My experience with Ben 10 prior to this set was minimal. I’d seen images from it, maybe a few snippets of animation and, of course, the flood of toys that came about when the show began airing on Cartoon Network. But past that, I’d never watched a full episode, even though I’d heard that it wasn’t half-bad, if a little on the lightly-written side.
In Ben 10, Ben is in control of an alien watch he found in a crashed meteorite. This watch, the Omnitrix, allows Ben to transform into ten different alien forms, each one retaining his personality, but enhancing certain traits. Ranging from big to small and to flat-out evil, these aliens give Ben the edge he needs to fight the forces of evil. Alongside his cousin, Gwen, and his grandfather, Max, the trio go about their daily lives and keep the world safe.
In this second season, the show changed from an overall season-wide arc to a “villain of the week” formula. While this helped people get into the show easier (such as myself), it does destroy any sense of real continuity between episodes. While, yes, they do reference back and forth and the eventual destruction of Ghostfreak, an alien in Ben’s Omnitrix who escaped, does impact the shows final episodes of the season, there isn’t much here that can’t be summed up in a few words. A villain, Kevin, from his first season returns to wreak havoc for Ben through a few episodes and the season wraps up in a knock-down-drag-out fight between Ben, Kevin and Vilgax.
With creature names such as “Vilgax”, “Tetrax” (a “Petrosapien”), “Tetramands” and “Ectonurite”, it’s hard keeping up with what exactly is going on with this show. It’s developed its own vocabulary and much like Star Wars or Lord the Rings requires a bit of knowledge of the show to figure out what’s going on. It just gets ridiculous after awhile and even watching one of the special features that named all of the aliens in the Omnitrix, I got the feeling that the creators of the show were realizing the absurdity of the words coming out of their mouths as they described the aliens they’d made.
Despite all of this, there are elements of the show that I did enjoy; the art direction in the show was reminiscent of Teen Titans and even some of the storytelling and characters reminded me of past Cartoon Network/Warner Bros. Animation efforts. The animation can be a tad on the weak side, if only because it doesn’t come off as fluid as it could be.
The whole point of the series is to show Ben learning, through the massive metaphors that are the aliens in his Omnitrix, about the general things that boys have to learn when they’re young. The show is obviously heavily geared towards children and on more than one occasion I had to laugh at how shallow the writing was. This show, while coming through with a lot of flash, a fancy world with a massive dictionary and stylishly designed characters, really is quite dull to watch. I won’t deny that I enjoyed quite a few episodes on this set, but after all the animation I’ve watched over the years, finding enjoyment in a action show largely geared towards children doesn’t thrill me the way it did in the past. Obviously it’s because I’m older, but to this day I can watch a shows similar to Ben 10 and have no trouble viewing other animated shows on Cartoon Network that are largely meant for children…there’s just an overall feeling about Ben 10 that makes it seem like a cartoon that will end at the fifty-two mark and fade off into existence.
I realize the show has a dedicated fan base and for that reason alone I made an effort to really get into the show, but as I said, it just wasn’t for me. It certainly has elements of cartoons that I enjoy, but it was nothing that could see me trying to watch on a regular basis. For the fans, this season comes Recommended, but for the casual viewer, give this one a Rental.
Arriving in a two-disc amaray case with a full-size fold-out poster of the cover (with product advertisements on the reverse side), Ben 10: The Complete Second Season comes out swinging. It’s certainly an attractive setup from the get go, with nicely done disc art and fully animated menus.
The video transfer for the set is clean and clear for the most part with minimal compression. It is an interlaced transfer which can make it look shoddy on progressive displays, but other than that you’ll definitely appreciate the clarity that DVD has to offer over a standard cable signal. Audio is loud and clear as well and is offered in English, Spanish and French, with subtitles of the same languages.
Digging into the special features—wait, special features? Yup! Warner Home Video continues it’s trend of these season-by-season releases of Cartoon Network shows by actually including worthwhile extras on the set as well. First up is a trio of deleted scenes on the episode “Big Tick”; the scenes are fully animated and include dialogue but no sound effects or music. They really added nothing to the show, but for fans it’s a treat just to see deleted scenes on animation releases, as there is usually never anything to show. Next are another three deleted scenes on the episode “Ghostfreaked Out” and four rather quick scenes on the final episode of the season, “Back With a Vengeance.” Not a whole lot is to be seen in these scenes; they’re obviously cut for a reason, but it’s still cool, as I said above, to see some animation that fans would otherwise never see.
A “how-to-draw” featurette is up next and, let me tell you, really doesn’t tell me how to draw the character. It’s mainly the artist describing the thought that goes into the drawing and his feelings about the character. The camera cuts away so much that I don’t think it’s possible for any kid to figure out how to draw Heatblast from the steps the artist used. Still, I learned that electric erasers exist, which for some reason is more interesting to me than anything else on this set.
The aforementioned featurette on the aliens inside the Omnitrix is also included, which does enlighten me a bit about the creatures in there, but also makes me shake my head that someone came up with so many new names for things that don’t exist. It’s like trying to watch Eragon and understanding what they’re talking about all over again.
As our final extra we have a full length episode commentary on “Ghostfreaked Out.” Despite my feelings toward the show, I do respect what the guys here are trying to do and it’s evident that they put a lot of effort into the series. In addition to talking about the episode itself, they comment a bit on season three of the show (which has already finished airing; the show is actually airing its fourth as I write this) and their overall feelings toward the shows characters and direction. It’s an enlightening commentary and actually made me feel bad that I trashed it so hard in the above review, but I really just don’t think this show was for me.
Overall the set is a solid release for the second season of Ben 10. Fans will no doubt appreciate the extras (and fold-out poster) and parents may be a bit happier about buying a set if it has a little more value than just the episodes that their children watch endlessly on television already (that and it’s only $15 for a two-disc set—can’t beat that). For fans of the show, this one comes Highly Recommended; everyone else, Rent It.
Ben 10: The Complete Second Season is now available on DVD.