An Animated Dissection: Thoughts on Star Vs The Forces of Evil
Let’s face it, a lot of animation that comes out of Japan has permeated into our culture, and caused many of us to look beyond the notable mainstays of our own native lands of North America, and what its animation landscape is (which in retrospect, is rather limited when it comes to certain realms of imagination).
One of the more popular tropes of Japanese Anime, has been the one dubbed “Magical Girl.” Oftentimes, this trope involves an otherworldly girl, who comes to Earth with magic powers or weapons, and a slew of strange and otherworldly instances or creatures, that seem intent on destroying her, or the Magical Girl’s new homeworld. This trope has been seen in the past, in such series as Sailor Moon, Urusei Yatsura, and Ah! My Goddess.
These series have often been thought of fondly by many, and have inspired many of today’s artists. If you saw or enjoyed these shows, you might find yourself surprised by the new DisneyXD series, Star Vs The Forces of Evil.
In the dimensional Kingdom of Mewni, teenage princess Star Butterfly, is finally of age to obtain her royal family’s prized wand…however, it doesn’t take long before her over-excited and bubbly nature, causes plenty of chaos (it doesn’t help that she also likes to fight monsters). Rather than do something productive and talk to their daughter, her parents decide to send her to Earth so she can “train,” but most likely an excuse to keep her out of their hair.
After enrolling her in a local school in Echo Creek (which I’m assuming is in California), Star is placed with the Diaz Family, whose son Marco is given the task of showing her around, and getting her acclimated to her new home(world).
Character-wise, I expected the worst from Star Butterfly, but the writers have actually managed to balance her out pretty well. While she can get over-excited at times, she doesn’t mean to be a bubbly force of destruction (most of the time). She has her little moments of quiet, as well as understanding if something doesn’t quite work out properly. Eden Sher’s vocals are definitely a little different than what I expected from the pictures of Star. Instead of being typically high, Eden’s voice hits at a mid-level, which took me a little while to warm up to. However, she definitely nails a lot of the little ‘manic’ and expressive moments for Star so well, that the voice started to grow on me.
The show writers also have fun regarding the different ways that Star calls up her attacks. They’re often randomly combined words that seem to unleash powers and abilities one wouldn’t consider (like “Syrup Tsunami Shockwave”). Of course, some she doesn’t pronounce properly, or understand their meanings…which can lead to funny scenarios with a little chaos thrown in. And just like a person from another country, there’s plenty of opportunities for verbal misunderstandings, that can lead to intriguing stories.
Marco Diaz serves as a fun counterpoint to Star. Though considered “the safe kid,” Marco is mainly a guy who likes order at times, but also seems to thirst for a little adventure…which he seems to have gotten in spades. I do like what Adam McArthur brings to Marco voice-wise. He really nails both the highs and lows of the character’s emotional moments.
Some of what has happened so far, reminds me of why I loved the anime/manga series, Urusei Yatsura. That series also had a magical girl (a green-haired, bikini-wearing alien princess named Lum), but one who, like Star, would often dabble in things that seemed a combination of magic, and Science Fiction. That’s definitely the case in a few scenarios I’ve seen so far. A great example are ‘dimensional scissors,’ which allows one to snip open a hole into other dimensions.
And much like Urusei, Star’s presence seems to definitely invite the weird and the strange to come forth, and change around Marco’s average little life…which definitely helps, as he seems more than ready to jump into some of the adventures Star drags him into.
Watching the show, the art style feels like a fan-crazed mashup of several different series, such as Sailor Moon, Ren & Stimpy, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, and The Powerpuff Girls (to name a few). Plus, what I thought would be cheaply-done animation, isn’t the case here. There’s some wonderful little bits of animation follow-through in some actions within the show, and some amazingly subtle little touches here and there. Those with an eye for such things I feel, will appreciate the little touches.
The show gets some high marks from me, on also not trying to push Star and Marco into ‘immediate couples territory.’ Both characters have other characters they have an interest in, and it is refreshing to see the two playing off each other in certain scenarios, as just being “friends.” As well, both are able to handle things pretty well on their own, with each fighting their own battles if need be (Marco knows karate). That ability for both Marco and Star to be on a level playing field, is also a great concept, and at times, reminded me a little of the adventures of Kim Possible, and Ron Stoppable.
The dynamic of the blonde-haired/blue-eyed girl being the “foreign particle” in the Diaz family is also a fun way of shaking up social norms. Luckily (so far), we haven’t had some crazy ex-government guy who wants to expose Star as some alien girl and take away her wand. My one hope is that the majority of future stories will continue to largely be accepting of Star, as if a girl with a magic-spewing wand is just an everyday thing. After all, that was often the norm in most anime series.
In regards to “The Forces of Evil” as mentioned in the show’s title, the series wastes no time in giving us the evilly diminutive bird-creature named Ludo, and his strange army of thuggish monsters. Maybe one day we’ll know just how Ludo set his sights on trying to take down Star, but for now, we’re just in-the-know that he mainly wants her family wand for his own nefarious purposes.
Of course, what would an adventuresome romp through dimensions and monster fights be, without some catchy music? Composer Brian H Kim is the main music man on the series, and he infuses the episodes with the kind of action-packed, yet emotional music that is sure to hit just the right spot for anime-soundtrack lovers. Brian has even posted musical cues from the show on his Tumblr site, which allows one to really hear how he tends to give each episode its own unique flavor.
As of the writing of this blog posting, only 4 episodes have been release for Star Vs The Forces of Evil. However, the storylines and structure have me eager to see just where they can take the series.
As well, most shows these days either run a full 22 minutes, or are split up into two 11-minute segments. Star is a show that has gone the 11-minute route, and manages to handle fitting its stories into these time allotments quite well. Some shows feel severely truncated when placed in these time restrictions, but this show manages to get in and get out with plenty of time to spare regarding some of the story plots. One has to wonder if in the future, maybe some stories will get bigger, and require a full 22-minutes.
With word that a second season has already been approved, I may find myself reviewing Season 1 overall when the dust has settled. Given how the series has been received so far, it’s possible it could be a huge hit for Disney, on the same level as Gravity Falls.
Final Grade: B+
Final Thoughts: Star Vs The Forces of Evil is just wild and weird enough to be a new series that can play by its own rules, though not quite as much of an open playing field as Adventure Time.The main characters are definitely likable, and play off of each other quite well, with stories that can take place with Star and Marco working together, or on differing storylines. As well, the worlds and concepts provide plenty of opportunities for visiting new worlds, or for having some of Star’s interplanetary friends drop by. As outlined in the paragraphs above, I also feel it hits that sweet spot for those who love anime and manga.