Miraculous Ladybug is a cartoon that was original created in France. Set in our current time the story is focused on Marinette Dupont-Chang. Marinette is a young student with a secret identity of the super hero Ladybug who protects the city of Paris with her partner, Cat Noir, against the machinations of Hawk Moth. It’s your traditional super hero and bad guy of the week type show.
Miraculous Ladybug isn’t anything new or unique, and yet it still has a certain charm that makes it stand out. The show has something special about it that overcomes its flaws. Miraculous Ladybug suffers at times from it’s childlike writing with overly corny catchphrases, predictable story outcomes, and animation that varies.
This is not a show I watched and ever found myself surprised by story developments. Within the first several minuets of an episode it’s usually pretty clear who this episode’s villain is, though we don’t figure out what their special power is until they’ve been ‘evilized.’ (No that is not something I made up, but is from the show.)
At times the writing is so corny it could be cringe worthy. Once an episode the audience is treated to Ladybug’s cleansing power and her cry of ‘time to de-eviliz’ rather than simply using words that already exists and might sound a bit more respectable. ‘Time to be purified’ is an example of what the writers could have gone with, but didn’t. The show has several moments like this, and yet the writers seem to embrace the show’s corny nature. By the end I’ve even come to find the corny moments and yell almost lovable.
However I would be remise if I didn’t mention that at times the shows writing can be touching and heartfelt at times. During the end of the origin episodes there is a scene between Marinette and Adrien, the alter-ego of Cat Noir though Marinette is not privy to this knowledge. The moment that passes between them is simple, quiet, and endearing. It takes the crush that Marinette has for Adrien and makes it not a silly design choice, and instead makes it a genuine human emotion and character arch. Actually the whole show is entirely heartfelt, and feels alive. I believe that’s what gives Miraculous Ladybug that special spark, and wins you over despite some other rather silly choices.
With such a predictable storyline the show cannot depend on the plot to draw the audience in. Rather the plot is the vehicle for the characters. Every character is well defined and feels alive. Marinette isn’t a standard blank slate character, but has real joys and desires. She’s an artists, she plays video games, she enjoys going to the movies with friends, and she struggles with self worth. These aren’t facts that the audience is told, but rather what we’re shown. We get to see Marinette draw and design things, and we get to see her move through her life. We know she’s the super hero Ladybug, but she’s also a baby-sitter. Details like this can tell us about our hero without the show resorting to exposition on Marinette’s character.
Even the side characters get fleshed out. All the tropes are in Marinette’s classroom, the goth kid, the snotty blond rich kid, the geek, the jock, and others. However the more you watch the more the audience gets to see the greater details to these characters. The side characters never do get fully fleshed out, due to the time constraints. Yet, with a gentle smattering of subtle details these tropes feel less like a show trying to fulfill an obligation of certain characters and instead is trying to give the audience a sense of who these people are. (A side note regarding the rich kid; I’ve seen many snotty rich kids but this one takes the cake. She is the worst I’ve ever encountered. I’m convinced the writer’s decided that if they were going to have the typical ‘bratty rich kid’ they were going to take that trope and crank up the heat.)
Perhaps the oddest ‘character’ within the show is Paris, the city, itself. The Eiffel Tower is used a couple of times, but the show goes beyond that landmark. As Ladybug soars over the streets, using her special yo-yo as a means to swing from the rooftops, the audience is treated to several wide shots. These wide shots give the audience a chance to see the city sprawling around Marinette. Each time you see Marinette and her partner, Cat Noir, racing across Paris’s rooftops you grow to recognize the city and it’s architecture. By the halfway point of the first season I was convinced that there would be numerous places where a local would know where Marinette and her friends were. The city feels alive and special.
Before I finish I must mention the music. The music plays a very minor role in the show. Often times it’s hardly audible over the dialogue or sound affects, but it provides the right subtle push that guides the emotion of the episode. I’ve also come to find the opening song to be rather catchy, if a bit on the corny end. I would prefer a great roll for the music of the show, but despite it’s minimized place the gentle push it provides can’t be ignored.
Miraculous Ladybug is the little engine that could. It’s a show that shouldn’t have caught my attention the way it did. The plot is predictable, the dialogue flip flops between being solid to over the top and corny, there are a number of questionable choices made throughout the show, and yet the show found a way to capture my heart. I care about these characters and their world. I care, and I’m looking forward to the next 2 seasons. If you’re looking for a character focused show to sink your teeth into you could do much worse than to give Miraculous Ladybug a shot.