Xiaolin Showdown was an action-packed animated series that aired on Kids’ WB from 2003 to 2006. It followed the adventures of four young martial arts students Omi, Raimundo, Kimiko, and Clay, as they searched for magical artifacts known as Shen Gong Wu before they fell into the wrong hands. It had memorable characters, intense action, heartfelt moments, and fun comedy. However, it hasn’t been looked back on as much as other series like Avatar: the Last Airbender or Batman the Animated Series have. This is precisely why it’s time to look back at Xiaolin Showdown and give it the spotlight it deserves.
Each of the four main characters, who were chosen ones from all over the world, used elemental powers alongside their martial arts abilities to take on their enemies and secure the mystical Shen Gong Wu. Omi was able to harness the powers of water, Raimundo wielded the power of wind, Kimiko used the powers of fire, and Clay could manipulate Earth. This aspect of the show makes it sound an awful lot like Avatar: the Last Airbender, potentially causing it to be overshadowed by the wildly popular Nickelodeon series.
The biggest and best part of almost every episode was during the climax when a Xiaolin Showdown took place (hence the name of the show). When one of the Shen Gong Wu (the magical artifacts that each gave the possessor a unique ability) was grabbed by a hero and villain at the same time, a Xiaolin Showdown was activated, morphing the environment around them into a cleverly-crafted battlefield where they faced off in epic combat showcasing their skills and powers. It was always extremely fun and got any kid’s blood pumping.
Xiaolin Showdown wasn’t just fun and games, however. It also had heart and showcased emotional character arcs. Raimundo is forced to deal with feeling betrayed by his friends and contemplates if his place is with them or the villains. Omi feels the weight of responsibility to save the world. Each monk must find ways to cope after their master is briefly taken from them. Seeing how each character overcomes these hardships and develops adds a lot of emotional weight to the series.
It’s not just the protagonists who are entertaining or relatable, but the side characters and villains offer a lot of fun throughout the series as well. One of the most notable is Dojo, a shapeshifting dragon. He serves as a comic-relief animal sidekick, but can prove to be a helpful friend and mentor. Master Fung is the protagonists’ calm and loving mentor, who serves as their compass in the most challenging of times. Even the villain characters offer a lot for the viewer to enjoy, like Wuya, an ancient witch who now takes the form of a spirit. Wuya serves as the primary antagonist for the series and can be seen as sinister and cruel. She’s all powerful, but because she’s a spirit, she cannot collect the Shen Gong Wu on her own, leading her to need the help of the other main antagonist: Jack Spicer.
That brings us to the best and most memorable character in the series: Jack. Goddamn. Spicer. He’s absolutely one of the main aspects of the show that is looked back at fondly. Jack Spicer is beloved by fans and stands out from the other characters in many ways. In a show about martial arts and mystical powers, he’s a main character who doesn’t typically use martial arts or magic powers. Instead, he’s a self-proclaimed evil boy genius who takes on the monks with his army of robots and countless mechanical inventions. He’s a bit of a goofy, cowardly teen character who plays off of the evil witch Wuya perfectly and hilariously. It almost feels like he doesn’t fit in the show, which ironically makes him the perfect fit. You may have to watch or re-watch the series to fully get that. His dialogue and character arc add a lot of extra fun to the series, and he’s ultimately such a fun, unique villain to experience on-screen. He manages to be dorky and cool at the same time, making him relatable and fun. If memory serves correct, he may be the only character to appear in every single episode of the show.
The other primary, memorable element of Xiaolin Showdown is each of the Shen Gong Wu. Each has a unique design and gives their possessor different abilities. The Eye of Dashi allows a person to shoot bolts of lightning, the Fist of Tebigong allows its wearer to punch with great strength, and the Falcon’s Eye allows its user to see through objects. There are, of course, several others. Using them in battle kept the fight scenes in the show feeling fresh and new, while allowing for fun choreography. They also played a huge part in the story. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see collectable toys of them in pop culture oriented stores. They’re that cool and that much of a representation of the series.
Xiaolin Showdown was an especially creative show with fun and relatable characters, exciting action, and unique animation style. With everyone looking back and binging series they grew up with, it’s sad to see that not many have been talking about Xiaolin Showdown. It was unfortunately overshadowed by other shows at the time, including a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Lilo & Stitch: the Series, Rugrats: All Grown Up!, My Life as a Teenage Robot, and several others. Now, while it’s popular for older animated shows are getting attention like Avatar: the Last Airbender, it’s once again being overshadowed and forgotten. On a rare occasion, you may see a Jack Spicer cosplay or a piece of Omi fan art, but it’s just not as remembered as it should be. There was even a reboot series, Xiaolin Chronicles, that released recently but didn’t quite take off. Please, world, remember the incredible animated series that was Xiaolin Showdown.