In the fall of 2015, cartoon lovers and critics saw the debut of the French cartoon Miraculous Ladybug. Not only has it involved a team of international creators (made in Korea, takes place in France, redubbed in various languages), but it’s also been renewed for a 2nd and 3rd season. Reception has been mostly positive worldwide, and it currently holds an 8.7/10 rating on IMBD.
Which begs the question: How did this show gain so much attention?
In a nutshell, Miraculous Ladybug centers on two teenagers—Marinette and Adrien—who transform into Ladybug and Cat Noir respectively in order to stop villains and save Paris. These villains come from a mysterious man in the shadows named Hawkmoth, who can not only give people powers but also magnify negative feelings to the point where he can turn people into monsters known as akumas. The two most well-known facts about this show are 1) the two heroes are classmates, but neither of them have any idea of who the other is, and 2) she has a crush on his civilian form while he has a crush on her hero form.
On the surface, there’s a lot to like about Miraculous Ladybug. The show was originally going to be an anime, but they switched to CGI. Even so, you can still see traces of anime-style animation in the character movements and facial expressions. On top of that, some of the angles make the show look like something out of a comic book. It’s an odd combination, but it gives the show its own animation style. Another thing a lot of fans love is the diversity of the cast, most notably having the heroine be half-French and half-Chinese. Nowadays it’s easy yet lazy for writers to throw in characters of different races for the sake of saying “we support diversity,” but for some reason it seems so natural for Miraculous Ladybug to go down that route…even if some episodes don’t handle it as well as others.
Sadly, even the best of shows come with flaws, and this one is no exception. First of all, the main villain is boring. Maybe this will improve in later seasons as we learn more about him, but as it stands now his akumas are more interesting than he is. Plus, he’s trying to make butterflies scary. Do I even need to make a joke about that? Also, the show is filled to the brim with clichés. The nerdy best friend, the one-dimensional bully that no one likes, the goth, the athlete, the big guy who’s a softie on the inside, the goof off, the use of deus ex machina in almost every episode…well, you get the idea.
And then there’s the one thing about this show that everyone has picked on already. HOW HAS NO ONE FIGURED OUT THAT MARINETTE IS LADYBUG?! It’s not like no one’s trying, Marinette’s best friend and Adrien are both clearly obsessed with figuring out the heroine’s identity! But we have at least a dozen hints gift-wrapped for them every episode, AND THEY NEVER PICK UP ON THEM!
Despite these flaws (and many many many more), Miraculous Ladybug is still quite popular. Why is that? Well, here are a few possible reasons.
First, there’s still a lot of heart to this show. The tropes are annoying, but they’ve somehow given the show its own identity. As mentioned earlier, the animation style is strange, but unique. And while it doesn’t always work, there’s still a lot of time and effort put into this project.
Second, the dynamics with the two main characters’ personalities (with and without the masks) add a lot of intrigue to the show. For Marinette, Ladybug is an extension of her personality. The mask magnifies her courage, wit, and determination. Take it away, and there’s still more to her. She’s an aspiring artist with a fiery temper, a passion for everything she does, and a struggle to find courage in everyday life. For Adrien, the mask is a way for him to try on a different personality. He’s shy and reserved as a civilian, but as Cat Noir he’s—for lack of a better term—a complete wildcat. The mask gives him a chance to do anything he wants without suffering his father’s disappointment.
But perhaps the magnum opus of the show (so far) is the last moment in the season finale, a flashback to when Marinette and Adrien became friends in their civilian forms. Most of the other episodes end on a high note, usually along the lines of “all’s well that ends well.” Here, the rainy setting and gentle music set up a muted, subdued, even vulnerable tone to this scene. To Adrien, it’s simply two strangers becoming friends. To Marinette, it’s her first time falling in love. But to the viewers and the guardian watching them in the distance, it marks the beginning of an important chapter in their lives. Whether the heroes know it or not, this moment and the moments building up to it have changed them forever. It’s the perfect way to end season one. For better or worse, the show will change as the story progresses. And Miraculous fans can’t wait to see what lies in store for Ladybug and Cat Noir.