This is a spoiler-free discussion of Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir.
It's been a long time since I posted in Stop & Talk. Since they nerfed the forums, I haven't had anything interesting to say. (I'm referring of course to the rules disallowing controversial content.) I finally have something I feel like writing about.
A couple months or so ago, I wrote a Grind My Gears post complaining about half-assed CGI. I bemoaned the fact that for decades now, so many studios seem to believe that 3D is the the new hotness, the hot sh*t, and that's what you have to do if you want to compete. Now, 3D animation can be great, but I hate it when studios make something in 3D just because it's the new hotness, but they don't put enough effort into it to make it look good. 3D CGI is a tricky, double-edged sword in my opinion. If done well, it's fantastic, but if done poorly, it's significantly worse than even mediocre 2D. That's why Looney Tunes from the 1940s look better than really crappy, awkward CGI. Even though CGI is vastly more sophisticated, it looks like garbage if it's not done right. I'm talking about sh*t like Joshua and the Promised Land. Search youtube for that if you want some nightmare fuel. That was released in 2003 and it looks far worse than cartoons from the 1930s.
Anyway, I haven't even begun and I'm getting way off topic. In that post, I referenced Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir as an example of half-assed CGI. I later edited the post and retracted some of what I said, saying that the animation got better as it went. I'd like to go a step farther and say that I wasn't very fair to Miraculous, and I regret dumping on it altogether. The animation in the first few episodes was a bit raw and funky, and the lighting a tad flat, but it really wasn't that bad, and it got light years better later on. That blog entry still stands, as really crappy CGI is a rampant phenomenon, but I just want to recant everything I said about Miraculous.
I said in the original post that I wasn't sure if I was going to continue watching Miraculous or not. I ended up sticking with it, and I'm sure glad I did. Like, holy sh*t am I glad I did. As I said over there, I started watching Miraculous in an effort to find something else to satisfy my appetite for cute, colorful, feminine cartoons like Pony. (Why do I get the feeling that that sentence, if uttered outside of the safety of this bastion, would get me on some kind of watch list? )
I'm here to personally recommend Miraculous to everyone here. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Miraculous is a romantic fantasy adventure starring two teenage superheroes living in Paris. I believe the show is actually French-made originally, and was dubbed into English. (Whenever they text on their phones, the text is in French.) The English dub is excellent, though. It's a fantastic show, and I've enjoyed it immensely.
It's no FIM (I mean, what is?), and there's some elements that might be off-putting to some, but I encourage anyone's who curious to stick with it for awhile before giving up. The cons: it's pretty formulaic. There's not much episode variety like you get with FIM. Some aspects are pretty cliché. I think my biggest complaint would be the villains. Unlike Pony, this show features a primary villain for the whole series, and he can be pretty corny at times. Think Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget. We're talking the stereotypical, figurative moustache-twirling villain who makes some pun and says, "you may have won this round, but I'll get you next time!" at the end of every episode. And then you have lesser, incidental villains for the heroes to battle in every episode. These characters are probably the weakest part of the show. They're pretty dumb, honestly. Most of them are really corny, some are facepalmingly stupid. Don't expect any Tireks or Queen Chrysalises here.
Also, in order to enjoy the show, you have to suspend your disbelief regarding the character's abilities to recognize the obvious when it comes to these superheroes. To be blunt, it's ridiculously, stupidly obvious who these superheroes are, but no one is able to figure out their secret identities. So, we're talking, like, the two heroes will be in their street clothes, hanging out with their friends, and then danger strikes, and they go, "Uh, I think I left my phone running, I mean I think I hear my bathtub ringing! Be right back!" Then they run around a nearby corner, don their hero costumes, then run back two seconds later, same voices, same hairstyles, with nothing but a tiny eyemask like Robin from the Adam West Batman, and no one can tell who they are. Not their friends, not their own parents, no one. You just have to resign yourself to accept that everyone is this show is blind to the obvious.
If you can get past that stuff, however, the payoff is huge, and comes in the form of some of the most delightful and delicious on-screen chemistry I've ever seen between two characters. The chemistry between the protagonists, Ladybug and Cat Noir, is absolutely sublime. It makes up for all the shortcomings of the show. These two are so much fun to watch, both as superheroes and as teenagers. The show is admittedly a little slow to get going on character development, but they really start to ramp it up after the first season.
After FIM ended, I never thought I'd find anything that I enjoyed as much. I figured FIM was a once-in-a-generation thing. But for me, lighting struck twice with Miraculous. I can't believe how much fun I've had watching this show. I'm not not gonna say it's better than Pony (because it's not), but it's fantastic, and it pushed all the right buttons for me personally.
