Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Silver Linings

Every dark cloud has a silver lining, they say. This is true as a metaphor for works of fiction when it comes to characters. I find that no matter how bad something seems and no matter how much you dislike it, you'll always find something that you like, enjoy, or even appreciate. It's like Doug Walker has said with every bad work or media having a "heart" to it; a certain character who's enjoyable to watch even when nothing else is. A sort of  "Ham And Cheese" for characters and the roles they play. So I gave thought about which fictional canons that I either care little for or even outright despise and what characters in them do I actually like? Here's what I came up with:

Akame ga Kill: Literally every character except Tatsumi, Najenda, Honest, Syrua, and Champ.

Bakugan: This one is too easy. Alice Gehavich and her alter-ego Masquerade were/was the only unique character/s in this entire series - the only thing about this cliched, merchandise driven, and generic kiddie anime that was in any way original. How strange is it that this mysterious, villainous rival guy who looks like a masked Super Saiyan is actually a sweet, smart, kind, adorable red haired teen girl under some sort of possession? I didn't follow this series but when it was on, I enjoyed both Alice's moments of coolness and Masquerade's villainy, and it was even better when they were revealed to be one and the same...sort of. Alice took a great level in badass over the show's course and it was always great to see her shine. She's not in the series anymore, and it suffers for it.

Ben 10: Ultimate Alien Force: Grandpa Max was always the best part of the original show but he was no longer a regular character on the idiotic and horrendously executed sequel series'. The guy taking over his spot was Kevin Levin, and while he's nowhere near as good as Max and nothing like the original Kevin 11 either, he was one of the most enjoyable characters for a while, whenever he wasn't being paired with Gwen that is. His cynical personality, lovable rogue attitude, amoral behavior, bad boy with a heart of gold image, and hilarious snarks and wisecracks were great for brightening the usually dark and dreary mood of the show. Sadly this was before he got turned into just a brutish dumbass in the later seasons of UA. Some villains like Darkstar, Albedo, Argit, Devoid, Charmcaster, and Aggregor were good for a certain while, but they all suffered from decay.  The one character who is always consistently excellent is Paradox, the witty, wacky, knowledgeable and rather insane time travelling professor who "wanders eternity". The absurd nature of his character, all the things he knows and conceals, and the stupidity of what he can do is always fun to watch and he keeps a great self awareness about himself. His omnipresence means that the him from any time could come in and work with any sort of plot and due to this nature, his character never suffers. Any episode with him in it, even a bad one, is always one worth watching. And last of all, there's RATH!!!

Beyblade: Never liked this anime all that much but it had it's moments and it's good characters.
In the first series, I liked Ray Kon and Mariah because they were likable and had an interesting relationship. In "V-Force" (the only one that was kind of good) I enjoyed the Saint Shields because they were well developed as anti heroes, I enjoyed Hilary because she was amusing and bossed Tyson (whom I despise) around, and I liked Dr Zagart and his son Zeo, the former being the best main villain in the series and the latter being the most tragic character.  In "G Revolution", I only kind of enjoyed the F-Dynasty team and the guys in BEGA due to how ridiculous and stupid they were. I've heard there's a new Beyblade series out, but there looks to be nothing redeemable there.

Bleach: I've already talked about how this over-bloated series sucks the big one, but it has some good characters amongst it's cluttered up cast. Rukia was an awesome character back in the day and (unlike Orihime) worth giving a damn about when she was held prisoner. Uryu Ishida was an incredibly cool, intelligent, yet amusing character. Orihime and Chad were actually really likable characters in the pre-Hueco Mundo days. And that's to say nothing of Urahara and Yoruichi, who are pretty damn cool themselves. Within the Soul Society, I like Momo, Renji, Kyoraku, Rangiku, Yachiru, and Nemu a good deal. I liked Byakuya, Kenpachi, and Mayuri back when they were villains (hate them when they're not!). I liked Aizen and his minions as villains before they got really, really lame. Among the Espada, I liked Coyote Stark, Barragan, Ulquiorra, Grimmjow, and Aaroniero. I also kind of liked Nel, I loved Lilynette Gingerback, and really sort of liked (and pitied) Loly and Menoly, too. And I'm very fond of Riruka, though the series at the point she's in makes it really hard to give a crap. And that's about it. Shame these characters had to go to waste, but that's Tite Kubo for ya.

Code Geass: While I don't hate this series at all, I can't really say that I like it much either. But there are some really good characters to be found in it. The ones who were overall consistent in quality were Lelouch, CC, and Nunnally. Despite the very noticeable flaws in his role in the narrative, I love Lelouch's character. He's a fabulous Magnificent Bastard and a great tragic hero. CC is a fascinating character with an enjoyable, deadpan snarky attitude, a strong will, great intellect, and a sexy design too; she works great as Lelouch's partner. And Nunnally was always a sweet, adorable, but sad character who clearly understood a lot more than she let on. The quality of other characters varied. The characterizations and roles of Kallen and Suzaku were much tighter and more endearing in R1 than in R2, and Princess Euphemia and Mao only ever appeared in R1. Meanwhile, Kaguya, Tianze, Jeremiah, and Schniezel made more of an impact in R2, despite the latter turning into a nuke-happy idiot in the last few episodes. And I sometimes liked Milly, Shirley, and Rivalz of Ashford Academy, but only when the were used for humor. None of the other cast members ever really appealed to me. No, not even Emperor Charles and his stupid design, though his hamminess was always fun to see.

Danny Phantom: The only good guy character I almost consistently liked in this crappy nicktoon was Jazz Fenton, who had a likable personality and surprisingly good character development, and a great voice actress. Danny himself occasionally had his moments, as did Jack Fenton solely due to Rob Paulsen's always amusing voice acting.  Other than that, I liked some of the villains. I liked Skulker and his fixation on hunting his own race, I liked Ember and her punk rock diva-ness, I liked Technus as he grew as a threat and again, Rob Paulsen's voice acting, I liked Valerie when she became a ghost hunting anti-villain, I even liked the one-shot Ghost Writer in the Christmas episode. And I freaking loved Vlad Masters/Plasmius. He had the best characterization and backstory, complex goals, deliciously evil plans, despicable actions, and the wittiest, most well written dialogue that was all sold by Martin Mull's great voice acting in the role. I hated what they did with him in the third season; a villain of his ilk deserved so much better. Maybe if the series ever gets a reboot....

Digimon Frontier: Being the only "bad" Digimon series for a while, this one had more downs than ups. Among the good guys, JP was the most appealing but even he couldn't make up for the annoyances I got from all the rest. However, there was one thing that was really great in this series; the villains. Aside from those awful Royal Knights, this was the best cast of evil Digimon since Adventure.. Cherubimon was scary as fuck and had a dark, unsettling presence whenever he was on screen, quite an accomplishment for what's essentially a giant, celestial bunny rabbit. His underlings, the evil Legendary Warriors, were all fantastic. Grumblemon the brutish, foul tempered neanderthal warrior of earth was great as a Starter Villain and his fights were very enjoyable to watch. Arbormon, warrior of wood, was a big doofus with delusions of grandeur and was probably the funniest villain in this show. Ranamon, warrior of water, was the sole female: a sexy, flighty, immature, and vain bitch who was always so full of herself but her attitude was so lovably nasty and she herself was every bit as cute and pretty as she boasted about being, that she was very endearing to me. Mercurymon, warrior of steel, was a cold, cocky, intellectual, merciless sunovabitch with a very unique looking design and amusing ye olde butchered English way of speaking. Easily the most awesome of them all. Coming close to that was Duskmon, who was incredibly frightening and malicious as a villain that it's a shame he became the...Kouichi that he became. And of course there was Lucemon, the demon lord himself. He got a raw deal in his role in this series, but he made up for that with style, elegance, charisma, and attitude. A prideful narcissist through and through, he believed that putting the Digital World through literal Hell would be in every one's best interest and would make it a "utopia" where all digital beings are denied free thought and free will. He's really just selfish, insane, and pure evil. When his deluded madness and monstrous villainy was great, it really was great.

Digimon Xros Young Hunters: Quite easily the worst Digimon series to ever be made, especially considering the terrific series that it was following. But I did like the returning "Xros Wars" characters, I liked Yuu here even more than I did previously, but the standouts here would have to be the rival hunter trio who served as the regular antagonists. Polite, charismatic rich kid Ryoma, vapid, self absorbed pretty diva girl Airu, and antisocial, manipulative jerkass Ren. They're pretty much the exact same as another terrible trio, Team Rocket in the Johto seasons. Ineffectual, an un-compelling "threat", and not at all well handled in being villains, but their characters are so entertaining, over-the-top, and fun in how true to themselves they are that you can forgive it anyway. I really wish they had been treated better than just being the fodder to this series' non-existent plot that they were overall but heck, I enjoyed them and can only hope their lives went well afterwards. Yes, even Ren's!

Eureka Seven: This is another one where the antagonists steal the show for me. All the characters in the evil Federation's Militia are excellent; Dominic Sorel, Anemone, Captain Jeurgan, and the bold, charismatic, and utterly despicable Lt. Colonel Dewey Novak himself. Never did they fail to make the plot interesting and actually get me engaged in what was going on with them when they appeared.

Gundam Wing: This anime blows, even for a Gundam series, and most of the cast was unlikable and ultimately forgettable. But I did really enjoy Duo Maxwell, the only bishie gundam pilot able to lighten up and have moments of hilarity. I really liked Relena Peacecraft, 'cause she was a really cool, beautiful, well developed heroine who receives unfair and unjustified hate from the Fandumb.
I liked Hilde because she was also a nice, lighthearted character. And Zechs and Treize were badass villains; charismatic, calculating, and vicious. These are the only characters to get any love from me.

Gundam 00: Again, this Gundam series is just rancid and filled with bland, unappealing characters.
I liked Louise and Saji before their character arcs kicked in and they got all dark and angsty, and I kind of liked Sumeragi if only because she was a Misato Katsuragi Expy. But I really enjoyed the villains Ali Al Saachez and the Trinity siblings because even though they're utterly despicable psychos (especially "Prince" Ali), they at least seem aware of how bad they are and don't give a fuck 'cause they enjoy piloting their giant mechs and blowing shit up, which is more than I can say for the self-righteous "heroes" of Celestial Being. Ali played his part as a monstrous villain to perfection and Trinity, while in desperate need of better roles and development, were fun while they lasted.

High School Musical: Here's an easy one: Sharpay and Ryan Evans own these movies! While Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgeons, Corbin Bleu and whathaveyou are all fine young actors, their characters are written like shit. The Evans twins, however, are marvelous creations and Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel play the parts perfectly. While Sharpay seems like your stereotypical blonde, beautiful, but arrogant and mean high school bitch, she's actually just an insecure, starstruck, neurotic, and self-centered drama queen due to being a rich girl with high expectations placed on her. That doesn't make her any less of a haughty, ruthless, conniving bitch, but it does make her more sympathetic and human. Her character gets more humanized and rounded out as the movies in the series progressed, all the way up to getting her own spin-off movie. They did try to make her more unlikable in the second film but that fell flat on almost every level. She's enjoyable in how downright evil she can be and Tisdale plays her with such a charm and lovability that I can't help but get enraptured in her life's drama and enjoy her along with herself. And her twin brother Ryan is also fabulous: sneaky, manipulative, vain, not too bright, and ambiguously gay, he was a constant source of humor when he interacted with anybody. His choices of clothing and silly hats alone made him an endearing character. And he also got character development, stepping out of his sisters' shadow and learning to assert himself as his own person while still keeping everything he loves about his life. The relationship and chemistry between the siblings is really great. They're both ridiculously hammy, over dramatic drama students, both devious schemers, and both each other's best friend. These two are really close: the companionship they share is something I just love and appreciate so much about them. The Evan twins really are the stars of the show and even Disney had to acknowledge that!

Kingdom Hearts: I loved this series...back when it was three games starring Sora, Donald, and Goofy that you could play on the PS2. It's gotten steadily worse sense then. But there are still some things to like in the weaker games, most notably the fun new Disney characters regardless of how unfortunately irrelevant they are to the product overall. When it comes to original characters, however, the Big Bad Master Xehanort is clearly a standout. The plot that has been unfolding is his "saga" and he can be saddled with any sort of convoluted character role or different guise in a stupid, stupid JRPG Kudzu Plot story and yet he himself be so bombastically hammy and endearingly evil through it all that it's hard to stay mad at him. His character, like others, has become progressively more awfully written, poorly handled, and needlessly convoluted but he's just so good at being bad and so...expressive throughout it all, too. When compared to all the other new characters, it's like he came from a different game. Like Xehanort, as an entity, knows he's the Disney villain of the piece and is going to make the most of that even when Disney becomes less of a series staple. The saga baring his name is no good but it bares him name for a reason. He's the heart of these games now, and when he gets finally killed, so will any sort of interest in the series' original storyline as well.

Lilo and Stitch the series: This Disney spin-off series really wasn't a success in terms of character. All the good guys were derailed: Lilo into a preachy, irritating brat, Stitch into an unintelligible mascot creature, Nani into an angry, no-nonsense bitch, Jumba and Pleakly into obnoxious gaywads, David into a totally useless bore, and Myrtle into an insufferable little mean girl with no reason to even be so. Cobra Bubbbles rarely appeared, new characters like Keyone were boring, and most of the experiments were gimmicky and forgettable. But then there were the villains...Captain Gantu, Experiment 625 ("Reuban"), and Dr Jaques von Hamsterveil. While Gantu suffered massively from Badass Decay, his character was so self important, cool, and even likable that I still really liked him and pitied him for his continuous losing streak. 625 was also enjoyable as his snarky, wisecracking, sandwich obsessed sidekick, and the two of them had great interactions like two roommates who got on each others nerves but really did like each other. And as the main villain, Hamsterveil managed to be amusingly irritating due to Jeff Bennett voicing him in an impression of a French taunter from Monty Python and there were times were he actually managed to be a threat, namely in the grand finale movie, "Leroy and Stich". In that movie, all three of these baddies got perfectly fitting endings (Gantu reinstated as a officer of the Galactic Federation, Reuban as his sidekick, and Hamsterviel locked up in a high security prison with all the Leroy clones) and ended as satisfying characters.

