Reading Between Reviews (2.0): Miraculous Ladybug Season One!

My first post ever on this blog was a review of Miraculous Ladybug.

Suffice to say, I feel as though my writing, and my ability to analyze and appreciate stories, has significantly improved since then.  And with the release of the second season in France, I thought that this would be an opportune time to take another look at the series!


1. Story: (7.3/10)–Good

Our story takes place in Paris, France, a tale of two teens, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and Adrien Agreste, and their secret lives as the superheroes, Ladybug, and Chat Noir.  Gifted powers by ancient artifacts, individually known as a Miraculous, the two fight to keep Paris safe from the threat of the mysterious villain Hawk Moth.

This villain uses corrupted butterflies, akumas, to corrupt the citizens of Paris, and turn them into supervillains with one goal: to capture the Miraculouses of the city’s superheroes.  Faced with these consistent threats, Ladybug and Chat Noir fight to keep the city safe, all while remaining oblivious to each other’s secret identities–and even the history of the Miraculouses themselves.

 

All throughout the first season, Miraculous Ladybug ends up taking a tried-and-true concept, the monster-of-the-week approach, and executes it very well.  It ends up being reminiscent of Power Rangers, or even early Teen Titans, while adding a little bit of its own flair that really makes Miraculous Ladybug unique.

That being said, this type of show can easily suffer from a few flaws, in regards to its storytelling–namely, the potential to grow stagnant.

 

As creative as Miraculous Ladybug can be with regards to its villains (and man, these villains are CREATIVE) its story just doesn’t seem to go anywhere.  It’s the same formula for most of its runtime–a fun, effective formula to be sure, but still the same one.  Character growth is kept to a minimum, to focus instead on setting up an episodic plot, the drama of each individual episode.

It’s a fun enough formula, but I believe the series, has essentially been carried by its colorful, fun characters, which I’ll get into in a bit.

 

The reason Miraculous Ladybug doesn’t have a lower story score, at least at this point in the series, is because of a sense that it knows where it’s going–a concept proven through small hints, and a fantastic set of 5 episodes, that begin to detail a larger-scale plot.

Throughout the series, although the focus is on the action and colorful antics of Ladybug and Chat Noir, small tidbits are dropped that reveal more about the history of the Miraculouses, and how exactly they work.  We learn about an old Master, who has a whole slew of other Miraculous artifacts, about the potential history behind Adrien’s family, and of course, small limitations as to how the Miraculouses work.  These small hints create a sense of consistency, that builds ever so slightly, until the final five episodes which reveal more than the other 21 combined.

These five episodes gave me faith that Miraculous Ladybug was not just another kids show–it has a point, a direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story heads from there.


2. Characters: (7.9/10)–Good

Miraculous Ladybug’s characters are, similarly to its plot, rather simple.  However, they are definitely entertaining, and overall, are just well designed, from their personalities, to their outfits, and interactions.

Oh yeah.  Their character interactions are actually great.  Let me explain.

Ladybug and Chat Noir are a standard superhero duo–Ladybug is the stoic, stereotypically heroic and noble one, while Chat is the jokester, the one incessantly hitting on Ladybug, much to her chagrin.  It’s a simple dynamic–one made far more interesting to the audience thanks to the knowledge that Marinette Dupain-Cheng is actually a nerd, head over heels for the model, Adrien Agreste.

This strange love rectangle is dangled over the heads of the viewers, as a constant tease.  It makes interactions between Adrien and Marinette, Ladybug and Chat Noir, and even their pedestrian identities with each other’s superhero identities, absurdly fun to watch.  As leads, their personalities are consistent, their interactions are wrought with romantic tension, and overall, they have everything you’d ask for in an engaging protagonist.

Hell, Adrien even has his own sad, mysterious backstory to worry about–his drama with his father Gabriel, his status as a model and the effects it has on his personality, his desire to escape it all by being Chat Noir, and of course, the mysterious fate of his mother…

It’s all rather interesting.

 

That being said, if I were simply judging the lead characters, this rating would certainly be higher.  However, in judging the series as a whole, I’ve gotta mention that the rest of the series’ characters are…rather normal.

They’re not normal in the sense that they’re too generic to remember.  In fact, they are VERY consistently portrayed, with their own personality tics that make them rather memorable.  Nino, Adrien’s best friend is a DJ, Alya, Marinette’s best friend, runs a blog dedicated to Ladybug, and Chloe’s a bitch.

However, despite episodes that provide, at times, individual focuses on each character, their growth never feels…lasting.  They remain stagnant, background pieces to the engaging characters of Ladybug and Chat Noir.  It’s not that they’re bad–but you know, I’d appreciate a bit more depth to them sometimes.


3. Art/Style: (9.0/10)–Exceptional

Here, is where I can find next to no fault with Miraculous Ladybug.

3D animation is normally a hit or miss with me.  It has a very distinct style, that if done wrong, can often just bleed into other 3D shows.  It’s why, as far as 3D animated TV shows go, many of them just seem to look exactly the same, despite having their own unique characters and scenarios.  If they’re not done well…then there’s just so much potential for mediocrity.

I don’t know.  3D animation seems to be a pet peeve of mine–except for Miraculous Ladybug.

This show, being a 3D animated show, has that bright, cartoony look, a colorful aesthetic that, all things considered, works well for what the show is.  It seems simple from the get-go, even if the animation is very, very nice when it counts.  The textures, the small subtleties that other 3D animations seem to ignore, Miraculous Ladybug makes sure to get right, and  I appreciate that.

 

However, what stands out most to me, is that Miraculous Ladybug’s sense of movement, its ability to transition from calm and relaxed, to fast and dynamic, is exceptional.  Its sheer sense of flair, of knowing exactly what it wants to be at any moment was heavily enjoyable to me, and gave Miraculous Ladybug a personality that distinguished it from other 3D animated shows I’ve watched.

This also matches up remarkably well with the writing of the show–particularly the well-written banter between Chat Noir and Ladybug, which is always a joy to watch unfold.  The dialogue between each character in the series captures that sense of romantic tension that the series thrives on,  and–similarly to what the animation does for the series as a whole–the dialogue gives every character just enough personality to be memorable.

It all ties together to create a show that, despite having a simply alright story, and decent side characters, into an experience that feels highly memorable.  By the end of the series, you will know many of the side characters, you will know a fight scene that stood out to you, for animation, or sheer creativity, and even scenes that stand out for their sheer romantic tension.

As a 3D animated show, it showed that it was capable of everything from action, to comedy, to yes, even subtle, melancholy emotion, and that’s rather remarkable for me.


4. Personal Enjoyment: (7.5/10)–Good

Miraculous Ladybug is a show that caught my attention–not because of its remarkable story-telling, its animation quality, or even its great leads–rather, Miraculous Ladybug caught my attention for the sheer amount of potential it has.

Similarly to many other great Western Animated shows–Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, and Teen Titans come to mind–this show seems to start off without much of a focus on plot.  It sets up a unique world with a style all its own, and introduces a set of characters that are easy to get invested in, and a mystery that has yet to be solved.

There’s a lot going on, but Miraculous Ladybug chooses not to focus on it yet.  And that’s exciting, simply because, with how the series is structured, you know for a fact that they WILL delve into the backstory, that juicy plot that we all want.

It’s just very exciting overall.  And for that, I’ve gotta say that even though I only enjoyed this series a moderate amount, I’m still looking forward to its potential .

Final Rating: (7.925/10)–Good

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