Thursday, 24 October 2013

Galactik Football - Part I

On the one hand, I could play my way through the orcish leveling zones and complain how all culture is gone from the horde. Or I could maybe do Mount Hyjal and try to figure what in the world they were thinking with bringing back the ancients. But no, that is not what we're going to do today. Why? Magical French Space Soccer, that's why.

Yes, they actually misspell their own title. Because Xtreme Kool Letterz be popular with da kiddos these day, dawg.

The Formation
Okay, backstory time. A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away, or alternatively, the far future, or alternatively, an alternate reality (seriously, I have no clue), there was/is/will be a magical energy called the flux. While the exact nature of the flux differed from world to world, one thing that never changed was its sheer power, which allowed people to casually shatter the laws of reality. Naturally, the people of the galaxy used it to blow each other up. Because tearing open the fabric of reality is a bad idea even when you're not using it to slaughter untold billions, it was eventually decided that the usage of flux should be banned. In a moment of political sanity, politicians quickly realized that people weren't just going to ignore the fact that they had awesome magical powers. Having spent their sanity points on that realization, they then decided that the only thing flux could legally be used for is soccer.

Actually, I mock it, but it does make some sense if you think about it. Professional sporters are very popular and very well-paid. If a person has a talent for flux, that means that cash and glory are within his grasp already, leaving far less temptation to use it for evil. Sports can also be restricted to certain areas (arenas and fields), leaving no ambiguity regarding the legality of any detected flux use. As for why the chosen sport is soccer, rather than another sport? Obviously, it's because a european country made the series. However, out of the popular sports, I do think soccer makes the most sense. Basketball has too small a field and movement restrictions when you hold the ball (so the flux wouldn't do much to enhance the game), extra strength and super-speed would break cricket (unless you make the field bigger, in which case the flux again doesn't really do much to enhance the game) and each game of american football would turn into a very impressive blood bath. I guess it could work with water polo though.

...Did I just defend the premise of Magical French Space Soccer?

Okay, back to backstory. Our story focuses on the planet Akillian. Once, this human world was a pinnacle of civilization. However, fifteen years ago, a mysterious explosion rocked the planet, causing an ice age, killing what I can only presume to be millions and, even worse, ruining the soccer team's chances by locking away The Breath, the flux of Akillian. Well, most of us probably wouldn't consider the cancellation of magical space soccer worse than a a near-apocalypse, but then we're not the opening to this show, are we?

The show starts with a flashback to that faithful match in the opening. Three players are identified, and will be important later on. There's Aarch (the guy with the tan you see in the opening), his brother Norata and their friend Artegor. It's actually a really dark and impressive scene, starting with your average magical space soccer match (I may mock it, but it's actually pretty fun to watch), before the ball suddenly freezes and shatters. A moment of confusion as the air visibly grows colder, and then... everything goes to hell. The entire stadium is buried beneath a thick layer of snow and ice, probably burying thousands alive. The last we see of this scene is Aarch screaming in terror, before cutting to him in the present, now an elder man.

An elder man portrayed by a terrible voice actor. After many years away from his home, he is finally returning to Akillian, bringing with him an engineer named Clamp, also portrayed by a terrible voice actor. Turns out, Aarch is planning to start a new soccer team. Given what we see later of his backstory throughout the series, I'm kind of wondering why returning took so long, as well as what he did in the meantime.

We're then quickly introduced to what will become our main characters. Micro-Ice, portrayed by a terrible voice actor, tries to pull a fast one on a local crime boss but gets found out and escapes in a chase scene. D'jok, portrayed by a bad voice actor, tries to get a reading out of his soothsayer space gipsy stepmother, portrayed by a terrible voice actor, but she refuses to read his future because of reasons the show doesn't tell us. Rocket, portrayed by a bad voice actor, speaks creepily to his secret altar dedicated to Aarch. Turns out, Rocket is actually the son of Norata, now portrayed by a bad voice actor, making him Aarch's nephew.

Wait a minute...

How exactly does skin color work in this universe? Maybe Norata is adopted or something. Then again, you'd think that would come up in his distancing himself from Aarch. Apparently, he didn't exactly appreciate it when, after the apocalypse tore off his leg, Aarch just left him to fend for himself, while he went to play space soccer on another planet.

Actually, I'm with Norata. That is quite a dick move, Aarch. Especially when you consider that we later learn that Norata's wife had just left him, leaving him to raise Rocket alone. I'm not saying Aarch should have stayed behind, but dropping in once in a while would have been nice. Or, at the very least, give some emotional support over the phone (or whatever sci-fi equivalent they're using here). Considering how quickly he dropped his own brother after he was no longer useful for soccer, I wouldn't want my impressionable soccer-loving kid who has an obvious crush on the man to interact with him either.

Then again, this entire show seems to have a problem with its 'sympathetic' characters doing dickish things, and the show not realizing just how dickish it is. As I said before, Micro-Ice tried to pull a fast one on a local crime boss. The local crime boss wanted the kid to scalp some soccer tickets. However, when the tickets got stolen, Micro-Ice tried to make fake ones to return to his boss. The boss figured it out though. Best case scenario when the boss' goons get him is that they merely beat him into a bloody pulp. And what do his friends, D'jok and Thran (who is also portrayed by a bad voice actor), do? Make fun of him, of course.

By this point, you may have noticed me mentioning bad voice actors a few hundred times. That's because this series has terrible, terrible, terrible voice acting. Originally, the show was in french, and the voice acting was fine (though I do find the narrator a bit annoying). However, when they translated it to english, they did so in ireland. While having everyone use an Irish accent would only be slightly odd, they instead had the actors imitate other, more marketable accents, despite the voice actors not actually being capable of doing those accents. In the best case scenarios, these actors sound stiff, and their real accent occasionally slips through, though this does improve over time. In the worst case scenario, you get Micro-Ice, who I want to strangle in his sleep because of his sheer annoyance factor. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find a subbed version of the original french, meaning I have to sit through the fecal cacaphony that is his stiff, shrill noise hole blabberings. And yet it's still better than how he sounds in season three.

Prolonged exposure to season three Micro-Ice has been known to cause intense pain, swollen blood vessels, inner ear damage, brain hemorrhaging and, ultimately, the shattering of souls. It has been declared a form of torture by the UN.

Turns out, the tickets were stolen by local bully Sinedd. As someone who will eventually become one of the main villains, the dubbers made sure to tell his voice actor to let his voice crack up constantly and giving him lines that would be childish for a nine year old, making sure no one will take him seriously. Considering it's an explicit plot point that he's older than the rest of the kids, you'd think they would actually have made him sound older. On the other hand, the only reason Micro-Ice and friends think Sinedd is the thief is because of the size of his shoes (which they never measured, so they're just kinda eyeballing it), after which they promptly decide that that's enough evidence to threaten to wreck his stuff unless he returns the tickets. Again, dicks.

Finally, we see the main characters do something that is neither illegal nor dickish, as they help defend Aarch from the local crime boss, using epic soccer skills. As we'll slowly discover, galactik football actually takes place in a dystopia where corporations, secret cabals and criminals are the only people with any power. And no, that's not a funny exaggeration. That's actually what we're supposed to take away from the show. It's a really weird detail of the setting, and something they never really do anything with.

Finally (seriously, it's been an entire episode), Aarch starts to recruit his team. Micro-Ice, D'jok, Sinedd and Thran all join the team. Along with them, there is Ahito, Mei and Tia. Ahito is Thran's brother, and he is narcoleptic. Not exactly a trait you regularly see in soccer players, though the result is actually gloriously hilarious, him actually spending most matches sleeping in his goal. Mei seems to be an odd transplant from an entirely different show. She's one of those kids whose parents are trying to live through them, with her mother trying to make her a super-star. Which is of course why she signed her up for a sport in which she could never excel because she lacked flux. And waited for Aarch to announce that he would found a team, rather than trying to join the existing Akillian team. It's like they took one of those characters from a girly show whose mother tries to turn her into an actress and clumsily shoved her into a series about soccer. In an annoying sub-plot that will last more than half the damn season, Micro-Ice develops a crush on her.

Tia also seems to come from a different series, though her transition is slightly smoother. She is the white-haired mysterious girl who speaks with a british accent (she's also the only main character without a bad voice actor). Her first appearance is her crashing on the planet in a one-man pod. Rocket, nearby at the time, makes sure she survives the subsequent explosion. While there's some bonding between the two, the girl insists that she go meet Aarch. Now, why would she be so desperate, unless...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's the flux, the breath of Akkilian. And, for a series that appears to have an animation budget of three cents and a piece of lint per episode, it actually looks suitably impressive. Though, it does look oddly similar to some of the biotics effects from mass effect.

