problem. That being the literal army of Green Lanterns ready to jump in and aid our heroes if called upon. That was good, since life and death were on the line in many of the episodes. We give the show props for mature themes and scenarios that included the vengeful death of entire planets, self-sacrifice for family, lost love, …and the rather cruel affection of the Star Sapphires.

A sad, conflicted man–silhouetted by the girly lavender glow of Star Sapphires?

One Green Lantern cliché that they did not avoid was the plethora of power rings. We say this out of well-rounded general knowledge of that universe, not out of detailed comic book information. So the Green Lanterns with their green power rings are fighting Red Lanterns with their red power rings. We know that Hal Jordan’s arch enemy, Sinestro uses a yellow power ring. And from a source we cannot even guess, someone becomes a Blue Lantern. Yet there is still one entry to make our kaleidoscope complete.

We don’t even know where you came from.

Buy one power ring at full price, get two free! While supplies last. Green is almost out of stock.

The Star Sapphires are a dangerously superpowered order of women scorned by men. They are bitter, good-looking shrews with the power to transport over great distances using the power of their misguided notion of love. Oh, and of course they use purple power rings. Hal Jordan’s sometimes angry girlfriend is transported to them and turned into a scornful Star Sapphire. The order apparently believed that love entailed imprisoning their men forever in crystal, and tapping their life energy. Some of you may be able to relate.

She’s not your friend Aya. Look at her eyebrows. She’s evil!

The character art direction was un-apologetically stylized and fun, not lacking in any department. Human characters looked sufficiently manly or pretty, many of the humanoid aliens looked sufficiently–er, alien. And even the alien girls looked pretty. Ah, except for Kilowog’s new girlfriend (just imagine a female version of him) who also stupefyingly gets turned into a Star Sapphire.

Oh Hal, you’re such a smoothy.

Wait, she’s a Green Lantern too?

The art direction for settings, ships, camerawork and special effects was also handled well with no glaring faults. We felt like they showed us a lot in 13 episodes. Jam packed into them were numerous planets, multiple cultures, spaced stations and alien nasties. Oh, and space battles, lots of space battles.

With a stained glass window depiction like this, how bad could Atrocitus really be?

You may ask to what extent a green energy cannon manifestation can damage a ship of metal and energy shields. Issues like that highlight the sometimes amorphous nature of the Green Lantern’s power. It can make the drama harder to frame, so the show occasionally falls back on more solid plot devices like rings running out of power, or areas that block their energy.

Oh boy, lookout Hal. Even your girlfriend, Carol Ferris, becomes a Star Sapphire. (Although, the mask IS kinda cute.)

A fine climax, played out with impressive visual scale. We would recommend this season. It has action enough for younger viewers, and maturity enough for the rest.

Wait, the PLANET is a Green Lantern too? Who isn’t a Lantern this season?

“Oops. Did I do that?”

Check out our Green Lantern takes:

Green Lantern: First Flight [2009]

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights [2011]

Green Lantern: The Animated Series – Season 1 [2012]

Check out our other DC Comics takes:

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 1 part 1

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 1 part 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold  Season 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 3

Batman: Under the Red Hood [2010]

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman [2003]

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies [2009]

All-Star Superman [2011]

Superman vs. The Elite [2012]

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths [2010]

Justice League: The New Frontier [2008]

Young Justice [2010] Season 1

Wonder Woman [2009]

Young Justice [2010] Season 1: 26 Episodes

Extremely Competent Teenagers

(with chips on their shoulders, …and angst)

If you thought a show called, “Young Justice,” would be about teenaged superheroes looking for their shot at the big leagues, you would be right. If you thought these sidekicks would be out to prove something to their mature counterparts, you would be right again. Finally, if you thought they would seek justice with sarcasm, attitude, and a good portion of angst, then you’re more on target than a batarang wrapped around one of Green Arrow’s bolts.

Lots o’ attitude and suspicion. We have not seen this many evil looks in continuous episodes since Merlin Season 3!

