Monthly Archives: August 2013

Light vs. Dark

Got Him!

Hello, DiNozzo!

Day seven of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week is finally here!!

Whew, what a relief!  As much fun as this has been for me, Tony, I have to admit that I thought I would run out of material before the week was out!  Some of my notes came as easily as the snap of my fingers.

The rest were a lot of work.  So I think that, unless you really tick me off, I’ll be able to forgo another Torture DiNozzo Week in the near future.  Give us both a breather.

So no more jokes about books or shortchanging me on food.  Got it?

Good.

Okay, let’s get to work.  What do I mean by Light vs. Dark?  This is a reference to Disney’s latest movie starring a princess: Tangled.  In case you’re wondering, the film is Disney’s retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale (and it’s about time they did it, too!).

In the story we have Rapunzel living in her tower, which she has called home for nearly eighteen years.  The woman keeping her here is Mother Gothel, a woman who has lived for centuries thanks to the magic of a special flower.

Okay, I have to back up a bit here.  See, the original fairy tale had Rapunzel’s mother craving a certain kind of vegetable when she became pregnant.  This got her husband in trouble when he picked the plant from a witch’s garden (this witch was also named Mother Gothel).  The witch later took the couple’s newborn baby girl as payment for the theft of the vegetable.

In the movie, the queen is pregnant when she becomes ill and may die.  In order to save her, the king sends his soldiers to find the magical flower that Mother Gothel secretly relies on to stay young and beautiful.

Trust me, without that flower she looks, well – dead.

Anyway, the flower is found and brought to the queen.  Not only does the flower save Rapunzel’s mother, it attaches its magic to the yet to be born Rapunzel.  This leads to Gothel kidnapping and raising Rapunzel as her own after she is born, so she can maintain her youth using the magic within Rapunzel.   This is why she lets Rapunzel’s hair grow to the fairy tale’s bizarre length.

I know.  I’ve lost you.  Give me a minute, okay?

You see, the magic of the flower is in Rapunzel’s hair.  So by the time Rapunzel is eighteen, her hair is seventy feet long!

That IS a lot of brushing, DiNozzo.  And no one knows that better than Rapunzel herself.

One element of the movie that struck me is how the two women effect changes in the people they meet and places they go.  This is because of either their inherent goodness or inherent wickedness.  Everywhere Rapunzel goes there is light.  When she sings (Tangled has some of the best song and dance routines I’ve seen in a Disney film in years) Rapunzel’s goodness literally lights up the room.  While cleaning up the tower, Rapunzel sings a song detailing her life in the cramped rooms at the top of the tower, and when she opens the widows the rooms are flooded with sunlight.

Later, when she meets her ‘Prince Charming,’ Flynn Rider, Rapunzel’s goodness and love changes his distrustful attitude.  Flynn is not your typical knight in shining armor.  He is, actually, a debonair thief.  Or at least he considers himself debonair.  (Watch the film, I’m not telling you what that means!)  He ducks into Rapunzel’s tower to escape the authorities after a job, at which time she knocks him out and hides the article he stole.  This is to make him take her on a trip to the kingdom to see a festival she has heard of but never witnessed.  As the story progresses, Rapunzel’s innocence and goodness gradually wears away the hard shell of cynicism surrounding Flynn, making him a real Prince Charming.  He’s definitely Disney’s most interesting beau of the current era.

Another scene which highlights Rapunzel’s ability to bring out the good in people is when she and Flynn end up in a tavern full of crooks.  These guys are all beefy, bearded men of dubious intent.  (Flynn notes that one fellow has “blood in his mustache” and invites Rapunzel to take a look at it.)  A couple of the tavern’s patrons are also missing an arm, a leg, or one of each.  And every last ruffian has weapons coming out of his ears.

But Rapunzel has less to fear from these men than Flynn does.  Flynn’s thieving lifestyle has put a large price on his head.  It’s a price everyone in the bar wants or needs to collect.  A struggle ensues, with each gronk tugging at a limb of Flynn’s body in attempt to run off with him and turn him in for the reward.  If Rapunzel hadn’t intervened when she did, there would have been no reason to pay anyone anything, because most of Flynn would have been gone!

In saving Flynn, Rapunzel’s innocent pleas awaken the hidden good in the tavern patrons, so much so that they later help Flynn rescue her from Mother Gothel.  Quite a change from when they were trying to turn him into a piñata, huh, Tony?

In contrast to Rapunzel, Mother Gothel shows she is selfish, vain, greedy, and willing to do anything to benefit herself.  Because of this she has the opposite effect on people and places that Rapunzel does.  The evidence of this lies in her hiding the magic flower in the first place, and then kidnapping Rapunzel to keep the power to herself again.  The way that Gothel convinces Rapunzel to stay in the tower before she leaves with Flynn is by frightening her with tales of how “dark and cruel” the outside world is supposed to be.  This leaves Rapunzel cowering on the floor on some occasions, such as the time when Gothel tells Rapunzel (via a song) that she cannot go outside on her eighteenth birthday.

Further proof is when she tries to scare Rapunzel out of falling in love with Flynn.  For a time she succeeds, but Rapunzel has matured too much through her outdoor experience for the effect to last.  So Gothel takes up the services of two of Flynn’s erstwhile sundry associates: the Stabbington brothers.  These two men go from petty criminals to nasty bloodhounds while they are in Gothel’s employ.  Also, whenever Gothel sings, the scenery dims and darkens.  Where Rapunzel brings the sunlight of innocence and love, Gothel darkens the beauty of the natural world with her vanity and greed.

The part of the movie that, ahem, ‘highlights’ this difference is the climax.  Here Rapuzel apparently loses the magic of the flower, at which point Gothel ages at a fantastic rate.  When she falls out the tower’s one window Gothel is screaming in horror at the ugliness caused by her age.  Rapunzel, despite learning her true identity and Gothel’s intentions for her, still attempts to save the old woman from death.  Hurt though she is by Gothel using her for her entire life, Rapunzel still attempts to help and heal the most terrible person she knows.  This proves, in the end, that her goodness is stronger than Gothel’s evil.

This distinction in personality makes Tangled one of the best Disney films to date.  And as I said, it has been a long time since Disney made a movie that wow-ed me with its signature song and dance routines.  The choreography for the tavern dance is especially dazzling.  I haven’t seen anything that good since I last watched a musical from the ‘thirties, ‘forties, or ‘fifties.  Another reason I harp on this feat is that Tangled is a completely computer generated film, making such a dance sequence no small accomplishment for the animators and writers!

So for story and plain old ‘camera magic,’ I highly recommend you take a look at Tangled, Tony.

You don’t really think I’d tell Gibbs, McGee, Ziva, Abby, Ducky, or Palmer about making you watch an animated film, do you?  Did I tell them that you saw Brave?  No, I did not.

And as it is, I didn’t say you had to watch Tangled.  I recommended it.  There is no order from me saying that you have to watch it.

I have to leave now.  As of tonight, Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week is officially over.

Later,

  Mithril

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis, The Lost Empire

Hellooo, DiNozzo!

(Trumpets flourish in the background.)  Today is officially day six of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week!

Are you ready, DiNozzo?

Then DIVE, DIVE!  We are going to Atlantis: The Lost Empire!

I told it you it would have something to do with Disney!

You’ve never heard of the film?  I’m not surprised.  The movie was a theater flop, so much so that Disney swept it under the rug and cancelled the television series which was supposed to follow it.

Why the movie didn’t do so well in the theater depends on who you ask, but most people seem to agree that the film’s action was too choppy.  The lack of standard Disney songs is also thought to be a part of the movie’s downfall.

I can’t say that I disagree with the action being a bit jumpy.  Scenes seem to cut off just before they’ve started or wear out their welcome in a matter of seconds.  All the same, though, the film does have its perks.

One of these is the hero of the story.   Milo James Thatch, the grandson of a famous (or infamous, in some circles) explorer, is trying to convince the board of directors of the Smithsonian Museum that the city of Atlantis actually existed.  But Milo fails to gain any support from the museum board for an expedition to the lost city.  Later that night an old friend of his grandfather’s offers him the chance he’s been fighting to get, and Milo takes the opportunity faster than greased lightning.

The journey to Atlantis is reminiscent of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, but in abbreviated form.  Once Milo and his team finally reach Atlantis, they’re met with a huge surprise.  There are Atlanteans still inhabiting the ruins!

In Atlantis Milo quickly makes friends with, and falls for, one particular Atlantean woman:  the Princess Kida.

There’s a lot more to the plot but I’ll leave you with these bare basics because I want to make a special mention about Milo.   When Milo is called on by his grandfather’s old friend, Mr. Whitmore, he doesn’t come to see Milo at his apartment in D.C.  Whitmore is a millionaire, so he can afford to have Milo come to him.

The way he chooses to do this is by sending a very pretty young woman to pick him up.

Thing is, Milo doesn’t bite at this woman’s (Helga Sinclair) beauty.  Part of that may have been because his apartment was empty and he had no electricity, but that still doesn’t quite explain why she didn’t leave him speechless.

Oh, there’s no way she’d have left you speechless, DiNozzo.  At least not until she started talking; Helga Sinclair does not bandy words when her prey is in her grasp.

You are so dense!  A beautiful woman waiting for you in your dark, empty, cold apartment and you don’t smell trouble right then and there?

No, of course you don’t.

Anyway, the fact is that Milo doesn’t fall for her.  This is a good thing, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out why.

Now Kida, I will have you know, is no slouch in the beauty department.  Nor is she a damsel in distress.  Well, not in the physical sense; this princess can look after herself if necessary.  This makes her something of a contrast to Milo, who is your stereotypical bookworm.  He’s skinny as a rake, has a hard time getting to know his teammates (who at first largely look down on him), and he wouldn’t win any contests for strongman.

Besides the obvious physical differences, the two have what appears to be opposite personalities.  Kida is outgoing, enthusiastic, and often takes things from Milo without asking (such as his glasses) in her eagerness to find out how something works.  This is probably because she’s a princess and is used to getting her way without having to ask.  That and what was considered politeness in Atlantis thousands of years ago isn’t what is considered polite in 1914.

In contrast to Kida, Milo is reserved, polite, and often fails to observe his surroundings.  Part of what makes it hard for Milo to connect with the members of the expedition is his penchant for going off on a tangent in a conversation.  Once, while marveling over a pillar that stands in the expedition’s path, Milo is so wrapped up in his archeological diatribe about it that he fails to realize that the demolition’s expert for the group is laying charges around its base.  If he hadn’t been pulled back by the demolition’s expert, Vinny, he’d have ended up joining the pillar he found so fascinating.

So what do you think ties him and Kida together?

The search for knowledge.  In the thousands of years since Atlantis was sunk (why else would they have to make a Journey to the Center of the Earth-style expedition to find it, Tony?) Atlantean culture has all but crumbled away.

Kida has witnessed this firsthand.  Her father is too old to leave his throne room, and so he has not seen it.  Kida, though, has spent years leading her people on scavenger hunts into the tunnels that lead to Atlantis.  She has watched while the others fish in what remains of the city’s central harbor.  She has seen the city disintegrate with time, and the culture’s knowledge with it.

So when Milo shows her the book that guided him and his expedition to Atlantis, Kida is flabbergasted because no one in Atlantis can read anymore.  This is proved when Kida looks at the open pages of the book reverently but without understanding anything on them.

The other part of the search that pulls her and Milo together is that no one remembers why Atlantis sank.  Kida has a personal reason to want this knowledge, but I’ll let you see that for yourself.

On his end of the deal, Milo finds in Kida someone eager for the knowledge he has to offer.  Acting as a translator for the Atlantean writing Kida doesn’t understand, Milo is finally able to share the thrill of discovering new knowledge with someone who wants to learn as much as he does.  And she proceeds to help him straighten out his jerky pronunciation of the Atlantean tongue.  Kida describes his accent thus: “Boorish.  Provincial.  And you speak it through your nose.”

She’s probably the only one on the planet who could get away with giving him such a verdict on his pronunciation in that particular manner!

It is this thirst for learning that brings him and Kida together.  Physical beauty has no bearing on the inner beauty of a man or woman, something Milo knows by instinct if he cannot articulate it.

That is why Helga fails to lure Milo in and why Kida is able to catch him.  Helga is stunningly beautiful but she has no desire to learn anything more than what’s necessary for her to gain the life of luxury she wants.  Oddly enough Kida, the woman born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, has the passion to learn and keep learning when as a princess she does not have to.

Animation and lack of typical Disney songs aside, the movie scores in the way it brings evil crashing to the ground and restores good to the throne.

My one big quibble with Disney over the film is that they have never bothered to count Kida in their roster of princesses.  They probably didn’t do this for two reasons.  First, the movie flopped at the box office.  Second, by the end of the movie Kida is queen of Atlantis and no longer its princess.  (No, I am not telling you why!!!)

But when Disney is counting its film heroine Mulan among the ranks of the franchise’s fictional royalty (Mulan is NOT royalty in any way, shape, or form), it feels a little bit like a slight to the fans.  The argument can also be made that certain other Disney characters deserve billing with the more popular royalty: Giselle from Enchanted; Simba’s daughter Kiara; and Ariel’s daughter Melody are also not included with Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, etc.  So at least Kida is in good company.  She’d be in better company if Disney listed her with its more popular princesses, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?

On that note, then, I leave you until tomorrow, my tortured DiNozzo!

Later,

Mithril

 Gargoyles: “We are Defenders of the Night….”

The Manhattan Clan

Heigh-ho, DiNozzo!

DAY FIVE of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, coming at you!  How’s your week been so far, Tony?

Miserable?  Huh.  That’s strange.  I’ve been having fun this whole time.

Hah-ha!  You missed!  Try to head slap me again, and I’ll call Gibbs down on you!

Easy, easy!  If you’re that desperate for me to start talking then I’ll just skip the pleasantries and jump right in.

You are?

All right, here we go!

Back in the 1990’s, Disney had an interesting animated series called Gargoyles.  It starts out one night in New York City.  A storm is moving in.  People are walking along the streets when they hear loud explosions from the top of a nearby skyscraper.  Looking up, they’re in time to notice falling debris.  Everyone jumps out of the way as huge blocks of stone crash to the street below.

The police arrive and push the curious crowd away from the scene.  One detective, Elisa Maza, gets close enough to the stones to notice one block has huge claw marks in it.

Her musing is cut off as more blocks fall and she has to pull back.  But what could leave claw marks like those in solid stone?

The answer?  Gargoyles.

Gargoyles, as a series, technically begins in 994 A.D. at Castle Wyvern in Scotland.  Vikings are attacking the castle.  It is almost nightfall, and the Viking soldiers are nervous.  They say it is insanity to attack a castle with gargoyles near night time.

But their leader, Hakon, intends to take Wyvern at all costs.  Declaring that the gargoyles “are no more than carven stone” he leads his men in climbing the walls.  He reaches the top of the tower, where the biggest gargoyle sits in a thoughtful pose. The sun sets….

And the gargoyles, starting with the one nearest Hakon, shed a skin of stone and spring to life!

Hakon is shocked, but still attacks the huge gargoyle (6ft, 10 inches tall) above him.  The gargoyle is called Goliath by the residents of the castle for his size and strength.  He blocks the Viking’s stroke but has his hand cut in the process.  Hakon urges his men to fight the gargoyles since they can be hurt.

The attack is pitiful as the gargoyles almost playfully drive the Vikings away.  Goliath throws Hakon after his men, and the Viking leader swears vengeance for the humiliating defeat the gargoyles have handed him before he, too, retreats.

At a feast in the hall later that night the teenage Princess Katherine, ruler of Castle Wyvern, offers the Captain of the Guard her thanks for such a brave defense.  The Captain replies that it was Goliath and the gargoyles who really won the night.  Princess Katherine frostily requests that he avoid mentioning “that monster’s name in my presence!”  No sooner does she utter these words than the doors to hall are thrown open and Goliath and his mate enter.  The Captain hastily explains that he asked them in so they could be thanked for their bravery.

The entire castle court, present for the feast, is affronted by the gargoyles ‘daring’ to enter their company.  Both the Princess and her magician, known only as the Magus, describe the gargoyles as beasts to their faces.  Goliath’s mate (voiced by Mirina Sirtis, a.k.a. Deana Troi) hisses angrily at the insults but Goliath pulls her back and excuses the two of them from the party before trouble can erupt.

Outside on the walls, the Captain apologizes for the insults but Goliath brushes them off.  She does not, accusing her mate of having neither a sense of justice nor of pride.  Goliath responds that it is the nature of humans to fear what they don’t understand and seemingly calms her down.  Later on, the Magus is shown flipping through his book of spells in search of something.

At dawn the gargoyles return to the walls where the rising sun again turns them to stone statues.  Just after the sun has risen, a lone rider leaves the castle.

In the camp of the Vikings, he speaks to Hakon.  “You seek to take Castle Wyvern,” says the traitor.

Hakon is skeptical until the man mentions a way may be opened for the Vikings to get in.

That night Goliath, his mate, and the Captain talk about the threat the Vikings still pose to the castle.  The Captain suggests Goliath take his clan of gargoyles and hunt down the Vikings so they cannot attack the castle again.  Goliath’s mate seconds the plan, but Goliath himself is leery of the idea of leaving the castle defenseless.  He also reasons that the plan puts too many gargoyles at risk.

However, he’s not averse to chasing down the Vikings himself.  Because of his size and strength, he feels he can “scare those cowards away without any help.”  His mate begs to go with him but Goliath refuses.  As his second-in-command, she will have to remain at the castle to keep order among the other gargoyles.  Still, he promises that he won’t go after the Vikings completely alone.

With this plan settled, Goliath goes to find his traveling companion.  His mate flies off to another section of the castle and watches two younger gargoyles play with the castle gargoyle ‘watchdog.’

A young human boy named Tom, curious about the gargoyles, approaches the two and asks their names.  They reply that only Goliath has a name; traditionally gargoyles don’t take names.  The budding friendship is halted by Tom’s mother as she pulls him away from the gargoyles in fear.  One gargoyle with red skin tries to assure her that they would never hurt the boy but her response is to throw an old bone at him, catching him in the beak.

Angered, Goliath’s mate enters the situation, reprimanding the scared woman for her behavior.  Things get further out of hand when the two gargoyles start ‘teasing’ the woman and a few other peasants attracted to the noise.  Before things totally spiral out of control, Goliath and an older, one-eyed gargoyle drop down between the gargoyles and humans.  Goliath chastises the two gargoyles and a third (who was eating during the fuss but arrived on the scene in time to be mistaken as a partner in the mischief).  He sentences the three and the ‘watchdog’ to a night in the rookery, the part of the castle where the gargoyles keep their eggs.

Goliath’s mate defends the three, claiming it was the humans who started the fight.  Goliath, although he cannot permit fighting between gargoyles and humans, promises that he will make amends with the three punished gargoyles the next night.  Then he and his mentor take off to find the Vikings.

