1 February 2016 | nbmartino
Heartwarming Superhero Tale with Excellent Writing: Renews My Faith in Animation!
There is a lot to love about Miraculous Ladybug. As a rabid lover of animation since the 90's boom of TV animation, I can tell you right now that it is perhaps one of the most phenomenal cartoons I have seen in an extremely long time. Combing a plethora of genres, from action, to comedy, to fantasy, and romance, "Miraculous" is an example of a series that is not afraid to take risks and defy common conventions of the genre in order to maximize quality, something that has been absent from modern television for a decade. At first glance it may appear like a typical magical girl/lame superhero program, but do NOT let the kiddy ladybug image fool you. It has such a high enjoyment value that you will forget that you are watching someone fighting monsters every week, but rather, live through the experiences of a not-so- typical high school girl whose life has been changed forever.
The premise itself is fairly cliché for the genre: a klutzy, happy-go-lucky girl named Marinette finds a magical pair of earrings and begins a quest alongside a cute creature that gives her the power to transform into "Ladybug," a superhero with the powers to seal "Akumas," demons that pray upon wounded hearts. Hawk Moth is the villain behind this phenomenon and it is her ultimate mission to stop him. However, the series gets largely complicated with the introduction of the deuteragonist (and Marinette's crush), Adrien. He also has a similar experience and can transform into Cat Noir, Ladybug's polar opposite and her partner on this mission to destroy Hawk Moth. But there is a catch: the both of them are forbidden in revealing their true identities while working together. Adrien is madly in love with Ladybug (not knowing that she is Marinette), whose heart only beats for Adrien in real life (also not knowing he is Cat Noir). And to Adrien, Marinette is just a girl in his class.
This love-quartet serves as the basis for the central theme of the series as their feelings for each other (and their alter egos) change and develop immensely. Additionally, the series focuses on Marinette and Adrien's struggles with their families and friendships. We learn about Adrien's troubled past and why it justifies his current actions. And while Marinette has a loving family and is sweet, kind, and pure by nature, she is also is shown to have her flaws, being cocky, selfish, and judgmental. There is a natural progression of events without using contrived plot elements such as deaths, love triangles, cheesy friendship drama, etc. We see that these kids have real flaws and are extremely relatable. The supporting cast consisting of Marinette's classmates are interestingly developed mostly through inferences and vague symbolism. This is a nice change of pace.
It should be noted at how impressive the animation is as well: a product of four major animation studios coming together, Miraculous boasts an 12 million dollar budget and it clearly shows here. The animation is gorgeous and the action scenes are very smooth. The music is nothing short of stunning, and the Paris-inspired soundtracks will easily get stuck in your head! I usually prefer hand drawn animation but the CGI here blew me out of the park. Also, those who are fan of Japanese animation will notice the references and similarities pulled from the magical girl genre: we have the magical transformations, the cute sidekicks, Japanese "akumas," etc. It's clear the creator was inspired by older anime classics such as Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor sakura, and Phantom Thief Jeanne, which some will appreciate.
That being said, Miraculous is definitely not without flaws. The story is episodic in nature and the fight scenes are extremely predictable. There is also not a lot of background information on how Marinette and Adrien got their superpowers. Hawk Moth is like a cut-and-paste villain with no clear reasoning. His one of those bad guys that just wants to 'take over the world' just because. But if I believe there is still enough to look past this. Seasons 2 and 3 are currently in development and they may or may not shed more light on these mysteries.
All and all Miraculous Ladybug is a heartwarming tale that children and adults will enjoy alike. While not quite flawless, it's a consistently high-quality, entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking show that proves there is a correlation in storytelling between creativity and quality. There is something for everyone here, and there are valuable lessons for our children about the human condition mixed in with the fantasy/action aspect of the show. I can only pray that Nickelodeon gives this program the respect it deserves given it's track record with "Avatar" and "Winx Club" over the past few years. For those of you who love this show, please, please support it!