Without spoiling anything, I will say that there was a scene in the show that actually produced the greatest and most powerful emotional reaction for me personally that I've ever had from a show or movie. I cried. I felt an elation and joy that we chase for our whole lives, which remains illusive, and which we are lucky to feel once or twice in a lifetime. It was that kind of high that made it difficult to sleep because I just kept thinking about it. Is it stupid to feel that over a kid's cartoon? Maybe, but I have to remind myself of where I'm posting this right now. Honestly, I don't know why Miraculous had this effect on me. I can watch shows like The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Star Trek TNG, DS9, some of the greatest things ever put to screen in the history of humankind, and they don't produce that kind of reaction in me. They're still powerful, for sure. My mind will be blown, and I'll say, "Damn! Holy sh*t! That was a amazing! That was one of the greatest things I've ever seen!" But it doesn't make me feel a physiological sensation of joy in my chest, a wonderful feeling like my heart is going to burst from the happiness and excitement, and I just can't stand it or contain it. That's what Miraculous did to me, and I just don't fully understand why. I think there's something about the juxtaposition of cute, colorful animation with unexpected deep emotions which just hits me in a certain way and presses the right buttons. I think that's only part of it, though. Perhaps it's best if I don't analyze all of it and just enjoy it.
And now, I'd like to take a moment to dive into the spoiler-ridden details of that scene. Be warned, within the spoiler tag, I'm going to describe some of the most important stuff in the whole show, so don't look if you have any interest in watching it.
The main character, French-Chinese girl Marinette Dupan-Chang, is secretly the superhero Ladybug. The heroes of this show get their powers from ancient magical jewels called a miraculous. Think of it like Green Lantern and his ring. The miraculous jewels are tied to immortal magical creatures called kwamis, from whom the powers actually originate. Miraculous holders are chosen by ancient and wise guardians of these magic jewels. Marinette is entrusted with the most important miraculous: the miraculous of restoration. She must use this power to protect and save Paris from supervillains. This responsibility falls in her lap, and she has to do this job because no one else can (for some reason the writers decided) She didn't ask for this job, but she steps up and does it the best she can. Miraculous holders are obligated to follow a sort of creed (perhaps a tad like Mandolorians). There are two major guidelines: miraculous holders are not to use their powers for personal reasons or gain, and they are not to reveal their identities to anyone. They must keep their superpowers a secret. This has been the way of the miraculous holders for thousands of years, and it's how the jewels have survived and been passed down.
During the first season, Marinette juggles her life as regular teenager and her job as Ladybug with ease. She makes up excuses and tells white lies to her friends and family to conceal her identity as Ladybug. This double life seems to take no toll on her whatsoever. To her, it's fun and exciting. During the first season, I thought we were in for a fun, cute, action-packed but ultimately shallow and trivial show with no real character depth. Boy, was I wrong.
During season 2, things get a bit more complicated and a bit tougher for her. During season 3, the double life and the lies begin to take a serious toll. We see this initially flat character develop incredible and surprising depth. By the end of season 3, she's beginning to fall apart. Every little white lie, every excuse, every deception, every time she lets her friends down because she has to be elsewhere fighting bad guys, it all tears away at her piece by piece until she can take no more. By the beginning of season four, she's completely fallen apart. She broke up with her boyfriend because she couldn't keep lying to him. She isolates herself from her friends. She feels completely alone. Being herself is too difficult because she has to lie constantly. Being Ladybug seems easier because at least she doesn't have to deal with her loved ones. She begins using her powers for no good reason just so she doesn't have to be Marinette. She begins to neglect her kwami.
Marinette's emotional turmoil reaches a boiling point when her bff Alya confronts her about it. In a powerful, heart-wrenching scene, Marinette pours her heart out to Alya and decides to risk everything by telling Alya the truth of her identity. That was the scene I was referring to that hit me so hard. It was beautiful.
I never imagined when I began this show that the characters would end up having such depth and realistic emotions. Instead of just being a perfect, goodie-goodie hero, Mariette struggles emotionally so greatly that she must defy the creed of the miraculous holders in order to save her own sanity and be able to keep doing the job. It blew me away.
Okay, so with that, go watch the show. Watch it. Do it. Do it now. It may be little hard for everyone to get access to because, for corporate bullsh*t reasons, seasons 1-3 are on Netflix, and season 4, and presumably everything that comes out after that, is on Disney+. How's that for some tomf*ckery? But if you're a high-roller and you can manage subscribing to both, it's worth it.
Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) the series isn't finished. They're still making it, so, pro, we have more new episodes to look forward to, but con, we have to wait a bajillion years for 'em. Fingers crossed the future brings more scenes like that one that blew me so thoroughly away.
Oh, and you must be wondering what in the bloody hell is with the title for this entry, huh? Well, just a little joke of mine. See, the lyrics of the theme song go "miraculous, simply the best, up to the test...", but they contort and mutilate the word "miraculous" to try to make it rhyme with "best" and "test", and it comes out sounding like "mirickuless". It's really weird and funny. That's it.
Edited by Justin_Case001