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RERUN REVIEWS: Spider-Man: The New Animated Series 1×04 “Sword of Shikata”, 1×05 “Keeping Secrets”, 1×06 “Tight Squeeze”

Written by Scott Meridew

Spidey’s back baby! We continue our little jaunt down memory lane with “Sword of Shikata”, “Keeping Secrets” and “Tight Squeeze”. And by “jaunt down memory lane”, I mean my insane fanboyish ranting about just how good this show was. Has that sunk in yet? THIS SHOW WAS VERY, VERY GOOD!!! WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THIS FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY?!?!? *Gasps for breath*. Damn, I need to get a life. In the meantime, here are the episodes.

 

“Sword of Shikata”

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This episode is one of the more violent ones. Which is kind of obvious seeing as the bad guy is a mystic Japanese warrior with a bloody katana. Emphasis on bloody. People get stabbed, shot, disembowelled and beheaded. Oh my! It also happens to be one of the more interesting episodes and that’s because of said sword wielding villain. I’ll get to why she’s interesting in a minute. What’s the story?

Well, Mary Jane manages to get a serious acting gig. The downside? The guy financing the movie is Richard Damien (voiced by John C. McGinley), a wealthy man with an expensive hobby. He collects rare species of animals and wants to acquire the rarest animal of all, Spider-Man. To do this, he hires Shikata (voiced by Gina Gershon), a noble warrior who has more than a few special abilities, on the condition that she brings him in alive. After managing to track Spidey down and fight him however, Shikata has a change of heart and decides not to bring him to Damien. Yay! Instead, she desires to fight him to the death. Boo!

So the episode alternates between Spidey fighting Shikata, Spidey trying to reason with Shikata and Mary Jane experiencing trouble with the movie she’s in. And as for the latter, I’m not saying it’s a BAD subplot, but you can tell that they only put it in so that she could be present during the climax. As for Spidey and Shikata, it’s a really engaging story. See, they don’t just fight each other. Sometimes they fight Damien’s mercenaries together , other times they simply talk to each other. This makes Shikata one of the more developed villains as she’s shown to have a reasonable and honourable side, despite her single-minded quest to kill Spider-Man.

All that aside, there’s not much else to the episode. Most of the rest is various fight scenes. I say fight scenes, more like AWESOME FIGHT SCENES! The battle’s between Spider-Man and Shikata are legendary. She is just as agile as he is, plus she has a freaking sword. You know when they square of against each other there’s a real chance that only one of them will come out alive. Frankly, they’re a joy to watch.

If you like ultra-violence and villains with a lot of depth, then I can’t recommend this episode enough.

 

“Keeping Secrets”

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One of the things that I love about Spider-Man is how his life as a crime fighter inevitably impacts his personal life. This is another episode that explores that theme brilliantly. One night, Spider-Man encounters a cat burglar who is so obviously meant to be Black Cat it hurts, yet they never actually call her that. I know! It’s weird right? They don’t really call her anything actually. A newspaper calls her “Talon” but none of the other characters use that name, so why didn’t they just call her Black Cat? Anyway, he chases her but she not only loses him, but humiliates him in the process. Ouch. Later Peter and Mary Jane discover that Harry, who is usually a love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy, is in a serious relationship, much to their surprise and amusement. They invite this mystery girl, named Cheyenne, over for dinner, only for Peter to discover that she was the cat burglar! Dun dun duuuuun!!!

This leaves Peter in a serious dilemma as Harry is in love with Cheyenne (voiced by Eve). He can’t tell Harry about her without revealing his own secret identity and he can’t tell her who he is for the came reason. So does he try to drive a wedge between them as Peter in order to protect his best friend or does he try to turn Cheyenne away from a life of crime as Spider-Man in order to keep them together? Things aren’t helped by the fact that Mary Jane seems to love her and suspects that Peter is merely jealous of the fact that Harry is spending less time with him and more time with his new girlfriend.

It’s a great story and it’s used to it’s full potential. The only disappointment is the ending. It’s not a bad ending per se and I’m not going to spoil it, but needless to say, I was left without a feeling of resolution. I can’t say more than that without explicit plot details. Also, on a side note, at one point in the episode Peter anonymously laments his situation via the internet to a person known only as “GS122”. Why bring this up? Well, the word is that GS122 is actually Gwen Stacey! Imagine if this show had gotten a second season! Oh, the possibilities!

It’s a complicated episode in the best way, showing that Spidey doesn’t always have an easy solution to a problem.

 

“Tight Squeeze”

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JAMES MARSTERS HAS A BLOODY JETPACK! SOLD, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Yep, Spike from Buffy cameos in this episode. And he’s not the only one. Any true Spidey fan knows that the best J. Jonah Jameson is J. K. Simmons. The only one who ever came close was Edward Asner, who voiced him in the 90’s animated series. Coincidentally he appears in a few episodes as Officer Bar (As well as Uncle Ben in Spectacular Spider-Man). But this series brought in a new contender in the form of Keith Carradine, who had a guest role in several episodes. Don’t get me wrong, J.K. is still top dog in my book, but Keith comes in a close second. He’s that good!

Anyway, the plot for this episode. Marsters is the leader of a small gang of Russian mercenaries called Pterodax, armed with have jetpacks, suits of armour and concussion ray guns. Hoooo boy! After Spidey foils one of their heists, they capture a local news station and make a live broadcast demanding Spider-Man to face them or they will kill their hostages. You think that’s bad? Peter Parker is one of the hostages! So he has to find a way to slip past flying, ray gun wielding bad guys and return as Spider-Man without compromising his secret identity.

It’s a very suspenseful episode, making good use of the high pressure situation that Peter finds himself in. Also introduced in this episode is a new, original recurring character and love interest for Peter, Indira “Indy” Daimonji, voiced by Angelle Brooks. She’s an intense, funny, ambitious character that managed to be a great addition to the cast. Her back and forths (Yes, it’s a word! I don’t care if there is a red squiggly line underneath it, I’m still using it!) with Peter make for some great scenes and I for one quickly grew to like her. What’s even more interesting is that their relationship begins just as Peter and Mary Jane seem to be making some progress towards romance. So for the next few episodes, we got a fairly interesting love triangle between the three of them. Truth be told, I can’t think of a single thing wrong with the episode. It hits all the right notes and does everything it needs to do in order for it to be entertaining. It’s just a solid, well put together episode.

All in all, it’s high stakes, high action, high-larious banter and, once again, JAMES MARSTERS ON A JETPACK! This should be all you need!

 

So that’s another three down, seven more to go. Tell us in the comments what you thought of these episodes. Meanwhile, next time prepare for a crazy stalker, a tragic villain and Flash Thompson reciting Shakespeare.

About the author

Scott Meridew