This is so wrong…
Seriously, making an adaptation to another culture is a hard thing to do. Especially one which was originally a parody of the exact culture it is adapted into.
Powerpuff Girls Z (PPGZ) is the retelling of the homonymous American cartoon (I’ll just call it PPGA), the silly adventures of a trio of supergirls as they protect their world from all sorts of criminals and monsters. Instead of just stopping to a dubbed version for reasons that I only imagine being fan pleasing, Japan decided to have its own PPG series, made from scratch. And boy, did they change a lot…
This is not exactly new in the industry. Since as far as the 80’s America and Japan make their own versions of the same story. Famous examples are Macross/Roboteck, American-only sequels to Voltron Defender of the Universe, an American-only OVA conclusion to the Saber Rider and the Starsheriffs, several Japanese-only sequels and spin-offs to the Transformers. The thing is, all those shows were 90% identical or easily recognizable to be of the same franchise. PPGZ is way too different to PPGA to the point it feels as a different show. And unfortunately, it is far, far worse as well. I will explain why by comparing both shows to one another in each section.
ART (PPGA: 8, PPGZ: 5)
PPGA was using a rather simple to draw and animate artwork which looked very 2-dimensional. It was also made to be a tribute to both the pop-art movement, superhero comic books of the 60’s, as well as a parody to several Japanese anime stereotypes. That made it look special and unique in a way, even if there are several series that were made the same way, like South Park, Dexter’s Laboratory or Ying Yang Yo. It was still somewhat different from the typical cartoon, which packs a lot more animation, 3D effects and lip-synch.
PPGZ on the other hand looks way too typical. If you have watched several anime, you can easily see how average its animation is, with its jerky motions, frozen panels and repeating transformation clips. I’m pretty sure it costs more to create 3D effects and fluid animation but at the same time it looks far less captivating. It has no in-jokes to comic books and the anime jokes are not working that well, since mahou shoujo parodies are abundant in Japan but not in America.
I don’t blame studio Toei for animating it like this, since it follows their recipe of how to make a nice children’s show to the letter. It’s just that it was too safe to be given to them and not to, let’s say GAINAX or SHAFT, which would definitely have done a lot more experimenting and would have produced a far more uncommon result.
SOUND (PPGA: 8, PPGZ: 5)
In a somewhat similar fashion we have the music score and the voice acting. Although both versions have perky voices and funky beats, it is again the American version which brings out better the humorous feeling of the setting. The dialogues felt a lot more childish and stupid in the Japanese version, while the pop song opening is just preparing you to see a mediocrity.
STORY (PPGA: 3, PPGZ: 3)
Although both shows are based on short stand alone missions, it was the variety of the American version that made it look slightly better. It was at moments quite ingenious in what was going on with the scenario, dealing with some rather heavy to the mind ideas. For example, in the American version Mojo Jojo would create doomsday devises or hoards of ugly mutants would invade the city. In the Japanese version Mojo’s plans would be totally retarded and wouldn’t go further than stealing candies from little kids, while most monsters are way too silly looking. Then again it was PPGZ which had a sense of progress, as the story seems to have a loose plot that heads towards somewhere. That makes both cases to be equal, although the show was never serious and thus in need of an overall plot to begin with. In fact, it was the short 15 minute missions of PPGA that were going to fast to get tired, while the dragged to double or more duration of PPGZ was easier to be bored, without really being more complicating or captivating than the American version.
CHARACTERS (PPGA: 7, PPGZ: 3)
Here is were the most drastic changes were made and shows easier how far inferior this version is. Here is a quick reference:
PPGA: Created by a chemical accident, kids, very powerful, don’t need to transform in order to fight, hand to hand battles.
PPGZ: Given powers by accident, teenagers, not too powerful, need to transform in order to fight, using weapons in battles.
In all aspects, the original is better. Being created makes them feel not human and thus excuses their huge eyes and hardship in fitting with society. Being kids brings out their innocence and how easy it is to be tricked all the time. Being very powerful means that the villains would need to use cunningness in order to escape or win, making the story more intelligent. Not in need of transforming means that their powers are part of who they are and not some cheap gimmick anyone can easily steal or suppress. Fighting hand to hand means that they are not defined by their accessories and the story focuses more on their personalities.
The remake takes a whole different approach and makes the whole thing feel less special. Being normal girls who are given powers means that they are not any different than any other mahou shoujo show and takes away the unearthly feeling of their nature. Being teenagers means that they are now wasting a lot of time on hitting on boys or running away from them, becoming objects of lust and not of affection for their kind hearts and will to help their world. Being not very powerful means that the villains could use anything to escape or win, making the story less in need of strategy on the part of the bad guys (on the other hand the girls need to smarten up for the same reason but we don’t see that much since most villains are just idiots who steal candies from babies). In need of transforming and weapons means that their powers are gimmicks, just extras anyone can easily steal or suppress. Fighting with weapons means that they are mostly defined by their accessories and not their personalities.