Naruto: Same deal as "Bleach". It majorly sucks as a series, even more so than "Bleach", but has some good characters, particularly in the supporting cast.  Naruto himself used to have qualities that made him an endearing protagonist but that changed when he got older. Sakura was a comedically emotional and temperamental bitch but also an enjoyable, interesting, even relatable heroine but like Naruto, that changed when she got older. Kakashi used to be very quirky, amusing, intriguing and badass but now he's just boring sensei! And Sasuke...was never good to start with and instead of getting any better, he only got worse. Among others, I really like Ino, I like Tsunade and Jaraiya, I like Kiba, Hinata, and Shino, I used to like Shikamaru and Choji before they became a Jerkass Jesus and a total idiot, and I just plain love Rock Lee. He's a good boy who works really hard, is hot bloodedly determined, never gives up, and speaks with nice speech patterns. He deserved much better but Kishimoto always screws him over, which I hate. And when it comes to antagonists, none in this series could ever measure up to Gaara of the desert, the creepy sand ninja kid who's really fucking nuts when he breaks lose. Also being scorned in his childhood and being cursed with a demon inside of him, he was Naruto's evil counterpart in every way. I liked his teammates as well. No villain, not even Orochimaru, Kabuto, or any Akatsuki member can top that as an antagonist.

Pokemon: The anime, to be precise. Back in the Johto seasons, the heart of the show on a regular basis was the Team Rocket trio. Even when stuck in a terribly lame, decayed "villainous" role for a formulaic pattern that most episodes ran on, the characters still kept their depth, charm, likability, and wacky sense of humor. It was as if they were self aware enough to know they were stuck in a crappy role but were being true to themselves and making the most of it anyway. When compared to our bland heroes, they were the only characters still having fun with being cartoons. I suspect Takeshi Shudo's guidance had a hand in this because once he left and the show entered Hoenn, Team Rocket lost whatever brains they had and became gag spewing non-entities that were annoying as fuck. Johto also had fun characters like Casey, Gligar Man, Temaku, and all those other members of Team Rocket that never really amounted to anything. In Hoenn, we had May, Max, Drew, and Harley to keep us engaged. Even in the dull dreadfulness of Sinnoh, we had Zoey, Hunter J, and Ursula standing out as good additions. Nando, Conway, and even Barry had their moments too, and in Sinnoh I'd take whatever moments of any sort of entertainment I could get. Oh, and of course, there's the Magikarp salesman, a character who is consistently amusing. Must be the accent...

Sailor Moon Super S:  The second weakest Sailor Moon anime season next to it's following one, "Stars". This one had one single thing that made me keep watching it and even enjoying it. And that thing, again, was the villains. Considering how irritating and disappointing the Death Busters of the previous season were (except for Dr. Tomoe and Hotaru, who rocked), the Dead Moon Circus was a better and much more entertaining force of evil. The whole idea of an evil circus as the main baddies is a fun one and it's made better by the characters that lead it. The ruler of the Dead Moon, Queen Nehalania, was a terrifying, sinister, psychopathic monster of a villain and the ugliness inside of her was reflected in her mirror image, Grand Master Zirconia, who served as acting ringleader to the circus. Zirconia is a nightmarishly hideous, twisted, bitter, and ill tempered old crone who was always fun to watch rule over the big top and bark orders to his/her lackeys. (Zirconia's female in the original version but was strangely made male in the dub, though both versions have very enjoyable voices). The lead henchmen were the Amazon Trio, three animals-turned-transvestite circus performers who were constantly being ordered to find a target with beautiful dreams. The trio were often displeased with their job but had to put up with it because they had no hopes or beautiful dreams of their own - only their predatory animal instincts.  Memorable stuff they did included hanging at the Lemures Cafe for drinks, and trapping their targets with "ONE! TWO! THREE!" before quite literally mind raping them. While terribly inept and mostly nonthreatening as villains, they were quirky and so much fun and received a beautiful send-off. Their replacements, the Amazon Quartet, were four adorable, scantily clad teenage girls with magical colored orbs who were ordered to search specifically for the golden mirror. While not quite as developed characters as the trio, they were actually better villains and also tons of fun to watch due to their sly, mischievous nature, naughty sense of humor and trickery, differing attitudes, and nastiness. They were devious but playfully so. They always wanted to stay young and have fun. These girls were just so sincere and honest about how they presented themselves and just did not give a fuck about others, and that's what made them so lovable and funny. Overall, these villains rocked hard and I could still watch them all day; they made this series.

Scryed: What does it say about a show when it only has three characters that were in any way good? The first of such was obviously Straight Cougar, a crazy, over dramatic, badass motor mouth with the alter power of radical speed. He was awesomeness incarnate whenever he was put into action and had a great dub performance by the almost always great Crispin Freeman. How stupid it was when he died in the end for no reason at all! The second great character was Scheris Adjiani, a cute, sexy, and appealing girl with short blue hair and a positive, upbeat attitude in even the worst of times. She was a very engaging female character with an interesting power and having the dub voice of Lara Jill Miller was just perfect for her. Sadly, she also died a totally meaningless death in the end. Lastly, there was one-shot villain Emergy Maxfell, who was so gleefully smarmy, foppish, childish, and psychopathic and had such an utterly ridiculous alter power (the giant SUPER PINCH CRUSHER robot) that he was one of the most memorable characters in the whole damn show long after he was gone and over with. I'll never think of the word "pinch" the same way again thanks to him.

Smallville: Even when the show got really bad as it dragged on through five extra unneeded seasons, there were characters that made a good impression. Chloe Sullivan stayed as fun, snarky, and lovable as ever in the sixth season before inexplicably getting outed as a meteor freak and succumbing to wangst in the following seasons. The Luthors, as far as I'm concerned, could do no wrong even when they were being ill used. Lionel Luthor was the magnificent bastard, Lex Luthor was a compelling tragic villain who ended up following in his dad's footsteps but even worse, and even Tess Mercer, revealed to be Lex's half sister in the end, was great to watch. She, in particular, got a major shaft in what could be done with her and ended up needlessly dying while at the same time, all of Lex's development got rendered meaningless. Which was STUPID! And oddly enough, I found myself fond of the nerdy and callow young scientist, Emil Hamilton. Something about the way he was played by Alessandro Juliani made him one of the better cast members on the later show.

Toradora: Ami Kawashima, hands down. In a second season where Kitamura had been rendered irrelevant, Minori had turned into a mopey wangsty emo girl, Taiga had become more sympathetic but hardly used in a good way, and Ryuji had become a total twat, good ol' Ami remained the only great character on the whole show. Gorgeous, adorable, snarky, devious, deceptive, manipulative, teasing, and a real jerk at most times but a very complex, layered, well rounded character with lots of personality and attitude, and a true friend when it counted. Ami always had a secret agenda, knew more that she let on, and was subtly pushing things towards the needed outcome. She was really putting others' needs above her own the whole time, even though her motives for doing so were entirely about herself. She was a sympathetic and likable character to the end. You gotta love her.

