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November 28, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 6)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Alright, this is the second-to-last part for this review, I promise. I have something more for Part 7, but you’ll see at the end of this article. We've still got 20 episodes, so I’ll hurry up and discuss them.

"I hope I get out of this, to see
mom, dad, Hiroki, Ulrich again...
And my Pokémon Ruby save file..."
We get an episode where the students are off to a camping trip at a nearby lake (where XANA attack, because of course it does), and then we see the Lyoko-Warriors going back into the Digital Sea and towards the first Replika. If you need to remember what a Replika is, go back to read the second half of Part 5. As usual, Season 4 of Code Lyoko has brought its share of new concepts and settings, and many episodes are about exploring them in greater detail, usually by way of “what is this goes wrong?” being the basis for an episode’s plot. In “Lost at Sea”, after a fight against XANA in the Digital Sea, Yumi’s mini-ship doesn’t return to the Lyoko-Warriors’ ship, the Skidbladnir. She’s lost in the depths. Of course, they do manage to retrieve her after moments of excellent drama, but it’s another episode that highlights just the kinds of unexpected dangers any of them could run into – they’re always at a risk in the Digital Sea.

Plus, of course it had to be Yumi. If something tragic must happen, it must happen to Yumi, the writers’ favorite victim.

"Look at this! I no longer have to design a cosplay!"
"Are you kidding? I'm still not ready for the next furry
With knowledge that a Replika needs to be destroyed by smashing the supercomputer that contains it, Jérémie works on a program that will translate Lyoko-Warriors from Lyoko to the real world, as their virtual avatars. Just… just roll along with it, the writers on this show had an idea for the rest of the season, logic be damned. Jérémie will find a better solution later. For now, we have to follow along. Anyway, like everything else, this starts with a test drive. This episode, “Lab Rat”, was mysteriously missing when Cartoon Network aired the show, so fans of the series wound up seeing the main characters translated to the real world as their Lyoko avatars. With no explanation whatsoever because the episode that set up that plot point never aired.

November 25, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 5)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

So, Season 2 has passed, and Season 3 has brought a whole new lot of challenges for the Lyoko-Warriors. It’s gotten to the point that XANA might as well be the least of their worries – not that this would be true, considering their deadly opponent has already managed to wipe out two sectors of Lyoko, and plans to wipe out the others, which would leave them without a way to fight back. Only now, the series seems to deconstruct the entire concept of “children who juggle studying and saving the world”, by showing just how many obstacles would be in the way of the protagonists in such a story. That’s not a thing that can be explored in a matter of a few episodes, the entire series is required. And that’s one of the brilliant aspects of this show.

Meanwhile the drama theater teacher just had a brand new idea
for a play.

And to go along with the deconstruction, more and more of XANA’s attacks cause things that aren’t as easy to repair. Among others, in “Temporary Insanity”, XANA inverts Odd and Ulrich’s perceptions of Lyoko and reality, meaning they believe themselves still on Lyoko when they’re in the real world, viewing the students and staff as monsters, while they think that they’re on the campus once they’re virtualized in the scanners. Sure, that’s corrected by the end of the episode, but still, that’s another case of XANA getting close to winning (by almost destroying the Core).

"Why did it have to be a glitch like this? Why couldn't it
just give me an infinite number of copies of
the sixth item in my inventory?"
In the next episode, “Sabotage”, XANA, well, sabotages one of the motherboards in the supercomputer, causing glitches on Lyoko that allow his monsters to make quick work of the protagonists. And Jérémie only has about three hours to repair it and switch around the motherboards – something that would be simple, if only he wasn’t being forced by Jim to do some cleaning in his dorm room! Reality, old nemesis, you strike again! And yes, as you can imagine, the heroes still manage to get everything to be fine by the end. Plus, the glitches caused by the fried motherboard also affected the monsters on Lyoko, so that helped quite a bit. Although the way they won was a little weird: Aelita wiped out the Ice sector, by herself, which gave XANA what it wanted, but also gave Jérémie enough power to reboot the supercomputer. Yeah… don’t think about it too hard. The script writers behind the show still love to pull the strings to have the series go the want they want it to go, logic be damned…

3 out of 5 sectors wiped! XANA is just getting closer to victory by every attack!

November 21, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 4)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Alright, so I’ll try to finish discussing season 2 today and embark on Season 3.

Idiots! Hit the symbol! The symbol!
I’m not gonna skip through all of the remaining episodes past this point, but I’ll hurry a little more. One day the Lyoko-Warriors believe XANA has taken control of Jérémie (When actually he was only doing a dangerous experimentation - phew! It's just that!), the next day they fight Krabes materialized in the real world (which leads to many moments of awesome in the real world), the next day XANA somehow causes a localized zombie apocalypse by spreading a mind control virus among the students and faculty.

