Episode 26 – Book Burning

In which Adora and Bow put bags over their own heads.

Today’s episode opens in a school, where Serena the teacher tells the children they have some important guests. The guests turn out to be Adora and Bow, who are standing at the front of the classroom with bags over their heads. I’m assuming these bags are an attempt at a disguise, but this isn’t specified in the episode, and it’s always possible that the animators had one of their semi-regular holidays from reality. Anyway, Adora begins lecturing the children on how the Horde are evil.

Book 1
Serena: “Children, today we’re going to learn about how putting a bag over your head is at best a really rubbish disguise and at worst makes you look like a Klansman.”

She is interrupted by a child called Cory, who takes the Horde’s side, and thus a stimulating debate is sparked concerning the rights and wrongs of the Rebellion and the Horde. Well, I say ‘stimulating’. What I mean is that Cory says Adora’s lying, and Adora says the Horde are liars. This scintillating discussion goes round a few times before Bow gets bored and announces the Horde have arrived. He and Adora nip out the back quickly.

Leech and Mantenna enter the classroom, announcing that from now on, only official Horde books will be used as teaching material in the school. They start burning all Serena’s books, until Cory pipes up with the information that Adora and Bow have just departed. Leech and Mantenna give chase, but Adora and Bow put pay to them with some tedious antics involving a see-saw.

Book 2
Leech: “This is so not going to end well.”

This is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that Hordak shortly arrives in town, demanding the people give up all their books to the snakelike Rattlor. He also appoints a new school teacher, the equally snakelike Tung Lashor. Tung Lashor is at least capable of speech, a skill which seems to evade Rattlor, so of the two, I suppose he’s a better choice for teacher. Still, the situation leaves much to be desired, as the townsfolk realise – except Cory, who cheers like a doofus. Hordak recognises that Cory is a corruptible moron, and appoints him to be a Horde spy.

The Horde confiscate all the books in town, except for some that Serena squirrels away. After hours, the children come to her house and read the now outlawed books. Cory dobs her in, of course, and Serena is arrested, but is very speedily freed by She-Ra. The two then make their way to the town square, but arrive too late to prevent Tung Lashor burning the books on a bonfire.

Book 3
Tung Lashor: “One of my few regrets in life is that I look nothing like my action figure.”

Tung Lashor then takes up his new post as teacher, but it isn’t long before the children stage a rebellion, hurl the new Horde textbooks at him, and run out of school. When Tung Lashor responds to this by threatening to send the children to school in the Fright Zone, two of them make a dash for the rebel camp, where they ask for help from Adora and Bow. Cory follows, and listens in as Adora promises to save the children.

Back at the town square, Tung Lashor and Rattlor begin loading the town’s children into a transport ship. Cory’s sister Arianne is among those taken, and when Cory tells Tung Lashor to release her, he is coldly informed the Horde has simply used him. Arianne is put on the transport with the other children, and Cory only just escapes the same fate. He finds Serena and admits that the Horde are liars after all, then confesses that he’s informed the Horde that the rebels will be coming to rescue the children.

Book 4
Cory: “Chief Moron Cory reporting for duty, sir.”

Adora and Bow sneak into town and easily board the transport ship, but are immediately captured. Adora is deprived of her sword and placed in the town jail, but Cory brings her sword to her, and she becomes She-Ra. She-Ra rescues Bow and the children, but Hordak shows up again and threatens to burn down the entire town if She-Ra and the children are not handed over. I was kind of expecting She-Ra to give herself up at this point, but instead she flies off to a lake, which she picks up and throws all the way back to the town. Yes, you did read that correctly.

By this stage, the Horde have set the entire town alight, but luckily the lake lands on the town and puts out the fire. Instead of simply lighting the fire again, Hordak accepts defeat and strops off back to the Fright Zone. She-Ra ties Tung Lashor up with his long tongue, and she and Bow have a disproportionately large laugh about the fact that the lake has rusted the Horde Troopers. Finally, Cory slinks along and apologises, and receives forgiveness from the entire town. Rejoice, rejoice.

Book 5
She-Ra: “Rusty robots really make me laugh.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Very late in the episode’s proceedings – so late that I assumed I’d missed him – I noticed Loo-Kee hiding in a bucket of pineapples, which must have been nice for him. His moral concerns freedoms and how we may not notice them until they are taken away, and of course he singles out books and the right to read whatever we wish. It’s a sensible moral, though my only criticism is what he particularly expected his audience to do about it. Perhaps he thought he was addressing North Korea or somewhere, and was recommending an easing of censorship.

 

Character checklist

Very few of our regular rebels appear this time: we’re limited to just Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Bow and Loo-Kee. We also see the many villagers, of course, not least Serena, Cory and his sister. The villains are Hordak, Tung Lashor, Rattlor, Mantenna, Leech, and the usual fine selection of Horde Troopers.

Book 6
Bow: “Hmm, a massive fire. Maybe I should do something with this bucket of water.”

 

Excuse given for Adora’s disappearance

We are treated to two transformations, but not to any excuses.

 

Insults

For such an action-packed episode, there was a surprising lack of insults.

 

Does it have the Power?

I really liked this one; in fact, it’s probably my favourite so far. It’s the first episode that’s really explored what life is like on Etheria for those under Horde oppression, and it really is astonishingly dark. The Horde can impose their own doctrine as truth in schools, take children to re-education centres in the Fright Zone, and burn down towns as punishment for non-compliance – all incredibly frightening stuff. Tung Lashor is an appropriately menacing presence; there’s no humour to him, and he’s disturbingly eager to set the town on fire and take away the children. Hordak also comes across well this week, seedily addressing the townsfolk as “friends”, pretending he’s there for their own good, and recognising Cory’s weakness and seducing him to betray his family and friends for power.