It takes the two all night to catch up with the Norsemen.  When they do, they find only a handful of Vikings leading the band’s horses as a distraction.  Turning back to get to the castle, Goliath and his mentor are too late.  The sun rises and both transform into their ‘stone sleep’ for the day’s duration.

That day Hakon attacks the castle.  Though the human defenders fight, they are betrayed.  The archers’ bowstrings snap and someone opens the portcullis.  The Vikings rush into the castle and begin a slaughter.

Running to get to her commander, Princess Katherine meets the traitorous Captain of the guard who grabs her wrist and leads her away with a snarl.  The castle is soon sacked and the Vikings have carried the day.

On the walls at dusk, Hakon and the Captain discuss their deal.  Then Hakon turns to a nearby stone gargoyle and raises his mace.  The Captain tries to stop him but when the Viking leader threatens his own life; the traitor sits back and watches as Hakon begins smashing the defenseless gargoyles to pieces.

That night, Goliath and his mentor return to find the castle burning and their clan rubble.  Goliath is especially distraught when he finds his mate’s perch.  Mourning his ‘Angel of the Night,’ Goliath finds the punished trio and ‘watchdog’ are the only survivors of the Wyvern massacre.  The five unanimously decide to rescue the inhabitants of the castle and then get revenge on whoever betrayed them.

In the camp of the Vikings, Princess Katherine vows to see both Hakon and the Captain hang for what they’ve done.  When the Magus suggests what he would do if he had his book of spells in hand, Hakon contemptuously rips a page from the book and burns it.  The little chat is interrupted by a gargoyle roar.  Terrified, Hakon orders his men to attack while the Princess seizes her opportunity and makes a run for it.  Hakon and the Captain pursue her with the intention of killing her while the forgotten Magus attempts to free himself.

The three young gargoyles, the watchdog, and Goliath’s mentor quickly chase off the Viking band.  But the round of congratulations is cut short when the Magus, having freed himself, spots them.  The last he saw of the Princess, she was running for her life from Hakon and the Captain.  Thinking she’s been killed and in a blind fury, he casts a spell on the bewildered gargoyles.

Meanwhile Goliath, who saw the escaping Princess, has arrived to help her.  She and her two captors are backed up against a cliff and Goliath is furious when he recognizes the Captain.  The Captain begs his old friend for mercy, saying that if he had only taken the whole clan with him they would still be alive.  When Hakon attempts to divert Goliath’s wrath solely onto the Captain, he becomes enraged and attacks the Viking.  In the struggle the two fall off the cliff, knocking the Princess off as well.

Forgetting his rage, Goliath rushes forward in time to catch and rescue Katherine.  He is too late to do anything with Hakon and the Captain, who tumble into darkness.  But Goliath has little time to mourn his lost revenge as Tom, taken captive by the Vikings with his mother during the day, rushes up to him and the Princess with bad news.

Returning to the Viking camp, Goliath finds his remaining gargoyles turned to stone at night.  The Magus is about to do the same to him when he spies Princess Katherine.  Goliath orders the magician to restore his friends but the Magus cannot.  The counter spell was on the page Hakon burned earlier in the evening.

However, the terms of the spell are that the gargoyles “shall sleep until the castle rises above the clouds.”  So there is hope, albeit faint and thin.

Restoring his friends to their places in the castle, Goliath accepts the apologies of both the Princess and the Magus who have changed their opinions of him and his species.  He then asks that they each do something for him: he requests that the Princess guard and care for the gargoyle eggs in the rookery since they will soon hatch.  On receiving her promise, Goliath then asks the Magus to cast the spell he put upon the other gargoyles on him as well.

As dawn breaks over the silent castle, the audience spots Goliath in his accustomed place atop the tower of Wyvern castle.

Whew, that is one of the longest descriptions I have ever had to write!  And this is for the first two episodes of a five part opening!

Aw, come on, DiNozzo!  I’m almost out of breath here!  All right, tell you what: there’s too much detail in the next three episodes, so I’ll attempt to sum them up.

Castle Wyvern stands in its exact place for a thousand years.  Then, in 1994, a millionaire named David Xanatos arrives and buys the castle lock, stock, and barrel.  (Interestingly, Xanatos is drawn to resemble Jonathan Frakes, who voices the character throughout the run of the series.)  He transports the castle to the top of his newest skyscraper, high above the clouds.

This fulfills the terms of the spell and awakens Goliath and the other gargoyles.  Xanatos tries to make friends with them, and an attack on the castle seems to help reinforce his claim of friendship.

Still, once bitten is twice shy.  Goliath’s trust is no longer easily given to whoever asks for it.  Xanatos finds the huge gargoyle hard to bring around, and he doesn’t seem to like it.

Later, Elisa Maza arrives at the castle atop the skyscraper to ask about the noise she heard, the fire of automatic weapons.  Xanatos shows her around after telling her that his “multi-million dollar company” is threatened on all sides and he has a right to the arms he keeps on hand to protect his assets.  After the tour he asks his butler, Owen Burnett, to show Elisa out.  On the way Elisa spots one of the gargoyles but doesn’t realize he’s not made of stone.  Owen tells her he gets the creeps around the old castle at night, too.  He puts her in the elevator and leaves.

But Elisa doesn’t.  Stopping the elevator, she proceeds to poke around the castle.  The watchdog and Goliath surprise her and Goliath has to rescue her when she accidentally falls off the parapet.  Taking her back to the castle, he explains the gargoyles’ history and she explains what a detective is.  Curious about this new human (who is equally curious about the gargoyles), Goliath agrees to meet Elisa the next night a few rooftops away.  As the NYPD detective leaves, Goliath is summoned to Xanatos’s office.

Xanatos tells Goliath the attackers stole important ‘talismen’ (computer disks) from him.  He asks Goliath if he and the others would be willing to go and get the disks back.  Though he is grateful for Xanatos’s awakening the clan, Goliath draws back from doing this.  He is unwilling to send his entire clan into open battle when they don’t know the risks.  Xanatos lets the subject go and Goliath leaves, as it is nearly dawn and he will have to sleep soon.  But it’s obvious that Xanatos wants Goliath to go after those disks.

So the day passes and Goliath goes to meet Elisa.  His mentor drops in almost as soon as the two meet, having come to make sure Goliath wasn’t walking into an ambush.  Elisa’s response is that the two gargoyles are “paranoid even for New York!”  She then offers to give Goliath a tour of the city and asks what to call his friend.  When it’s revealed that Goliath’s mentor has no name, a debate between Elisa and the older gargoyle ensues.  In the end, the old warrior agrees to take a name honoring the Hudson River in order to satisfy Elisa (the Hudson part, not the river part, you goose!).

To get from place to place, Goliath has to carry Elisa since she can’t fly and he would attract attention by walking down the street.  This leads to an awkward moment that hints Goliath and Elisa have begun a romance; a hint the newly named Hudson sees right off the bat.

Oh, gee wiz, it’s not an impossible plot twist, Tony!  Remember the series Beauty and the Beast?  It even happens in real life!  Have you married Ziva yet?  No, but you’re giving each other the look.

Whoa!  Hey, no head slapping here!  That’s Gibbs’s department!  Do you want me to call him?!

Then sit down and let me finish.  Thank you.

Anyway, Elisa and Goliath’s night is going fine when the same people who attacked the castle come after Goliath.  They manage to sting him with a tranquilizer dart but it has very little effect on the giant gargoyle, merely making him unable to take off and somewhat drowsy.  Elisa soon discovers how the mercenaries found them; someone planted a bug on Goliath.  Taking it off, the savvy detective attaches the device to a stray dog and helps Goliath farther into the park.

But the pursuit continues until dawn, when Goliath must again transform to stone.  With the renegades closing in, Elisa takes action.  She leads the band to the lake in Central Park and manages to lose them there, returning to the spot where Goliath is sleeping to guard him through the day.  As night falls Goliath sheds his stone skin and stretches.  Elisa is as surprised by this as by his sudden change to stone during the day.  The two agree to meet later that night and then part ways amicably after shaking hands.

Back at the castle, the trio learns from a returned Goliath that Hudson took a name.  Inspired, the three then name themselves: the red gargoyle calls himself Brooklyn; the large (bordering on fat) gargoyle takes the name Broadway, appropriately enough; and the smallest calls himself Lexington (thereafter called ‘Lex’ for short).  Brooklyn then names the watchdog Bronx, though the creature seems less than enthusiastic about the new name.

After the round of name-giving, Xanatos calls Goliath to his office yet again.  This time, however, he has a surprise.  A door in his office opens to reveal Goliath’s ‘Angel of the Night,’ alive and physically unchanged by the centuries!

Their reunion is happy enough but something is off, or at least it is to the audience.  Goliath’s mate spins a story about begging to be frozen like the rest of the clan and that Xanatos bought her before purchasing and moving the castle.  He then brought her to the castle to see if she was also under a spell, at which time she awoke as well.  She next suggests that the clan go after the stolen disks, hidden in three facilities belonging to a rival company, as a thank you for Xanatos’s awakening them.

Can you say ‘set up’?

Overjoyed to have her back, though, Goliath agrees to the plan.  He sends Hudson and Bronx after one facility and the trio after a second.  The third, a floating fortress, is his and his mate’s to attack.

The two other teams accomplish their missions easily enough, retrieving the disks but hurting no one.  At least, they hurt no one very seriously.

The fortress battle is another matter.  Goliath and his mate easily knock down a few guards, but then Goliath’s mate prepares to drop one of the unconscious men out of an open hatch.  Goliath is horrified by this attempt at murder and prevents it.  Because they’re in a battle, Goliath has to concentrate more on the task at hand then on his mate’s sudden change in behavior.  The two soon retrieve the disk and Goliath is prepared to simply leave.