Magical space soccer, a proud asari tradition.
Eventually, through much teen and genuinely heartwarming parental drama, Aarch also manages to convince Norata to let Rocket, who is a great passer, join the team.

Remember what I said about this series taking place in a dystopia? Episode 3 is when we meet the closest thing the show has to an official government; the flux society. A shadowy cabal known to but a few, which uses advanced scanning equipment and infiltration to monitor all the flux usage in the galaxy. They concern themselves with little else, leaving the commercial empire of technoid to effectively run the galaxy. Because they think that the breath of Akillian may have been connected to the near-apocalypse on that planet, they're not exactly fond of it suddenly returning out of nowhere with Tia. So they send Dame Simbai, an old acquaintance of Aarch, to Akillian, where she will pose as a physician for Aarch's team while keeping an eye on them.

We also meet another shadowy player, in the form of General Blaylock, a high-ranking technoid official. He's paying off coach officials so that Aarch's team gets acknowledged as an official League team despite, y'know, never having played a single match.

Aaaand, shadowy player number three. Seriously, this is like the world's largest pile-up of conspiracies. Remember Artegor, Aarch's old team-mate? He's currently the coach of the red tigers, the other team of Akillian, and he's not happy that Aarch somehow found a player with the breath. Since Aarch's team (okay, it's really getting annoying saying that. Let's just switch to Snowkids, even though they won't name themselves that for a while) is having a friendly match with the Wambas later on, he's going to use that opportunity to cripple Tia. One of the Wamba players is sick, and doesn't have enough money to pay for medication, so Artegor offers to spring the bill in return for this one little service.

The Qualification
As it is time for the first real match, it is time to learn one important aspect of this series: galactik football is not a fair game. All members of a team need to come from the same planet, and each planet can only send one team to participate in the league. However, because the kind of flux you use is tied to which planet you come from, each flux can also be used by only one team in the league (though the smog works slightly differently and season three will add some more exceptions to this rule). As different fluxes provide different powers, which differ wildly in usefulness, this leads to a rather large imbalance. This is especially harsh on the wambas, since their flux, The Roar, only seems to increase speed and allows you to make sweet jumps, which are basic powers for almost every flux, which also give additional powers (the breath does both, and also allows you to screw the laws of momentum).

In addition to the different flux powers, there is also the fact that the species themselves are tied to their home planet and differ in physical abilities. This majorly screws the humans, who score lower on size, strength and/or agility compared to every other species but the shadows, with most of those races having more powerful fluxes to boot.

Also, for just this one episode, fluxes totally aren't space magic (even though the opening explicitly calls it magic), but scientific. Something about the alignment of moons and planets, and the radiation they give off, with akillian not having the breath because the planet was knocked off-axis by the explosion. That will make no sense in the long run, but whatever.

Also, I feel like I've spent too long complaining, so a quick positive. While the animation for the show is pretty bad, the background art is actually surprisingly detailed, and often pretty cool. Have some planet Wamba.

Yes, that is a tree planet. No, I do not care where it gets its water from. It looks awesome. Also, while I'm talking about the wambas, have their musical theme.

Despite not being particularly rich or advanced, the wambas are a very friendly lot, and the Snowkids stay on their planet is mostly enjoyable (though the food is not exactly appealing to their palette). It turns out that Aarch actually spent a while living with the wambas. After the explosion on Akillian, he and Artegor joined The Shadows. The Shadows flux is unique, in that it is sort of a dark counterpart to normal flux, and you don't actually need to be a Shadow to use it. Unfortunately, using The Smog is not exactly healthy, and Aarch had an overdose during one particular match. As a result, he quit the team and went to the wamba planet to recover.

Smog is one hell of a drug.
Another important aspect of the series we learn now: Micro-Ice always gets the shaft. While I have expressed utter and complete loathing (plus a dash of homicidal mania) regarding the character, I should clarify that it is only because of the terrible voice and the bad lines he's given. Outside of that, he's actually been quite cool. If I didn't want to violently murder him, he'd probably be my favorite character by this point. He served as the audience viewpoint character for the first two episodes, has a unique and rather impressive style of play based on his parkour skills and generally has been the most sympathetic character in the series thusfar.

