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Moe Dantes vs He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!
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Moe Dantes vs He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!:

 1 Moe Dantes, Wed, 17th Nov '10 3:06:08 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
When you think of He-Man, you probably think of this guy:

Or, just maybe, you think of this guy:

But this liveblog will deal with this guy:

In 2002, Mattel tried to revive their classic Masters of the Universe toyline. Part of their strategy involved the cooperation of Mike Young Productions to create a new animated series. Both the cartoon and the toys managed to get a cult success, but Mattel decided it wasn't doing well enough and pulled the rug out from under it.

Whether they were right to do so is a matter of debate. Opinions are divided over this cartoon, but the majority of people simply aren't aware it exists, mostly because it was short-lived and it aired on Cartoon Network, aka the "we couldn't schedule our way out of a paper bag so nobody knows when this show is freaking on" network.

Personally my feelings have been changable. When I first caught the premiere, I was bitterly disappointed with it (remember this was 2002—I hadn't learned to be cynical of remakes yet). The real reason I'm watching it now, in fact, is just that I had a severe craving for some MOTU.

A couple of years back, I had managed to collect both the original He-Man cartoon and its sequel She-Ra Princess of Power on DVD. I loved them, but I had to sell them to pay for a laptop. At the time it seemed like a non-issue (TV Tropers might remember this was the period where I was an uber-weeaboo who hated anything American, so I thought I wouldn't miss it in the long term), but lately I had the cravings, and unfortunately the North American sets of He-Man and She-Ra are hard to find, particularly the later volumes. However, complete sets were released in Australia that are virtually identical to the American ones (they're slightly better, in fact).

To tide me over in the meantime, I bought the three-volume set of the 2002 series on the cheap. I went in expecting it to be as bad as I remembered, but to be honest: It was actually a decent appetizer. By post-millennium standards, He-Man 2002 is actually pretty good, even though it has a lot of things I could do without.

What are its pros and cons then? Read on to find out. And what better place to start than...
 2 Moe Dantes, Wed, 17th Nov '10 3:10:30 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Episode 1 - The Beginning (Part One)

Special Notes - This episode originally played as a movie. The thee-part episode version is what's on the majority of DVD releases, so I'm going to review that version (take heart though - there's barely any difference between the two versions)

Plot Summary - The soldier Randor goes to the Hall of Wisdom, warning the Elders that the evil Keldor is coming. Keldor, however, comes in not far behind. There is a battle, and when it looks like Keldor has lost he tries one last gambit—a vial of acid. Randor deflects this and it winds up scarring Keldor's face instead. Unable to fight, Keldor and his forces retreat. Randor then discovers that the Elders have mysteriously disappeared, and a voice tells him that peace has come to Eternia, but only for a time... and when evil returns, a hero shall emerge.

Timeskip an unknown amount of years later, Randor is King and it is his son, Prince Adam's, sixteenth birthday. A celebration is underway even though everybody and their dog laments how Prince Adam is so easygoing. However, Man-at-Arms gets a telepathic summons from the Sorceress, requesting that he and Prince Adam come to Castle Grayskull. At Grayskull, the Sorceress tells Adam the story of how, after the battle at the Hall of Wisdom, she and Man-at-Arms constructed a "Mystic Wall" to trap the forces of evil in the "Dark Hemisphere" of Eternia.

Meanwhile, in the Dark Hemisphere, Keldor has created a device that cracks the Mystic Wall. He and his forces attack the crack and utterly destroy the wall, then head to Eternos to find the Hall of Wisdom (which has now disappeared).

Back at Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress tries to explain to Adam that he is to become a great hero, but Adam isn't having it, and walks out. But as he's flying home on his sky-sled, he sees, in the distance, the city of Eternos in smoke...

Timestamped Comments - in format mm:ss

2:10 - The way Randor interrupts at this point is a little off. How slow the elder is talking and what he had managed to say before Randor suddenly exclaimed "you know?!" makes the future King of Eternia seem a little slow on the uptake.

2:18 - It's never clearly explained how this "you will be vanquished and all the power of Eternia will be his!" thing works. Is it like Highlander, where the power passes on to whoever did the vanquishing? Or is it just that killing the Elders would leave Keldor as the only remotely-powerful guy on Eternia?

2:30 - "King? I'm merely a soldier!"

"So was I, but one day an Eternian will rise among us who will use the Matrix of Leadership to light our darkest hour. Until that day... til all are one!" ... Okay, nobody actually responds with that, but it would've been awesome.

the first five minutes in a nutshell

4:00 - The first sign of a weak script is that somebody actually uses the line "appearances can be deceiving." Please pick something less cliche.