(Merlin BBC Season 3)

Uh, somebody misinformed Superboy. He decided to get in on the– expressions? Not too unstable looking…

Not the best looking take on the Watchtower we have seen. Those extra rocky bits do nothing for the view.

“Mount Justice?” Is that really its name? Why don’t we just mount a huge neon sign flashing, “Secret Good Guy Base.”

Season one in a sentence: Sidekicks yearning to stretch their wings but not yet ready for the Justice League are given their own minor-league superteam (with attitude) and a secret base in the middle of a remote mountain, while collecting kooky vehicles, defrosting a Superman clone, befriending an overly powerful Martian, and angering a bunch of major league villains, all the while learning the true meaning of friendship and the politically correct meaning of acceptance.

“You’re not ready for the big leagues. Now stop whining. Hmpf. Kids.”

Real heroes can mix it up even wounded. Young Justice reasonably portrayed Black Canary hanging with the A-Team.

Superhero teams are generally diverse by their nature, taking members from all over the world and sometimes other worlds. That adds fun and spice as long as it is done for the betterment of the show, and not heavy-handed, politically correct reasons. Jackson Hyde, the new black aqua lad benefited the show with a solid, if slightly wooden, character. (We appreciated his minimal angst.) You can decide for yourselves if the eleventh hour inclusion of Icon and his teenaged sidekick –with attitude, was done for diversity or not. It really came out of nowhere, with little foundation.)

We were not overwhelmed by the visual presentation of Young Justice’s Joker. By the way, nice hipster hair.

Three depictions we found particularly well done were Robin, Zatanna, and Lex Luthor. Robin, who we think in the past has been overdone as angry and resentful of Batman, this time was depicted smart, happy to be detective, and just a little too young to lead. Zatanna seemed a lot more powerful at the end than she did at the beginning, and was surprisingly handy in some of the larger climatic battles. Finally, Lex Luthor was so precisely just what you would want out of that character: Scheming, overconfident, more scheming, and well-dressed.

“If you’re trying to stop me, see my attorney.”

Pleasing art direction on heroes that you really never see.

We give props to season one for quality. There is nothing at all to complain about regarding the backgrounds and animation quality. The art direction was different and well done, depicting the characters in a new, less-bulky light. They were not as stylized and fun as Justice league, but 603% better looking than the hideous Justice League: The New Frontier. The youngsters were depicted teen slim, but so were the Justice League crew like Superman and Batman, where one might expect a little more meat. Still, all the hero characters were visually pleasing.

We enjoy Black Manta’s recent string of appearances. He has returned from C-tier villain obscurity. Alhough his voice did not make an impression like in Batman the Brave and the Bold, his look was cool.

(Batman the Brave and the Bold)

The voices were decent, but did not overwhelm despite some A-listers. It was a bit of a non-standard voice depiction. Honestly, some sounded a little “run-of-the-mill.” It was as if your friends all got together and skillfully dubbed it, –but still sounded more or less like average, normal people. Perhaps the voice director played it too subtle to match the plot.

We appreciate fairly well known actress Kelly Hu. She voiced Jade. Why so many villain roles Kelly? We remember your bad girl in The Librarian.

(The Librarian Series)

A well done depiction of “The Immortal Vandal Savage.” But how long must he live before he learns his lesson?

Finally, there was lots o’ conspiracy going on (perhaps too much for the sudden and somewhat flat payoff) .

For an “oh-so-secret” conspiratorial group, you are pretty detailed with your silhouettes…

Yes! An update of the ultra classic Hall of Doom from the Superfriends era.

  1. Is there a mole on the junior superteam?
  2. Who is this super shadowy group trying to stop our plucky teenagers?
  3. What family secret is Artemis hiding? (Counseling is in order.)
  4. Is Superboy into tattoos? (What is this? The 1990’s?)
  5. Are Martian teens REALLY ugly?
  6. How many golf balls are there on the moon?

Sure, so comely and carefree on the outside. What could she possibly be hiding underneath?

Five out of six of the preceding questions will be answered. Overall, Young Justice season one is slow to payoff, but entertaining along the way.

“It is Fated that you read more FortressTakes.”

