MP (militarypenguin) wrote,

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Aladdin: The Animated Series capsule reviews (episodes 11-20)

Episode 11 - Some Enchanted Genie
Summary: A new genie named Eden is summoned and Genie is immediately taken with her. Meanwhile, Abis Mal tries to find a way to summon his own genie.

Review: We finally get an explanation for why Genie still hangs inside the lamp even after being freed! Granted, it’s one I was able to figure out for myself beforehand (out of comfort and it essentially being his house), but the confirmation here was nice. Now they just need to explain why he still has the armbands.

Eden is fantastic. She’s funny, her references to modern culture are well-timed and integrated smoothly, she’s smart and wise enough to have awareness of her surroundings and the people who occupy it, she’s…actually far closer in characterization to Genie in the first movie than Genie himself is.

I don’t dislike Genie in this series, but while the rest of the cast resembles their original film counterparts most of the time, Genie seems like an almost entirely different character. It does somewhat work in his favor in this episode to prevent him and Eden from being too similar, but there’s ways of accomplishing that without discarding what defined him in the first film. Genie becomes particularly exhausting to watch in this episode; his romantic rendezvous with Eden is cute, but once Eden is summoned to grant a wish (with the promise of returning to him soon), he begins jumping to conclusions and won’t stop. It has little purpose to serve the episode other than to pad out its running time; Genie doesn’t even learn a lesson or apologize to Eden for his hasty judgments.

Still, Eden is great, and the final wish she granted was incredibly heartwarming. I just hope the next time she shows up she won’t have to get roped into another web of misunderstanding caused by Genie’s refusal to sit down and think.

Grade: B-

Episode 12 - Web of Fear
Summary: When a portion of Agrabah caves in, the citizens suspect it may be the doing of giant spiders called the Unkbuut.

Review: An interesting idea full of potential that’s unfortunately drowned out by a haphazardly-slapped together plot. No, I’m not talking about the Unkbuut, I’m talking about Aladdin’s deep-seated phobia of them. It was really unusual and neat to see a hero of Aladdin’s caliber–brave, adventurous, take-charge, the ideal action hero for kids to look up to–actually pass out from fear. It’s not something that’s gone unnoticed by the show, either; Aladdin is laughed at by the citizens for it, and Genie expresses befuddlement that out of all the monsters they’ve faced, these are the ones that cause Aladdin to lose his composure entirely. I don’t expect deep character exploration from a show like Aladdin, but it would have been interesting to see more of his perspective. I also had a hard time believing he’d shrug off the citizens’ laughter and swallow his pride so easily, and it would have made for interesting conflict to see Aladdin struggle with both his insecurity over his phobia and acceptance of it, while learning and acknowledging that the Unkbuut aren’t harmful.

The rest of the episode is pretty “eh.” As stated before, it’s a very haphazardly-thrown together plot, and many of the answers to questions feel like the writers just drew them out of a hat. (What are the Unkbuut carrying in their cocoons? Why, potatoes, of course!) I continue to be pleased that the writers don’t shoehorn Jasmine’s role into that of a passive damsel, and instead allow her to be proactive even in moments of capture, showing her skills and wit as a leader and a good person. Even with the good the episode has to offer, however, it’s still not enough to give the episode much of a recommendation.

Grade: C

Episode 13 - Mudder’s Day
Summary: I don’t have a lot to say about this one, it’s a bit unremarkable. Genie, while always varying in usefulness, is particularly headache-inducingly useless in this episode, and while there’s some fun sense of danger when the gang is captured to be eaten, it’s short-lived. It’s always good to see an episode where Aladdin uses his more cunning side to save the day, but otherwise, this one’s extremely passable.

Grade: C

Episode 14 - Plunder the Sea
Summary: Determined to prove his worth as a hardcore hero, Aladdin joins the esteemed Captain al-Brutos to retrieve the Sultan’s treasure from the bottom of the sea.

Review: I’ve now seen my fair share of good and bad Aladdin episodes, and while I had good and not-so-good things to say about them, I’m happy to say this one is consistently fantastic from beginning to end. It’s a good old adventure on the high seas with funny dialogue, beautiful animation, great dynamics between the characters, a fun new character, and a bit of a lesson on heroism that’s both weaved into the plot and delivered subtly.

