Good GOD I could not get WordPress to work this last week. Admittedly, my internet has been going all wonky on me around midnight every night for reasons I don’t understand, but yeesh… I’m hoping to get you all a second post this weekend to make-up for it, and then maybe one next Saturday. By writing these a little more in advance, I’m going to try and be a little more in-depth. I’m also at a point where I need to decide how to do a review, since I’m wanting to try something a little different just this once…
Anyway, on to the review I’m here to write now. I watched the initial premiere of the television show, W.I.T.C.H., and was horribly excited about it. Sadly, due to you know, having a life, I managed to fall behind and it being one of the shows that has a consistent plot, well, I pretty much got lost and never went back to it. Something (I’m failing to remember what) resparked my interest in the show, so I followed some youtube links. I haven’t finished the second season yet, but I thought I would go ahead and review the first, which is really the one before the show Jumped the Shark anyway (more on that when I finish season 2). I’ll be focusing on plot, first the main and then the episodic ones, the characters and their roles, and of course, the overall feeling of the show.
For those who have no idea what this show is, W.I.T.C.H. is an Italian magical girl comic book series that was later made into an animated series very loosely based on the source material (raise your hands if you are surprised about the looseness of adaptation. Those of you who raised your hands: FOR SHAME). Fairly similar to the usual formula: five girls must save the world (the center point being their home town) from the forces of evil as the Guardians of the Veil. (Yes, sarcasm in that sentence is intentional.) Same old same old, right?
Actually, not as much as you would expect. For one thing, their mentor figure isn’t a talking animal, but actually one of the previous Guardians who is also a grandmother to the current. Retirement! Who’d a-thought? Genetic links to powers! Amazing, ain’t it? Or at least an interesting layer… And unlike in previous magical girls where the group is really just strangers brought together by their powers, this time all but one were already friends, a refreshing change. The main plot is a corrupt prince taking over a parallel world, and the resulting conflict spilling over into our world. Later on through the series, it is revealed that he isn’t the rightful heir (for some reason that is never properly explained, unless he just oozed evil even as a kid), and he is in fact looking for his younger sister, the proper ruler. Who is it? Why, one of the Guardian’s best friend, of course! So it’s up to the Guardians (and a rebel leader, but really, he’s the Tuxedo Mask of this group) to rescue the little DID (damsel in distress) and make the kingdom a place of light and peace again.
Despite my mockery, the main plot actually has some value to it. The series sets up the search for the heir fairly well, even if to a slightly older it is a lot more obvious. The little sister’s transition from our world to the world on the other side of the veil takes time and care. It isn’t as simple as “Hey, let’s kidnap the princess!” or even “Let’s brain wash them!” a la Sailor Moon. Our evil prince isn’t romantically involved, and in fact hates his little sister with a passion. He is instead just manipulating his little sister for her power, which is significantly stronger than his as the rightful ruler. On her side of it, she doesn’t fall for every attempt the heroes make to reconnect with her, though I do find her sudden “I LOVE MY BIG BROTHER!” switch over a little much to swallow.
Sadly, the B plots are much more typical magical-girl-woes. Such as Irma’s unwanted suitor, Will’s birthday, things like that. They don’t really offer anything original to the series, though I guess SOMEONE finds them entertaining. I think this idea of having an A plot AND a B plot is highly outdated, especially since I think the main plot line could have been the main focus of the series. It certainly had enough characters of it’s own. I don’t mean that the B plots need to completely go away. In fact, I think if you did that it would be like cutting off an arm. These girls DO have normal lives, and since they can’t tell anyone about their powers (though WHY is never clearly answered), I think we do have to see at least some of that. Just…not every single episode. It dulls the impact, and cuts away from the main story.
