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animation She Ra and the princesses of power (Netflix)


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I absolutely love She-Ra and the Princess of Power.  After the events of season 4, I am excited to see where the show is going to go next.  Which is why I am a bit disappointed that we don't have a release date for the next season yet.

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I saw a little bit of the older He-man and She-Ra. Don't get me wrong, retro cartoons are fun, but I like the style of this reboot show a lot better. I'm of two minds as to whether or not any of the He-Man characters/lore should come into play with this; as it stands, it certainly doesn't require it, but at the same time I'd be really interested to see how they fold it into the whole magi-tech situation the new cartoon has going on.

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Be warned, some minor spoilers throughout, biggest spoilers have been screened.
As someone that grew up in the 80s I have seen altogether too many properties being needlessly remade, and generally to the detriment of the property as a whole.  When I first heard about the She-Ra remake I was intensely skeptical, and even more so after I saw the initial publicity artwork.  I am not a fan of this tumblr/calarts style that is so pervasive in modern western animation.  Some of the characters have that amorphous potato people look that I find particularly visually unappealing, and the new design of She-Ra herself was unfavourably compared to a twelve year old boy by many, myself included.  Of course every rule has its exception, and in this case that would be Catra, whose redesign involved giving her feline elements which really suits her character, and (in my opinion) actually improves on the original design.
I gave it a fair go, I had the time on my hands and I watched it.  As previously mentioned, I initially wasn't a big fan of She-Ra's new look, but it grew on me to the point where I'm totally fine with it now.  Aside from the design though I actually really like the character as a whole, it would have been so easy for her to become the dreaded 'Mary Sue' but she was handled well and portrayed with enough vulnerability and flaws to keep her interesting despite wielding almost godlike power.  Having near-Twilight Sparkle levels of adorkableness at times added enough humour to round her out without making her too comical.  Her transition from Horde to Rebellion in the opening two-parter was fairly quick but that can easily be forgiven due to the necessity to get her where she needed to be for the main body of the story to start.  Dragging out her redemption too long would likely have caused pacing issues for the remainder of the first season.
Catra absolutely stole the show, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that thinks that, I mean she just picked the whole thing up and walked away with it in broad daylight.  She has easily one of the best character development arcs I have seen in any film or series, she is right up there with the likes of Londo Mollari from Babylon 5, and that is not a comparison I make lightly.  She was brought to life beautifully by Amanda Michalka who did a fantastic job in voicing this wonderfully deep and complex character.  As much as Catra cared for Adora she felt overshadowed by her during their time together in the Horde, and when she had the chance to get out from underneath that shadow her actions were a conflicted mess of her ambition finally being unfettered and spite caused by her feelings of betrayal and abandonment by the one person in her life that had always treated her with kindness.  More than any other character her story was an emotional roller-coaster of manic highs, self-destructive lows, heartbreaking betrayals and fulfilling redemption.


In noticing how much that Adora and Catra stand out above the other characters, both in terms of design and development, I came to a bit of a realisation.  The whole series is basically a ship-fic that made it into production, and it works especially well when viewed in that regard.  The relationship between Adora and Catra is easily the most compelling aspect of the entire series and the whole story across all five seasons is primarily there to create a suitable context in which this relationship can develop.  None of that is intended as criticism, merely as observation.
There was criticism as well of Adora and Catra getting together at the end, cries of forced diversity and SJW-ism, and while those may indeed have been problems in other cartoons I certainly didn't find that to be the case here. Right from the outset Adora and Catra had a complicated relationship, and it was clear that each cared greatly about the other, and it was implied in various places that there was a tension between them that went beyond simple friendship.  There was a lot of story work that went into building that relationship and when they kissed at the end it didn't feel forced or fake, it felt earned, it felt like two characters that had been denying their feelings for far too long finally admitting them to themselves and to each other. 


Despite the humour and the cutesy moments the series managed to maintain enough gravitas that when things got serious it really felt like there was something at stake.  A good example being when Catra led the attack on Bright Moon to destroy the Moonstone.  In a lot of cartoons you would never have been in any doubt that the good guys would prevail at the end of that battle, and even though the good guys did ultimately win and the Moonstone was saved, I genuinely believed at points that the battle would be lost and that it would be the Horde that prevailed, causing the Rebellion to retreat into hiding. I wasn't disappointed with that outcome because it didnt come across as being a foregone conclusion, the very real uncertainty was enough to make the outcome satisfying.
In summary then, my initial skepticism proved to be unfounded, and although there is legitimate criticism to be levelled against this cartoon (as is always the case), I feel that many of its harsher critics were perhaps so put off by the design of some of the characters that they either haven't watched it, or did so only with the dishonest intention of confirming that which they had already determined beforehand instead of approaching it with an open mind.  This was a really enjoyable cartoon with a good story and two great characters that having watched once, I will undoubtedly watch again. 
Edited by Concerned Bystander
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