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Miraculous Ladybug
by yo go re

Spots on!

Une Ladybug, porte-bonheur, Lady magique et Lady chance! Une Ladybug, Lady du coeur, Être héroïque en cas d'urgence!

I can't recommend Miraculous Ladybug enough. The first episode feels like you walked in on the middle of Season 14: there are the opening credits, which give the barest of setups ("teen girl has a secret identity") and then the story just cannonballs into the deep end. No one is introduced, nothing is explained... you're left to figure it out for yourself. People's relationships and motivations? How powers work? Why there's an evil butterfly apiary? No time, just gotta keep watching and pick up on the context as you go! You get far enough in to accept the established rules, and then the show drops the lore on you, and you realize the characters have been just as lost as you were.

There was a Ladybug toyline from Bandai several years ago, but that was before I got into the show, so I didn't pay it any attention. FOOL! Now Playmates has the license, but no US chains seem to be carrying the line - you can find the dolls, but the action figures are seemingly nowhere to be seen. Does nobody remember the lessons of DC Superhero Girls? Both the Bandai and Playmates figures go for above retail on the secondary market (sometimes way above), so they seemed out of my reach. I mean, I like the show, but not "give scalpers money they don't deserve" like it. Thus, I was elated when I found these budget versions at Five Below!

Ladybug is a CG cartoon, and Playmates had access to those files when they started working on their toys. The fashion dolls don't have great likenesses, because it's hard for rooted hair to achieve that perfect shape, but a plastic toy doesn't have the same issue. The blue hair is the only flaw here: it's meant to be highlights on black, which I guess would have been too difficult for a toy like this to do? Still looks kind of weird, and may need to be customized.

Playmates' figures are slightly smaller than Bandai's were: 5" vs. 5½". The idea was probably to set themselves apart (just like Todd McFarlane did by over-sizing all his recent stuff), but considering how hard it was to find the Bandai ones and how many previously unmade characters they're doing, it would have been fine to make the collections integratable. Of course, Ladybug is officially 1.5 meters tall, which translates to being about 4'11" - so technically this figure would be in a 6" scale? She'll look a bit small next to Marvel Legends, since they're always a little larger than they should be, but she is only 14, wo why shouldn't she be little?

One of the advantages of doing the cartoon as computer animation rather than traditional is her costume: when Disney did 101 Dalmatians, they famously turned to Xerox to help keep all the dogs' spots consistent; since Ladybug's costume is similarly covered in black dots, drawing her in action scenes would have been a pain. This toy depicts Ladybug's first costume, which was just a red bodysuit with black spots all over, and a black collar. Oddly, the figure's right foot has a black sole, but her left is red. Why? Good question.

Since this is a budget release, it doesn't include any of the accessories the normal figure would: a beetle-winged backpack and her magic yo-yo. The wings aren't missed much, but the yo-yo is: it's her signature weapon, so not including it here would be like making a Green Lantern without his ring. [Maybe best not to mention Green Lantern in any context involving a 14-year-old girl? --ed.] Playmates has gone the super-articulated route for this line, though, so Ladybug has a swivel neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, the smallest double-hinged elbows we've ever seen, a swivel waist, balljointed hips, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. It's pretty good, though adding any kind of wrists at all would be the first suggestion we'd make. Still, she's plenty poseable and acrobatic, and this is definitely above average for this kind of toy.

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir looks like a pointless "monster of the week" kiddie show... mainly because it is. At least, at the start. It uses repetition and formula to draw you in and lull you, before switching things up like a Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope. It's a hard show to get into because of that, because the repetition is part of the point, so you can't even tell someone "oh, just skip these episodes" or "start watching it here" and point them at the good stuff, because it's all good stuff, even the bad stuff. Season 1 starts out like one of those Nickelodeon-type shows that's designed for seamless syndication (nothing can permanently change, there are no ongoing arcs, and you're not allowed to reference the end of the show so reruns can go on forever), and then the most recent season (S4) ended with a finale that's bleak and emotionally affecting on the level of Empire Strikes Back or Infinity War. There was no big tone shift, it's been an intentional slide in that direction from the beginning. The show's great, and you should watch it. And you should do it sooner rather than later, because you don't want to get hooked after the toys disappear. Again.

-- 07/14/22

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