If you think about it, the American version is using all the elements that made Superman very famous in his early career (in fact they are a parody of him). He was the first superhero to be born with powers and not from Earth and that alien feeling is what made him special when compared with others of his era. So ok, I like Batman more but remember that he was more of a silly clown during the 50’s (Adam West anyone?) and it was only after his new persona as the Dark Knight kicked in (which was closer to his original conception of the 30’s but oh well) that made him far more interesting. Superman’s interest as a character was a plus while he was so alien in origin and all the other heroes were blunt archetypes, but as soon as they all started to have darker sides to themselves (Watchmen anyone?) and Superman remained stuck to his usual self, they are now more interesting than him.
And here is where the remake failed. Making the girls more humane in nature without making them more humane in character. They feel equally silly as their American counterparts but way less interesting as characters… As well as more pedo-bait; I mean they are cute looking girls doing cosplay while looking at you all perky. I could never see the American looks of the girls as sexy with the silly way they were drawn (and don’t show me the fanfics because I have seen those as well; I find them disturbing and not sexy).
VALUE & ENJOYMENT (PPGA: 7, PPGZ: 1)
Bottom line, the original is special and unlike anything else ever made in America. You can’t confuse it with another cartoon, even other works the same team made. The remake on the other hand is carbon-copy of a thousand other similar shows; place it next to them and you might as well be looking for Waldo. At the same time, the humor worked just fine in the original because the combo of visuals, comic-book looks and anime parodies was unique, whereas the remake is one of the same old stuff we have been watching since Sailor Moon (and with even far less context than it). Thus PPGZ is a poorly made series that has nothing to offer to the fans of the original and hardly anything new to the natives of the Rising Sun.
AVERAGE SCORES: (PPGA: 6.5, PPGZ: 3)
p.s. American derived Madhouse works suck and Marvel trying to anime-ize its heroes sucks harder.
So I know what the first comments are going to be, it’s a Powerpuff Girls knockoff. And to that, I would say yes and no. This is a slightly different story as the girls were not created with sugar, spice, and everything nice with a toxic element, but were normal school girls given powers. Yes, they made the Powerpuff Girls into an actually magical girl story with secret identities and such. They even have a ‘transformation’ sequence as the girls turn into superheroes.
Let me go over the storyline, and just to let you know, I only saw the English one so if the Japanese is different (Thank god first off if it is) then I haven’t been able to see it. So, the story is that Professor Utonium and his young son Ken were playing around with chemical X, and ended up stabilizing it with a porkbun into chemical Z. When strange weather threatens the world, Ken is quick to shoot chemical Z into an iceberg even before testing it. This sends out black and white Z rays. The black ones hitting many different items and people to make them into ‘evil’ forms of themselves, and the white Z rays hit 3 girls who go to the same school but didn’t know each other really as they protected three kids playing games. These girls turn into the Powerpuff Girls and the creatures turned into their enemies.
This storyline brings up more questions then answers as why a porkbun ended up stabilizing a chemical in the first place, why the z rays turned into two different forms (Though they slightly give a answer to this, it doesn’t make much sense still), and just how the hell the girls got powers from what the children were playing with at the time. Let me explain, Bubbles got a weapon that was a Yoyo from a kid playing with one, Bubbles got a bubble wand from protecting a kid blowing bubbles…. And Buttercup got a hammer from a kid playing with a Daruma Otoshi. For those who have no idea what that is, it is a old game where you stack up pieces and try to knock them out of the tower from top to bottom without letting the pieces fall over. I guess they had to figure out some sort of attack for Buttercup.
So let’s see if there personalities make up for the strange storyline… Blossom’s personality is a really annoying and overly whinny. She isn’t like the cool leader in the original show and pretty much made her a nerd that’s into comics and superheroes. She just feels like they exaggerated the worst out of her. The Blossom I remember from the American version was a nerd but book smart, not an over dramatic Superhero lover. Bubbles is way too ditsy as though they took the idea of her being blond to a whole another level. At least with the American version she had the aspect of them being kindergarteners but it’s a different story when the characters are middle school level. Then it just feels like they should know better. Anyway, she grew up in a very traditional Japanese traditional household with her grandmother and a strict background though somehow she has become really into fashion. The only one that seems to be right is Buttercup in that she is the most tomboyish of the group, not really interested in the girly style. Want to know why Blossom and Bubbles wanted to be superheroes? Its not because of wanting to protect the city, its because they want to protect the store Blossom gets her snacks and Bubbles get her outfits… even the original girls were not that conceded. Though they end up wanting to protect everything else later on, they just still end up selfish with their bickering of who is the leader, the concept that when they are at the lab, they can do whatever they please and eat whatever they want, watch whatever they want and so on.
