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Ninjago: Strictly Formula?

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So I finally caught up with Season 6 of Ninjago, and I couldn't help but notice that the Ninjago story is getting pretty formulaic. 

 

This formula: the Ninja always fail against the main villain and sustain cringe-worthy losses through the entire season, only to narrowly beat the main villain by the skin of their teeth using some last-ditch tool or power. Any victories the ninja get midseason are always reversed or come with a cost of some kind or both. 

 

For example, Pythor - the ninja keep losing against him in the quest to collect the Fang Blades. They get the blades, and almost destroy them, only to be stopped at the last second. The Great Devourer is unleashed, and Garmadon has to stop him. 

 

Then, consider Garmadon - the ninja don't stop Garmadon's countdown or stop him from going back to Ninjago or the stone army. It's Lloyd's last minute save. 

 

Then the Overlord - we lose Lloyd and fail to rescue him fast enough to stop the power drain, they bust the digital realm not fast enough to stop the Overlord's escape, and it takes Zane's sacrifice. 

 

Then Master Chen - again, another series of cringe worthy defeats and the loss of Cole's power and the release of another bunch of dead Anconadrai generals that no one wanted released. It took Sensei Garmadon's sacrifice and last-minute save.

 

And by the time we got to Morro, I could have predicted that every one of the Ninja's actions were going to result in a loss. I knew that when Kai got the sword from Morro that the Ninja were going to lose it soon after. And...

 

 

...Nya's last minute save. Although that was more effective than the other ones - at least it didn't require a heroic sacrifice. Sensei Wu is probably on to something with that - he wants to end the episodes/villains early. :P

 

 

Anyway, you've have thought that Jay would have figured this out by now. Thoughts? 

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I'm not sure I'd call that formulaic. It's certainly not as formulaic as the first five or so years of Bionicle, in which at least one story arc per year would come down to all six Toa using their powers in the same way at the same time (and more than half of those story arcs ended underground). Makuta in 2001? Everybody shoot at him! Bahrag in 2002? Everybody shed your armor and shoot at them! Bohrok-Kal in 2003? Everybody channel your energy through your Nuva symbols! King Root in 2004? Let it pull you close, then everyone shoot at it through your disks at the same time! Makuta in 2004? Once Vakama and Lhikan are done stalling, everybody shoot at it at the same time! Roodaka in 2005? Now that Vakama's back with the team and has disbanded the Visorak, everybody shoot at her at the same time! Takanuva's victory in Mask of Light is the ONLY time during those first five years that a story arc didn't conclude according to this formula. (Bonus: The Cord in 2007? Everybody shoot at it!)

 

Ninjago is different. In the pilot, there was no last-minute save. Samukai was defeated by his own arrogance when he disarmed Wu but chose to take up all four Golden Weapons against Garmadon.

 

In Season One, yes, Garmadon had to defeat the Great Devourer, but it was a very different scenario than any of the other season finales because 1) all the ninja had to use their own skills independently to immobilize the Great Devourer to create a situation in which Garmadon could attack it, and 2) Garmadon was not, at this point, a trusted member of the team. Not only was it hard for the ninja to trust him with the golden weapons, but after destroying the Devourer he betrayed that trust.

 

The only two subsequent season finales that I'd consider extremely alike are the second and fifth seasons, both of which end with a character unlocking their true potential by learning to let go of their fear and thereby single-handedly defeating the enemy. Otherwise, the only consistent formula I see here are 1) the main bad guy is defeated at the end of the season in some way (which pretty much goes without saying), 2) no victory for the heroes prior to the season finale is a final victory (again, goes without saying, otherwise the story arc would come to a premature close), and 3) a specific character gets to play the key role in the victory.

