A friend of mine said that I should be archiving my He-Man reviews somewhere. Clearly my insights into a 30-year-old cartoon need to be preserved for the good of the future!
Enjoy.
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He-Man update.
I know you guys have been waiting on pins and needles for another He-Man review from me-- sorry it's taken so long, I've been busy the past few months, and we don't watch it as often as we used to, because Will needs to watch various Lion King-related cartoons a million times.

We're about halfway through the second season, and I have to say that overall, Season 2, and it's definitely more streamlined than Season 1, with a few episodes that I'd honestly say are actually pretty good, even if not graded on a MotU-curve.

One of my favorites gets into the Sorceress's origin story, which is pretty interesting in and of itself, but the episode also clearly lays the groundwork for the She-Ra series, which they must have been working on at the time. In the episode, a young Sorceress has to gain the powers of Greyskull from an older Sorceress so that she can fight off an alien invasion by a species of creatures that are little dwarven versions of Hordak. It was really weird.
We also see She-Ra's sword displayed in Castle Greyskull.
It kind of feels like they forgot that Skeletor's sword was supposed to be the twin to He-Man's, and then someone said "hey, wouldn't it be cool if there was ANOTHER Power Sword out there??" Yes, it would be cool, and it already is cool, why won't you do something with Skeletor's sword??
But anyway, it's cool to see the effort to laying storytelling seeds in a series that frequently seems very random.

Another good one is the episode where they get into the origin of Queen Marlena as a lost astronaut from Earth. She's actually a real badass. At the end we learn that she actually does know that Adam is He-Man. I guess she cracked that mystery.
The interesting thing there is that it means that it IS possible to figure He-Man's identity out, so anyone who knows them both who can't is probably rather daft. For some people, like Ram-Man, sure, but it still blows my mind that Teela can't figure this out. If I had an assignment to go back in time and work on an episode of He-Man, I would definitely do something that explained that the Sorceress cast a spell on her so that she doesn't know. And the Sorceress would do that, because she doesn't seem to want Teela to know anything.

One of my favorite episodes, is one where Teela is wandering in the woods (actually, it's the closest thing we've seen to her and Adam going on a date), and she falls into the bottomless pit around Castle Greyskull. A couple of interesting things happen, one of which is Adam and Man At Arms inspecting the scene, and kind of hopelessly concluding that she probably died. It's actually really well done, because they don't know what actually happened, but that seems to be the only conclusion. Very messed up.
But it turns out she's fine, she got lucky and landed on a ledge, but broke her leg and and couldn't climb out.
But the really interesting thing is that at one point in the episode, Adam transforms into He-Man, and we see the transformation sequence that we always see, complete with Greyskull in the background.
But then, they cut back to Teela in the pit, and we see her at ground zero of all that magical lightning shooting up over the castle. It's a really cool concept, and a cool bit of world exploring.
I guess this means that every time He-Man transforms, that shot of Greyskull isn't just a visual effect, but the castle actually gets enveloped in lightning? But, we've seen other scenes where characters have been at Greyskull while He-Man transformed, and they never commented on that...
Shut up, just let it be cool!

Skeletor is a mixed bag in this season so far. There are some episodes where he seems just as useless as his henchmen, and that's always disappointing and damages his credibility. He-Man, as a series, is really only as exciting as Skeletor is threatening.
When he's on, though, he's freakin' on. One of my favorite parts about Skeletor is his absolute dedication to the cause of Evil. To him, evil is it's own reward. I think my favorite demonstration of this so far is an episode where some other bad guy has captured He-Man and friends, but this particular villain has a grudge against Evil-Lyn (because she turned him into a giant slug in season 1), so he offers Skeletor a trade. The captured good guys for Lyn. Of course Skeletor accepts, and Evil-Lyn is like "oh hell no!" but Skeletor, weasel that he is, convinces her that he's just going to pretend to go along with the trade, and then set her free at the last minute. She reluctantly goes along, but then while the trade is underway, decides that she can't actually trust Skeletor, so she bails. Smart move!
Anyway, it was just a couple of fun character moments, but that's what makes some of these characters so great.

The good episodes of the second season are good, but the bad ones are just painfully boring. They're too formulaic without any real inspiration or anything that the writer seemed particularly interested in, and don't give the animators an excuse to come up with anything visually interesting to draw, or the ones where they are a bit too much like a big moral lesson, and don't really try to explore anything other than the one point.
And please, please no more episodes of Orko or Cringer feeling sorry for themselves!

There's this one episode that is everything that's great and disappointing about the series at the same time. It's this one where there's an alien presence which is a big ball of light named Olm or something, observing Eternia. The presence is a clear stand-in for God, so it feels quite epic. While the people of the city of Eternia are gathering and preparing a celebration to welcome Olm, Skeletor uses their distraction as an opportunity to launch a full-scale attack. It's the biggest attack we've ever seen Skeletor do, and they use all their animation of various tanks and aircraft and robot warriors attacking to pull this off. Then Eternia gathers their forces to defend the city, and it's equally as impressive.
And even though it's tons of stock animation reused over and over again, it's actually pretty cool and dramatic. I could watch a lot more episodes like this one, and actually it was kind of like a Robotech space battle (and I know you Robotech fans are going to curse me for making that comparison, but let's be honest, those battles are just three or four animated sequences played over and over again).

So anyway, when Olm gets there, he sees the planet at war, and freezes everyone in place, and decides that, to prevent further destruction, he's going to take the best fighter from each side and have them square off one on one.
So of course he picks He-Man and Skeletor.
At this point I'm at the edge of my seat because there hasn't been a He-Man episode like this before. It's dramatic, it's exciting, the stakes are high as hell, and I'm ready for this show-down.
But then... It's the lamest showdown. It's so lame. So, so lame.
It's just the same thing over and over as Skeletor tries to zap He-Man, He-man deflects the blast, and something else gets hit. The thing that makes the fight fail so badly is because the animation is just recycled too many times. TToo repetitive, and there's very little visual variety. Normally, even if they're going to use the same animation, they have other characters to cut to to keep things looking fresh. Not the case in a one-on-one fight.
Also, the other problem is that we've seen better He-Man/Skeletor fights! Even if they only had the budget to reuse stuff they've already drawn, they had the animation lying around to do something better! This could have been the definitive battle between them, but in the end it was just disappointing.
After I've watched it all, I should do a list of the top He-Man vs Skeletor fights. I'm a bit worried that the best is behind me, though, because earlier in the first season Skeletor used much more random and interesting powers. At this point he's pretty streamlined to the same couple of generic magical blasts form his Havoc Staff.

Anyway, I mentioned in a previous post that I didn't think the first season seemed like it was the half-hour toy-commercial that the series has a reputation as being, but the second season definitely does. Lots more characters and vehicles and stuff in this season. I think that's mostly to the series benefit, because it's generally cooler when He-Man has more friends to team up with, and more enemies to face off against, but... but then there's the Dragon Walker. This stupid vehicle that Man-At-Arms loves to roll out on occasion, which is the most impractical thing I've ever seen. A fun toy for sure, but, man, I really wish they'd just used the design and given it a new method of actually moving around. Seriously, find a gif of this thing, it's dumb, and Man-At-Arms's judgement is forever suspect because of it.

If I time it right, when I'm done with this season I'll be ready to dive into She-Ra with a certain little girl....

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