I really love cartoons. More often than not, I feel like I get more out of cartoons than I do out of most TV shows. TV shows focus on drama and situational comedy, while cartoons are a little bit more free to explore a little bit of everything. Steven Universe is probably my all-time favorite show, edging out Adventure Time for the number 1 slot. Most non-animated shows I’ve watched don’t even make it into the single digits. I may not enjoy all cartoons, but I definitely enjoy more cartoons than live-action TV shows.
Which is why it didn’t take much suggestion from my girlfriend to get me to sit down and watch an episode of this French cartoon, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. One episode was all it took and now I’m hooked. It may not have the wonderful music or thought-provoking themes of my two favorites, but it is one of the most charming and enjoyable cartoons I’ve ever watched. The lessons are simple, the plotting is straight forward, and the pacing is incredible for a show with very little continuity.
The place the cartoon shines is in the writing and the characters. Each person is their own kind of clever, everyone feels like a person you either know or would know if you didn’t spend all of your free time watching Netflix, and there are only a couple of characters you dislike. That being said, as you watch the show, even the villain seems to have something he wants that might redeem him if the show ever actually reveals it.
The protagonist, Ladybug, is a teenage girl who is granted super powers through a special item called a “miraculous” that she wears in the shape of earrings. When she uses the command phrase to empower them (there’s this little ladybug creature that follows her around and often acts as her conscience), she gets super strength, a neat outfit (with an amazing transformation sequence), a magical yoyo, and the ability to summon a lucky charm that, if used correctly, will also let her undo all the damage the villain has wrought throughout the episode.
Her opposite, Cat Noir, is a teenage boy who gets his super powers from a “miraculous” that takes the form of a ring he wears. He gains his powers using a different command phrase and his little familiar is a tiny cat-creature that is 75% snark and 25% desire for smelly cheese. This is just my opinion, and you can feel free to disagree, but I think his transformation sequence is better, though his powers aren’t as great. An extending staff replaces the yoyo, and the ability to destroy any one thing he touches replaces the lucky charm. His outfit is a little weirder, but his costume is cat themed and you can’t just slap polka dots on a body suit for a cat theme like you can with a ladybug theme.
Together, they have a wonderful dynamic. Cat Noir is confident, constantly spews terrible puns, has a huge crush on Ladybug, and seems at ease with his superhero powers from the start. Ladybug is less confident, but often the one to figure out the trick to the villain or who eventually perseveres. She is a lot less comfortable with her powers and most of her growth is her adjusting to being a hero and trying to overcome her rather innate clumsiness when she gets flustered. She has a crush on Cat Noir’s secret identity and has little patience for her fellow hero’s flirting at first, though it eventually develops into delightful banter between the two of them.
The support cast of best friends, classmates, parents, and associate people is diverse and wonderful. They’re all unique, avoid clichés, and you get the excellent juxtaposition of Ladybug’s ideal family life and Cat Noir’s less-than-ideal family. Cat Noir comes from a wealthy, broken family because his mother is missing and his father is worried something will happen to him and Ladybug comes from a warm, loving family of bakers and cooks who shower her with love and baked goods. Ladybug’s father is super supportive, her mother teaches her well, and they both care for her greatly. Cat’s Noir’s family is essentially his bodyguard, his father’s assistant who sometimes plays the mother role, and his father who is often cold and very restrictive in what he allows his son to do. The show doesn’t pull its punches when it confronts complicated issues and it handles them well, given that its target audience is children.
Aside from the obvious superhero tropes (no one knows their secret identities and there’s the constant risk of one of the hero duo figuring out the other’s secret identity because they wind up trying to protect them before they transform), the only negative aspect of the show is that it is a French cartoon and, as a result, I cannot seem to remember anyone’s names. They’re not even all French names but I literally cannot remember any of them aside from their hero names. This is a personal failing of mine rather than of the show, but it is frustrating nevertheless because I just can’t seem to make them stick… I think Ladybug’s real name begins with an “m”? Don’t quote me on that. All rants aside, the lack of synchronization between the mouths and the words using in the dubbed version of the cartoon is barely noticeable. It is excellently done and even the kind of shiny computer animation doesn’t detract from the excellence of the cartoon aside from a few of the trickier perspective or movement shots that any form of animation without a budget larger than the GDP of any small European country would struggle to portray.
Since all of the “negatives” are personal preference things and just me being picky, I really feel I should recommend you watch this show. The themes are basic enough for most kids and the violence that’s there is rather tame, so feel free to show it to your kids, young siblings, or tiny cousins as well. It’s really just a lot of fun to watch and I suggest adding it to your Netflix queue.