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I have to agree with Aanchir. I never saw that much of a formula to it. But I never did notice the one with BIONICLE's first few years.... Dang.  :blink:

 

But you have to consider, most kids' hero shows have some degree of a formula to them--just makes it easier for young minds to process. But at least it's not as pathetic as Power Rangers. :P For that show, every single episode has always been the exact same thing:

 

  1. Teen drama
  2. Bad guy attacks with minions
  3. Team splits up and fails, but one or two escape
  4. The remaining members of the team defeat the Bad Guy and minions
  5. Bad Guy regenerates into a giant
  6. Rangers form their giant mech and use it's special sword to make the giant Bad Guy explode
  7. Teen drama is resolved.

Literally, the format for every episode (granted, I've only seen bits of like 10 or 15 different episodes, but the internet agrees with me on this). So at least we can be glad that Ninjago and BIONICLE aren't nearly that predictable. :P

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Bionicle 2006 Toa Nuva: Everyone shoot at Reidak!

 

Reidak: :blink: thanks for the power upgrade.

 

Toa Jaller: Okay, new plan.

 

* * *

 

Aanchir, good points all, except that variations on a formula don't actually disprove the formula's existance.

 

You'd think that the ninja would have gotten better at beating villains by now, and might realize that taking valuable objects frequently means that the villain of the season will manage to steal them.

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You'd think that the ninja would have gotten better at beating villains by now, and might realize that taking valuable objects frequently means that the villain of the season will manage to steal them.

They have gotten better at beating villains, I think, it's just each set of villains is different, and the techniques the ninja learn for fighting one set of villains might not be effective against the next. The ghosts exemplify this, in that they were only really vulnerable to water or deepstone, so things like Spinjitzu, Nya's Samurai Mech, or conventional martial arts weren't really effective against them.

 

What's more, the fact that the ninja's victories against the enemy prior to the season finale don't often last doesn't mean the ninja shouldn't at least try to stop their enemies. Even if the enemy does win back whatever plot trinket they're after, the ninja will have managed to stall them. Plus, it's not like the ninja know which of their battles is going to be a decisive one, or which of their adventures is a "season finale". They just have to try their best in each one and hope it makes a difference.

 

What's the alternative? Just wait around and let the bad guys get what they're after without a fight? Destroying whatever it is the bad guys are trying to get to win the day isn't always an option, and when it has been, the ninja have often attempted that (examples: trying to take the Fang Blades to Torchfire Mountain in Season 1, smashing Chen's Staff of Elements in Season 4).

Edited by Aanchir
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I support the formulaic charge.  The worst part is, some parts of the formula were never done well and they keep plugging away at it tone-deaf to whether its actually funny or entertaining. I can tell you how the next season will flow without the aid of promo material.

 

  1. The season will begin with the Ninja working a day job that they suck at.
  2. Sensei Wu will warn them not to rely on their powers and being vigilant, which the Ninja take to mean blow off his wise words and fool around. (seriously, you've gotten caught off guard 4 out of the 6 times. Take an extra clue from the clue bag)
  3. Villain shows up catching the Ninja off guard and prompting Wu to retcon even more of Ninjago history.
  4. The Ninja hit the road: either on the run or questing for magic items. This would be the time in an adequate series for the Ninja to learn new skills, work better as a team, and discover what's important.  In Ninjago, they SAY all that, but the don't DO any of it. Jay whines. Cole argues. Kai divas (yes that's word). And Zane Data-s it up. (that one may not be a word)
  5. Even though Wu, Misako, and Nya are all capable fighters and they have a flying warship at their disposal, the show will find reasons to sideline them. Nya keeps gaining powers and vehicles only to sit by phone and wait for the Ninja to call.
  6. As others noted, the Ninja get their butts handed to them on a regular basis when it comes to gathering the magic coupons and always a step behind the villains when it is a magic quest.
  7. At the last step before 'Evil Wins Forever!' the ninja manage to snag the crucial item only to lose it to the bad guys.
  8. Bad guys summon ultimate evil and it is defeated by someone making a sacrifice.  Rarely one of the four jelly bean ninja. (I see you there Zane, you can put down your hand.)