As if that wasn’t enough, XANA has been learning from the displays of friendship between the characters, and has started using this as an advantage either to get them killed or to split them up. In the latter case, the program once attacks by summoning a clone that goes around kissing people to break the trust between the heroes. That episode, “XANA’s Kiss”, is generally considered among the weirdest, as well as one of the worst. And yet, that plan turns out to be very effective, and the Lyoko-Warriors nearly split up from this. After this attack failed, all I can imagine is the symbol going “Ptoo! Ptoo! Phoooey! It’s the last time I kiss a human ever again! All these disgusting mouth microbes for nothing!”

This is NOT the Yumi we know.
This is, however, totally the troll-ish Odd we know.
In the episode “A Fine Mess”, something goes wrong during rematerialization and Odd and Yumi end up in each other’s bodies. What follows is a lot of awkwardness as you may imagine from that kind of story, and of course things take a turn for the worse when the two risk vanishing forever unless Jérémie corrects this mistake. Yet another episode that highlights the dangers of their adventure, and how any bug that happens while they transfer to and from Lyoko could have very dangerous outcomes. Of course, we also get a lot of funny moments, like Yumi-as-Odd having to suffer the results of Odd’s Casanova tendencies (slapped twice in a minute!), while Odd-as-Yumi keeps messing up and speaking Chinese… while he’s with her Japanese family. Aww, he’s so accidentally offensive! It’s so cute! Good thing it wasn't a Friday on top of everything else!

"Whoa, what happened to my hand? I look so... low-res!"

Poor Yumi. Drama always falls on her.
Some episodes, such as “Cold War”, show XANA now powerful enough to transcend the previously-established rules of Lyoko, even being able to bring some of the Sector 5-only monsters onto the other Lyoko sectors. Oh yeah, and he can apparently bring the temperature down to never-before-seen lows, without even a semblance of an explanation, effectively freezing all of Kadic worse than we have in our old Canadian winters. Aelita’s visions are getting more precise now, with nightmares of men in black, the Hermitage, and other strange images that she shouldn’t be seeing.

Alright kids, leave it to the pros. This guy IS the maker
of Lyoko after all.
Skipping forward a bit, in episode 49, “Franz Hopper”, after Jérémie’s computer detects five activated towers, the group hurries to the factory, only to see an older man at the controls. The man presents himself: Franz Hopper. Gray beard, check. Opaque specs, check. Lab coat, check. He looks exactly like that man Aelita sees in her visions! And he looks happy to see her in the real world, too! He immediately establishes himself as an expert about the supercomputer, turning off the towers by himself in the monitor room. He then scans the Lyoko-Warriors to see if anything went wrong during virtualization. Frank Hopper then detects something wrong with Yumi’s program, like a disease or something – oh hey, lookit that, Yumi again. Poor girl, she can never catch a damn break, can she? As a result, Ulrich, Odd and Yumi choose to rally behind Franz, chastising Jérémie and breaking the group apart. 

Yes, leave it to the pro, unless that pro is the bad guy in
disguise - in which case, beat the shit out of him!
However, the man says some sentences that lead to Jérémie figuring out that it’s actually XANA in disguise (hiding the XANA irises behind Franz’s opaque glasses). The brainy teen manages to save his friends just as they were about to get killed on Lyoko, left with their weapons deactivated. Phew! That was a close one. Too close, in fact. Probably my favorite episode in the whole series, as it shows exactly how much XANA has learned from humans and how well he’s able to replicate one, and how clever a manipulator he has become. Not to mention that this plan ties very neatly into the remaining episodes – and finally, the conclusion of this season’s many arcs!

Here, have this totally random image of Odd
boxing against a Creeper.

Then we have “Contact”, where the actual Franz Hopper manages to contact the heroes (by possessing Sissi, of all people) and give Jérémie some lines of code to help him cure Aelita. Of course, because they need something to fill in the 23 minutes of each episode, the group never catches on that this mysterious benevolent being that is bathing Lyoko towers in white light (in comparison to XANA’s red) is Franz Hopper. So most of the episode is spent trying to decode Sissi’s backwards message while XANA tries to prevent the white tower from continuing its transmission.

"The first one that makes a Star Wars joke
gets my blade through his kidney!"
In the next episodes, we see Aelita still perfectly fine knowing she’s a program who got to become a real girl. Jérémie is stuck at decoding Franz Hopper’s diary, still not very successful. Same goes for the antivirus. XANA creates a polymorphic clone of Odd and manages to get him to go to Lyoko by the standard procedure, and the Odd clone almost kills Ulrich there while Yumi saves the real Odd in extremis from drowning. And how do they end up winning? Because a greater force wrestled control of a red tower out of XANA’s hands. Yup, Hopper again. Wow, this guy has really become the point all the plot threads rally to! Like a beacon for unresolved mysteries looking to be resolved! At the end of this episode, Hopper’s diary is decoded at last, and we discover, among other things, that the computer scientist created the supercomputer in the factory, that he created XANA, and so on and so forth. And because Jérémie either loves to keep the suspense going or because he likes to stretch things for too long, he drops a final revelation bomb: Aelita was his daughter. She didn’t start out as a computer program, she was always human to begin with.

Whoa, what a shocking twist for our protagonists!
I definitely didn't imagine they'd still be so relaxed
after such a revelation!