Young Justice takes:

Young Justice [2010] Season 1

Young Justice [2012] Season 2

Check out our other Batman and DC Comics takes:

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 1 part 1

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 1 part 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold  Season 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 3

Batman: Under the Red Hood [2010]

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman [2003]

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies [2009]

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights [2011]

Green Lantern: First Flight [2009]

All-Star Superman [2011]

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths [2010]

Justice League: The New Frontier [2008]

Wonder Woman [2009]


 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars [2011] Season 4: 22 Episodes

All Your Favorite Characters

(are hardly in this season)

If we may start in the movie-guy voice: “In a world– er, universe, where everything goes wrong for the good guys, and Jedi are ineffectual playthings to be outwitted, tortured, and slaughtered…”

See Anakin outwitted (not too hard in his case) by Dooku.

See Obi Wan Kenobi beat up, tortured, and enslaved. Ugh. He deserves better.

The series continued its format of filling 22 episodes with four or five multi-part arcs. It worked, allowing deeper plots and characterization than possible in one-off 20 minute episodes. This meant the choice and quality of story and writing were more important than ever. A bad writing effort could now sink three episodes at once! That’s bang for your writing buck.

Sadly, this was too often the case regarding the last couple seasons of this series. Really good visuals tied to high school writing efforts. The franchise, we must reiterate, did not do itself any favors placing the setting between Star Wars Episodes II & III. It is the darkest, most depressing era of the timeline, capped by the empire’s complete takeover in Revenge of the Sith. Anyone would be hard pressed to make a balance of episodes in that environment, much less writing interns.

Like all female TV partner interns, Ahsoka gets sent undercover in fetching outfits.

Ahsoka protects the little boy king… “I know he’s a squid, but isn’t he dreamy?”

However, the visuals continued to impress. From underwater environments to desert; daytime scenes and moody night, the visual team knew what they were doing. Considering the colossal scale of scenes thrown at them, and the number of different characters, and the tremendous amount of scene blocking, they did an entertaining job with the writing they were given.

What? Even Hutts get into the action? Nice headpiece. You playing on your X-Box or something?

The series was still seriously lacking in comeuppance. The good guys lost lives by the star destroyer loads, while the bad guys usually just lost a few machines. Bad guy leaders killed indiscriminately for episodes, only to receive no justice, or a quick end not fully satisfying the penalty for their gratuitous homicide.

Sharky here killed for three episodes with incomplete comeuppance satisfaction.

“Anti-depressants we have. Yeeass.”

What about first tier characters like Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi? Yeah, we did not get to spend much time with them. We got episodes where C3PO somehow bumbled into being a hero spending time with boring aliens for which we cared little. Speeder loads of second tier characters interacting with whiny arc characters.

“Pay attention you must. Hardly in this season we are.”

Oh look, we got to spend three episodes with no-name characters after spending a couple with the droids as the stars… all in a row? Noble clones got their lives uselessly thrown away by a jerky, uncaring  and ultimately turncoat general. But do not worry. After thee episodes of pointless carnage lit by a 40 watt bulb, the general (and his tired plot) did get comeuppance. Well, that’s one.

(BTW, he doesn’t look evil, does he?)

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful (and a slaver).”

Otherwise its a whole season of traitors, slavers, criminals, and sith. The Star Wars universe is either uglier than we ever thought, or we just see the seedy underside each and every episode.

Obi-Wan finally gets a part… But he spends three episodes looking like this!?

A certain amount of action could be counted upon, often good and exciting. It was cool to see the bounty hunter Cad Bain in action again. He is a fun returning villain. His multi-episode arc was one of the better. The effects and music were quality too. However the overall feel of the season was not one that we looked forward to. We just started caring less.

The title was turned red for the supposedly super special return of the Sith…

The restoration of Darth Maul was a big deal (he was sliced in half at the end of Phantom Menace, after all). Perhaps they were getting desperate for ratings. The arc was strange, contrived, and a little unresolved. But it was interesting and the saber battles decent. Obi Wan (our favorite character in the series) and Ventress, opposites for sure, made an unusual but entirely fun team to wrap the season.

