Plot: Professor Utonium manages to stabilize the mysterious Chemical X with the help of his son, Ken. The new and more powerful compound is called Chemical Z. During an impending weather crisis, they use the chemical to clear up the skies, but accidentally create numerous beams of Z rays which hit Momoko, Miyako and Kaoru, turning them into the magical girls Hyper Blossom, Rolling Bubbles and Powered Buttercup. They also hit a nearby monkey, turning him into the villain Mojo Jojo.
Breakdown: Even though Japan doesn’t do it to us nearly as much as we do it to them, they have remade American cartoons into Japanese anime numerous times before. One of the more notable examples is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but there’s also Lilo and Stitch, Transformers and even properties like Supernatural, Batman and Iron Man have been turned into anime.
Out of all of the shows to get the anime treatment, you could definitely make the argument that Powerpuff Girls is the most obvious target. They already sport big anime-ish eyes, fighting giant monsters is their forte, and they’re basically magical girls without the lengthy transformation sequences and accessories.
So, it’s also not a surprise that Japan opted to fully turn the girls into magical girls with lengthy transformation sequences and accessories.
They also seem like they’re manipulating American audiences by slapping the ‘Z’ onto it because, wow, what’s one of the most popular anime in the west? Dragon Ball Z.
Back when this series first came out, I didn’t hear a lot about it. I heard some things, but it was mostly in the realm of ‘…..Why?’ Still, when it came to actual opinions, I didn’t hear much. I was a big fan of the original Powerpuff Girls, but I never had much of a desire to see what the anime version was like.
Fast forward over ten years later, and now I’ve finally decided to sit down and watch it as well as research the current reviews on it.
To say the ratings are all over the board would be an understatement.
IMDB is caught between extremely low ratings and extremely high ratings. And it’s not just hardcore fans who are in the low zone. Several people stated they hated the original series and found this series to be an insult to it.
MyAnimeList is better but also worse because their reviews are all over the place with some extremely low, some very high and some middleground, but it seems like the middleground ones disliked it more than their ratings would indicate, and one wouldn’t get off the comparisons to Sailor Moon.
I found a full-on hate post on Amino and even then they gave it a 4/10 before telling the reader to never watch it ever. Just….what?
There was one thing that was driving me to give this show a fair shot.
To be better….
I mean, people are calling (D)PPGZ stupid, annoying and hollow, but PPG2016 is basically the epitome of stupid, annoying and hollow.
For sake of fairness, I’m not going to harp too much on the differences between the shows. I’m going to try and take it at face value as much as I can…..And then I’ll harp on the differences because I can’t not. But at least I’ll give you warning so you can skip it if you want.
This show is dumb and hollow. It’s not nearly as annoying as many reviewers made it out to be. It is a little, but not that bad. I’m mostly in the dumb and hollow camp.
I’m not expecting deep or intelligent stories from magical girl shows to begin with, but this is insulting my intelligence and suspending my disbelief way too much.
The episode is separated into two eleven minute long stories, like the original show. The first half is about the girls fighting Mojo Jojo after he kidnaps some kindergartners for the sake of stealing their candy to power his newest mech.
Why does this machine run on candy? Dunno.
Why is he kidnapping and taking candy from children instead of just robbing a candy store? Dunno.
The girls make an excuse to leave school, transform and fly to the location where they have a lame battle. The battle is particularly lame because Bubbles—excuse me, Miyako, has bubbles be her main attack, yet they are obviously no different from regular bubbles. We don’t have any way to know what the bubbles do when they actually work, so showing us that these inert bubbles are just acting like bubbles really makes it seem like they’re ordinary bubbles and Miyako’s an idiot for trying to fight with them.
Also, Butterc—I mean Kaoru keeps making baseball references when her weapon’s a hammer….
After a few minutes, the girls run low on power. Because god forbid the POWERpuff Girls have a decent enough supply of power to last longer than five minutes in a very mild battle. You’d think this would require them to charge up their powers somehow, but all it takes is randomly stopping the battle for a trip to the ice cream store to get them back to full strength.
They take down Mojo and the day is saved.
The second half is the origin story of the girls, which you’d think would be first but whatever. One day, Professor Utonium was trying to stabilize the mysterious Chemical X to no avail. His son, Ken, and robot dog, Poochi, accidentally knocked a pastry into the Chemical X vat and it stabilized it, turning it into Chemical Z, because screw Y.
Suddenly, and seemingly unrelated to this, the climate shifts drastically. New Townsville is thrown into a blizzard within seconds. Icebergs are forming in the bay and penguins are overrunning the city. This climate shift is not just happening here, but around the world.
In an effort to stop it, Ken uses Chemical Z in conjunction with a laser gun to shoot the sky and end the weather troubles. None of what I just said makes sense in the slightest.
And it starts making even less sense when three beams of light and numerous beams of….darkness? shoot from where Ken shot the sky.
The beams of light are all about to hit three small children, and the girls, Momoko (Blossom) Miyako (Bubbles) and Kaoru (Buttercup) all separately sacrifice themselves to save the kids because lazy writing. As a result, they get hit with the beams and instantly go through the transformation process. Speaking of which, they seem like they skipped the transformations in the dub because my copy is raw Japanese with an English track and the track goes back to Japanese for the transformation sequences.