The sacrifice really irks me because the ninja do nothing to make the sacrifice worthy, except with Overlord 1.0.  Essentially, the ninjas highest calling is to kite the trash mobs away long enough for someone else to make the big sacrifice. They aren't heroes, they are the cannon fodder like Shield Agents or cavalry. 

 

Make them heroes again, WilFilms!


"Honor those the dragons heed, in thought and favor, word and deed"

"Worlds are lost and worlds are saved, from those dangers dragons brave"

 

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i see your points guys,and i have been out of the loop on the show for a while, but at least we can agree that its not a bad show.lego is really learning to respect its fans' intelligence, and this show has shown that even with its semi formulaic format, its still enjoyable for us.


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I support the formulaic charge.  The worst part is, some parts of the formula were never done well and they keep plugging away at it tone-deaf to whether its actually funny or entertaining. I can tell you how the next season will flow without the aid of promo material.

 

  1. The season will begin with the Ninja working a day job that they suck at.
  2. Sensei Wu will warn them not to rely on their powers and being vigilant, which the Ninja take to mean blow off his wise words and fool around. (seriously, you've gotten caught off guard 4 out of the 6 times. Take an extra clue from the clue bag)
  3. Villain shows up catching the Ninja off guard and prompting Wu to retcon even more of Ninjago history.
  4. The Ninja hit the road: either on the run or questing for magic items. This would be the time in an adequate series for the Ninja to learn new skills, work better as a team, and discover what's important.  In Ninjago, they SAY all that, but the don't DO any of it. Jay whines. Cole argues. Kai divas (yes that's word). And Zane Data-s it up. (that one may not be a word)
  5. Even though Wu, Misako, and Nya are all capable fighters and they have a flying warship at their disposal, the show will find reasons to sideline them. Nya keeps gaining powers and vehicles only to sit by phone and wait for the Ninja to call.
  6. As others noted, the Ninja get their butts handed to them on a regular basis when it comes to gathering the magic coupons and always a step behind the villains when it is a magic quest.
  7. At the last step before 'Evil Wins Forever!' the ninja manage to snag the crucial item only to lose it to the bad guys.
  8. Bad guys summon ultimate evil and it is defeated by someone making a sacrifice.  Rarely one of the four jelly bean ninja. (I see you there Zane, you can put down your hand.)

The sacrifice really irks me because the ninja do nothing to make the sacrifice worthy, except with Overlord 1.0.  Essentially, the ninjas highest calling is to kite the trash mobs away long enough for someone else to make the big sacrifice. They aren't heroes, they are the cannon fodder like Shield Agents or cavalry. 

 

Make them heroes again, WilFilms!

1. From what prerelease material we've had (such as the Comic Con panel), it seems like this will NOT be the case—the season apparently starts with the Ninja in hiding for some unknown reason.

2. Decidedly didn't happen in Season 3 or Season 4, so it's barely formula.

3. We've barely had any actual retcons in Ninjago despite what people continue to insist. New information has been added to the continuity but never at the expense of old information, except for vague and dubious information from side media. Also, the new history in Season 3 came from the Serpentine, and the new history in Season 4 came from Garmadon. ;)

4. Again, the new season will apparently START with the ninja on the run. Also, plenty of the past seasons have featured the ninja learning new skills and learning to work better as a team, so I don't get where your insistence that that doesn't happen comes from.

5. Misako has never really been much more than a side character—there's nothing to "sideline", since she's never been a core part of the cast. As for Nya, this past season featured her training as the "B plot" of almost every episode—hardly "sidelined" at all.

6. The alternative to that, as I've mentioned, is having characters who don't fail. That's not "formula", that's good writing.

