Thursday, October 27, 2011

She-Ra: Princess of Power

She-Ra: Princess of Power; animated fantasy adventure series, USA, 1985-1987; D: Bill Reed, Lou Kachivas, Richard Trueblood, Ed Friedman, Tom Tataranowicz, S: Melendy Britt, George DiCenzo, John Erwin, Linda Gary, Alan Oppenheimer, Lou Scheimer

Former member of the Horde, Adora switched to the side of the rebellion that is trying to rid the planet Etheria from the autocratic rule of Hordak and his troops in order to restore freedom for the people. She is aided by Bow, Glimmer, Madame Razz, Kowl and others. Likewise, she can transform into She-Ra, a heroine with super strength. Their clash sometimes overlaps when Skeletor and He-Man visit their world and also choose their sides.

A feminist follow-up to "He-Man" and an American forerunner to "Sailor Moon" and other editions of the 'magical girl' genre, "She-Ra" is one of those mainstream animated shows that erred in some areas - the dialogues and situations tend to seem unnatural at times, the character development is thin whereas the sole story doesn't have an ending (the final episode, "Swift-Wind's Baby", does not conclude the outcome of the fight between the Horde and the rebellion) probably because the authors intended to make episodes indefinitely, which gives it a feeling of unfinished business - yet it is easily watchable and interesting even today, which means that the authors obviously did something right. Despite a weaker popularity, "She-Ra" is actually a better show than "He-Man" since it has twice as many good episodes and a higher budget, which gave the animation fluency: as in the aforementioned show, the drawings reach almost rotoscopic quality at times, yet feel stiff because some movements are over-recycled.

"She-Ra" is indeed not a classic of animation, yet it is refreshing and sweet: the crossover episodes involving He-Man and/or Skeletor visiting Etheria are almost always twice as fun whereas the sole transformations of Hordak's arm into a cannon or even his whole body into a rocket, a tank etc. are stylistically pleasant, giving authors room for some highly creative enterprises. For instance, isn't the episode "Of Shadows and Skulls" where Hordak transforms his arm into a drilling rig and causes a rift which captures Skeletor an excellent example of mise-en-scene? Or She-Ra's elaborated fight with Hordak who transforms multiple times in "A Loss for Words"? Some episodes, on the other hand, are boringly formulaic, and generally the stories achieve the most when She-Ra is not performing "cartoonishly impossible" things (such as simply whirling to dig out a tunnel underground) but is actually challenged and when the Horde is actually menacing. Unfortunately, unlike Usagi Tsukino, we do not find out much about the heroine except for the fact that she is kind: one of the rare examples of character development is only truly found in two episodes, when Adora locks herself up in the prison so that her beloved Sea-Hawk can "save her" and in the smashing "Sweet-Bees Home", the best and only truly romantic episode of the show where characters' faces were animated entirely alive, which payed out when He-Man made his only grimace in the entire two shows when Frosta tried to seduce him! Story editor J. Michael Straczynski should again be given credit for his effort. "She-Ra" never reaches the grace of the movie it originated from, Filmation's magnum opus "The Secret of the Sword", but even her flaws somehow give it charm.


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