Okay, I see the impact such a revelation may have… but honestly, don’t expect to win this year’s precognition award if you figured that one out. I mean, it had become pretty damn evident by the end. (A revelation also not helped by the fact that, all this freaking time, none of the heroes seemed to figure it out, nor even held this as a theory. For a kid as smart as Jérémie, that’s pretty dumb. And the others should have had their own doubts, too, considering Aelita had flashes of a past life…)

Talking about flashes of a past life, these men in black
meant business. Seems there was a shortage of aliens to look for.

Ready for a final mission?
"No! I wanna be a hero for a little longer still!"
The final episode of season 2, “The Key”, opens with the reveal that XANA didn’t put a virus in Aelita. Instead, he took something from her and hid it in Sector 5: Her memories as a human. That's why she's still linked to Lyoko. Well then, XANA did a sloppy job, because he left enough bits and pieces of memories in her head to give her all these visions. Though, should we blame XANA, or poor writing? …Nah, definitely XANA. We learn something else: Aelita’s Lyoko avatar contains the Keys of Lyoko, the only thing that keeps XANA trapped in that virtual world. In what they hope to be their final mission, the Lyoko-Warriors make their way around Sector 5 and find the secret room.

These things are shining so brightly, it makes our heroes
look blurred! That Franz Hopper is so powerful!

Despite Franz Hopper’s help (in the form of two Mantas), Yumi, Ulrich and Odd are defeated just as Aelita reaches the sphere containing her memories. That’s where the Scyphozoa comes in and takes from Aelita the Keys of Lyoko, which allows their virtual adversary to escape the supercomputer for good and destroy Lyoko as it leaves.

AKA The Day Things Really Went To Hell.

Ah sepia. It makes flashbacks look so meaningful!
If I ever have flashbacks, I want them sepia-toned!
…well, until Franz Hopper magically brings it back, because he’s a goddamn genius who created a 3D virtual world, a quantum computer, and a time travel reset button function in freaking 1994! We get to see the pieces of Aelita's memories, now all making sense: Her happy life with her parents, that terrible day where the Men in Black showed up, the virtualization on Lyoko... Jérémie brings her back in the real world. Though, I need to mention: Now that she's complete again, even if she were to lose all of her Life Points, she won't disappear for good; just be devirtualized like the others. This brings the team into another era of their fight against XANA: Aelita is no longer bound to Lyoko, but there is no point in turning off the supercomputer now, since the evil program escaped and is now hiding in the worldwide network. Lyoko is still the only way to fight XANA off, so they need to continue the hero gig until they defeat it for good. In this season’s arc, XANA actually won.

Phew! That was longer than I expected. We’re now moving on to Season 3! It’s alright, it’s the shortest one of the bunch. And yet, I have as much to say about this one as I do for the others...

We come back to the heroes after a surprisingly calm summer vacation. It’s a new year that begins at Kadic Academy. Where did Aelita live in the meantime? Probably with Yumi. I mean, her friends have tried to disguise that fact, but the pink-haired girl is still an orphan on Earth. (Thankfully, European schools have much shorter summer vacations than American schools have.) However, that’s not all. This is also the season where reality decides to become the Lyoko-Warriors’ second worst enemy. Many of the plot elements of the previous two seasons? Reality ensues. The teachers are growing increasingly tired of Jérémie, Odd, Ulrich and now, even Aelita, all leaving the class at the same time to go to the infirmary or the bathroom. They’re starting to catch on. The adults are getting more suspicious of the team’s activities, and the season starts with Odd being put by Jim in a different class from Ulrich, Jérémie and Aelita – in part to break them up, but also because Odd relied on copying Jérémie’s answers too much and needed to get serious with his studies.

Wow, Hiroki (far right) has matured an awful lot in the
span of two weeks! A few episodes ago, he was still
childishly mocking Yumi's crush on Ulrich!
Oh, and there's Johnny in the middle, but nobody cares.
The constant fighting against XANA taking up a lot of their time as well, the five teens don’t have nearly as much time to study – which resulted in even worse grades for students like Odd and Ulrich. The latter in particular already had a hard time getting good scores. Adding to this, Yumi’s brother Hiroki starts school this year, so that’s another kid to keep track of on the campus. Another kid that might discover the secret. And Hiroki’s friend, too, who sees Yumi and develops a crush on her… Adding to this, Yumi’s parents are becoming more suspicious of her activities as well. Oh, and if this was not enough, we get Ulrich’s father, AKA the biggest jackass in the entire show if we exclude XANA, putting pressure on his son to get good grades. The guy was already established as an unlikeable fellow (apparently he once didn't speak to his son for a whole fucking year), but this season, he shows just how much of an asshole he can be. Reality, kids! Some parents are horrible! Hope you enjoy this revelation among these adventures of teenagers fighting an evil computer program in a virtual world!

