Monday, May 11, 2009

MOON PRISM POWER! Being part 2 of Lame Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With.

In the name of the moon, I will… POST THIS ENTRY!!!

One of my favorite anime series ever is Sailor Moon. It ran for five seasons back in the nineties, four of them making it over to U.S. soil. For the uninitiated, anime (pronounced annie-may) is Japanese animation. Now, it’s worth noting that many anime that reach this country have been edited for American audiences. Unless otherwise noted, I will be referring to the U.S. version of the show, as it is the one I’m most familiar with.

Sailor Moon is about a group of magical girls called the Sailor Scouts. Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus get their magical powers from their respective planets. Exactly what “planet power” is isn’t specifically defined, but it probably has to do with the idea that planets have their own life force. Also, the powers each girl has bear some similarity to the gods the planets were named after. And, in case you were about to ask, yes, there is a Sailor Saturn, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto. But they don’t appear until season three. Pluto’s not a planet anymore? Try telling her that. Go on, I dare you.

The story goes that thousands of years ago there was a kingdom on the moon. (creatively called the Moon Kingdom) The Moon Kingdom was a peaceful utopia, until the forces of the Negaverse, a place of ultimate evil, attacked them. The Sailor Scouts were the guardians of the Moon Kingdom, but even their great power failed to prevent its destruction. The Moon Kingdom’s ruler, Queen Serenity, did the only thing she could to save her daughter (also named Serenity) and the Scouts. She sent their spirits into the future, where they were reincarnated as ordinary girls.

Now, the Negaverse has returned, and they’ve set their sights on Earth. But, fortunately, the Scouts are here to defend us. And Princess Serenity, now Sailor Moon, is determined to make the bad guys pay, “In the name of the moon, I will punish you!”

So, here’s a bit more about our titular heroine.

Name: Sailor Moon
Real Name: Serena
Occupation: Japanese schoolgirl by day, savior of the world by night.
Supporting Cast: Amy AKA Sailor Mercury, Raye AKA Sailor Mars, Lita AKA Sailor Jupiter, and Mina AKA Sailor Venus. Also appearing is Luna, Serena’s pet cat, and Artemis, Mina’s cat. Other regulars to the cast are Melvin and Molly, two of Serena’s friends who have no idea about her double life. And we can’t forget Serena’s boyfriend Darien, who, when danger threatens, transforms into the amazingly well-dressed hero Tuxedo Mask.
Archnemesis: Queen Beryl, ruler of the Negaverse. She’s defeated at the end of season one, but it would seem the Negaverse has no shortage of villains named after jewels and minerals to threaten the world. Want do they want from us, you ask? Our very lives. Pretty much every plot cooked up by a Negaverse villain involves sucking the life-force from people.
Why she’s lame: Like I said, Sailor Moon is the protector of the world, champion of justice, blah blah blah. And she’s hating every minute of it. The first time I saw the show, I couldn’t believe what a wimp she was. In her first appearance, she actually sat down - in the middle of a fight! - and bawled because she couldn’t hack it. And not real crying even, like “poor me,” but comical crying, like tears shooting out of her eyes like faucets. And her distinctive hairstyle, two long ponytails attached to two buns on top of her head, only looks cool until you hear someone, usually Darien, call her “meatball head.” That literally becomes all you can think about when you see her hair.
Also, there is a bit of the show that gets lost in translation. If you compare the voice acting in the U.S. version with the original Japanese, you’ll find there is much more emotion in the original. See, when most foreign programs come to us, there usually presented by companies that are after one thing – money. So they slap together the American production as cheaply as they can. The anime as an art form is usually a secondary concern.
Why she’s kinda cool: While Serena might not be thrilled about being a superhero, her friends take it seriously. Sailor Mars has the power of fire, and she’s trained as a Shinto priestess, so she can banish evil spirits. Sailor Mercury is the brains of the team, and she has water-based powers, which at first only create a mist to blind the enemy, but later she can freeze things. Sailor Venus used to be a secret agent for the British government, and she can shoot lasers from her fingertips. And Sailor Jupiter is just SCARY! She’s not only an expert martial artist, but she can also fry you with lightning, and she’s apt to do so if you piss her off. Tuxedo Mask is also pretty cool, swinging his cane like a sword. But what you usually see him do is throw a rose, stem-end first at the enemy. That’s gotta hurt! Of course, Tuxedo himself has a tendency to get badly hurt as well. (contributing to his personal lame factor)
Also, while I stated that Sailor Moon is a wimp, there is some good news: She doesn’t stay one. Yes, that’s right, and cartoon character that shows actual character development! Granted, she still has a tendency to pout and cry, but at least she stops doing it in the heat of battle. Also, her powers are pretty decent. She has a tiara that can throw like a lethal discus, and a magic wand that blows the crap out of anything she points it at. She gets a new one every season to complement her increasing power level.

Overall, the series is not just about saving the world, it’s about finding strength that you never knew you had. Strength that comes from the love of your friends, and the will to do what’s right.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lame Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With

Okay, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated, but I’ve just finished classes for the summer so I have a bit of time on my hands. I’m going to do a series of entries about Lame Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With. Looking back, a lot of the series I thought were cool were actually kind of lame. In some cases, a lot lame. But so what? They taught me everything worth knowing about the world. Kinda sorta.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not out to harsh on these characters, this is more a monument to their lameness. ‘Cause lame doesn’t equal bad, sometimes it’s just a glorious lack of coolness.

So who’s first? I know!

Name: Inspector Gadget.
Occupation: Police Inspector.
Supporting Cast: His 10-12 year-old niece, Penny, and her dog Brain. Penny has a computer book, (a laptop before these were actually invented) which she keeps all her important data in. She’s the one with the keen detective instinct in the family. Brain is usually assigned the task of keeping Gadget safe from harm. He’s also unusually smart for a dog, but since he’s a cartoon, this shouldn’t be surprising.
Archnemesis: Dr. Claw, head of the crime syndicate M.A.D. A man who’s so dark and sinister that his face never even appears on screen. All we ever see of him is his iron fist. And he had a creepy cat named M.A.D.Cat. He must be evil, ‘cuz he’s got a cat while the hero has a dog!
Why he’s lame: He’s an inspector, right? Well, Sherlock Holmes he’s not. In fact, he’s the Anti-Holmes. While Holmes could always spot the tiny, seemingly insignificant clue that would turn out to be the most important piece of the puzzle. Gadget will often try to emulate this, focusing on one small, seemingly insignificant clue that turns out to be completely insignificant after all. For instance, Dr. Claw distracts him by dropping a tennis ball down the stairs. Gadget spends the rest of the episode searching for what he believes is a secret tennis court upstairs. Meanwhile, Penny and Brain solve the case and thwart Dr. Claw’s evil plans. Also, his gadgets don’t always work like they’re supposed to.
Why he’s kind of cool: He’s a man with bionic gadgets built into every conceivable (appropriate for a children’s cartoon) area of his body. Who wouldn’t want to be this guy? In fact, his most shining moments on the show involve Penny and/or Brain being in some sort of danger and Gadget has to use his gadgets to save them. He usually goes through a few hiccups before the gadgets actually work; his coat will inflate, roller-skates will come out of his shows, but then, “Go-go Gadget Arm!” and his arm will extend and pull his loved ones to safety. Plus he’s got a cool theme song.

And that’s usually what you’ll see in a typical episode. That, and the dog dressing up in various disguises that the Inspector himself can’t even see through, and will often mistake the disguised Brain for a M.A.D. agent, while mistaking the real M.A.D. agents for friends or allies.

So, what kinds of gadgets does Gadget actually use? Well, there doesn’t seem to be any limit to what he can do, but here are a few more familiar ones:

Gadget Copter – Helicopter blades extend from Gadget’s hat, accompanied by a pair of handgrips which presumably act as controls. They probably also take some of the tension off his neck by giving him something to hold onto and distribute his weight to his shoulders as well, ‘cuz otherwise he’s just dangling in the air by the top of his head.
Gadget Arm – His hands telescope from his forearms to grab things from a great distance away.
Gadget Legs – His legs can also extend to allow Gadget reach platforms high above him. Why needs extendable legs for this is anyone’s guess since he can fly, or he could just grab the edge of the platform with his Gadget Arm and reel himself up.
Gadget Head – His neck telescopes upward to allow him to see above ground level. Which he could do as easily with his Legs. Anyone noticing some redundancy?
Gadget Hand – A mechanical hand pops out of Gadget’s hat. It’s usually holding something useful, like a magnifying glass. Every detective needs one of those, right? Just as often, it’s holding something useless.
Gadget Coat – His trench coat inflates, allowing him to float like a blimp.
Gadget Skates – Roller-skate wheels come out of his shoes. Of course, he doesn’t actually skate worth a darn.
Gadget Siren – A flashing police siren that pops out of his hat. We see it in the opening theme song, but we hardly see it used otherwise.
Gadget Cuffs – What’s more convenient for handcuffing a bad guy than a cuff that’s already attached to you?
Gadget Springs – Springs in the bottoms of his shoes that allow him to bounce. He a also has one in his hat, depending on if he’s about to land on his head.
Gadget Binoculars – Binoculars from his hat. Saves having to carry a pair.
Gadget Ears – A metal cone extends around his ear, improving his hearing.
Fingertips – Gadget has a couple of devices in his fingers that he accesses by unscrewing his fingertip, rather than using a verbal command. These include, but are not limited to: a flashlight, a screwdriver, a drill-bit, a skeleton key, a laser, and a fire-extinguisher.
Top-Secret Gadget Phone – This is a phone in his hand that uses by extending his thumb and pinkie finger, just like you’d do with an imaginary phone. His boss, Police Chief Quimby is presumably the only one with the number.

So there you go, there’s one of the heroes I grew up with. He was inept and clumsy but he was cool enough for Matthew Broderick to play him in the movie. And he taught me that… Um… Uh… I don’t know! I’ll go ask someone’s ten year old niece for advice instead.