4:18 - So, when Randor deflected the acid with his shield, it just kinda homed in on Keldor's face? Cuz that's what this looks like.

Also, Randor's a little impersonal, isn't he? Keldor is clearly in pain and yet Randor just goes into a "your under arrest" speech.

15:06 - I gotta admit, this shot here is kinda cool:

15:25 - So Keldor and his forces just stood there while a honkin' huge wall fell down atop of them?

Our first epic look at Castle Grayskull

Overall Thoughts - To be honest, I find "The Beginning" to be a weak episode overall.

To start with, I'll be frank: I hate origin stories. I don't care how He-Man came to be or where Skeletor came from. To me what matters if that they're here, now, and they're fighting. A bit of backstory can give you more context, but Mike Young's writers get so involved with shedding light on He-Man's history that they forget to make the present story interesting in its own right.

An even bigger problem I have, though, was that they shut too many doors. Filmation's cartoon left a lot of things up in the air, ripe for speculation, and this was part of the wonder of it. Mike Young Productions went ahead and answered all our questions and, in doing so, took that mystery and wonder away. This wouldn't be so bad, except that they replaced it with a generic story that sounds like it was ripped from a Terry Brooks novel (don't get me wrong—Masters of the Universe has always been steeped in standard fantasy conventions, but by defining it so solidly MYP made it a problem).

Not only that, but another thing about Filmation's approach was that it left the sandbox wide open: if they suddenly needed to claim that Teela used to have a boyfriend in order to make a story work, there's nothing in history that contradicts them, so why not (ironically, this gives the Filmation version more depth, as well). Mike Young on the other hand outright says "this is it, this is everything important that has happened in the past, " and not only does this make everything flat and dull, but when MYP finally gets to the point where they have to introduce more backstory it gets really contrived, because they had written themselves into a corner.

Stay tuned for "The Beginning, Part Two!"
 3 Moe Dantes, Wed, 17th Nov '10 6:36:29 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Hey guys, I'm gonna be offline most of the day and might not get to post "The Beginning, Part 2" as soon as I hoped, so I'm going to post this to make up for it. If this gets a positive enough reaction I might make "Character Introductions" a regular feature.

Anyway, lets-a-go!
Welcome to the first ever character introduction!

Well boys and girls, let's start off with a bang! For our first Character Introduction we have none other than that rascally, wild, and fun-loving Prince Adam!

So, Adam! Tell us about yourself!

I am Adam, Prince of Eternia and sometimes called a defender of Castle Grayskull, and boy, my early life wasn't easy. I mean, look at me!

I used to be a weed! I actually bought that tiger because I thought he'd keep the bullies off me, but he turned out to be a wimp. That's why I named him "Cringer".

But then one day, my pharmacist recommended me the Protein of Grayskull!

''It comes in a sword. No, I don't know why.

The transformation was virtually instantaneous, as if the power of the elders reached out to me and embued me with their might in a bolt of lightning! All the sudden, I had this swingin' bod that all the guys at the beach would be jealous of!

Before, I couldn't get girls to even look at me, now they're practically falling over themselves!

Look at her! She's totally checking me out!

And bullies started running away in fear once they saw how much I could bench-press!

Then my pharmacist contacted me and told me about some deadbeat named Skeletor who hadn't payed his bills, and offered me a discount on the Protein of Grayskull if I would go collect. I figured sure, why not?

I can not stress enough how amazing a thing this was for me! It was so easy, and the change was so vast that a lot of my old friends just didn't recognize me anymore! Nowadays, everyone jokes around and calls me "He-Man" and pretends Prince Adam disappeared. That's how amazing this is.

And then I started feeding some of that Protein to Cringer, and guess what? It worked on him, too!

I had the armor custom-made

Ever since then I've been running around, doing cool-guy things and being a bill collector for my pharmacist. It pays well, and I can't argue with my new body!

I can't recommend it enough! Just remember, kids: Buy the Protein of Grayskull, and you'll have the power!

Well, that was great. Thank you, Prince Adam, for having this little chat with us!

No problem!

Stay tuned for future Character Introductions!
I've never actually seen the middle one. I prefer to think of this person. :3

 5 Moe Dantes, Thu, 18th Nov '10 3:15:49 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Episode 2 - The Beginning (Part Two)

Plot Summary - Adam finds that the royal city has been attacked. Man-at-Arms leads him to the battle which is now taking place in a forest outside the city (for... some reason) where amidst the fighting Adam tries to find his father. Randor is knocked out and kidnapped by Skeletor and Beast Man, who flee the battle with their prisoner. Adam, desperate, runs back to Castle Grayskull to finally claim the Sword of Power and become He-Man.

