Saturday, August 31, 2013

Animorphs: 31 Reasons I Will Always, Always, Always Love It

1. Cassie & Rachel are two of the greatest Girls Who Kick Ass in the history of fiction, and they both exemplify the trope in completely different ways:

    - Rachel (who, if she hadn't been born in the wrong universe, would've made an excellent Slayer) becomes a soldier in the war against the Yeerks and, not to put too fine a point on it, finds her purpose in life. She has such an extraordinary knack for fighting, and such a pronounced affinity for violence, that her friends worry about her and her enemies attempt to recruit her. At one point, Jake - who has known her longer than any of the others because they're cousins - tells her that he cannot imagine her making it through the war and settling down to have any sort of normal life. Ever.
    Also, there was that one time when she was in grizzly morph and her paw got sliced off, so she picked it up and used it to bludgeon her enemies to death.

    - And then, on a completely different hand, there's Cassie. She's not nearly as much of a traditional "action girl" - although, when you're in a WAR against parasitic mind-controlling evil ALIENS and you have the ability to turn into a WOLF, obviously you are going to become a completely capable combatant whether you want to or not - because she is quite possibly the nicest person on the planet who is not actually Mother Teresa. If Rachel is the strong one and Marco is the funny one, etc., Cassie is very much "the sensitive one"; she usually prefers to be around animals, but she gets people. She understands them. Inside and out. Instantly.
    Which eventually leads to her becoming a manipulative bastard who can do what needs to be done to protect her friends. Who figures out every little part of the plan to get rid of David without actually killing him (although you could argue that her solution is far worse than murder)? Cassie. Who figures out how to stop Visser Four (by doing something that is absolutely far, far worse than murder)? Cassie.
    Also, book twenty-nine, The Sickness. After completing the mission all by herself, she comes home and performs brain surgery on Ax. Who is an alien. GIRL GETS SHIT DONE.
    (And I'm not even going to talk about Back to Before.)


3. Pretty much everything Ax has ever said about anything. For example:
    "Evidently I am insane. May I go now?"
    "Is it not time for cookies?"
    "Yellow is the color of warning. I do not know why."
    "Please make every effort not to drop me!"
    "Cinnamon buns. Zuh. Bun-zuh."

4. If there's one thing to be learned from these books, it's that war is hell. Even though the series is supposedly intended for seven- to twelve-year-olds, the writers do not pull any punches while getting this point across.
    I especially appreciate the scene where the kids are having a wacky time travel adventure and find themselves stuck in a slightly different version of World War II; Ax, who is an alien, assumes that the Jews were an opposing army.

5. The plot twists! If you can read book one and guess any of the things that are revealed in The Andalite Chronicles - or read book five and guess any of the things that are revealed in Visser, etc. - YOU ARE A WITCH.

6. In the second Megamorphs book, the kids find out that broccoli is not native to Earth.

7. All six Animorphs frequently remind the readers that flying is absolutely the coolest thing ever; even Tobias, who you'd think might get used to it since he's a bird all the time, gets way excited about thermals.

8. The David trilogy: Never have I ever been so afraid that someone might actually kill any of the Animorphs. Yeah, Visser Three had all sorts of terrifying alien morphs that could eat lions and tigers and bears in one gulp, but he didn't know their secrets.

9. Well, duh: The Animorphs! Jake, Cassie, Marco, Ax, Tobias, and Rachel are some of my very favorite fictional characters in the history of, well, fiction. Other fans enjoy a good lengthy debate about why they're fond of this character or that one and don't care very much for this one or these two; intellectually, I can see where they're coming from, but emotionally, I just can't do it. Choosing a favorite Animorph would be like choosing a favorite Pony. They all have their own strengths and their own flaws, and I thoroughly love each and every one of them.

10. Hey, kids! Wanna get your mom's approval to listen to NIN? It's easy! Just tell her that their initials stand for . . . Nice Is Neat!

11. In the very first book, Jake (who is white) (and Jewish) tells the reader that he's had a crush on Cassie (who is black) for a long time. Over the course of the series, the two of them kind-of-sort-of-pretty-much fall in love. You can count on one hand the number of times that anyone ever made any sort of big deal about the fact that they were an interracial couple, and that number is . . . zero.

12. Speaking of racial tension! There's a thoroughly excellent scene in Elfangor's Secret (one of their wackiest wacky time travel adventures ever) where the kids are trying to get information about what year it is, why Einstein hasn't happened, etc., from a guy who doesn't want to help them because Cassie is (gasp) colored.
    So she very kindly tells him that, naturally, she'd be more than happy to turn white, if that'll make him more comfortable.
    And then she morphs a polar bear.
    He quickly tells them everything they need to know after that.