It is a rather entertaining transformation sequence in regards to music, but the actions during the scene are kinda boring. They just kinda dance to pad out the time. Kaoru’s is the most interesting because she also does punches and stuff.
Also, they each get weapons based on the toys the kid they were saving was playing with at the time of the beam striking them. Momoko gets a yo-yo, Miyako gets a bubble wand and Kaoru gets a comically large hammer.
Momoko, or as her transformed state is called, Hyper Blossom, is the only one to get battle spotlight in this episode and gets further unnecessary spotlight later, including a bunch of still shots behind the Professor and Ken as they talk about all of the girls. All three of their screens eventual shift to just Momoko and 95% of the end theme showcases Momoko, because why not shove that goddamn ‘leader gets all the focus’ magical girl trope down our collective throats? That never gets old.
The beams of darkness are only shown hitting one being, a monkey named Mojo Jojo. He gains a helmet and giant cape as well as intelligence and the ability to talk and fly out of this deal. If I can’t question the magical girl items, I can’t question this either.
We actually get a kinda funny scene where Mojo and Momoko realize that Mojo’s evil, followed by another hollow and lame battle with Momoko flicking her yo-yo at him. She does eventually beat him and the day is saved. Miyako and Kaoru just go about their days elsewhere because we couldn’t be arsed to give them anything to do.
Also, Kaoru the tomboy is super upset about her outfit including a skirt. Seriously, she brings it up twice in the two times we see her after she gets her powers…
Before I get to the comparison stuff, this episode both succeeds and fails as a first episode. We see the girls in ‘action’, sure, get a…slight idea of the world they live in, but it’s a piss-poor introduction to nearly all of the characters outside of maybe the Mayor, Miss Bellum and Mojo.
We don’t even learn the names of the girls in this episode. I had to look both their actual and superhero names up on the Wiki. Ken, the Mayor, Bellum and the Professor just call them ‘The Girls’ all the time. They don’t have a single actual conversation in the entire episode, and we barely learn anything about them.
Not to mention that both stories are just kinda stupid. A mech that runs on candy? Mojo kidnaps kindergartners and puts them in a giant bird cage to get the candy? The girls stop what they’re doing to give the kids autographs? Mojo asks for an autograph?
The climate changes drastically all over the world in mere seconds, somehow spawns icebergs in seconds and somehow calls a flood of penguins to invade the city and somehow a laser created by a liquid Chemical Z shot into the sky in one city clears up all of the weather phenomenon over the world and it also gives good powers to three girls and evil powers to other beings?
Now onto the bread and butter of this review, the comparisons with the original. To be fair, I’ll mark whether or not the change actually matters to the quality of the show.
Comparison with the Original PPG
– The girls are teenagers now, not kindergartners.
– Matters? No.
You can age up the girls, fine, but it does cause some oddities like, they still keep in the line about saving the world before bed time. I’m sorry, what teenagers have a bed time? A curfew, yeah, but bed time? And if you do have a bed time as a teen, why would you advertise that?
– The girls are magical girls now, I guess, not mutant superheroes made from Sugar, Spice, Everything Nice and Chemical X.
– Matters? Not really.
As unique as the cartoon’s origin story was, this is a perfectly fine origin story for the girls, even if it is lazy and something that’s already been used (Tokyo Mew Mew vibes, anyone?) My problem is with the ridiculousness of Chemical Z.
Chemical X was a mysterious compound and no one knew what it really did, not even Professor Utonium. It made Mojo smart and was the key component to making the girls. But Chemical Z seems like it’s a deus ex machina in liquid form. It can be used as laser….fuel, it instantly clears up almost supernatural worldwide weather phenomenon, it grants girls magical girl powers, creates themed weapons, accessories and clothes for them and grants other beings evil bad guy power.
One could argue that making living beings out of some miscellaneous items and the chemical is just as bad, but that part of the story was based on the old saying that little girls are made of sugar, spice and everything nice. Just like when the Rowdyruff Boys were made, it was using the alternate saying for boys of snips, snails and puppy dog tails.
Also, the main origin behind the girls was that Townsville was a shady crap hole and Utonium wanted to create the perfect little girl to improve it. Thus creating the Powerpuff Girls….on accident, but nonetheless created them.
The fact that their creation wasn’t really…necessary and was entirely an accident is kinda boring. In fact, in a Static Shock Boom Baby kind of way, the girls wouldn’t be necessary at all if the Z rays didn’t also create bad guys…..
– Professor Utonium is no longer their adoptive father. Also, he has a son named Ken who is his lab assistant and a pet robot dog named Poochi who was also hit by the Z rays, somehow granting him the ability to talk even though I don’t know why this chemical…laser would be able to rewrite programming…He’s also granted the ability to call the girls.
– Matters? YES.
Ken is completely superfluous and so is Poochi. Removing Utonium as the girls’ father figure takes away a massive part of the story and nearly insults his original character development. Utonium was literally thrown into fatherhood upon creating the girls but did the best he could to love, raise, protect and teach them proper. Watch The Powerpuff Girls movie or several Utonium-centered episodes and you’ll feel a really strong familial connection.
