She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Seasons 1-5 [Review]

Title: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Studio: Dreamworks Animation, Mattel Creations, NE4U
Airing On: Netflix
Genre: Action / Adventure
Seasons: 5
Soldier Adora finds a magic sword — and her identity as legendary hero She-Ra. She joins the Rebellion, but her best friend stays with the evil Horde

 

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power ran for five seasons from November 2018 to May 2020, encompassing a total of 52 episodes. The executive producers for the series were Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes) and Chuck Austen (Steven Universe). The basic idea was to reintroduce the classic character to new audiences and, part of this process was to give the characters a more modern look.

Now, when the first images of the lead character landed, there was a bit of controversy on social media, largely based around people complaining that the character wasn’t as sexy as she was in her previous incarnation. This was, of course, ridiculous. From a personal standpoint, I wasn’t sold initially, but only because it wasn’t an art style that I was a fan of. I liked the redesigns on a core level, it was simply that the art style wasn’t for me. Once I saw a full trailer though, they grew on me very quickly.

What we have with She-Ra is a series that is really quite dynamic when it comes to not only the action but allowing characters to emote. It’s very over the top at times, but in a way that fits very well with the general feel of the show. I loved the body diversity too, with characters of all shapes and sizes getting to be heroes in this vibrant, but cruel setting. On top of that, even if the show didn’t focus on showing different body types, the clothing is all so unique to each key character that everyone would still be instantly recognizable. If I was to get picky I’d say that there were the odd moments here and there throughout the five seasons where facial shapes seemed to fluctuate for a moment, or a few frames of animation seemed to drop, but honestly, it’s not that noticeable unless you’re either looking for it or happen to catch just the right spot at the right time. Overall, this is a visually great show.

Audio-wise, the show is much the same. The theme song is catchy, and Sunna Wehreijer’s score is suitably big and epic feeling when it needs to be, punctuating scenes nicely. The voice cast is the audio stars though, with not a bad performance among them. In particular, I thought that AJ Michalka (Lainey on The Goldbergs) was absolutely phenomenal as Catra, giving the character just the right balance of aggression and vulnerability.

The story itself has a similar set up to the original run but takes a more focused approach to long-term arcs. I thought that the pacing of the first season was a little inconsistent, and certain plot points were seemingly brushed over, but it remained enjoyable regardless. This improved quickly in season two, and by the time we hit season five, it was pretty much a perfect long-form kid’s show in that regard. The sci-fi and fantasy elements mesh well with the world-building, and the characters all get moments to shine and make you care about them and their quirks.

The biggest draw for me in the story though was the LGBTQ representation. The show is exceedingly queer at times, featuring a MM couple as Bow’s parents, and two of the princesses being a married couple. Then there’s Double Trouble, a shapeshifting character played by the non-binary Jacob Tobia. By far the best part of this though was the slow burn relationship between Adora/She-Ra and Catra. As the seasons progressed, it was clear how much they cared for each other, and the finale rewarded this with a beautiful love confession and kiss. The whole thing was not only very real but played in a way that was absolutely wholesome and suitable for the target audience.

If you think the show relies on LGBTQ rep for emotional spots though, you’d be wrong. It’s littered with emotional beats as the various characters interact and grow with each other and even throws in a few tear-inducing sacrifices too. Honestly, between the kiss and Shadow Weaver’s actions in the two-part finale, I was crying multiple times.

I also thought that the show deserved praise for how it portrayed male characters. Yes, the focus was primarily on the ladies – as it should be, given this is a show primarily targeted at young girls – but there was a good mix of males too. Some, such as Sea Hawk, fit a comedy role. Others, like Bow and Micah were as much the heroes as the magic-wielding princesses. Plus, not only was Hordak a good villain, Horde Prime was superbly evil in his role as the eventual main antagonist. In that regard, the writers did a great job of balancing everything out and ensuring that there’s reason to care about all the characters, not just the titular princesses.

In all, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a series that started well and got better as it went along. It’s diverse in a way that is neither forced nor inappropriate for a young audience, the story is emotional, and it all builds to a fantastic ending that ties up all the loose ends. As an overall piece, I give the five seasons the full 5 out of 5.

 

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