His mate, however, has other ideas.  She rips a power cord out of a console and sets it to the control systems of the fortress.  This wrecks the fortress’s ability to stay aloft and it starts to plummet into the bay.  Goliath is forced to avoid telling his mate off so they can instead focus on escaping the sinking ‘ship.’

On a pier below, Elisa arrives as the fortress crashes into the bay.  She catches sight of two gargoyles gliding away from the scene and recognizes one of them as Goliath.

At the castle, the clan gives the disks to Xanatos and goes outside.  Remembering his promise to meet Elisa, Goliath tells the others he has to meet a friend.  His mate becomes angry, saying that the clan has no friend other than Xanatos.  Because of her behavior aboard the fortress and her outburst here, Goliath doesn’t name Elisa and remarks that while his mate says the centuries have changed him, they seemed to have changed her more.  He leaves the castle, and his ‘Angel of the Night’ goes in to see Xanatos.

Meeting Elisa on a rooftop some distance away, Goliath is surprised to find her angry and somewhat hurt.  She reports about the break-ins and admits to seeing Goliath and another gargoyle leaving the doomed fortress.  When Goliath replies that they were merely taking back items stolen from Xanatos a few nights ago, Elisa proceeds to give him proof that nothing was stolen but the disks he and his clan took, which belong to the other company.  Xanatos has used the gargoyles to do his dirty work for him this whole time!

No, this does not make Goliath happy.  And an unhappy gargoyle, especially one of Goliath’s size and strength, is not a good thing.

Goliath returns to the castle in time to help his clan fend off an attack by robotic gargoyles built by Xanatos.  Programmed with the information from the stolen disks, the so called ‘Steel Clan’ is nevertheless trashed by the more adaptable gargoyles.

Xanatos then resorts to hand-held weapons.  Goliath receives yet another brutal betrayal when he sees his mate side with the villain.  This leads to an angry argument between the two.  Goliath’s mate finally reveals that she was in on the plan to sack Castle Wyvern in 994.  Though the Captain had said that he would protect the gargoyles while the Vikings were in the castle, she hadn’t trusted him and had spent the day elsewhere.  “I’ve stayed alive this long because I don’t trust anyone!” she tells Goliath.

She then proceeds to lay the blame for the gargoyle slaughter on Goliath because he didn’t take the entire clan with him to chase down the Vikings, instead leaving them behind to protect the humans.  Goliath responds that there are evil humans but also evil gargoyles; he tells her the massacre would never have happened if she and the Captain hadn’t betrayed the castle in the first place.

Finding she can’t turn Goliath, his former mate fires her RPG (she likes big guns) at him.  Goliath, though blinded by tears of pain, manages to dodge the shot but is knocked over.  His mate then points the RPG directly at him and tells him she was also named by humans.  “I am Demona,” she says as she pulls the trigger.

Her shot is sent awry, though, as Elisa slams into her to save Goliath, having arrived to help the clan fight Xanatos.  The wild missile streaks into a stone tower which tilts over in the direction of the two disoriented females.  Xanatos is knocked out by falling debris as the tower crashes onto the parapet, breaking it and sending Elisa and Demona falling.

Because Elisa cannot fly, Goliath swoops after her.  He manages to rescue her but cannot go after Demona, who is hammered by falling stones and continues to fall until she’s out of sight.

Yeah, unless I heard or saw her go splat, I wouldn’t buy that she was dead either.  Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be completely sure she was toast even after the splat.

But this is off topic.  Still wounded by this unexpected treachery, Goliath grabs Xanatos and threatens to drop him over the castle wall, too.  Elisa and Hudson turn him against the tempting idea by stating that if he drops Xanatos he’ll be no better than Demona.  Goliath relents and instead lets Elisa arrest the billionaire, who smiles smugly because he’ll be out of jail by dawn.

Speaking of which, the sun is about to rise at this point.  As the gargoyles prepare to sleep, Elisa and Goliath chat for a few minutes.  Goliath’s face is quite a picture when Elisa suggests that they could go and catch a Giants game the next night.  Goliath, of course, suspects she means real giants.  As he freezes in stone sleep Elisa muses to herself about whether or not New York is ready to have the gargoyles flying over it.  On this note, the episode concludes….and the series begins.

Okay, yeah, that was a little more than a short summing up of the introduction to Gargoyles.

Now I’ll tie up the loose ends.

While Gargoyles is an undeniably fascinating series, it does suffer somewhat from dark themes and plot arcs.  I find that these types of stories were prevalent in the ‘nineties as writers somehow decided upbeat stories were no longer the ‘trend.’

The series also ends up, in my opinion, overplaying its hand with both the magic characteristics of the gargoyles’ history and Xanatos’s wanton dabbling in scientific matters (he didn’t stop with robots but went so far as to clone Goliath as well as mutating four humans into humanoid cats with giant bat wings, one of which was Elisa’s younger brother Derek).  Though the magic aspect causes its own problems, the series’ dive into berserk science is equally heavy throughout the series’ three seasons.

Despite these darker viewpoints, the series’ exploration into the gargoyles as individuals makes it very intriguing.  The romantic hints that often showed up in situations with Elisa and Goliath were also a fun angle to the show.  In essence, one could argue, this odd romance was the driving theme behind the entire series.

All in all, I think it’s a real pity that the show was left with a cliff-hanger ending in the third season.  Although Gargoyles continued in comic book form for some time, in a decade where an animated TV series could run for years (witness the 90’s X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man shows, which each ran for about seven years), this series didn’t deserve such a brief send off.

If they ever decide to revive the show, I’d be happy to take a look at it.  Though I will add that I would hope they could drop the darker features of the original series.

What is tomorrow’s note about?  You don’t really expect me to tell you what I have in mind, do you, DiNozzo?

Well, all right.  One hint.  I may be talking about something related to Disney tomorrow.

Ah, that’s all you get!  Nothing else!  Nada! Zip!

Later,

Mithril

Avengers Assemble!

Marvel's Avengers Assemble!

Heeey, DiNozzo!

Here’s day four of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week served up to you on a bright silver platter, DiNozzo!

Come on, Tony! You had to know that I was going to work a Marvel series in here somehow! The only problem was deciding which one it would be. 😉

I’ll admit that this may be a bit of a premature review for a series. Only a few episodes have aired on television. There’s no knowing how high and far the story could go. Not yet.

But you know what? I simply can’t resist talking about it!

All right, so we’ll start with the all important aspect of a story: how it begins.

As first episodes go, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble was pretty good. The two-part opening in May showed the Avengers had disbanded on Tony Stark’s, ummm, order, I guess. Despite this, Tony still keeps an eye on his fellow bachelor Avengers (for some reason he doesn’t keep tabs on Black Widow). Seeing Captain America suddenly losing to HYDRA and the Red Skull, Tony dons his armor and takes off.

Only, it seems, to get in on the fight too late to save Cap from being killed by the Red Skull.

This leads Tony to call the Avengers back together. While Hulk, Thor, and Hawkeye are at first less than thrilled to be back with the guy who so arrogantly broke up the band, the three change their tune when they see Cap’s ‘death.’

The four, of course, head out to avenge Cap by taking down the Red Skull. Widow joins them at the HYDRA base the villain currently calls home, and that’s when Tony discovers (surprise) Cap is not dead. Blasting his way in to get to Cap, Tony is met with a rude revelation: because he is dying, the Red Skull has switched bodies with Cap.

Wait, wait, I’m not finished, DiNozzo! Red Skull’s super soldier serum in this series is incomplete; it can no longer keep the man alive. Cap’s serum is quite complete; it will take a lot more than mere time to do in the First Avenger. That’s why the Skull captured and switched bodies with him.

Quickly incapacitated, Tony and ‘Cap’ are rescued by Iron Man’s secret weapon/new protégé – Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon.

With the band back together again, the Avengers and Falcon beat Skull and undo the switch. But after the round of pats on the back, the seemingly incapacitated Skull pulls another trick from up his sleeve. Using the machinery in the room they are standing in at the HYDRA base, Skull rips Tony’s suit off his body. He crushes the helmet and deprives Stark of his arc reactor, the only thing keeping the billionaire hero alive.

As the Skull escapes, the Avengers race back to their base to save Tony. They manage it in the proverbial nick of time. However, according to Tony the Skull isn’t going to be a problem anymore. He proceeds to again disband the team. Everyone but Cap and Falcon walks out on him in disgust. Falcon flops onto the floor in dejection because in answering Tony’s call for aid he got fired from SHIELD.

But an attack by the Skull (Hah! Not so defeated after all, Mr. Stark! Hmm, another fat-headed Tony ….) leads to the team having to fight and defeat him again. Beaten twice in one day – ouch. The Avengers’ Mansion is destroyed in the battle and the Skull flees. When the Skull calls on other super villains to form a cabal with him to conquer the world, Tony is finally convinced to keep the team together.

After this decision, Cap nominates Tony for leadership of the Avengers and Falcon is invited to join them. The team’s next step is to set up base in Stark Tower since the Mansion is a wreck. At the end of the show they jet off to China when the Great Wall abruptly stands up and heads for Beijing.

So far the series is doing pretty well. But I do have some questions and observations about it, a few of them less than flattering.

To kick these off, we’ll begin with the disbanding and reforming of the Avengers. Avengers Assemble is supposed to be a continuation of the television series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! which ran for the last three or four years. At the same time Assemble is also supposed to capitalize on the 2012 film Marvel’s The Avengers.

Heroes ended with the Avengers as a well-honed, tight-knit fighting team. There was no hint that they were considering disbanding, which makes sense because it was the end of that series and any such hints would only drive fans bonkers. As others have noted, Assemble seems to shadow the 2012 movie rather than its television ‘prequel.’ This is evidenced by such scenes as Cap knocking a punching bag off its chain in the episode ‘Blood Feud’; the Hulk’s statement of “I’m always angry!” in ‘The Avengers’ Protocol, Part 2’; and Hawkeye telling Cap, when ordered to fire on Dr. Doom in ‘The Serpent of Doom,’ “After what he did to me it’ll be my pleasure!” These and other small incidents echo the movie and have nothing to do whatsoever with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

Now we come to the characters. For the most part, Iron Man doesn’t feel too changed. After the depth of character Robert Downey Jr. imbued in him, it would be hard to radically alter Tony Stark. But this doesn’t keep Tony’s arrogant and somewhat high-handed leadership style from grating on my nerves every five minutes in an episode’s run.

Ooops, I think I crossed my characters again! Was I talking about Tony Stark or Tony DiN…

Okay, okay! Don’t get mad! Moving on….

Then there’s the Hulk. Unlike the movie, this Hulk speaks in proper sentences. There are also a few added twists, such as the Hulk keeping a spotlessly clean room full of glass figurines no higher than an inch. It seems the new series’ writers want to portray the Hulk as a rather calm nine-foot tall wall of muscle until it’s time to start SMASHING! This dainty portrayal even extends to the Hulk carefully getting himself a PB&J sandwich in ‘Blood Feud,’ and then stealing Justin Hammer’s cocktail in ‘Super Adaptoid’ without breaking the glass.

In all honesty, I don’t really mind this turn of events for the big guy. Ol’ Green could use some quiet moments. I do wonder, though, if the crystal critters may not have been a step too far.

Next there’s Thor. In the two-ipart opening of Assemble I was under the impression that this version of Thor is a bit of a party animal. During the quinjet ride to Avengers’ Mansion, Hawkeye asked Thor what was on the social calendar for Valhalla that night. Thor’s enthusiastic reply was a little too enthusiastic for a minute; I thought he might actually start up a tavern song. Even though the Prince of Thunder sobered in the next few seconds, it hinted at a change in Thor’s proud and regal bearing.

This image of Thor having a “PARTY!!!” motto was emphasized in the third episode, ‘Ghost of a Chance.’ While trying to help Falcon settle in at the Tower, Tony showed him Thor’s room. If it hadn’t been for a sudden noise, the two wouldn’t have been able to avoid Thor as he tumbled to the floor while wrestling his ‘pet’ Bilgesnipe (an Asgardian creature also mentioned in the 2012 movie by Thor). Thor’s obvious lack of concern for his teammates’ near miss was his cheerful statement that they shouldn’t worry about him, as Bilgesnipe enjoyed fighting.

Uh, excuse me? Thor nearly pancaked his team leader and the new kid yet he thinks they’re worried about him? I’d say Tony and Falcon were more worried about what the Bilgesnipe might do to the rest of the Avengers if it ever got out of Thor’s quarters. Not to mention what it might do if it got out of the tower.

There appears to be some hope that Thor is getting a little calmer and more regal. I don’t mind him being jovial, but I draw the line at him behaving as if he’s had one too many gulps of ale while he’s lounging around the Tower.

Next there’s Hawkeye (thank goodness they didn’t put him in that Red Arrow knock-off costume!). While the other three members of the team are the most noticeable for their powers or size (one would have to have severe macular degeneration to miss the Hulk, let alone Thor), Hawkeye manages to retain the audience’s attention. How does he keep himself in the spotlight?

Simple. He runs his mouth.

This is nothing new. Hawkeye was always a talker, even in the original comics. I think this is a way for him to feel as if he’s keeping up with his super-powered teammates. It also distracts his opponents. When they say, “You missed!” after dodging an arrow, they’re jinxing themselves. If they avoided the arrow, then Hawkeye was aiming for something else. So I don’t have too much of a problem with Hawkeye’s constant string of repartee. The rub for me lies in that he seems to have been given the role of team clown.

For instance, do you remember when I said the Hulk was making himself a PB&J sandwich in the episode ‘Blood Feud’? Well, he had the jam and the bread, but some “dead man” had stolen the peanut butter from the fridge.

The so-called ‘dead man’ was in the gym, watching Cap work out while fisting into the peanut butter with his hand. And his name happened to be Hawkeye.

Throughout these episodes Hawkeye has repeatedly fired off remarks or done things which have gotten the Hulk upset with him. While you will never hear me advocate for the World’s Greatest Marksman to go back to the days when he was constantly riding Cap, I don’t think it’s exactly safe for him to ride the Hulk, either. This is also a departure from the friendship Hawkeye and the Hulk developed in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but that seems to have no bearing on Assemble.

Next we have Cap. Despite the fact that the two opening episodes feature the Avengers banding together again precisely because of Cap, he remains a background figure. This continues in ‘Ghost of a Chance’ and ‘The Serpent of Doom.’ So far ‘Blood Feud’ and ‘Super-Adaptoid’ are the only episodes which give Cap more than ten lines and the same amount of time in the limelight.

This also ties in somewhat with what I was saying about Tony earlier. Iron Man is not a bad team leader. If he was, the team would have been dead a long time ago. But the most capable leader of the Avengers has always been, and I believe always will be, Cap. Tony’s good, but he hasn’t got the experience that leadership requires. Cap does.

I think this is another indication that Assemble follows the movie more than the TV show Heroes. By the end of Heroes, Cap was team leader for the Avengers. In the movie, Iron Man and Cap were sharing leadership up to a point. For the most part, though, it was Cap who called the shots. Literally. This is what seems to be going on in Assemble, showing once more that Heroes has no actual bearing on the new series.

Now for Sam. Falcon is, according to some, supposed to be the “eyes and ears of the audience.” In ‘Ghost of a Chance,’ Falcon indeed serves this purpose by finding his way around Avengers’ Tower and stopping the Space Phantoms from invading Earth. But in episodes like ‘The Serpent of Doom’ and ‘Blood Feud,’ he’s the nearest thing to a go-fer the Avengers have ever had. In ‘Blood Feud,’ he’s also the one who predictably falls into the trap of trying to answer a plea for help, only to get caught for his troubles.

It’s a characteristic mistake in film and television, one the rookie always makes. But it would be nice to see at least one rookie, particularly one as bright as Falcon, not fall into that trap for once.

As for the Black Widow, she is present sporadically throughout the aired episodes. She was there for the team in ‘The Avengers’ Protocol, Parts 1 and 2,’ ‘Ghost of a Chance,’ ‘Hyperion,’ and ‘Molecule Kid.’ But in ‘Blood Feud’ she showed up under the control of Dracula.

I know. I’ll get back to the lead vampire in a minute.

Because Widow is supposed to be an Avenger “when she wants to be, and ONLY when she wants to be,” I wouldn’t expect her to be a regular in the show for the first season of the series. This means that she won’t get too much character development initially. But her girlishly pitched question, “Oh my gosh, am I a vampire?!?” in ‘Blood Feud’ was rather revealing because it proves she can be frightened. That’s a plus.

In a way, having Widow as an on-and-off member makes sense. To the Black Widow, espionage is as essential as oxygen. If she stops spying it’s because she’s dead. She has never stopped her espionage work in Marvel history, despite joining up with other heroes and teams several times. Bred and trained to be a spy she will never aspire to be anything else, not even something as prestigious as an Avenger.

Okay, okay, now we’ll go back to Dracula. When he got added to the Marvel roster of villains I don’t know. I would guess he’s been around as long as Blade the vampire hunter. I’m sorry, but when you’re going to Bram Stoker for a bad guy you’ve either run out of imagination or are following a ‘trend.’ Worse, you could be doing both. In my opinion Malekith or the Kingpin would have been better additions to the Cabal line-up than ol’ fanghead, but that probably won’t happen. Not any time soon, at least.

The other observations I have about the series have left me with questions. Lots of them.

In the first two episodes the audience is never told why the Avengers disbanded. How Marvel is going to twist an answer out of pAssemble’s supposed combination of the 2012 movie and Heroes I don’t know. But it better be good, or they’ll be hearing from yours truly.

In those same episodes our two ‘master assassins’ leave us perplexed on several counts. First, Hawkeye is shown standing in front of a statue in the Avengers’ “Hall of Fallen Heroes” (pardon my naming it as such). The statue’s features aren’t clear but it appears to be a woman’s likeness. Is it a statue of Mockingbird? Does that mean she’s dead in this series, or that everyone thinks so? Or was he just standing in a convenient place to think/reminisce?

In a small tussle in ‘The Avengers Protocol, Part 2,’ Widow and Hawkeye both accuse the other of being a traitor. Why? Why did they make these accusations? Does Widow feel betrayed because Hawkeye left SHIELD? Does Hawkeye feel betrayed because she didn’t follow him out of SHIELD? Or is the answer something totally different?

(If the writers start a romance up between Widow and Hawkeye, they’d better be ready to hear from me. Remember my post ‘Romantic’ Tension?, DiNozzo, and you’ll know what I mean.)

What made Tony disband the team in the first place? Where did Falcon come from, and why did Iron Man choose to mentor him? If some big calamity made him split up the Avengers, it would stand to reason Tony wouldn’t abruptly do a one-eighty and suddenly decide to teach Sam to be a superhero.

Why is Hawkeye riding the Hulk? Where has Thor been? Why is Cap so reticent? This is definitely another nod to the movie, as Heroes saw Cap completely at ease with the 21st century and his team by its end episode. Assemble shows him still acclimating to a time gap, as mentioned (several times) in ‘Super Adaptoid.’