13. Almost everything about book seventeen, The Underground. To this day, it still makes me laugh my ass off an average of once every other page: Lucy Lawless, Happy Meals with extra happy, instant maple and ginger oatmeal, the nuthouse, etc.

14. When Katherine & Michael were planning the series, they decided that, if they were going to write about kids who could turn into animals, they would have to come up with "worthy" villains. THEY DID. Even though I fully understood that the books were absolutely fiction, the Yeerks and the Taxxons both gave me nightmares on multiple occasions.

15. The Ellimist Chronicles, which, without saying who, made it clear that one of the Animorphs was going to die. (You might think that being warned about the death would make it somewhat less emotional for the reader. It doesn't. The character's last line is, "I wondered if ---".)

16. "Do you just HATE TRASH CANS?"

17. Personally, I've always thought that shapeshifting must be one of the coolest, most badass superpowers ever. This series is probably one of the strongest examples to support that theory.

18. "People say I'm pretty, and I guess I'm okay. People say I'm self-confident, and I know that's true."

19. All six Animorphs have different reasons for fighting the Yeerks: Ax has grown up hating them because he's an Andalite, Rachel is an action junkie, Tobias just knows it's the right thing to do, Cassie really cares about the planet, Jake wants to save his brother, and Marco . . . well, Marco's reason is something of a shock.

20. "You see our might and tremble!"
    "I see your might. Where's your tremble?"

21. Jake and Marco's arguments, re: Batman vs. Spider-Man.

22. It's not exactly a huge recurring theme, but Marco is a Buffy fan.

23. Rachel's allergy to the crocodile morph. Is it the most original idea in the history of ideas? Maybe not, but it's still just freaking cool.

24. Obviously, it's completely ridiculous to expect six kids to fight off an alien invasion and ever have any hope of, you know, winning. The characters fully realize this, and discuss it all the time; Marco in particular seems to whine about the injustice of it all at least once every other book.

25. In book twenty-eight (which, being narrated by Ax, is one of the most hilarious books in the series), the Yeerks concoct a serum to take away free will and make it that much easier to turn humans into Controllers. Everyone else freaks out about this, but Cassie scoffs, insisting that it's flat-out impossible to get rid of free will.
    She's right.

26. "I have a saying for you. I got it from a fortune cookie. 'Fall down seven times, get up eight.' You know what that means? That means you don't ever just lie there. You always get up. You always come back for more. You never surrender. Maybe you die, but you never surrender."

27. Pretty much any book narrated by Marco, really. KAA has said that he's her favorite character to write for, and it shows. Not that books narrated by Jake, Cassie, Ax, Tobias, or Rachel are any less good, but she clearly had fun every time she gave him a line.
    Also, I just love his entire arc. Even when it's heartbreaking. Especially when it's heartbreaking.

28. "Live free or die!"

29. The fourth Megamorphs book, Back to Before. I can't even talk about it (MAJOR SPOILERS - not that spoilers are a huge deal for an out-of-print, hard-to-find book that was released more than a decade ago), but it looks at what would've happened if Jake, Cassie, Marco, Tobias, and Rachel had never walked home through the abandoned construction site, never met Elfangor, and never received the morphing power. It's basically a fanboy's wet dream.
    Particularly this one scene where the Drode points out that, by making sure the Animorphs included a great leader like Jake, Elfangor's little brother, Elfangor's son, the son of Visser One's host body, and Cassie (SPOILER), the Ellimist cheated and gave the good guys a few unfair advantages. Rachel is implied to be a happy accident.
    (Well, not that much of an accident, as she is Jake's cousin and Cassie's best friend, but.)

30. "My closest friends think I'm fearless. They're wrong about that. People without fear are just insane. I have plenty of fear in my life. Some days I feel afraid from the moment I wake up in the morning till my last nightmare at night.
    "But the thing about fear is you can't be afraid of it. I know that sounds confusing. I guess what I mean is, be afraid if you have to, right? Fear is like this vicious little worm that lives inside you and eats you alive. You have to fight it. You have to know it's there. You have to accept that you'll never get rid of it, but fight it just the same. Brave isn't about not being afraid. It's about being scared to death and still not giving in."

31. "But mostly, I remembered what I've always believed. What my mom taught me. That while some things are just plain awful, most things in life can be seen either as tragic or comic. And it's your choice. Is life a big, long, tiresome slog from sadness to regret to guilt to resentment to self-pity? Or is life weird, outrageous, bizarre, ironic, and just stupid?
    "Gotta go with stupid."

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