And to add another layer of drama to the season, Yumi announces to Ulrich that she won’t be pursuing a relationship with him as long as XANA isn’t defeated. She anchored this ship, and it won’t depart anytime soon. Guess what? This makes Ulrich even more jealous! And as if it couldn’t get worse, William is also trying to keep the love triangle going, even though Yumi honestly has no interest in him (and the “not till the evil is defeated” rule would apply to him too, anyway). So William is also getting closer to discovering the protagonists’ secret life as heroes. That’s a lot to take in a single episode, huh?

Oh, but wait, that’s not the worst, here’s the worst: JÉRÉMIE’S VOICE CHANGED! AAAAAAAAH!

Heh. Heh heh. I almost got you there, didn’t I? The new English voice is closer to the French one. It's not actually a problem.

Thankfully, some things are done right off the first episode; among others, Odd finds a movie of gym teacher Jim Morales dancing to disco music, and uses it to try and be added to his friends’ class. Odd Della Robbia: Comic relief! Hero! Savior! Blackmailer! Something isn’t right in there, is it?

Five times winner of the "I'd Rather Not Dance About It" award.

The Core of Lyoko, or the Heart of Lyoko...
Regardless of the name, it's that thing that must not
be destroyed. That thing XANA wants to destroy.
XANA’s first attack of this new school year happens, and the Lyoko-Warriors are brought to Sector 5, where they find their way to a mysterious chamber at the bottom of the sphere – a room that contains a strange double cube holding a miniature version of each Lyoko sector! This is the Heart of Lyoko, and the monsters are trying to destroy it… which would destroy Lyoko, thus leaving XANA unopposed if they succeed! The group manages to defeat the monsters in the large room, but once Aelita is left alone, she reveals that het Lyoko avatar was given new abilities over the summer – in other words, she’s no longer the helpless little Princess of the virtual world, she can kick as much ass as any of them. It gets better – like I mentioned, she won’t disappear forever if she loses all of her Life Points on Lyoko now. She shouldn’t be devirtualized, since she’s still the only one able to deactivate towers, but missions on Lyoko are no longer a game of life and death in her case. So, phew! As a bonus, Odd manages to join his friends’ class… by ceasing his blackmail.

A quick point of criticism about Season 3: They started using CGI doors in the “real world”. Of course, we had to expect some blending of the two animation types at some point – after all, it’s a frequent industry thing to use CGI for some little aspects of modern 2D animation. Only problem: The doors look incredibly fake. They are extremely blatant additions in 3D to the real-world scenes, it almost hurts. I was at first going to complain that they spun like the doors of a Wild West saloon, but I was told doors like this could exist in schools - I'd still doubt that Kadic Academy would have so many doors like this...

Even the friggin' normal doors look fake!

Oh, by the way, how do they artificially maintain the drama in this season? By having XANA’s monsters conveniently destroy the protective barriers around the Heart of Lyoko just moments before the heroes come in and defeat the enemies.

Oh great, XANA is so strong, he's become able to override
the name of the show itself!
In the next episode, “Lyoko Minus One”, we learn that by taking control of Aelita, bringing her into a tower, and having her input "CODE: XANA" in it, XANA can destroy the Lyoko sectors one by one (except Sector 5), which would make it impossible at the moment for Jérémie to materialize his friends anywhere! He needs to figure out a way to bring them instantly in Sector 5! Of course, no time is wasted on presenting this new plot point, as while the heroes are on Lyoko to stop the current attack, XANA puts his plan into motion, and brainwashes Aelita through the Scyphozoa, and manages to erase the Forest sector. And we’re only two episodes into the season!

That Man in Black is all serious despite his silly voice.
Meanwhile, the principal, Jean-Pierre Delmas, is as
clueless as ever.
On the next episode, XANA manages to sink Lyoko under the Digital Sea (y’know, that thing that kills instantly the protagonists if they fall in it), while in the real world he… attacks with a giant golem made of food. Okay, even for XANA, that’s ridiculous. That’s some stuff straight out of Codename: Kids Next Door. Then, in “False Lead”, after the evil program hacks into governmental files, two strange agents come to Kadic and, following leads, soon discover the supercomputer. These two guys would sound threatening, if the first one didn’t recite his lines like a teenager in a school play, and if the other didn’t have a faux chipmunk voice. Although the plot does take a turn for the silly as Odd is looking for his Tamagotchi, which he named after the school’s principal, so when the two agents are doing their little espionage on the group they start believing that the principal is linked to their little secret. Who the Hell would name their virtual pet such an old-timey name like Jean-Pierre anyway? It’s worse than just being an old name, it’s an old French name! (Come to think of it, isn’t it weird that they didn’t reveal the full name of Kadic Academy’s principal until season 3?)