Why is Widow watching the Avengers? What does Fury fear they’re going to do that he has his best agent working with them? Odds are that every fight she participates in, Widow writes a report about it that lands on Fury’s desk promptly afterward. Any fight she merely observes probably gets the same treatment.

The Avengers have to be aware of that. Hawkeye should suspect it since he once worked with her. Why are they still letting her be a part of the team? Do they trust her implicitly or are they watching Fury watch them?

There’s still time for these questions to be answered. The series is just starting.

Yes, Tony, I’ll be watching it. And Marvel better remember that, because if I don’t like something, they’ll be hearing from me about it.

Anyway, that’s my take on Avengers Assemble. It has potential, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes. But don’t be surprised if I bring it up again in a few months or so. More episodes will have aired, and I will probably want to talk about them.

After all, I am pretty heavily invested in Marvel characters.

See you around, DiNozzo!

Later,

Mithril

Assembled

Zoids: Genesis

Zoids Genesis

Hey, DiNozzo!

Day three of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week STARTS NOW!!!!

Are you ready, Tony?!

I won’t be too long.  Genesis was the one zoids series that managed to slip under my radar.  While it did make it to Cartoon Network’s Toonami, I somehow managed to miss it.  Not that I mind.

The few episodes I did see of the series were on the Internet.  And my one problem was that I couldn’t find one episode of the series in English.  Not one!  I know that it was translated into English, but I couldn’t find those episodes.

I had to watch those few episodes in Japanese.  Thankfully, someone had added subtitles to them, so I wasn’t totally lost.  But I will warn you right now: DO NOT watch a show with subtitles unless you are prepared to miss some of the action.

On the bright side, the introductory song sounded great in Japanese.  I’m not sure I want to hear it in English; that would probably ruin it.

Back to the show.  Zoids: Genesis is set even further into Zi’s future than either New Century Zero or Fuzors.  In this series a manmade ecological disaster has rocked Zi and the people are nearly wiped out (the zoids mostly survived).  When things settle down, the survivors slowly begin their re-colonization of Zi.  One nation is based in a huge floating crystal called Sora City (yes, more than one person lives there, Tony).  Another is based on the ground in the city of Iron Rock.  The last substantial civilization is based nearby, in the kingdom of Digu.  (Digu eventually evolved into Digald.)  There are also a myriad of villages and smaller kingdoms scattered across Zi.

Yes, DiNozzo, Digald is the aggressor in the series.  Hold your horses, okay?

Because of the devastation caused by the disaster, Zi remains hard to inhabit without these huge, treelike structures referred to in the story as Generators.  The Generators (built by the people of Sora City; more on that in a minute) somehow make large areas of Zi habitable for its people.  These Generators also provide a substance called Reggel which acts as fuel for almost everything – including Zoids.

The series starts in a little seaside village where the young hero, Ruuji Familion, lives with his family.  In the first episode we see him helping his father and other village men raise a strange Liger from the ocean floor.  Once they’ve opened the cockpit, several of the men hop into it in an attempt to awaken the zoid.  But none of them can activate it.

Ruuji’s younger brother asks why he doesn’t give it a try, and Ruuji gently reminds him that he has tried to awaken other zoids before.  Having met with failure every time, Ruuji prefers not to be hurt again.

Yes, Tony, that is about to change.  At mid-day, the peaceful village is attacked.  Bio-raptors of Digald (zoid skeletons filled with some sort of liquid that serves as a body) tear into the village to conquer it.

The leader of the battalion, Major Zairin, exhorts his soldiers to take the town quickly.  He and his men are all in these balloon-type suits, the only way that they can control their zoids – the Bio-zoids don’t really have anything like a cockpit.  My guess is that the substance that serves the Bio-Raptors as a body doesn’t mix well with the human body.

Ruuji’s father and several other men scramble into their zoids to face the attackers.  But their defense is absolutely pitiful, and not because they lack skill.  The only zoids they have other than the dormant Liger are two centipede-type zoids and a Cannon Tortoise-style zoid with double shells.  (Yes, a Cannon Tortoise is a turtle-looking zoid.  Will you stop interrupting?!)

Anyone who has seen almost any zoid battle can tell you that if you are fighting with a Cannon Tortoise, odds are you will lose.  These zoids are slow because of their heavy armor, which isn’t much protection in a bombardment from zoids with better weapons.  It is especially not useful when those other zoids are in close proximity to the Tortoise.

Ruuji’s father manages to live through this encounter, but his zoid (the Cannon Tortoise) is knocked over.  He’s out of the fight because the Tortoise is too heavy to regain its feet quickly.  The centipedes are stepped on and it appears that the village is done for.

That’s when Ruuji, trying to help, ends up in the Liger.  Wonder of wonders, the zoid activates and Ruuji intuits its name: Murasame Liger.

Despite his shock at finally being ‘chosen’ by a zoid, Ruuji wastes no time.  A large blade which the villagers consider a relic of their ancestors and which is kept in Ruuji’s house suddenly springs through his roof to attach to Murasame Liger’s back.  With this new weapon, Ruuji charges into the fight.

Zairin is at first pleased by this.  Apparently conquering has become such a common outcome to all Digald assaults that he’s begun to find fighting boring.  He mentions that he’s been looking for a challenge and wholeheartedly engages Ruuji, who has already downed some of the slower Digald pilots.

But Ruuji has none of Zairin’s experience and goes down.  Disappointed, Zairin is about to finish the job when two interlopers – one piloting a red Sword Wolf and the other piloting a white Lancestag (moose zoid with a lance in one shoulder) – drive at him and the remaining soldiers.  This unexpected attack forces Zairin and his men to pull out of the village.

The brief interlude allows the two pilots to introduce themselves to the villagers.  The Sword Wolf pilot is the dispossessed king, Ra-Kan, of a small, unnamed nation.  The Lancestag pilot is his cynical but feisty niece Rei-Mii.

Ra-Kan tells the villagers that the attackers were after their Generator.  He says that if the Digald soldiers take the village they will run the Generator on ‘high,’ or at full capacity, in order to produce more Reggel.  To get away with this, they will subsequently enslave the village.

At this point Zairin returns.  Though Rei-Mii and Ra-Kan join Ruuji to fight against the Digald battalion, both are quickly put down.  In one-on-one combat, Ruuji forces Zairin and his soldiers to leave.  But a parting shot from Zairin meant for Murasame Liger misses and clips the Generator, damaging it.  This puts Zairin out of sorts since getting the Generator was his primary goal in attacking the village.  Now it may be useless for anything.

Back in the village, a minor panic ensues.  When the people calm down, Ra-Kan says that unless the Generator is repaired the fish will die, the people will forget how to work the land, and the village will fall into nothing.  When someone asks if he’s sure, he replies that he has seen it happen many times before.  Wherever Digald’s forces conquer, the Generators eventually fail or are destroyed and the people who relied on them die.

Ruuji, feeling responsible for this turn of events because the shot was meant for him, decides to travel with Ra-Kan and Rei-Mii to find a Generator mechanic.

This is about where I left off watching the series and instead skipped straight to the end, which I’m not going to reveal.  Come on, DiNozzo, would you tell me the end of your favorite James Bond movie?  No, you would make me watch it.

Okay, okay.  I’ll mention a few more details that I’ve gleaned from the Internet regarding Zoids: Genesis.  Ruuji ends up getting a gang together, just as Van did.  The group includes Ra-Kan (de facto leader, father-type figure for Ruuji); Rei-Mii (she develops a crush on Ruuji despite berating him many times for his mistakes in battle); Kotona Elegance (assassin, thief, and former heir to the throne of Iron Rock); Thunder Garaga (a freedom fighter against Digald and a muscular man with a hot temper); Ron Mangun (expert tactician and secret agent of Sora City; works with Garaga to keep him from getting killed); and Seijuurou-san (a skilled swordsman and pilot who left a culture which fought zoid battles in an arena because he accidentally killed his student, a young boy like Ruuji).

Together, this band fights and eventually overcomes Digald, saving Ruuji’s village at the end of the series.

Oh, right, I was going to tell you about the Generators.  These were built by the people of Sora City so that Zi would one day be inhabitable again.  However, the Sora City inhabitants got so comfortable in the sky that they decided to stay there.  The remaining survivors on the ground then congregated around the Generators and were able to start rebuilding.  Does it make sense now?

Good.

Although this series goes back to Chaotic Century’s more adventurous spirit, ditching the prizefighting battles (Genesis lasted fifty [50] episodes, still lower than Chaotic Century but higher than the other two sequels), on the whole I didn’t enjoy it that much.  This is due primarily to Genesis’s darker and grittier plot.  Where Chaotic Century was upbeat and fun Genesis is dark, gloomy, and depressed.

My other complaints in regard to Genesis, though, are nitpicker’s points from a dedicated fan.  For starters, having the zoids require refueling was annoying.  Previously, all a pilot had to do was give a zoid a little break in between fights and the creature would keep running like a champ.  In Genesis, the characters frequently have to worry when their zoids begin to run low on the oily substance in the series known as Reggel.

On top of this, several zoids in the series don’t even appear to be zoids.  Seijuurou’s Zaber Fang-like zoid is covered in wires and so skeletal that it’s hard to tell what kind of cat it is.  The same goes for Ron Mangun’s panda-type zoid, the Bamburian.  Never mind that the machine is based on a giant panda, it’s got so many lines plugged into it that I’m surprised anyone could tell it was supposed to be anything but an overgrown ball of wires.

The Bio-zoids were also a minus in my book.  These machines lacked the physical resemblance to animals most other zoids have and which makes those zoids so beautiful.

In one way, I appreciate the Bio-zoids.  Skeletons filled with some sort of jelly, they are symbols of the corruption and greed of the Digald ruler.  But as zoids, they are utterly contemptible.  They bear no resemblance to the creatures I have enjoyed watching for so long, and that is a sour disappointment to me.  But their purpose is accomplished as evil creatures serving an evil use.

I also found the underlying theme of the Generators irritating.  How is Zi supposed to be capable of supporting life without these aids in a future series?  The Generators destroy any sense of normalcy for potential shows new writers may want to put in circulation.  Such new series would not have to include the Generators but some writers may feel inclined to do so.  To me, the Generators were more of a hindrance story-wise than a help.

So my verdict for the show is “interesting but not enough to capture this viewer’s ongoing enthusiasm.”  New Century Zero, Fuzors, and Genesis all keep zoids in the public consciousness, and that’s a very good thing.  But none of them equal Zoids: Chaotic Century in either plot or style, which would have been a better aim for the writers.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still hopeful that there will be another zoids series as good as Chaotic Century some day.  That day just isn’t here yet.

Now, for tomorrow’s subject in this Torture DiNozzo Week…  Hmm.

It is so much fun hearing you moan.  See you!

Later,

Mithril

Murasame Liger

Murasame Liger

Zoids: “Ready….FIGHT!”

Zoids New Century Zero

Hey, DiNozzo….

Guess what today is!

Yes!  Get the man a prize!  It is the second day of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week!!

So what’s today’s subject?  (Stop yawning, Tony, or I’ll call Gibbs.  And I mean it!)

Today we focus on Zoids: New Century Zero and Zoids: Fuzors.  Technically, Zoids: New Century Zero is an immediate sequel to Zoids: Chaotic Century.  This twenty-six (yes, DiNozzo, 26) episode series aired in Canada and the United States ahead of Chaotic Century.  I have no idea why.  *Shrug*

In New Century Zero, the governments of Chaotic Century are never mentioned.  The group keeping the peace here is the Zoid Battle Commission.  In this series, zoid pilots compete in large, open land areas for prize money and prestige.  Most pilots form a team of some sort, while others work solo.  These last are called mercenaries.  (Don’t ask me why.  It makes no sense unless it’s because these pilots are willing to change teams for any large sum of money.)

The antagonists of the series are members of the Backdraft Group, a shadowy organization trying to usurp the Zoid Battle Commission’s power.  They are doing this because they consider the Commission to be promoting weak battles.

Honestly, I don’t quite blame them in this assessment.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

New Century Zero concentrates on the adventures of Bit Cloud, a young man who routinely scavenges the sites of these battle competitions (at the start of the series) for useful parts.  He does this in the hope of using the better pieces to one day “build [his] own zoid partner.”  On one such expedition he witnesses the Blitz Team (composed of Leon and Lena Toros, with the mercenary Brad Hunter) get walloped by a team of three yellow Zaber Fangs called the Zaber Tigers.

In this first episode we learn that the Blitz Team has been on a losing streak for a while.  If this ‘battle’ the audience first sees along with Bit is meant to be an indication of how badly they were performing, then the Blitz Team was in a very sorry state.

While Leon has promise as a pilot and Brad is a fair fighter, Leon’s younger sister Lena is as trigger-happy as it is possible to be.  The only zoids she’ll pilot are the ones that have the most guns, and she is constantly pestering her father (the manager for the Blitz Team), Dr. Toros, for more ammunition.  As for Dr. Toros, he’s a man with wild bouts of eccentricity that are supposed to serve as comic relief.  All of this contributes to the Blitz Team being unable to win more than one or two battles, which means they’re always on the verge of going broke.

In the battle that Bit witnesses, things only get worse.  Leon’s Shield Liger is totaled and Leon himself ends up with one arm in a sling and a bandage around his head.  The battle is called to a halt and postponed until the next day.  The one ray of hope for the Blitz Team is that, before he tripped up, Leon managed to bring down one of the Zaber Fangs.  It looks like the final half of the battle will be a fair fight.

Sure….

Now enter Bit, who comes poking around the Blitz Team’s warehouse that night for more parts, only to get caught and tied up.  Lena ends up babysitting him through his ‘prisoner’ dinner hour in the hangar.  While she’s there he asks her about one particular white Liger standing nearby.  Lena explains that it is called the Liger Zero.  Since white ligers are rare, her dad snapped it up.  But the zoid is more than useless according to her because it will not accept any pilot her father has pushed into its cockpit.

Later on, after Lena has left and the lights have been turned off, Liger Zero wakes up and frees Bit.  It then offers Bit a ride.  Interestingly, the Liger seems to be possessed of a sense of humor.  He takes Bit on a wild run through the desert and, when Bit finally gets him to stop, the two are in the middle of nowhere with the sun high in the sky.

During the Blitz Team’s rematch with the Zaber Fangs, Bit comes back in time to join them.  The Zaber Tigers are cheating by having their pilot with the damaged Zaber fire from a nearby cliff with a sniper rifle.  Bit takes him down after Lena is decked in the middle of the competition.  However, to help the Blitz Team, Bit has to register with them, something he does right from the Liger’s cockpit.

Yeah, you’re right.  The team takes a while to warm up to him after this, especially Lena.  But with the dough rolling in from the fights he participates in, even she thaws to Bit.

Throughout the series Bit fights beside Brad and Lena, and occasionally the Team’s fourteen year old strategist, Jamie Hemeros (who spends most of his time off the field).  Leon leaves the team almost as soon as he’s healed, becoming a much better pilot from that point on.  He does not rejoin the team after this, though he does drop by to offer advice (or a fight) from time to time.

Because of the power of the Liger Zero and the turnaround in the Blitz Team’s fortunes, the Backdraft Group takes an interest in them.  Realizing that a zoid as powerful as the Liger could be the weapon they need to finally defeat the Commission, the Backdraft Group repeatedly tries to steal him from his rightful owners.  And before you ask, they bungle every attempt, often miserably.

On the whole, this series is not as good as Chaotic Century.  The reason I say this is because the fighting skills of many pilots in the series are substandard.

Bit’s skill mostly comes from the Liger Zero, which is later revealed to have a built-in organoid system or “black box” that lets the Liger memorize an opponent’s pattern of attack.  Once this is done, the Liger decides on a more effective counterattack and acts on it.  Such a rare zoid is called an Ultimate X in the story.  Although Bit does have a good ‘battle sense’ and treats the Liger as a partner, after a point the audience is left wondering just how much of his prowess is actually the Liger’s ability to learn.

As I mentioned before, Lena’s battle tactic is to blow her opponent straight to kingdom come.  So she gets very angry when her target doesn’t stay still long enough to get shot.  Several other minor characters share her nearly insane attitude, which leads to predictably boring battles throughout the series.   Jaime’s piloting is marked by nervous reactions or extremely foolish charges.  Even though he’s a good kid, Jaime is much better at giving the team tactical pointers than he is at fighting.

Brad is the only member of the Blitz Team who shows any real piloting skill.  He excels in sniping and close combat, and can often be seen chiding Lena for her overuse of her weapons.  While Leon eventually does become an amazing pilot, I’d bet money that Van or any of his friends could put him down with very little effort.  On the positive side, I’m sure Leon would be willing to learn from them.  The same could be said of Brad.

I have a similar attitude toward the few other pilots in the series with good skills, such as the sniper pilot Naomi and the Lightning Saix (cheetah-type zoid) pilot and team leader Jack Cisco.  But either of them against the crew, bad or good, from Chaotic Century would get whipped so fast it would make their heads spin.  Unlike Leon and Brad, these two may be more inclined toward vengeance than learning from their mistakes.

The one pilot in this series who shows anything near Chaotic Century skill is the young boy who appears in the last five episodes of the show.  And sadly he’s the Backdraft Group’s secret weapon.  His name is Vega Obscura, and his main objective is “to be in some really great battles.”  It’s never clarified whether or not he shares the Group’s views.  For the most part he seems to be genuinely interested in nothing more than a good fight.  And while Vega also pilots an Ultimate X zoid, the Berserk Fury (a Tyrannosaurus Rex-type zoid), he proves in his second appearance (via a video game) that he has great potential as a pilot.

I’m inclined to think he might be related in some way to the Chaotic Century terror Raven.  However, I’ve never been able to find any confirmation of that.  It’s mostly conjecture on my part, based solely on his physical appearance and astounding fighting skills, not to mention the similarities between his zoid of choice and Raven’s.  (Raven eventually had to find a new zoid when his Zaber Fang was destroyed.  I am not telling you how or what he got instead, Tony.  That would spoil it!)

All in all, I feel that New Century Zero falls far short of the mark that its predecessor set.

Now you’re going to wonder why I said that I would also talk about the sequel series Zoids: Fuzors.  This series is a lot like New Century Zero, which is why it’s part of my note.  Fuzors is set in a future at least several hundred years after Bit’s time.  The government in this series has again shifted, though it is similar to Bit’s.  Now the government is centralized in some place called Blue City.  Once again the protagonist for this series pilots the Liger Zero, the same zoid Bit had.  This pilot, however, is younger than Bit and goes by the name RD.

Hey, I didn’t write it!  Sit tight and let me finish!  (And no, Bit and RD look nothing alike.)

Blue City is home to the same type of battles that Bit participated in, except these are often confined to arenas within the city.   The series never finished its run in the U.S., but it had twenty-six (26) episodes, too.  (When you’re talking about zoids, I’m beginning to think that twenty-six is not a good number for them.)

