By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
* Mild Spoiler Alert
* This analysis is based on reading online episode summaries.
The wait should not be long for Season Nine of Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu to air in North America. It’s currently broadcasting in Australia, and nearby territories. The previous chapter, Sons of Garmadon, played April of this year in the States and left viewers with one doozy of a cliffhanger. Half of the team were tossed into the Realm of the Oni and Dragon. Meanwhile, back home, the remaining team are rallying resistance fighters.
Lord Garmadon is back and now rules the capital city with a clenched fist. The way he sees life (including his own minions) and that it’s all disposable makes him far worse than Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. To defeat him will not be easy. He’s pure hatred. When his son confronts him, it gets televised and most of the world believes the boy is dead. Fortunately, the lad is not and the series bounces back and forth between this story arc and the ninjas with baby Wu trapped in a Mad Max type of world.
At the 2018 San Diego Comic Con, a teaser or first episode may get shown. On July 22, 10:30pm at Room 6a, there will be a panel with the producers of this show and voice actors of Zane, Kai and Nya. I can easily guess what may get announced. Instead of having fans wait a full year, the plan might be to air this continuation by the end of the year, if not sooner.
As for whether more tales can be told afterwards, this particular franchise has the feel of coming to an end. Another season or two can be milked but afterwards, ’tis better to end on a high note instead of revisiting a familiar story arc prior to the Lego Ninjago Movie. Garmadon in the episode “How to Build a Dragon” hints at an even greater evil coming, but what can be far worse than The Great Devourer?
The summaries I found online reveals the story arc of the first Spinjitzu masters (Garmadon and Wu) coming full circle. A few new details are offered, but they offer very little that’s new to longtime viewers who know how Garmadon became evil. Also, Lloyd will be facing this darker version of his father for the second and perhaps final time. To keep this franchise going is tough, and hopefully, Dan and Kevin Hageman will have a trick up their sleeves to keep the narrative refreshing. Nearly every trope in Asian cinema has been used.
To list them off: Seasons one to three was the father-son redemption arc. Serpentine, pirates, djinns and ghosts made appearances. Floating cities and lost islands have been explored. Even the classic gathering of the champions ala Enter the Dragon has been used. The conflict between blood brothers is a familiar one. Even the cyberpunk theme has been used. The only places left to visit are the Wild West or Space. To leave the Asian tropes is a bad idea.
While other types of series can go on forever (The Simpsons), eventually Spinjitzu is going to run out of steam. I hope to be proven wrong but when I’m going through all traditional staples of Japanese and Chinese cinema in my head, there’s nothing I can think of lest this series goes the way of Farewell My Concubine.
To finally reveal who the Oni are is the next logical step. Not all of them are truly evil; There is more to Mistaké than meets the eye, and she’s nothing like how Western Civilization paints demons. They may simply be a class of immortal beings who can shape worlds. Ninjago cosmology mixes up a lot of traditions from Asia much like how the Greco-Roman world became an amalgam of nearly everything bordering the Mediterranean. I always wondered if gods walk amongst the realms? Since dragons and demons exist, there must also be angels and sphinxes—sadly, not part of Asian culture.
Magic has yet to be deeply focussed on and this aether powers the portals and items the Ninjago team uses. I predict Cole and team will ascend to a form of godhood. Also, this season marks the first time when these characters refer to their ages, and they live unconventionally long (far more than 100 Earth years). When they walk back and forth through the heavenly gates, that’s because they finally earned the mantle as protectors of the Sixteen Realms than just one.