If someone where to speak about Cartoon Network back in the nineties, there are two, maybe three shows that are more than likely to be brought up. One of them is Craig McCracken’s Power Puff Girls.
Now, the best way to describe Power Puff Girls would be to say, a Magical Girl/Superhero show with a very saccarine premise… in a very ugly setting. By this i don’t mean that it is a crapsack world (altough at times it was), but rather that there was a certain intentional disparity between the apparent colorfulness of the characters and how violent it could become or how grotesque the villains and monsters could be. And this was, in part, because of the very creative and expressive characters design as well as strong writing that cleverly set itself to demolish your expectations of a show starring three sisters.
One of the reasons for the shows success was that it took two elements that were seemingly at odds with each other (girliness and scary, violent imagery),combined them and played them straight. Thus creating a product that was unique both in look and feeling.
The Reboot drops all that and decides to be generic as possible.
Now, I am perfectly aware why this show was rebooted. PPGs merchandise is very popular. That is one of the big factors why CN decided to bring Power Puff Girls back. I know that and I don’t care. Because that justifies it being brought back in the first place, not It being shitty.
And I think it’s major flaw is most showcased by one of the best things it has going for it: The Theme Song
This, is a great song and does wat an intro SHOULD be doing. Making feel you excited for the show you are about to watch. It really makes you feel like the show is going to be really exciting.
And then you see just how static everything is.
Now please, when I say Static, i don’t mean Dull. In fact, the animation at times is quite expressive. No, what i mean by static is that the characters, usually the sisters, will just stand and do nothing but talk and throw meme references. It’s clear the show is trying to create humor through clever witty dialogue between it’s characters.
The problem is that for that to work, besides needing the dialogue to actually be clever and/or witty (which it is not), your characters’ personalities need to be well defined and different from on another. Which this new show lacks. Oh sure, Blossom is still the mature leader, Buttercup the tomboyish borderline bully and Bubbles the Innocent younger one. Those traits are still present but now they are the only difference between the sisters. Everything else that isn’t an exageration of those traits is interchangeable between the three.
That means that dialogue this show depends so much to draw it’s humor from(which is what the show is interested in doing)… is not really that good.
And the fact the characters may flat-out stop what they are doing to engage in this dialogue? yeah, sure. that is totally what we need during a fight scene. This is the laziest form of humor, that in which the entire world bassically stops so the characters can make a joke, it breaks any form of tension because noone in the show takes it seriously.
Another thing. The fighting, or i should say: The girls getting captured because they forget they have freaking Eye beams or one character being forbidden from using their powers because losing a dumb game of jynx sure is more important than dealing with the giant fire monster that is attacking you right now!
Now, admittely, the show creators did make it clear they wanted to focus more on slice of life stories than the action which is fair enough (altough that brings the question why having them fight villains at all…). But, once again, does this suggest to you it is going to be a silly comedy?
But even then… the comedy is just not that funny (seriously, Bullfighting isn’t funny). Some gags may make me giggle, but that happens rarely. Never with the meme references.
Oh yeah. Let’s talk meme references. they stink.
See this one here? you have seen it, you have seen them all. Meme references are not jokes unless the joke is that you are desperate for looking cool.
Look, the girls having cellphones? that’s fine. It makes more sense if the mayor has to call them at any time, anyways. Now ,them doing meme references? you are trying way too hard.
Another problem the show has is that, for something supposed to focus on the daily lives of the girls… there is little to no time trying to showcase what is normal for the girls.
Usually there is a Status Quo or routine a show’s characters go through in their everyday lives(breakfast together, Going to school a certain way, friends they often hang-out and others they don’t even know the house of, etc.). This Comfort Zone are everything a characters considers “normal”, what they expect to see during the day. Both Comedy and Drama, in a lot of ways, consist of taking said characters away from their comfort zone. New neighbor, new teacher, car accident, school trip, etc. However, for this to work it is also important to first establish that which the characters consider “normal”. thus, when they are taken away from their comfort zone the contrast is clear.
One good example of this is We Bare Bears, which has a similar siblings dynamic to PPG (altough still different personality wise) and is about the characters daily lives. In We Bare Bears, we usually get to see the bears in their normal day before they see or discover something that catches their attention or otherwise takes them away from the comofrt zone. We get how the siblings live, what they like, their routines, etc. We have a grasp of their daily lives. And that’s why when, say, Grizzly becomes popular with people, there is a background to contrast it with.
That doesn’t happen in the new PPG show. If not immediatly, within the first minute the show already throws the conflict into the characters face. We don’t know what is a normal morning for the girls, the very first morning we experience involves a bull making breakfast. We don’t know what the school is like for them, we immediatly jump to the mind control plot.
And this is a problem, because we have no reason not to believe this is what life in Townsville is like every single day. Which begs the question why the girls are so puzzled when something weird happens. Why should I consider the Rainbow Panda “weird” when there is nothing in the show that doesn’t make me assume it is something that happens daily?
And the aesops? yeah, they are generic by-the-book aesops that, at times, do not have anything special to do with the episode at all or are there for the sake of having an Aesop while still botchering the concept (Horn Sweet horn) or being outdated and done MUCH better by the original creator in his other shows (Once Upon a Townsville).
And then there are the girls who, I am sorry but i have to ask, do they like each other? because I am pretty sure most of the dialogue involves them bickering with each other than actually getting along. I don’t get a sense of cammaderie or anything like that. Also, I swear that the show seems to believe the girls fighting villains makes everything worse.
Now, going for something more positive, I like the animation. And yes, a lot of the time the animation is lazy and amateurish (I am sure some of you may have seen that image of Mojo with his dog that highlights everything wrong with the animation, or that image of the five roller skating clones) But at the same time, I do find moments in which the animation is very dynamic and full of energy (in fact, the gags that got the most out of me where usually the visual ones). Which, again, is a problem in such a static show. Because I DO feel the animators want to do cool stuff, want to do more dynamic angles, But they are restrained by the writing’s… total lack of energy.
I could go on and on on all the other problems this show has (like Ms. Bellum, for starters), but that would be redundant. So i’ll go straight to my final thoughts.
Go watch We Bare Bears or re-watch the original PPG (or your childrens). This show is not the original PPG, nor what it wants to be, and that is fine. But what it WANTS to be is done MUCH better in that other show.
This show is poorly written, the animation, when it is not bad, it is clearly restricted and doesn’t fit the show. The lessons are dated. The character are one-note. It is just a mess.
Except the intro song. That one rocks.
Power Puff Girls was originally created by Craig McCracken for Cartoon Network
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