Sunday, June 26, 2016

RTTE: Stryke Out

Alright, I've been binge watching the new RTTE episodes, and so far THIS episode actually really engaged me! I enjoyed it a lot, more than most RTTE episodes. So, I will try and review it the same way I've reviewed most of the other episodes. 

A lot of things worked really well in this episode. I mean, just the concept as a whole was dynamic and immersive. The idea of having a dragon fighting arena fit well in the HTTYD world, and it felt a lot more believable than a lot of the concepts that wind up being the crux of the RTTE, RoB, and DoB episodes. We don't have mind controlling parasites or vikings being hypnotized, instead we find our heroes trapped in a cruel, bloody world. It's the world of Vikings before HTTYD1, and it is actually very dramatic to be reminded of how much Berk has changed. After all, back on Berk the arena fights between dragons and Vikings used to be normal thing.
Toothless and Hiccup seemed to be pretty much in character throughout the entire episode. That alone is note worthy. I'm personally convinced that this season's focusing on Hiccup's obsession with defeating Viggo is actually OOC (and I may write a full review on that if anyone wants to see my argument laid out), so it was really good to see classic Hiccup coming out here. The moments where he was trying to train the dragons that were chained near him was really good. It was nice that Hiccup was able to break through and bond with them, but it was also good that it wasn't effortless. I really liked seeing that part of Hiccup come out in this episode, the part that is deeply empathic. He wants to help these hurting creatures. He isn't even really looking out for himself. Then, very much like HTTYD1, the dragons that he has bonded with in the arena eventually willingly aid him in the final battle. Also, when it comes to Toothless's character, I thought they balanced him pretty well. He wasn't afraid to duke it out with other dragons, but he also was merciful. I don't know exactly how in character that is... after all I can't think of an example when he actively spared another dragon in the films, buuuuuuuuuuuuut he did spare Hiccup, and after defeating Hookfang in HTTYD1 he didn't pursue the Nightmare or fire off a blast at him. However, mercy wasn't all we saw in Toothless, and that is actually probably what I am more impressed with. In the fights, when he finally met a foe who truly put him in danger, who hurt him, who might could have beaten him, his dragonish instincts kicked back in. Toothless has probably fought for his life against many enemies, and when he became serious, he pretty much slaughtered his enemy in a ferocious, brutal, calculating volley of fire and claws. It was impressive that the show actually had Toothless become vicious, because I am convinced that when he is pushed into a corner, that is exactly how he should have acted.
Also, just a random note.... DANG. They actually explained where some of Toothless's HTTYD2 scars came from! Those double cuts on his arm... those where the first scars I noticed on him when images leaked way back before the second film. It is neat to see that they show us where they came from. That's the kind of subtle tie in I like. It's not over the top, it doesn't make big silly hints of what is to come, but it does make this episode feel attached to the second film in a concrete way. Toothless will carry scars from this battle for the rest of his life.
Toothless wasn't a wimp in this episode. I appreciated that. I feel that he often gets nerfed in the series, and if you want to know why, compare what his fire does in the major films to what it does in most of the series episodes. He's meant to be kind of the ultimate dragon. Not invincible by any means, but not really easily outclassed. He's smart, fast, accurate, and extremely lethal. This episode actually did a pretty good job conveying that, and I enjoyed seeing Toothless hold his own against very dangerous new dragons like the Razorwhip and the....
Triple Stryke!
I liked the design of the Triple Stryke. It's head was a little big, but it's colors and movement style easily made up for that. I liked the scorpion like tails, and the triple tail anatomy made it feel very fresh. It certainly looked like a dragon that would excel in up close combat. I'm impressed that Toothless beat it because it certainly did have some advantages. I wonder if it is poisonous... Anyway, I hope we see more of him. The fact that he and Toothless became buds after the fight felt natural and really charming. Out of all the dragons that have come out in RTTE, I think either this one or the Deathsong are the best designed. 
And... there was other good stuff too. Astrid holding her own in a fight and actually beating a bunch of guards was good. The twins were (pretty) funny at times. It was just a good episode all around.

If you take a look at this concept art, you may be able to guess my one negative. I actually think that the Triple Stryke transitioned poorly into 3D animation compared to its original sketch art. I really love these early designs, and I just wish they would have kept more of the detailed, overlapping plate designs... as well as the small head. I do like the bipedal final design more than this quadrupedal look... but other than that I think the early art looks better than the final product. Still... compared to most episodes I have practically nothing to complain about!

Final Score: 5
I was surprised by how good this episode was. It fit with the HTTYD world, drew me in and kept me on edge, kept Hiccup and Toothless in character, showed Toothless off, tied into HTTYD2, and introduced a really striking new dragon (pun intended). Hahah, there may be things not to like in it that I missed, but as of now I think this is one of the few episodes that I'd give a pretty much perfect score to. If you don't watch any other episode in season three, you should still sit down and see this one. It really was good.

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