Episode Six – Return of the Arashikage (Part 1)

Episode Synopsis

(This Episode was originally aired as “Episode 4″, even though it’s actually “Episode 6″ in continuity)

It had to happen…it’s a new G.I. Joe universe, and invariably the “Snake Eyes” issue comes up.  Who is he?  How is he related to Storm Shadow?  Is every single Joe and Cobra character somehow tied to him?

It’s amazing how much I’ve become enamored with the “Renegades” universe.  I’m far from Snake Eyes’ biggest fan, but I found myself extremely interested in seeing how he evolves in G.I. Joe: Renegades.  In fact, that’s one of Renegades biggest draws to me.  While most evolutions of the Joe franchise haven’t made a real effort to “reinvent” the mythos or the characters, Renegades is taking the opposite approach.  It makes a concerted effort to start with square 1 and totally rebuild the franchise in front of our eyes.  So how did they do with what is arguably the most defining storyline in the Real American Hero mythology?

So far, so good.  In my mind, there is still a lot of story to tell, we’ll have to see how it wraps up.

In Episode Four we see the Renegades, traveling through the wilderness in the stolen Coyote.  Questioning Snake Eyes’ loyalty, it would seem their doubt of the mysterious agent is verified, as he subtly drops knock out gas, and steers the vehicle through the trees.

Awakening near a cabin in the mountains, the Joes are immediately on the defensive, yet Scarlett immediately recognizes the location for what it is… Snake Eyes’ “dojo” and the place where he trains his apprentices.  We find out that Scarlett was one of these apprentices…and we soon meet another as the team is attacked by a young girl in red calling herself Jinx.

Determining that the team is there for training purposes, Jinx breaks the news that there is a “storm” coming and that the team must be ready.  They immediately begin training under Snake Eyes and Jinx.  Duke takes the opportunity to try and learn a bit more about the background of his mute teammate.  Jinx reveals a bit about their background, revealing that her and her cousin Tomisaburo often found themselves in conflict with rival ninja, and during one of these events, they were both rescued by a mysterious “Gaigin”…a blonde American.  Shamed by his reliance on a Gaigin for rescue, Tomisaburo reluctantly accepts him into the clan his uncle is in charge of.  Jinx’s father the “Hard Master”.

The legend of the blade of Arashikage is told…an ancient sword that embodies the entire essence of the clan.  But it is a blade that must not be touched.

Later, it is shown that Tomisaburo, who has begun calling himself simply “Arashikage” (translated into English as “Storm Shadow) snuck into the Arashikago dojo and was using the sword.  As Jinx’s father walks in, Snake Eyes has the sword in hand, and he refuses to reveal if anyone put him up to it.  Snake Eyes stands up to being whipped by his instructor, still refusing to talk.  Jinx finally steps in, and in his shame, Hard Master decides that the Arashikage clan is on the wrong path.  The ninja clan begins taking the moral high ground, which apparently was not a popular decision.

According to Jinx, her father pays for this decision… with his life.  She finds Snake Eyes crouched over her father, who has been killed, and Snake Eyes’ throat is punctured, removing his ability to speak.  The two of them escape, fearing for their lives.

Thinking that Storm Shadow as somehow behind the Hard Master’s assassination, they retreat to Snake Eyes’ cabin in the mountains and Jinx begins her training.  But after a while, she decides she needs answers.  Leaving Snake Eyes and returning to Japan, Jinx takes a pledge to join the Arashikage, trying to uncover answers to her father’s killing.  We find out some more details about the events of that night, and it’s revealed that Storm Shadow stumbled upon the Hard Master’s death, and saw Snake Eyes leaning over him.  Thinking that Snake Eyes was the killer, he threw a throwing star, which actually severed Snake Eyes’ vocal chords and removed his ability to speak.

This is revealed as Storm Shadow makes his presence known at the cabin dojo…he had followed Jinx back to America!

Making short work of the Renegades, Storm Shadow knocks out Jinx and carries her away, leaving the cabin engulfed in flames.

To Be Continued…

Episode Review

I was quite curious how G.I. Joe: Renegades would approach this critical storyline…and I’m pleased to say that they did it rather effectively.  We all knew that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were not going to be Vietnam buddies in this continuity, but exactly how would they relate?  Turns out, we don’t really know Snake Eyes’ whole history (at least not yet).  The way he’s dressed when he appears in Japan would indicate that this at least somewhat follows the whole “orphaned in Japan” concept, though we don’t hear anything to be certain.

The characterizations and relationships of the Joes during the current storyline continues to be entertaining.  I really liked the dynamic between Jinx and Scarlett, and the idea that Snake Eyes has had other apprentices (Kamakura perhaps?).

But really, the whole episode is built around the revelations of Snake Eyes’ past, so it’s important to consider how they pull this off.  They do it very well.  The flashbacks are all told in a very serious manner, and the martial arts action pulls no punches.  There are full impact punches, kicks, and the cartoon certainly did not back away from the “death” issue when dealing with the Hard Master.  While we never see exactly what kills the Hard Master (it’s at least somewhat left to the imagination) I was quite surprised at the brutality of the throwing star tearing out Snake Eyes’ throat.

I’m sure there will be some complaints about the differences between this backstory and the Marvel backstory…but to that I would just say “patience”.  I still strongly believe that at some point in Part 2 we will see Snake Eyes actually get disfigured…perhaps it will even happen during the cabin blaze?  But, the important thing (to me, anyway) is that the spirit of the story is retained.  I really think it is.  They capture the brother-like rivalry between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow very well.  Snake Eyes is accepted into the clan, much to Storm Shadow’s chagrin, but he’s more of a confident, somewhat smarmy character rather than an all out evil bastard.

It’s also obvious that the death of the Hard Master remains a foggy issue, and that we still don’t know exactly who killed him.  I love this.  I really hated the idea of Storm Shadow being directly responsible for his uncle’s death in the Resolute cartoon, and this version of the continuity really captures the essence of the Marvel characters much more effectively.

There are nods to the fans scattered everywhere in this episode.  Snake Eyes mountain cabin is definitely inspired by our familiar history…  the part at the end where Storm Shadow catches the sword in two hands above his head was pulled straight from Hama’s brain, not to mention the swift sword cut hacking the candles smoothly in half.  Love it.

I still think there is a lot of story to tell where Snake Eyes is concerned, and I really think we’ll get more details in the second part of the two-parter, but this episode was certainly off to a fantastic start.  Of course the story is different, but not necessarily different in a bad way, and I think they really harnessed the spirit of the story and the characters better than both the film and the Resolute animated feature.  Really looking forward to part 2!

Screenshot Gallery (Courtesy of HissTank.com)

Episode Details

Original Air Date: December 10th, 2010
Writer: Greg Johnson
Director: Scott Bern

Easter Eggs

  1. Hard Master’s voice actor (Keone Young) also played Storm Shadow in the 80’s Sunbow television series
  2. Jinx appears as Snake Eyes’ student and cousin of Storm Shadow