Huh? Wait a minute… Star Trek and Star Wars? When universes collide!

“Just because we teamed up, doesn’t mean we are going steady or anything.”

Check out related takes:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars [2008] Season 1

Star Wars: The Clone Wars [2009] Season 2

Star Wars: The Clone Wars [2010] Season 3

Star Wars: The Clone Wars [2011] Season 4

Ben 10: Ultimate Alien [2011-2012] Season 2. Conclusion

A Stretched Season that may Stretch Patience

And so, the world’s longest season (over a calendar year), and the “ultimate” series itself comes to a final, and in our opinion, overdue end. Not that there were not interesting and fun things this season, just that they came with too high a price tag.

Poor Gwen. All that power and smarts, and yet she remains an unhappy girl. Here she is impatient (top), crazy, and angry (what else is new).

Examples of this duality?

  • Background on Grandpa Max. Good.
  • But it was schmaltzy.

Will love conquer all for this star-crossed (uh, literally) pair?

  • Background on Azmuth. Good.
  • But it was extra schmaltzy.

“Let me tell you something Fortress Guy! Rath doesn’t like schmultz!”

  • Old (once fun) villains return. Good.
  • But tired somehow.

Oh that zany Dr. Animo. You just don’t know what kooky hijinx he’ll come up with next.

  • New transforms for Ben. Good.
  • But completely out of nowhere.

Does this whole alien race dress like Flash wannabe Quicksilver?

“I prefer to kick it old school.”

  • A resolution for the Forever Knights. Good.
  • But it was sad and lame.

“Hear me knights! For centuries we’ve waited for this moment to fight a costly and pointless battle. But it will look cool, and we get to blow a whole episode’s VFX budget.”

Season Two’s conclusion in a sentence: Ben, a character whose likeability only surpasses Julie’s, continues his careless bumble toward adulthood which regularly endangers those around him including only slightly less angry Gwen, likeable but slowly henpecked Kevin, and often the planet Earth, while also somehow corralling a parade of occasionally comical/stupid/obsessed villains, drinking a lot of sugary beverages, navigating through some real politically correct plots, and doing it all in a continually dark, underpopulated and vaguely depressing world.

Witness the sad, tragic fall of Twilight wannabe star Jennifer Nocturne. It’s definitely not for young kids.

That is not to say we dislike the show, on the whole we do not. But this incarnation (ultimate) was stretched too long without payoff. Build up has to reasonably yield resolution for enjoyment. We were past ready for the next reboot, Ben 10: Omniverse.

Do Ben and Gwen even go to school any more?

Even the mighty (hardly seen and only once used) Alien-X would have been hard pressed to pull this climax out of the pit of pointlessness.

We appreciated the veiled Christian imagery of (once) noble knights defeating a demonic dragon. In this case, an evil other-dimensional being with the name of an ancient pagan god, Diagon. Once defeated by First Knight George, he now seemed more formidable.

So Diagon is a giant unexplained, extra-dimensional, sky squid? What’s his motivation? Is he looking for a really large body of water?

George once seemed unbeatable. Cutting through dimensions, making vortices. (Like a level 20 Paladin with a +5 magic sword.) What happened?

Maybe it was Daigon’s never-ending supply of dimension-skimming, ninja-like esoterica. They got old, because we the viewers never got full satisfaction defeating them (they beat the good guys down again and again with apparently endless supply).

Whoa! Transforming from horridly unpalatable Julie to Elena* is quite the improvement. (*Okay, Elena is slightly unhinged, but is Julie really less so?)

Julie is consistent. Consistently the worst, most un-fun girlfriend EVAR.

The Ben 10: UA finale asked us to believe our lackadaisical hero Ben, whose undisciplined mind lives on sumo-slammers and slushies, somehow pulls from within the ability to defeat the power of the enemy and change the whole world with the legendary Sword of Azmuth?

Whereas old George, living for 2000 years, the brave, disciplined, once single-handed vanquisher of Diagon, missed the mark? George’s pointless demise (completely un-mourned by Ben) was beneath a character long in the making, and a group (the Forever Knights) dating back  to the start of the whole franchise in 2005.

