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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).
While watching this series, I couldn't stop thinking about Totally Spies, despite the two being very different shows. Perhaps a comparison will bring to light why one of these shows is good, while the other one sucks. Both are shows about a team of teenaged girls who kick ass and save the world on a regular basis. However, that does not make Totally Spies a feminist show: its main characters are airheaded bimbos obsessed with fashion and boys and have all the personality of a cardboard cutout. They may kick ass, but they do not transcend stereotypes.
This is where WITCH succeeds: credible heroines who break stereotypes. Boys? Oh yes, four out of the five girls eventually acquire a boyfriend, but they never become the center of their lives. Fashion? Doesn't come up very often. Personality? You bet. It must be admitted that the series takes a while to find its feet - arguably the entire first season, because the second season sees a noticeable increase in quality, when a new villain with fiendish plans is introduced. However, that doesn't mean that the first season can't be enjoyed, just that season two is so much better.
Any downsides? Well, I wasn't overly fond of the school scenes, especially when the bullies were involved. But that's really all I can think of. Alright, and I didn't care a lot for Blunk. As for the rest, this is a fun and genuinely feminist slice of fantasy. It's just a shame I've never been able to get my hands on the original comic books.
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