Twilight: This notoriously craptastic series has...quite a few characters that I like, really. It's like Stephanie Meyer knows how to create interesting characters but rather than spend time developing them, she keeps the focus on the most insipid, shallow, irritating, poorly written, and boring shit in the story instead. Now I actually do like Bella and Edward if I view them in a different light than what Meyer wants of me; I enjoy seeing them not as the "perfect, most romantic couple evar" but as the self centered, pretentious, vain, sociopathic, deeply disturbed and evil characters that they clearly are. It's same as how Doug Walker likes to see them as. In the books it's kind of hard because the narrative makes them so damn insufferable and boring but it's better in the movies, where we get great performances by Kristen Stewart and Robert Patinson, who clearly do not like their roles but are putting their own spin on them, making them more enjoyable to watch. As for the actual good characters, the ones that stand out are Jacob Black, the flawed, hot tempered, but ultimately good hearted wereworlf boy who would make a nice, dependable, supportive, and charming boyfriend for any lucky girl. Charlie Swan, Bella's laid back, responsible, and hard assed father who rightfully grows increasingly more cynical about the stuff his daughter gets herself into. Dr. Carlisle Cullen,
a sparkly vampire who actually makes uses of his immortality and does what he thinks he needs to do, and he seems to have some layers to him that never truly get explored. We're never sure if he's a good man or a bad man at heart: my guess is that he wants to be a good man and believes that he's helping people, when really he's just playing God for some psychological reasons. Rosalie Hale,
a spoiled, frigid bitch of a sparklepire who rightfully detests Bella and has lots of potential for interesting character development that barely ever gets attention. Jasper, who also has potential for complexity in his character and is the closest thing the Cullen family has to a true vampire. Alice, who's kind of annoying but oh so funny and crazy at the same time. Leah Clearwater, a bitter, cyncical, snarky wereworlf girl with an incredibly sad story and sympathetic characterization that Meyer overlooked way too much, but at least she gets a happy ending with Jacob. Her younger brother Seth, who's actually pretty funny. Bella's various schoolmates, who are also pretty funny. And the Volturi, who are just such an interesting and cool concept who, at the same time, are really amusing because they're such a fruity little club that really seems to have nothing better to do with their immortal lives than vampires. These are all characters I wish this misbegotten series had given more attention too, but no, we had to get more of the worst romantic trash ever instead!

W.I.T.C.H: In the comics, I really loved Will Vandom, Cornelia Hale, Hay Lin, Cedric, Elyon, and Phobos.  Will for being such an adorable, lovable, funny, strong willed and interesting tomboy with
a great power, well developed leadership skills, and a character that grew and matured over time. Cornelia for being beautiful, smart, cool, and terribly blunt but with a heart of gold.  Hay Lin for being a cute, upbeat, and hilarious air head.  Cerdic for being an intriguing and enjoyable character even in the wretched Ludmore arc. Elyon also for being a great character, particularly when she was a villain.  And Phobos for being an excellently evil, menacing, stylish and charismatic villain in spite of his lack of threat. In the TV show, I also liked Will and Hay Lin; Will was a little more laid back and dull in the first season but became reasonably more true to her comic book counterpart in the second.
I also really liked Irma Lair, Caleb, Matt, and Narissa on the show. Irma was never all that interesting in the comics but her snarky smartass attitude and playfully naughty behavior was actually pretty fun in the show, not to mention she was more consistently pretty as well. Caleb was also a much more amusing and developed character than his comics counterpart ever was.  Ditto for Matt, who actually developed as a guy worthy of being loved by Will and turning him into Shagon during the second season was a brilliant move.  And Narissa made more of impact here than she did in the comics, chiefly due to how Greg Weissman wrote her as a sinister, power hungry chessmaster with
a layered, tragic characterization.  A shame she didn't get as good a finish as she did in the comics but oh well.  W.I.T.C.H never was or ever will be perfect....

Yu-Gi-Oh GX: There were enjoyable and likable characters here and there in this stupid Yu-Gi-Oh! spin-off show. But the top five best would be Alexis Rhodes, the hot, pragmatic, strategic, and kickass girl duelist of Obelisk Blue, Chazz Princeton, the wannabe bad boy who was often always up to no good and receiving no good in return, the ever enthusiastic, tomboyish Blair Flannigan, another kickass girl duelist who eventually became Alexis' roomie, Lyman Banner, a odd, quirky, whimsical young professor with a deep dark secret and an utterly intriguing character, and the best is probably Dr. Velian Crowler, the stuffy, pompous, effeminate, elitist professor who was always mincing around and trying to screw over the students he considered unworthy, but had a hidden heart of gold deep down and actually got good development, showing that he cared for all the students by the end of the series. His was a hilarious and brilliantly executed character and the one that I most fondly recall.

Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds: An even stupider Yu-Gi-Oh! spin-off show and a boring one as well. The only characters worth writing about here are anyone associated with Rex Goodwin, the scheming and charismatic villain of the first two seasons. Those associated with him are his gay clown minion, his mad scientist, his bodyguard Ushio, his secretary Mina, his mercenary duelist Jack Atlas (who's actually a pretty stupid character but is so over-the-top that I enjoy him regardless) and his wannabe girlfriend, the energetic, intrepid teen reporter Carly Carmine. Any other characters who are not the ones I just mentioned were just wasted potential (Aki, the Dark Signers) or terrible (Yusei, Crow).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pokemon Z

Alright, it's time to talk "Pokemon: XY&Z", which is the name given to the third and final year of the "Pokemon XY" anime. And the question I must ask is that if the XY anime was so, for the most part, painfully dull and atrocious in it's writing, direction, and overall execution, then how did the core part of this Z season turn out so....solid? Hell, I'd even call it pretty damn GOOD. Well after the airing of the 5 part arc climax a few days ago, I pondered it over, and there were at least two conclusions that I came to. Those being that the loss of interest in the anime past the Unova League and the decline in the TV ratings (which Z did NOT save, ironically) forced Tomioka and his writers to finally get off the pot and take things to a more BW-tier level in terms of the evil team plot, the pacing of it, and a tighter continuity between episodes for damage control and a semi-course correct, and that much of what got implemented into the ongoing story arc were payoffs to what was laid out and built up at certain points of XY - in that way, this series' Myth Arc on Mega energy, Z power, and the Kalos Legends was the absolute best thing that the Gen 6 anime gave us, and that includes all that encompassed (the Lumiose City episodes, the Korrina arc, the Strongest Mega Evolution specials, and the Z arc), and it ultimately came together better and more satisfyingly than the Unova Myth Arc did, though there were definite blunders in getting there and managing everything, as I'll detail.

The basic point here is that Z almost redeemed the Gen 6 anime, and had there not been carryovers from XY's lesser days that the writers were still stuck with and the road to the arc climax not had the unpardonably bad, bumpy cutoffs that got taken, it might have stood as one of the Pokemon anime's greatest stories. While not as tightly plotted and continuously flowing in it's ongoing narrative as "Episode N", this arc was very interesting to watch, very grand in scope and exciting in it's action from start to finish. That finish (covering a 5 episode climax and 5 episodes afterwards) is what I'm mainly here to talk about, but I'm going to have to cover all the important lead-in to it first.

It really all started in the Mega Evolution specials with a boy named Alan. Alan was a young aide to Professor Sycamore who set off on a journey with simply a Mega Keystone Ring and a Charizard. His goal? To beat other Mega Pokemon and become the strongest master of Mega Evolution. 

On his journey, Alan met a cheerful but clumsy beginning trainer named Mairin, who decided she'd tag along with him in order to study his training and hopefully learn to master Mega Evolution too.

But Alan wasn't doing this just for Professor Sycamore's research. He'd found himself a friend in  high places who he'd agreed to help out - the man named Lysandre, director of Lysandre Labs.

Alan met Lysandre when he was out hunting for Mega Energy keystones. It was Lysandre who told him that he needed to become the strongest Mega trainer in Kalos in order to protect all that is dear to him, as well as encouraged him to help his company harness Mega Energy for peaceful purposes.

During Alan and Mairin's trip to the Hoenn region, not only did they meet up with region Champion Steven Stone, who also knew how to Mega Evolve his Pokemon, but with Lysandre, who'd tracked 
a large source of Mega Energy in Hoenn and took a flight over there to investigate it personally.

Alan, Mairin, Steven, and Lysandre uncovered the source of the energy signals at a ruins - a giant rock containing the oldest and strongest Mega Energy, known as the Megalith. Unfortunately, Rayquaaza showed up and took the Megalith's power for itself, leading to it Mega Evolving and flying off into space. Before leaving to look into the matter, Lysandre asked Alan to keep Steven close.