Now where have we seen this before…

Ben and his venerable arch enemy Vilgax play out a scene lifted almost word for word from one of our favorite Masters of the Universe episodes. The temptation of Heman in “The Search.” (Since Ben 10 producers sought “inspiration,” we are gratified they picked something memorable.

You may spot Heman sporting this very expression.

See segment below from 2:00-3:15.)

Lucky Girl was back, albeit very briefly.

The extended season must have taken a toll on the writers. Some ridiculous, unfun, politically correct plots made the episode roster, often taking the form of Gwen lecturing us about evolutionary nonsense or about how people litter with plastic bottles, etc. Ugh. Save it for Captain Planet. Don’t tell us the villain this episode is a sentient pile of garbage?

I thought we told you not to tell us! UGH…

“Look, I made this from the toaster downstairs and your laptop. Pretty nifty, huh?”

Limits can paradoxically increase drama. Young Ben only had 10 aliens, and struggled with the omnitrix choosing wrongly or “timing out.” In Ultimate it seemed as though Ben had few limits. Why not always go most powerful alien or “ultimate?”

There’s no limit to the creatures you can become!

Gwen was, at times, downright fearsome. (Some might say it wasn’t her annodite powers…)

The ultramatrix was ill-defined. What were its (and Gwen’s for that matter) limits? It made for writing challenges, and susceptibility to plot holes. Imagine the challenge in writing villains for Superman (and not relying on Kryptonite every time).

Will Superman fly around the planet and reverse time?

Charmcaster was back–and could not be left a sympathetic character! She kills EVERYONE in a dark ritual this season. Oh, and she makes some ‘questionable’ relationship decisions. (However, not so bad when compared to a relationship with Julie…)

Ben 10: UA was sometimes fun, but the spark was missing. They can do better. Let’s hope they get it straightened out for Omniverse.

“I parked out front. You don’t think anyone will mind, do you?”

The new, improved Omniverse Omnitrix. (However, it still doesn’t tell time.)

Check out our Ben 10 franchise takes:

Alien Force Season 1

Alien Force Season 2

Alien Force Season 3

Ultimate Alien Season 1

Ultimate Alien Season 2 (part 1)

Ultimate Alien Season 2 (Conclusion)

Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens

_____________________

Tell the FORTRESS what you think!

(Or we will go humungasaur on your face!)

Merlin [2011] (BBC) Season 4. 13 Episodes

Merlin, Merlin, Merlin… Why art thou such a roller coaster? Wouldst thou grant us two fully commendable seasons in a row? One was good. Two not as much. Season three bounced back. Following this pattern the fourth season has to dip. Does it buck the trend? Sadly, no. Still, Merlin season four has its moments and is not without fun, entertainment, and an almost fanatical devotion to the “evil twin” plot.

“Oh Arthur, thank you for marrying me in front of all these computer generated guests.”

“Strange that we never noticed this ginormous castle before…”

Fourth season in a sentence: After Uther more-or-less dies twice, Arthur ascends to the throne only to be blatantly (and obviously) manipulated by the evil vizier stereotype while Morgana hangs out in a woodland hut hatching overly elaborate plots, and Gaius narrowly avoids multiple deaths, the producers avoid special effects burning money instead on an expanded cast, and all the while Merlin meanders in a season more aptly named “Arthur and his Semi-Magic Footman.”

Oh look, Merlin used that aging potion again and as a cantankerous old man is forcing Arthur to carry him piggyback. Such hilarity.

Agravaine: Evil vizier stereotype. (Though you might not believe it from his TOTALLY innocent, “Arthur, you can trust me,” expression.)

An oldy but goody, the evil twin plot (in all its variants) is one of the most common, most overused, stock plots in history. The list of who does not have an evil twin this season would be shorter.

  • Gwen gets bewitched to the dark side and into an illicit rendezvous
  • Bad guys twist Merlin into becoming an assassin
  • An evil spirit possesses Sir Elyan turning him evil
  • A woman’s malevolent power turns Arthur’s knights against each other
  • Sir Lancelot is brought back from the dead–sort of–with sinister purpose

“Aren’t I handsome? Yes I–huh? I’m evil this season?”

