Miraculous Ladybug

miraculous

Miraculous Ladybug is a Korean-French animation, the brainchild of Thomas Astruc and produced by multiple animation companies including Japanese company Toei Animation and The Walt Disney company.

The story centres around Marinette, an average, extra dippy Parisian teen with a crush on the handsome blonde Adrienne. When she’s not drooling and squeaking over him, she’s busy protecting her city as “Miraculous Ladybug” in a spotty lyrca costume. What she doesn’t know (of course) is that Adrienne is also protecting the city as “Cat Noir” with his own stretchy outfit. He fancies Miraculous Ladybug, she fancies Adrienne, neither knows who the other is…you get the picture.

Ah, the classic love story of cat boy meets ladybug girl...
Ah, the classic love story of cat boy meets ladybug girl…
Marinette specialises in derp faces
Marinette specialises in derp faces like this one

Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir must protect the city from “Hawk Moth” who releases magical butterflies to transform Marinette’s peers and provide them with the power to enact revenge on the city for the injustice they have suffered. Although predictable, this formula could have worked if there was something extra to make it interesting. Unfortunately Miraculous Ladybug fails to deliver anything truly fresh, exciting, or original. Marinette is on a whole new level of dippy, often tripping over her words and herself in her general dizziness. In fact, none of the characters seem to have any hint of real personality beyond the barest stereotypes. I was surprised and disappointed that this was the case when so many cultures and big names had been involved in the creation of the show.

If you’re looking for a very light-hearted, very simple superhero cartoon, you might want to give this a try, but there are probably others more worth your time.

Miraculous Ladybug airs on Disney Channel UK in January 2016.

 

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Eden of the East

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Saki doesn’t know what to think when she sees a naked man outside the White House while on a tour of America. Neither does he, for he doesn’t remember what he’s doing there…or anything else about his life.

So begins Eden of the East, a mystery thriller that doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the action. Akira Takizawa had woken up with only two objects to his name, a gun and a phone. Through the phone he learns that he is one of twelve chosen people with 8 billion yen to his name that he can spend by making requests through the phone to a female voice named Juiz. The condition? The twelve people gifted with this phone have been tasked with “saving” Japan from the political corruption that has taken place. They can use the phone however they want, but any expenses deemed unnecessarily selfish will result in their elimination. Whoever is considered the winner will be spared, whilst the other eleven will be eliminated, so the pressure is on. Every phonecall ends with the phrase “Noblesse Oblige, I pray that you will continue to be a saviour”. As noblesse oblige comes from the French phrase “nobility obliges”, the unrelenting reminder that Takizawa can only escape his situation through victory emphasises the stakes at every turn.

Saki's been warned about stranger danger...but she never expected this
Saki’s been warned about stranger danger…but she never expected this

Although Eden of the East won’t win any awards for original ideas, it offers a strong, fast paced narrative, with likeable characters. The basic formula reminded me of Doctor Who, with a young, innocent woman thrown into the frenetic life of a mysterious and charismatic lead. Whilst Takizawa’s appeal extends beyond his intriguing life (you don’t give 10 billion yen to just anybody) as he ponders the weight of what to do with his remaining 8 billion yen, Saki’s purpose seems merely to be to represent the kind of goodness and innocence that Takizawa needs to protect and preserve if he is to save Japan.

Saki’s friends similarly seem to represent an exasperation with the current state of Japan – most self employed or unemployed such as “Underpants”, a hikikomori who has lived indoors for years and earned his nickname from refusing to wear any trousers. Underpants helps to hammer home the message of Eden of the East, he is a talented and intelligent hacker whose skillset was never appreciated by Japan, resulting in his recluse status.

Eden of the East shows how valuable NEETS can be
Eden of the East shows how valuable NEETS can be

Eden of the East gets off to an exciting start and offers some great social commentary to chew on along the way about the treatment of people by public and private corporations, but lets itself down with a disappointing pay-off and not enough time spent fleshing out characters. Saki in particular had the potential to be developed into something interesting and her innocence explored further – one scene early on in which she is invited to a second job interview after missing the first but is treated appallingly by everyone there pulls at the heart strings, especially in light of the show’s coverage of NEETS as overlooked and mistreated by products of society’s corruption, but her character is largely forgotten as Takizawa’s storyline takes over.

With an intricately and beautifully animated city expanse and a fast paced storyline, Eden of the East promises big things. It doesn’t quite deliver, but the ride is so fun and crazy that you might not mind.

Cardcaptors

A staple of the “magical girl” anime genre, Cardcaptors centres on Sakura, a bubbly ten year old girl whose life is turned upside down when she accidentally releases the magical Clow Cards. Also released is a small winged bear called Kerobaros who tells her, much to her chagrin, that it is now her task to recapture each card, using her wits, his guidance and a magical key which transforms into a staff.

Sakura captures her first card in her pyjamas - impressive
Sakura captures her first card in her pyjamas – impressive

Cardcaptors works off a formulaic structure. In each episode, a released card begins causing trouble through strange, unexplainable events. Sakura has to track down the card and capture it. So far, so straightforward.

Whilst each episode uses this simple premise, Cardcaptors throws in enough elements to keep things from becoming stale. For starters, Sakura has no idea what she’s doing, which makes for a great character development arc as she must learn to understand and master each card she captures, and know which to use for future captures.

Sakura must also keep her card capturing life hidden from her family and friends, with the exception of Madison who loves to make elaborate outfits for Sakura to capture the cards in, and film her capturing them.

Madison always makes Sakura's outfits a little OTT...
Madison always makes Sakura’s outfits a little OTT…

Li Syaoran also later comes onto the scene, a budding magician from a magical family who begins as Sakura’s rival for capturing the cards and later becomes her friend and ally, and even falls for her.

Whilst some of the goofy, over the top antics and humour might be too much for some, Cardcaptors did not shy away from more adult topics, particularly tackling how Sakura and her older brother Tori dealt with their mother’s death. The original manga by all female team CLAMP also included same sex romance (Julian’s feelings for Tori, Madison’s for Sakura and Li’s crush on Julian), cross-dressing and suggested one of Sakura’s friends was in a relationship with a teacher – most of this was left out of the English dubbed version. You can read more on the changes made from the original here – http://ccs.wikia.com/wiki/Cardcaptors

Madison's heart eyes for Sakura are purely platonic in this version
Madison’s heart eyes for Sakura are purely platonic in this version

Everything that was included however, was dealt with in a sensible and mature way, especially by Sakura herself who often displays a maturity beyond her years, despite her tendencies to sleep through her alarm clock and put off her summer homework til the very last minute.

If you’re looking for a light hearted magical girl anime, that ticks all the boxes (cute outfits, cute mascot, pretty staff), then Cardcaptors is definitely worth a shot. The series ran for 70 episodes, with two sequel movies, the second using a different English cast. If you haven’t grown up with the English dub you might find some of the voices a little grating, so it’s always worth checking out the original Japanese.

The English dub also had a few original songs created for it, I’ve included one below: