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Spotlight: Thundercats – Tygra

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Last year, two posts about a pair of Thundercats characters appeared here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. The first one focused on Panthro, the second on Cheetara. A commentor on the second Spotlight! post requested that his favorite Thundercat be discussed next, and this blogger promised to write about that character in the New Year.

Well, while it is a day late and a dollar short, I hope JorgePr finds this post to be a satisfying review of his favorite character. Today’s Spotlight! focuses on the intellectual member of the Thundercats, Tygra. The team’s architect, scientist, inventor, academic, and moral authority, Tygra often came off as bland or uninteresting to most viewers. While this is an understandable reaction early on, to maintain it is to miss the very important contributions this Cat made to the team and the series.

Although his role in combat was not often as spectacular as Cheetara, Panthro, or Lion-O’s were, Tygra was a capable fighter. Using his bolo whip, intelligence, and native strength, he could think circles around most of his opponents with ease. The fact that his whip granted him invisibility only added to his combat capabilities, as it allowed him to sneak up behind or otherwise catch enemies by surprise. From what we saw in the television series, the only problem with this power came when Tygra had to swim. Water – whether it had been specially treated or not – rendered him visible to the naked eye. So in that sense, water was his weakness, a fact we will come back to later.

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Cat’s Lair, as designed by Tygra in the original series.

Due to his architectual expertise, Tygra was the Cat the rest of the team turned to when they needed something built. The designer of Cat’s Lair, the Feliner, and the Tower of Omens, his skill with artistic construction extended to more mundane items and sciences as well. When the Cats were shrunken to the size of insects, Tygra was the one who formulated the antidote. He was also the designer of the recording devices the group later employed to video themselves and their world for posterity. So while he wasn’t as mechanically inclined as Panthro, no one could say he wasn’t a good machinist, either.

Tygra also acted as the arbiter, recorder, and voice of final authority among the adult Thundercats. This was a position he achieved based on the virtues built into his character from the beginning. Clearly designed to resemble the tiger, where Panthro and Cheetara’s personalities were influenced by their physical attributes (strength and speed) his qualities had a different inspiration: the virtue of integrity.

Out of all the Cats, Tygra was probably the one with the strongest attachment to the Code of Thundera. While the others kept it in mind and allowed it to influence their daily lives and decisions, Tygra practically exuded a balanced spirit infused with Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty. More than once, he cited or leaned on the Code to remind the rest of the group of their duties to the denizens of Third Earth or to emphasize the vital need for them to remember, honor, and adhere to their culture and beliefs.

Loyalty was probably his most obvious trait. Though he wasn’t afraid to call Lion-O or any of others to the carpet when they were drifting off course, he always did so in a way that was respectful and/or deferential. He was, after all, not rebelling against his Lord or his friends but trying to make sure they corrected their course before it was too late. Despite his vulnerability to mind-control, in the end Tygra’s devotion to the Code and his friends always won out over the evil influences.

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This brings us back to Tygra’s powers and limits. Besides his bolo whip, Tygra possessed a hereditary trait called “mind power.” This ability played a clear role in only one episode, where Lion-O had to undergo a series of challenges to earn the title of Lord of the Thundercats. However, small hints dropped throughout the series suggest that this psychic talent was one he used in minor ways on an almost daily basis.

From a noble House renowned for its talent with “mind power,” Tygra often had to rest and prepare for days before using his psychic abilities for anything major, such as the trial where he tested Lion-O by casting various mental illusions. Unlike Cheetara, Tygra was well trained in the use of his gift. He therefore could not receive psychic images, warnings, etc. the way that she could. This may have made him susceptible to subtle psychic manipulation since, on three separate occasions.

Each time Tygra was lured into betraying the Thundercats and/or himself. In two of these cases, though, he managed to overcome the perpetrator’s influence and return to normal. Due to his heritage and calm, controlled demeanor, it only makes sense that he was taught from a young age how to defend against telepathic intrusion at the same time he learned how to use his power to protect himself. This implies that he learned to specifically guard against or block explicit telepathic messages or attacks, making it harder for him to realize when he was being presented with a less forceful psychic lure.

I say this last because, in an entirely different event, he showed he could recognize and fight overt psychic attacks. When Mumm-Ra used special bracelets to put the Cats under his mental command, Tygra was the last Cat standing, having ordered Snarf away to find and warn Lion-O. Eventually overpowered, Tygra was able to resist the bracelet and Mumm-Ra’s influence for a short period of time, something neither the Thunderkittens nor Cheetara had been able to do when they were “captured.”

To this blogger, that implies that his psychic talent made spontaneous use or abuse of it difficult in the extreme. Where Cheetara’s sixth sense could not be trained or used regularly, Tygra’s ability could, allowing him to block explicit or open telepathic messages without really thinking about it. It is also possible that while he needed to rest up and conserve energy to use his “mind power” for big events, using it for minor tricks in combat took little to no effort. In the first episode of the series, Tygra appeared to vanish – without using his brand new bolo whip to do so. It appears, therefore, that he could and would occasionally use his power to make others believe he had disappeared without resorting to his main weapon during skirmishes.

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Clearly, although he is not my favorite Thundercat, I have an immense respect for Tygra. Or at least, I respect his original depiction in the 1980s cartoon. I am also happy that the comic book writers married him off to Cheetara in their book series. The 2011 reboot’s giving us a good picture of their relationship and his origin story were well done additions to his character as well. (Except for the implication that he was the last tiger on Third Earth. Come on, people!)

As for the rest of the reboot’s presentation of Tygra, there were some glaring problems – starting with the small fact that they made him seasick. The original series never made it perfectly obvious, but it didn’t take a genius to come up with the theory that water was Tygra’s Achilles’ heel because it made him visible. Reducing this vulnerability to a queasy stomach was one of the ways they chipped away at his character in the reboot.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. While his status as Lion-O’s adopted brother was good, along with his more confident air, the resulting rivalry between them – especially where it concerned Cheetara – was absolutely unnecessary. It only got worse from there, as the writers used Tygra to make silly jokes that did nothing to make the stories they told any better than they already were. In fact, the debased treatment of this great Cat was a demerit for the final half of the 2011 reboot, in this blogger’s opinion. They wasted both the story lines they had set in motion and, worse, the rich estate they had received from the original Thundercats series.

In an effort to make him more interesting, the writers tore his most powerful characteristic – integrity – from him. They didn’t respect his honesty or his loyalty, though they tried to show the latter on occasion. Most of this was due to the fact that the reboot never referenced the Code of Thundera at all. It reduced the fantastic, chivalrous society which held its nobles and itself to a high set of standards and made it like the writers’ conception of the modern world, only with fantasy trappings.

This isn’t to bad mouth the good things they did do in Thundercats 2011. While I have my issues with the series, it did have its moments. And since it gave Tygra some great/good scenes while adding to his story, the writers deserve credit for doing their best. I only wish they had done better – especially where Tygra was concerned.

Hopefully, a future series (and no, I am not counting “Soycats” as a new Thundercats series), will treat the franchise and Tygra better. Only time will tell. Until then, I highly recommend watching the original series. The first half of the 2011 reboot is also watchable – though if you do it with a fan of the original series, be ready to hear some complaining. While this blogger dislikes the latter series, it does have some good material in it. You just have to have the patience to find it.

Until next time, readers, I leave you with a hearty, “ThunderThunder

Thundercats – HO!

