My review. Keep in mind I wrote this an hour ago before even coming on here, so nothing in it is a direct comment towards anyone. Also, I wrote it with the intention of posting it several places, so I may have repeated some things I've already said in this thread, but here goes:
Before anything, I'm just going to say that I'll be reviewing both parts of Cartoon Wars as one episode here, mainly because I just watched both parts, and my scores for both would be the same, anyway. As I'm sure many people have noticed, South Park's been slipping since Season 9. Granted, there are still plenty of funny moments and well-made points, but it's been quite repetitive lately, and the quality is nowhere near as good as the standards set in Seasons 6-8. While some episodes like Best Friends Forever, The Death of Eric Cartman and Two Days Before The Day After Tomorrow were excellent, episodes like Ginger Kids, Bloody Mary, The Return of Chef and Smug Alert were all very average at best, and have certainly brought the others down (though most people seem pretty much divided about The Return of Chef). Cartoon Wars has been very well-received by just about everyone who isn't a Family Guy fan, so how does it stack up?
While it is certainly an excellent episode, Cartoon Wars isn't exactly the total turn-around fans have been waiting for... as well all know, South Park tends to re-invent itself every few years, though it's basically just been going through several pre-existing styles since Season 6. Cartoon Wars is no different, however, I'd have to say, it really can be considered an epitome of the show to an extent. Essentially, Cartoon Wars is somewhere in-between South Park's current style of episodes. Normally, you get episodes that are either joke-based, story-based, parody-based or satire-based. Cartoon Wars actually manages to combine all of these styles - mainly because it's really their first two-parter since taking on the satirical stance South Park's now so well-known for, and they've undoubtedly had a lot more time to cram in a little of everything.
Firstly, South Park really goes after Family Guy here. Granted, their criticisms of the jokes being interchangeable and irrelevant to the plot are certainly nothing new - they're all fully-justified, though most Family Guy fans already know this, and don't care. Personally, while there was a time when I was a Family Guy fan, the show's quality has severely dropped since its return, so I wasn't at all upset by South Park's attacks on the show... and even then, there's a little defense of Family Guy in the second episode, complete with a dig at South Park itself ("I mean, I know it's just joke after joke, but I like that. At least it doesn't get all preachy and up its own ass with messages!") to even things out. South Park's version of Family Guy was spot-on (even if most of the voices were way off), showing it as being an aimless show with cutaways to an 80's joke every 5-10 seconds, while the main storyline drags on. I was seriously amazed at how well they pulled off the parody, so kudos to Matt and Trey there. There were also some references to The Simpsons and their hatred of Family Guy in Part 2, which were also very funny - even if the Bart Simpson kid did become rather tiresome after a while.
Mostly, though, the episode is a huge examination of freedom of speech. The storyline is mainly a satire on the recent controversy over the Mohammed cartoons, though there are also several jokes thrown in about controversial SP episodes Trapped in the Closet and Bloody Mary too, both of which have been pulled in several countries (we're still waiting for Bloody Mary down here). Matt and Trey even slipped in their own "either everything is okay or nothing is okay" theory regarding targets in comedy, and also alluded to the fact that they showed Mohammed way back in Season 5's Super Best Friends. Even if you don't like South Park's satirical episodes, you have to agree, their comments on these issues were spot-on (even if it was sometimes hard to tell what their point was given the characters' conflicting viewpoints to Matt & Trey's), , and the way they were able to put all of these things in was quite impressive.
As far as humour goes, this is up there with The Biggest Douche in the Universe and Raisins as one of those episodes that's both insightful and as funny as hell. Granted, the first part is a little less funny than the second one, though I expect they had to hold back a little to end it at the right moment for the cliffhanger, hence why some scenes like the bike chase dragged on a bit. Still, even when it dragged on, it never got to an excruciating point like it has in some episodes, and was actually one of the few recent South Park episodes that cracked me up from start to finish... I was laughing from the Muslim extremist's subtitles right to the "I'll crap on you!" video at the end. Highlights include the bike chase and the revelation of the Family Guy writers' true identities. The best joke, though, was undoubtedly the hilarious Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut callback at the start of Part 2, when they lead you to believe the episode is ANOTHER Terrance and Phillip one. I was laughing so much at that, I missed most of the scene. Seriously, that was so funny, I wouldn't have mind if it really was the entire episode! Not Without My Anus was hilarious, after all... On a side note, nice to see Terrance and Phillip back again after so long. Though why is Terrance still fat?
Overall, however, Cartoon Wars was simply awesome. South Park's other two-parters were both fairly average, and this one puts them completely to shame. My only complaints are that there was a bit too much use of real-life photos and video, and they lost track of South Park half-way through. Stan, Kenny and the rest of the town weren't even in Part 2, from what I can recall. While South Park's generally hit-or-miss now, this was the epitome of the show's current status. They even managed to find a new angle on the Cartman/Kyle feud, and actually incorporated it into the story and pulled it off extremely well. This is definitely the best South Park episode since Woodland Critter Christmas. If Matt and Trey keep up this standard for the rest of the season, then Season 10 could very well turn out to be pretty damn good!
And Vcalzone, I'd say that "it was funny like South Park can really be." Hell, I was laughing my ass off. Maybe it wasn't "unique, unexpected and incisive," but it was certainly better than anything Matt and Trey have put out since Season 8, in my opinion.
"Stop licking my hand, you horse's ass!"