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It is said that most stereotypes have at least a grain of truth to them, and cartoons are certainly no exception. Widely panned as being purely a children's medium, far too many seem to have fully embraced the label. Poor plot setup and pacing, inconsistent characterization, hackneyed dialogue, cheap and lazy animation, and even cliched music of all things - these are but a sample of the symptoms of the common adage, "kids will watch anything".
But imagine if a Western animated series made a strict commitment to continuity, where even the occasional "filler" episode carries important plot details. Imagine if a cartoon made a similar commitment to strictly avoid deus ex machinas, and consistently foreshadowed critical twists throughout.
Imagine a show filled to the brim with clever dialogue, even to the point that much of it must be fought over by the screenwriters because executives think it will go over kids' heads. Imagine a series full of humor but without so much as a hint of feeling forced, and having characters be almost too intelligent for adults let alone children, yet still so realistic they almost seem real.
Imagine if such a show presented characters - even multiple female leads - with genuinely diverse personalities, yet not one of whom filled a stereotypical cartoon role (except in lazy summaries). Imagine if it had all the characters who were stated to be friends actually be just that, truly always there for each other without even needing to say it explicitly (including to the audience!), with potentially hurtful comments quickly shut down by the rest of the group - and when the extremely rare rift does develop between them it only ever does so with very good reason, to the point that even the audience feels the emotional pain of fraying fictional friendships.
Imagine if a Western animated series presented not 1, not 2, not 3, but as many as 4 genuine, incredibly healthy romantic relationships, in all of which both characters are fully rounded individuals, even those with relatively little screen time, and in all of which it is crystal clear that both parties truly want to be in them. Imagine if said show went so far as to not just show said relationships from a female perspective, but actually have female characters take most of the initiative.
Imagine if a show like this went above and beyond expectations even on a production level, and decided to imitate high-quality anime in its art design and animation techniques, and surpass most movies (to say nothing of TV) with its soundtrack.
Now imagine if a series that did all of the above actually existed... but was virtually unknown in the English-speaking world due to horrible distribution and marketing, widely despised in the rest of the West just for daring to be slightly different from its source material, and only somewhat popular in central and eastern Europe (one of the few parts of the world that had nothing to do with its production, as irony would have it).
WITCH is definitely in my Top 10 Shows list.
And thank you for this review. I believe the show is also rather criminally underrated as well.
The difference in adaptations doesn't hinder the show in the first season. Rather, it gives it its own identity separate but still respectful to the comics.
And even if it might not be able to match the comics quality-wise overall in the first season, the second season by far blows away all the comic issues.
And yes, this show raised the bar for Western Animation in the 2000s.
It may or may not match shows like Transformers Animated and Avatar The Last Airbender — but given that WITCH came out before them, that's all the more reason for people to give WITCH credit for paving the way.
I personally do think that WITCH is Disney's A:TLA.
(Out of curiosity, mate, how do you personally compare the two?)
Thank you for commenting! Given that the review title calls it the magnum opus, it should be pretty obvious that no other cartoon measures up IMO. Now, I didn't want to specifically criticize other shows in the review itself, but since you ask... Avatar actually used to be my #1 cartoon for many years. Then, everything changed when I found this show - well not everything, but it slid to a distant #2. Thing is, and it may come as a shock to many ATLA fans: W.I.T.C.H. is Avatar: The Last Airbender done better in just about every way. In fact, if you go through this review carefully you should see that just about every single point is based on a comparison with ATLA without actually naming the show!
That's because virtually everything that I've listed here that W.I.T.C.H. gets so right is a common criticism of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Whether it's the plot, characterization, relationships, dialogue, humor, or even animation - you'll find plenty of well-justified critique of ATLA on these fronts out there, though you'll have to sift through the posts by the legions of undiscerning fans. The only significant exception is the music, as Avatar's seems to be universally praised... and while that's for good reason, the soundtrack of this series - including the Background Music, original theme, and songs in the show - is some of the best music I've ever heard anywhere at all, not just in cartoons! And that's to say nothing of the aspects I didn't get around to in this space-limited review, like the setting (mainly World Building in shows like these) or voice acting. Suffice it to say that W.I.T.C.H. clearly beats Avatar: The Last Airbender in those areas as well.
If that's one of, if not the major point, that WITCH beats A:TLA for you, I'd happily agree.
In fact, that's why A:TLA is also a (distant) number two in my own Top 10, behind TFA.
While I definitely can get invested in the Gaang's friendship, there are times when I think that they're a bit too mean-spirited to each other (all of them are guilty of this from time to time, in fact — no exceptions).
WITCH and TFA, on the other hand, keep the meaner antics of their friendship groups in more order. So I can definitely see your point and praise there!
Much as I hate to admit it, given that A:TLA has all my OTPs in one place, you're right. WITCH is the only one to portray a healthy romantic relationship (several ones in fact) from both a male and female perspective equally.
While A:TLA also has healthy romantic relationships, we mainly see it through the boys' eyes.
What is TFA?
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