One hour is all it took for me to become absolutely hooked on a little show called Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. Having originally aired in South Korea and France as Lady Bug and Miraculous respectively, this groundbreaking CGI cartoon marks the first cross-collaboration between French, Japanese, and Korean animation studios. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Miraculous is slated to premiere in a total of one-hundred and twenty countries under big-name distributors Disney and Nickelodeon among others. Even before its debut, the show’s anime-esque PV had already begun accumulating a sizeable fanbase – followed by a stream of AMVs, fanart, and speculation. With the series now reaching its climax, the hype behind “Team Adrienette” and “Team Lady Noir” has grown stronger than ever.
So what exactly has led to such success? I believe Ladybug herself holds the answer.
According to creator Thomas Astruc, the idea behind the eponymous Ladybug – the alter ego of the kind, but clueless Marinette Dupain-Cheng – was based on a combination of Marvel’s Spiderman and anime icon Sailor Moon.
Hold on. Peter Parker and Usagi Tsukino?
Is it just me, or is this beginning to sound like the premise of an “It’s So Bad, It’s Good” brand of fanfiction? If there was ever a stranger pair, I wouldn’t know of it.
Nonetheless, the combination works well, resulting in a charming heroine who’s won the hearts of children and adults alike.
While Marinette exhibits traits often associated with the Magical Girl trope (cue the transformation!), she manages to add her own flair to the show with the power of luck and a more in-your-face approach to taking down villains. With her trusty yo-yo in hand, our heroine demonstrates great skill in handling her “extracurricular activities” – especially for a junior high school student. When Marinette isn’t designing clothes, spending time with friends, or daydreaming about her crush Adrien, she’s out using her “Lucky Charm” ability to turn everyday objects into life-saving tools. She’s also one of the few biracial characters – let alone a superheroine – to lead her own title series in today’s media. As an Asian American, I appreciate the show’s efforts in exploring Marinette’s Chinese-French identity, and in a tasteful manner at that. It’s not the only thing that defines her character, nor is it completely swept under the rug.
Unbeknownst to her, Ladybug’s crime-fighting partner, Cat Noir, is really (GASP) Adrien in disguise. But unfortunately for Cat Noir, the object of his affections – Ladybug – only has eyes for his civilian counterpart. As the lyrics of Miraculous’ theme song imply, Marinette and Adrien’s relationship is a “mixed-up, crisscrossed love” that delves into the awkwardness of being a teenager and finding balance in one’s life. It is the uniqueness of this dynamic that has led fans to treat Marinette x Adrien and Ladybug x Cat Noir as their own ships.
As for me? You can count this writer in with the Lady Noir shippers.
But that’s a story for another day.
Now is the time for the nitty-gritty: what really makes Ladybug and Marinette stand out among the heroes of other children’s shows such as, let’s say, Teen Titans?
To be fair, the aforementioned series is a bit more on the mature side as are a majority of today’s entertainment – but that isn’t to say that Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir isn’t without smart storytelling. The writers of the show have done well to create powerful, and often sympathetic adversaries for Marinette to face off against. It is through these encounters that we witness just how competent and resourceful she is. While Marinette does have the qualities of a natural born leader, she often gets tongue-tied whenever Adrien is involved. But once she transforms into Ladybug, Marinette takes on a slightly different persona.
Outside of crime-fighting, Marinette acts as a voice for her fellow peers and can’t stand for injustice of any kind. She rarely uses her powers for wish-fulfillment, nor is she careless with her secret identity. In fact, she’s even helped out Cat Noir from time to time as a civilian.
Oddly enough, one of the things that make the character so interesting is her lack of origin story. We begin the series knowing little to nothing about how or why Marinette was the one chosen to wield the power of luck. In the second and seventh episodes of the series, “The Bubbler” and “The Pharaoh,” her sprite-like partner, Tikki, finally gives us some insight. According to the kwami, Ladybug’s healing ability can only be used in good will – or else she risks draining her powers too quickly. “The Pharaoh” further reveals the long history behind the persona that is Ladybug. In the likeness of comic-book heroes and sailor scouts alike, the spotted superwoman has actually battled baddies for centuries. In other words, Tikki has accompanied countless Ladybugs in the past before finally coming across modern-day France – and with it, a new girl to carry the mantle.
On one hand, Ladybug’s cool and confident nature has a lot of appeal. But in the end, it is Marinette’s own fangirling moments and imperfections that makes her so relatable and fun to watch. I find the series and its heroine to be much-welcome additions to the superhero genre and I urge all of our readers to look into it this Valentine’s Day.