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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Skylanders Academy season 1 review!

Alright. If you know me well, you know that I'm not really fond of the Skylanders series. Partly because I like the good old Spyro games a whole lot more. Partly because I hate gimmicky and cash-grabby mechanics like paid DLC or, of course, the whole "Toys to life" thing that Skylanders has going for it. But imagine my surprise when I turn on Netflix to go watch Sword Art Online and the first thing I see is a Skylanders cartoon. So I figured, "Hey! If they're not going to make me buy $10 figurines just to watch the show then I might as well give it a second chance.". So I did, which brings me to this very blog post.

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"But wait!" you ask. "If you hate Skylanders' guts so much, why bother watching the show!?" Well, the biggest turn-off from the games was the fact that Skylanders was SUPPOSED to be a part of the Spyro franchise. But everything changed when Activision bought the Spyro IP. Basically they put Spyro in what was otherwise an unrelated IP just to garner name recognition and, in turn, make a boatload of money. Besides, I never said I HATED Skylanders per se. The games themselves are colorful, whimsical and are surprisingly well made. However, when your childhood hero has virtually no relevance to the story aside from being one of dozens of playable characters, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

So what exactly is Skylanders: Academy about? Well it stars a group of rookie heroes called the Skylanders who train at the titular academy under the guidance of a wizard called Master Eon and battle the forces of darkness, such as Kaos, a dark wizard who is literally a magical version of Invader Zim (they're even voiced by the same actor!) and his wise cracking butler Glumshanks.

Image result for skylanders academy memes
Spyro's design looks way better in a cartoon than
a in video game. But that's none of my business.
*sips tea*

But you want to know why I LOVE this show? It made Spyro relevant! Not only is he one of the main characters but he also gets not one but THREE episodes focused on his character development (the very first episode being one of them)! However, if you have any love for old school Spyro, know this. Skylanders Academy Spyro is much different from any other version of the dragon that we all know and love. While Classic!Spyro was a mischievous adventurer and overall thrill seeker, and Legend!Spyro was a polite and respectful young dragon who rarely voices his opinion (Considering how much seriously messed up stuff Legend!Spyro went through, that might be a case of Shell Shock Syndrome/PTSD) and actually understood the seriousness of his adventures. But Academy!Spyro is a egotistical party animal. Granted, he becomes less self-centered (and party-animalistic) as the show goes on because CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!!! So keep that in mind and don't be butthurt that they didn't make Spyro accurate to his portrayal in the previous games.

Also, something that I find impressive is that Spyro is voiced by Justin Long. This would make it the EIGHTH TIME Spyro had his voice actor changed. Goes to show you how long Spyro's been around. That, or how many times a company rebooted his franchise lol.

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Another character that plays a big role in the show is Stealth Elf. She's mostly here because they needed a female lead so they picked the most popular female character form the games to serve as that lead. Firstly, whoever voices Stealth Elf here is SO MUCH better than the actress that voices her in the newest Skylanders game, Skylanders: Imaginators. Seriously, Imaginators!Stealth Elf sounded so bland and dry there. Here, she sounds like, you know, an actual adolescent elf girl. At least, I THINK she's an adolescent. They never specify her age. Also, am I the only one who thinks Stealth Elf looks weird without her mask? In the games, or at least the ones that I did play, she always wore a mask that covers her mouth and nose. But the only time she puts on the mask is when the heroes are fighting off baddies.

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Next up on the main characters list is Eruptor. Of course Eruptor was going to appear here because not only is he one of the most popular Skylanders, but just about everyone that likes playing the Skylanders games have his figurine(s). Now, Eruptor, doesn't really stand out aside from being the Big Guy of the gang (and also being made entirely out of lava, but Ben 10 did it BEFORE IT WAS COOL). I will admit, that scene in Episode 1 where he was cooking breakfast was actually kind of funny. Speaking of comedy, the shows humor is kind of hit-or-miss. You will either love it or you will find it somewhat annoying. As for me, there are actually some legitimately funny moments throughout the show that the trailer spoils. Don't watch the trailer, watch the actual show. But now, for my biggest negative about this show.

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WHERE. THE. HECK. IS. CYNDER. We need Cynder in this show. How they DIDN'T put her in the show is a mystery. Here's hoping she shows up in Season two. Oh, yeah, they already announced that they're already working on Season Two. And I swear if Cynder isn't in it I am going to rage so hard! And it's not like there isn't a Skylanders version of Cynder, because she's a playable character too (I used her Legend of Spyro design for the picture above because Cynder is much better looking there than in Skylanders, at least in my opinion)! She even has a figurine (pictured below)!

Image result for skylanders cynder
I STILL think Legend!Cynder looks

I mean, I may like the old design more, but Cynder MUST be in the show. It would be so much better if she was. You'll have to get used to her new design, but who knows? Maybe in the cartoon she will look better. But I know what you are thinking. Why do I want Cynder in the show so badly? The answer is simple! If you've been reading my posts for a while, you know that I LOVE the Spyro franchise, with my favorite part being the Legend of Spyro trilogy. And who is Spyro's love interest in the Legend of Spyro trilogy? Cynder! Granted, they don't get together until the very end of the third game, but let's be real. Spyro + Cynder = My O.T.P. (One True Pairing). Like at the end of the first Legend! game when Cynder transformed back into her normal, non-highly murderous war general bent on reawakening an elder dragon who is basically evil incarnate, six-year-old me's initial reaction was "OMG Spyro's got a girlfriend now!". And then during the opening of the second game when Spyro and Cynder are talking about stuff I will not spoil since it is extremely plot heavy 9-year-old me's reaction was "Spyro, just ask Cynder out on a date already!". And THEN when Cynder told Spyro that she loves him at the end of the third game 13-year-old me's reaction was "FINALLY!!!!". Sorry for the rant, but at least you know why I want Cynder in the show now. That, and she has some pretty cool abilities (like turning into a shadow).

Image result for skylanders academy pop fizz

There are two other Skylanders that are frequent (but not as frequent as the other three) main stays on the leading roster. Jet-Vac (far left) and Pop Fizz (near left and front). They get the LEAST amount of love here but are ironically my favorite characters on the show. Jet-Vac because he's the only Skylander who's a veteran. Heck, his dialogue implies his been doing heroic deeds for YEARS (he even has a part-time job as a teacher at the actual academy). Having a spiffy Scottish accent helps too. Pop Fizz is what one would call a comic-relief character with an... Interesting fighting style (he fights using various potions both offensively and defensively). Also one episode revealed he used to be a rock star. Which is kind of cool! But I SERIOUSLY wish that Jet-Vac and Pop Fizz get more love in the future..

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Overall, I like the heroes of Skylanders: Academy. But what about the villains? Well first up is Kaos. He is Invader Zim reborn as a wizard powered by darkness itself. Which is awesome, because I have fond memories of watching Invader Zim! when I was younger and I found the fact the main protagonist of that show was also the villain to be cool and innovative. But THAT show was definitely a lot darker than this show. But is Kaos better than Zim!? Well that depends on whether you like the villain of the show to be an psychopathic alien invader bent on world domination, or a dark wizard who is only evil because he wants to impress his peers (and his mother). Like, sometimes you feel almost bad for Kaos, because the only real reason he is a villain is A) All of his childhood heroes are evil, B) His crush is the most evil villainess in the show (she even takes over the role of main villain from Kaos later on!), and C) His mother is a profound user of dark magic and he wants to prove to her he can be just as, if not more powerful than her. Also, random fun fact! Kaos is the only character to keep his voice actor from the games in this show. Why? Well they said they wanted the give the cartoon a separate identity so they got some new actors to play the old roles. However, replacing Richard Steven Horvitz would be a CRIME. So Kaos kept his voice actor!

Image result for skylanders academy glumshanks

Now onto Glumshanks, Kaos' ever loyal butler. He is AMAZING. I know some people like the voice he has in the games better (what's wrong with you!?), but I think he sounds 1000000000x better here. From delivering the best lines in the show to having some surprisingly hidden depths (he used to be an actor before meeting Kaos!). Also, this conversation later on in the show is GLORIOUS.
Pop Fizz: "Hey, do I know you?"
Glumshanks: *puts on a fedora* "Not in this hat you don't."
Pop Fizz: "Oh... okay!"

This moment was also kind of funny.
Kaos: *decked out in some nice jewelry* "Glumshanks dawg, how much bling is too much bling?"
Glumshanks: *covered head to toe in bracelets, rings, crowns, and the like* "One can never have too much bling, sir."

And then, the best moment of the entire show...
Glumshanks: *talking to a friend on the phone* Of course I'm gonna go see the reboot, you know I'm all 'Shut Up and Take My Money' about that franchise. But do they really need to show his parents getting killed again?"

Image result for skylanders academy doom raiders

The major antagonists of Skylanders: Academy from episode 5(6?) onwards are the Doom Raiders. I have a love/hate thing for the Doom Raiders. First, the guy in the top hat, Dr. Krankcase (I think that's his name) is the most forgettable character EVER. I don't even think he has any dialogue. That's how forgettable he is. Dream catcher is a villain with a neat gimmick of being completely helpless in the real world but basically becomes a God in the Dream World (what is this, Pokemon Black & White!?). Pepper Jack is flipping awesome. He's an evil chef with a jalapeno pepper for a head. And a spiffy southern accent (I myself am from the south so Pepper Jack is weirdly relatable!). Wolfgang is my favorite Doom Raider because he's a kick butt werewolf who is also a rock star. Also, his weapon of choice is a guitar MADE OF BONES!!! Also, when I saw him for the first time I thought he was a bear. What is with me and *misidentifying anthropomorphic animals? Broccoli Guy is simply GLORIOUS. A villain who is so bad at his job that everyone hates him (the only reason he's a member of the Doom Raiders is because he can strengthen their powers), including the other villains. Chompy Mage is the comic-relief character on the evil side of the spectrum (that, or Broccoli Guy, pick your poison) and he is surprisingly goofy. That is, until I realize that he talks through sock puppets, which brings back memories of Jeri from Digimon Tamers, which, in turn, brings back memories of the "Jeri's nightmare" sequence from the D-reaper arc. *shudders* Golden Queen has a really lame sounding name (seriously, Activision? You could have come up with dozens of better sounding names than Golden Queen). And some of her lines (especially in the episode where Kaos gets a wig) and actions make me really uncomfortable. For example, in the episode where Kaos gets a wig, she starts dating Wolfgang because she likes his fur . I'm sorry, what!? That is messed up on so many levels (it doesn't help that the way she gently strokes him looks... creepy, to say the least). Maybe I'm reading too deep into it. After all, this show is obviously meant for children.

Image result for skylanders academy

Speaking of, as one can imagine with a series whose target audience is children, be prepared for aesops. Lots and lots of aesops. What's an aesop? It's basically a positive message children's shows like Skylanders: Academy use to teach kids important life messages. A common practice is for the show in question to have the main characters learn the importance of the aesop for themselves. Normally consists of typical family friendly affair, like "believe in yourself" and "be there for your friends". Some shows and movies deal with harsher aesops, such as Zootopia's infamous racism theme. And there are a lot of aesops in this show, like the two I mentioned. So if you want a show to teach your kid(s) positive messages and they love Spyro (or Skylanders), then this is the show for them! It even has some positive messages that you cannot reinterpret in a way that ruins the show *cough cough* Naruto *cough cough*.

Image result for skylanders academy

But how good is the story? Well, it's a fun little romp through 13 or so adventures that ending in a surprisingly epic cliffhanger/plot twist combo (Kaos' mom is actually GOOD!?) but it's a little all over the place early on. I have heard the overall story is slightly similar to Gravity Falls (even one of the guys that worked on the show compared it to Gravity Falls!), but I haven't seen that show for myself (the only thing I know about Gravity Falls is that there is a character from that show called Bill Cypher who, apparently, is the most overpowered character in the history of modern fiction). Basically, once the Doom Raiders make their debut, the story starts picking up.

The last thing I have to say about Skylanders: Academy is of course, it's graphics and music. The visuals are okay. They're nowhere near the level of, oh I don't know, Adventure Time. But it's still good. Now when Spyro became a Skylander, I was weirded out by his design. He looked less like a dragon and more like a dog. But his design does look better in a cartoon. Although as far as Spyro is concerned, his Dawn of the Dragon design is by far his best, as that design just looks so flipping AWESOME!!!! In fact, it's so awesome, have a picture of it to compare it to Academy!Spyro.

Image result for legend of spyro dawn of the dragon

But now onto the music. It's not bad. It's average. But I must address the elephant in the room. The opening theme song, titled "Harmony". It's not really what I imagined a cartoon about Skylanders would use as it's theme song. But it starts growing on you after about two or three listens to it. The only downside of it is Netflix uses a shortened version of "Harmony" and I hate shortened songs.

Overall, this show is surprisingly good! It's not gonna win any awards any time soon (or maybe it will, considering my unpopular opinions regarding the difficulty balancing in Xenoblade Chronicles X and which Starter Pokemon is the best). I'll give Season 1 a 7/10. But in order for Season 2 to do better it must...

  1. Have Cynder. I will be INFURIATED if Cynder is not in Season 2.
  2. Give more love to Jet-Vac and Pop Fizz.
  3. Be as funny or funnier than Season 1.
  4. Make Golden Queen less uncomfortable.
  7. Have an episode that is a parody of High School Musical. Why? The entire show revolves around what basically amounts to a high school for Skylanders, and not making a High School Musical parody was a waste. Unless you count the episode where the gang go to a rock concert, but I doubt that counts. (this criteria is a joke, in case you couldn't tell)
  8. Spyro x Cynder, but only if number one happens.
  9. Throw in the T. rex helicopter guy. I don't know who he is, but he looks awesome!
  10. Also throw in Boomer. Out of all the original 32 Skylanders, he was my favorite.
*- That is a joke on how I thought that Toriel (who the Internet literally nicknamed GOAT mom) was a dog, even though she's obviously a goat.

P. S. According to the developers of the Legend of Spyro trilogy, Spyro and Cynder weren't planned to become an official couple at all. However, when the first game came out, everyone decided they would be an adorable couple, so the ships started sailing. Apparently after hearing the cries of dozens of Spyro fans to make this dream couple canon, the entire script for the third game was redone to make it so Spyro and Cynder actually do wind up together. I thought that was interesting.