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"Yin Yang Yo!" Makes A Promising First Impression

Yin and Yang, rabbit siblings, join the dying practice of Woo Foo, as taught by their Master Yo, to take on the evil forces around them. Oh, yes, on September 4th, Jetix will bring us the next word in the long line of furry animal martial-arts comedies. I know, I make it sound like you see it all the time.

Inevitably, the first thing any observant watcher of Yin Yang Yo! will notice will be the visual element. This is a benefit and a downside all at once. You might think the obvious thing I’m referencing is the Flash animation, as the show has been widely reported to use. That’s part of it. Fact is, it’s Flash animation and you’ll know it. There are definite characteristics to the look, the camera angles and the animation that are so very much Flash. That said, it uses Flash as well as anything I’ve ever seen, and sometimes can be very ambitious (and achieves that ambition) for a Flash show. The other part of the visual element that is both helpful and harmful, in a way, to the show is the art direction. Personally, I like it very much, and it uses its colorful style and stylized design to great effect. However, I also remember when I would brush off The Fairly Oddparents because of its look, which at the time I deemed childish. Bob Boyle and John Fountain have utilized a very similar look here, and perhaps have made it even more “kid-friendly” with its color scheme. I suspect it’ll take even more effort on the part of the non-6-to-11 audience to accept the show. On the plus side, I’m sure that coveted kid audience will eat it up.

The premiere episode, which will air alongside several other new eps in the September 4th marathon that will introduce the show, sets up the show’s basic structure. In a 22-minute episode, the show is split in half for two separate 11-minute stories, much like Oddparents. This one is titled “Dojo, Oh No!/Finding Hershel.” The first story concerns itself with Yang as he joins a seemingly cooler dojo taught by the erratic and sexist Ultimoose, and the second deals with Yin and Yang’s consequences of insulting a sensitive “scorpion rock” that can turn anybody into a monster. As I bring up the plot synopses, I should note that the show isn’t really all that plot-dependent. The humor and the action come first in Yin Yang Yo!, and the plots are generally there to simply guide us from one instance of each to the next. Given that, however, this episode also suffers from what many new shows’ first few episodes have, which is a certain earnestness in its stories and a desire to avoid contradicting or questioning its own stories, as silly as they might be. Shows like Yin Yang Yo! grow into sneakily funny and subversive works, but the growing has to be done. In other words, you’ll probably notice the Important Lesson of these episodes more readily right now. Hopefully, the show’s later episodes will gain the kind of confidence of its predecessors’ later episodes to mock their own moralizing.

I must spend some time on the cast. As reported in earlier articles, the cast for Yin Yang Yo! are all Canucks. Whatever it is they’re putting in the free health care, it’s giving these guys some great new energy and there’s already a few standout performances in just this episode. Tony Daniels stole the show as Ultimoose, giving a hilariously overcharged performance that somehow fits the Napoleonic stature and attitude of the jerk. Scott McCord and Stephanie Morgenstern, as Yang and Yin respectively, make nice first impressions in their lead roles. Kudos especially to Stephanie, who has to be the more mature of the two and therefore leans towards the more boring lines, as she lends her character a nice edge of sarcasm and has great comic timing. Additionally, Jamie Watson’s Carl the Evil Cockroach Wizard, while undeniably reminiscent of Paul Lynde and other dandies, has the makings of a very memorable ineffective villain. Good acting is crucial to animation, as it will always elevate the material several levels higher, and so Yin Yang Yo! is poised to remain solid on this front as the show continues.

Ultimately, the show succeeds. I wonder at the ability of the show to manage the balance of tones between action and comedy, as the two varieties of cinematic storytelling require two very different brands of tension within the audience. Action restrains tension, bottling it up; laughter releases tension, letting it drain out. So far, the show’s pendulum seems to swing more in the direction of the latter, allowing several of the action beats to be gags in and of themselves, releasing the tension that it would under other circumstances contain. The show’s got a good pedigree for comedy, under Steve Marmel’s writing lead, and some of his characteristic comic economy comes amusingly into play (the repetition of the “lady” gag being a perfect example of that). Not as much as I’d have liked, but I’ve been spoiled because I’m comparing this premiere episode to the best of Oddparents episodes that have such phenomenal gagwork.

So, the potential is there. In a way, I’m somewhat more pleased that this episode didn’t blow me away. The concept of the show isn’t exactly a “why didn’t I think of that?!” headslapper, so if this one episode felt like it had everything crammed into it that it possibly could have, then it’d be a bad sign that Boyle and company blew the wad of their potential on one show and would spend the rest of the season trying to catch up to that. Instead, you can see what they’re doing right and what they seem to be on the road of doing right later. Good shows are usually the ones that get better over time. That seems to be where Yin Yang Yo! is heading, with a respectable and worthy start and the promise of even more to come.

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