Call me an old geezer, but I really do think that the 90’s had some of the best shows television had to offer – Craig McCracken’s The Powerpuff Girls included. Looking back, the show and its adorable crime-fighting trio of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup had many a lesson to teach their young audience. The sisters’ charm, strength, and willingness to work together in spite of their radically different personalities were, and continue to be, empowering.
Among the many series given new life in the past few years, I was the most excited by the return of Teen Titans Go! and The Powerpuff Girls. And we all know how I feel about the former that dares call itself a reboot. On the other hand, The Powerpuff Girls has donned a fresh but familiar look while staying true to its roots.
The first six episodes were cute, entertaining, and unlike other reboots, specifically tailored to fans of the original series.
First of all, I believe it’s important to point out that The Powerpuff Girls has undergone quite a few changes behind the scenes. Creator Craig McCracken is no longer involved with the show, but the new team knows exactly when and how to play up the nostalgia factor of the original. The show’s target audience is still that of young girls and older fans who are already familiar with the city of Townsville. I say this because no formal introduction is made to the returning characters or worldbuilding. In addition, the Powerpuff Girls team made a shift from their initial art style to one closer to that of the 90’s series. A smart move, indeed. While I wasn’t turned off by the geometric designs featured in the first trailer, I believe the change was needed to take advantage of the type of story being told.
I won’t delve too much into comic-book theory, but it is often said that simple character designs resonate more with us if we can project ourselves onto them. With that being said, the blockier redesigns put an emphasis on the messengers rather than the message. In maintaining the girls’ traditional 2D look, their animesque eyes and gestures are used to their full potential.
The Powerpuff Girls succeeds in starting off with a bang. I was pleasantly surprised by the half-remixed theme song played against a colorful, dynamic background filled with notebook doodles. The series’ ability to go full retro will surely take it far. As for the plot, the humor is obvious, but not in-your-face. The characters are self-aware and the situations they find themselves in are often absurdist – as expected of a show about kindergarten superheroines.
Several references to pop culture are also made, proving the show’s willingness to adapt and change with the times. Dubstep, text speech, and yes, one brief scene of twerking are things to anticipate in the show. The girls’ iconic emergency hotline is even replaced with a cellphone. But once again, the references never feel heavy-handed. As of now, my favorite episode has to be “The Stayover,” a hilarious play on The Hangover. However, with plotlines ranging from men’s rights activism to unicorn birth secrets, it’s hard to pick just one favorite.
Speaking of favorites, all three sisters have done well to hold their own in the reboot – but rising above the rest is the tomboyish Buttercup. I feel like Buttercup often got the short end of the stick in the original series. However, in watching the show as a young adult, the forgotten sister’s cynicism and nonchalance actually resonate with me all the more. With this being said, it was wonderful to see her take the spotlight in four out of the six first episodes. This isn’t to say that Blossom and Bubbles don’t get their share of moments.
The leader of the Powerpuff Girls is an overachiever to a fault, the kind who grows infuriated by the idea of everyone in her class being able to get an A+ with little effort. As a student at Wellesley College, this comment absolutely cracked me up. Bubbles, on the other hand, is as sweet as her original counterpart – though fans may remember that beneath that layer of cuteness is a darker side (especially when candy is in question). In regards to the girls’ voices, they’re close enough to reflect their distinct personalities, but not limited to those of their predecessors. As a huge Tara Strong fan – the original voice of Bubbles – this is saying a lot.
The Powerpuff Girls is rolling full-steam ahead and rightly so. The team behind the reboot clearly know what they’re doing, having already delivered six episodes brimming with the character development and clever humor the original series was known for. In fact, the only problem I anticipate is my finishing the show far too quickly.
I suppose the only thing left to do now is to wait for the new Samurai Jack.
Oh, Cartoon Network. You do know how to keep a girl waiting.