For better or worse anime/manga have influenced western comics and animation. Now that the people who grew up with it are creating work, it shows. The Disney XD cartoon Star Vs the Forces of Evil in particular is very clearly influenced by the Magical Girl genre, most notably Sailor Moon. Now, to be perfectly honest I never watched much Sailor Moon growing up, not necessarily due to a lack of interest, but rather access/understanding. I’d seen Mew Mew Power (which is kind of a cheap knockoff to be honest), W.i.t.c.h (an Italian work that was a book I’d read first), Card Captor Sakura, and a few other miscellaneous shows in the genre. I also recently saw an interesting article about some of the more problematic aspects of the genre and how it treats femininity and possible pedophilic consequences due to questionable creators. Fun stuff right?
The aforementioned Magical Girls
Luckily for all it’s influence on the show, Star Vs. the Forces of Evil does not have those issues. Star doesn’t represent an idealized version of girlhood/womanhood (her ultimate form is literally a butterfly), and male characters like Marco are totally fine with being mistaken for a princess. I would actually argue that it does a great job at paying homage to the genre whie telling it’s own story. As I mentioned when I recommended the show a while back, the cartoon starts off rather silly and I didn’t anticipate that there’d be a more serious story underneath. Star Butterfly is a princess from another dimension who came to earth to get a better grip on her powers and learn new things, pretty standard set up for shenanigans. Her wand is a source of conflict because monsters from her world are after it’s power. At first this is seemingly because they are evil and power hungry, however after the episode Mewnipendance Day (in season one) we learn that the age old ‘history is told by the conquerors’ adage holds true. Star’s people took the land from the monsters and now years later that conflict still holds.
This to me is how Star sets itself apart from the magical girl schtick, because the black and white good versus evil trope is completely thrown out the window. That’s not to say the colonizer/native conflict is unique to America, however the fact that the show goes there when it could’ve just been about Star’s antics on earth gives it more depth. It also makes you question just what the ‘forces of evil’ are in a way that I think many western media has tried to do, but hasn’t captured all the nuances completely. It’s one thing to sympathize with the villain in your story and for them to have an extremely understandable motive, but it’s another thing entirely when your villain really may not be one at all.
The fact that the show recognizes this and decides to deal with the fallout is why (especially now that Gravity Falls is over) Star is becoming one of my new favorite cartoons. No spoilers from the newest movie/season three opener, but it’s setting up for a lot more fallout and reactions to everything that happened in the second season and I’m very curious to see where it goes. To quote the theme song, “it’s going to get a little weird…”
Now of course the show isn’t perfect and I don’t like to just gush without some critique. Considering the plot (and it’s influences) Star being blonde and blue eyed to me works, however it would be nice if there were Asian characters of importance on the show. The only one that comes to mind is the popular girl who has kind of been eased out of the spotlight. Magical Girls definitely helped some Asian girls see themselves as heroes and that matters too. I’d also love to hear what they have to say about shows like Star Vs. the Forces of Evil (feel free to comment). As usual stay informed, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you Friday 😉
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