Adam: 54 books, 4 Megamorphs, 4 Chronicles, 2 cruddy CYOA books, 2 hurricanes, 5 fanfics, and lots of emotional trauma and we are finally done.
Ifi: I was honestly not quite sure that we would make it.
Adam: I would have yelled at you until we did.
Ifi: I should have thought before committing to such a large project.
Adam: If everyone went around thinking all the time, where would that get us?
Ifi: More naptime.
Ifi: Do you ungrateful goobers know how many naps I had to cut short to write these reviews?
Ifi: At least thirty
Adam: That's certainly a lot of naps.
Ifi: One a day. It adds up.
Adam: I may have stayed up til four in the morning finishing drawings perhaps a little more often then I should.
Ifi: I wasted countless hours of my life on fanfics. Hours that I could have spent on writing my own manuscripts. All for you.
Adam: Practice is practice.
Ifi: Yeah but I never edited them lolz
Adam: Get an intern next time.
Ifi: Anyway, we are not here to talk about me.
Ifi: We are here to talk about this book series thing.
Ifi: There were a couple points I wanted to touch on, and I am sure Adam has his own.
Adam: Any particular place you would like to start?
Ifi: I think we should start with character
Ifi: One of the strongest points of this series is the diverse and memorable array of characters we're given.
Ifi: And I'm not just talking about the main six.
Adam: One of Applegate's strong points as a writer is being able to give a character a very distinct arc to them in only a limited number of appearances.
Adam: A particular favorite example of mine is Alloran, who grows rather interesting, all in the course of about three books where he has speaking roles.
Ifi: Unfortunately, this happens a lot. We get shown a really cool character, they are awesome for one book, and they are never mentioned again.
Ifi: (This also applies to alien races as a whole)
Ifi: When you consider the sheer amount of filler this series has, it's really sad.
Adam: I mean, when you're on the sort of contract that forces you to churn out a book a month, a large degree of filler is to be expected.
Adam: Which I guess leads back to the argument that the series would have been better if it was something more like the Harry Potter books; Each book longer in length, but far fewer of them, and released further apart.
Ifi: I think that is a good rule for anything. Quality over quantity and all that. But Animorphs was very much a franchise that was all about raking in as much money as possible.
Ifi: As evidenced by all the incredibly bizarre merchandise that was released
Adam: Shall we show show some examples?
Adam: The Animorphs Transformers line was just surreal.
Ifi: Here we see an inexplicably red Visser Three turning into...
Ifi: Jesus Christ I don't even know
Adam: "Inferno Creature"
Ifi: If someone wants to send me all the toys, I will happily review them.
Adam: (Everyone send us things. We like things.)
Adam: Now, the obvious problem here is that when you have a transforming toy, you have the bits of its alt mode hanging off its shoulders.
Ifi: I love robots.
Adam: We know.
Ifi: No you don't get it I LOVE robots *winkwink*
Adam: And when the character is a robot, this looks perfectly fine. It makes the change look like a mechanical process.
Adam: But when the character is human but still has kibble...
Adam: We have a problem.
Ifi: This actually hurts to look at.
Adam: That's not the worst of it.
Adam: Now we get to the Tri-Rex
Ifi: Oh sweet baby Jesus
Ifi: The Tri-rex
Adam: Oh dear sweet whale-jesus
Adam: Yes, the Tri-Rex
Adam: The Aniformers line
Adam: They made a combiner.
Ifi: Let me just read you the official packaging description
Ifi: It is priceless
The Tri-Rex came into existence when Jake, Cassie, and Marco broke into one of the Yeerks' genetic experimentation labs, and discovered a morph so powerful a single human could not hope to take on its form alone. But through the use of an advance morphing technique, each concentrates on a segment of the titanic beast and they merge together to become this powerful Tyrannosaurus rex! A team of one, the Tri-Rex is an unstoppable force, the prehistoric beast from the future!
Ifi: I can't even review that.
Adam: "The prehistoric beast from the future"
Ifi: I can't even REVIEW this.
Ifi: There is NOTHING I can say about this that it does not say for itself.
Adam: Here are what the individual pieces look like in their human forms:
Ifi: For the record, these...things were indeed released by the same company that sells Ifi her Transformers.
Adam: This is why you don't do drugs, kids.
Adam: Especially if you own a massive toy company.
Ifi: You can actually see how the manufacturers threw their hands in the air and said, "Fuck it, kids will buy anything."
Adam: Except this line got prematurely canceled.
Adam: So hurray for standards?
Ifi: I think a lot of them were retooled for some Beast Wars thing
Ifi: But yes, I hear the fandom backlash was wicked.
Adam: Even as a kid, I just found these toys really strange.
Adam: And I preferred robots anyway.
Ifi: Animorphs was very much a victim of capitalist greed.
