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Halloween Does Little To Change "Yin Yang Yo!"

One would have to go long and far to find someone who actually seeks out frightening imagery and tension from an animated television series. I reflected upon that as I viewed the recent Halloween episode of Yin Yang Yo!. Halloween is one of two times of the year (three guesses as to what’s the other one; hint – it’s coming up faster every year) when television drags out every single piece of work it can manage that reflects even the tiniest iota of resemblance to the holiday’s aura. Horror films air on Bravo, extremely cut. ABC Family produces TV movie after TV movie of non-scares. Scooby-Doo airs incessantly on Cartoon Network. Perhaps you notice the other uniting thread here: television mimicks Halloween without being able or allowed to legitimately frighten. The broadcast standards remain too stringent to allow anything so terrifying to pass through. So, when we go to television during the Halloween weeks, we have been trained not to look for scares, but for the pageantry of the holiday. Monsters without teeth and vampires without blood.

Yin Yang Yo!‘s Halloween show does nothing to change this, and is even so disinterested in the connection that it feels like a basic episode as opposed to a holiday special. I reviewed Yin Yang Yo! positively when it premiered, and since then I have been able to catch a few more episodes, which pretty much cemented for me the statements I made before. It’s a solid action-comedy, emphasis on the latter, that makes its Flash animation an arena for grand experiments in action even when all of its trappings cannot be avoided. This episode did not change that or deviate from that perspective. But therein lies the problem when it gets packaged as a Halloween special – is a basic episode what you expect? I am not saying that YYY should have surpassed its previous quality to deliver to us an even more spectacular example of what it can be. After all, as I said before, we expect of Halloween fare only that it excessively remind us of Halloween; otherwise, it is simply a general member of the rest of a show’s season. Perhaps that is the case because Halloween has no particular inherent message to deliver, either by its design or its place in society. A story cannot be created that reminds us of Halloween in terms of its thematic material. Just in the amount of pumpkins we see.

This leads us, perhaps a tad belatedly, to the actual YYY episode itself. One of the things that makes it seem like just a normal episode is the fact that it conforms to the structure of two 11-minute stories. A “special” might otherwise denote a longform episode, perhaps of a forebodingly important nature. (I can’t deny that I was expecting the Night Master to show up, given the Halloween branding and the fact that he’s the only frightening villain YYY has got.) Instead, we get “Scary Scary Quite Contrary” and “How The Cookies Crumble.” Arguably, all the Halloweeniness is contained in the former of the two, a parable about the generation gap between kids’ standards for scary fare and the older generation’s horror films. Yo takes Yin and Yang into numerous black’n’white horror films until they finally reach one that scares their unconnected ears off. Perhaps in a certain awareness for how little a TV cartoon can actually scare someone, most of the episode is used by Yin and Yang to laugh at these knock-offs of King Kong, Frankenstein, and The Blob. Of course, that gets somewhat overthrown in the last film, which is supposed to scare them; I doubt you’ll be as easy as they are. This episode underwhelmed me for the most part, with the emphasis more on caricature of old films than on the verbal comedy that YYY has going for it. Also, the traditional moral-of-the-tale plops down even more blatantly than in the premiere episode; like I said in my first review, when these morals can be better hidden, the episodes will be better equipped to sell them.

“How The Cookies Crumble” fares much better than “Scary Scary,” although as I mentioned, this episode doesn’t seem Halloweeny to me at all. But who cares? It’s a top-notch example of Yin Yang Yo!, with another hilarious appearance of Carl the Evil Cockroach Wizard. Yin, jealous of Yang’s interminable dumb luck, gets tricked by Carl into giving Yang cursed fortune cookies that produce various fortunes of painful slapstick. The episode is faster and funnier than the earlier one, and even finishes its story in a far less hamhanded manner (although I’m not sure where the luck ends and the Woo-Foo begins). It’s one of the best YYY episodes yet, up there with the Ultimoose episode and Yin Yang Yuck.

What does that say, when an episode that’s half-Halloween and half-not is better in the half-not? It reminds us that a show that regularly deals with monsters and magic is somewhat immune to Halloween. Halloween, as a matter of pop culture, has become more about itself than what it represents, which is probably supposed to be blood-curdling terror. Pageantry is the word I used, and it works well here, as now Halloween is simply about trotting out one’s flimsy incarnations of typical Halloween symbols for the purposes of delighting people. Maybe when television has its balls back, it can host some real Halloween on its airwaves. Until then, I think that Yin Yang Yo!‘s doing fine on its own without having to stoop to the banality of holiday mimickry, and this episode’s unwillingness to wholly join the frivolity of the season implies to me that its makers feel the same way.

The Yin Yang Yo! episode “Scary Scary/How the Cookies Crumble” premieres at 8p.m. tonight on Toon Disney’s Jetix.

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