Episode Review: Star vs The Forces of Evil (Season 1, Episode 3 ) – Monster Arm / The Other Exchange Student
The second episode of Star vs the Forces of Evil, attempted to focus on the microcosm of Star Butterfly’s life amid the students of Echo Creek Academy. With Episode 3, we get some more character insight, along with plenty of magical shenanigans.
Marco’s karate dojo has an upcoming tournament, in which Marco will face off with a rich combatant named Jeremy Birnbaum. However, Marco gets carried away while training, and breaks his right hand.
Marco convinces Star to use her magic wand to heal his hand, but her spell-casting goes horribly wrong, and leaves Marco with a tentacle instead of his right arm!
Monster Arm differs from the earlier episodes, in that it moreso focuses on Marco, with Star taking on more of a supporting role. It’s nice to see Marco react to the situations he has found himself in, but we also get to see him almost become a different person when he realizes this new appendage can give him an advantage (and even impresses the students at school when it beats back a bully!).
We even get some additional lore regarding Star’s family wand, given that it comes with a tome of an instruction manual. The episode also provides examples of how specific one’s verbiage has to be while using the wand. Apparently, being off in your pronunciation by a smidgen, can be both a good and a bad thing (but most of the time, a bad thing!).
Voice actor Corey Burton also provides a fun, deep-voiced role that is a nice little surprise. I can’t help but think that this segment will be the first introduction of the word “bowels” to many young people, given his character’s role.
It doesn’t get as dramatic as I prefer, but Monster Arm is probably one of the most fun segments I’ve seen so far, which pushes it above the normal B-territory most of these segments have fallen into. Also notable, is that the episode ends with an intriguing-yet-unsettling coda, that one wonders if we’ll see resolved in future episodes.
Final Segment Grade: A-
Ever since Star arrived on Earth, Marco’s family has celebrated each and every day that she has been with them. Prior to Star’s arrival, the Diaz family has been taking in exchange students for quite some time, and everyone is surprised when a former Scandinavian exchange student named Gustav, shows up on the Diaz’s doorstep with souvenirs, and plans to stay with them for a few weeks.
Needless to say, Star is a little jealous about being bumped to ‘exchange student #2’ status in the Diaz household, but soon, she begins to wonder if there’s more to Gustav than he’s letting on…
Probably not since the first episode, have we gotten this much time with Marco Diaz’s parents. However, there isn’t really that much to them, except being very happy-go-lucky in their demeanor. Even Marco seems to adopt this attitude for much of the episode.
Those who have seen cartoons, can probably see the “something’s not right” angle towards Gustav and his ways, which is a given in some cartoon plots when a new character arrives on someone’s doorstep. The writers do manage to tweak the formula a bit, but it’s a little predictable regarding the outcome of the episode. Though just łike Monster Arm, there are some things that are not resolved by the end.
In the role of Gustav, voice actor Rob Paulsen manages to have some fun with his accented role, pitching around his voice for the various situations.
Star for the most part, spends most of the episode not being as happy as she normally is. It’s a little fun at times to see characters have to deal with unwelcome situations, allowing us to see how they handle something uncomfortable. It’s very similar to how I felt with Pinkie Pie in the My Little Pony episode, “Party of One,” where the character had to shut down from being a little scatter-brained, and became analytical.
In Monster Arm, we saw Star exasperated from lack of sleep as she attempted to help Marco. Here, we get a little more of that, along with a rather obsessive angle to her going on a fact-finding mission. I will admit, hearing Eden Sher voice Star as she unravels, is a fun little treat. It does seem a double-edged sword regarding how Star acts: on one hand, she seems jealous over the attention that Gustav is receiving, but on the other hand, she is also concerned for the well-being of Marco and his family.
The episode also serves as a nice little respite from Ludo and his minions (though one makes a brief cameo), by showing that even suburbia can house its own problems for Star Butterfly. Though intriguing at times, it never deviates far enough from the formulaic ‘stranger at the front door’ storyline, to really make me love it more.
Final Segment Grade: B-
In conclusion, Episode 3 is probably the best full episode so far. I like how both segments focus mainly on Star and Marco on earth, with no dimensional villains like Ludo. Here, we get to see Star and Marco deal with problems in their own way in Monster Arm, and then get to see Star handle a human “outsider,” in The Other Exchange Student.
Of all the segments, Monster Arm is the one I’ve probably seen a few dozen times. The story and animated emotions just seem so entertaining to me. I personally feel that if you’re looking to get someone hooked on this series, it’s a must-show segment.
*Coming up in Episode 4, Marco works on cheering up Star when something doesn’t go as she would like. Following that, the two end up in a dimensional store, questing for a specific item for Star’s magic wand. What wonders/craziness will unfold? We’ll find out soon enough.*