After a thrilling conflict between Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre, and Mega Rayquaaza made as an apology for having screwed those Pokemon over in the past, Lysandre Labs procured the Megalith and had it taken back to their Kalos HQ. Alan joined the director there, and told him that almost losing his and Mairin's lives to those Legendaries made him want to train harder to get stronger.

So Lysandre arranged a 10 consecutive battles against Mega Pokemon trainers for Alan to fight. And on the subject of Lysandre, he's of course the villain and remember how I said in "Episode N" that Ghetsis was the weakest link? Lysandre is the total reversal of that. He's a wonderful villain here, even better than his source material counterpart. I'm talking Giovanni-tier awesome villainy, folks!

As Alan fought his way through the mini tournament at Lysandre Labs, his progress was watched by Malva, a member of Kalos' Elite Four, head anchorwoman of the Holo Caster, and Lysandre's associate. She's to be Alan's final opponent, and she finds what Lysandre is having him do amusing.

Before his battle with Malva, Alan was confronted by Mairin again, who wanted to stay and watch his battles before continuing their travels together, but Alan, not wanting to put her in danger anymore, told her that she was unwanted and would only get in the way of his goal, making poor Mairin cry.

In her depression, Mairin told her partner Chespin, nicknamed Chespy, to leave her alone. As Chespy wandered the halls of the labs, he heard  Pokemon's voice calling out to him, asking for help. A small Pokemon known as Zygarde was getting experimented on for it's cells, so Chespy set it free.

But in the process, Chespy was hit by radiation of Z-cell energy, which sent him into a comatose state. He was taken to the labs' medical clinic, with Lysandre telling Mairin that they'd treat his ailment as best as they could, and a devastaed Mairin vowing to stay by his side until he recovers.

Alan overheard everything and felt responsible for these events, feeling furious with himself and desperate to restore Mairin's happiness. Lysandre told him that the best way to do that would be to get stronger, fight more Mega Pokemon trainers, and take their Mega rings so that the energy could be used to speed up Chespy's recovery. Now obsessed in his devotion to Mairin, Alan complied.

Meanwhile, in Anistar City, the Gym Leader Olympia received a vision foretelling future events, and showed her a coming crisis where the fate of the entire Kalos region would be at stake. She saw Kalos being consumed by green flames unless a select few destined individuals were to intervene.

The green flames represented the power of Zygarde, which it turns out there were two of - one of them in the wild and one that escaped Lysandre Labs. So Lysandre called upon his company's special ops team, Team Flare, to track the fleeing Zygarde down to Terminus Cave and retrieve it.

Zygarde, in it's serpentine form, managed to evade Team Flare's clutches before transforming back into it's Core state out in the wild. Where it was found by Bonnie, the little girl from Lumiose City out travelling with her big brother Clemont, Sawyer, Serena, and Ash Ketchum. Bonnie took an instant liking to the strange new Pokemon, naming it "Squishy". But then Squishy wandered off again.

Out on a rocky path, Squishy was found by another Team Flare squad, this one led by Celosia. Remember how lame Team Flare was in the XY games? Not so here! Here they're actually pretty hardcore and mean business, all while remaining hilariously elitist and insane. They tried to take back Squishy only to be fended off by Ash and Sawyer, saving Squishy from their evil clutches!

Back at Lysandre Labs, Team Flare's lead scientist, Dr. Xerosic, along with two other girls named Aliana and Bryrony, were given a report of Mabel and Celosia's failures. Xerosic explained that the two Zygardes, code-named Z1 and Z2, needed to be recaptured so that their secret plans to remake the Kalos region and possibly the entire planet how they see fit can come to sweet fruition.

That night, Bryrony and her squad of Team Flare agents located Squishy and challenged it to a direct fight in order to take it back. Squishy called upon all the Z-cells it had scattered in the area to come together back into it in order to change into it's dog-like 50% form, which beat Team Flare easily.

A data evaluation of Team Flare's encounter with Z1 at 50% power was sent back to the Labs, where Lysandre and Xerosic looked it over. Lysandre suggested biding their time, seeing if Z1's power grew even stronger the longer it was with those kids. In the meantime, Z2 and more cells would suffice.

Shortly into it's stay with the heroes, Squishy started having nightmares about it's power growing uncontainable while both it and it's counterpart are chased around by a flame monster, clearly an allegory for Lysandre. Ash's Pikachu and Team Rocket's Meowth were called into these dreams in order to help Squishy, who in the process revealed that it could communicate in perfect English!

Over at Lysandre Labs, Team Flare decided that a split was needed in order to better accomplish their goals. Mabel and Aliana were to go seek out Z2, while Celosia and Bryrony were to go locate Z1 and gather any of it's Z-cells they could, and keep in contact with Xerosic and Lysandre at HQ.

The first place Team Flare thought to look for Z1's cells was Terminus Cave, because they knew that was a location it had been at before. As coincidence would have it, it was where Ash's group carrying the actual Z1 was headed too, but the girls in charge were too busy bickering to notice this at first.

But it wasn't just Team Flare and the twerps who made it to the cave -Team Rocket showed up too! And in the most shocking plot twist in this arc yet, they were actually looking and acting like the real Team Rocket instead of the expired, decaying shells of their former selves these characters usually are in this series! They even get some funny moments with the equally silly and crazy Flare girls!

In the fight that ensued between Team Flare and the good guys (with Team Rocket just being kind of there waiting to take advantage if they can), Squishy gathered up it's cells to reveal it's stronger form and true power. The collision of powers resulted in a near-cave in that all sides had to flee from!

Outside in the mountains, Bryrony and Celosia were griping about their failure when they got called out by Team Rocket, who called on a gang feud to determine which team would claim Zygarde's power and conquer the Kalos region first before jumping off a slope a long ways down.

After fleeing from Terminus Cave, Squishy had gone missing and Team Flare was still in pursuit. Bonnie, who'd bonded very closely with the tiny powerhouse Pokemon, was overcome with fear, worry, and sadness over what might befall her friend, and Clemont did his best to give her comfort.

Squishy eventually found it's way back to the heroes, but not before Team Flare monitored it's progress and the wavering strength of it's cells, reporting this all back to Bryrony and Celosia. Having done their part, Team Flare fell back and returned to biding their time until their next move.

Employees of Lysandre Labs were also on the lookout for Z-cells and whatever other great sources of Mega Energy they could get their hands on. This included Alan, who was now helping Team Flare in their operations, not knowing their true evil intentions. Can we say "Natural Harmonia Gropius?"

After a brief first meeting with Ash and co., Alan made a call to Lysandre detailing the progress he's made in gaining more experience fighting stronger opponents and gathering more energy for the company. He also asked about Mairin and Chespy, who Lysandre assured him were doing alright.

Unbeknownst to Alan, Lysandre also made a call to Xerosic, who was doing a test run with a newly manufactured weapon - a cannon that runs on energy from Z-cells. Using all the cells Team Flare had managed to gather, Xerosic fired the camnon at a barren island, which soon saw rapid plant growth.

Meanwhile, Alan and Ash had their first battle, with Alan becoming Ash's "strongest rival." Uh oh!

Elsewhere, Aliana and Mabel's squad was pursuing Z2, which coincidentally ran into Team Rocket, who took it upon themselves to shield it from Team Flare when they showed up to capture it. Still feeling like themselves, TR put up a great fight against the Flare grunts, with a badass new theme song playing for them in the background. But it seemed like Aliana and Mabel had the bigger guns.