Remember how Rocket was recruited after the other players? As a result, the team now has one too many players, and someone needs to be benched. Guess who? Yup, it's Micro-Ice. From both a writing and an in-universe perspective, it's a really weird decision. As I said, he's basically been the audience viewpoint character up till now. From an in-universe perspective, it makes little sense either. Everything up till now has shown Micro-Ice as a very competent (if somewhat easily distracted) player, who specializes in outmaneuvering opposing players. We've even seen two very brief flashes of him tapping into the flux, something we've seen no other player do. Meanwhile, on the team that does get put on the field, we have Thran, a player who has not only shown no special skill, but is also having stomach cramps at the moment. I'd say Aarch is just testing out the skills of the players he knows less about (since he's interacted with Micro-Ice quite a lot), but he's very adamant for no apparent reason that this is the final line-up.

Naturally, when the opponent is larger, stronger, more agile and better trained than you, as well as having epic magical powers that they have years of experience with, you're boned. Sinedd tries to get there with a blatant foul (which, for some reason, doesn't trigger the automated foul detector, and doesn't have Aarch comment on it), but that doesn't work either. Tia managed to pull a single goal with her asari impression, but then the wamba Artegor hired rams her at full speed, doing terrible damage to her leg. If this were soccer, that means she'd be substituted while the medics that always stand ready for the big teams take care of her. Of course, that would mean letting Micro-Ice play. So, instead, the Snowkids forfeit the match and the team moves back to Akillian to take care of her.

And it's time for shadowy organization number four. Yes, another one. A group of terrorists/freedom fighters/thieves/space soccer players known as The Pirates breaks into Clamp's training equipment back on Akillian. They are led by Sonny Blackbones, who despite the name is more of a ninja than a pirate. However, when Sonny recognizes Clamp's logo, he orders his men to retreat.

Also, in a dramatic reveal, we learn out why Tia was so mysterious. She ran away from her parents (travelling ambassadors of Akillian) to join Aarch's team. The people who gave Aarch permission were actually hired actors, and now that Artegor has discovered that, he simply had the police bring her back.

…seriously? That's it? That explains absolutely nothing! Why did she arrive on Akillian in a defective one-man pod? How did she relearn to use the breath years before anyone else? Why did she go to Aarch if she didn't even know what the breath of Akillian was before he told her? How and why did she keep her use of the breath secret for so many years, even from the flux society? Serious faux pas there, magical french space soccer writers.

After a few days of training, it's time for the match with the red tigers. For some odd reason, the red tigers seem to have sound effects integrated into their suits. Also, they're wearing helmets. I'm beginning to suspect that space soccer may have somewhat looser rules than regular soccer. Surprisingly, the snowkids are doing even worse against the red tigers than they did against the wambas.

I should again point out that galactic football has a really shoddy animation budget. As a result, a lot of the football match material gets re-used, with recycled animations, or a creative editor re-uses a scene to stretch the match a few seconds. At times, this results in continuity errors, like when we suddenly see Tia standing on the field.

Ignoring time-travelling soccer pixies, the actual Tia shows up during half-time, having escaped from her parents. Naturally, Aarch, having no permission from her parents, is totally fine with letting her play. Tia, being a magical doom goddess capable of breaking the laws of reality and the bodies of enemies at her whim, turns the match around single-handedly.

Repent before the altar of the lady of snow, and let all the sin be taken from your heart.
Actually, speaking of that, why aren't the red tigers using the flux? Sure, they can't use the breath of Akillian, but what about the smog? Considering their coach is a user, and the tigers are shown willing to do anything to win, I don't really see any reason why they wouldn't. Instead, Artegor orders them to just break the rules and slide-kick Tia.

Another way in which space soccer is more dangerous than regular soccer is that it doesn't have yellow or red cards. Instead, players are simply put on time-out for a few minutes, no matter how severe their foul. On the other hand, the penalty boxes float very high above the field, at least 20 meters. So, when they release their prisoner (for which they don't land), it should really break their legs. Yet later on, we see the red tigers survive their fall with no problem whatsoever. Are we sure that the Akillians are human?

