Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Romance, when you’re 14 years old, is rarely easy. You crush on someone, but they like someone else. Someone else bats their eyes at you, but you don’t even know it. Every comment or glance or inadvertent hand touch is evaluated and scrutinized.

And if you’re a 14-year-old insect-based superhero … well, life is just that much more complicated.

Love Bug

Yes, Marinette—also known as Paris’ brave, speckled defender Ladybug—deals with more complications than even your typical high schooler. When she dons her mask to battle dozens of dastardly denizens, she’s confident. Assured. A heroine in every sense. With the help of her mysterious kwami named Tikki (the little critter that gives Marinette her superpowers) and together with crime-fighting partner Cat Noir, she can handle most any challenge thrown at her.

And in rare instances when she and Mr. Noir can’t handle them, they can call on all manner of teen heroes to chip in.

But when she dons the clothes of a regular ol’ student, Marinette’s social skills vanish like Parisian accordion music in a stiff breeze. She’s especially awkward with Adrien, a handsome (and fabulously rich) friend with whom she’s been smitten for, roughly, ever.

Alors, Adrien thinks of Marinette as just a friend. See, his own heart has been taken by someone else: Ladybug, the mysterious superhero whom he fights alongside as Cat Noir.

C’est très tragique, non?

While most other superheroes and villains in this story tend to drop their secret identities like a Victorian damsel drops hankies, Marinette and Adrien have kept their own guises under tight spandex wraps. Neither is aware who the other really is.

Nor do they seem to know that their prime enemy—the nefarious Hawk Moth, who can create supervillains through negative emotions/flying insects—is none other than Adrien’s rich, sad and ever-distracted father.

Amazing what those little domino masks can cover, right?

City of Fights

The convoluted webs of secret identities and relationships found in Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir pales in comparison to the confusing pedigree of the show itself—which, in some ways, is as international, as precious and, some cynics might say, as annoying as Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride.

The show is the brainchild of French animator Thomas Astruc, who was inspired by Japanese anime and American comic books. Despite its French creator and Parisian locale, it premiered in 2015 in South Korea (it took another month before it landed in its native France), and Astruc says that the show’s been aired in more than 120 countries. It’s a well-traveled series stateside, too: Ladybug & Cat Noir first leapt to the screen on Nickelodeon: but now Disney and, lately, Netflix own the rights, with the second half of season 3 premiering on the latter platform in February. (An animated musical movie and a live-action film are apparently in the works, too.)

The show, as far as it goes, offers some decent messages about trying your hardest and being nice. It even includes some notes of grace. Likewise, the bad guys here are rarely just mustache-twirling ne’er-do-wells. Even Hawk Moth’s career of villainy is based on some misguided (and a bit nonsensical) desire to bring his family back together. (Emilie, his wife and Adrien’s mother, is being kept around in a glass coffin, and it seems that Hawk Moth—the fashion designer Gabriel when he’s in his civvies—hopes to revive her.)

But when you’re making a cartoon that can translate into lots of disparate cultures, you’re bound to lose a little something. In Miraculous’ case, that seems to be coherency (though longtime fans of the show would certainly have an easier time following it than a middle-aged television critic).

As a superhero show, Miraculous boasts definitely a lot of action and G-rated peril. As a quasi-teen romance, we see animated characters cuddle and hold hands and even kiss a teensy bit. And, of course, every superhero worth their salt has to wear an outfit that looks practically painted on. And while the show hasn’t introduced any overt LGBTQ characters, Astruc has suggested on Twitter that they exist and can be sussed out with careful viewing.

But perhaps those heroes’ superpowers come with the show’s biggest caution.

Ladybug, Cat Noir and all the other superheroes get their powers from creatures called kwamis. They’re described as “divine” beings that pop into existence when another idea or emotion also comes to be. They hang out in magical jewels called Miraculouses. And when someone owns one of these Miraculouses, the inhabiting kwami is able to give their owners superpowers. (Supervillains, meanwhile, are created by magic moths called akumas and carrying negative emotions—less a gift and more a disease.) Marinette’s kwami, Tikki, is the kwami of creation, while Cat Noir’s is the cheese-loving kwami of destruction.

That creation/destruction trope gives the partnership of Ladybug and Cat Noir a bit of a Eastern yin-yang vibe, and the kwamis themselves seem loosely analogous to the classical Greek Muses, Arabian Nights’ genies and (if you’re feeling particularly uncharitable) pagan familiars. While the show rarely delves deeply into the spiritual underpinnings—because, let’s face it, with so many bad guys, there’s hardly time—they’re there, and they’ll occasionally make their appearance felt. For some Christian families, these kwamis will be harmless flights of fantasy. But for others, they could be a deal-killer. Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir is, therefore, a bit of a mixed bag. Is it navigable? Perhaps. Is it watchable? Just. Is it miraculous? Hardly.

Episode Reviews

Feb. 1, 2020: “Stormy Weather 2”

Aurora, a reformed supervillain once known as Stormy Weather, frets over her grades dropping because she’s moonlighting as a meteorologist. School mean girl Chloe (sometimes the superhero Queen Bee) mocks her for her falling grades, says that weather control is a lame superpower and tells Aurora, “Once a villain, always a villain.” Marinette insists that Aurora has mended her ways. “Unlike you, Chloe, people do change for the better.” But Chloe’s own uncharitable stance turns out to be more accurate: Stormy Weather returns more powerful than ever (thanks to an evil magic moth), and she causes a volcano to erupt that somehow pushes the Earth farther away from the sun.

We see the volcano do its thing. Stormy Weather declares, “Earthlings will be nothing but frozen food.” A hurricane blows away a couple of superheroes. A television broadcast is marred by the resultant cold (the camera breaks), leaving the shivering reporter to do an audio play-by-play of Ladybug’s battle with Stormy Weather. (It involves a copy machine and a very odd time reversal, according to the reporter.) We see various battles in flashback, some involving martial arts weapons, but no one seems to be hurt or even hit.

Two characters cuddle and nearly kiss (before they’re interrupted by younger siblings). Marinette recalls several awkward moments she had with her crush, Adrien, including an instance or two where they touched, or almost touched, hands. Cat Noir kisses Ladybug on the cheek and gives her a rose. Adrien’s father pines over his incapacitated wife—but does so at the expense of his love-starved son. Hawk Moth sends out a magic butterfly to “evilize” Aurora.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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