Our five main characters are broken down by element: Will, who is “heart” (later revealed to be energy itself but that’s season 2) and leader of the group by the fact the Heart of Kandrakar chose her (for those who can’t tell from THAT happy little description, yep, she’s the new girl to the group); Irma, who controls water and serves as the Snark Master; Taranee, who controls fire (yet is our group scaredy cat…irony anyone?); Cornelia, our Earth Goddess (I’m not kidding, I swear she gets called that at least once) who also is the superficial, shallow one; and Hay Lin, the controller of wind and also the Cloud Cuckoolander. We also have Hay Lin’s grandmother (remember that retired Guardian I mentioned? Yeep); Caleb, that Tuxedo Mask rebel leader I mentioned before, and of course our villains: Prince Phobos, his giant snake monster Cedric, and (Princess) Elyon.
I’ll start with our Band of Five, who if you notice that in the order I listed them in, they spell out the series’ name. The Elemental theme has been done before. Hell, I’ve done it, and I’ll probably do it again. That said, I think they did a few interesting things with it at least. It took a few episodes for Irma, for example, to be able to create water rather than manipulate what was around her, and Cornelia never got that advance…though, she did discover that sometimes there are plants around her that she didn’t know about, and she learned to manipulate dirt, not just plants. Beyond their powers, they were fairly standard tropes to my view. Cornelia surprised me, having hidden depths, and I think Will could have been pushed further as far as being the new girl after the first handful of episodes and her growth as both a leader and a friend to the others. Hay Lin was always amusing, but her and the other two Guardians really didn’t get any more than bad tropes thrown at their personalities.
Remember how I described Hay Lin as a Cloud Cuckoolander? Yeah, it’s genetic. Her grandmother was a hoot to watch when she wasn’t being the mentor…and even sometimes when she was. Best grandmother EVER portrayed. Caleb didn’t get as much development, but I blame a lot of that on them focusing on the B plots rather than the A. As a result, he’s more of Cornelia’s boy toy than a rebel leader. Their attempts to make him “otherworldly” just fell flat a lot of the time, and my understanding is originally he actually LOOKED more like someone from the other dimension, at least in the comics. Yeaaah, change didn’t do him many favors. Prince Phobos originally was your do-nothing tyrant, with Cedric to do his bidding, but he was actually a Chess Master, so I didn’t mind too much. Cedric was mostly the brute force, but he had his creepy moments, so as far as being Head Minion, I think he was a solid character.
Elyon. Ooooh, Elyon. I have issues with this character. She is so quick to change alignments from being friends with Cornelia to being their enemy and being all soft and gooey to her brother. She’s whiny, she’s a desperate attention seeker in some cases, she tries to take a leadership role even though at that point she really had no training in being a monarch of any sort, and then to top it all off… Remember how I said Phobos was using her for her powers? Yeah, she is ridiculously overpowered. I mean Ridiculously, at least in the cartoon, with capital letter intentional. As one single person, she has more power than all five of the Guardians. And that’s BEFORE she was even at the peak of her powers! And there’s no rhyme or reason for it. I hate to use this term, but… Canon Sue anyone? (Yeah, yeah, I hate the term Mary Sue and usually throw things at people who use it, but this one REALLY calls for it!)
Which kind of gets me to the feeling of the overall show. It feels…very disjointed. It’s like the first half of the season was written by one person, and the second half by another, because there are serious world-building problems and contradictions between the two. Don’t believe me? Try to figure out Phobos’s age. Supposedly at the creation of the universe, the veil was SOMEHOW created and separated the two dimensions to keep him from stuck in his own world. But then he’s Elyon’s brother, and she’s the same age as the rest of W.I.T.C.H. and was only sent to Earth twelve years ago. Oh, but Hay Lin’s grandmother fought him as a young girl. If your brain isn’t breaking, it should be. It was like there was a lack of information being shared with the audience. HELLO! It’s an Italian comic that didn’t get translated and take off until the series started here. We know nothing, plus you took liberties with it. You must explain!
I don’t think the series is awful, far from it. But I definitely think you can skip certain parts of it and not miss anything. And whatever you do, don’t think too hard about some of the information they are giving you. It’ll spare you a lot of grief.