Adam: (If you send this to Ifi, she'll review it also)
Adam: I'm trying to figure out how this game even works
Ifi: There was also, apparently, a TCG
Ifi: Probably trying to cash in on the success of Pokemon
Ifi: But who even knows
Adam: There was a cardgame for everything.
Adam: What on earth is that thing to the right of Rachel, though?
Ifi: She's just tripping out
Adam: Ah, I see.
Ifi: So when we look at all of this...junk
Ifi: It is not hard to understand why some of the books were the way they were
Ifi: Some were excellent, especially the Chronicles. But some appeared to not even have been edited.
Adam: It is the way of the franchise.
Adam: If you hop over to Blogger Beware, you can see that Goosebumps was much the same way, in that respect.
Adam: I'm sure the Babysitter's Club was as well.
Ifi: Goosebumps was worse.
Ifi: Excellent CYOA's, though
Ifi: Some of the best.
Adam: Yes, those were some damn good CYOA's.
Ifi: I guess that leads me into the next thing I wanted to talk about, which was tone
Ifi: Animorphs has been applauded for handling mature themes in a realistic way and subsequently traumatizing an entire generation
Ifi: It has also been critiqued for, among other things, poop jokes, nonsensical logic, and that whole thing with Atlantis.
Adam: A certain degree of this can be pegged on the ghostwriters, but really Applegate was still responsible for the plot outlines, and penned the general synopsis to each book.
Adam: So she's still at fault for the Andalite toilet and the Atlantis books.
Ifi: Atlantis is actually a perfect example of a book that was written for the sole purpose of making money, rather than to tell a particular story or make a point.
Adam: I suppose this comes down to having to balance writing a mature series with the fact that you're working under an editorial department geared to selling as many things as possible to small children.
Ifi: The end result is a series that does not have a very consistent tone until the end.
Adam: it is unfortunate, but this tends to be true of any work of fiction that runs that sort of length while still trying to maintain a continuous plot.
Adam: There are exceptions of course, but it is a general rule.
Ifi: Also, I think we were regularly surprised at how graphically violent and even gory things could get.
Ifi: I think this just shows that you can get away with way more in books than you can on TV. If they made a TV show of the Animorphs that actually followed the books, parents would be livid.
Ifi: But there's this idea that books automatically equal good, so parents don't police them as closely, in my experience.
Adam: There's that, but I also think that violent imagery is just not as inherently visceral if you don't directly look at it.
Adam: Humans are a visual species, so traumatic imagery is not going to be quite as bad if it is only imagined.
Ifi: That is a good point.
Adam: So what you can get away with in a series aimed at children would be the sort of thing you see on an HBO show on television.
Ifi: As writers, we should abuse this mercilessly.
Adam: I have no personal objection to this.
Ifi: The last main thing that I wanted to talk about was plot.
Adam: How delightfully generic a topic! Do continue.
Ifi: Shut up.
Adam: So plot.
Ifi: Plot is important. In Animorphs, we had the overarching plot of "when are the Andalites going to get here/okay the Andalites are not coming what do we do", but also each little mini-plot of the majority of the books.
Ifi: And I know we just said this before, but I want to reiterate it. Most of those books could be cut.
Adam: In a long-running series, ideally a book should carry out and complete its own miniplot, but also contribute something to the overarching story.
Adam: Not all of them did this.
Ifi: Most of the filler books contributed nothing to the overall storyline, and sometimes even undermined the credibility of the characters and their situation.
Ifi: I mean, I am sure there were some good filler books...
Ifi: Though I cannot remember a single one
Adam: I enjoyed book 12.
Adam: The morphing allergy book.
Ifi: Oh come on!
Adam: And while many people may disagree with me, I found the first Helmacron book very entertaining.
Ifi: Them’s fighting words, mister.
Adam: Now, what would you consider a book where it contributes not necessarily to the overarching plot, but is important to someone's character arc, or has its own mini-storyline that is carried out further in the series?
Ifi: Like the Taylor books?
Adam: That's exactly what I was thinking of.
Ifi: The Anti-Morphing Ray was stupid as hell, but Taylor was great. And it did indeed contribute to Tobias' character arc.
Ifi: I approve of that sort of thing, because character arcs are important
Ifi: And everyone had one.
Ifi: Cassie not as much, but that's Cassie for you.
Adam: It seemed a lot like Cassie finished her character arc very early on into the series, and from then on there was only so much Applegate could do with her.
Ifi: So as punishment she got all the most terrible filler books.
Adam: Ah, I found an example of a good filler book.
Adam: Book 40: The Other.
Ifi: Titles are meaningless. Which one was that?
Adam: The one with the exiled Andalite couple.
Ifi: Oh yes!
Ifi: That was great! And it totally shouldn't have been filler, they should have explored it more!
Ifi: As is the lot of all cool things in this series
Ifi: It is never mentioned again
Adam: They could have easily brought them back, either to try to contact the Andalite homeworld, or after the Andalites finally do show up.
Adam: Alas indeed.