While Tia is taken out, a very, very angry Rocket unleashes his unholy fury on those who would dare sully the doom goddess, making the score even. D'jok, becoming the second person capable of using the breath, then makes the winning goal, with a shot that I'm quite sure killed the red tigers' keeper. Ah well, all is fair in love, war and space soccer.

Here lies Thomas Wayne, beloved father, husband and friend. Though cut short in the prime of his life, his legacy lives on through his son, his team and his fans. We'll miss you, Thomas.
As a demonstration of that principle, Aarch uses media contacts to get a reporter to interview Tia's parents, with the interviewer totally gushing about how Tia is totally bringing pride to all of Akillia, while broadcasting to the entire planet. Naturally, the really, really low tactic seen here works, and the sheer power of public obsession with sports forces the politicians to either keep their daughter on the team, against their will and despite multiple attempts to permanently cripple her, or commit political suicide. Having to choose between what they think is right for their daughter and what they think is right for themselves, they choose the latter, throwing their little girl to the sharks.

In the plot of mysterious shadowy organization number two, Blaylock is talking to a scientist, looking at images of D'jok's new fluxxy abilities and talking about something called the metaflux. The scientist says that he can't draw conclusions based on images alone, and it's revealed that this metaflux was made by two scientists who are now missing. At the end of the scene, we discover that Clamp is actually one of these scientists and that he somehow lost his memory. However, Blaylock is all too willing to freshen up that memory, which reveals to us that this metaflux was responsible for the explosion that caused the ice age on Akillian.

With the Snowkids having secured a place in the league, it's time for the drawing of the preliminary rounds. The snowkids end up in a group with amazon super-soldiers, terrorists and drug addicts. So, a pretty average soccer competition then. It's also revealed that Artegor is now suddenly the coach of the shadows, and Sinedd has joined their team. No, it's never explained why the favorites for the cup suddenly hired the coach of a third-rate team of nobodies and a player whose career thusfar lasted half a match, in which he did pretty poorly.

The preliminaries

First up, amazon super-soldiers, known as the rykers. Remember how I said that galactic football wasn't fair? The rykers are probably the single greatest example of that, at least this season. Physically, they're insurmountable, bodies of 150 kilos of pure muscle, coated with metal, easily capable of lifting 150 kilos with a single hand. Their flux, the metal yell, is hilariously powerful, capable of enhancing strength, enhancing speed, knocking away enemies through banshee screeches, creating shields, slowing balls shot by opponents, fancy special effects and instant maniacal mechanical laughter. One gets the feeling that the only reason flux has been banned was because everyone was too scared of the rykers. It would certainly explain all the stuff these ladies get away with in their match, without a single foul being declared. Had the snowkids been actual humans, Tia would have broken several ribs due to falling from thirty meters on her belly, before being paralyzed for life due to a broken spine when a ryker kicked her and stepped on her, before breaking whatever bones remained in her torso due to being shot from the sky again, Ahito would have a shattered arm due to the sheer power behind the first ball he stopped and heavy internal bleeding due to the second ball, D'jok two broken shoulders due to rykers ramming him and a broken everything later on due to a ryker ramming him at super-speed while he was also at flux-powered speeds and Thran would need a clean pair of pants because DEAR GODS, that laugh is unsettling.

And Aarch dares to whine that the Snowkids aren't doing teamwork or giving it their all? The fact that the snowkids actually stay on the field for the entire match without anyone breaking down should get them all a silver cross, the medal of honor and nobel prize in the field of having massive brass balls. Maybe throw in an oscar and a few grammies, because by the gods, they deserve it.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thought that this match was slightly too brutal, as later appearances by the rykers are toned down considerably. On the other hand, it goes so far in the other direction that it's bound to give you whiplash. When the snow kids and the rykers have a re-match, the latter barely use their metal yell offensively, make less physical contact (and actually get fouls now) while seeming to be sorely lacking in the strength and stability departments. Also, Rocket, Mei, Ahito and Thran suddenly get the ability to use flux with little to no build-up. No, not Micro-Ice, because the show needs to screw him some more. And time itself actually slows down (23 seconds pass on the field for 8 on the clock) to give the kids time to score a counter-goal. Apparently, the laws of reality feel as sorry for the Snowkids because of the last match as I do.