The other thing about this show is that there are a lot of odd transitions. Here is a example, Mojo Jojo is taking over New Townsville (Like it wouldn’t have just been as easy to call it Townsville? It has the same dopey mayor and Miss Bellum.) by throwing little preschoolers into a cage and stealing their candy and the Powerpuff Girls go to take him down. In the middle of the battle, the whole group stops, including the mayor and Miss Bellum who are watching the fight, just to have some ice cream. Talk about a face palm moment. I just feel like my brain is melting because of how stupid this show is half the time and yet I chose to take a look at it on my own. I was a big fan of the original but this show just makes me feel stupid. Can I mention that the story also revolves around them keeping their power a secret from everyone but the professor, his son, their talking dog (I’m not getting into that), the mayor, and Miss Bellum. They always have to make a excuse to leave the classroom, and instead of saying they have to save the world which these countless important people could clarify, the girls say they have a stomachache or they have heartburn of the brain or something even more stupid then that. I would think the teachers would actually tell them no after a while. If the mayor knows and appointed them as heroes, then the whole town should probably know including the school. Something like a mayor order that when people are in trouble, they can go save the day or something. Do we really need these lame excuses? It even goes as far as their teacher wanting to give them more homework because of it so that just seems to be doing the opposite of what they should do. There was even a episode where the principle said that if they left their test, they would be kicked out of school so the professor and his son had to end up saving the day… which the whole matter could probably have been taken care of if they actually told the school everything.
The artwork is actually rather good though very bubbly. Practically everything feels plastic and way to shinny. Actually, the whole anime feels like it’s made for small children and yet a couple of the jokes are ones children won’t understand. I just…. Ugg. It’s sad because the artwork looks so nice and fluid with bright colors, much like a comedy should. Even the outfits they wear have a bit more of a design to them instead of just a dress that looks like a moomoo that was so prevalent in the original. So why can’t they just have this artwork and keep to the well made script.
There are two opening that I listened to. The first being the England version that just sounds like they made a strange instrumental version of what they thought it should be. The other was a really good Japanese version that was really good. So good that I wonder why they didn’t keep it for the episodes. They played the Japanese in episode 21 but more on that later. The English script is so comedic that it’s hard to even understand what the hell is going on. The whole thing is just a big joke. There is just so much stuff crammed into one show that makes no sense. Sometimes there is a moral to the show but then other times they seem to just cram something in like ‘don’t eat to much candy’ or ‘sometimes its good to take a break’ but then they have nothing else about it. It’s just thrown in to be a lesson but it has no base for the whole show The voices are not that bad though, just slightly annoying. The ending songs seem to almost always be different for some reason which makes me wonder just why it is like that. The show isn’t that great that they could put that much more time into having each ending be different, I think I counted like 5 different endings they used. There are a lot of things they could have done to make it better and not waste money on the endings.
Now when I got to episode 21, there was a change to the soundtracks. They had the original Japanese opening, and a rather catchy transformation song that sounded so much better. I think the transformation song was Japanese because it had the Japanese pronunciations to their names. This was close to a godsend for me because it was better then what they had placed before. At least it was a little bit more bearable to watch. Sadly, this only happened for one episode and then they went back to stupidity, even going as far as calling Takoyaki a pastry puff. For crying out loud, the place that was making them had octopus on it. What Pastry Puff bakery would have an octopus on their sign? There are other cultural differences that just made this hurt to watch. It feels like it was mostly done by 4kids and not Catroon Network the way they re-dubbed it.
There was one point that I thought was going to save this anime. Episode 46 had a rather intense fight scene with the ‘leading’ enemy,HIM (though he really does not show up much and is normally easy to take out with just a bit of cold), and the girls learning more of how to fight with there weapons. Weapons they have had for the last 46 episodes mind you (and yes, I am counting the one they only had them for a brief time). They should have figured this out before hand but oh well, they wanted to put 46 episodes of filler into the show so by all means, don’t let me stop you. Anyway, they do a really good fight and just when I think they are going to take the show serious, we get the next episode where sadly, it feels like another filler! It is pretty much Mojo Jojo takes a holiday with the girl’s teacher, Miss Keane, who Mojo has a large crush on. Oh ya, I didn’t mention that in any this whole review, huh? That’s because it’s only touched like three times in the span of this show. Just like they only do one episode of where Mojo Jojo is ‘mother’ to the Rowdyruff Boys Z, the girl’s polar opposites. Then the boys vanish from sight till their next time they fight the girls. Every time you see Mojo’s ‘lair’ the boys are no where to be found so I have no clue where they live.
Overall, if you want something that numbs your brain, this might be for you but I know for sure, I didn’t like it. It felt like I was watching something that was for a much younger audience even if some of the jokes were more adult.