Ifi: Of all the things I regret about the series, I think the fact that Galf and Mirtle never came back was among the most disappointing.
Adam: Or the Andalite suicide squad, for that matter.
Adam: They also had a very interesting dynamic.
Ifi: Well like half of them died, and everyone hated the one chick, so...
Adam: I think the overall consensus we are coming to, though, is that for a science fiction series, it could have really used some more alien protagonists.
Ifi: Hellz yes
Adam: And a Taxxon Chronicles.
Ifi: And what about the Yeerk Peace Movement? I think that's my #1 issue with the plot. They just fell off the face of the earth.
Adam: They got a brief mention in Cassie's last book, but otherwise, yes.
Adam: They were setting up what could have been some sort of large scale Yeerk uprising, and it just never panned out.
Ifi: I have this horrible suspicion that they never got their big moment because it would have interfered with the big, horrible anti-war message that Applegate wanted to send.
Ifi: Also it's my personal headcanon that Aftran never became a whale, that's just the story that the Animorphs circulated to throw the Yeerks off her tail. She is actually a hotshot superspy who blows up Yeerk operations.
Ifi: Just in case you were wondering.
Adam: Does she just remorph into her Yeerk form on land?
Adam: Sounds uncomfortable.
Ifi: No, no, she is still a Yeerk. She has a host. The host morphs.
Adam: Who is her host?
Ifi: Someone awesome.
Adam: Bruce Lee?
Adam: I would like to discuss the art for a bit.
Ifi: Go for it
Adam: David Mattingly's cover art is always rather hit or miss for a lot of people, but I felt that he did start to hit his stride around book 11 (with the jaguar morph.)
Ifi: That was a cool morph
Adam: Before that, there is an odd lack of consistency.
Adam: With the first book, Jake is just a photograph rather than a painting, and the mid-morph sections are done in CGI, which is just very strange looking, and the ones after that have a peculiar, brushstrokey look to them, and sometimes the faces were a bit wonky.
Ifi: Uh huh
Adam: Here, look:
Adam: The first two in particular have very different looks then the rest of the series, and not even in the same way.
Ifi: I actually did notice that
Adam: One complain I have coverwise is about the Megamorphs books.
Adam: If you are going to have a big, special addition book, you need a suitably exciting cover.
Adam: But the Megamorphs covers are all mostly just these bland, semi-abstract character art.
Ifi: I always remember them as being the worst
Ifi: Except that awesome dystopia one
Adam: The worst is Megamorphs 2, which has lots of exciting scenes of dinosaur fighting to draw from, but just gives you some floating eyes.
Adam: The dystopia one was the strongest of the four, but it still had a huge disconnect from the actual plot of the book.
Adam: If they had done the "Jake wakes up in a dystopian future" book as a Megamorphs instead, I could see it fitting a lot better.
Ifi: If I had been forced to review that book at Megamorphs length, I would have resigned in protest.
Adam: If it were a Megamorphs, it wouldn't have been ghostwritten, plus Applegate would have had to put more thought into it, meaning it likely would have been more coherent
Ifi: Nothing will ever make me like that book.
Adam: Here are my top 5 favorite covers:
Adam: (Just of the main books, otherwise the Chronicles would take up most of the spots)
Adam: 1) Book 43: The Test
Adam: 2) Book 29: The Sickness
Adam: 3) Book 36: The Mutation
Adam: 4) Book 8: The Alien
Adam: 5) Book 18: The Decision
Adam: If you couldn't tell, I like the alien covers a lot.
Ifi: You got me liking them, too.
Adam: The odd one out on the list is the Atlantis book, which had some very interesting cover elements. The land in the background makes it look like Jake isn't just floating in space, and the transition of the pattern on his wetsuit to the orca skin was very interesting, and something I would have liked to see more of on other covers.
Ifi: I think we agreed that the underwater covers were usually the best
Adam: That we did.
Ifi: Now, I know a lot of people were looking forward to all my various lists of various best and worst things from the series
Ifi: But there was SO much stuff to talk about that I am actually saving it all for next week
Ifi: In which I will rant at length
Ifi: About various things that I have ranted about before
Ifi: It's really nothing new
Ifi: Don't even bother reading it
Adam: Yeah, okay.
Ifi: Adam may do his own lists as well
Adam: Yay more lists!
Ifi: If he feels like it
Adam: We shall see.
Ifi: So yeah.
Adam: So, that concludes our wrap-up.
Adam: …or does it?
Ifi: DUN DUN DUN
Adam: I want to give a special thanks to Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant, David Mattingly, Romas Kukalis, all of the many ghostwriters, and all of the unsung editorial staff at Scholastic.
Adam: And a more general thanks to Jake Mates, Hope Chapman, everyone over at tvtropes, and all of our readers.
Ifi: Oh yeah them.
Ifi: Good job everyone. You weren't complete goobers.
Adam: *thumbs up*