The biggest highlight of the episode, however, is Aladdin himself. This is, far and way, the best-written Aladdin’s been on the show so far, and certainly the closest to resembling his original film characterization. He shows a grand range of emotion that he usually isn’t granted: arrogance, insecurity, fearfulness, disgust, sarcasm–oh good lord, Aladdin delivers some wonderfully sarcastic lines in this episode. He’s allowed his heroic moments as well as his foolish failures that have made us all come to love and root for the character to begin with. I wish, desperately, that this was the Aladdin in the below-average episodes.

Until a better or equally good episode comes along, this is my gold standard Aladdin episode.

Grade: A+

Episode 15 - Strike Up the Sand
Summary: A fellow street urchin named Sadira falls in love with Aladdin when he saves her from being caught by the guards. She stumbles upon an amulet of great power and a scroll full of spells, and comes up with a plan to make Aladdin hers.

Review: I don’t remember seeing any episodes featuring Sadira when watching the series as a kid, so I was excited to meet her. I loved her rugged look and bushy hair; she looked like she’d be a perfect addition to Aladdin’s recurring cast members.

So how did she turn out for me? Well…not the way I expected, that’s for sure. Things certainly escalate quickly when she runs into Aladdin, becomes attracted to him, becomes enamored with him, and then becomes outright obsessed with him to the point of possession, all with in the span of…what, three minutes? It’s a lot to swallow, especially when we know nothing about Sadira herself apart from being a thief. What’s her life outside of thievery like? Is it really lonely? Does she have no friends? Does she have friends, but none that truly love or appreciate her? Future episodes may answer that question, but for now, she’s an odd duck that I’m not sure what to make of.

The episode itself is a bit of an odd duck as well. Jasmine suddenly wants to dress up Aladdin, even though he has formal clothing at the palace and Jasmine’s made it clear in the past that she wants Aladdin the street urchin, not Aladdin the royal. Again, if we were given some context–though I’m honestly not sure what context would get Jasmine so eager to play dress-up with Aladdin (maybe to tease him)–it’d feel less out of the blue…but it ends up being a storyline that’s left unresolved. Was it to contrast Jasmine from Sadira, as though their characters aren’t different enough as is? Tempt Aladdin to go for a girl more similar to him? Didn’t buy it.

Grade: C+

Episode 16 - I Never Mechanism I Didn’t Like
Summary: Mechanikles sends a robot as a gift to the Sultan under an anonymous alias, and uses it to hypnotize the Aladdin gang into doing its bidding.

Review: The most interesting thing to discuss about this would be the many hypnotism fetishes it more than likely awoke in young viewers, which I guess speaks in volumes for how uninteresting the actual episode is. I’d give the episode praise for letting Genie be useful in a non-deus ex machina-way, but that’s really something that should be the norm for the series, not the rarity.

Grade: D+

Episode 17 - Fowl Weather
Summary: Iago seduces the controller of the weather, Thundra, while the Aladdin gang steals one of her clouds to help Agrabah’s drought.

Review: Like the first episode of the series, it’s watchable, and that’s mostly it. The Iago side of the Thundra-Iago fake-romance-turned-real is pretty hurriedly rushed in at the last minute, and I still wasn’t convinced Iago was into her in the end. Nothing really indicated Iago’s attraction to her prior to the betrayal–there wasn’t a moment during Iago’s fake flirtation that it suddenly appeared genuine, the kiss was done in as a last-resort when his smooth-talking had fallen flat, and Iago was utterly eager to return to Agrabah when Genie arrived to break up their rendezvous. I can’t say there’s a surefire way of making me sold on the idea of Iago in a romantic relationship, but when the only emotion that brought Iago back to Thundra was guilt, there’s a lot to be worked on.

Grade: C

Episode 18 - Forget Me Lots
Summary: Aladdin has forgotten about the anniversary of his and Jasmine’s first date, and thanks to an enchanted blue flower, Jasmine has now forgotten who she is. Abis Mal takes advantage of this and uses her to gain control of the throne.

