Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Subverted; while a bunch of kids aren't what you'd call a stellar planetary defense army, they turn out to be remarkably good at it, especially Marco.
Gets deconstructed in #38. The Andalites send an expendable team of military misfits to earth on a shadowy secret mission that involves manipulating the Animorphs, only to be clearly outclassed by the (by now) extremely disciplined and battle-hardened Animorphs. Comes complete with a Reason You Suck Speech / Screw You, Elves! to the Andalite leader that becomes a mini-CMOA for Jake.
Ramming Always Works: In the series' arguably most iconic instance, the final line in the series is Jake giving the order to ram an enemy ship, which could kill four of the Animorphs. Since it's a Bolivian Army Ending, we don't know whether it works or not.
Also, Elfangor wins a battle by using this same desperate tactic in The Andalite Chronicles — thus making the series' ending a Mythology Gag.
Reality Ensues: The war ends. But Rachel, Tom, Jara Hamee, James and presumably all of the auxiliary Animorphs are dead. The Blade ship escapes, Visser Three is captured but not executed. Jake is left a broken man due to his actions in the war, he and Cassie break up, and Tobias leaves society. Marco does become famous, but it's hollow. It is in short, exactly what would really happen after a war ends.
Reality Warper: The higher powers Ellimist and Crayak, as well as Crayak's servant the Drode.
See Pay Evil unto Evil. Jake is pretty pissed that Visser One has gleefully slaughtered the Auxiliary Animorphs, so he's willing to massacre seventeen thousand Yeerks, who just happened to be completely defenceless and harmless.
Also, after they learn the kids' true identities, the Yeerks attack their houses, managing to enslave Jake's parents.
David is a subversion, as the heroes are the ones that mete out his karmic punishment rather than the villains he threatened to betray them to.
Played straight with Tom.
Chapman, as a teenager, tries to offer the human race to the Yeerks in order to save himself, which is ultimately what starts the invasion and leads to his own infestation.
Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: Hitler in Elfangor's Secret - he never rose above corporal and is just driving a jeep. Tobias is all set to kill him anyway, but Cassie reminds him of the Bad Future they were complicit in and insists you can't kill someone for what they might have done.
Right Wing Militia Fanatic: Probably what at least some of the terrorists mentioned briefly in the last book were supposed to be, since Jake says some are religious extremists, some are conspiracy nuts, and some are racists. He says that some are eco-terrorists though, so at least some of them don't quite fit the mold.
Robot Buddy: Erek King. But he and the kids have a falling out at the end of the series, because Jake blackmailed him into fighting, which he's programmed never to do. Conversely, the kids blame Erek for the death of Rachel, as Erek drained the Pool ship's weapons. Erek and the Animorphs never reconcile.
Robotic Reveal: Suspicions are aroused when the Animorphs-as-dogs realize that Erek has no scent, but it's not until Erek is hit by a truck and the Animorphs get a good look at him through the eyes of a wolf spider that they realize that Erek is an android.
Rubber-Band History: Elfangor's Secret opens in the world where Visser Four's time travel plans went on unchallenged. Jake calls himself "Supreme Leader" and is considering turning Cassie in for possibly opposing the genocide in South America. Everyone, Cassie included, owns a slave. Melissa has replaced Rachel, who's in a reeducation camp. Oh, and Pong has just debuted, and cable television is nowhere to be found—there’s only one heavily censored channel.
Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Averted. Not only do all the other alien races look nothing like humans, but it turns out that humans are the only alien civilization in the universe that walks upright on two legs.
Well, Hork-Bajir have two legs, but they have their tails for balance.
Sapient Cetaceans: Cassie has a minor crisis because she's not sure if it's right to take a dolphin's DNA or control its mind; one of their rules is that the Animorphs never morph a sapient creature without its permission, or unless it's an urgent emergency. Whether or not they're truly sapient is never quite settled (although whales just barely are, according to the Drode), but they are capable of a kind of telepathic communication with whales ("great ones;" the dolphins are the "little ones."), and Cassie firmly believes they have souls. Everyone loves the dolphin morph, because they're so happy and carefree.
Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: The Animorphs make a rule not to do this, but break it all the time in early books, usually for opening chapter hijinks. It comes back to bite them hard during the David Trilogy, when the eponymous character takes that idea and runs with it.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Marco, until he discovers that his mother is Visser One. Cassie, temporarily, on more than one occasion. And David in The Threat.
Jake: Andalites are very fast, those snakes are faster. One move from your boys and they will die... Now we stop playing games, you're not the Andalite fleet, and I'm not going to snap a salute and say 'Yes Sir!' We deal as equals. Which, to be honest, is generous of us under the circumstances.
Gonrod: I command here. Am I clear on that?
Jake: No, sir. This is Earth. This is a human planet. We are not the Hork-Bajir, we know how you 'rescued' them. As long as you're on earth, you'll get along with us. Am I clear on that?
Secret Keeper: The Animorphs themselves are Secret Keepers for the existence of the Chee, the location of the free Hork-Bajir, and the fact that Aftran and Illim/Mr. Tidwell are members of the Yeerk Peace Movement, while these factions are all Secret Keepers for the Animorphs' identities and the fact that they're mostly human. This becomes a huge problem when Visser Three captures and intends to interrogate (read: torture) Aftran. Later, Visser One and the Animorphs become mutual Secret Keepers for political/strategic reasons, and even later, the Animorphs bring in their families for their protection.
Sense Freak: Ax in human morph, as Andalites are mouthless ("Cinnamon BUNZAH!!!"). The Yeerks aren't as obvious about it, but possessing a host is the only way they can enjoy the senses other species take for granted - Visser Three's favorite is sight. His punishment after the war is simply to be kept alive in his slug form.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ax tends to speak very precisely. An example in The Warning: "This is Aximili! Reassert your individual consciousness!"
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Elfangor's Secret, although it was more like "re-set what was originally kinda going okay but this one guy fucked up and the Ellimist and Crayak are panicking now."
Shapeshifter Mash Up : Marco in The Proposal. He morphs a osprey/lobster mix, a spider/skunk mix and a polar bear/poodle mix, respectively.
Might also be said of anyone who uses the Frolis maneuver to create a morph of the DNA of several individuals of a species combined.
Shapeshifter Mode Lock: More than two hours in a morph traps you in that body. There are an alarmingly large number of characters who fall prey to this fate (although many did so voluntarily) - Tobias, Elfangor, David, Aldrea, Aftran, Menderash, the entire taxxon race, and temporarily Cassie.
There are also several times the group comes close to this. At one point, Marco went over-time and has to brute force his was out through sheer willpower.
Shapeshifter Showdown: Both the Animorphs and Visser Three have shapeshifting powers, so these are common enough. The most extreme example is probably in The Return, where Crayak pits Rachel and Visser Three against each other in a gladiatorial battle and they both strategically change forms constantly throughout the fight.
Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Only skintight clothes will transform with you when one morphs. The kids have to wear leotards and bike shorts under their regular clothes, and can't morph shoes. Late in the series they learn to morph normal clothing, but still can't do shoes. This limitation is because the Andalities, who invented morphing tech, don't wear clothes and so didn't take them into account. It's considered a sign of one's talent when a visiting Andalite is able to morph clothes when turning into a human.
Sharing a Body: Controllers (Yeerks and their hosts). Also Cassie and Aldrea in The Prophecy.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "The Hork-Bajir Chronicles". At the end of the story, all the Hork-Bajir except Aldrea and Dak are either infested or dead, the Andalites successfully sent out the quantum virus, and the yeerks are now ready to rampage around the galaxy to their heart's content.
Shoot Your Mate: Visser Three tries to get Visser One to shoot one of her human kids.
More Tolkien references include Ax's middle name, Esgarrouth, derived from the Middle-Earth town of Esgaroth. In The Unknown, the air force base personnel use the cover identity "Gondor Industries" on their night out at The Gardens.
Also many, many more subtle and insignificant ones, such as the six dolphins named after the main characters of Friends in book #4.
Generally, Applegate references her favorite things often in the series: Star Trek, the Rolling Stones, the Ford Mustang, Dr. Pepper, et cetera.
In The Solution, Rachel has a dream in which she morphs elephant in a crowded mall. She crushes a kid in an orange jacket, prompting someone to say, "Oh, my God! She killed Kenny!"
In amongst all the alien warfare, there are detailed descriptions of about a hundred different animal species. Applegate clearly researched a lot of the morphs and went to great lengths to detail them accurately.
Applegate also dabbles in military history and literature from time to time.
When turning into a bee, Marco describes a color so unbelievably intense humans can't see it, but bees can. He's seeing ultraviolet, which many flowers use to attract bees.
Sixth Ranger: David is the straight example, identified on book covers as the "Sixth Animorph". He did a Face-Heel Turn pretty quickly, though. Ax is the more commonly accepted example, though the books gave the subtle implication that as an Andalite Ax wasn't a true Animorph. James and the Auxiliary Animorphs count as eighth rangers.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Almost completely averted. Rachel and Marco had a very antagonistic relationship, but she and Tobias were pretty much an item from day one. Not completely, because Marco makes several comments indicating he might have a mild crush on Rachel (although his perception that she's certifiably insane balances it out), "Nice Rachel" says flat-out that she would probably go out with Marco if he asked her, and in the What If? / Wonderful Life book "Back to Before", they actually did go out.
Basically, a running theme of the series is that war ruins everything. In the early books, while Rachel was definitely loyal to Tobias, she and Marco were constantly fight/flirting just like any two good friends who were possibly attracted to one another might. By the end of the series, all of the fun and flirting has gone out of their relationship, and the fighting is not only real but also very cruel and personal.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series starts out on the idealistic side, and ends more on the cynical side. The gist of the series is pretty much that the universe is a violent, dangerous and evil place, and things are bad all over, but we should try to do the right thing as often as we can anyway. To quote Jake: "It was a stupid, naive, idealistic and childish decision. But I wouldn't want to live in a world where we didn't try the stupid, naive, idealistic and childish thing sometimes."
In #13, The Change, the Ellimist sends Tobias back to the night before the infamous construction site incident that started the whole series. Tobias thus convinces his past self to team up the next evening with Jake and Marco and then to take that shortcut across the shady construction site.
In In the Time of Dinosaurs, the Animorphs are sent back to the last days of the Cretaceous. They ally with good aliens, the Mercora, against bad aliens, the Nesk, and steal a nuclear explosive from the Nesk to attempt to return home. The defeated Nesk leave the planet but send the Mercora a parting gift, diverting a nearby comet to impact their settlement. The Mercora plan to use the nuke the Animorphs stole from the Nesk to destroy the comet. Tobias, realizing the comet is the very one that caused the K-T mass extinction and that nobody can ever find evidence of the Mercora, has Ax make the explosive a dud. The comet impacts, the Mercora and their settlement are annihilated. Conveniently enough, the comet impact is sufficient to return the Animorphs to their own time. With just one more thing to angst about.
Also, the whole Elfangor's Secret book.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Rachel and Tobias. She's a beautiful, smart, independent, funny and spirited suburban teenage hottie. He's a bird. And then "The Beginning" happens.
Also Elfangor and Loren, who're not only from different species but separated by time travel, a meddling Ellimist and memory erasure. The end result: he's dead and she can't remember his existence.
Starfish Character: #32, The Separation, in which Rachel is split into Mean Rachel and Nice Rachel. Everyone hates them both. And it involves an actual starfish too!
Starfish Aliens: Most aliens shown are such. Yeerks (parasitic mind-controlling slugs that feed off of radiation), Taxxons (giant centipedes with a crippling hunger that will eat themselves if they get wounded), and Andalites (Telepathic centaurs who eat out of their hooves) being the strangest, with everything else not far behind.
The Starscream: Visser Three to Visser One. Tom's Yeerk somewhat also fits this trope. Near the end of the series, after Visser Three is promoted to Visser One, Tom betrays his leader to further his own ambition. (Although, to be fair, Tom is more interested in creating his own Empire as opposed to actually getting Visser One's job.)
Stock Yuck: Broccoli comes from aliens planting it here in the Cretaceous Period.
Story Arc: The series can neatly be divided up into a couple story arcs. The first arc concerns itself with the development of the children into soldiers and explanations about morphing, the Yeerk invasion, et cetera. The second arc concerns itself with the day-to-day missions, and is cut in half by what you could call Story Arc 2.5, which concerns itself with the seventh Animorph, David. The third story arc deals with the escalation of the war and the reorganization of the Yeerk Empire - the execution of Visser One, Visser Three's promotion, Operation 9366, et cetera. The final story arc begins when the Yeerks discover the kids' identities.
Rachel in #48 The Return. She has an internal monologue about how she feels isolated and apart even in a crowded school hallway.
Jake, who can't relate to anyone after the war because they don't know what he's been through.
Also, Tobias, as he's a hawk, and since Rachel is dead, he has no more connection to humanity.
And Ax. The things he's learned on Earth - the willingness to justify your actions to your subordinates, the acceptance of vecols as members of society - cause him to be seen as strange to other Andalites. Although, by this time, he's enough of a legendary war hero to get away with it.
Yeerks feel this way towards humans to some extent, but some can empathize with them (most Yeerks liken what they do to humans to what humans do to cows or pigs, but some realize that they steal others' bodies for themselves, and some realize that this is wrong)...
Andalites are repeatedly characterized as arrogant, and see humans are curiosities at best and expendable inferiors at worst. (This provides an interesting twist: Jake and the others are waiting for a good part of the series for Andalites to save them, but Andalites don't give a damn about humans.)
Subverted in the last book. It's revealed that it's really only the Andalite military that's like this. Andalite civilians are much more agreeable and get along with humans just fine.
The Symbiote: The Iskoort. The "Yoort" descended from Yeerks who may or may not have been Ancient Astronauts. They were parasites like the Yeerks of today, but they eventually realized the futility of it and made the conscious decision to modify their entire race as symbiotes with an artificially created lifeform, the "Isk".
Take a Third Option: A traitorous Tom presents a plan to capture the Pool ship to Jake. However, Jake sees through Tom's ulterior motives and realizes that Tom secretly plans to kill Jake and his friends when their usefulness has expired. Jake constructs his own plan which, with the help of Rachel and Erek, would both cripple the Yeerk Empire and neutralize Tom as a threat. It doesn't quite work out that neatly.
David took one too. Caught between the Animorphs and the Yeerks and unable to trust either, he turned on them both.
#48 The Return, on describing the prospect of dramatizing the morphing process Rachel lists a handful of studios who she's convinced "wouldn't get it right." She explicitly lists Nickelodeon, who produced the Animorphs TV series, which K. A. Applegate has been vocal in her distaste for.
Also, the Andalites were originally supposed to resemble stereotypical Grey aliens. Scholastic vetoed the original design and asked Applegate to be a little more "creative" so that if an AnimorphsTV series was ever produced, they would have an interesting looking alien race to showcase. She then went ahead and made them as complex as possible—out of spite—to the point where they proved virtually impossible to properly dramatize when said TV series finally came into fruition. Take that, indeed.
One of the most hated books is #28 The Experiment, which is loaded with plot holes and only exists to voice the ghostwriter's opinions about eating meat. Then the last chapter features the Animorphs all eating hamburgers, which was later revealed to be because KA Applegate didn't think much of the ghostwritten book and added that final chapter herself. The book's ghostwriter, Amy Garvey, was one of only two ghostwriters who were never allowed to write another Animorphs book again.
From The Proposal:
UPN Executive: You want to put this lunatic on the air? Try Fox, I'm not interested.
Team Mom: Cassie sort of fits this role. She gives emotional support to the others whether they want it or not.
Technical Pacifist: The Chee in general, Erek in particular: Erek helps the Animorphs capture the Pool ship because Jake threatens to kill a prisoner every time Erek refuses to cooperate. Erek finds both choices abominable but helps the kids to minimize casualties. Cassie may also qualify.
The "The" Title: Done with nearly every book in the series, excluding Visser, Megamorphs 3: Elfangor's Secret, and Megamorphs 4: Back to Before. Megamorphs 2 does feature "the" in the title, although it's not the first word: In the Time of the Dinosaurs.
Three Laws Compliant: Some laws are deconstructed, some are averted: The Chee comply with the Third and Zeroth Laws, but their creators, the Pemalites, took the First Law to the logical extreme: no violence, period. As for the Second Law: Erek refuses to obey Jake because he disagrees with his methods, so Jake uses the violence prohibition (in other words, the First Law) to manipulate him and force his hand.
Think in Text: The use of punctuation, <brackets>, to indicate thought-speech.
This Is Reality: The Animorphs are fond of either comparing their acts to superheroes' or of pointing out that said superheroes aren't real.
Trademark Favorite Food: Ax and his intense, intense LOVE for cinnamon buns. He even keeps a picture of one in his makeshift home.
Marco: Anyway, she tells me, 'Some kid went crazy and ate an entire pan of cinnamon buns.' Now, who, I ask you all, who do we know who would eat an entire pan of cinnamon buns?
Token Minority: The series was actually pretty groundbreaking in its handling of minorities. In the '90's, it was extremely unusual for a middle-grade novel to have a minority protagonist at all, let alone four of them. (Rachel and Jake were Jewish, Cassie was black, and Marco was hispanic). It also got away with discussing prejudice a few times, a biracial relationship (and it was even acknowledged a couple times), and a little racism portrayed when the ultimate message wasn't about the evils of racism (specifically, the society at the beginning of the third Megamorphs, and the racist guy Cassie meets when she travels through time). They even acknowledged the existence of gay people, which was almost never done. Oh, and there were two female protagonists, and they weren't treated any differently than the males in terms of their ability to kick ass, making the series one of the first middle-grade series to have a cross-gender appeal. All in all, it was one of the most inclusive series of its day. And in later books, K. A. Applegate proved even more that she was dedicated to diversity without stereotypes.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Rachel and Cassie, though which is which depends on the situation. In civilian life, Rachel is The Fashionista while Cassie is utterly fashion-blind (to Rachel's exasperation) and thinks nothing of getting her hands dirty with sick animals. In combat, Rachel turns into The Big Guy and Cassie is the team's most reluctant fighter.
Tonight Someone Dies: The cover quote of the final book is It began with six. It will end with five.note Technically, it began with five, as Ax didn't join until the fourth book.The death is Rachel's.
Took a Level in Badass: All the kids, really, though special shout-outs have to go to Jake in the last five books and David in his trilogy.
Too Many Halves: Ax — and by extension the Andalite race in general — is once described as half blue deer, half centaur, and half scorpion. Then the narrator Lampshades it by saying they realize that it's too many halves.
Totally Radical: Invoked by one of the characters. One comments that they'd "bet dollars to donuts" on something and another comments "Something your grandmother used to say?"
The books themselves contain a lot of painfully90s slang, or approximations thereof; "cool" brands, shops etc. are constantly namedropped. Part of the re-release's stated mission is to tone down the kids' slang (future-proofing, rather than simply "modernising" when that'll be outdated in ten years too) and remove references to specific clothes stores and the like.
The Escafil Device (blue box), which gives normal beings the power to morph after contact with it.
The Andalites themselves got a big speed boost to their evolutionary process when Toomin went native with them in The Ellimist Chronicles.
Tragic Dream: Jake's weakness is his sense of responsibility: As long as he can, he feels he's got to at least try to save his brother Tom. Jake's entire motivation, right from the beginning, is to free his brother. As the years go by this becomes less and less likely. And it all culminates in the worst possible way: As much as it pains him to do it, Jake orders his brother's execution.
True Companions: Most obviously shown at the end of the series, when the kids see rescuing Ax from The One as a moral obligation.
Marco: He told me the whole story. And every word was another nail in my coffin, because what was I going to do, refuse to save Ax? How many times had I been down for the count and only that lightning blue tail had brought me out alive?
Two of Your Earth Minutes: A Running Gag with Ax. It's heavily implied he's doing it to mess with Marco. At one point he actually forgets to add "of your minutes", only to correct himself when Marco expresses surprise at him. Another time Tobias accidentally starts doing it. Best one is Ax says "[x] of your miles" and Marco responds "they're everyone's miles." Ax retorts, "What about the nations that use meters? See, I am learning."
The Unmasqued World: The last book. We've got Hork-Bajir in Yellowstone, Taxxons in the Amazon, and Andalite tourism is a big thing.
Unobtainium: Ramonite, which Andalite (and thus, also Yeerk) ships were made of, can turn opaque or transparent or be completely reshaped to form open doors, all through computer commands.
Unscientific Science: In "The Mutation", the explanation for how the Nartec came into existence makes no sense. The explanation is that radiation sped up their adaptation. That's really not how radiation works.
Unusual Euphemism: The Hork-Bajir biology causes them to lapse into their native language, which is used to get cursing into the books. Context makes it clear.
Unreliable Narrator: Most of the characters, especially early on, aren't capable of recognizing their own character flaws, and their narration is reflective of this. Furthermore, sometimes the kids just straight-up lie about things - see Literary Agent Hypothesis. For instance, in the David trilogy, Jake says it's been a couple months since Elfangor's crash. Dialogue, however, hints that the story arc takes place much later, and it's confirmed late in the series that the David trilogy takes place maybe two years after the crash.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Jake and Cassie for a good half of the series, before they make their mutual crush public. Also, Tobias and Rachel - it's the entire focus of their relationship, really, because Tobias is a bird.
Verbal Tic: David has a tendency to say the name of the person he's talking to several times in a single conversation, usually when he's trying to be threatening. In one occasion in The Solution, he says Rachel's name six times in one page.
Vetinari Job Security: In which Mr. Responsible Jake has to leave for a week and Rachel, who is, to put it diplomatically, something of a violence junkie, is made temporary leader. The end result is Cassie getting captured and dangerously close to the 2-hour limit.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Marco and Jake, who are best friends despite the fact that they argue more often than not.
Villain Ball: Visser Three, first by being a total dick to the Taxxons and denying them access to the morphing cube when he got it, and by refusing to promote Tom's Yeerk.
Not to mention killing Elfangor in the first book, when he could have infested him and then the Yeerk could have morphed the injuries away.
And his biggest blunder: moving to open assault when he could have waited for the Andalite war fleet to arrive and then manipulating the humans into thinking the Andalites were invading and letting the humans solve the Yeerk Empire's biggest problem for them.
And Chapman, who inadvertently caused his own infestation thirty years in advance.
And David, who brought the entire Animorphs to their knees only to be beaten by suddenly developing Bond Villain Stupidity.
Violence is the Only Option: Deconstructed. Is violence really the only option? At first glance, it seems that it is: Yeerks are stealing bodies by force and the kids have to stop them. But as the kids learn, Yeerks need bodies to properly live, and it's possible for the Yeerk and the host to have a symbiotic relationship. The problem is most hosts would resist infestation, which necessitates taking hosts by force. Cassie often tries to convince Yeerks that symbiotism is the best solution - and it works sometimes.
Wagon Train to the Stars: The journey that Marco, Santorelli, Menderash, Jeanette, Tobias and Jake take aboard the Rachel to find the Blade ship was, at least according to Marco. We never get the details of their adventures, though.
Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: Not nearly as much as one would think, but most prominent in #22. By the end of the series, fighting Yeerks has been a full-time, round the clock job, so the kids rarely (if ever) go to class, instead getting the Chee to fill in for them.
The Walls Are Closing In: In "The Separation", Visser Three used a moving wall because he thought the group were Andalites, who hate enclosed spaces.
The War Room: Where Jake first meets General Doubleday. Jake notes that it seems an awful like what you'd see in a movie; old guys chomping cigars, guys in suits and a big map (that has his hometown crossed out, presumably because it isn't there any more).
Memorably played straight and subverted in Book #30. Marco, Tobias and Ax go sliding down several stories worth of staircase bannister in cockroach form on their bellies at warp speed. When they get off, they exult in how awesome it was... just before agreeing to never, ever do that again.
We Are as Mayflies: The guerilla war between the Animorphs and the Yeerk Empire lasted three years and shaped the fates and lives of thousands of sapient creatures. The larger war between the Andalites and Yeerks was on a scale even larger. But in the end, the entire conflict was only a blip so small as to be unnoticeable when it came to the war between Ellimist and Crayak. The kids' war lasted three years, the war between Ellimist and Crayak lasted hundreds of millions or even billions of years, one that continues even after the Yeerk Empire is destroyed. If one looks at the series as a battle between good and evil, absolutely nothing was accomplished. What's one Yeerk Empire to Crayak?
It's implied that the war is more critical than it seems, for reasons that will only be clear to the mortals of the galaxy a century or two down the line.
True, considering how much the Yeerk war influenced the budding, new conflict between humans, Andalites, Yeerks, Kelbrid and The One:
"I command this ship," Efflit 1318 explained, "but I serve at the pleasure of The One Who Is Many. The One Who Is All. We are not alone, Rakich-Four-Six-Nine-One. We are not this ship alone. We are the seeds of a new Empire that will far outshine the old, an Empire that will flourish under the leadership and wisdom of The One."
There's a fair amount of these, actually: We never hear very much about Tobias, Cassie, and Jake's parents following the war, the being that caused Jake to see the alternate future in book The Familiar, the fates of Mertil and Gafinilian, and whatever happened to Chapman and his family?
The Return actually deals with exactly this in a somewhat literal form: David, who was trapped as a rat, comes back due to the interference of Crayak and tries to take revenge. And then begs to be killed after losing again.
Jake's parents are said to be freed after the war was over, and Rachel's mother was at her funeral. None of the parents, or Rachel's sisters, are mentioned again. As Tobias took off, it is unclear if he even stayed in contact with his mother.
The aliens behind Book #41 are implied to not be the Ellimist or Crayak; but they neither revealed or mentioned again.
The Nartec are last seen struggling to patch things up in their undersea city in preparation of an attack on the surface world. After escaping, the Animorphs acknowledge that's a problem that needs to be dealt with once the war with the Yeerks are over and the world knows everything. And then the Nartec are never even mentioned again.
Melissa Chapman is an especially odd case, as she's last seen as Tobias' girlfriend in an alternate universe in Megamorphs #3.
The Council of Thirteen poses as the Bigger Bads, the ultimate authority behind the Vissers and the commanders of the Yeerks as a whole. So...were they dealt with at all, or were they all Karma Houdinis?
What If?: Back to Before: What if the Animorphs never met Elfangor? Things still would have blown up, that's what. Just faster and with even more angst.
Also: What if the kids gave up? Earth becomes a Yeerk-infested hell, as you might expect, with the kids themselves becoming Controllers.
What if Jake became too ruthless and cocky? In #41, Jake, in the heat of battle, leaves Marco and Rachel to fend for themselves, in order to save the rest of the team. The continuation of this mindset is shown in the far future: Tom suspected Jake of being an "Andalite bandit", and turned him into a Controller. Ax, Marco, and Cassie are taken, Rachel is gravely wounded in the ensuing battle, and Tobias escapes. Marco becomes host to Visser Two, and Ax becomes a key player in the attack on his homeworld. Cassie's Yeerk, Niss, joins the Evolutionist Front, a terrorist group dedicated to the creation of artificial hosts, led by Tobias, who permanently morphs Ax. But even Cassie and Tobias aren't good guys: Cassie becomes ruthless, cynical and practically evil ("In a war, Jake, anything is justified."), and Tobias is completely willing to let Cassie die to score a victory ("Save one, or save many? The choice wasn't so hard at the Ragskin building, when you left Marco and Rachel to save themselves.")
What Is Evil?: Frequently brought up. Yeerks need hosts, hosts need their freedom. Somebody has to lose. Are Yeerks evil because they fulfill their natural function? If that's the case, are humans evil for killing animals for meat?
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: At the start of the series, it seems this was, with a slug-like Yeerks as the bad guys and the mammal-like Andalites as the good guys. As per usual for Animorphs, this doesn't stick.
Aftran: What choice do we have? Back to the Yeerk pools? Back to our home planet, with Andalite Dome ships in orbit above us, waiting for one of us to rise from the sludge, then blow us apart? Leave the universe to the almighty Andalites and the species they happen to like?
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Deconstructed. The Animorphs are less hesitant to kill when fighting Taxxons or Hork-Bajir rather than human-controllers. Visser One notices the discrepancy in human-controller casualties, confirming her suspicions that the "Andalite Bandits" are actually humans. Whoops.
What the Hell, Hero?: Fairly common, though usually just over the line. Rachel plays it well, Marco recognizes the need. For the last two books, it's plainly stated that what Jake is doing is wrong, and he knows it's wrong, and everyone knows it's wrong, no one actually calls him out on it. By that point Jake has become such an unquestionable authority figure that no one, not even the kids' parents, are allowed to question anything he says or does. But at the end of the series, Erek and Visser One (!) have called him out on his actions.
A slightly less serious example, but still in and of itself a What the Hell, Hero? moment is when Tobias is at a dance with Rachel, in his human morph, and she tries to trap him in it so they can have a normal relationship. Tobias doesn't exactly call her out on it, because part of him isn't entirely convinced she wasn't right.
Weapon of Mass Destruction: Ax is amused by "primitive" human nuclear weapons, and while humans haven't figured out cold fusion yet, Ax claims Andalites only use it to power children's toys.
Wham Novel: Novel #23: The Pretender. Prince Elfangor was Tobias' father. Tobias learns this in a literal wham moment while seated right next to a human-morphed Visser Three, pretending to be his cousin Aria offering him a real home... and he listens to it all while having to pretend he thinks his father is delusional and his "cousin" was a total nut.
Turns into even more of a Tear Jerker when the only reason Tobias survives the encounter is because he has forgotten how to show emotions as a human.
#49: The Diversion, where Tobias discovers that his mother is alive and lives right near where he grew up. When he rescues her from Yeerks who want to enslave her to get to the Animorphs, he discovers that she is blind and amnesiac from a car accident when he was an infant. Giving her the morphing power restores her sight but not her memory.
#5, too. Sorry Marco, you're gonna need to kill your mama, at least twice.
When All You Have Is a Hammer: Given that it's literally their only weapon, the Animorphs' practice and use of the morphing technology far surpasses the Andalites' skill with it. This to the point of shocking Andalites like Ax and Aldrea, who watch the humans perform morphing acts that would count as legendary to their species yet let it pass without comment.
Eventually averted in the last book, when the series is revealed to have taken place in California. Granted, this was deducible from fairly early on, given the presence of forest, desert, ocean, and mountain within two hours flight-by-bird somewhere within the United States, with non-invasive wild animals roughly consistent with the area.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Tobias and going under water. Justified, though, given his species. Also, Ax, and other Andalites, are claustrophobic. Ketrans (the Ellimist's species before he ascended to near-godhood) can have panic attacks when indoors.
A Wizard Did It: A lot of improbable things are chalked up to Ellimist and Crayak, such as the impossibly pacifistic Pemalites, the Contrived Coincidences in the Animorphs lineup (see the entry above on Can't Stay Normal), David finding the blue box and Tobias regaining his morphing ability.
Wonderful Life: Partially subverted. In Back to Before, the Drode asks Jake if he wants the war taken away. Jake, in a moment of weakness, accepts. What happens? The Yeerks still invade. A lonely Tobias joins The Sharing, is infested, and later killed when Visser Three discovers the Yeerk infesting him is a spy. Ax, after escaping from the wreck of the Andalite ship, informs the world of the existence of aliens. The Yeerks, in turn, start a full-on military invasion, and Marco, Rachel, and Cassie are killed in short order. Jake and Ax kill Visser Three and claim the Blade ship. They intend to crash it into the Pool ship, but time starts to unravel and the Drode and Ellimist stop everything and revert the situation to normal. The subversion is that, in the Wonderful Life timeline, they actually defeat the Yeerks much quicker; it takes less than a month and a half after Elfangor's death. The 54-book main series is eventually revealed to have taken place over three years.
Write Who You Know: Applegate and Grant based most of the characters on people they knew. Applegate has said that the character Loren is based on herself. Grant is described as a lot like Marco but it's unknown if this was intentional (probably more of an author projection thing seeing as Marco's got an Expy in Grant's series).
Applegate also said Cassie was most like her, while Marco was most like Michael Grant.
Writer on Board: The ghost-written book "The Experiment" is a heavy-handed anti-meat screed, so much that Applegate stepped in to rewrite the final chapter so that the Animorphs are happily chowing down on hamburgers as a Take That to the real author. Though Applegate herself doesn't have much room to throw stones, as "The Secret" is just as much of an excuse to rant about the logging industry.
Written by the Winners: Interestingly, it's the humans that do this, refusing to put Jake on trial for war crimes while happily trying Visser One for the same charge.
Xanatos Speed Chess: The final battle eventually breaks down into this, as the kids run around the ship wreaking havoc and looking for any edge to save Rachel, and Visser One (unsuccessfully) attempts to contain the situation.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Tobias' distant cousin has flown in from Africa and wants to take care of him. He can finally have a real family, stop eating roadkill and have a proper relationship with Rachel. He can have a normal life! This is awesome!No, it's not. That cousin is Visser Three. In morph. He's trying to kill him.
You Are Grounded: Stops being an issue after #25, when the Chee start impersonating the kids whenever they have to go away for long periods of time.
You Are Not Alone: A big thing, but most obvious in #31, when Jake's father is at risk of being infested. Jake's panicking and on the verge of having a mental breakdown, and is expecting a longwinded lecture from Marco about the importance of staying clearheaded and rational, instead of doing something stupid and reckless. But Marco just says, "You're not alone, man."
You Can't Go Home Again: Ax tries to get home early on, but then decides it's better to help out on Earth and wait until the Andalites arrive.
You Did the Right Thing: Twice, after the war. Jake's most heinous act by far was flushing the Pool ship's pool into space, which killed approximately seventeen thousand unhosted Yeerks. After the battle, Cassie meets with Erek, who is shocked and disgusted that Jake would do such a thing. Defending Jake, Cassie heatedly replies that Jake "did what he had to do":
Erek: I see. He feels guilty. Cassie: No. Not guilty. Erek: Then what?! He used me, blackmailed me, manipulated my programming to get me to crack the engine systems and take control of the ship. Cassie: You drained the Dracon beams. Erek: What did Jake expect me to do? I had given him control when he needed it. I wasn't going to enable him to kill. Cassie: Jake had Rachel with Tom. Rachel and Tom are both... And the ship got away anyway. Thanks to you. Erek: And I'm supposed to feel regret because Jake ordered his cousin to take out his brother and I wasn't going to let him kill everyone else on the Blade ship?! So, you too, huh Cassie? Cassie: Jake did what he had to do. Erek: Did he? Somebody flushed the onboard pool into space. Did he have to do that too? They were unhosted Yeerks. They were harmless! Cassie: We needed a div - Erek: A what? A what did you need? A diversion?! You're telling me you needed a diversion so Jake massacred seventeen thousand sentient creatures?! A diversion?!
Similarly, during the war crimes trial of Visser One, one of the Visser's defense lawyers says that Jake himself should be under indictment as a war criminal for his actions. Jake, who has been clinically depressed for some time due to guilt, is cut deeply by this remark. Cassie, Marco and Ax later tell him that his actions were, if not wholly moral, were completely necessary; furthermore, Cassie makes the case that "you can't equate the victim and the perpetrator" when it comes to war crimes.
The book itself leaves things a bit more up to reader interpretation, and it's obvious that the characters saying so were significantly less sure of what they were saying than they would like to be.
You Have Failed Me: The Big Bad, Visser Three, was notorious for doing this on a regular basis. One Yeerk scientist actually preferred slow death by Kandrona starvation to what Visser Three would do to him.
You No Take Candle: The Hork-Bajir. Justified because the Arn genetically engineered them not to be very bright. A Hork-Bajir with genius-level intelligence is the result of a genetic mutation the Arn never quite managed to obliterate.
Even when they're being Controlled, a quirk of the brain causes them to trade languages around. (Gafrash!)