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Animation / Stitch & Ai

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Another new land, another new family, and still no Lilo.
"Huangshan; the most spectacular mountains in the world! My family has lived here for a thousand years—more I bet! The last year has been really hard for us, me and my sister. But then, someone amazing came along and changed everything! My name is Wang Ai Ling, but you can call me Ai! And this is the story of Stitch & Ai."
Wang Ai Ling (Erica Mendez) in the Cold Open of "Hello - Goodbye"

The third TV series and second major Spin-Off in the Lilo & Stitch franchise, Stitch & Ainote  (2017) is Disney's entrance to the Chinese animation market. Produced by Anhui Xinhua Media and Panimation Hwakai Media, this series is similar to the Stitch! anime before it, as Stitch is again separated from Lilo Pelekai and ends up in a different region of Earth. However, unlike the anime, this show had the assistance of American animators (including Lilo & Stitch: The Series executive producer Tony Craig serving as director) and was produced in English first before being dubbed into its local language (Mandarin Chinese).

Set on a timeline that takes place after the events of Leroy & Stitch,note  Stitch is kidnapped from Lilo by a warring alien faction known as the Jaboodies. They want to use him and his power in their space war against a rival faction, the Woolagongs, after hacking data from the United Galactic Federation's data systems about an ability that was programmed into Experiment 626 that makes him even more destructive than what was known before. The Woolagongs themselves hacked into the Jaboodies' systems not long afterward and got the same data. They attacked the Jaboodies' battle cruiser wanting Stitch for themselves, but their attack allowed Stitch to break free and escape back to Earth in the fight.

Upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, he lands in China's Huangshan mountains where he meets Wang Ai Ling, a young Chinese girl who lives with her older sister Jiejie in the mountains. The sisters lost their parents roughly a year prior to the events of this series. They had just been told by the two sisters' snooty, mountain-hating, mysophobe aunt Daiyu that she will move Ai out of the mountains and into the big city, believing Jiejie to be incapable of being Ai's guardian and that the city is not only "cleaner" but also better for Ai's personal growth into a "proper lady". But the mountain-loving sisters are resistant to the idea, especially as their family has lived in the mountains for generations. When Stitch and Ai meet, they quickly bond, with Ai becoming truly happy for the first time since the loss of her parents, and she takes Stitch into her family as her new "pet". From there, the two help each other deal with their problems; Stitch—along with Jumba and Pleakley later on after they are sent by the United Galactic Federation to rescue Stitch, only to stay to keep five eyes on him—helps Ai stay in the mountains, while she helps him ward off the Jaboodies and the Woolagongs, who are still going after him and will not stop until one side gains control of 626 and use him to win the war, as well as help him looking for a shrine in visions he's had since landing on Earth again.

Oh, and as for the experiments that have been featured in the first two shows, Stitch's predecessor "cousins" don't show up this time. However, Jumba gets inspired by what he reads on ancient Chinese scrolls given to him by a wise sage, creating several new experiments based on those found in Chinese Mythology in the process who help Stitch and company on his adventures in the mountains.

The series debuted with the Mandarin dub on CCTV-1 and CCTV-14 on March 27, 2017, running through April 6. It made its English debut on Disney Channel Asia on February 5, 2018, and all episodes of the show aired throughout that month, finishing on the 27th. The series made its American debut on the DisneyNow service on December 1, 2018, with all but the ninth episode ("The Phoenix") released for free viewing for everyone living in the United States, including those without a TV provider. However, it was removed from the service by June 2019. The show also ended up being the shortest-lived TV entry in the Lilo & Stitch franchise, as only one thirteen-episode season was ever produced despite leaving a major lingering plot thread.

And these are the tropes of Stitch & Ai:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: This show makes quite an extensive use of this trope, with some episodes being more blatantly obvious than others. For example, the scene in which Stitch falls to Earth after escaping the space criminals clearly shows him rendered as a CG model as he's falling to the ground.
  • Aliens Speaking English: It's a Lilo & Stitch show. It would be more surprising if it didn't use this trope.
  • Alternate Timeline: At least for the post-Leroy & Stitch continuity; although it was initially believed that it takes place between that film and the Stitch! anime, it was actually produced without any consideration towards the latter work. Thus, this series does not lead into the anime at any given point.
  • Art Shift: Depending on the episode, the animation ranges from computer-animated with quite obvious Adobe Flash/Toon Boom Harmony-style character rigging and motion tweening to hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation with digital ink and paint as with Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
  • Artistic License – Physics: When Stitch appears in front of Ai after reentering Earth's atmosphere, his body slows down and hovers just above the ground in front of her for a few moments before he suddenly regains consciousness and flops down to the ground. He's also surrounded by a blue aura during this time.
  • As You Know: The Grand Council scene in "Gotcha!" has the Grand Councilwoman and Captain Gantu relay information about Stitch to Jumba and Pleakley, not only relaying past moments in the franchise (primarily as depicted in the original film and the "Creation of 626" scene in Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch) but also to provide backstory as to why Stitch is being sought after in this series, especially with the newly-added detail of the metamorphosis program.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In this series, Stitch has the ability to mutate into a Kaiju-like monster when his destructive programming kicks in.
  • Badass in Distress: We first see Stitch held in captivity by space criminals, although he does manage to break free on his own.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: Both the Jaboodies and the Woolagongs like to say that the other side can "suck space gas".
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Despite Stitch escaping both of them, the Jaboodies and the Woolagongs quickly managed to follow him to Huangshan. Throughout the show, it's shown that they know Stitch is living at Ai's house and have sent robots and agents to either spy on him or capture him, although he kept thwarting their efforts until the Jaboodies send the Tetra-Tab to Ai's house and give Stitch a new "brother" in the form of Scratch, who successfully manipulates Stitch into triggering his destructive programming and metamorphosis program.
  • The Cameo: Hämsterviel is briefly shown in the third episode as a prisoner on a volcanic work camp planet breaking rocks. This also counts as Demoted to Extra.
  • Canon Foreigner: All over again! This show introduces not only a new human cast but also new villains from space.
  • Conveniently Empty Building: The monster-sized Stitch causes destruction to a city... that's under construction. Truth in Television; the Chinese government has built and are still building many new cities to this day, several of which are under-occupied.
  • Don't Split Us Up:
    • When Jumba puts Stitch in a containment capsule to take him back to the United Galactic Federation, Ai completely breaks down over the prospect of being separated from Stitch. Jiejie angrily and passionately argues to Jumba and Pleakley that her sister never forgets those she loves and that Stitch should continue living with Ai. Jumba then decides to release Stitch and lets him stay with her. He and Pleakley also stick around to keep an eye on the experiment, of course.
    • Likewise, both Ai and Jiejie do not want to be separated from each other by their aunt Daiyu, who is much less receptive to their pleas. In the second episode alone, it takes Stitch tricking Daiyu into thinking that he's Ai in order to keep the Wang sisters together.
  • Downer Beginning: For both title characters in the first episode:
    • Stitch has been captured by an evil alien faction who plans to use him to win a war against a rival alien faction, who just so happens to also want and use him for the same thing. Although he manages to escape them for now, he still ends up far from his home in Kauaʻi and—as revealed in the sixth episode—also lost much of his memories of his old life there when he re-entered Earth's atmosphere.
    • Ai, who is still affected by the loss of her and her sister's parents the year prior, is about to be forcibly moved by her aunt from her older sister Jiejie and their home in the mountains to live in the city, with Jiejie not even being allowed to visit.
  • Epunymous Title: Ai is pronounced the same as the English letter and pronoun "I", and Ai ends every Cold Open (except for the final episode) with, "And this is the story of Stitch & Ai," to emphasize the point.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Jaboodies and the Woolagongs, two rival factions of space warriors, are fighting over Stitch so either of them can win a war and take over the galaxy. Both of their factions are equal in strength and are locked in a stalemate, and they both want Stitch so they can force him to use his metamorphosis program to destroy their enemies on their behalf.
  • Exploding Calendar: Used in "Dragon Parade" to show the lead-up to the Chinese New Year.
  • Flanderization: After the anime had Stitch speaking increasingly fluent English (in the dub), his speech reverts back to being predominantly Tantalog with somewhat broken and childish-sounding English, even speaking English slower than even his weakest English-speaking moments in Lilo & Stitch: The Series. This is despite the fact that he's clearly been on Earth for a good while before the events of this show, as it takes place around 2016 instead of the early-to-mid 2000s of the four films and first series. Additionally, some of Stitch's prior Character Development is undone (though he's still on the side of good as before) and his temper and misbehavior flares up a bit more.
  • Flashback: This show recalls several moments that happened in past entries of the franchise through this method, reanimated in this show's style. The ones that are shown are based on scenes from Lilo & Stitch, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, and The Origin of Stitch short film.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The show's theme doesn't have any vocals save for a brief moment of male singers saying "Woo!" in the background and a couple(?) female singers lightly singing "Ah!" at the very end.
  • Involuntary Group Split: Lilo and Stitch were involuntarily separated before the events of the show, although we don't see exactly how it started.
  • Left Hanging: Considering that a second season has never been produced, the show ends with Stitch still not having found the shrine he was searching for. The Jaboodies also intend to return now that they know how the Metamorphosis Program works.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: In the final episode, "Monstrosity", the giant Stitch gets shocked by high-voltage power lines during his rampage in a city that was being newly built. Although the electricity causes a moment of pain, it ends up charging him, making him grow even bigger and sprouting new laser-firing tentacles from his back, further increasing his destructive capabilities.
  • MacGuffin Super-Person: Stitch himself is wanted by two warring factions of alien empires because, with the knowledge of his metamorphosis program in mind, they want to use him to win their space war. The United Galactic Federation, on the other hand, wants to retrieve him to prevent that.
  • Market-Based Title: When the show was available for streaming in the United States, DisneyNow promoted the eleventh episode ("Nuo Opera") as "Creatures", likely because most American audiences don't know what a nuo opera is, and it just so happens that a lot of creatures (i.e. experiments) are made during the events of this episode.
  • Mate or Die: A variant not involving death; in "Spirals", Jumba creates a dragon that becomes disobedient. He then realizes that it needs a mate or it will turn evil for a century. Thus, Jumba creates a mate for the dragon.
  • The Men in Black: Cobra Bubbles is observing Stitch and relaying information to the Grand Councilwoman.
  • Mythology Gag: This show really likes to recall past works in the franchise.
  • Name and Name: This time around Stitch is first-billed and the deuteragonist is second, but only in English for the Epunymous Title. The Chinese title also counts but follows in the franchise's tradition of Stitch being second.
  • The New '10s: This series is set during this decade, as Earth smartphones appear in the show. An Exploding Calendar that appears in the episode "Dragon Parade" more or less confirms that the series takes place in 2016 from at least that episode onwards.note 
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands:
    • Stitch's new Kaiju-like destructive mode and the metamorphosis program in this series. Tony Craig relayed this reason to a Lilo & Stitch fan on Facebook as to why Stitch has this new power.
      Tony Craig: Jumba hid the code that turns Stitch into that monster deep within Stitch. It's what he was supposed to turn into when he found a large city to destroy, but his love from Lilo and now from Ai suppressed it so deeply, it was unknown if it could be reactivated beyond the point of no return. Jumba had kept this secret from everyone, even Stitch. There were never any large towns on Kauai, nor up in the Huangshan Mountains, so it was never activated until he was guided to a city and coerced into being subconsciously turned into this creature in our series.
      • The In-Universe justification for the metamorphosis program is that Stitch is apparently "too small" to destroy a city.
    • Subverted in "Tell the World" when Stitch shows that he can grow quills around his head to make himself look scarier. He does this at random when Ai presents her town's shishi for her video, but she says he's not scary and he retracts the quills back into himself.
    • Also subverted in "The Phoenix" when the two alien hunters in the episode trap the titular phoenix near the abandoned shrine that it was looking for and use a weapon to levitate the entire ground the shrine stands on. Stitch, Ai, and Bao use a hang glider to go after them; although the glider carries the three's combined weight just fine, Stitch decides to jump off the glider. As he freefalls, he suddenly grows a patagium between his (upper, non-retractable) arms and hips so he can glide through the air like a flying squirrel. There wasn't any real need for him to do that; the only reason he does this is so he can have a little fun.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Jaboodies and the Woolagongs' fight over Stitch in the first episode causes him to break free and escape them.
  • Non-Standard Character Design:
    • Subverted with the new human and non-experiment alien characters, as they are designed similarly to those seen in the films and Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
    • However, most of the new experiments on this show don't look like traditional experiments for the most part, and the ones that do resemble such have much more complex designs.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In the second episode, Aunt Daiyu says she doesn't believe Ai is getting a proper education at the local school, so Jiejie takes her aunt there to prove her wrong. By the time they arrive, they find Ai standing in the middle of a destroyed classroom and her teacher Mr. Liu dazed and confused (a result of her and Stitch's fight with an alien that possessed Mr. Liu). From there, Daiyu gives Ai an hour to prepare to move to the city.
  • One-Winged Angel: This show introduces a new form of Stitch for when his destructive programming is triggered. He grows into a giant beast with glowing red eyes and four tendril-like appendages that allow him to fire plasma from his body.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: As the show is partly inspired by Chinese Mythology, it features a couple of Chinese dragons created by Jumba based on what he read in ancient scrolls, who soon after give birth to another dragon.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "Teacher's Pet", when Aunt Daiyu decides to move Ai to the city, Stitch takes Ai's place by wearing a red blanket wrapped around him, a baseball cap, and sunglasses to pretend to be her, going with Daiyu on the car ride there and coughing along the way. She does not get concerned about why "Ai" is suddenly wearing such different clothes. When they arrive, Stitch reveals himself, scaring Daiyu enough to cause her to faint, and hitches a ride on a truck to head back to the mountains.
  • Planet Heck: Should Jumba and Pleakley fail to retrieve Stitch, the Grand Councilwoman threatens to send the two to Eternal 12, a volcanic planet serving as a work camp that has devil-like aliens watching over its prisoners.
  • The Power of Friendship: Ai manages to bring Stitch from his giant destructive form to his old self with her friendship towards him.
  • Recursive Creators: In the eleventh episode, "Nuo Opera" (a.k.a. "Creatures" in the United States), Stitch creates eight experiments who are based on creatures found in Chinese Mythology.
  • Revision: The introduction of Stitch's metamorphosis abilities and the giant, beastly destruction form, which was said to be secretly embedded in him all this time, and that Jumba is apparently the leading expert on metamorphosis counts as this.
  • Resized Vocals: When Stitch becomes enormous after his city-destroying mechanism kicks in, his voice gets deeper and more gravelly the more he grows.
  • Retcon: The revision mentioned above also causes this to past works. According to the United Galactic Federation's analysts, Stitch is "too small" to be capable of destroying cities, hence why Jumba programmed the metamorphosis code in Stitch, which makes the experiment capable of destroying entire planets and even star systems. However, the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Short Stuff" directly contradicts this series by showing that Stitch is actually less capable of (intentional) destruction as a giant as he becomes a lot clumsier when he's enlarged (even though Stitch's method of enlargement back then differs from the method seen in this series), and Jumba explicitly tells Stitch with full sincerity that he was "made to operate at peak efficiency only at [his] exact, original [smaller] size".note 
  • Scenery Porn: This show likes to emphasize just how beautiful the Huangshan mountains are.
  • Science Fantasy: Like the Stitch! anime, this show mixes the Lilo & Stitch franchise's brand of science fiction with the local mythology of a region, with Chinese Mythology being implemented this time around. This show tries to be more of a blend of both aspects than the anime did (which took an "aliens meet magical and mythological beings" approach), such as the new experiments Jumba resembling Chinese mythological creatures rather than actually being such creatures (at least, according to Word of God).
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Even though this show features brand-new experiments, none of the previously-seen experiments besides Stitch himself return in this show. Not even fellow major experiments Reuben (625) or Angel (624) appear. Although there were talks of the classic experiments making their return for another season of this series, a second season was never produced.
  • Sequel Series: Number three for the Lilo & Stitch franchise.
  • Short-Runners: Lasted for only thirteen episodes that originally aired in under two weeks, making it by far the shortest-lived series in the Lilo & Stitch franchise.
  • Stealth Sequel: Averted; Lilo is explicitly shown in flashbacks, while Gantu is again with the Galactic Council, quickly establishing this show as taking place after the original Western continuity.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Ai is very similar to Lilo personality-wise. Also, Jiejie is a lot like Nani (although Ai's sister is not quite as stressed out as Lilo's sister), and Dahu (Jiejie's boyfriend) is a lot like David Kawena (Nani's boyfriend).
  • The Teaser: Every episode opens with Ai in voiceover either providing some backstory for her or Stitch, recapping what happened in previous episodes or establishing what's going to be the plot for the current episode. All of them, save the last episode, end with her saying, "And this is the story of Stitch & Ai."
  • Vocal Evolution: Compared to the Stitch! anime, Ben Diskin's Stitch voice is deeper than the one he used before and sounds closer to The Series's Stitch in terms of speech patterns and English fluency.
  • We Will Meet Again: After their defeat in the last episode, the Jaboodies' lead scientist Kolliba makes it clear to Jumba that while they lost the battle, they will come back for Stitch again now that they know how his Metamorphosis Program works. This is unlikely to happen since the show ended without being approved for a second season.
  • Wistful Amnesia: For some reason, hypercognitive Stitch has trouble remembering Lilo, as his memories of his past life with her are only vague, though he clearly remembers Jumba and Pleakley before he even reunited with them. Ai explains in the cold open of "The Lock" that this is because the special qi energy that protected Stitch when he re-entered Earth's atmosphere caused him to lose his memory. This explanation is probably used to establish why Stitch seems to be in no hurry to return to Lilo while (supposedly) trying to avoid betraying the meaning of the ʻohana motto, since he does at least somewhat remember her.
  • You Are Number 6(26): Showing their heartlessness towards Stitch, viewing him as nothing more than a bioweapon who will serve them whether he likes it or not, the Jaboodies and the Woolagongs refer to him as Experiment 626. Stitch, however, makes it clear to them that he identifies himself with the name Lilo gave him, not 626.


Video Example(s):


Galactic Council scene (1/2)

In the third episode "Gotcha!", Dr. Jumba Jookiba and Agent Wendy Pleakley are summoned by the United Galactic Federation's Grand Council regarding the Jaboodies (a faction of reptilian aliens) and the Woolagongs (a faction of platypus-like aliens), who are locked in a space war and going after Experiment 626, Stitch, to use him to win their war. During the council meeting, the Grand Councilwoman goes over Dr. Jumba and Stitch's past history, shown to the viewer with flashbacks of scenes from the first two (chronological) films in the Lilo & Stitch franchise recreated in this show. She also reveals that, apparently, Stitch was actually deemed by the UGF's analysts to be "too small" to destroy a city, hence why they decided to let Stitch live on Earth. But they later found out Jumba has been hiding a dark secret from the UGF all this time about something else he programmed in Stitch called "the Metamorphosis Program". Worse is that the Jaboodies had hacked into the UGF's data system, finding and decrypting the files relating to the program.

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