7. See above. Also, that never happened in Season 3 or Season 4.

8. "Ultimate evil" gets unleashed where it applies because again, the alternative is foreshadowing a threat and never actually delivering on it. Star Wars would be a cruddy movie if the Death Star never showed off its power. Also, no one sacrificed themselves in this latest season (at least, not to stop the "ultimate evil").

 

Just like all the other complaints in this topic, I fail to see any "formula" here besides tropes that are common to media in general. And making things up doesn't help your case, either.


Formerly Lyichir: Rachira of Influence

Aanchir's and Meiko's brother

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A fair response deserves a fair rebuttal.

 

It's true, I don't know what the next seasonal will hold.  The promo images are just as valid as the observations of past seasons at this point.  We'll have to wait and see which version holds up.

 

Point 2: Season 3 they just switched partners.  Instead of Wu telling the Ninja not to rely on their powers, it was Garmadon telling Lloyd not to rely on his powers. Season 4: Mortal Kombat was one of the exceptions. But an exception doesn't disprove the rule.

 

Point 3: You're splitting hairs here. The history of Ninjago is more twisted than a pretzel factory.  In Season 0: Once upon a time, there were 4 golden weapons, etc. By Season 5: This history has to cram in an ancient fight between good and evil that's put on hold, the rise of the Serpentine led by Anacondarai fought by elemental masters who were sold out by Chen. Garmadon takes evil lessons from Chen before kipping out ahead Chen's downfall and exile.  The elemental masters who may or may not include Kai and Nya's parents scatter.  Garmadon romances Misako.  They have Lloyd. Garmadon fights Wu and gets sent to the underworld.  Lloyd gets sent to bad boy boarding school.  And some where in all this time, the Professor builds Zane, thinks he's dying so he wipe Zane's memory, but is captured by the Skeletons and stuck on an island to build their vehicles. And lets not forget the most recent wrinkle, that somehow the dimensional gem landed in the hands of the First Spinjitzu master. He buries it and another Spinjitzu master becomes a ghost haunting his former digs.

 

All this happens either within ages (long enough for battles and mystical objects to be shrouded by myth) or a couple of generations (Going by Garmadon's personal timeline for him to get bit, grow evil, fall in love with Misako and have a child)

 

The thing is Bionicle and some of the other themes that go on more than 3 years run into the same problem. No one knows what gimmick or storyline Lego will pursue from year to year. Year 3 of Bionicle was a very mythical one with the Mask of Light. The next year was highly technological with the City of Metru Nui. The timeline and the events within get very tangled very quickly.

 

Point 4: This is a bit of a faces or vases/how you look at it kinda thing. I see episodes like the true potential arc as a great example of SHOWING them grow as they learn about themselves and tap into a new power.  But successive episodes do more TELLING.  Like this last season were everyone takes turns leading. They don't learn to be capable leaders, they 'discover' that Lloyd is leader and without him they are rubbish.

 

Point 5: Yes, Nya is now a waterbender, but why did she need to stay home to learn this power.  The boys were constantly on missions whether they learned a power or not, whether they reached their true potential or not. Cole is a ghost this season and no one says he should hold down the fort until he gets that ectoplasm looked at.  Nya is the 'hold down the fort' trope.  She's there, but she isn't meant to hang with the boys so there is always something to keep her 'holding down the fort'. I predict her water powers aren't going to be needed next season and they'll find yet another reason to keep her out of the treehouse. 

She proves herself a capable fighter.  No girls allowed.

She kicks butt as Samurai X.  No girls allowed.

She's capable of infiltration.  No girls allowed.

She pilots the Bounty.  No girls allowed.

She builds half the ninjas' other mechs. No girls allowed.

Now that she has water powers do you think that will change? Why? It's not like the ninja invited the other elemental masters to join their group? Why would powers be a key admission point now?

 

I'll continue the rest later. Thanks for the chance to rebutt.


"Honor those the dragons heed, in thought and favor, word and deed"

"Worlds are lost and worlds are saved, from those dangers dragons brave"

 

qs3174.jpg

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