(Star Trek was also an over-user of the evil twin plot. But the greatest abuser was the original Knight Rider series, where every star–including the car, had an evil twin.)

Michael Knight and evil twin Garth Knight: Ruining facial hair for good guys everywhere.

“What about me? I’m a real (and comely) princess. One whom Arthur naturally falls for. I would have made him a fitting wife. Alas, he decided to go with the serving wench who will eventually betray him.”

Note the Merlin cosplayer got the splayed fingers right. We noted that way back in season one. It’s Merlin’s secret weapon! See picture reposted below:

One of the (very) few non-force push magic battles. Old Merlin faced Morgana in the woods (where else) with a whirlwind.

Merlin season 4 may leave you asking the question, “What is magic?” If you answer that it is the ability to do a force push, you would be right. 98.2% of all the magic this season is pushing someone with an invisible force, and that’s it. A cop out. If we wanted that kind of supernatural phenomena, we would play a Star Wars game. Even Merlin’s final showdown with the evil vizier turned into just another force push, which may leave you asking the question, “Did that kill him?”

Hmmm… Where have we seen this shot before?

Yes… This pose is very familiar!

Great ghost of Nimueh! Morgana and Arthur are both… Seekers!?

With Sir Gwaine now a regular, and at least four knights in the permanent cast this season, money was obviously tight. No wonder there was no room for special effects. Instead we were treated to amusing antics. Oh those knights, so funny in their camaraderie. And where that was not sufficient to fill time, we were supposed be amused by more slapstick between Merlin and Arthur, often involving the latter being in some state of undress. Really producers? Has it come down to base fan girl pleasing?

“Listen carefully young warlock, with this season’s VFX budget, this will be our only conversation.”

Was it just us or was this “sword and the stone” scene rushed, convenient, and out of nowhere? “Look what I found in the woods!”

Katie McGrath’s winning jaw is as fine as ever, and even her acting is improving. However they gave her little to work with this season, which was still about 50% more than most characters barring Arthur. Just about everyone and their brother betrays Arthur this season (literally including Gwen and her brother Sir Elyan). No one said it was easy being king. And we must keep our minds from going to where we know this all ends after just a few short Golden Age of Camelot years. Something they hint at with a flash forward.

One just does not know how to take this flash forward, especially this season. Is it yet another use of the aging potion or some far flung future?

Who keeps building these things!?

Oh look, a romantically coupled pair of rogues with hearts of gold. That can mean only one thing. Tragedy.

Merlin originally surprised us with its fresh take. Though the seasons have been somewhat inconsistent, there have been just enough good episodes to keep us interested. However if next season is like this one, our interest may have to move on. Use the force Merlin! Uh, we mean that as a pep talk. Do not take us literally.

“What? No, it can’t end this way.” Yeah, the season ending also left us saying, “Huh?”.

Our Takes on all the Merlin Seasons:

Merlin [2008] Season 1

Merlin [2009] Season 2

Merlin [2010] Season 3

Merlin [2011] Season 4

Merlin [2011] Season 5

 

Iron Man (anime) [2011] Season 1. 12 episodes

Anime has some strengths. However Marvel Entertainment captured only a few with this version of Iron Man. They were more successful at capturing numerous drawbacks.

But on the bright side, Iron Man likes puppies.

“I know you must have a cold metallic heart, not unlike my own. But my dear Dr. Tanaka, how can you resist my boyish, billionaire charm?”

A season’s plot in a sentence: A slightly off version of Tony Stark visits Japan to give up being Iron Man, give away top-notch versions of his armor to doofuses, give obsessive attention to world peace, and give a loose collection of enemies under the supposed banner of Zodiac a halfhearted fight while interacting with a bunch of second-tier characters before they die, and smooching with a cold hearted scientist cyborg before she dies.

The supposedly “supersmart” organization Zodiac fields the uber goofiest contraptions. Was that top one supposed to be a turtle? And the middle one was some mighty tornado creation machine. You’d think with that kind of power… oh never mind. And we think the bottom one was supposed be a bull. Zodiac is really hurtin’ for ideas…

“Hey, are we tragic secondary characters who die or goofy comic relief?”

What is one strength of anime? Deep and complex plots. We are sad to say that Iron Man anime’s plot was shallow and obtuse. The whole zodiac plot could have been dropped in lieu of the two bad guys. The result would have been a little more clarity and a lot more satisfaction. Zodiac is supposed to be some sort of high-tech offshoot of A.I.M. We never see this organization. Their presence remains too amorphous to be menacing.

Iron Man technology for everybody! What could possibly go wrong?

Pepper Potts has really grown into her role… (She had about 3 lines.)

For a few episodes zodiac’s greatest contribution to the series seems to be sending in a few nonsensical robot enemies-of-the-week. Why were they doing it? What was the point? What about all those suits of armor stolen in the first episode? Do we even care anymore? For 12 episodes this series creates more questions than answers.

The goofy Zodiac robot on top disabled Iron Man- but did not finish him! Instead it brought him into the delicate inner workings… You can imagine how that worked out. The bottom one? A robot designed to look like …a creature from a monster movie? *head shake*

But Iron Man likes charity walks!

The top bad guy barely appears, however we do see runner-up bad guy, Yinsen, a little bit more. They tried but failed to give him coherent motivation. Certainly not enough to justify his inexplicable desire to destroy Japan when his problem seemed to be that Stark once made weapons.

“You thought I was dead Mr. Stark, but I’m not. You thought I was a good guy, but I’m not…etc.” Yinsen pretty much beats up Iron Man for a whole episode. It was so much fun! (not really)

“So Sakurai, you’ve got armor too?” Who DOESN’T have armor in this series?

Another strength of anime is mecha. Tony Stark’s classic-ish armor (the only shown aside from some space add-ons) looked good, and so did the blue versions he was giving away- if you were one of the first five people to buy his book! Anyway, the rest of the robots and enemies were not very inspired. The machines were computer-generated and the people 2d animation. Neither art direction really thrilled us.

Our runner up for dumbest Zodiac robot: The centaur! Why? Why a centaur? And the winner: …uh, a giant floating head? Was there drug use going on during production?

But at least Iron Man likes cupcakes.

The show took itself too seriously without any serious payoff. 12 episodes of somberness, struggle, frustration and death with little balance or upside. A better more satisfying Iron Man show that had a serious plot yet without taking itself this seriously was Iron Man Armored Adventures. (It also had better fight choreography.) It was somewhat surprising because the show starred teens, and probably appealed to a teen audience. Yet it still had a serious enough plot to carry adults.

Oh surprise. The big baddie also has a suit of armor. Get ’em while they last! Buy one get two free!

Dr. Chika Tanaka eventually falls for Tony Stark. A woman after all… or is she?

The bad guy organization Zodiac was no Mandarin. Zodiac wasn’t even a presence. Supposedly they were the doofuses who sent random robots every episode. We are still not sure what Zodiac was, except to say it was a name thrown around that made people say, “Oh no” and “I’m scared”. We deserve better after watching 12 episodes, especially considering the body count.

Huh? Dr. Tanaka “transforms” into …this cyborg? Robot? The armor was inside her? Is she even human?

If you like Iron Man, and you like anime, the show is worth checking out. But do not expect it to be a great mix like peanut butter and chocolate. To not even expect it to be a substantial mix like peanut butter and jelly. It’s more like dehydrated astronaut ice cream. All the calories of ice cream without the satisfaction. Iron Man anime had its fun moments, but was not a very satisfying 12 episode experience.

Talk to the hand.

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Iron Man Related Takes:

Iron Man (anime) [2011] Season 1

Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2008] Season 1

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes [2010] Season 1

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [2008]

Ben 10: Ultimate Alien [2011] Season 2. Part 1

B10:UA Season One was 20 episodes. A little unusual, but syndicated animated shows apparently march to a different drum. Season two: 32 episodes? And they took a hiatus of months after the first 12. The Fortress has decided not to wait. We are weighing in on the first half. Who knows when the season will end?

Does this look like a girl who would wait for season to end?

Is Elena an old flame? A mature scientist crushing on a teenager? An evil robot? All of the above?

Is there an arc this season? Not really. It is a parade of single episode enemies both old and new. Fortunately the Ben 10 universe is interesting, vast and diverse. With 9 combined seasons of Ben 10 franchise, there are plenty of embittered, goofy and strange opponents to revisit our “hero”. We almost want to call him an anti-hero since he is so lackluster, self centered and uncaring.

We hope Ben keeps in mind that Eunice is a robot.

Is Ben getting more likable this season? They may be trying a little. It would not take much considering last season’s rock bottom status. However we also think people are just getting used to his leaden personality. He was more likable as a bratty grammar school kid.

Young Grandpa Max kisses- …an energy creature?

Years later, his grandson smooches with a robot?

After Kevin’s monster period last season, he has returned to be the most likeable member of the three stars. Who does not like the “rogue with a heart of gold”? It is a tried and true formula you may have seen before.

Yes, Kevin is Han Solo. Ben is Luke, however only in his heroic action role, not in likeable personality. And Gwen is indeed the wise-cracking, hard-nosed, no-nonsense, down-to-business, cool-headed Princess Leia type (all those dashes!).  Although she has a little attitude, the team is getting along better. They have moved through their Star Wars: A New Hope banter, through their Empire Strikes Back bickering, and finally into their Return of the Jedi acceptance and teamwork.

Azmuth is back, and crotchety as ever. He points a lot.

Tabloid TV character Will Harangue is back, and also crotchety as ever. Just stay out of politics Ben 10 creators.

Professor Paradox is back. He is not crotchety, however he never seems to pop in with good news.

Last season Gwen was unhappy all the time and did not like it. This season Gwen is unhappy all the time and is resigned to it. Speaking of females in the show, what happened to Ben’s supposed girlfriend Julie? You will be hard pressed to find a bigger bit- uh, …un-pleasable girl with constantly nagging bad attitude. We know Ben is not great catch, but still. All the Julie episodes this season have higher levels of uncomfortableness.

Oh look, Gwen is mad again. That’s different… *not*

Ben and Julie’s unfun relationship serves as an example to relationship counselors of how not to relate. No mass! No mass!

Here are other questions you may ask:

  1. Is there any daylight this season? Very little.
  2. Is the world still a strangely uninhabited place? More or less.
  3. What about the only female this season without an attitude? She’s a robot.

Sunny is Gwen’s cousin with a rebellious streak and a desire to break things. Uh, bad combination even before the energy powers are added…

One thing the Fortress was especially pleased with was the rebirth of the Forever Knights, our favorite villains. We thought they were launched well with their mysterious King way back in the original series. Since then their status has fallen to “losers”, and finally “a joke”. But the return of their founder, Old George, with some high-tech gizmos no less will hopefully reinvigorate them for the rest of this season and beyond. We’ll see.

Could mysterious Old George really be the ancient, original Forever Knight? And where did he get those long overdue armor upgrades? (And why doesn’t he trim that beard?)

The writing continues to be quality, although quirky and perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes episodes are slow-moving and resolve less than satisfying ways. At least there is less unfun anticipation of the three leads arguing. They do it less now.

Terraspin has to be the lamest alien transformation.

The Ben 10,000 continuity has been completely rewritten with some alternate dimension excuse.

Oh look, they resurrected the old “evil military officer” stereotype. Doesn’t he know aliens are not bad (even the bad ones), they are just misunderstood?

Is this (half) season worth watching? We think so (despite annoying Julie). Especially if you want to see appearances by Azmuth, Professor Paradox, Grandpa Max, and …Vilgax? Well sort of.

Didn’t I see you in one of those Pirates of the Caribbean movies?

Check out our Ben 10 franchise takes:

Alien Force Season 1

Alien Force Season 2

Alien Force Season 3

Ultimate Alien Season 1

Ultimate Alien Season 2 (part 1)

Ultimate Alien Season 2 (Conclusion)

Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens