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So Season One, I'd have to say it was pretty much perfect. It introduced all the character effectively, gave each a little back story and features to make them stand out from each other, there's even a little character development (except for Jaden, but I'll get to that), The story proceeds along in a linear fashion, all the characters contribute towards the result and get a day in the limelight. There is an even balance between slice of life and the end of the world (yet again). At the close most of the loose ends get tied up but leaving threads into later plots and there is a great capstone with a rather cool boss battle.
What takes this season beyond generic is the awareness of just how silly a concept they are dealing with and how cliché the whole genre is. Several elements are strait up parody's (the scene of Sho going off on one about how they could be re-incarnated Egyptians and Jaden pointing out how dumb that is, priceless). Several characters de-construct these clichés (Chazz being the big one this season) others play them totally strait with a knowing relish of just how unrealistic they are (Jaden Unchanging Idiot Hero: dependable, intelligent and dedicated as an alcoholic step-dad, still comes out on top and is treated as captain charming and wonderful).
Over all a refreshing watch that slips a knowing wink to the big kids.
The start of season three is pretty good. We get Jesse, a fabulous, more well rounded and developed Jaden. They also bring in two offensive stereotypes, African child soldier Axel and Jim: Crocodile Dundee with a Crocodile Glued to his back(?).
A series of villains kill each other for an evil hand that sucks the school to planet Arrakis, periphery characters actually do something useful, The story is kept simple and tensions are charged, almost as if they learned from season two leaving us with a satisfying well rounded story. AS IF!
Jesse gets sucked into hell and Jaden goes off to save him, his friends override his objections and invite themselves along. They they proceed to Whine, Complain and try to slow Jaden down as much as they can. Its like the chief writers wife left him and that bitchy caricature men present to each other seeped into all the cast erasing their characters.
Finally Jaden is tricked into playing a rigged game that kills his friends. At this point the writing staff want you to believe that Jaden is a total D-bag, unfortunately instead his 'friends' come off as a bunch of selfish dicks who act like Jaden is their personal servant and that their entitled to wander into danger and Jaden is obligated to save them ("You knew we wouldn't listen to you and come anyway, its your fault").
So they try to gloss over the forced plot point and the fact that they made all his friends seem like really bad people by...carrying on as if the characters behaviour was justified because Jadens evil now. So they do the redemption dance, bring Zane's story to an end (this is done well), force in an Exodia Cameo and finally decided to meet the Villain. Yubel.
I like Yubel, I think it was pretty ballsy to put a hermaphroditic eldritch abomination with a crush on the main character in as the main villain, the whole SPACEALENZ! angle was unnecessary, so was the sudden out of nowhere reincarnation back story, if anything it distracted from the emotion of the fight which was strongest part of the scene.
If you cut out the middle this season was respectable, but the forced turn to darkness totally alienated me from the story and almost stopped me from watching season four, there was a lot of rubbish shoved in for no reason and the season would have benefited from being shorter and more focused. A lot of good ideas with terrible execution.
So after the broken Aesop in season three Jaden is (understandably) distanced from this 'friends', they do a good job playing the awkwardness of the interactions, I was impressed how they showed Jaden had become this alien demigod entity through performance as opposed to special effects.
The start of the season is mostly closing the sub-plots, I like the end of sho's journey (but why bring back Zane? He already had a decent resolution and a good death scene), It resolves everyone's stories but also shows that everyone has a life after the plot which is good writing. The reconciliation between Jaden and his friends is also handled well, they come to realise they've been treating him unfairly and they need to grow up and face grim reality like he has, but also Jaden realises that he has been ignoring their abilities and taking them for granted. Its left on a bitter sweet note that things can never be the same but in spite of everything they still care. This is prime stuff, not sugary and unrealistic but still heart warming.
Then the harbinger of the plot arrives, agent Smith from Matrix Revolutions in bondage gear. They play the reference up to the hilt and he will be your faceless undying mook for the evening.
Now Season three was trying to be Dark, but it takes more then joining Gwar and dating a hermaphrodite to be dark. This time the main plot is Grimdark: horrific flashbacks, tragic back stories, dark dimensions of suffering and death trap buildings that explode. Then the writers get bored of the villain being faceless hoards that are slowly consuming the world (which was a nice change TBH from the card carrying villains) and play plot thread reborn to use a subplot extra as place holder for people to boo at so they can save the boss for later.
In the end the bad guys nearly win and Jaden is forced to play a card game against skeletal winged Baphomet (Yes its as awesome as it sounds).
I like this season, people get lost with the philosophical edge to the plot but if you've been paying attention it all makes sense: The universe was created by the playing of a card, The normal world is its face up active state, the darkness world its face down inactive state (the opposite of life isn't death, its existence without change). Cards are given power by peoples belief in them, when they lose faith that belief flows into the dark world.
The Plot dithers around at the start so they can introduce Aster Phoenix (a polymerization of Yugi and Seto) and undermine Chazz's credibility for a bit (why?), while this is not too painful as they do some more slice of life stuff to break it up it does seem a tad unnecessary and gives the season bottom heavy pacing.
They also introduce a new character, Hassleberry. He's part dinosaur after having a fossil jammed in his leg during an emergency operation. The magic cards are explained, this is never explored and sticks out like a plot tumour. Other than this he's a likeable dynamic character who drives the story forward when Jaden's otherwise busy.
So with that out of the way the story finally steams forward, The Society of Light stuff is great, they did the black pointy hooded cult of chanting every one does in season one, the brainwash cult of evangelical happy clappy and bright colours is a refreshingly different and disturbingly real take on the concept and works well. Everyone gets sucked in and becomes their antithesis leaving Jaden, Sho and Hassleberry as the only survivors. This is played well and is believably done.
The first of the two problems that will haunt the rest of the seasons starts here: The only person who can achieve anything ever is Jaden. Hassleberry is useful for the rest of this season only, but everyone else sits around waiting for Jaden or failing horribly when they try. Jaden ceases to be the ace of a team of hero's and become the janitor and nanny for the whole universe.
Then finally the villain Satorius, Satorius is introduced early and starts as an interesting villain who can see the future and believes it is his destiny to destroy the world and seems genuinely upset at the actions he believes he must take. This is all great stuff and makes for a great villain with lots of sympathy and conflict. However they can't wait to to ruin it with long standing problem two:
SPACE ALIENZ! You know that nuanced character you were building, well now he's just possessed by an evil alien, enjoy your boring villain. You know your deck Jaden, it now has aliens in it, enjoy your ham-fisted acid sequence as you collect the cards from deepspace or monster world (maybe?).
But really, this season is worth your time, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it, it just could of done with a tweaking here and there.
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