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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Moonbay

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Here we again return, readers, to the burning deserts of the planet Zi! Although there will be more Zoids posts coming out next year, this will be the final one until 2019. I wanted to cover the main cast for the show before the year was out, so it seemed best to shift my earlier plans around in order to give Moonbay her dues today. There will be more and different Spotlight! articles forthcoming in January, however, so don’t think I have forgotten any of my promises! 😉

That being explained, let’s stop beating around the bush and get to business. First encountered by Van and Fiona in the episode “Sleeper Trap,” Moonbay serves as the mother figure of their group during the first half of the season. In this way she is a little like Star Wars RebelsHera Syndulla. But where Hera is relaxed and laid back, Moonbay is feisty, fiery, and more than willing to tell off her hotheaded young charge, Van Flyheight.

Sharp-tongued and flirty, Moonbay has a good head for business and brooks no nonsense she herself does not commit. Though she can strike viewers as a bit greedy in her business dealings, the reality is that Moonbay is not a mercenary. Because she loves to travel and wants to preserve her independence, she needs to acquire a respectable influx of cash whenever she can get it. After all, it isn’t easy maintaining a zoid or buying supplies that will last over the course of long distance trips.

This is especially true after she hooks up with Van, Fiona, and Irvine, whom you can read about here, here, and here. Once she joins their party, Moonbay has three other mouths to feed and two extra zoids to maintain. Since the distances between villages and cities are rather long, that means more food has to be bought so the gang doesn’t run out of chow in the middle of nowhere.

The episode “Moonbay’s Waltz” demonstrates clearly that Moonbay is not the mercenary she first appears to be. In the course of this episode, Moonbay runs into an old sweetheart, a millionaire known only as McMan. McMan reveals he previously asked Moonbay to marry him, inviting her to a ball to introduce her to his family, but she never showed. Moonbay eventually admits that she ran away because she believed they were so different that a marriage between them would not work.

Thus one can see that the reason Moonbay is always looking for a big score isn’t because she loves money. She could have had more than enough if she had married McMan. The reason she is always bargaining for extra cash or, sometimes, swindling money from someone is so that she can support her footloose lifestyle. Being a carefree “transporter of the wasteland” is what she wants to do, and she will do whatever she must to ensure that she can keep going in this profession. Now that I think about it, she and Lando Calrissian would probably get along very well, not to mention have bucket loads of fun together.

In terms of fighting skill, Moonbay is actually pretty good at hand-to-hand combat. She does not do it often and, in a straight up physical competition, she would lose to a man in a few seconds. But when push comes to shove, she can and will fight. In the episode “Jump! Zeke!”, she took a Republican soldier by surprise, disarmed him, and held his arms pinned to his sides. Since he was about a head and a half to two heads taller than she was, not to mention broader, it is unlikely that Moonbay could have kept him prisoner for very long.

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But as she proved in the next scene, she only had to hold him for a few seconds. What she lacks in terms of physical fighting power Moonbay more than makes up for in her wits. Keeping the soldier’s arms pinned to his sides, she managed to broker a deal to help the Republican Army defeat an incursion attempt by the Imperial Army in the following installment, “The Battle of Red River.” The deal paid well at the same time it got her, Van, Fiona, and Irvine out of trouble for blowing up a Republican sleeper trap. Using her business sense, wits, and the element of surprise, Moonbay hauled the entire gang out of a nasty bit of legal trouble.

These particular skills extend to her piloting abilities as well. Moonbay’s primary zoid throughout the series is her fuschia Gustav which, though it has thick armor, is not much of a fighter. Moonbay was only able to install one set of twin cannons beneath an armor joint between two of the shell’s plates. Though Irvine once told her she should install more weapons on it, Moonbay pointed out that the zoid would be too heavy to travel if she did that. So she sacrificed greater firepower for mobility.

Age: Unknown

As she proved, however, the Gustav can do plenty of damage when no one sees it coming. Using the zoid’s thick armor and hidden cannons, Moonbay could achieve a variety of attacks in combat. These ranged from bowling over two-legged opponents to firing two precise and incapacitating shots into an enemy zoid, disabling it at once. There were other occasions when Moonbay used the Gustav as a shield to protect herself and others from deadly explosions or shots as well.

Moonbay also became an excellent Pteras pilot. (More on that zoid next year – I promise!) She literally learned that skill on the fly, but proved to be a quick enough study that she and her passengers survived the experience. Due to her transporter skills, she also mastered the enormous Ultrasaurus later on in the series. A huge zoid that was basically a walking city/military base, once she was in the cockpit Moonbay grabbed the controls and didn’t let go. Despite constant reminders, she loudly and publicly proclaimed the zoid was “her” Ultrasaurus. Since she was the one piloting it ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, no one could really argue with her on that one.

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Moonbay in her “Legendary Fireball” attire.

Though it was only revealed in the standalone episode “Phantom,” Moonbay also had a “need for speed.” She was once a champion racer known as the Legendary Fireball. Eventually, she quit the racing circuit for some unknown reason, only to return to the track briefly in “Phantom.” Due to a mistake during the race she lost the competition and, as far as I know, that was the last time she raced.

When it comes to relationships, in the first half of Chaotic Century Moonbay is definitely the mother figure for the younger members of the gang. This is most apparent in her relationship with Van; as noted previously, she will happily tell him off when he misbehaves or does something foolish. Occasionally she adds force to her lessons, punching, elbowing, or shoving Van around to get her point across. The reason for this is because she is trying to drive home the point that he has to “look after [him]self,” as there will come a time when no one else can or will take care of him.

Age: Unknown

Although their relationship is fraught with these kinds of confrontations early on, the fact is that the two do care about each other a great deal. Moonbay is not one to wear her heart on her sleeve, but she does admit that Van is “a pretty good kid,” and that she admires his determination to succeed no matter what. Even when he is older and more able to manage his own affairs, Moonbay still appears to consider him “her boy.”

This may have been shown best when she interposed her Gustav between Van’s downed Blade Liger and Raven’s resurrected Geno Saurer. Despite the fact that this resulted in a grave wound for her zoid, Moonbay didn’t regret the sacrifice when Van apologized in the next episode. While her reassurances didn’t alleviate his guilt, the fact that Moonbay blew off the severe damage showed she considered it a small price to pay for protecting him.

Her relationship with Fiona was less motherly and more sisterly. During the first half of the series the younger girl’s naïveté meant that she had to be watched over and protected more than a normal girl her age. When not “flying RIO” with Van in combat she remained with Moonbay, who took her under her wing. Slowly, through her time spent with the older girl, Fiona became assertive, gaining a decisiveness she had not demonstrated beforehand. Although she never became as feisty or fierce as Moonbay, the older woman did help instill in Fiona a strength of will that aided her later in life.

Forgotten Toon Girls: F is for Fiona

Moonbay also helped the girl relearn her way around zoids. As the go-to mechanic in the gang, both Van and Irvine relied on Moonbay to keep their zoids healthy. This was due not only to the fact that she was a good engineer, but because she knew a technique that would help zoids to “self-recover” faster than normal. Fiona often helped her on these occasions, giving her the opportunity to become Van’s personal mechanic later on. This skill also allowed her to aid scientists in upgrading his Blade Liger when she was older, which impressed Moonbay a great deal.

Another area in which the two were connected was in the way they worried over their men. As Fiona grew, she worried about Van more frequently because he began facing stronger and more deadly opponents. Knowing worry was useless, despite the fact that she often engaged in it herself, Moonbay did her best to support Fiona and help her relax before every big battle. The two were really close, shown by the fact that the only one Moonbay worried about more than Van was Fiona. If the younger girl was kidnapped or put in danger, Moonbay was instantly on the alert. Though she wasn’t much of a physical fighter, she would do her best to go after and rescue Fiona, no matter the danger to herself.

Finally, with regard to Irvine, Moonbay sincerely respected and liked the mercenary. Throughout the series they flirted with and teased each other; their behavior was so natural that sometimes a viewer could almost swear they were married. Being somewhat older than Irvine, she had more experience in certain matters than he did – namely the management of funds and the foresight necessary to finance a group that included herself, two growing kids, and one eighteen year old man who was used to living and fighting on his own. Where Irvine acted as the voice of combat experience during the first half of the series, Moonbay maintained the group’s social order and discipline. She made sure everyone ate on time, slept on time, and kept a tight rein on the way money was spent.

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This meant that the two rarely argued or interfered with the other’s role in managing the kids, especially Van. When Irvine told Van off for wallowing in self-pity or blaming everyone except himself for a mistake, Moonbay held her peace and let him do it, recognizing he was more effective in this area than she was. But when it came time to let the boy alone to think things through or to tell him the hard truth about how the world worked, then the mercenary would let Moonbay do the talking since she was the one who had more experience in such matters than he did.

None of this is to say that their relationship was without its rough patches. Irvine had to repeatedly tell Moonbay to jettison her cargo of Imperial ammunition in “Sleeper Trap,” since her pride in never failing to deliver goods to an employer was putting them all at risk. In turn, she had to verbally slap him upside the head after his Command Wolf was wrecked by Raven later on in the series.

These instances of violent disagreement were rare and brief. Moonbay and Irvine made a good pair, shown by the fact that together they “raised” Van and Fiona right. To be perfectly honest, I’ve always suspected that they married after the series ended; they clearly cared about one another a great deal. During battles where Irvine was thrown around or injured, Moonbay often shouted his name, the way that Fiona would cry out if Van was injured. And while the mercenary often stated that Moonbay could “take care of herself” and was “pretty good in dangerous situations,” he didn’t appreciate it when she was threatened.

A future romantic relationship between the two is conjecture on my part, though, since the series leaves their relationship openended from start to finish. But while the writers may not have intended for them to be more than friends, I prefer to think Moonbay and Irvine became a couple at some point. She certainly couldn’t get away with saying she and he were “too different” to make a good match – not after everything they had been through together!

The more I write about these characters, the less I am able to think of actors, actresses, and directors who could ably bring them to the silver screen. It’s more than likely that an attempt to put them in a live action film would fail completely. They’re perfect the way they are.

If a competent, respectful group of creators could be found to make a solid, beautiful film (series) out of the show, then I might be more hopeful. But as things stand I am much happier to have the anime than a film (series).

Which reminds me: if you want to see this great show yourselves, readers, it is available in its entirety on Amazon.com. For those of you who want to test the show out before laying down hard-earned cash for it, check out the English dub of Zoids: Chaotic Century here at www.watchcartoononline.com. Don’t quit if you find the first two episodes a bit draggy and boring; wait until you reach “Sleeper Trap,” “Jump! Zeke!,” and “The Battle of Red River” before you make a decision. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. 😉

‘Til next time, readers:

“See you on the battlefield!”

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Spotlight: Thundercats – Cheetara

Earlier this year, I posted this Spotlight! article about a character from one of my favorite TV shows. The series in question was Thundercats, and the protagonist we were discussing was Panthro, who was never this blogger’s favorite character. He was much more impressive than I realized at the time, but he’s never been my preferred hero in that universe.

Today’s topic, however, was and remains my favorite character in the original series. This would be Cheetara, the only adult female Thundercat present for the first season of the show. Another adult female Cat, Pumyra, was added later on, but we will talk about her another time.

At first, I admired Cheetara mostly for her ability to run fast. She once hit 120 mph on a morning jog and, I believe, could run much faster in combat. Based on the cheetah, some time ago yours truly learned that this heroine’s personality was also centered on speed. Unlike Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver and other characters who can run at fantastic velocities, though, Cheetara was a composed, calm humanoid cat woman. She lacked the fiery temper and/or juvenile attitude modern audiences often associate with people who run fast.

She had a sense of humor, though. It showed either in dry, witty comments or a smiling, “Right in front of you, [boys]!”, but this did not change the fact that she was the most ‘adult’ member of the Thundercats. The villains had to work really hard to rile her up, as did her teammates. Cheetara didn’t like being insulted any more than anyone else, but when she knew that someone was trying to bait her with derogatory comments, she shrugged the bad behavior or nasty remarks off. The male Thundercats tended to take such things more seriously, something that occasionally puzzled their female friend. She would become righteously angry if taunted by an enemy or when she saw an injustice committed, but otherwise she was very hard to ruffle.

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This naturally meant that Cheetara rarely slipped into hysterics or dramatics. So if she grunted or stumbled with pain or surprise, the rest of the adult Cats converged on her faster than ants on a picnic. Cheetara didn’t have time or patience for theatrics, so any sign of distress from her automatically signaled an imminent problem of some kind. Thus she was the team’s barometer for trouble; if she reacted badly to something – even if it was something they couldn’t see – then the male Thundercats instinctively began looking for whatever problem was headed their way.

In addition to her amazing speed, Cheetara’s main weapon in battle was her retractable golden bo staff. Stored in a wrist guard on her left arm, the staff could be pulled free at any time and extend it to its full length easily. Combined with her incredible momentum, the staff enabled her to cause serious havoc in enemy ranks. Like the other Thundercats’ weapons, Cheetara’s staff was both magical and technological, meaning she could pull off some very neat tricks with it. She could lengthen the staff into a pole useful for vaulting over obstacles or springing up to high places. Or she could thrust the weapon to the earth, causing it to fire off several dozen “copies” of the staff that would fly out to strike and batter her opponents. It really was a nifty weapon, readers. 😉

Another power she had that was equally interesting, though sometimes it could be deadly. This power was Cheetara’s “sixth sense,” a limited form of telepathy that occasionally allowed her to feel and “see” when another Thundercat was in trouble. It was never shown enough to satisfy this viewer, but the writers made good use of in nonetheless.

Cheetara’s limited telepathy wasn’t something she could truly control or use in spectacular fashion for most of the show’s run. Generally, her latent psychic power flared up without her conscious will or effort. The one time Cheetara was able to use it as a genuine superpower came when the Lunataks – bizarre, evil creatures native to Third Earth – were using a device to scramble her psychic power in order to cover up one of their evil schemes. Overcoming their manipulation, Cheetara was able to free the captured Thundercats with a burst of telepathic power straight from her heart, mind, and body. It was the most stunning display of psychic strength she ever demonstrated.

With all this going for her, readers, it’s not hard to see why this blogger considered Cheetara her favorite character. Over time, her speed became less impressive than her personality, and to this day she has remained my preferred Thundercat. Given my unvarnished opinion of the 2011 remake for this series, though, it seems natural to assume that I didn’t like her appearance in the reboot. In actuality, with regard to Cheetara, the 2011 series gave me very little to complain about. In terms of personality, the new version was pretty close to the original conception of the character. What changes were made to her behavior were so minor that they’re not even worth consideration.

Nevertheless, I did have a few gripes with the 2011 presentation of the character, primarily with her outfit. In the original series, Cheetara’s suit covered everything but her right shoulder and arm. Now, that’s not exactly a smart fashion choice for a woman who intends to enter combat on a semi-regular basis, but the fact is that her original suit protected most of her body. Thundercats apparently needed little to no protective outerwear on their homeworld, Thundera, so it makes sense that Cheetara and the others would retain some measure of enhanced durability on Third Earth. This is the only reason (aside from the animators’/writers’ taste in fashion) that I can supply for Cheetara’s original, one-sleeved costume.

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Her new suit in the 2011 reboot, however, has no such excuse. This costume was a ratty brown two piece with an exposed midriff and no boots. It was obviously meant to make the 2011 Cheetara look “cool” and “edgy,” a truly stupid move on the part of the new show’s writers. Even at her highest speed, wearing a get-up like that put her vital areas in serious jeopardy during a fight. More to the point, the original Cheetara would not have been caught dead in such a tattered uniform. She was never an “edgy” character in the original series and she didn’t need to be in the new one!

My other gripe was that the new writers for the show disposed of Cheetara’s latent “sixth sense.” That power had led to several interesting, thought-provoking episodes in the first Thundercats series, and it could have spiraled off in dozens of amazing directions during the new show. Some might argue that the affinity the new Cheetara showed for using Jaga’s magic was an homage to her dormant telepathy, but her “magic” powers were only demonstrated once in the reboot. To my mind, that’s hardly compensation for the loss of such an interesting trait, readers.

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Despite these complaints, the 2011 series did improve on Cheetara’s portrayal in one regard. In the original series it was hinted that she and Tygra, a male Thundercat based on the tiger whom we will discuss later, were a couple. Other episodes, however, blurred the line and implied there was a mutual romantic interest between her and Lion-O, the ruler of the Thundercats. This could get confusing from time to time, especially since the series’ creators and subsequent merchandise made it plain Tygra and Cheetara were an item. Although I genuinely despise the books, the one good thing that the comics based on the series did was to show the two had married and had a couple of Kittens. It’s about the only thing I give the comics’ creators credit for doing.

Though the reboot writers led Lion-O to believe that Cheetara was romantically interested in him, they later demonstrated that she had an unequivocal romantic devotion to Tygra. Aside from the attempted love triangle, this was a really good move on their part. While the 2011 series didn’t treat the two as well as it should have, it at least made their mutual attraction clear, allowing them to show their love for one another and to act on it. For that, the new show deserves some points.

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Well, readers, this has been fun. It’s nice to get back into the rhythm of these Spotlight! posts. I’ve been doing so many Zoids ones that, added to my month-long hiatus, I almost forgot how to set the stage for these articles! Stay tuned for a new, non-Zoids focused post soon. It should be a rolling-ly good one.

Yes, that was a veiled hint about the following Spotlight! topic. 😉 And it is the only one you are going to get for now, since I have to start planning that post. ‘Til then –

“Thundercats – HO!”

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Dark/Red Horn

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Rosso and his Red Horn

And we are back with another post about a zoid, readers! Technically, we will be discussing two different “mechanical combat units” today. They are both the same “species” and probably count as the same zoid, just with different color schemes. Visually, that appears to be the only substantial distinction between them.

Today’s subjects are the Styraccosaurus-type Dark Horns and Red Horns. Used by the Imperial Army, Dark Horns and Red Horns are the zoids piloted by anyone holding the rank of Lieutenant on up. They are not infantry creatures; you get to use them only when you move up in the ranks.

The cockpits for both zoids are in their heads, under those glowing green eyes. They can be outfitted with almost any type of arsenal, from machine guns to missile launchers to the trademark three-barrel cannon on their backs. They also have smaller guns attached to their chins, shoulders, and hips, along with radar equipment.

View the video below to see them in action, readers:

While not exactly fixed weapons, Dark Horns and Red Horns weigh a lot and are therefore relatively slow when compared to other zoids. The fact that they are so low to the ground doesn’t help, either. Nevertheless, Harry Champ from Zoids: New Century Zero was able to reduce his Dark Horn’s turning radius and increase its speed with boosters he had installed in the zoid’s hips. But those were eventually fried because he over relied on them during his battle with the Blitz Team. That’s really not surprising, since the guy had more money than brains and generally couldn’t find his way in out of the rain unless you pointed him in the right direction.

But it did prove that the Dark Horn and the Red Horn can have their speed increased. Most pilots do not go in for such drastic modifications, probably because they can’t afford them. We never saw this device used by the Imperial Army, which means the boosters either were not available in this time period on Zi, or they were too expensive to be bought and installed en masse. Either explanation works.

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The only time I ever saw a Dark Horn piloted well was in Chaotic Century. In the episode “Raven,” Van’s old nemesis gets his hands on a Dark Horn and uses it effectively against our hero and his friend, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Army (more about him later). Raven was able to catch a Dibison’s chin on the Dark Horn’s nose horn and, using the other zoid’s momentum and weight, roll it onto its side. He was also able to make the Dark Horn leap over Van’s Blade Liger while the other was running toward him. So the Dark Horn it capable of quite a lot. Most pilots, however, are utterly incapable of getting such amazing results from it.

We didn’t see too many Imperial Red Horns during Chaotic Century’s run. The one I remember best is the Red Horn Rosso piloted before upgrading to an Iron Kong. Rosso achieved his full potential as a pilot in a Storm Sworder, although he piloted his Iron Kong with special skill. In contrast to that, his ability with the Red Horn is nothing to write home about….

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…Except for the fact that it hints at his growing talent. While we don’t see Rosso do much more than shoot and charge in his Red Horn, it is never implied that he is a lightweight in combat. Looking at the picture of him below, you would think that was obvious; Rosso is not a shrimp by any stretch of the imagination. But that doesn’t mean he was, is, or will be a good pilot. “Size matters not” in the cockpit of a zoid; as long as you can reach the controls and work the pedals, you can pilot the zoid you are sitting in.

Rosso’s Red Horn had thick armor, especially on its nose. He was able to deflect the twin shots from a Shield Liger’s back cannon with it. The maneuver didn’t require him to do anything but turn the zoid’s head, and it didn’t so much as scratch the Red Horn’s paint. Under his control, the Red Horn was also able to break through a Shield Liger’s shield with a blow from its nose horn. After Raven, he is the only pilot I could point to as being exemplary in the command of such a “mechanical combat unit.”

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The last time I can recall hearing about a Red Horn was in Zoids: Fuzors. It appeared briefly during an arena battle, and its nose horn had been modified to act like Liger Zero’s Strike Laser Claw Attack. When activated, the forward part of the nose horn would glow yellow, charged with energy so it could slice through an enemy zoid’s armor. It seems like a rather ridiculous modification to me; the Red Horn’s and Dark Horn’s best assets have always been in the tip of the nose horn in my opinion. Having the front part of the horn slice through an enemy isn’t overkill so much as it is… Stupid.

All in all, Dark Horns and Red Horns were pretty effective tanks. Slow though they were, they could deliver in terms of fire and ramming power. Again, predator-style zoids are more my thing, but I don’t recall thinking Dark Horns and Red Horns were silly “mechanical combat units” to take into combat. They could be deadly when used properly, and their arsenal was never anything to scoff at, readers.

Well, that’s it for now. I have one more Zoids post coming up, and then we will all take a break before I do any more. You won’t see those zoids posts for a while, but they will be comin’ round the mountain, don’t you worry.

Catch ya later!

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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Fiona Elisi Linnet

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Yep, here is another Spotlight! post about a character from Zoids: Chaotic Century, readers! If I seem to be on a Zoids kick at the moment, the fact is that I want to get as many of my promised character and zoids posts done this year as possible. I’ve been falling behind, so there is some catch up to be done here. That begins today with this post, which focuses on Fiona Elisi Linnet, heroine of Zoids: Chaotic Century and love interest for its hero, Van Flyheight.

Fiona appears at the end of the first episode of Chaotic Century, “The Boy From Planet Zi.” Van finds her in the same room where he discovers Zeke. Thinking her pod contains another zoid, he is somewhat startled to find there is a blonde girl roughly his own age inside instead. Hilarity ensues as he brings her back to his home, the Wind Colony, in his new Shield Liger.

It quickly becomes apparent to both Van and the audience that this girl has amnesia – a very severe case of it. She doesn’t understand several common turns of phrase which Van uses, and she apparently has no idea what a name is, since she appears unable to identify herself every time he asks for her name. It also appears that she thought Van meant her instead of him, since he tells her at one point, “Watch my lips – it’s Van.

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Finally, she blurts out “Fiona” in response to his renewed request for her name, then follows it up with “Van” as she prepares to ask him another question. For a moment, our hero is almost apoplectic: “Look, I know my name is Van –”

Then it dawns on him that she said “Fiona” first, and he asks if that is her name.

“Who’s Fiona?” she asks, and Van states that she said the name first. “Really?” she says, sounding perfectly innocent and curious. “Does that mean I’m called Fiona?”

For the first five episodes, this is how their relationship goes, with Fiona asking questions that have answers which are blatantly obvious to everyone but her. It is funny but also sad – and, as we see later, dangerous. Because Fiona knows so little, her naïveté is extreme. At one point, she goes to free her captive friends, declaring her purpose loudly as she trots past one of the bandits holding them prisoner. Yes, she was that naïve. (Oh, by the way, you are going to love what she does with salt, readers. 😉 )

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Over time, Fiona loses this blithe innocence, though she remains decidedly pure in mind and soul. She also develops an affinity for computers and science (at least, all the sciences relating to the maintenance and well-being of zoids). It becomes apparent early on that she and Zeke share some kind of connection; you may have noticed that Fiona’s eyes are not a normal color. They are the same fuschia as Zeke’s, which is an early implication that she has a special bond with the organoid.

In fact, Fiona is not human, but a member of a near-human species native to Zi that vanished long ago. Known as Ancient Zoidians, Fiona’s people were the ones who developed/built the zoids everyone on the planet uses. But Fiona does not remember this until halfway through the first season of the show. Even then, she doesn’t recall enough of her past to figure this out herself. It is a friend of hers who points out that she seems to fit the descriptions of these early denizens of Zi.

If Van is the main selling point of the series, then Fiona is a close second. While she rarely takes the controls of a zoid and never goes into combat unless she is acting as Van’s copilot, she does have mettle and will fight – albeit in a manner that is “girly” – when she is threatened. To be honest, I would say that fighting was not her greatest strength anyway. Viewers don’t remember Fiona because she kicks butt; we remember her for her generosity, kindness, purity, and goodness.

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When it comes to her relationships in the show, Fiona’s innocence is what has the biggest effect on people. Where Van spurs others to be good with his determination and resolve to do what is right, Fiona brings out the gentleness and kindness in others with her innocence. Like Zeke, she is possessed of an inherent sincerity that makes good people automatically react to her with kindness. Where others might have mistreated her in order to “break her in” to the “real world,” Van and his friends instead work to protect her. And this is despite the fact that her initial simplicity often annoys them or makes their lives more difficult.

Her relationship with Zeke shows that she considers the organoid something of a twin brother, but in a different way than Van regards him. Fiona and Zeke are psychically tied together by a special rapport native to their two species, and so their personalities are very similar. The differences between them are mild, and mostly boil down to the fact that Zeke is more willing to enter combat – solo or otherwise – than Fiona is. When they combine their extrasensory abilities, the two can increase not only their own powers, but Van’s and his zoid’s as well.

The proof that Fiona’s greatest power is her innocence actually shows first in the episode “Memory,” where the two meet the mercenary Irvine. While lost in a sandstorm with Van, she accidently steps into a whirlpool of quicksand that nearly swallows her up. Having appeared out of the storm as if by magic, Irvine acts swiftly to save Fiona from being dragged under the sand. However, this kindness on his part appears to be temporary when he later holds her hostage in the same episode, thinking doing so will convince Van to hand Zeke over to him. Zeke dispels this illusion fairly quickly.

Despite these less than noble actions on his part, it is shown that Irvine is not immune to Fiona’s purity. When she puts him on the spot in the following show – “The Protectors” – Irvine has to admit that not only does he not dislike her and Van, he actually has a soft spot for them.

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I have to say, her friendship with Irvine was one of the best things in the series. It becomes obvious from “The Protectors” onward that she has the cool mercenary wrapped around her little finger. Irvine shows by small gestures and a few words that he really cares about Fiona. While there may be a bit of nostalgia on his end in this relationship (more on that in his post), it is made clear that he would throw himself in harm’s way without a second thought if Fiona were ever put in serious danger. In fact, from something I read about the manga for Chaotic Century, when a female bandit gave a veiled threat to Fiona, Irvine pulled his gun on her and stated she would be dead if she tried it. If that isn’t a sign of intense devotion to another person – and in a non-romantic relationship at that – then I do not know what is.

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Moonbay and Fiona’s friendship is a mixture of mother/daughter closeness and sisterly camaraderie. For the first dozen episodes, Fiona mostly follows Moonbay’s lead, as the savvy woman takes her under her wing. When not copiloting with Van, Fiona can often be seen as Moonbay’s shadow. She trails after her around the colonies and cities they visit, watches her repair the zoids, or helps her make dinner/break camp.

Fiona intervenes in Moonbay’s business dealings even less than Van does; she only shows anger at the older woman’s more mercenary tendencies once that I can recall. And while it may look like Moonbay treats Fiona as a pet or a servant early on, the reality is far different. She genuinely cares for the younger girl and wants to protect her. If anything, this may be the reason why Van and Irvine often leave her in Moonbay’s care; they can protect Fiona from outside threats, but they can’t teach her what it means to be a woman. Moonbay can, and she settles into the role of mother/older sister for Fiona with admirable ease.

It is also likely that her ability to repair/maintain zoids is what fostered Fiona’s own aptitude in these areas. Although she had another mentor in this field later on, following Moonbay around as she saw to the boys’ zoids probably reignited Fiona’s latent capabilities in mending or upgrading the living machines. It is one of the talents Moonbay is most pleased to see Fiona exercising later on in the series.

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Now we come to the most important relationship Fiona has in Chaotic Century. It is evident almost from the beginning of the series that she quickly comes to care for Van as more than a friend. She worries about him when she must stand aside to watch him fight, often murmuring his name during a confrontation or shouting it when she sees him get hurt. Where this would seem to be “softness” in a heroine in other stories, it is befitting of Fiona, who is gentleness itself.

More to the point, despite preferring to stay out of zoid combat when she is alone, Fiona shows no qualms about “flying RIO” with Van in his Ligers. Considering the danger to him in the cockpit, it takes nerve to sit behind him when he is in a battle. This shows that Fiona is not a coward or afraid of conflict; on her own, however, she does not seem to feel she has the ability to bring out the full potential of a zoid in combat. She would rather watch Van’s back during a battle than fight solo in her own zoid.

As stated in the post about Van, he and Fiona develop a psychic tie during the series. Fiona obviously initiated this link, since she is telepathic/empathetic. But it seems likely that, if Van hadn’t been open to such a connection, their bond would never have formed at all.

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This tie between the two is only activated in a noticeable manner when Fiona is specifically calling to Van or searching for him. On his own, Van cannot sense her as she can sense him, or call to her in a directly telepathic manner. In addition, if Van is hurt and lost somewhere far away from Fiona, she cannot pinpoint his location with perfect accuracy. Not until she gets closer to his position, at least. The less distance there is between them, the better her ability to locate him, generally speaking.

Should a film company get their hands on the rights to Zoids: Chaotic Century, I can see them trying to make Fiona more of a kick butt superwoman than a “stand and wait” heroine. I can also see almost any actress cast in her role demanding this change, too. This would be more of a tragedy than any changes made to Van’s personality, readers; Fiona is not strong because she can fight. She is strong in her innocence and the power it gives her to bring forth the goodness in others.

Having seen other female characters in following Zoids series that are more “kick butt” than “stand and wait” heroines, I can say with all honesty that I prefer Fiona to Rei Mii, Danbul, Lena Toros, and even Naomi Fluegel. Naomi was a pretty good combat pilot – not as good as Genesis’ Danbul or Rei Mii – but she wasn’t bad either. In the end, though, Fiona is superior to all of them because of her innate goodness and purity. She wins the argument hands down and is the unchallenged queen of Zoids heroines.

If any filmmakers change Fiona Elisi Linnet to make her more of a Femi Nazi character, I will be livid. You will never get me into a theater to watch a Zoids film (series) which makes Fiona less than the heroine she is in the anime, readers. So if the rights to Chaotic Century are in the hands of Hollywood (or its Japanese equivalent), watch your step, people. There is nothing more worrisome in your line of work than angry fans.

Well, that concludes this character post, readers. If you want to see Fiona Elisi Linnet and Van Flyheight in action, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century either at www.watchcartoonsonline.com (I finally have a free web address to give you!), or order the DVDs on Amazon.

See you on the battlefield!

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Guysack

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Well, here we are on Zi again, readers! Today’s subject is a Republican zoid, the Guysack. Before we go further, you pronounce it guy-zak, not guy-sack. I know, it is not pronounced the way it is spelled. If we were to list all the words that are pronounced in a different way than they are spelled, however, we would be here all day.

Okay, so the Guysack is obviously a scorpion-type zoid. Used by the Helic Republic’s infantry pilots, the Guysack’s cockpit is in its head. Most of these cockpits have orange canopies, but I did see one with an emerald canopy. Their traditional coloring is a sort of sandy brown, which lets these zoids blend in with the desert.

These are zoids which can burrow under and crawl through the sand dunes of Zi. Speedy and lightweight, every Guysack I have ever seen comes equipped with a gun in the end of its tail, where a real scorpion’s poisonous stinger is hidden. This is the zoid’s main weapon, but it can be outfitted with other armaments. Stinger, a mercenary character whom we will discuss in detail later on, owned a modified Guysack which came with extra guns on the tail and missile pods on the main body. I believe there might also have been some mini-guns attached near the zoid’s pincers. Despite this added ordinance, however, Stinger’s Guysack was faster than most of its brethren due to even more modifications he had made to it.

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Now those pincers in the zoid’s “mouth” really aren’t useful for combat, but the Guysack’s calws are not to be messed with if you can help it. They are wicked sharp and can do quite a bit of damage, something Zeke can tell you better than anyone. I never saw the Guysack’s claws used as much as they could have been, but I am fairly sure that they can cause a reasonable amount of damage to other zoids.

Most of the time we saw Guysacks in Chaotic Century, they were used as Sleeper Zoids – or “Sleepers” for short. Sleepers are zoids run by computers which use preprogrammed tactics to decimate enemy units. They have a certain amount of cunning when they are set loose, being able to lure enemies into hard-to-escape areas where they are easily surrounded and overwhelmed by the Sleepers’ (usually superior) numbers and firepower.

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Stinger’s red Guysack

While Sleepers do not have enough smarts to outthink a zoid with a pilot, the fact that there are a lot of them often makes up for their lack of intelligence. Also, Sleepers do not necessarily differentiate between transporters and enemy units. Van, Fiona, Moonbay, Zeke, and Irvine were all caught in a “Sleeper Trap” in the fifth episode of Chaotic Century, primarily because the Guysacks sensed the ammunition Moonbay was carrying had been made by the Guylos Empire. Because of that, their programming activated and they chased the gang into the ruins where they were based.

You can see how the heroes escaped this trap when you watch the episode, readers. Suffice it to say, Guysacks were not much more than cannon fodder throughout Chaotic Century. Even when they were piloted by characters that played important parts in certain episodes, they did not stick around long. Van stole Stinger’s Guysack and piloted it well, but his skill wasn’t enough to keep the mercenary from blowing it apart.

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Bole was not an impressive Guysack pilot. He somehow wrangled and got control of a wild blue Guysack before the first episode of the series begins, but he never does more than shoot or ram with it. Aside from beating up Zeke, he did not show any particular talent for piloting which makes the Guysack stand out.

However, none of this makes the Guysack a weak zoid. And while it was most often shifted to Sleeper or infantry duty, we did see it put to other uses. The Guysack could be modified to serve as a construction/excavation vehicle; the claws could be removed and replaced with a scoop for digging or moving rock and dirt. It was also possible to swap the claws for individual metal detectors/sonars and other equipment meant to scan below the surface.

All in all, I would say the Guysack was a largely underutilized zoid. Despite the poor management of the zoid in this series, I have a certain respect for this “mechanical combat unit” and wouldn’t mind using one in battle. I would certainly prefer the four-legged predator style zoids, but the Guysack has a lot to recommend it. It is not a zoid I would disrespect or refuse to pilot.

To see more of the Guysack, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century at your earliest opportunity, readers. While the Guysack appeared in Fuzors (with green armor), from what I remember, Chaotic Century will be the show where you will see it in action most often.

See you on the battlefield!

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Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Sabine Wren

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About four years ago, I heard through www.borg.com that Disney was going to produce an animated Star Wars series. It was to be set five years before A New Hope, and it would star a Jedi who had escaped the Purge along with a Force-sensitive boy who would become his apprentice. I have said elsewhere that I love Jedi, so it is no surprise that they were the “hooks” which got me interested in this story. For me, they at first overshadowed another great character in the series: Sabine Wren, the sixteen year old (at the beginning of the story) Mandalorian on the team.

Now, discussing Sabine Wren means mentioning the “Strong Female Character” stereotype Hollywood and the usual suspects are praising these days, because that is what too many people want to see in her. I have maintained in my “Strong Women” posts that what really makes a woman powerful is her ability to think on her feet. She cannot always be physically stronger than the guys; in real life, it is very rare to find a woman who could match a man in hand-to-hand combat – let alone beat him.

Just consider Natasha Romanoff from Marvel Comics/Marvel’s films. Even with the combat training she endured from childhood and her variant of the Super Soldier Serum, Black Widow relies on speed, stealth, and surprise when she fights. The whole reason she yells “Hang on!” into her comm piece during The Winter Soldier is to surprise the pirates and get them to come to her. She does not beat the men with her superior strength; she beats them by being faster and fighting smarter, thus proving my point that it is not physical strength which allows a woman to fight. It is how a woman uses her own innate strengths – willpower, intelligence, speed, and doing the completely unexpected – which make her strong.

This brings us back to Sabine, who had the benefits of a Black Widow’s training without the bad elements. Aside from the fact that she is allowed to be kind and retain her femininity, she never physically overpowers her opponents with superior strength. More often than not she uses speed and creative thinking to take down her enemies – most of whom are taller and stronger than she is – keeping them off balance and doing her best to avoid giving them an opening to grab her. Sabine also knows how to shoot; when physical speed and prowess are inadvisable, she goes for her blasters, which she can use very effectively.

One of the episodes where Sabine best demonstrates my point about strong women is “The Antilles Extraction.” In that episode, Sabine has to fight Governor Pryce, the Imperial ruler of Lothal, to escape captivity. Pryce is taller than Sabine, more muscular, and completely lacking in any kind of feminine grace or charm. (She quite frankly strikes me as ugly, face on or in profile.) Despite this, Sabine manages to defeat the older woman by outthinking her.

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There is something else worth mentioning here, a contrast of characters which will illustrate the difference between real strong women and the modern academy’s idea of what they want you to believe makes a “strong woman”: during their brawl, Pryce brags about her Imperial training, showing the depth of what she has sacrificed to become a part of Palpatine’s machine.

By this I do not mean the fact that she is willingly subjugating and destroying her own homeworld (Lothal). That is certainly part of it. But what I mean is that Pryce has sold her soul to the Dark Side. In so doing she has erased every mark of femininity from her bearing and visage, becoming less of a woman in the process.

Think about it, readers. Pryce does her best to look like the men she serves beside. Her manner is little different from Tarkin’s – colorless, stiff, cold, and distant. It is as though she does not want to be recognized as a woman. In fact, she does not; Pryce wants to be seen as a bigger, more important cog in the Emperor’s atheistic governing system. She has done everything but actually change her gender to look less like a woman and more like a man.

Sabine has done the exact opposite. Her armor is not designed to hide her femininity; on the contrary, it practically screams it to the galaxy. And, despite the fact that she keeps her hair short to fit under her helmet (and probably to keep people from grabbing it), she colors and cuts her hair in ways that make her stand out as a young woman (even that hairdo we see her wearing at the end of the series didn’t really undermine her femininity). Unlike many modern “examples” of so called “strong women” Sabine actually fits the role, demonstrating that a woman fights not out of anger or hatred, but to preserve the beauty and wonder she sees and loves around her. Truly strong women resemble Sabine, while faux strong women more often than not look like Pryce.

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This brings us to another point I want to make about her. While I am not a fan of abstract art – modern or in a galaxy far, far away – Sabine’s painting and artistic side have never bothered me the way they have other viewers of the show. Instead of following the “Strong Female Character” template demanded by the academic/journalistic complex, the Rebels’ writers created a heroine who is unafraid of being “girly.” This adds to her character and personality; she may make her living fighting, but being a warrior does not define who and what she is. It is a valuable part of her, but it is not the whole of her.

What really intrigued me about Sabine Wren, however, was her implied vulnerability. From the beginning it was clear that she ached with some past wrong, and I wanted to know what it was. We got some hints but they were frustratingly inconclusive. I nearly went nuts trying to figure out her past, but my sanity was saved with the knock out episode “Trials of the Darksaber.”

Still, Sabine’s speech in this show about how her family abandoned her bothered me a fair bit. Part of the rallying cry which nearly destroyed Western culture and the United States in the 1960s, and is being reprised yet again today, was that young people knew how to heal the world and all its ills better than their elders. The implication in this thought was that the youths of the time were being prevented from showing their brilliance and making the world a better place by the adults in their lives. A well-known catchphrase from the period states that teens and twenty year olds must “never trust anyone over thirty.”

Unfortunately, this attitude is still alive and well, reverberating down through the years into today in our culture. It is also present in a lot of modern literature, film, and television stories. So I worried at this problem in Sabine’s speech for the week leading up to “Legacy of Mandalore,” which gave me the missing puzzle piece for the answer to her explosive outburst during “Trials.”

Allow me to explain: Imperial cadets, according to Rebels, are accepted into Stormtrooper and officer’s training as young as fourteen. Sabine had to have been fourteen or even thirteen when she entered the Imperial Academy on Mandalore. This meant that she was suffering from a case similar to the one running rampant in the 1960s.

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One of the things every boy and girl, no matter how bright and talented, has at the age of thirteen/fourteen is a rather simplistic view of life. They are still young enough at that age to believe in their family and friends, wholeheartedly. They are also naïve enough not to recognize all the dangers lurking in their society and in the world outside of their culture.

Sabine was young enough to think she could run to her parents and tell them what the Empire was doing, thus spurring them to fight against it. If they did not listen to her, then she would start a glorious revolution against the Imperials with other young Mandalorians to free her people from their tyranny – which is, sadly, what many youths in the ‘60s and today are trained to imagine. Like these misguided young people, Sabine failed to realize up until “Legacy of Mandalore” that things do not work out so easily in real life.

Mandalore was thirteen or fourteen years past its last internecine conflict and a galactic civil war when Sabine broke the news to her people about the Empire’s treachery. Too much of Mandalore’s already limited population had perished in that pointless conflict and, on top of this, a Galactic Empire powerful enough to wipe out the Jedi Order – roughly a thousand knights strong – had just taken over the galaxy. Furthermore, said Empire had also easily commandeered Mandalore’s government, essentially conquering them without firing a shot. The Mandalorians who did not bow to the Empire in their hearts looked around at their losses, saw that more would result from another fight, and said, “We are not going through that hell again. Not now.”

Ursa and Alrich Wren knew this. Many of Sabine’s friends, who may have agreed with her, realized they were not going to get support from their clans or anyone else on Mandalore to start a fight with the Imperials. Sabine did not realize any of this – not completely, at least. She certainly did not see any of these things the way an adult would. Or she thought these obstacles could be overcome more easily than they were. After all, what is pain and loss to someone who is motivated by justice?

Sabine failed to realize that even those who love and respect justice can be tired or frightened. I think that, when she told her parents about the weapon she had created for the Empire, they believed her story. They knew she was telling the truth, that the Empire did not just want to rule them, it wanted to eradicate them. But they did not have the power to act on Sabine’s warning, so they tried to tell her to stop talking about it and wait for a better time to act.

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Naturally, their daughter would not and could not do that. Already guilt-ridden over the Mandalorians she had helped the Empire murder, the thought of staying silent long enough for the Empire to kill more of her people probably made Sabine sick. So she kept talking, leaving her family with no way to protect her while she stayed on Mandalore. That meant their only recourse was to force her to run away by calling her a traitor and a coward. Because she was so young, Sabine perceived this as “abandonment” when it was actually a last-ditch effort by her immediate family to protect her the only way they could.

I believe that if the Wrens had had a better way to protect her and begin a resistance to the Empire, they would have taken it. But their choices were to let the Empire kill Sabine or, almost as bad, make her run away from home. At least if she ran, she would be alive. Letting the Empire and the other clans kill her would mean they would never get their daughter and sister back.

And that, readers, is where “Legacy of Mandalore” comes in. Here Ursa practically admits to her daughter that she pushed her to run away to save her life. Countess Wren could protect Tristan and their clan with some fancy political maneuvering, though that meant her husband would have to go to Mandalore’s capital as a veritable hostage to ensure their good behavior. The only member of her family she could not protect if she remained on Mandalore was Sabine.

For five years, however, her daughter did not see this. Maybe she did not see it until her mother shot Gar Saxon to save her life. This is why she is so distrustful at the beginning of Rebels. It is also why she adopts Hera, Kanan, and Zeb as her surrogate family.

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In some ways, it is funny how Sabine’s adoptive family/crew is different from her real family. Hera, obviously, has been the mother for the crew from the beginning. Although the Twi’lek is “forged” for and by war, her general deportment is warm and nurturing. Even when Hera has to get sharp or shout, her voice lacks Ursa Wren’s steely bite and commanding snap. Their attitudes could not be more different, but Sabine loves and respects both women equally.

