If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Stitch! The anime. No, you read that right. I called the show an anime, because that’s what it is. You are probably asking yourself, how can that be? Because the Japanese Disney fan base love Stitch so much, they gave him another TV show. And because of its success in Japan, Disney will be importing it to America as a sequel to the character’s franchise of stories.
The anime has already been dubbed into English and has aired on Disney Channel Australia, with the second season currently set for the Fall. The show is in its third season in Japan. But thanks to the powers of the internet, here’s what you can look forward to!
This series appears to be in proper cannon with the original story. It opens with Stitch currently terrorizing the galaxy as part of a hissy fit over Lilo, who is now a young adult, spending too much time with her new boyfriend instead of hanging out with Stitch. Jumba is able catch him and stop his galactic terrorism spree, but the two are ultimately sucked into a black hole. The two are shot several months into the future and into two different parts of the galaxy due to the wormhole’s effect. Jumba finds himself stranded on the rings of Saturn, while Stitch crash lands once again on another tropical island somewhere on Earth. Though somehow still stranded in the Pacific, this new island is closer to Japan than Hawaii. There, Stitch discovers a small village with a cast of characters and a new philosophy known as “ichariba chodei.” Teaching him this philosophy, as well as replacing the role of Lilo, is a local girl named Yuna.
Despite the misgivings of several fans of the original show, Yuna actually takes a more active role in shaping Stitch’s behavior in this series. The biggest difference between her and Lilo is that Yuna is able to fundamentally act off of and learn from Stitch instead of scolding him and being a parental figure. She also seems to be more sociable, having a large portion of the island’s population as a friend on some level. Yuna also is in charge of her family’s karate dojo and has displays over the course of the season her mastery of the martial arts, both in technique and philosophy. In some respects, Stitch meeting Yuna is a symbolic representation of “the East meeting the West.”
Stitch also ends up discovering that the new island he has crashed upon has its own mythology, specifically a sacred stone that has the ability to grant someone any wish they want if they do enough good deeds. This is the root of the series’ main story arch, as Stitch attempts to obtain enough good deeds to grant him the ultimate power in the universe! But true to his nature, doing anything good is very difficult for him.
Another part of the island’s mythology is the introduction of the yokai. The series treats them as magical beings that have a connection to the sacred stone Stitch is trying to appease, but in reality, they are really the source of most of the show’s situational comedy. One such character is Kijimuna, a small yokai with nostrils big enough to cause him to fly whenever he sneezes. He ends up becoming part of the main cast early on and helps out quite a lot over the course of the season.
As far as the episodes go? They are a mix between Stitch trying to do good deeds and a “monster of the week” that expands the yokai mythology of the island. While charming, fans of the original TV series probably won’t find anything new or innovative outside of several cameos from Stitch’s ohana. The anime still maintains the same level of cuteness as its predecessor, so if you liked how cute the stories were in that series, you’ll enjoy the ones presented in the anime.
Probably the strangest hurdle to get over is the art design. Disney is famous for having a choke hold on their characters, be it their voices or their design. Stitch, Jumba, and all the other old characters have little to no change in their design. But when they are standing next to Yuna and the rest of the new characters? It looks like a strange animated cross over between series. This juxtaposition is not going to bother anyone who has played Kingdom Hearts though, as they are used to seeing Disney characters standing next to anime characters.
On the audio side of the anime, Disney opted to do a full audio swap from the Japanese version. This means new sound effects and background music had to be produced along side the new voice cast. Not surprisingly, none of the old characters sound like their previous actors. Stitch has been replaced since Chris Sanders, the original voice of Stitch and one-time Disney animator, left the company over creative control with a project of his. And for some odd reason, they couldn’t get David Ogden Stiers to do Jumba’s voice, which surprises me since I haven’t heard him in anything as of recent. In fact, the only one that sounds right is Pleakley, even though he doesn’t appear to be voiced by Kevin McDonald anymore. This is very odd given my comment early about Disney being very strict about how their characters are represented.
Overall, the first season stays faithful to the original series of a little girl who is more accepting than most adopting Stitch into her family and world philosophy. The adventures they have aren’t bad and are rarely boring. The ones that are boring, Disney has taken the liberty to edit down to just 10 minutes and shoved them into filler episodes. For that, I’m rather grateful. But in the end, I was still entertained by the anime on the same level as the original series.
The first season is about 21 episodes long, with an obligatory Christmas Holiday Special thrown in for good measure. The anime is set to make its America debut some time this year.