The message concerning the freedom to read books, to learn and decide matters for oneself is a great theme for the cartoon to tackle. Off the top of my head, I think the only move towards it we’ve previously had was He-Man’s The Great Books Mystery, which wasn’t nearly so much of a success. I suspect some people might consider She-Ra’s stupid lake trick at the end undermines the message, but I was happy with it. This episode is truly excellent.

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6 thoughts on “Episode 26 – Book Burning

  1. Excellent review Owen of this episode and I too have to completely agree this is without any doubt one of the very best episodes in this series, I can’t really add anymore to what you’ve covered but what I would say is if you wanted to show an episode of the horde at there absolute cruelest and most evil this is the one I’d pick! The horde are truelly suffocating in this episode with sustained threat all the way through even she ra you felt had to be at her absolute best and most alert you felt even she needed to get herself a breather as much as anything when she brought the frozen lake to the village at the end, personally I liked this ending as well, this idea ofcourse is taken from a theme from superman three did anyone know?? In that film Christopher reeve as superman flies to a nearby lake and freezes it just the same as here, excelllent episode Owen Morton I agree and easily one of the very best episodes of the series I honestly can’t think of anything negative to say adora was excellent to it was nice her and bow came to the school, last point I’d like to mention as Owen Morton says it’s great to witness an episode like this and shows how the horde can operate in small villages and how evil they can be, not too dissimilar in this regard to duel at devlan but this was done so much better, out if ten I’d have no problems scoring this one as high as a 9/10 one of the few she-ra episodes that’s as good as the top he-man episodes, the boy Cory was excellent too, top top episode…

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  2. A slight correction regards to the lake scene at the end, when I was comparing this scene to the superman three film scene in this he froze the lake but she ra just brought the lake itself leaving the water inside using her powersword, anyway she had to put the fire out some way do this was a satisfying conclusion anyway! Looking back on this episode again the only slight criticism just thinking about it now I guess adora maybe should of had a horde trooper at least guarding her when she was in prison but this us only a minor quibble that doesn’t diminish the quality of the episode whatesoever, I haven’t fully got my top ten yet but this one is a strong honourable mention at the very least, out of the 93 episodes this would at least make my top 15 if say definetly one of the best, I would say it’s very hard picking a she ra top ten list the same method as he man by using 5 from each season as season one is just so much stronger and there’s far more episodes (season one has 65 of the 93 episodes in) so doing my own top ten I’d just pick my favourites even if all ten were from season one which there not as sweet bees home and assault on the hive are both from the second season and there both awesome for me even better than this episode, so season 2 does have its moments tho!! Anyway one of the darkest in the series most definetly along with the price of freedom..

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  3. If that episode were an He-man episode, I would say that “Book Burning” is a slightly above average He-man episode. It was a lore episode. The idea to create a paralell with Totalitarian regimes was a good one. Also, it was interesting to see that It’s the first episode that’s really explored what life is like on Etheria for those under Horde oppression. However this episode was also another episode with a very stupid child used as a plot device.

    For me, this episode was somewhat entertaining, and the action was average. I mean: At the beginning, Adora and Bow funnily beat leech and Mantena. I liked the ways that Shera freed the children and the teacher. Finally She-Ra’s lake trick at the end was average (Remember that He-man did many times this kind of stupid trick too.).

    Also, there was few character development and characterization in this episode.
    Concerning Adora/Shera, sort of, she behaved like a teacher at the beginning by explaining to the children how much the Horde was evil. Later she was agile and she fought efficently by cooperating with Bow against leech and Mantena. She later fell in Hordak’s trap. However, with Cory’s help, Adora managed to turn into Shera and to free Serena and the children. She finally managed to extinguish the fire.
    Bow did nothing in tis episode, except fighting at the begining with Adora against leech and Mantena.
    Cory seemed to me as a brainwashed boy at the begining. He indeed denounced Bow and Adora a first time. Later, he even denounced some of his comrades and his teacher. I personally thought that the writers made him too stupid. However, he later changed his mind and helped Adora to free herself from her prison.
    Glimmer and Madame Razz were absent form this episode.
    Concerning Hordak, he was meaner than usual and he had the good idea to manipulate Cory .
    Tung Lasher was also meaner than usual. He tried to impress the people. Yet, later,
    he was beaten by the school children. Also, he was the one who refused to free Cory’s mother, which was contrary to the interest of the Horde, since the Horde needed informants and I didn’t like this situation.
    Finally, I pesnnallly think that the moral was relevant.

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  4. Correction:
    “Also, he was the one who refused to free Cory’s mother,…”
    I meant: “Also, he was the one who refused to free Cory’s sister”

    I also wanted to add that I was not surprised that Tung lashor would be stupid enough to refuse Cory’s demands to free his sister. I know this helps the audience to spot that he’s evil, but it’s really no way to build loyalty among the horde’s Etherians supporters.

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  5. Pretty serious theme for the children cartoon episode – and, actually, quite well done. Filmation not always shined in showing the serious themes, but sometimes they went quite brilliant.

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  6. Dilandu agree!.. Another thing I forgot to mention was just how appropriate the she ra music was for this episode most notably when she ra gets on swiftwind to go to the lake then suddenly at that exact moment the music changes to that haunting “war like them music” great timing I thought in terms of production rarely do we witness such a threatening episode as this but at the same times it works giving an eductation of just how evil the horde can be lots of dark themes in this episode and more importantly it worked…

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