Meanwhile the battle continues. Evil-Lyn casts Ultima which turns the forest into a desert, the battle continues. Skeletor begins to interrogate Randor, and there's more battling. Mer-Man points out a meteor shower which Evil-Lyn magically takes control of to direct at the good guys. This proves super effective, and near the end Teela is right in the path of a huge one, but suddenly a muscular figure appears in front of her...

Timestamped comments - in format mm:ss

1:35 - Pay attention to Marlena's lips while she's talking: At first, they don't even move when she talks! (I guess the animators thought we wouldn't notice because they're at the edge of the screen. When the screen scrolls to focus on her, those lips start moving)

1:48 - Prince Adam's "no!" reaction seems oddly delayed.

This episode in a nutshell

5:27 - Okay, Skeletor is no stranger to lame dialogue, but this revision of "revenge is a dish best served cold" is a line that I imagine would make George Lucas shudder.

6:34 - Okay, I know they're setting up the "everyone thinks of Adam as a fool" angle, but Teela is really unjustified in thinking Adam is "turning tail." He could have been either running to get help, or else planning on going after his father on a sky sled.

9:13 - Back in the day I remember this being one of the most made-fun-of scenes in the entire episode—one parody even described it as "Mekaneck and Triklops trying out for the cheerleader squad!" (I had snapshots of this scene, but once scaled-down it wasn't possible to make out what was going on, so just to clarify: Mekaneck twirls his weapon behind his back. Triklops then twirls and throws his sword, and catches it and twirls some more. Mekaneck then twirls and throws his mace really high, catches it, then... headbutts Triklops. Seriously, the whole thing is kinda WTF)

15:58 - For some reason, every single time Adam transforms into He-Man, Castle Grayskull lights up, as shown:

How does the Sorceress keep from going blind?

Possibly?

17:00 - To be honest, one complaint I always had with the He-Man mythos as a whole was the whole "secret identity" thing. In this scene, the Sorceress recants the favored fan-explanation for it—the classic "if the badguys learn of it, it could bring great harm to your loved ones" canard.

And it is a canard. Think about it: according to what we've seen, Keldor has been launching attacks since before Adam was even BORN. Later episodes will reveal there have been threats that precede even Keldor. Even despite all that, Adam's loved ones consist of members of royalty, members of a superhero team, and captains of security forces—in short, people for whom danger is an ordinary part of their lives. How, exactly, would Adam's dual-identity being public knowledge bring any more harm to them than what they already face?

I once heard a convincing fan-theory that (going by memory) stated that the true purpose of He-Man was to be an icon of hope for the forces of good, and that his iconic status would be lost in the eyes of the people if everyone thought of him as Randor's son instead of the legendary He-Man. I suppose I can sort of buy that one, but it still makes a bit of a liar out of the sorceress.

20:35 - It was around this point that I noticed: Mekaneck and Man-E-Faces were missing from the earlier "planning" scene, but here they suddenly show up again. (REDACTED - On rewatching the episode, I noticed those two were knocked out after Evil-Lyn's spell)

Overall Thoughts - My problem with this episode is just this: Its little more than a thirty minute fight scene.

Now, I don't mind fight scenes—when they're good. But we're not talking about Ranma 1/2, Dragonball Z or Avatar the Last Airbender here, where the characters use clever tactics, impressive techniques or at the very least show signs of wear after being in an involved battle. He-Man 2002 is more the type of show where a laser beam knocks somebody into a wall, they rub their heads for a minute and then get up for more, or else they hop around like jumping is about to go out of style and strike dramatic poses while twirling their weapons.

In this whole 24-minute episode, only maybe two plot-relevant things happen: King Randor gets abducted and Adam becomes He-Man for the first time. Seriously if they cut out everything except that, we would've had a much tighter, much more entertaining episode.

Another thing they could've done is fleshed out the characters somehow. To be honest, this is a cast of something like eight or so heroic characters and yet we learn nothing about them besides their names and powers. It honestly feels almost like MYP expected us to already know who Stratos, Ram-Man etc. were—like they thought all the viewers would be fans of the eighties series who needed no introduction. So this comes off like a "fanservice" episode, like they said "Well, you know these characters, now let's show you them being AWESOME!!!" and it doesn't work. I would like more characters with personality and less fighting.

Stay tuned for more!

edited 18th Nov '10 3:19:42 AM by MoeDantes

 6 Moe Dantes, Fri, 19th Nov '10 2:31:28 PM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Plot Summary - Arriving in time to rescue Teela, He-Man helps scatter the Evil Warriors and then sets out again to rescue King Randor, who Skeletor is interrogating near a chasm. The Evil Warriors return, there's another Heroes vs Villains mash-up even as He-Man is fighting Skeletor (and there's a subplot about Man-at-Arms getting stuck inside the belly of a giant winged slug-thing, but he gets himself out). Finally, He-Man has Skeletor at his mercy, but Skeletor does the old "let me go or the old man dies" gambit, and once getting his way promptly proceeds to knock Randor into the chasm. He-Man jumps in after him, manages to save both Randor and himself by lodging his sword in the side of the cliff and hanging on until the other heroes show up to bail them out. Everyone goes home happy (though Prince Adam is disappointed that he can't reveal his secret) except for Skeletor and his bunch, who brood over the appearance of a new hero on Eternia.

Timestamped Comments - in format mm:ss

5:23 - This is the lamest Title Drop ever. I mean, calling them "brave warriors" is understandible, but then he calls them "Masters of the Universe."

Ironically, none other than the 1983 Prince Adam had the best response:

The only thing I added was the word balloon, and that's actually what he says. For the curious this is from The Secret of the Sword

9:34 - Its nice to see that He-Man still has his ability to deflect any beam by swinging his sword at just the right time.

This episode in a nutshell

16:15 - "Throw each other into walls" seems to be the only battle strategy ever invented on Eternia.

17:18 - How exactly does He-Man know that Skeletor's weapon is called a "Havoc Staff?" Was he at the toy aisles in Wal-Mart recently?

17:56 - "Your sentimentality is your weakness, He-Man!"

"Your faith in your friends is yours." (He-Man doesn't actually say that, but it would be funny if he did)

Man-at-Arms relives a scene from Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier

20:40 - I'll get to this more in the episode "Lessons, " but I want to say right now that: I loved 1983 Orko, but I hate 2002 Orko, and this scene where he nearly blabs He-Man's secret is a shorthand indicator of why.

21:39 - Here we have the classic "oh wait, He-Man said X earlier, now Adam is saying the same thing, suspicious!" moment where suspicion has to be diverted. Except here it doesn't work, because the only thing both He-Man and Adam said is that He-Man is "a friend." You'd think that would be a common enough descriptor that it wouldn't arouse suspicion. But I guess they only had so many hours in which to finish this script.

Snake Mountain, revamped for 2002

Overall Thoughts - There is nothing I can say about this episode that I didn't already say about parts one and two.

Instead, I want to muse about something:

Keldor/Skeletor's sword is interesting. Its a single sword that splits into two. While the overall execution reminds me more of Drizzt Do'Urden than anything Filmation ever made, I still can't help but wonder if the guys at Mike Young Productions might not have had Blackstar on the mind when they wrote these episodes.

At the same time, I'm almost glad that sword gets destroyed in this episode. Skeletor as a badass dual-wielder was kind of silly, but that Havoc Staff is cool and threatening.

Incidentally, excuse me if this liveblog winds up being a little delayed. Today, my replacement set of the 1983 He-Man came in the mail, and not only am I planning to watch that, it also is going to enable me to do something I meant to do from the beginning—Old vs New Characters (with screenshot comparisons), so I'm gonna be prepping that.

Anyway, hope you all are enjoying this so far and stay tuned for the next installment!
 7 BlackWolfe, Fri, 19th Nov '10 2:33:57 PM from Lost in Austin

We have achieved a new standard for awesome.
But soft! What rock through yonder window breaks? It is a brick! And Juliet is out cold.
 8 Moe Dantes, Mon, 22nd Nov '10 3:56:12 PM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Episode 4 - The Courage of Adam

Plot Summary - Skeletor, frustrated, thinks about ways to capture He-Man. Back at the palace, Adam and Teela are enjoying a game until Teela makes a comment about Adam running away from battle (back in The Beginning, Part 2). Adam walks off, butthurt, and complains about his rep to Man-at-Arms, wondering why Adam can't do something heroic every once in awhile. Adam later catches wind that Stratos is going to his home kingdom of Avion to settle a trade dispute. Randor suggests he bring one of the Masters, but Adam volunteers instead.

At first everyone feels good about this, but Skeletor has caught wind of this and knows of Adam's wounded pride. He ambushes Stratos and Adam and captures the latter. Skeletor sends Adam's sword to the palace with a ransom note demanding He-Man come to Snake Mountain. Man-at-Arms and Orko know that isn't possible, so Man-at-Arms hatches a plan where he distracts Skeletor with a fake, robot He-Man while Orko and Cringer sneak in and rescue Adam. Cringer manages this when Orko's magic disguises him as Panthor. He's chased around by a Doomseeker while Teela and the Masters rescue Adam, but Adam and Cringer meet up later and the group tries to leave, only to be trapped by Skeletor and a giant bone-monster he invented. This bone monster takes care of the Masters with just one swoop, missing only Adam and Cringer, who retreat and transform into He-Man and Battle Cat.

Now powered up, He-Man and Battle Cat take on the monster, get batted around for a moment but then He-Man comes up with a clever ploy causing the land around Snake Mountain to crumble beneath the monster's weight. The monster is dissolved in lava, Skeletor retreats, and everyone goes home. In private, Man-at-Arms assures Adam that "He-Man will always be needed."

The moral of the episode is "don't be quick to judge others."

Timestamped Comments - in format mm:ss

1:01 - Skeletor's logic is fuzzy. "The elders disappeared, while He-Man appeared. Obviously, there's a connection!"

1:30 - In this scene, Castle Grayskull has lava around it. Man-at-Arms later confirms the lava is real and not a hologram or anything. Funny thing is we never saw lava around it previously, and all future episodes will depict Castle Grayskull as being surrounded by this bottomless abyss.

2:40 - Oddly, this is the only episode where we see He-Man in training. And why does he need it? In "the Beginning" he came off as an Instant Expert, and aren't all his powers and abilities being granted by the Elders and King Grayskull?

Personally, I always thought it would be better if Prince Adam trained. When he becomes He-Man, he's basically just applying a stat buffer to himself, and as all RPG fans know, if you know how to defeat an enemy with average stats then you should be able to do it twice as well if you have superhuman stats. Granted though, there's an argument to be made that he has abilities as He-Man that he doesn't as Adam, but he can hone those when the time comes.

4:00 - Seems odd to me that Evil-Lyn corrects Skeletor when he misidentifies Adam as "Alan." Why does she care?

7:30 - One thing MYP's He-Man was good about, its continuity and setting up future plot points. This scene foreshadows the plotline for the episode "Sky War."

8:20 - A short gripe, but this is a very inefficient use of screen time. The viewer has already seen the Teela and Adam argument, there is no reason it had to be recapped.

9:30 - 'Kay, nitpick time: Skeletor's plot to capture Adam requires that there's only one path to Avion. Indeed, Stratos himself later confirms that there's a cave you have to go through for it... which is odd when you consider that Adam has a sky sled and Stratos can fly. Can't they just pass over everything and make a beeline to Avion?

15:36 - How exactly did Adam think Cringer was going to give him his sword? He's separated by a cage and on an island in the middle of a lava pool!

19:00 - Skeletor's bone creature here actually reminds me of the monsters Stampede summons in the Bravestarr movie.

Overall Thoughts - Though the episode itself gives me an "eh" reaction, this is when Mike Young Production's He-Man starts to get good. Some things I'd like to praise real quick: the art is beautiful (I love those backgrounds), the whole thing with Cringer being stalked by the Doomseeker is funny, and for once He-Man defeats a monster using a clever strategy as opposed to endless jumping attacks.

Another thing I notice though is that plot-wise this seems to borrow storylines from the old series—Prince Adam being used as bait to lure out He-Man (as well as Man-at-Arms using a He-Man robot as a distraction) were both used in the 1983 episode "Disappearing Act" while Adam's desire to prove himself was explored in "Prince Adam no More." I'm not sure whether to take this as an homage, or just great minds thinking alike (in the commentary for The Beginning, Part 1, head writer Dean Stefan says he knew nothing about Masters of the Universe before coming onto this project, however many of the staff writers such as Larry Ditillio did work on the 1983 series).

Sorry that this installment of the liveblog was rather rushed and I didn't even get to take screencaps, but things have been busy with my life lately. The next installment will be posted sometime this week.

edited 23rd Nov '10 7:57:33 AM by MoeDantes

 9 Moe Dantes, Fri, 26th Nov '10 9:30:25 PM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Episode 5 - Sky War

The principle characters of this week's drama

Plot Summary - There's a trade dispute between the Kingdom of Avion (where Stratos and his race of bird-men come from) and Andrenos (where a race of bee-people called the Andrennids live). Stratos and Buzz-Off are meeting to discuss an alliance, but Buzz-Off doesn't want in. Skeletor hears of this and knows that the Andrennids have a magical honey called Ambrosia, so he stages attacks against the two, each time disguised as members of the opposite force, to set them at war. King Randor gets wind of this and tries to appeal for peace, but Skeletor intercepts this message and turns it into a warning of war instead.

He-Man rushes to the scene where the two armies meet (how he knows where it is, is never explained) while Skeletor raids the Ambrosia mines. Skeletor meets He-Man in battle, seeming to be winning and at the same time, the Avion-Andrennid war has started. However, He-Man has a card up his sleeve: he simply waits for the Ambrosia to wear off and then kicks Skeletor's ass, stops the war and explains what was really going on to the two armies. Afterwards, they become allies.

Timestamped Comments - in format mm:ss

1:08 - "Andrenos! That's where the Andrennids live..." Brilliant observation, Skeletor!

2:51 - Teela's whole role in this series seems to be getting on Adam's case, similar to how Evil-Lyn's whole role seems to be being a bitch. I'm sensing that there wasn't a single female involved in the production of this series.

11:49 - Completely pointless plot recapping? Completely pointless plot recapping!

14:49 - Teela's sure slow on the uptake, isn't she?

16:18 - This, and the standoff following, is what I refer to as "The Great Eternian Stare-Down." (Explanation: Stratos and Buzz-Off both order their men to standby until the opposite army does something, and they don't stop watching even when He-Man and Skeletor are having a very flashy battle right next to them!)

Find this in your local toy aisle! Going price: $5.99

17:15 - Skeletor mentions he's stronger, faster, and better-armed than He-Man. What he forgets to mention is he's more horny

18:18 - Buzz-Off and Stratos are both, officially, idiots. The blast that set them off didn't even come from the same direction as either army and yet both assume the other did it.

20:21 - This snapshot:

What I want to know is, what are those big things?

22:00 - Buzz-Off claims Skeletor depleted the Andrennid's supply of Ambrosia. We see that it only takes a little bit to reap the benefits, so exactly how much did Skeletor eat? (to be fair, he could've destroyed or carted off most of the remainder)

Overall Thoughts - This episode is unintentionally funny for a number of reasons.

First of all, "Buzz-Off." Now, this is the Darker and Edgier re-imagining of He-Man, and we have a character named "Buzz-Off." Understandibly, he's the angry short man of the series. Buzz-Off is kind of an idiot—all it takes is for some mysterious force to attack, for his men to suggest the weakest motive ever, and for a feather to fall out of nowhere and conveniently into his hand for him to be convinced that Stratos is gunning for him. This isn't even accounting for all his pro-isolationism views.

Secondly, "The Great Eternian Stare-Down." That scene is just hilarious the first time you see it.

Sadly the humor value kind of wears thin on the second or third watching, and what you mostly end up with is a pretty boring episode that's filled to the brim with padding. There are many scenes that the editor in me would've cut out, but if I did then there'd only be 14 minutes instead of 23. Another thing that hurts this episode for me is, well, its about Stratos and Buzz-Off, and I don't find either of them to be particularly compelling characters.

Random Thoughts - ... Now, there are a few things I wanted to say a few entries ago, but kept forgetting about. Sorry for the scatterbrained-ness, but I'm in the middle of moving and I sometimes forget the small stuff.

So, thought for this entry is the title, Masters of the Universe.

Originally, the reason behind this title was simple: whoever controlled Castle Grayskull would become the Master of the Universe. While there was some confusion over the years, especially as new story elements were added, this basic concept remained the title's justification. Of course, it didn't really matter because most people call this franchise He-Man rather than its proper title (which is why the 1990s relaunch was called The New Adventures of He-Man).

The 2002 series brings back the Masters of the Universe part and, like it does many things, lamely attempts to justify it—by making it the de-facto name that the heroic forces operate under.

Unintentional hilarity follows, when you hear lines like "Summon the Masters" or "there's Man-at-Arms, leader of the Masters of the Universe" (wow, Man-at-Arms must be a pretty important guy, right?), not to mention just the sheer fact that these guys must be going around, introducing themselves as "Masters of the Universe" to every damn person they meet. Just imagine some bee-guy comes up to you and says "Hey, I'm Buzz-Off, I'm a Master of the Universe!"

On a more serious note, one thing that does kinda bug me is how all the heroic characters are semiofficially part of this team and their entire job seems to be sitting around waiting for Skeletor to attack (despite this episode showing that two of them are leaders of their people). I wonder why Mike Young Productions didn't make them more of an ensemble, sort of a "Stratos will help out if he's in the area but he really has a life outside of fighting Skeletor", which is how it was in the older shows and the original mini-comics.

As you all have guessed, my liveblogging will be slow. As I said, I'm in the middle of moving and that saps a lot of my time and energy, and to be honest when I've got a break, I'd rather watch The Slayers or the 1983 He-Man rather than this show. I'll try to liveblog a new episode at least once a week, but don't hold me to that.

Until next time.
 10 Moe Dantes, Thu, 2nd Dec '10 3:48:21 AM from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Wayback Time!!!

I'm going to take an unscheduled break from our normal liveblog, and instead liveblog something I'll actually enjoy: an episode from the 1983 series of He-Man. By doing so, I hope not only to entertain my readers by giving them something different, but also give a little insight into what I'm thinking re: declaring the 1983 not only the superior series, but also "one of the greatest American cartoons of all time." One advantage of this is that you can follow along—most of the episodes are available on either Youtube or Veoh. Just search for them!

The episode I've chosen for this, is:

Episode 3 (1983 Series) - Disappearing Act

Note - When I call this "Episode 3, " I'm going by the production order, rather than the order its presented on the DV Ds (which in this case would actually make it episode 4). Unfortunately said DV Ds do not conveniently number the episodes for us except by giving us the production #, so that's what I'm going to use any time I liveblog a 1983 episode.

Since the 1983 series has only the barest attempts at continuity though, its not like it matters.

Plot Summary - Skeletor's latest plot involves making a volcano erupt to clear the area around Grayskull. Fortunately, He-Man happens to be in the area and quickly quashes this plan. Frustrated, Skeletor hatches a plot to deal with He-Man once and for all: He's going to use invisibility helmets to sneak into the royal palace, abduct Prince Adam and use him as ransom in exchange for a confrontation with He-Man (one wonders why Skeletor doesn't just attack some peasants or something, but anyway).

Back at the palace, Man-at-Arms convinces Orko to clean his room, while Teela is telling Adam about Man-at-Arms latest doohickey, a beeper that attracts flying creatures. They hear a scream and rush to Orko's room. Orko had tried to use magic to clean his room, but instead just caused random things to disappear. Unfortunately the spell hits Adam's sword and makes it disappear too. Teela laughs about the whole thing, but Adam and Orko are gravely concerned. Then Man-at-Arms warns them that one of Skeletor's vehicles was found near the palace. He and Teela go to prep the guards while Adam wonders what he's gonna do. He doesn't wonder long: Skeletor appears, paralyzes Adam and Orko with a beam and abducts Adam.

Once the beam wears off, Orko fesses up the situation to Man-at-Arms, who has him flayed and quartered (just kidding! He actually just admonishes him—thought I'd throw in some wishful thinking for the Orko-haters out there) and then they go see the Sorceress. The Sorceress explains that Orko has sent Adam's sword back in time, and sends Orko and Cringer through the Time Corridor to prehistoric Eternia to retrieve it. They find it in the hands of a neanderthal giant, try to get it peacefully but ultimately have to pull some literal wool over the giant's eyes and dash back to the Time Corridor with the prize in hand and every beast in pre-Eternia chasing them.

Meanwhile, Adam searches for a way out and happens to find the beeper. He activates it, hoping it'll summon Stratos. It summons some wolf-bats (they're exactly what they sound like) but Stratos does arrive and scares them off, then goes to tell Man-at-Arms where Adam is being held. Armed with this information, Man-at-Arms constructs a He-Man robot as a decoy for Skeletor, and puts his plan into action when Orko and Cringer return with the sword.

The robot decoys Skeletor while Man-at-Arms and co. rescue Adam, and by the time Skeletor figures out the deception Adam has become He-Man and its time for a showdown. Skeletor tries to cheat by going invisible, but He-Man borrows Orko's robe (don't worry—Orko hides behind a bush. this is a family-friendly series!) and lets Skeletor take a whack at him so he'll know where ol' boneface is. He puts the robe on Skeletor then reaches for where the helmet should be, and destroys it. Skeletor then runs for his havoc staff which he dropped earlier in the battle, but before he can use it a gang of wolf-bats come down for some Skele-meat. He-Man had slipped Man-at-Arms beeper on Skeletor when he grabbed the helmet, you see.

Then the heroes have a conversation, and Orko agrees that he will never again use magic to clean his room.

But then, Orko is a sneaky little devil...

Timestamped Comments - like always, in format mm:ss (I actually had a bit of difficulty this time, as all my DVD players and programs wanted to display the time wholistically—IE in relation to the total running time of the disk, as opposed to just the one episode. I found a way around that, though. I won't say what I had to do, but I hope you guys appreciate how much trouble I go through for you)

2:07 - So apparently, you can make volcanoes erupt just by firing lasers at them.

3:44 - I like this scene. Skeletor doesn't have to give a complicated explanation—he just puts on the helmet, says he's invisible, and that's that.

4:17 - I never noticed it before but Orko's room is very effed up. I don't just mean its dirty—I mean if you actually look at it you notice odd details like, the lamp-post that looks like an eye and the fact that his bed is a giant hand!

5:13 - Orko's doing something! Obviously, this is just the sort of thing you'd want a sword handy for!

6:10 - I'd like for people who criticize this show's acting to watch Prince Adam's nervousness at this juncture.

Despite being a prisoner, Adam doesn't seem too worried

11:40 - I kinda like how this scene comes off like its almost taking a jab at this series' ever-present sense of morality. Orko suggests asking the giant nicely, but it doesn't work so he's force to basically steal from the guy.

12:40 - Yes, Man-at-Arms, your He-Man robot perfectly replicates all the most famous stock-footage shots! Skeletor will be fooled completely!

14:07 - Why doesn't Prince Adam ask Stratos to turn off the laser bars while he's there? (Probably because those are the only things keeping him from getting gnawed by wolf-bats)

This is going to be a twist-ending in an M. Night Shyalaman movie one day

20:00 - Now, I gotta complement this battle.

First, its short: it begins at roughly the 17:00 mark and ends at roughly 20:00. Meaning that unlike the ridiculously-padded fights in the 2002 series, this one only lasted like 3-4 minutes.

Secondly, I gotta admire the way both sides fight. Skeletor tries first a straight tackle and then invisibility after being disarmed, and He-Man's counter-strategy of letting himself get hit so he knows where Skeletor is, is just an act of genius. None of this "let's just throw each other into rock walls for ten minutes" crap that you often see in more modern cartoons. Little things like Orko "puking" on Beast Man and He-Man having conveniently slipped the beeper on Skeletor take an already entertaining skirmish and just make it more fantabulously awesome!

Why do people hate this show, again?

Yes, that's right: at one point, Orko's hat pukes on Beast Man

Moral of the Story - Man-at-Arms tells viewers that "like muscle, your brain is something you can exercise to give yourself great power." I know a certain Time Lord who can vouch for that.

Overall Thoughts - I'm gonna tell you straight: I didn't pick this because its a particularly great, stand-out episode that has some innovative element. Actually, I went in thinking that I would compare it to the 2002 episode The Courage of Adam, which has almost the exact same plot... except without the Time Corridor... and the wolf-bats... and the Orko puking...

By the end though, I was thinking what I posted at the end of the timestamped comments: Why do people hate this show? I'm watching what is, for all intents and purposes an average episode of He-Man, and its far more fun and enjoyable than anything animated on TV today.

A part of that is because, just, so much happens in this episode. He-Man stops a volcano, Orko fails to clean his room (with tragic results), Adam gets captured, Orko and Cringer travel back in time, Man-at-Arms makes a He-Man robot, Stratos appears, wolfbats, invisibility helmets, and on top of this managing to fit in little details and bits of characterization like this being the part Cringer likes and here's the part he doesn't like, and all the little blink-and-you'll-miss-it background details, and yet even with all this sheer content crammed into it the story doesn't feel compressed at all—just well-paced.

Again I want to call attention to the exposition scene at the beginning where Skeletor introduces us to his invisibility helmet. This is so efficiently handled—Skeletor just says "I have a helmet that makes me..." he puts it on, and turns "...invisible." I have seen modern cartoons that plod on trying to get this same basic point across, and here the Filmation guys did it in less than ten seconds! I so wish the guys who had written this had written Iron Man 2, the movie that thought it needed a full hour to get across the basic concept that Tony Stark is depressed.

I want to finish with this observation: the scene where Orko blinds the giant by making said giant's hat grow bigger than his head (thus blinding him) is one of those things that I guess might be considered "cheesy" or "corny" by the modern (to borrow a term from Unca Cheeks) hoi palloi. And yet, you can't fault it as a tactic: Orko's whole goal is to get the sword back, and that was the best way to do it. That it also happened to be rather amusing is just a nice bonus. I honestly don't understand why anyone would criticize this. Would you rather he get into a drawn-out laser battle with the creature?

That's it for this special installment of the He-Man liveblog! Next time, I'll return to the 2002 series with the episode "The Deep End."
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