In this episode, we explore our lostalgia, nostalgia over media that hasn’t been popular since it debut. Mary talks about “Magination,” the Gameboy Color game while Andy talks about the Goosebumps spin-off series “Give Yourself Goosebumps.” We gush about why we love our respective nostalgia and the probable reasons why they haven’t been popular since they debuted.
Many of us have weird memory connections where we associate one item, subject, scent, or taste, to something else that may be completely unrelated. Seasons are like that for me; whenever a particular season comes along, I become drawn towards certain things that on the whole have no relationship to it. In particular, whenever December arrives, I usually get in the mood for some Legend of Zelda.
Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have a NES, but my brother showed me the wonders of emulators. By the late 90s these things had already become plentiful and were able to more than handle the NES’ outdated 8-bit graphics. Anyway, one game that I played a ton of was Legend of Zelda on the NES. This game was phenomenal and it was quite fun to play albeit challenging.
I have to stress at this point that playing Zelda on an emulator made the game easier than it was (especially for Zelda II). Many times, I would makes a save state on the ROM right before entering a boss room, if I failed then I can just quickly reload that save state and battle the boss again and again until I eventually defeat him.
But that’s besides the point. For some reason, I remember playing Zelda in December. Perhaps that’s when I first started playing it but it doesn’t matter. One particular memory I have was when I was in the graveyard battling out with the ghosts and hoping I would eventually find the Master Sword. After that, my brother and I went to the grocery store and bought multi-flavored candy canes for a Christmas party my parents were hosting. Outside, it was your typical December day in Kansas, cold and cloudy.
I assume this mixture of strong emotional connections, Christmas+Cold+Zelda, helped me associate Zelda with this month. It’s pretty funny because when I get a hankering for Zelda, it’s never really new Zelda I want to play, it’s the old games like the first one on the NES or A Link to the Past. They have such a nice quality to them that its easy to replay them again and again.
I guess that’s the main reason why I like NES Zelda. I have such a strong fondness to it that I can’t really place it for any other game including Pokemon. It’s very much a kid’s game in the amount of exploration you do. Unlike most of the sequels’ strictly linear structure, NES Zelda’s laissez faire style was so endearing you can’t help but feel like an honest Adventurer. You were, for the most part, not limited to where you can go or who you can fight and provided you saved up enough rupees you can access a good chunk of the map early on. It again reminds me of my childhood. While I was growing up, we lived in the still new part of town next to a newly built golf course. The amount of outside exploration I did was outstanding as I became aware of every part of, what seemed like to me, my large home. I especially remember thrashing through the woods with my wooden sword and swiping at every branch that stood my way.
As such, the NES Zelda seem to call to me and want me to explore the land of Hyrule all over again. To rediscover its secrets and defeat the bad guys. The best part is that my usual confliction between my love for both outdoors and video games is erased when it gets miserable out. With all qualms aside, I can sit back, relax, play some Legend of Zelda, and let the good times roll.
As many of you have noticed I have updated the website for a new design, I welcome any new opinions on it if you so desire to tell me.
“Harrowing,” “disconcerting,” “incredible.” These are just a few of the words that I have heard or read other people describe Cartoon Network’s first animated miniseries “Over the Garden Wall.” The series, with just 10 episodes and only 11 minutes each, is about a teenager, Wirt, his younger brother, Greg, and a bluebird, Beatrice, and their journey through a large forest called The Unknown. Each episode is mostly self-contained but they together connect to form a more complete narrative.
The miniseries had almost missed me due to its low key advertising. Going into it, all I knew was that Elijah Wood was voicing one of the characters and that’s basically it. Along with a few short clips for the trailer, it also came with the tagline that it was a five night mystery. They played their cards right because I was not expecting any of the stuff they threw at me.
To be blunt, it’s a standard coming-of-age storyline that is similar to Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Grimm Fairy Tales but with a modern twist. The heroes of our story go on strange adventures where they meet equally as strange characters such as an old man (voiced by John Cleese) scared of his mansion’s ghost, villagers celebrating the harvest festival by wearing pumpkin outfits, a girl and her creepy creepy creepy aunt (voiced by Tim Curry), and more. These strange ministories are so delightfully charming that you can’t help but watch the next episode to see what else they’ll fine.
The characters’ interactions with each other are the definite highlight of the show. Wirt’s worrywart personality clashes with Greg’s wide-eyed, highly curious and overly optimistic nature. Beatrice tries to constantly overrule Wirt and force him to do things her way and she also gets annoyed at Greg for doing things she is totally against. Melanie Lynskey does an amazing job voicing her.
Wirt is probably the most interesting character of the three because he’s one of the best examples of an unreliable narrator I have ever seen. I know he’s not the narrator of the story but when he describes his backstory and his interpretation of events you initially believe him because why not? There’s little to assume that he would directly lie to the viewer. But once you see the actual events then everything seems to click on what kind of character Wirt is. What I like about Wirt and Beatrice is that once the series ends they have grown as characters but they have not outright lost their original identity. They are still who they are but with a more mature outlook on life.
But let me get to my overall feelings for this show.
This post is almost exactly how I felt about the show.
This show reminded me of something yet I couldn’t figure it out. It was so close yet so far. A piece here, a piece there, so many things triggered this upwelling sense of Nostalgia. It reminded me simultaneously of old Disney cartoons like the Old Mill (which debuted on November 5th) and especially of Ichabod Crane. Even before the penultimate episode reveal it especially reminded me of Autumn. And how appropriate given it premiered between November 3rd to November 7th. Even the soundtrack itself has a factor of nostalgia to it that you can’t quite place. The music is so charming that you can’t help but be moved by it. Some of the sillier songs have this quirk to them that you can’t help but like.
The song that took me off guard was Over the Garden Wall which was sung during the frog boat episode. This was episode 6 of the series and by then, I had already felt the marriage of uneasiness and nostalgia that was creeping on me. But once this song came on, I was figuratively hit by a thousand bricks. It dawned on me by then that this miniseries was something special that transcended other cartoon shows. I now almost regret writing my Cartoon Network Renaissance article as I could have included this show with it.
I have to talk about the last episode. I’ll have to spoil it but I encourage you to watch it yourself on iTunes before you read any more of my article. Anyways, by the time the last episode had premiered I was ready for it. What started off as a seemingly innocuous series had slowly broke down my critical exterior into showing me the wonder of the mysterious and haunting. And now, finally, Wirt has grown as a person. He has grown to accept Greg as his actual brother and care for him like he should. He has confronted the Beast and come out better in the end.
The real show stealer though was the Woodsman voiced by Christopher Lloyd. He was one of the few reoccurring characters in the series. The show played me like a fiddle as I went to and fro of whether I should trust him or not. However, his battle with the Beast was definitely a critical moment in the series. The creators had pulled the rug from us. It was neither Beatrice, nor Greg, nor even Wirt who defeated the Beast but the Woodsman himself. When he snuffed the Beast’s life, it rang a bittersweet moment.
But the final ending, of Wirt and Greg’s rescue, of Wirt’s now newly founded confidence, and so forth had sealed the deal for me. It was so moving that I could not help but cry as I saw each of the ending scenes reveal themselves to the enraptured viewer. I still get a little emotional just thinking about it.
I hope Over the Garden Wall returns next year, and the year after that, and so forth. This has to be an Autumn tradition. Where a lot of our favorite seasonal cartoon specials would come by, do their merry dance of Autumn delight and disappear, waiting to reappear again the following year.
“Nostalgic,” “moving,” “Autumn.” Those are the words that I think describes Over the Garden Wall perfectly.
I was exposed to Battlebots when I was 10 or 11 years old, the best age possible. Despite it being shown during early Saturday mornings, I tried to watch it as many times as I possibly could and even set up the VCR to record it at the proper times. Battlebots was a short but huge fad. They had board games, toys, McDonald Happy Meal toys, and even an extensive guide to Battlebots. I remember owning all of these things. The toys were especially fun as they used the spin bots, like Ziggo, as super fast battling tops similar to Beyblade. I had a lot of fun with those. My dad even gave me for Christmas one year a remote controlled Dissector and Biohazard which could battle each other. They were decent size as well, both going over a foot long by almost a foot wide.
Now, going back to all of that a decade later, has it held up well?
Where do I begin with this?
Okay, my biggest complaints have to be the cohosts who were Bil Dwyer and Sean Salisbury (who was later replaced by Tim Green). For being on the Comedy Central channel, these guys were just not funny; they were more annoying than funny in fact. I can get over their intros to the battles and such, but do they have to comment all the damn time during the battles? Shut up, I just want to watch the robots kicking each other’s asses! Unlike football or basketball where the announcer is useful for the spectator, the cohosts just state the obvious and really have no part in it other than to liven up the action.
The show also suffers from lack of battles, each 30 min long episode has only three battles per episode which can only last 3 minutes at max. The rest of the time is spent hyping of the robots or interviewing the builders or just killing time. I wish we got to see more of the fights and be able to appreciate the tournament similar to the NCAA Tournament. Just imagine watching all those fights and being able to truly appreciate the winners as they fight a long and hard battle to the Silver Nut.
But as I was rewatching episode clips (full length episodes are hard to find), I slowly realized why they had the annoying hosts and all of the filler time between the battles. Most of the robots aren’t very exciting. They’re mainly push bots and wedge bots. And there are two very simple and easy reasons why this is so. They’re cheap to build and they’re more likely to win. You can’t argue with that. Some of the more outlandish battlebots like Nightmare may be cool and all, but he can’t stand a chance if you get to him from the side and push him over. As such, many of the battles are simply robots pushing and shoving each other into the hazards hoping the other one will break down. It’s kind of boring…
Okay, I may have been a little harsh there. There are some great examples of battlebots who have won it all that were neither push nor wedge bots. Son of Whyachi, Hazard, Ziggo, Backlash, Toro; these bots and more are excellently designed and pull off their weapon of choice very well. However, most of them were quite expensive meaning the average person probably wouldn’t be able to afford such a strong robot.
But even so I can also see why Comedy Central decided to not show all of the battles, especially the early round battles. Faulty or plain-looking robots cannot generate the excitement (aka the views) needed compared to the more interesting ones.
There’s nothing much else to say about the show except for the weird guest appearances with Bill Nye and Carmen Electra. At the time, I thought it was awesome that Bill was on the show, now, I just feel sorry for him, why did Battlebots need him?? At least he was better than Carmen. God, even as a kid I couldn’t stand her. She contributed nothing to the show.
Still, I think it would be cool if Battlebots came back in full force nowadays. The advances in technology means we can have better robots that won’t break down as easily and can be more varied in design. With so many new and young people going into engineering nowadays, the potential for the next Hazard or Ziggo can be easily achieved. I can also imagine the show on HBO but without all of the annoying hosts and with all of the battles viewable. If they clean it up, it can be great.
Before I hand out my Nostalgia Filter Test Score, allow me to nerd out. *ahem*
-Wasn’t it awesome when Nightmare destroyed Slam Job in one hit?!? He went flying!
-Isn’t Hazard amazing?? He can destroy any opponent that faces him; Middleweight bots just shudder in fear thinking about him!
-And when then rookie-bot Son of Whyachi in Season 3 mauled all of his opponents to pieces including Nightmare and Biohazard?? Look me dead in the eye and tell me you don’t think that season was awesome!
-And when Ziggo showed that lightweight robots weren’t wimps by annihilating any robot that gets in his way?? Man, I love that robot!
Nostalgia Filter Test Score: C-
Full thoughts and review of Godzilla (2014) will be posted next week. For now, enjoy this article on Jackie Chan Adventures!
Nostalgia plays a role in our grown up lives but how much of that clouds our passion for our childhood obsessions? This is part of a series where I’ll critically analyze a series from my childhood and see how well it still holds up. Enjoy!
For my free time these past few weeks, I’ve been watching Jackie Chan Adventures on Netflix. I wanted to rewatch some of the good episodes while trying out seasons 4 and 5 as well. How well as this series held up? Pretty good I have to say!
This is probably one of the best shows out there that’s centered on a celebrity. Though the real Jackie Chan doesn’t lend his voice to his character, he’s still involved in the show as seen in his end-of-the-episode “Hey Jackie” shorts along with his brief cameos in the intro. Plus, Jade Chan is voiced by Stacie Chan who is actually Jackie Chan’s real life niece!
One thing you’ll probably not hear many people praise on the show is its animation which is alright but definitely better than some modern cartoons’ flash animation style. However, it’s the story, characters, and voice acting that really pulls the show together. Most of the characters are pretty funny. Jackie, Jade, Uncle, and Tohru lead the way with some of the best comical moments the series has to offer. The running gags can be a little overdone but they usually give them enough spin to keep them fresh. The fights can be frenetic, just like a Jackie Chan movie and that’s fun to watch. The show really gets creative at times, especially with the use of props, scenery and magical devices.
A primary focus on East Asian folklore gives the show a unique flavor that doesn’t feel stereotypic or watered down. Uncle’s chi spells seem genuine, especially with the chi spells’ ingredients such as blowfish or lotus flowers. The standalone episodes also break the East Asian focus by expanding on global folklore such as El Chupacabra and Stonehenge which is definitely needed.
What’s nice about the show is that each season can stand by itself as they have a definite beginning and end with many conflicts in between. Season 1 saw the 12 Talismans, Season 2 had the 8 Demons, Season 3 saw the Talismans in animal form, Season 4 had the Oni Masks, and Season 5 had the Demon Chi. I think the show really took off starting Season 2 as now we have an established universe which is now expanded on and played with.
In fact, Season 4 was probably the JCA’s most creative season. The season broke away from the Chinese focused plotlines and into Japanese folklore via the Oni Demons. Now, Uncle is nearly helpless and Tohru’s importance is expanded on. Also, I loved what they did with the Oni Masks. They took a concept, Oni Masks give the mask wearer the power to summon a unique shadowkahn and the mask can only be removed by a unique spell, and ran with it. They did concepts like a dog wearing a mask, or a mask is split into two, or a mask is revived via the Rat Talisman, the list goes on. I liked it and though it wasn’t as strong as Season 2, it was still enjoyable.
I wish I could say the same thing for Season 5. Oh God, why. I watched a few episodes of Season 5 and I had to turn it off because it was not worth it. The show had definitely run its course with reused plotlines. Also, Drago was just not a good villain, especially when compared to his father, Shendu. And I absolutely can’t stand Ice Man, he’s just sooooo anooooyinnnng. God, shut up. Overall, Season 5 just felt stale and I’m glad they canceled the show after that.
But back to Season 2, I think the main reason why this season worked was because of Shendu and his brothers and sisters. Seeing Shendu in a position where he had to beg, gravel and be frustrated was a delight. The demons were really fun and I especially liked the Moon and Sky Demon. The Demon World episodes were also some of the best in the series as we see our heroes at their lowest but even then they still won the day.
ONE MORE THING, it’s funny to see Shendu transform as the series progressed. We initially see him as a demon who was obsessed in conquering the world to eventually obsessed in killing Jackie Chan. It’s very amusing.
Anyway, Jackie Chan Adventures has held up well. Go see it if you have some free time this summer. I suggest you start with Season 2 and go through to Season 4. But skip Season 5, bleh.
Nostalgia Filter Test Score: A-