During the last few episodes, there's been a sub-plot about Rocket becoming team captain due to having decent tactical insight (and the rest of the team not really doing much thinking), the others discovering that he's Aarch's nephew and playing the nepotism card, D'jok being a dick, Micro-Ice trying to ploy the audience into murdering him through sheer annoyance, Rocket running away for a bit and then reconciliation for everyone. Long, fairly boring story short: he's captain now. Plus, his father at least accepts his choice to play soccer, though he still doesn't support it.

In annoying romantic sub-plots, we've first got Tia and Rocket. She's attracted to him because of his brains and the fact he saved her life once. He's attracted to her, I presume, because her hair reminds him of Aarch. The slow building relation between those two is actually kinda sweet. Not so much for the other romantic plot. Remember Micro-Ice and his annoying crush on Mei? Well, because Mei's mother is telling her that she needs to be in an attacking position to get any fame (rather than the defensive one she's in now), so she's been hitting on D'jok to drive a wedge between him and Micro-Ice, hoping that one of the two attackers will... leave, I guess? Again, dick. Everyone here is a dick. Micro-Ice spent an entire match trying to show off rather than play the ball, D'jok ain't got no care in the world about his friend's feelings due to the sweet allure of poontang and Mei is trying to get someone out of the team to further her own career.

Do not let the plague of dickery spread to your neighborhood. If you spot any of these individuals, call animal control immediately.
Now that the amazons have been beaten, it is time to move on to terrorists, as the next match is against The Pirates. Did I mention the fact that all of the Snowkids are only fourteen or fifteen years old? And that Aarch is taking them, without any protection or oversight, to the hide-out of a known criminal organization just so they can play a game of Space Soccer? The entire league should get a massive fine for reckless endangerment for planning this match.

Then again, the entire scenario is kinda weird. From what we can tell, the league is either organized or at least heavily sponsored by the technoid corporation, the corporate empire at the heart of the dystopian society that crushes the galaxy between it's iron boot of oppression. The pirates are an organization dedicated to stopping technoid, though their actions don't really seem to go beyond stealing stuff. Why do The Pirates want to play space soccer, which endangers their secret hideout for the home games, and why does technoid let them?

That said, The Pirates are actually pretty harmless and a very friendly bunch. They stand out from all the other teams we see in the series because they're not exactly good players (they don't even seem to have a flux) and never form a legitimate threat to the kids. It's just two games of friendly competition between a bad team and a mediocre team, and it's rather charming in that regard.

It's around this point that we really kick off the metaflux sub-plot that is so important, I'm not entirely sure it's not the main plot. We discover that the other scientist behind the Metaflux is actually Sonny Blackbones, Clamp reveals that the Snowkids all have the metaflux in them because they were born shortly after the explosion that wrecked Akillian and Clamp is now being forced to work for general Blaylock due to a poison capsule in his body, secretly extracting metaflux from the snow kids (which causes an occasional loss of control for the kids).

Apparently, the metaflux was initially designed for good ol' space soccer, to give the technoid team of robots more of an edge. However, when it turned out that the metaflux was completely undetectable, General Blaylock instead started planning to use it to circumvent the flux society and restart flux warfare. Clamp and Blackbones were understandably not very happy about their invention being used for evil, and ran away, taking the metaflux with them. They were shot down over Akillian, and the metaflux escaped containment, creating a massive, massive explosion.

Galactic warfare that could rock the fabric of the universe out of the way, let's instead talk about something that's actually important: magical space soccer. First, the flux. In the first few episodes, the flux was this special, magical thing. Even without any training, it could turn Tia, a tiny, frail-looking, inexperienced girl, into a magical goddess of doom. However, as the series progresses, flux becomes less and less impressive, and is treated rather casually. Even the unlocking of the flux is treated casually now, with no build-up, no real impact and no logic to whose flux gets unlocked. For something that is so central to the appeal of the show, that's a really disappointing development.

Coupled with that is that the powers of the flux never really get developed for some of the snowkids. When D'jok gets the flux, he becomes a human cannon, capable of more powerful shots than anyone on the field. When Rocket gets the flux, he becomes a small human tornado, twisting and turning around opponents to get to free space, and also gets extra-sensory perception. When Thran gets the flux, he uses it to craft energy shields. When Ahito gets the flux, he develops it into an odd mix between magical space soccer and martial arts, reminding me a bit of capoeira. So, given the precedence from those four, you'd expect all of the Snowkids to develop their own tricks with the flux, right? Nope. Mei, Tia and Micro-Ice all stick to the basics. Did the writers just run out of ideas for cool uses of the flux?