What you see here is the desert sector completely
vanishing... while Ulrich and Aelita are still on it.
I must say, I love the special effects when a part
of Lyoko is disappearing.
The last season implied that Franz Hopper isn’t actually “dead”, just somewhere in virtual form, so Aelita goes to look for him on Lyoko in the episode titled “Aelita”, despite Jérémie telling her not to do it. But he was kinda rude about it, so she goes anyway. XANA attacks, as you can guess, and they defeat him again, and we find out that yes, Aelita’s father is indeed someplace on Lyoko. Next episode, XANA attacks by controlling the birds flying over the Academy, because apparently he’s now picking his attack patterns out of famous films. Although I’m surprised, I thought this series preceded Birdemic… Joke aside, though, once again the more surprising plan works and the birds badly wound Yumi. In the meantime, on Lyoko, the Scyphozoa manages to take control of Aelita and makes her delete the mountain sector. Two out of four are down, and the Return to the Past doesn’t even correct this. It does save Yumi, but still… damn… 6 episodes in, 7 episodes left, two sectors deleted. Not that I like to say such a thing, but considering the odds, I predict a victory for XANA by the end of the season.

I'm Sorry if you didn't like William...
Get ready to see him more often.
Sometime later, in “The Secret”. William encounters Yumi late at night as she’s heading to the factory due to a XANA attack, and she flees from him while he has his eyes closed (though, to be fair, the jackass asked for a kiss). On the next day, he becomes set on a goal: To discover the secret she has with her friends. And discover he does, by spying on Odd and Ulrich. The team doesn’t seem too happy that someone discovered their secret, but William proves to be useful a first time, when he goes to find Yumi at school (she was in gym class, at the pool, so she didn’t have her phone with her). As for XANA’s attack, it’s simple: While possessing a demolition expert, set bombs around the whole factory to blow it up while the teenagers are busy down below, in the supercomputer’s monitor room. You know, the kind of thing that might not allow them to survive long enough for a Return to the Past, once the tower is deactivated. After Aelita deactivates the tower, Odd and Ulrich get devirtualized, come back into the real world, and help William. Turns out, their spying pal knows a thing or two about explosives, and becomes a great ally when they start looking for a detonator, and later when they need to stop its countdown.

William... an improvised expert at disarming bombs?
Geez, it's a good thing he was around to help, huh?

Oh yeah, and somewhere in there we also have the Scyphozoa possessing Aelita and almost getting her where she needs to be to destroy the ice sector, but Yumi stops her just in time. Gosh, this show is juggling so many plot threads that it’s really difficult not to forget one.

All he needed was five Yes. He got one No.
Unfortunate, but we need to keep that plot going.
At the end of the episode, the Lyoko-Warriors see that William was a really useful helper, and a new Warrior might be necessary considering the more frequent XANA attacks. They decide to vote on it, and accept him in the group only if everyone agrees. Turns out, one Lyoko-Warrior still doesn’t want him around. Blaming Ulrich for the single “No”, William leaves in anger. He was wrong, though: It’s Yumi who didn’t want him near the group…

Extremely interesting episode, and one of my favorites. It does set up William’s future arc, and we get the new, and most important, revelation of the entire third season: Whether they like it or not, the Lyoko-Warriors are not enough anymore. They’re being burnt out by the combination of their student lives and hero lives. With the more frequent attacks from XANA and the nastier things they face, they’re gonna need new allies at some point. William is, at the moment, the only viable option – even if it pleases neither Ulrich nor Yumi. Of course, if you know the show, you know why all of this is so important and how the arc turns out... However, I won't spoil it right away; you'll have to read Part 5 when I post it this Friday!

November 18, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 3)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Read Part 2 if you want to know most of what happened in Season 1. Today, I look at the two-part Season 1 finale and then I look at Season 2.

Episode 25, “Code: EARTH”, starts with Jérémie finally getting good results on the devirtualization tests to bring Aelita to their world, so his friends start preparing for her arrival. She’ll stay with Yumi at first, and Odd and Ulrich manage to get her enrolled at Kadic. Meanwhile, Jim Morales, the gym teacher, has become more paranoid and suspicious of the group over time, so he started spying on them, believing that they’re planning something strange. (To his credit, he's kinda right...)

"Don't try to play dumbest with me, because you're gonna lose!"
I didn't invent that joke, the show used it a few times.

A team ready to kick ass and chew bubblegum!
And on Lyoko, they can't chew gum.
Aelita runs into danger, so the group goes to the factory to help her, with Jim trying (and failing) to catch them. The Lyoko-Warriors defeat XANA’s mooks and Aelita steps into the tower, ready for devirtualization. Jérémie puts in the CD… and finds out it’s the wrong one – instead of the disk containing the program, he accidentally brought one containing Odd’s latest mixtape! ...which had been left near the correct one, in Jérémie's room.

It’s not the first time Odd causes the situation in the episode, and it’s far from the last time. In the next seasons, his idiocy will be the reason why some of the plots happen, sometimes more directly than in this episode, and it’ll soon become frequent enough that you’ll grow tired of him. At some point, he’ll start feeling more like a load to the whole group, and that’s never a good thing. That's a common problem of comic reliefs.

