Episode Seven – Return of the Arashikage (Part 2)

Episode Synopsis

(This Episode was originally aired as “Episode 5″, even though it’s actually “Episode 7″ in continuity)

In the last episode of G.I. Joe: Renegades, we finally met Storm Shadow for the first time, and learned some great details about Tomisaburu Arashikage.  We found out how Snake Eyes got his code name, and even what stole his voice.  Storm Shadow made his sudden appearance at Snake Eyes’ mountain cabin dojo, and the Joes appeared ready to pay the ultimate price in a raging inferno.

What other stories are left to tell?  What other conflicts are on the horizon?  The final part of the Return of the Arashikage promises to answer some more questions and bring in some more action!

The episode starts with Storm Shadow carrying Jinx away from the burning cabin, underneath rumbles of thunder in an immediately dark and serious atmosphere.  Inside the cabin, Snake Eyes is first to awake…the episode explains it away as Snake Eyes training himself by poisoning himself and raising his immunity to these ninja drugs.  Slowly, but surely Snake Eyes pulls his comrades from the burning building, taking some extra time to go back for Duke, who is trapped underneath a collapsed support.

Meanwhile, Jinx awakens within her cousin’s arms and reacts badly to Snake Eyes’ apparent demise.  Storm Shadow wants Jinx to go back to Japan with him to retake command of the Arashikage Clan.  The two begin exchanging blows.

Outside of the cabin, Scarlett is affected by the ninja neurotoxin, closing her windpipe.  Snake Eyes acts quickly and moves in to give Scarlett a battlefield tracheotomy, a lesson apparently learned in a past life.  Thankfully Tunnel Rat is around, and finds a local plan that acts as an antidote and saves the Joe Intelligence Operative.  Their success is short lived, however, as Snake Eyes vanishes, heading after Storm Shadow.  The Joes arm up and move out after him.

Storm Shadow and Jinx continue to do battle, but Snake Eyes intervenes…slightly handicapped by the poison in his veins the two ninja battle fiercely back and forth, with Jinx making some timely interventions.  Ultimately, Jinx can’t quite keep up and the ninja brothers continue their battle elsewhere as she’s rescued by the other Joes.

We learn a bit more about Snake Eyes’ backstory…the Hard Master is impressed by Snake Eyes’ honor in combat and the complete opposite of what Storm Shadow represents.  Slowly but surely the leader of the Arashikage Clan comes around and decides that the side of honor is the right side to take.  This works against Storm Shadows essence, and it’s quite obvious that the Hard Master’s decision was not a popular one.

As the two ninja battle in present time, they are wisked dangerously close to the nearby waterfalls, and Jinx can save only one of them.  Asking Snake Eyes…begging him almost…to reveal the truth about the Hard Master’s death, Snake Eyes can only desperately gesture.  He seems to admit to cutting Hard Master’s throat, yet silently pleads with Jinx to trust him.  It’s not enough, and Jinx chooses to rescue Storm Shadow, sending the Joe over the falls.

Duke and the Joes grab Snake Eyes just as he’s about to be smashed on the rocks, and as they drive away, wonder if Snake Eyes really DID kill the Hard Master.

As the Joes drive away, Snake Eyes has another memory…  in it we see him and the Hard Master conferring about the Master’s decision to turn the Arashikage Clan into an honorable, benevolent group.  Snake Eyes is honored that he was the inspiration, and Hard Master wants him to lead the clan…but just as he swigs on his cup of tea, he realizes he’s been poisoned.

Snake Eyes launches into action, removing the same pointed tool he did with Scarlett…moving in to give the Hard Master a field tracheotomy, attempting to save his life.  Storm Shadow enters and sees his sword brother with an edged tool at his uncle’s throat, and he can only think the worst.

Back in present time, Jinx and Storm Shadow walk through the woods, with Storm Shadow sending the young girl back to Tokyo and swearing he will not leave until he finishes Snake Eyes for good.  On the ground, Jinx sees that same tracheotomy tool.  In disgust, she crushes it, and continues with her cousin down the path towards darkness.

Episode Review

Wow.  This is the perfect reason why I love “reinventions”.  I see a lot of folks who are devotely committed to a single continuity and a single real history, and I can certainly understand and appreciate the deep, rich mythology that’s gathered together after 30 years.  But sometimes, especially in the event of a new animated series, you like being surprised.  I was surprised here.

Really, though, I shouldn’t have been too surprised.  The minute I saw that the director of this episode was Kevin Altieri, I should have known exactly what to expect.  Excellence.

Altieri has been a personal favorite of mine, ever since I first saw “On Leather Wings” the premier episode of Batman: The Animated Series.  Altieri went on to direct nearly two dozen other episodes, including another favorite of mine, “Night of the Ninja”.  The similarities between that episode and this one are amazing.

Back to the story…from the minute the crack of thunder hits overhead and the ominous oriental music plays in the background, you can immediately tell this is no Sunbow episode.  I heard many questions about why Snake Eyes was able to withstand so many poison darts when the other Joes couldn’t, and that is explained very well here.  One of the great things about seeing this new mythology for the first time is we really start to see the characters gel.  The look on Duke’s face when he tells Snake Eyes to leave him, and then Snake Eyes does is just priceless.  Of course, he goes back for him, but I really loved how untrusting Duke is of the mysterious ninja, but how seamlessly he starts to get over those fears throughout the first handful of episodes.

What’s so great about G.I. Joe: Renegades to date, is on full display with this episode as well…familiar characters, familiar settings, a very familiar spirit, yet some awesome new twists and turns to make this feel like a whole new universe.

Quite obviously, the main attraction in this episode is the martial arts action.  And honestly I cannot blame folks for having their own personal aesthetic issues with the art style.  But anyone who questions the level of animation?  I dunno.  The animation in this episode was absolutely stellar.  Fluid, fast-moving action.  Seamless fight choreography, and very high quality from beginning to end.  Beautiful, really.  I’m not really a fan of Storm Shadow’s funky looking two-piece headwear, but I didn’t even notice it among all of the flying kicks, swinging fists, jumping and sword clashing.

This battle was truly epic.  The two sword brothers began fighting just a minute or two into the episode and didn’t really stop all the way through.  So many times the pay off isn’t worth it, but this fight was a terrific one, and it really felt like the two were on even footing throughout.

But you know, as awesome as the battle was throughout this episode, it was still the story that drove it home.  The awesome twist of the knife with Jinx choosing Storm Shadow over Snake Eyes was fantastic.  The way they tied in the tracheotomy tool in two different spots.  The crushing gestures from Snake Eyes as he pleads with Jinx, only to finally realize that he simply cannot communicate the way he must.  The way that even his own teammates don’t know if he’s telling the truth.  So many different layers, this universe has done the impossible…it’s made me love the ninjas again.

That’s not to say I want to see this kind of thing week in and week out.  Absolutely not.  In fact, after this two-parter I’m about ready for some blue pajamas and laser rifles.  But you know, I have a sneaking suspicion the folks writing this series know that.  They know that the ninjas have their place, but they shouldn’t own the whole story.  From what I’ve seen so far, the creators here have a fantastic feel for the characters and for the mythology, and I find myself having more and more confidence each week that whatever changes they make, while they might be for better or worse, will at least leave me guessing.  That’s a great thing, especially for a cartoon supposedly written for children.  If I have any complaints, it’s that we’re still kind of in the dark about Snake Eyes’ disfigurement.  Is he already disfigured?  It certainly didn’t look that way with his torn mask.  I suppose, though, that’s just another cool thing that could be coming…and hopefully it’s coming.  My only fear is that due to the nature of this being a children’s show, maybe we won’t see it happen…it’s such a critical part of Snake Eyes’ character that would be a real shame.  I know he looked kind of disfigured in Episode Three, but I’m still not entirely sure where we stand with that.

Great episode.  Another great episode in a line of great episodes so far.  And you know what, it feels like the production team is just kind of getting their feet under them.  I can’t even imagine how things are going to start evolving once Scrap Iron, Zartan, and Destro become integral parts of the story.  Cobra as we know it is still in its infancy, and the series is already a really fun ride.  Scary thing is, I think it will only get better.

Screenshot Gallery (Courtesy of HissTank.com)

Episode Details

Original Air Date: December 17th, 2010
Writer: Dean Stefan
Director: Kevin Altieri

Easter Eggs

  1. Hard Master’s voice actor (Keone Young) also played Storm Shadow in the 80′s Sunbow television series
  2. Jinx appears as Snake Eyes’ student and cousin of Storm Shadow