Coupled with this is subject two: player relevance. For the vast majority of the games we see, there only seem to be four people on the field: Ahito, D'jok, Rocket and Tia. Whenever one of the other players actually does something, the viewer is like “oh, right, they're on the field too”. Actually, it's not just the viewer, but also the writing, with almost all of their actions being written as big surprises. “Le gasp, Thran stopped a ball that Ahito missed!” “Le gasp, Micro-Ice goes on the offensive!” “Le gasp, Mei does... something or other.” Yeah, her not really having a defined thing she does doesn't help the perception that she belongs on an entirely different show. At least later seasons improve on that part a bit.

Speaking of the Mei subplot, Micro-Ice and D'jok finally stop being dicks to each other and the girl grows a consciousness. However, her mother than talks it out of her again, so now she starts hitting on Micro-Ice, while also convincing him that D'jok is still totally going for her. I'm actually rather impressed with her competence at backstabbyness, as she somehow manages to laugh at the vocal monstrosity that passes for one of his jokes.

The next match up is against the smog-addicted shadows, the favorites for the cup. Unfortunately for our protagonists, the Snowkids need to win at least one of the two matches against the shadows to qualify for the last sixteen. This is because of really shady math. The idea behind the preliminaries is that the top two teams of every group will move on to the final sixteen. The shadows have thusfar won four out of four games. The snow kids have won three out of four. The rykers have won one out of four, though two more victories are a safe bet since they'll be playing the pirates. And the pirates have zero. Even if the snow kids lose both matches against the shadows, that means that they'll be tied for second place. Yet everyone acts like there is no chance at all of making the final sixteen without at least one win (and explicitly not a tie) against the shadows. Do they know something I don't?

“Silly reviewer. Math is not soccer, therefore I won't allow my players to do any.”
In the main plot, Sonny Blackbones, who shall be called Professor Pirate-Ninja from now on, sneaks into the Snowkids' facility to talk to Clamp. Professor Pirate-Ninja (professor in the field of badassery) does not appreciate Clamp trying to extract metaflux from the Snowkids. Unfortunately, Blaylock planted a sub-dermal microphone in Clamp, and robots attack immediately. Fortunately, technoid battle robots really, really, really, really, really suck, as we see with their every appearance. Despite firing at least a hundred times at nearby targets without cover throughout the series, they only ever managed to score a single hit... and even that was non-lethal. Blaylock decides that Clamp is too high a risk to keep in the Snowkids' facility, and kidnaps him, replacing him with some sort of copy.

Professor Pirate-Ninja (second degree in the field of asskicking)'s escape brings him across Micro-Ice. Because Micro-Ice is like one of those kids that adore Che Guevara, he's totally ready to screw the man and help the criminal escape. He even has a moment straight out of a james bond film, with Micro-Ice and Professor Pirate-Ninja snowboarding down the mountain while pursued by villains on snowbikes. Unfortunately, before he can screw the man, the man screws Professor Pirate-Ninja (graduate from the university of awesome) first, and the only successful shot from a technoid robot in the series hits him. However, Micro-Ice gets him on the pirate escape vessel, and the two flee the planet. We also learn that Professor Pirate-Ninja (minor in seduction) had his pregnant wife shot down over planet Akillian just before the great disaster. I'll give an early spoiler, and say that his pregnant wife managed to reach an escape pod. Because the escape pod was designed by idiots, it had a tiny metal parachute, so she still died. However, it did buy her enough time to give birth to a baby boy, which she asked to be named D'jok. Though since she didn't write the name down, it's likely that she just intended it to be Jock, and space gipsy hippie didn't find the name new-agey enough. Now if only we could get an explanation for Micro-Ice's name.

During the chase, Micro-Ice was in contact with Thran, so the team knows that he's fled off-planet with a group of inter-planetary terrorists. Not that they'll bother contacting his mother or anything. Speaking of things that should be a factor when employing children, when are they going to school? It was referenced in an earlier episode, so we know it still exists on post-apocalyptic Akillian.