Just then, Z2 transformed into it's serpent form and was able to fend off it's attackers. It seemed like Team Flare was beaten until who should show up but Alan? With his Mega Charizard X, Alan beat down Z2 and helped Team Flare force it into a capture box. TR made one last valiant effort to free Z2 by lunging at Aliana and Mabel and their Pokemon...who, alas, sent them blasting off again.

Not wanting to feel beaten, the TRio made a call to Giovanni detailing everything about their run-in with "Team Glasses" and the power of Zygarde. Giovanni game them full permission to keep fighting their new rivals, stop them from claiming the Kalos region, and take Zygarde's power for themselves!

Meanwhile, Z2 was brought to Lysandre Labs, where Lysandre hoped to make very great use of it...

Later on, Xeorsic and his science team started running tests on Z2 in order to strengthen it's cells 
and study the flow of it's energy. Soon enough, the extraction of it's cells for the cannon would begin.

All while Alan was out travelling, blissfully unaware of the pain he'd caused. After a second meeting with Ash and another battle with him and his (ugh) Ash-Greninja, Alan called Mairin at the labs and saw she was doing okay and smiling again, albeit still a bit worried about Chespy. Because of this, Alan decided that he was now interested in facing Ash at the Kalos League Tournament. ...What?

Elsewhere, an Officer Jenny and her police force were investigating the sudden overgrowth in wild plant life that had been overtaking certain areas in Kalos. The cause of this was, of course, Xerosic and his new Z-Camnon, which he and his Flare flunkies were powering with more of Z2's Z-Cells.

Back at Lysandre Labs, Lysandre was keeping a close eye on Z2 as more of it's cells were extracted for the Z-Cannon. He promised the captive Pokemon that soon the experiments to raise it's power to the maximum would commence, giving a wicked smile as he did. Might as well take pleasure in this!

Z1 and Z2 have shared a mental link this whole time, so even as Z2 is enduring torturous tests done with Mega Energy to boost it's power and extract more cells, it shares a talk with Squishy where it expresses how little faith it has in humans and their ability to solve any of the planet's problems. Squishy, who has been travelling with humans, chooses to be more optimistic and has faith in them.

Finally, Z2's power is almost at the peak of it's strength. Lysandre is most pleased. The last helping of energy needed will be found in Lumiose City - at the Kalos League Tournament. OH. SHIT.

And this brings us to now, as the League draws to a close and the climax of the Z arc unfolds:

The League Stadium at Lumiose City is packed as Ash and Alan have advanced to the final round!

And look who's come to watch Alan in the deciding match? It's Mairin, still as adorkable as ever!

The news of Mairin's arrival shakes Alan - he worries she might be an impediment on his progress.

That is, until Malva reminds him that Mairin is not his weakness but his reason for fighting!

Boss Ass Bitch Malva also has got TR working for her as her camera and newscaster crew.

Lysandre's the one who brought Mairin here. He and his admins meet with the League President.

The business meeting is briefly interrupted when Lysandre gets a holo-call from Xeorsic. The albino scientist and his Flare cronies are at the Lumiose Prism Tower, delivering a certain something there.

At evening, Lysandre meets Ash and expresses an interest in the power of his (UGH) Ash-Greninja.

While elsewhere, Alan talks to Professor Sycamore and apologizes for having lost sight of his goals.

And as the night events come to a close, Lysandre gazes out at the Prism Tower. What's he up to?

The next day is the deciding match of the Kalos League - Ash Vs Alan! Who will take the title of Kalos League Champion and become a Pokemon Master? Spoilers: it's not Ash, and this is the battle that made everyone realize that if he can't win after reaching the finals, he'll never win, period.

After that bullshit is over, Xerosic says the Z-Cannon inside the Prism Tower is now fully operational!

Z2's power has been raised to the maximum, and judging by Lysandre's face, he couldn't be happier!

Ascending the tower, Lysandre announces that it's time to raise the curtain on the true Kalos League!

One blast from the Z-Cannon activates Z-cells all over the city, and all the plant life starts growing!

Very soon, all of Lumiose City is in panic and dissary as trees and vines overtake all of civilization!

Lysandre and Xerosic gaze on at the mass carnage they've created, which they deem "beautiful."

No one quite knows what's happening, but Ash and Alan go under to get to the bottom of this!

Recognizing the power of it's counterpart, Squishy absorbs some Z-cells and goes out into the city!

Bonnie knows that Squishy has set out to do something important for Kalos and she wants to follow!

The League Trainers agree to do their part in helping get civilians to safety.

Professor Sycamore seems to recognize the power that's attacking the city and he's terrified.

Malva doesn't see this act of terrorism as beautiful or profitable, so she goes off to set things straight with Team Flare after telling TR to stick to their job of filming and reporting all of these events.

Ash and Alan are both appalled to see that Team Flare is behind the devastation of the city.

Celosia and her Flare Grunt squad knock Ash and Pikachu unconscious, and then say that he is to be brought to Lysandre. As an assistant to Team Flare and Lysandre, Alan has to accompany them.

Lysandre then broadcasts his big announcement, outing himself as the mastermind behind this attack and declaring that only the elite of Kalos will join Team Flare in the new world they're creating!

Mairin is confused that Lysandre could have such evil intentions and do such a horrible thing, but the Flare grunt that's been guarding her tells her they're doing what they believe is right for the world.

Just then, Professor Sycamore shows up to clobber the Flare grunt and lead Mairin to safety.

It's late afternoon when Alan and his friends in Team Flare arrive near the Prism Tower, where 
both Z2 and the Z-Cannon are situated and currently at work. Xeorsic is there to greet them.

Lysandre invites Alan to look at all the "beautiful" destruction of civilization that he's orchestrated.

Then Alan's all "but your energy research was for peaceful purposes!" And Lys is all "Yes and this 
is how world peace begins!" Alan goes "But I thought you wanted me to gain strength to protect others!" And Lys goes "Yes - to protect only the chosen! Those are the only others that matter!"

As the city continues to be in turmoil, it's watchful protector arrives on the scene - Blaziken Mask!

Alan then sees that Ash and all his Pokemon have been shackled to the tower and are in great pain.

Bonnie, Clemont, and Serena, out looking for Squishy, run into Professor Sycamore and Mairin. And then all of them are confronted by Bryrony and Aliana, who don't want them messing in their affairs!

Just then, Squishy transforms into it's fully evolved state and calls out to it's counterpart. Z2, now radiating red with Mega Energy, goes out to clash with Z1, a prospect that delights Lysandre.

When both Zygarde's powers collide, it could spell the end for Lumiose City and all of Kalos!

Using Drudigon and Liepard, Bryrony and Aliana fight the good guys they want eliminated!

But Clemont has a surprise trump card - the Clembot, who backs the bad girls to the Gym entrance!

It's then that Mairin remembers that her Chespy is still being kept at Lysandre Labs and could be in danger! After Serena promises to save Chespy, the group splits - Clemont and Bonnie stay near the Gym to seek out Squishy while the rest hitch a ride to Lysandre Labs in TR's news helicopter.

Dusk has fallen as Alan looks out at the city, realizing that the energy being used to power up Z2 is energy he gathered for Lysandre, and he's the one who caught Z2 for Team Flare in the first place!

Feeling that everything that's happening is all his fault, Alan refuses to help Lysandre any further!

Lysandre is disappointed to hear that, but shows lenience to Alan. He has Ash now, after all!