Nice work there, Jim. Your paranoia just led to a kid
getting hurt. I hope you're happy. That's something else
you'll want to rather not talk about later.
Jérémie hurries back to the dorm and gets the CD, but is caught by Jim and twists his ankle while fleeing from the gym teacher. Jim brings Jérémie to the infirmary, and the nurse treats his wound. Oh, and Jim gets fired by the principal. When the nurse leaves and Jim comes in to apologize, Jérémie decides to tell him the team’s little secret - but only if the gym teacher accepts to bring him to the factory. (Of course, Jérémie counts on the Return to the Past to erase Jim’s gaffe and memories once the devirtualization is successful.) And Jim agrees! By the time the two get there, on Lyoko, Odd, Yumi and Ulrich get devirtualized facing XANA’s monsters (who were trying to destroy the tower Aelita has to be in for the materialization). They see Jérémie at the monitor, accompanied of Jim. The genius teen launches the program, and Aelita disappears from the tower, to appear in flesh and bones in one of the scanners. Yay!

Not pictured: Jérémie fainting from joy.

For a kid who watched this show's first season, Aelita
being materialized was a big deal. It had been what the
past 24 episodes had been building up to. It was, without
a doubt, a moment of cheers.
However, something terrible's about to happen...
Episode 26, “False Start”, begins as Aelita, in the real world with her friends, is going to her first classes at Kadic Academy. You know, the whole idea of bringing a virtual character to the real world has been touched on by many science-fiction stories, and to its credit, Code Lyoko addresses the question; Aelita needs to keep her origin a secret by hiding behind a veil of lies carefully crafted by Jérémie and the group; they also had to create false documents and hack into governmental computers to give her a form of bureaucratic identity. We can wonder just how “legal” this really is…

Later that day, the group goes to turn off the supercomputer, and are greeted by Jim, who has taken residence in the factory while he’s fired. They go to the supercomputer’s tower and Jérémie pulls down the lever, but Aelita faints. When Jérémie turns the machine back on and she wakes up, he analyzes her in a scanner only to see that there’s something wrong – XANA did something that connects her to Lyoko and the supercomputer. As in, either he took away something, or he planted a virus… we dunno. Either way, Jérémie starts working on an antivirus. On that night, as Aelita is brought back to Yumi’s house for the night, she discovers more of the wonders of the world – mostly the senses of touch, smell and taste, all which she didn’t have on Lyoko. It’s a very touching scene that not many stories about virtualization bother to show. We get many sweet moments of her goofing around with Jérémie, guaranteed to make you go "Awwww~!"

And "Awwwwwwww~!"s indeed there were.

It's in those moments of danger that the characters, main
and secondary, show moments of pure badassery.
Yup, even Jim.
Meanwhile, XANA gets a hold of the materialization program and starts sending some of his Kankrelats into the real world. Here, the team has a much harder time fending them off! Oh, and of course, XANA didn’t send just five or six – more like a few dozens. Aelita and Odd go to Lyoko, while Jim, who has already been destroying a whole lot of Kankrelats with metal bars and nail guns, heads out to help Ulrich and Yumi, who stayed behind to protect the school from the mechanical creatures. Gotta say, if we needed an episode to bring the gym teacher back in the viewers’ good graces, it’s this one! (Starting with season 2, Jim gets even more comical, and more helpful to the heroes too, so he just keeps getting better! But I’d rather not talk about it just yet.)

The scenes on Lyoko are so action-packed that it's
often difficult to get images from them.
Also because the CGI is not as great here as it'll be
in the next seasons.
Ulrich and Yumi also manage to get to the factory and into Lyoko. And well, you know the deal. Aelita deactivates the tower and the attack is stopped mere seconds before a major tragedy occurs – in this case, the Kankrelats vanish just as they had Jim on the ground and ready to blow his brains out. Return to the Past, and we go back to the start of the previous episode, just before Jim was about to catch them in the dormitory. They manage to throw off his suspicion by claiming they were plotting to prank a student. Once again, it’s a bit awkward to think that the heroes use the reset button to correct their mistakes in the real world, but this time around it’s for the better. Meanwhile, Aelita still has XANA’s influence inside her, so she’s still tied to Lyoko. She decides to stay in the virtual world until an antivirus is found… …a decision that we conveniently forget in the first episode of season 2, where Jérémie, Odd, Yumi, Ulrich and Aelita decide to say “screw it” and bring Aelita into the real world again.

"Woo! I feel like Marty McFly! Now all I need is for
some mad scientist to bring me through time!"
Alright, on to Season 2 proper. You can see a major upgrade to the CGI in the first minutes of the first episode. That difference between the two seasons is very noticeable. That’s not the only upgrade, either; the group has new ways to travel around Lyoko! Jérémie programmed vehicles for them! A hoverboard for Odd, a one-wheeled bike for Ulrich, and a floating platform thing with handles for Yumi. XANA has also invented a few new creatures for itself, the first of them being dubbed a Tarantula by Odd. They all lose against a single of those, too. Talk about a heroic downgrade! In the bridge between seasons, Jérémie also worked on a program to detect towers without having Aelita on Lyoko, which means she can get enrolled at Kadic for real! She gets her own room at the dormitory, and presents herself as Aelita Stones. We also meet a new student… William Dunbar. He’s in Yumi’s class, and becomes Ulrich’s rival for her affections. The guy isn’t liked much by the fans, exactly for that reason. Shippers in general aren’t fond of love rivals, no matter the show.

