They’ve still got their mojo.
The Powerpuff Girls are back with a new series on April 4th — the first episode can be seen now for free via iTunes — and though there’s been some visual tweaks, a slightly different spin on the humor, and a new voice cast, it’s still a whole lot of fun. Whether you’re a youngin’ meeting the girls for the first time or a 20/30-something looking for some nostalgia, the showmakers have you covered. It doesn’t recapture that old magic to a tee, but rather channels the spirit of the original show while sprucing things up and re-tuning them for the sensibilities of 2016 animation.
In the debut episode “Man Up,” new villain Man-Boy — “all the power of a man in the body of a boy,” he touts while flexing his tiny, muscly arms — interrupts the Townsville Zen-aissance Fair because it isn’t manly enough, stomping on tents with his wooden robot and showing his manliness by ripping off his own beard only to will it to grow back full length because he’s just that manly. He can also form his beard into muscly arms and big weapons, because manliness. It’s Buttercup who rashly steps up to challenge the villain, and it becomes her episode as she tries to temper her aggression with the help of Guru Chillaxi in order to win the day.
What’s changed with the reboot? Well, Buttercup is still feisty and brazen, Blossom is still strong-minded and bossy, and Bubbles is still sugary sweet. Aside from minor additions to their hairdos, they look the same as before. Their powers got a nice visual invigoration, from their eye-blasts to their energy trails, so there’s a bit more oomph when they power up. The animation style is looser and more willing to bend reality than before, if only just a bit.
There’s plenty of humor to go around, banking off each member’s personality quirks and the ridiculous, testosterone-infused proclamations of Man-Boy. However, a few jokes struck me as more something you’d see on Adventure Time. Which isn’t to say that they were bad jokes or didn’t fit, but it does speak to the kind of style and appeal the new show is going for.
The biggest hurdle for returning fans to overcome will be the new voice cast. Each new Powerpuff Girl voice actor brings their A-game, evoking the personality of their character and landing all of the jokes with energy and levity. Being a returning viewer, it was hard to emotionally invest in these voices when the originals were so strong and memorable, iconic even. There was an adjustment period where my brain refused to accept anyone but Tara Strong as the voice of Bubbles, but by the end I was into the new generation.
While not a total re-imagining or anything of the sort, this reboot is still a departure from creator Craig McCracken’s original vision, shifting to a familiar but distinctly new vibe, so as great as the old voices were, one can find solace in the fact that they weren’t brought back and then changed to try to fit a new mold. Only time will tell if the new voices can endure like their predecessors, but as of now, they’re doing a super job.