There is one big difference between Fuzors and New Century Zero.  In Fuzors, certain zoids can combine with other zoids.  For example, the Liger Zero combines with two different bird-type zoids on different occasions in the series.  Combining in this manner increases the zoids’ power in battle, making the Liger twice as powerful as he was before.  And twice as desirable as he was in New Century Zero.

Yes.  Once again an underground conglomerate begins trying to get as many Fuzors and pilots as they can under their control.  Fuzors shows RD and his team as the only ones actively working to stop them.  At the same time, RD is also on a quest for a zoid called the Ultimate Zoid, which his father was pursuing when he disappeared.   So it could be argued RD is searching for his father in this story, too.

As with New Century Zero, I couldn’t help but feel that Fuzors fell short of the mark.  The zoids were good, as always, but the idea of fighting for near meaningless profit and glory simply doesn’t jive with Chaotic Century’s “Battle to reach your full potential” motif.  The lack of a strong overarching plot, which was present in Chaotic Century, was also a stone around the necks of these two sequels.  The writers may have felt that way, too, since neither series lasted more than twenty-six episodes.

What about the third sequel series?  Come on, DiNozzo.  I’ve about yapped my jaw to death here, and you want me to talk some more?

Aha!  So I have managed to rope you in!!…..  Flustered attempts to proclaim your innocence will get you nowhere.

And don’t worry.  This is Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week, remember?  I’ve got all of tomorrow to tell you what I know about Zoids: Genesis – which isn’t all that much, I admit.  And when we’re done with that – ooh, the possibilities!!!

So, are you ready?

Then…hang on to your cover!   (Remember, you’re part of the navy!!)

Later,

Mithril

Zoids_fuzors

http://hashtagnerdswag.com/2014/05/16/zoids-new-century-zero-series-review/

Zoids: “See You on the Battlefield!”

Zoids Chaotic Century

Helloo DiNozzo.

No, I have not rescinded my punishment for your paying me with the smaller Klondike bars from the squad room vending machines.  It is just beginning.

I’ve even made a name for this punishment.  You know how they have National Sibling Day, National Speak Like a Pirate Day, National Chocolate Day, etc.?  Well, I’ve started something similar….

Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week!

What are you complaining about?  This is like Garfield’s National Fat Week celebration.  And it has your name in it, for cryin’ out loud!

So, let’s get to business, shall we?

You’ve been to the desert.  I know you have; I saw that particular case – the woman with the uranium paint.  You really ought to take horseback riding lessons, Tony.

That aspect aside, do you know what I like about deserts?  Not the ones with endless sand dunes but the ones with high canyon walls, narrow arroyos, and plains of red sand?

What I like about this kind of desert is it makes the world appear wide open.  It feels like you can go anywhere.  No foliage blocking your view, no high rises hemming you in on all sides, nobody telling you to hurry up or slow down –

You don’t seriously think I’d go into a desert without water, do you?  I’m not that much of a tenderfoot, DiNozzo.  Unlike you, that is.

What, you may ask, makes me look at deserts this way?  The answer is the Japanese cartoon series Zoids: Chaotic Century.

Yeah, I knew you would say that.  Be quiet and let me talk!

Written and drawn in Japan, the series of sixty-seven episodes (yes, 67 episodes) takes place “in the far reaches of the Milky Way, on the planet Zi.”  It was eventually translated into English in Canada and played on Cartoon Network in America in the early 2000’s.  It focused on the adventures of fourteen (mistakenly translated as seventeen) year old Van Flyheight.

Van is a headstrong young orphan in the care of his older sister, Maria, at the start of the series.  He wants to become “the best zoid pilot ever” because of the example of his dead father who was a zoid pilot.  Van regularly sneaks away from his village, the Wind Colony, into the nearby desert.  One such trip – the first episode of the series – begins with him being chased into a long-ruined military base by a hotheaded bandit about three years his elder.

What this young bandit, Bol, is trying to prove matters little to Van.  His problem is getting back to the village without the knucklehead following him.  Or acing him out when he attempts to escape.

Trying to get away, Van is instead chased further into the ruins where he discovers a small zoid in some sort of stasis pod.

Okay, wait.  I can see that I’m going to have to play dictionary and give you the definition of a zoid.

A zoid is a mechanical animal about two or three stories tall (on average) with hidden weapons in its body.  A zoid is pilotable; that is, a human can pilot or ‘drive’ it.  Usually the cockpit for a zoid is a cab situated in the forward part of the zoid’s head.  As with height, this feature also varies from zoid to zoid (some have the cockpit in their chests).  Most often, though, it is in the head.

The zoid Van discovers is a dragon/T-rex type nearly six or seven feet tall.  No cockpit on this guy!  (He and similar zoids are referred to as ‘dragon-type zoids’; this may stem from their three claws on each ‘hand’ and foot.  Only Japanese dragons have three claws which is why these zoids would be referred to as dragon-type in this series.  At least I think that’s the reason for this description.)  With pink eyes and silver armor, the zoid is initially not friendly to Van since it considers him to be a threat.

However, Van’s good nature soon leads the zoid to realize Van will not hurt him.  Van dubs this small zoid Zeke, after his father’s white Command Wolf.

Ugh, DiNozzo!!!  A Command Wolf is – obviously! – a wolf-type zoid.  Sit down and let me finish!!

As I was saying, he names this small zoid Zeke after his father’s white Command Wolf.  The two are on the way to becoming fast friends when Bol literally barges into the room in his continuing pursuit of Van.  Spotting Zeke, Bol decides to take him and sell him “for a small fortune.”

In order to protect his new friend, Van attacks the blue Guysack (scorpion-type zoid) that Bol is piloting.  Quickly overcome, Van believes he is finished when Zeke intervenes –and takes a beating for his bravery.

Things look pretty bad.  But Zeke has some special talents that neither of the boys is aware of.  Escaping Bol with Van on his back, Zeke finds a wrecked Shield Liger (lion-type zoid) outside the ruins.  Dumping Van in the coverless cockpit, Zeke glows white, jumps into the air, and then ‘fuses’ with the Liger, “bringing it back to life.”  (Yes, zoids are living creatures,  Tony.)

In the Liger, Zeke’s power and Van’s own natural piloting skills allows the two to drive Bol and his partners off.  After the bandits leave, though, Zeke returns to the ruins.  There Van discovers a second stasis pod adjacent to Zeke’s destroyed casing.  He opens it, expecting another small zoid (called an ‘organoid’ because of the ability to merge with larger zoids) to pop out.  Instead, when it opens he finds a girl of about his own age inside.

I might add that, mysteriously, she and Zeke share the same eye color.

Taking her back to the village, Van learns the girl has no memory of anything – not trees, not fruit – except the name ‘Fiona.’

Guessing this is her real name, Van calls her Fiona.  Some time after this, the bandits attack the Wind Colony to get Zeke.  Van again defeats them and drives them off.  But with the possibility the gang may return in the future to harass his village, Van leaves home to protect the townspeople from these aggressors.

Out in the wide world, Van quickly makes friends and enemies through his strong belief in “the difference between right and wrong” as well as his naiveté.  Among the traveling companions he acquires is the transporter Moonbay, a sassy, independent young woman roaming the desert.  She carries cargo for whoever will pay her a large sum.  Another member of the company is Irvine, a young mercenary who travels with them initially only to steal Zeke.  Republican Captain Rob Herman (who arrests Van after an encounter with ‘sleeper’ Guysacks gets the bunch in trouble) also comes to respect the hotheaded youth.  (No, he does not travel with Van’s group.)  Many other characters also learn to count Van as a friend.

Van’s strongest opponent is Raven, an Imperial soldier his own age.  A master pilot, Raven is a terror in battle and a scourge to the Republican ranks – so much so that even the Imperials do not trust him.  Hating zoids and practically everyone else, his abilities are sharpened to a fearsome degree when his black-armored, blue-eyed organoid Shadow fuses with his blood-red Zaber Fang (a Saber Tooth Tiger-type zoid).  Van and Raven battle several times because of these opposing natures: Van’s love of zoids and his friendships versus Raven’s hatred of these machines and condescension toward everyone.

Although Raven is Van’s most deadly enemy, he does encounter others.   The villains include all kinds, from low-brow bandit riff-raff to the Regent of the Guylos Empire.  Van and his friends soon find themselves deep in adventure and peril.  The underpinning theme of the series is Fiona’s mysterious past, her capability to communicate with Zeke, and her ability to read the writing of an ancient civilization that once thrived on Zi.

Fiona’s past coming back to ‘haunt’ her, and by extension everyone she cares about, eventually takes precedence in the series.  When the credits role in the last episode, Van has achieved his wish and become “the greatest zoid pilot ever.”  Zi, just like its deserts, is once more open to adventure for all.  I like to think Van and Fiona have a lot more fun after the screen goes black, as is proper for any series.

Zoids: Chaotic Century seems to take a lot of elements from Star Wars, with the addition of other, less noticeable themes and motifs.  The most prominent idea, and this is what really makes the show, is that the pilots have to fight to ‘reach their full potential.’  Every zoid has the capability to be a stronger and greater creature, a capability that is usually accomplished in battle.  This is impossible, however, without the proper pilot.  Only as a team can both the pilot and the zoid achieve their ultimate potential.

Watching Van get there is a thrill and a million, DiNozzo.  You have got to take a look at the series.

Altogether Chaotic Century is a very well thought-out, well-executed show.  It is no wonder it had three sequel series (Zoids: New Century Zero; Zoids: Fuzors; and Zoids: Genesis).  Chaotic Century is so detailed that it demands more stories from Zi.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe these three series lived up to Chaotic Century’s legacy.  But that’s a topic for tomorrow in this stellar Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week.

In parting, I will say only this, Tony:  “See you on the battlefield!”

Later,

Mithril