But of course! Have a new opponent with two laser guns instead
of just one! Why hasn't XANA thought of that before?

Don't sense a hookup just yet.
Do sense a green-eyed monster popping up soon, however.

Not so invincible, those Tarantulas, after all!
Just aim for the eye of XANA, that always works!
Later during the episode, the class is gone to a field trip when Aelita starts having flashes of wolves. As she flees, the pink-haired girl finds herself into a bizarre abandoned house called the Hermitage, where she gets other flashes, the most prominent one being that of a middle-aged man playing the piano. After she’s rescued inside the house by her friends and XANA makes its presence clear, she gets a new flash of the middle-aged man entering a door with her. She and Odd head down that door and find out it’s a direct secret passageway to the factory! They get on Lyoko, Aelita deactivates the tower, etc. As an introduction to the new plots to the show, it was a pretty solid episode.

Also a fairly good set-up for this season’s new ongoing story arc: Aelita’s strange visions and dreams (more like nightmares), the mysteries of the Hermitage, trying to keep Aelita’s origins a secret, Jérémie trying to build an antivirus to free her from XANA, the love triangle between Yumi, Ulrich and William… We’re still missing a few pieces, though.

I unfortunately missed most of the show past the first
season when it was on TV, so I've since caught up
thanks to YouTube. Now I know everything about that
mysterious Sector 5 I had heard so much about.
We get more in the next episodes. First is “Uncharted Territory”, where Aelita gets pranked by girls like Sissi and wonders if she really should stay on Earth, feeling that she doesn't fit in. Meanwhile, Jérémie does some research in the Hermitage and learns that it belonged to a man named Franz Hopper. During the next encounter with XANA, Aelita is brought to a fifth sector that cannot be accessed by simple virtualization. Jérémie tries to send his friends there, but must first answer to a riddle about Carthage – which thankfully turns out to have an answer in the book he found at the Hermitage. He types in the code, SCIPIO, and the rest of the group is brought to the fifth sector.

We would later learn that Carthage refers to Project Carthage, a mysterious government project Franz Hopper participated in, and that XANA was created during that project - and that this is why he went into hiding later. It's interesting backstory for Hopper and XANA, but the show will hardly, if ever, focus on any of this past the "search for the password SCIPIO" thing.

Aaaaargh! This thing's worse than a freaking roller coaster!
And there's soo.... much.... blue....

Uh oh... that's not good...
Anything with so many tentacles can only mean trouble.
We get into another semi-pointless addition to the show’s drama – every time the group goes into the fifth sector, before they can progress any further they have between 1 and 3 minutes to push a button somewhere in the first room, or else the place closes down and kills them all. We also see the final piece of drama in the season: XANA’s new plans will almost always involve bringing Aelita onto Lyoko so that its new lackey, the Scyphozoa (called “la méduse” – “the squid” in the show’s French mother tongue; Scyphozoa is a much cooler name, I’ll admit), can capture her and take away her memories. Once again, the other Lyoko-Warriors always show up on time to free her from that thing… although the Scyphozoa is rarely, if ever, actually defeated in those encounters. There’s something in Aelita’s head that XANA wants, and not even she seems to know what it could be. As we learn in the following episode, Sector 5 contains many of XANA’s secrets, so the group starts going there more often to try and steal some info from their virtual enemy, in the hopes that this allows them to create an antivirus to free Aelita.

Another day is about to start. This one is barely
two thirds through!
Let’s see… how can we put even more pressure on these heroes? Hm… how about stripping them of their “Get Out of Jail Free” card? “A Great Day”, another of my favorite episodes in the show, has the Supercomputer mysteriously use the Return to the Past function by itself, forcing the five protagonist to relive the same day over, and over, and over. I like “Groundhog Day” stories, for some reason, and this show puts a pretty interesting spin on it. Sure, this allows for some really funny moments (like Odd, on his third time living through the same science class, astonishing his teacher by practically teaching in her place). We soon find out that every Return to the Past has increased XANA’s intelligence and power, and considering they used it in almost every episode of the first season… yeah. Thus, XANA has gained access to it and is boosting itself even more. Thankfully, the team manages to stop this, and Jérémie blocks the Return to the Past command from its control. However, they can’t use that program as often as they’d like to now, considering every time they do it XANA grows stronger. This forces them to be a lot more careful. Oh, and now, XANA has gotten strong enough to possess people and use them against the team, too… Nice way to shake up the formula, that’s for sure.

When Aelita is not letting her DJ skills out at Kadic...
From that point on, the group gets more organized. Since they’ve got a much smaller margin for error, they must act a lot smarter than before. Among others, Jérémie writes a program that changes his voice when he’s on the phone, allowing him to pass off as anyone else recorded within the program, including the school’s principal Jean-Pierre Delmas. Illegal? Criminal? Well, it’s either that or the big bad humanity-hating virus wins. Meanwhile, Aelita discovers more of the real world and finds herself an affinity for electronic music, even becoming the DJ at the Academy’s school dance (something that almost gets interrupted by XANA controlling Jim Morales and bringing her on Lyoko to try and steal her memories). If I were mean, I’d say it makes sense for a program to be good with electronic music, but no, the joke doesn’t work.

...she hacks in XANA's data to solve the current episode's
In a following episode, “Missing Link”, while the group is on Lyoko, XANA removes from Yumi one of her DNA codes, rendering her incapable of returning to the real world until said DNA code is retrieved. This episode, along with many others that take place in the other seasons, is a sign of a slight issue I have with the show: Yumi is always picked on by XANA. Make no mistake, all five main characters have their moments of being victims of the computer virus’s latest scheme, and season 2 is all about XANA bringing Aelita to Lyoko no matter what, so Aelita is the usual target. However, the second most frequent victim is Yumi. There are some pretty simple reasons: For starters, she lives outside of the campus, so her disappearance would be more difficult to cover. Second, she’s not in the same class as the others, so she is easier to single out. Add to this that she’s the least inclined to be in this struggle against evil, and you get a character who’s more often a victim than the others. Hell, at one point in Season 1, it was so frequent, at least five episodes in a row had her as the victim – the fans even called these the “’Pick On Yumi’ week”! I mean, there are ways to justify it, but it does become pretty obvious after a while. “Missing Link” ends with everything back to normal though, as you’d expect.

As if Yumi's parents were ever gonna accept a mere
lottery ticket, right?
It feels as though every episode of Season 2 plays around with the various concepts the show has been using, and it's great! I would love to talk about each episode in detail, this season is just that good! That’s actually a very interesting way to approach a series: Grab every detail independently and dedicate an episode to each. In “The Chips Are Down”, after learning Yumi’s family might be moving back to Japan, Ulrich takes note of that night’s winning lottery numbers and manages to make a Return to the Past on the supercomputer, in the hopes that the millions of dollars – er, I mean, euros – will let her stay in America - er, France. It gets Ulrich kicked out of the team, until he becomes needed to defeat XANA and joins back, because despite having a continuity, this show still has some form of status quo. I like that this episode shows how tempting and easy it could be to abuse the Return to the Past function for personal gain.

Have I mentioned that the English dub stupidly attempted to set the show in America and tried to hide the (otherwise blatant) clues that set it in France?

That grey goo sure is creepy. Then again, what else can
you say about a program trying to destroy everything?
Especially if it's connected to XANA in some way?
More such examples. In the episode “Marabounta”, Jérémie creates, partly thanks to the notes he found written by Franz Hopper, a grey goo program that instantly chases down traces of XANA on Lyoko and destroys them. Unfortunately, during the test drive, the goo also starts aiming for Aelita, so the Lyoko-Warriors have to destroy that nasty program – with help from XANA’s monsters who have enough of a survival instinct to know when to fold and help the good guys. This sets up a minor plot point that Jérémie is out of his league when trying to mimic Hopper’s creations, and will usually mess something up badly when he tries to invent things for Lyoko. It also sets a minor element that XANA needs Aelita alive, so he will willingly stop attacking if she's endangered and not in his clutches.

Oh yeah, I might have forgotten another plot point: The love triangle between Ulrich, Yumi and William starts taking more place into the story. In particular, Ulrich starts becoming jealous and becomes fearful that Yumi ends up dating William. As a result, Ulrich starts doing dumb things to try and impress Yumi, not to mention that he starts acting jealous, clingy and almost stalker-ish. That’s a big problem of the season, and the show in general: this romantic plot tumor starts eating up more time and turns Ulrich into a creep.

Just because XANA needs the heroes's help, that doesn't
mean he's gonna be any nice to them. They both have
an interest in keeping the supercomputer running... but
XANA is by default a dick.
Back to XANA helping the heroes, in “Common Interest” the possessive program takes control of an inmate on his way to prison and plans to use him to steal a bar of uranium. Why? Because the supercomputer’s nuclear power is dying and XANA's sense of self-preservation makes it seek out what it needs to stay alive. The supercomputer’s infrequent shutdowns caused by the nuclear energy running out also cause Aelita to fall unconscious, since she’s still connected to it. The possessed inmate ends up kidnapping Jérémie, and you can figure out what happens next: XANA and Jérémie actually work together to place a new bar of uranium in the computer’s tower. It’s a very cool idea for the episode, hence why it’s another of my favorites. As you can guess, by the end, they manage to get the supercomputer up and running, but then the team has to go on Lyoko to stop XANA again. Some things never change, do they? The program didn’t even thank them!

Jérémie and his friends have been doing dozens of things
that normal people will never have a chance to do.
Although I doubt they expected to include in that list
"replace a nuclear battery in a giant computer".

I could ramble on and on about this season. Honestly, I think I will need to cut this here and continue in Part 4. Not that I was expecting this to become such a long review/recap, but I actually quite enjoy talking about the show. I will try not to make this review longer than 7 parts, though. I should be able to do that.