Utonium never even speaks with the girls this entire episode.
He is still a father, but dammit it all if he doesn’t act like it.
What makes things even worse is that Ken seems like he’s made out to be more competent than Utonium. The professor is meant to be an extremely smart and skilled scientist. So you robbed him of one major character element and downgraded the other. Wonderful.
– In addition to that, the girls aren’t even sisters anymore.
– Matters? YES.
Why would you destroy their familial dynamic even more by making them seemingly total strangers until they unite as superheroes? Even when they’re together, I don’t feel like they’re good friends.
– They’re also not called Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. They’re called Momoko, Miyako and Kaoru.
– Matters? No.
The name thing is bothersome because I don’t understand the need, but it’s not vital to the plot. Plus, they do technically retain their names when transformed because they’re changed to Hyper Blossom, Rolling Bubbles and Powered Buttercup…..and yes, I do think those extra titles make these names stupid.
Particularly ‘Powered Buttercup’ Not only is that too on-the-nose, but what are you going to say ‘She’s the Powerpuff Girl Powered Buttercup’? That sounds redundant as hell.
– The girls keep their super hero identities a secret.
– Matters? Not really, but it adds a layer of common magical girl stupidity to the story.
Like many magical girl series, the girls keep their identities a secret, but don’t wear masks when they transform. Their appearances aren’t changed enough when they transform to warrant the belief that other people wouldn’t recognize them. I can’t say how much awkwardness or doofy plots this causes, but I can bet it’s quite a bit.
In the original, the girls are known heroes throughout the entire series. In fact, their kindergarten has a Powerpuff hotline right in their classroom. It removes the awkward and sometimes annoying element of trying to keep their identities and powers a secret while also adding a layer of complication in their lives that was more interesting to explore.
– Mojo Jojo still talks fast and stuffs his speech, in the dub anyway, but it comes off more like bad dubbing instead of a character quirk.
– Matters? Not really, but lessens the comedy of his character.
– The girls are almost pathetically weak in regards to stamina. Mojo’s already basically a parody of himself here, but the girls just swing around their weapons, sometimes hurting themselves more than they’re hurting Mojo, for a few minutes and they start running out of energy.
– Matters? Yes.
The original had such a good balance of action and comedy. If you want to focus more on the comedy, fine, but if the action’s so minute and lame, why even bother?
– The girls stop to eat ice cream to help regain energy (I guess?) while forgetting about and leaving a bunch of kindergartners in a cage…..
– Matters? Yes.
They seem like uncaring jackasses to do such a thing, not heroes.
– They have to be reminded to save someone who just got kidnapped…
– Matters? Yes, for the same reason I just gave. Heroes don’t do that….
– The girls have major personality changes. Momoko/Blossom is still the leader, but she’s no longer a serious, stern leader or a nerd. In fact, she implies that she pretends stuff ate her homework to get out of doing it. She’s boy-crazy, ditzy and basically unrecognizable from what she originally was.
Bubbles is still bubbly and positive, but she’s way into fashion and is ditzier than she was in the original.
Buttercup is a skateboard-riding baseball cap-wearing tomboy who detests wearing skirts.
– Matters? Yes, but mostly in regards to Blossom.
I can’t even gauge this enough because we barely get to see their personalities over the course of two half-episodes, but Blossom definitely fares the worst here.
While Bubbles’ being preoccupied with fashion makes me roll my eyes and Buttercup’s incessant irritation at wearing a skirt makes me…irritated (and, as tomboyish as Buttercup was originally, her main outfit was a dress…..) Blossom is basically gutted from a stern serious leader with high levels of intelligence to basically your typical ‘Homework? Ugh’ magical girl protagonist, maybe worse.
It’s also irksome that all three of the girls were either gawking at groups of others or had people gawking at them when we first meet them in their origin story. Blossom was drooling over the guys in the various sports teams running by, tons of boys were fawning over Bubbles and tons of girls were gawking at Buttercup. Yup, they’re all super cute and popular and amazing and blah.
– There’s barely a narrator anymore and barely an ‘and once again the day is saved’ segue.
– Matters? No.
As sad as it is to lose those transitions and endings because the narrator was practically a character himself, it doesn’t affect the quality. To its credit, they do try to squeeze some form of it in the middle and a small line by the narrator at the end, but it’s so unsatisfactory for fans that they might as well not even try.
Also, that line about bed time makes it worse.
It’s a lame and overly silly magical girl show with not enough comedy to back it up. There was one funny moment with Mojo, but that was it. The overall plot is dumb, the individual stories are dumb, the battles are lame and it just feels like a hollow show.
I’m not against adaptations changing things as long as the changes are for the better, but all of these changes are either superfluous or for the worse.
Fans of the show might enjoy it a bit just because it’s more PPG….technically, and it IS better than PPG2016. Then again, me setting my toes on fire is better than PPG2016.
Also, I will say that the soundtrack for the show is fantastic, especially during the transformation sequences, so if you’re a fan of anime OSTs, maybe check that out.
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