Meanwhile, one group is still on their way to Lysandre Labs, with TR reporting on everything.

As the League Trainers finish clearing the streets, Champion Diantha spots them and they tell her 
all about what's been happening. Diantha recognizes this as Olympia's prophecy coming to pass.

Back at the Prism Tower, Lysandre calls out two energy robots and tells Ash that he wants to turn him and Ash-Greninja into his servants so that they can become guiding lights in the new world!

The machines blast both Ash and Ash-Greninja, and they feel one another's pains. If tortured enough, their consciousnesses will be one and the energy waves will put them under a hypnosis.

However, Ash and Ash-Greninja's conjoined will proves stronger and they break free of their binds!

Alan helps Ash to his feet, and the two heroes and their Pokemon face down Lysandre together!

Lysandre expresses amusement at them attempting to solve a conflict through more conflict...

...but he's willing to play that game, calling for a power amplifier machine that links him to Z2's power so that he can control it's movements while simultaneously battling with empowered Pokemon.

Meanwhile, Bryrony and Aliana are just hanging around...

...while the two Zygardes continue to fight in the streets, Z1 trying to snap Z2 out of it's fervor!

And the more power and cells the Zygardes expend, the more fuel is given to Xerosic's Z-Cannon!

Bonnie can sense that Squishy is suffering great internal and physical pain right now! SQUISHY!

While back up on the Prism Tower's ledge, Lysandre's getting downright homicidal! Just look at him!

He then shouts angrily that neither Ash or Alan understand his reasons for doing what he's doing, and goes into some backstory about how he and his company used to be all about being charitable. 

But the more he gave to the needy, the greedier people would get, and they'd start demanding more from him. He came to view them all as filthy parasites who wasted resources and turned things ugly.

So in order to protect the planet's natural beauty and preserve it's resources, he's exterminating 
most of the population, starting right here in Kalos. He will make a better, more beautiful world!

Such a world has no place for the likes of Ash and Alan, he says as he calls out his two Pokemon!

He then uses a Mega Stone attached to his machine to Mega Evolve his Gyarados! CRAP!

It's two heroes' entire Pokemon teams VS Lysandre's two powerhouses! The battle is on!

And the sky has turned red to match the red energy radiation. It's now officially the apocalypse!

At Lysandre Labs, Mabel and Celosia are notified that intruders are approaching their way.

Back on the city streets, Blaziken Mask has found Bonnie but she doesn't want to be held back.

And on the Prism Tower, Lysandre is commanding his Pokemon to go all out in crushing his foes!

Clemont has split from Bonnie in order to infiltrate the Gym and dismantle Xerosic's system.

Xerosic has great respect for Clemont and calls on a 1-on-1 battle - one scientist against another!

Elsewhere, Mairin and Serena are....being useless. But not to worry - a new challenger approaches!

It's Steven Stone, who flew in on his Metagross and is there to greet the heroes at Lysandre Labs!

But Mabel and Celosia have brought out a veritable army of Team Flare agents to bar their path!

As Steven fights the grunts, everyone else goes inside. All the remaining Flare forces will be fought off by TR, who finally ditch their reporter get-ups and reveal themselves as TR! And it is BAD. ASS!

Ash and Alan also get some unexpected help in battling Lysandre - Malva with her Mega Houndoom!

Seeing that he and Malva were never quite on the same page after all, Lysandre vows to kill her too!

Then Ash makes some hokey, long winded speech about how killing people and "taking tomorrow away from them" is wrong, which would've been better suited for Alan. Lys' face here sums it up.

Back at the Labs, Professor Sycamore and the others finally make it to where Chespy is being held.

While on the outside, Steven uses Mega Metagross' strongest technique to take out the Flare army.

In an incredibly emotional scene, Bonnie tearfully sings her "Squishy song" trying to stop the Zygardes' rampage, but it seems to not be working as an infected Z1 moves in for the kill.

Before Zygarde can strike with a blast aimed at Bonnie, Blaziken Mask swoops in to shield her!

But Bonnie's singing doesn't let up, and it finally seems to reach Squishy, who starts glowing green.. works. Squishy goes green again and then both Zygardes revert to their harmless Core states!

Lysandre can feel the connection his device had to Zygarde's power get broken. That's no good!

Clemont and Xerosic's battle meets an explosive end, with Xerosic falling down a hatch in defeat!

Clemont then hooks the Clembot up to the Z-Cannon's data grid and it hacks the code needed to activate the system's self-destruction. A sacrifice must now be made, but Clemont is prepared for it!

KABOOM! The Z-Cannon and it's entire control system is destroyed!

But it comes at a price - the price of the Clembot's life!

Yeah, the soulless robot gets a surprisingly emotional death scene! RIP, Clembot!

Lysandre and Team Flare seem to be defeated, but Lysandre implies he has backup plans...

So Lysandre takes a backwards plunge off the tower, seemingly to his death. Uh...yay?

While Mabel and Celosia finally get taken down and netted by a victorious Team Rocket!

Then Steven sees something he forgot about - the Megalith! As he's studying the research data...

...the Megalith activates and Chespy gravitates towards it, getting pulled inside the rock!

All Lysandre Labs employees and Team Flare agents make a retreat as the building comes apart 
due to the expanding Megalith. All energy transferred to it has morphed it into a monstrosity!

TR retreats to their helicopter but are still dedicated to their jobs - the people must know everything!

Olympia can sense that the now mobile Megalith is moving towards the Anistar Sundial.

Ash, Alan, and Malva meet with Clemont outside the Gym, who's devastated over Clembot's death.

But a much happier occurrence happens with Bonnie - she's reunited with her Squishy! SQUISHY!

All the heroes unite inside Steven's large copter (being trailed by TR's news copter) and Steven looks at stolen data that state that the Z-cell infected Chespy is being used as a battery for the Megalith,

Alan is majorly pissed since Chespy's situation is also his fault! He has to make amends for this!

But the worst is still to come - if the Megalith weapon absorbs all the Mega Energy of the Anistar Sundial, it will grow large enough to engulf it and unleash enough power to kill all life on Earth!

The Megalith Weapon, in the shape of Zygarde, has reached Anistar's outskirts, as have our heroes!

But guess who else have come to help avert the crisis? Diantha and all the Kalos Gym Leaders!

Malva and her Mega Houndoom have arrived on the scene too, ready to protect the world's beauty!

The army of heroes discuss their battle plan before beginning their charge towards the Megalith!

And so, the final battle for Kalos begins, with the lives of all sentient beings in the world on the line!

The Megalith Zygarde Weapon launches it's own counterattack with creepy looking rock blasts!

Never fear, for Korrina is here! Putting all she and Mega Lucario have learned to good use!

Also, we get some more Ship Tease between Viola and Grant!

Ash, Alan, Pikachu and Grenjina need to carve out an entrance to get inside the rock!

Diantha and Steven are Back To Back Badass Champions!

And even after the copter has been crashed, TR saved the equipment - they are THAT dedicated!

Eventually, a combo attack from Ash and Alain's main Pokemon is able to carve out an entry!

Once inside the Megalith, Alan makes it his priority to locate Chespy and retrieve it for Mairin!

Once Chespy is found, Alan is propelled up towards him for his great moment of redemption!

Chespy has been rescued, so the heroes break out of the Megalith and get to safety... that the elite Kalos trainers can have their Pokemon launch all their attacks at the Megalith!

The Megalith Zygarde Weapon goes down....only to get back up, fiercer than ever!

