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The serials and their function



I was just reflecting on which BIONICLE books I liked most and least, and I got to thinking about something. While the serials are often heavily criticized for being bloated, aimless, and an obstacle to new BIONICLE fans, I'm starting to get a sense of why they were introduced in the first place (other than as a free online method of story dispersal).


The books in the year 2006 were among my least favorite. At many points felt like the characters were rushing from one battle or crisis to another without pause, and the characterization in these books (in my opinion) was very weak. Subsequently, Prisoners of the Pit ended up being one of my favorite BIONICLE books because it got to explore the Toa Mahri, their relationships with one another, and how becoming Toa had affected them much better than the 2006 story had done for the Toa Inika.


What changed for the BIONICLE storyline in 2007? The biggest change was the introduction of BIONICLEstory.com and the first story serials. And I think that while their own quality may be contested, they helped to relieve some of the bloating that the main story had undergone in 2006. Instead of the main story having to make room for minor characters from the sets like Umbra and Irnakk or combi models like Protodax, Botar, and the Kardas Dragon, the story serials could deal with these kind of characters (as seen in Dreams of Destruction, which focused on the store-exclusive characters Lesovikk, Karzahni, Sarda, and Idris, or Brothers in Arms, which focused on the store-exclusive characters Mazeka and Vultraz). Instead of the main story having to keep tabs on fan-favorite characters from previous story arcs like the Toa Nuva, Roodaka, the Rahaga/Toa Hagah, the Order of Mata Nui, and the Dark Hunters, the story serials could keep tabs on their adventures (as seen in the Toa Nuva Blog, Federation of Fear, Destiny War, Dark Mirror, and Dwellers in Darkness).


These things freed up the main story as told in the books to focus on the characters who actually mattered most: the current Toa team, their current allies, and their current enemies. The books could spend more time on characterization and world-building. They didn't have to do so much jumping around between spatial and temporal settings. They didn't have to have so many characters who got in the way of the Toa just because there was a set or combi model to promote and the designers didn't give a lot of thought into how to fit those characters or situations into the main storyline.


I can't tell you for sure whether the serials are every bit as bad as people remember them. I just skimmed through the 2007 ones to remember what they were about specifically, and the writing is weak compared to the books — in some cases, weaker than I had remembered. The fact that my memories of the later serials were not fond enough to even go back and skim them is telling. Perhaps part of the reason the serials got more tangled and bloated as they went on is because, with more and more characters being introduced to the story and fewer and fewer books to fit them in, they started to suffer the very same fate they were meant to save the main story from. In any case, I definitely don't think that the serials are themselves redeemed by the purpose they served, but perhaps I still owe them some thanks for what they were: a pressure release valve of sorts to reduce the out-of-control expansion the main story was losing the ability to deal with on its own.

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I kind of disagree with this. While Dreams of Destruction, Into the Darkness (sort of: it expanded on Matoro and Maxilos and Karzanhi, who also appeared in the book Downfall), Brothers In Arms, Sahmad's Tale, Empire of the Skrall and to an extent Dark Mirror served this function, for the most part it was to get updates on characters people wanted to know about but weren't essential to understanding the main story.


The events of the Gali Nuva Blog, Federation of Fear, Destiny War, Dwellers in Darkness and Reign of Shadows were entirely to provide updates on characters that weren't being featured as sets, assuming that we wanted to know every little detail about the world of Bionicle. Much like Legacy of Evil. 


And finally, Mutran Chronicles was a concept unto itself, probably done for the sake of the chronology guys at BS01. :P That's forgivable because I found Mutran to be funny. :shrugs:


Anyway, I agree that 2006's books suffered from the "swinging camera" effect of too many characters. Once you got into the situation going on - whoop, next character. The problem was that the Toa Nuva's defeat was essential to the Toa Inika's appearance. Then we had Brutaka, Axonn, the Piraka themselves, and the Voya Nui resistance team. Dark Destiny was the worst book for this - and while I loved it for the dramatic tension, I just wished they would stick with one character for ten minutes. I'm not sure how a serial would solve that mess, though. 

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Huh, I kinda felt it was the other way around in terms of character development.  Most of the Inika had fair development in the first three books of 2006, but they all felt kind of bland in 2007, except for Matoro and Jaller.  And although the serials were never the greatest, I do admit that they were better in 07 and certainly started dipping further in quality later...



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