Review: Well, I was looking forward to this one for entirely self-indulgent reasons…and I enjoyed it for entirely self-indulgent reasons. I don’t want these reviews to tread too much into the ages 18 and up-only territory, but I’ll leave you that as a hint as to what I mean by “self-indulgent.”

I usually wince at “boyfriend has forgotten about the anniversary, girlfriend is upset” plots, but this was, surprisingly, one of the better-handled ones. For one thing, Jasmine isn’t mad or even upset that Aladdin’s forgotten about their anniversary. She’s a bit morose about it, because it was a time that meant a lot to her, but she wants to give him a chance to remember through his own memory and what made it special, rather than just drop the date on him. That she’s certain he’ll remember hints at how deep their relationship runs, and this is mirrored by Aladdin’s words and genuine memory being the thing that gets through to her.

Still, as fun as “evil” Jasmine was, and as much of a thrill as it was to see her easily outmatch Aladdin, it felt like another interesting idea that wasn’t explored to its fullest potential. It’s a hard to pinpoint how so in ways that aren’t as simultaneously general and vague as “the writing wasn’t strong enough.” Maybe my reasons are entirely self-indulgent on this front, too.

Grade: B-

Episode 19 - Scare Necessities
Summary: Iago and Abu find a creature in a box that, when scared, grants the wish of its scarer.

Review: It’s a mess. It’s a messy mess of an episode. Even when compared to other messier episodes, this one feels so bizarrely incomplete, so confused, and so unsure of what story it’s trying to tell.

Why was Squirt not scared of Iago but always, without fail, scared of Abu? Where were they going with the Iago-Squirt friendship? What purpose did Amid have other than filling up the runtime? How did Iago know that the thing Squirt was afraid of was himself? How did Iago know he’d disappear? Why did Iago want him to disappear? Why did they need to get Jasmine a gift? Aladdin sure wasn’t eager to do it, what gives? Why didn’t Aladdin just get Jasmine that locket? What convinced him Genie’s present was a better idea, or even a good one?

I don’t normally linger on so many of these deals, but it’s just that kind of episode. It’s so pointless that you can’t help but find yourself scavenging for more questions as soon as you’re finished with it, just to get some kind of clarity of what felt really off about it. But then you’re just left with more questions. I may look back on this episode and see that I may have been too harsh on the final grade I gave it (I don’t even hate it, I’m just baffled by its existence), but I’ve lingered enough on this stinker as is. It’s time to move on.

Grade: D-

Episode 20 - Sandswitch
Summary: Sadira uses magic sand to make everyone think she’s the princess of Agrabah and Jasmine is a street rat. Unfortunately for her, the magic doesn’t work on animals, and it’s up to Iago, Abu, and Rajah to get things back to normal before she marries Aladdin.

Review: Sadira’s back, and we still don’t know why she’s so dead-set on getting with Aladdin. The fact that she’s a recurring character possibly hints that we may get an explanation in the future, but for now it’s just kind of puzzling to see the lengths she’ll go to attain her goal. And it’s pretty hilarious, too–she’s an ordinary girl who falls in love with Aladdin, is suddenly able to master powerful magic, and continually tries to break up Aladdin and Jasmine so she can be with him. If this show was written today at a time where creators are becoming acutely aware of their fanbases (many having been a part of fandom themselves), she’d, without a doubt, be an unrecognizable parody of authorial self-insert original characters in fanfiction turned villainous. Regardless of the intent, it’s really funny.

The episode itself is a lot of fun, too. It’s extremely silly, but that’s what it needs to be. I’ve lamented before over episodes of Aladdin that never met the full potential of their idea, but this one did just about everything it could with its premise. The only thing it could have had was, perhaps, show Sadira trying to blend in with the royal lifestyle, but I get that wouldn’t be necessary to the plot.

Jasmine the street urchin is the same fiery, determined girl she was as a princess–in other words, the same girl Aladdin fell in love with, so it’s no wonder that seeing her was enough to break Sadira’s spell. It’s a touching notion that no matter what their circumstances, they really do love each other for who they are. It makes it a good companion episode to “Forget Me Lots,” too, which had a similar love-conquers-all spell-breaking plot behind it.

Grade: B
Tags: aladdin
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