And of course it's now being directly controlled by Lysandre, who's alive and completely mad!

Lysandre claims he will destroy the world and everyone here as he launches his assault!

And even through all this, TR is filming everything and reporting all the events to the masses!

Oh, and Clemont and Bonnie discover that Blaziken Mask was their dad all along! Total shocker!

As the united heroes take a stand against Lysandre and his weapon, both Zygardes talk.

Z1 tells Z2 that these humans and Pokemon's valiant charge is done out of their love for this world and for all life on it, and their desire to protect it. That's why optimism and faith in them is important.

The Megalith's power seems to have totally overwhelmed even the heroes' best efforts!

But just then, Z2 decides to join Z1 in standing up to the threat to the world they both love!

In a truly extraordinary moment, the Zygardes call upon all Z-cells from all over the world!

The accumulated cells allow the Zygardes to fuse together into...Zygarde Perfect Form!

Zygarde declares that he will protect the world, which greatly offends Lysandre, who feels he did all he could for this world and only now when it's lost all hope does Zygarde step up to be it's savior!

Lysandre cannot be reasoned with, so the showdown between Zygarde and Megalith Zygarde is on!

To help Zygarde's chances, Ash and Alan have their Pokemon take out Lysandre's amplifier device!

With Lysandre's connection severed, the Megalith is left in an ideal position for Zygarde to finish it!

So Zygarde plows itself right through the rocky weapon and breaks it down from it's very core!

And then to finish the threat off, it fires a Z-shaped blast of power that blows up the Megalith!

Lysandre has completely lost it, roaring out commands for his weapon to move... he and the crumbling rubble of said weapon fall downward into the green explosion!

BOOM. Both Lysandre and his ultimate weapon have been completely atomized by the blast.

When the smoke clears, Zygarde stands triumphant as TR happily announce that the world is saved!

Alan returns a now fully restored Chespy to Mairin while also apologizing for all he did wrong.

Calling upon all the energy of all the cells inside it, Zygarde then retracts all of it's loose power.

The trees and vines in Lumiose City dissolve, their energy getting re-absorbed into Zygarde.

Zygarde reverts back into it's Core forms, and it's now time for them both to depart to elsewhere.

Bonnie and Squishy exchange tearful thanks to each other and equally tearful goodbyes.

And the Squishies go away. Damn. Squishy was no Meloetta, but this still makes me feel things!

A triumphant musical score plays as a new day dawns on all the gathered trainers and Pokemon.

With Lysandre's ambitions thwarted, the world has lived to see another tomorrow after all.

And that was the climax of the XY&Z story arc! From start to finish, it's most certainly one of the Pokemon anime's most epic achievements. We got a regional apocalypse that threatened to become a worldwide apocalypse, Legendary Pokemon with an engaging character arc who did more than just duke it out with each other, all of the main characters and major supporting characters having notable parts to play (except maybe Mairin and especially Serena), all Kalos Gym Leaders and two different Champions come together to fight against a crisis, worthy payoffs to many major past events, some of the best and most beautifully animated sequences the anime's had, and of course, a great villain. Had this level of high quality been more consistent in XY, I'd have had far less of a problem with that series than I do. So then what about this arc's own problems? Or should I say problem? The single biggest, most glaring, most distracting issue with the entire setup of this climax? How to put this,,,,?

It's freaking Team Plasma! While some of the elements used this arc are borrowed from Team Flare's flimsy plot in the games, the structure of the climax and all the plot beats it hits are lifted straight from both Team Plasma's plot of the first BW games and the Team Plasma arc we could have seen unfold in the BW anime had the lost episodes been broadcast during it's run and BW2 not caused the anime staff to use BW2 Team Plasma solely as the villains of the White Ruins arc instead. This is most clear in the handling of Alan between the fourth Mega Evolution special and the end of the Kalos League, and just how horrendously off it felt. Instead of keeping to his own story, he got forcibly integrated as a crucial part of Ash's journey because he had to be the "opposite number hero" working for the evil teams like BW1 N was, he had to forget all about his previously established motivations in favor of being fixated on Ash and his bond with his Pokemon because that's what drove N and the player character's relationship in BW1, and he had to be at the League to battle Ash with his Fire/Dragon Type Pokemon right as Team Flare was ready to launch an uprising of the region because that was N's role at the Unova League in BW1. It was so transparent what Tomioka was trying to do with Alan during all that time, and I didn't approve of it one bit. And aside from just that, the very concept of the regional Gym Leaders and Champion uniting with the good guys against the evil team as they threaten to bring down first their region and then the world...straight out of BW. On one hand I find it almost insulting that this epicness from last gen. was given to the snooty, goofy-looking, wealth, fashion, and mad science-obsessed baddies of this gen, but on the other hand, Team Flare in the games were made to touch upon even heavier material than Team Plasma despite their extreme silliness and had arguably the darkest and most heinous crimes of any main game series evil team, so in a sense this actually fits and makes sense. This is the consequence of the team and their plot not being nearly as light-hearted as Masuda promised they'd be, I suppose. So while Team Flare and their arc have surpassed even Team Plasma in being the most well-handled non-Rocket evil team in the anime, I wish they'd achieved that without becoming Team Plasma!

On the plus side, it's not JUST Team Plasma that the Flare arc was tailored for copying, though it's the most notable influence. Tomioka also felt the need to apologize for the Groudon VS Kyogre fiasco of the Aqua and Magma arc climax again, AND atone for how Team Galactic got handled in DP, both by keeping a steady pace and momentum to the Flare arc akin to the Team Rocket plots in BW rather than making the arc slow, terribly paced and sporadically appearing, and by giving the villainous Lysandre all the nuance and depth of character that Cyrus was robbed of. While depicted as being crueler and more vicious than his game counterpart, Lys got a deep and consistent characterization, a "good" character working for him, nice interactions with other good guys that weren't total lies, his actual backstory and self righteous motivations behind his evil plans kept in tact, the good guys trying to argue their points against his and actually reason with him, a Pokemon battle against Ash, and a climactic stand that ends in an EPIC death scene for him. Lines in his motive rant about how he intends to do a total "reset" on the world in order to create a better world describe Cyrus' goals almost exactly! Anime Lysandre was everything that Anime Cyrus should have been despite playing the "Ghetsis" role in the arc climax. (Cabinet Minister Alva in the movie coinciding with the Z season, a monstrously evil and vile corrupt minister and aspiring conqueror who brought up the kingdom's prince as his ignorant, ultimately throwaway pawn and carried a staff that could tortuously control Pokemon's minds closer resembles what Anime Ghetsis should have been.)

And to keep the Galactic parallels coming, the penultimate episode of the Kalos saga is to feature Xerosic striking back in one last ditch effort to start up a "Neo Team Flare" and do to Kalos as he pleases, much like what happened with Charon in the postgame of the Platinum version. From the evil look of his Malamar there and the indication that he uses it to control Clemont's mind, it might be a given that the evil Malamar from early on in the series were the product of Xerosic's experiments, loosely tying those episodes to the Myth Arc too. Even better, the episode is confirmed to be the last we'll be seeing of Ash-Greninja for whatever reason. Took them long enough to send it packing!

All in all, this arc was a treat. It reached heights that the anime hadn't gone anywhere near since "Episode N", gave us a great Zygarde-based story to compensate for the absence of a Z version, and did better justice to Lysandre and Team Flare than the games themselves did, all coming to a  beautifully animated, wonderfully executed grand finale. If Gen 7 keeps up this quality, I'll be sold!