Also, it's proven that Aarch is absolutely goddamn out-of-his-mind obsessed with soccer, when we see his reaction to the news that Micro-Ice was chased by robots and had to flee the planet to escape violent murder: “How could he leave us at a time like this?” Seriously, get this man some medication, because there is obviously something wrong with his brain. Something as un-soccer as killer robots doesn't even register in his mind. We might also need a quarantine, as it seems to be contagious: everyone acts as if Micro-Ice abandoned the team on purpose rather than him getting in over his head and having to escape deadly killer robots. And this will only become more stupendously ridiculous in time. Again, Micro-Ice gets the shaft. If I didn't have to listen to his voice, I'd feel sorry for him.

By the time the match start, I'm starting to wonder how Aarch still doesn't have any reserve players ready. Until now, they've been forced to play with only six people on the field in at least three different matches. But no, they have to make due with a weird duplicate of Micro-Ice that just stands still and waves around for 90% of the match.

Naturally, this does not end well for them. While the shadows aren't quite as terrifyingly brutal as the rykers were, they aren't hit with the incompetence bat like the rykers were in their second game. In addition, their flux, the smog, is really powerful, providing the power of short-range teleportation along with a major screwing of the rules of momentum like The Breath.

Oddly enough, the Snowkids, despite having one less (functional) team member, Mei not doing well in Micro-Ice's position and D'jok's grumpiness, actually don't do that badly. Remember, The Shadows are the favorites for the title, and will actually reach the finale this season. You'd think the Snowkids would be utterly trounced. But no, they go head to head for the entire game, and the Snowkids only lose because the weird duplicate Micro-Ice tackles one of the Shadows and gives them a penalty in the last minute. Actually, considering that the weird duplicate is not a sentient being and was provided by the league (and much, much lower in quality than all the other weird duplicates we see), its pretty unfair that the Snowkids are held accountable for his actions, isn't it? I'm surprised that they don't sue the league for what is clearly a defective product.

Micro-Ice has been hanging out with the pirates for a while now, doing dishwashing in the local pub because he doesn't feel like going back to his team. However, D'jok manages to send him a semi-secret message during a television interview, and that convinces Micro-Ice to come back. However, before he leaves, the pirates erase his memory. Aarch later mentions that this is customary for their prisoners. So, from their perspective, the only reason that Micro-Ice wasn't with them for the match was because he was being held captive by terrorists. Naturally, they still blame him, because Micro-Ice always gets the shaft.

And thus, it is time for the final match in the preliminaries. But first, EPIC TRAINING MONTAGE! Seriously, I love those things. To my utter and complete shock, all characters genuinely stop being dicks at this point. Character growth? Right before the main match? Yeah, they're gonna win. It's such a cliché trope that everyone can predict it. Galactik football goes the extra mile though by having character growth be the only factor. The skill of their opponents actually goes down the more the snowkids develop. The rykers were a really extreme example, but there's plenty of others.

"Okay Lun-Zia, I've heard that Mei has just become less manipulative, so that means you have to miss the ball when you try to tackle it away from her, alright? Boonzoff, D'jok stole a piece of candy last night, so don't skimp on the flux while defending the goal."
Just to be fair, it also seems to go the other way around. For the first half of this match, the Snowkids are actually performing worse to accentuate Sinedd's evil character growth, though they bounce back by the second half. In an honestly pretty cool fashion, it's Micro-Ice who scores the final goal, pulling an awesome parkour around the shadows players in the last twenty seconds.

Anyway, time for the character ending notes for this arc. Mei strikes two advertising deals despite not being an attacker. Micro-Ice gets forgiven for being held prisoner by interstellar criminals. D'jok has been exorcized of his dickishness, but it appears to have been transferred to Rocket. Ahito and Thran have stopped existing as anything more than background characters. And Tia... Wait, what?

Tia, I know you're trying to impress Rocket, and I'm not going to judge your personal choices. On the other hand, you're a fifteen year old girl and that dress you're wearing shows enough skin to make it obvious that you're not wearing any underwear. As such, you're making me feel very uncomfortable. And the seductive voice while showing off before your entire team is not making it better. I know you want to test whether or not your boyfriend is only attracted to Aarch or if he has some interest in girls too, but please do that in private.

See you next time, everyone. I'm going to wash myself until I feel clean again. Might be a few days.

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