Zeb is not at all like Tristan Wren. I still do not know if Sabine is younger or older than her brother, but the impression I have is that Tristan is not her kid sibling. Zeb early on showed an older brotherly protectiveness for the young Mandalorian girl, usually by pulling her toward him in order to shield her from explosions. When the crew temporarily lost the Lasat in “The Honorable Ones,” both Sabine and Ezra ran up to him with the excitement which youngsters show when they greet an older brother feared lost forever. So Zeb has definitely filled the role of brother for her for five years.

Most impressive to me, if only for the fact that it was never shown enough, was the father/daughter connection between Sabine and Kanan. While it was nice to learn that Alrich Wren was responsible for his daughter’s interest in art, I was rather disappointed that he was never shown wearing Mandalorian armor. I could certainly see Alrich “fighting using his art” and being less severe than his wife but, to me, it would have been more fitting if he had been wearing armor upon his reunion with Sabine. The fact that he was not dressed for combat made him look a like a sap, which was highly unsatisfactory. (Of course, it’s not like the Empire would allow him to wear his armor on the way to his execution…)

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Kanan and Sabine’s relationship struck a better balance with me. I detailed my opinion of “The Protector of Concord Dawn” in previous articles about the series, and it still stands as one of my favorite episodes. Kanan, like Alrich, is willing to try things the “easy way” before resorting to shooting. However, when the blaster bolts start flying, he is equally ready to fire and fight back. This is something Sabine respects and loves him for.

The next time we see their rapport in a palpable way is during “Trials of the Darksaber.” Where “Dawn” showed the two working past their differences in order to understand each other better, “Trials” shows them at odds once again. Here Sabine is being asked to go to her people to win their support for the Rebellion. But this time, it is not a small band of Protectors or outlying clansmen she is being sent to recruit. This time, her “battle family” wants her to bring Mandalore and all its colonies into the Rebellion.

Sabine does not want to do it. She still feels abandoned and betrayed by her family; even though she wants to go back, she knows her people despise her as a traitor and a coward for running away, thinking at the same time that her family believes the same lie. But Hera insists she go, and in order to do that, she has to take the Darksaber with her.

Fuming over the order, Sabine nevertheless holds her hand out for the weapon, which Kanan refuses to give her. Though she states that she knows how to use blades, he insists that there is a difference between using a lightsaber and a regular sword. Before he will let her use the Darksaber, he wants to train her to use a lightsaber.

This increases Sabine’s anger. Not only does her biological family think badly of her, apparently so does her surrogate father. He does not believe she can handle a lightsaber, even one as old and storied as the Darksaber, without going through the baby steps first.

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And this is where Sabine’s youth shows itself again, tilting her attitude in favor of that misguided sixties mentality I mentioned earlier. Like Ezra in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” Sabine thinks Kanan does not believe in her and is trying to hold her back. In the folly of youth and the pain of her past, she does not realize Kanan is trying to protect her from herself. He can sense the pent up anger and pain she is feeling because, as he explains to Hera, the Force flows through everything and everyone – whether they can use it or not. If Sabine gives in to her dark feelings she will slip over to the Dark Side, perhaps becoming lost to them all forever.

Hera’s answer to his explanation and fears irked me somewhat, since she also played the “you don’t believe in her” card. That was not what was happening; Kanan believed in Sabine wholeheartedly, trusting her with more than he even trusts Ezra in some cases because her fighting skills and knowledge are sharper due to her lifelong training. His “problem” is that he fears to push her so far into the darkness inside her that neither he nor anyone else can pull her out of it again.

Nevertheless, Hera did have a point. The writers did not express it the way I would have, but she did have a point. What the writers were trying to have Hera say is: “I understand your worries, but that’s not what Sabine sees. She thinks you don’t believe in her, that you don’t believe she can handle the Darksaber. The only way she’ll stop thinking that you’re holding her back is if you push her. I’m sorry, but that’s what you have to do, for her sake. Forget about Mandalore for a minute, Sabine needs this. And you’re the only one who can give it to her.”

Sabine, of course, needs a wake-up call here as well. Ezra has to point out to her that she’s being stubborn; no one on the Ghost believes she is a coward or that she cannot handle herself. They have seen her in action and relied on her to watch their backs in battle. They know she is brave, honorable, and a true daughter of Mandalore.

What she has to do is stop thinking no one believes in her, while also acknowledging the fact that she’s lucky she has a real blood family left. Hera’s mother is dead, Kanan lost his Master and the entire Jedi Order, Zeb lost Lasan, and Ezra’s parents were murdered by the Empire. Considering all the pain and suffering she sees around her, she should be happy she has any family left – whether they believe in and love her or not.

Recognizing that Ezra is right, Sabine goes back to apologize to Kanan for her earlier behavior. When she does, he hands her the Darksaber, proving he is ready to do what he has to do to help her heal.

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An emotionally charged duel follows. Instead of supporting Sabine the way he normally does, Kanan hardens his attitude toward her, using the barbs he does not even throw at Ezra on her. To emphasize the taunts, he easily ducks and dodges her wider swings despite his blindness, tossing in some pointed shoves for good measure. If Sabine wants him to prove he believes in her, he is going to do it – by acting like he doesn’t.

Of course, all of this nearly does push Sabine over the edge. This is the same kind of treatment she got from her family. These are the same jibes and snide comments she hears in her head when she thinks back to her escape from Mandalore. These are the same lies she has had to live with for five years on a repeating circuit in her head. And they are coming out of the mouth of someone she trusts and loves.

Naturally, she blows up; flying at Kanan in fury as the pain, anger, and doubt she has held inside for so long finally bursts out of her. But before she completely loses herself to blind fury, Sabine stops. Some part of her recognizes that Kanan has purposefully given voice to the self-doubts which plague her for a reason.

That, I think, is why she halted when she did. With her anger and pain released the doubts fall silent, and she is no longer standing over an enemy. She is standing over the man who had to hurt her so she could let go of a past she was holding on to in order to avoid, essentially, growing up and letting go. The man who has, she now realizes, never done this to her before – and who did not want to do it to her – because he loves and believes in her as if she were his actual daughter.

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This is why Kanan can tell Ursa Wren she cannot see the woman Sabine has become. Like all mothers, Usra still sees her daughter as the baby she held in her arms, the toddler she took out for walks, and the child she had to protect with all the fierceness of the bear for which she is named. In part, she does not see Sabine’s maturity because she has missed five years of her daughter’s life. However, the main reason she does not recognize this fact is because she still looks at Sabine and sees her little girl, not a grown woman.

Kanan has watched Sabine grow over the years she has been away from her family. He has been her support – her surrogate father – since she left home. And even though he is blind, he saw Sabine change from a broken, haunted girl into a true woman and warrior in the space of a moment back in “Trials.” Ursa does not have that perspective until the end of “Legacy,” when she watches Sabine take on and defeat Gar Saxon in combat before honorably refusing to murder him even when he declares he will not yield to her.

This all adds up to make Sabine Wren one of the best characters in the new Star Wars timeline. It is also the reason why she is my third favorite character from the Rebels’ crew. I think she is a good addition to the Star Wars canon and that she would have fit nicely into the old EU. I rather wish we could have had her meet and befriend such original characters as Mara Jade, Mirax Terrik, and Iella Wessiri Antilles (what a girls’ night out that would have been!). Even so, I am glad to have “met” Sabine Wren. She is a heroine worthy of admiration and respect – a rare find in today’s fiction market.

Well, readers, that is all I have to say for now. Until next time, may the Force be with you!