Archivals #1: A W.I.T.C.H. Retrospective

(Welcome to the first true Archival entry.  This one will cover several entries, with new commentary being provided, as per tradition, in colored italics.)

Disney's W.I.T.C.H. was a series that I had an odd relationship with - I liked the concept & designs more than the execution, and the TV adaptation proved to be as uneven a mixed bag as the source material, just in different ways.  I still have a weird fondness for the series, even if it's no longer available in English anywhere (heck, the English publications from the Phillipines stopped mid-story arc).  Maybe it's because I really, really wanted a big company like Disney to prove that magical girls can be done for our market; after all, it's still going strong in its native Italy, and they're second to Japan as far as loving the genre.  With that, I present three musings on W.I.T.C.H. & my relationship with the franchise before Disney decided to leave it in Europe for good.

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(Original date: 5/31/2006)

I've been thinking about WITCH lately, because in a little over a week, its second season will begin on ABC Family. And be cut off mid-story because Disney wants to ghetto-ize its animation as much as CN does. But that's neither here nor there.  Huh.  Kind of funny to see my jadedness with Cartoon Network going back this far.  When did Snyder take over & decide to ruin it, anyway?

I've heard rumors of a new opening, but so far, all I've found on YouTube is the European first season opening. It's good, but apparently, the second season has a different theme song.  And that second theme song was hella awesome... so they immediately replaced it after five episodes with the old one.  It'll probably have the characters for the storyline, too. Same goes with promos - I haven't been able to find a single one online, and I'm curious about the character designs for the old Guardians. Especially Nerissa - she's gotta look good to make this work, dammit.  If I had to pick a favorite storyline from the series, it would be the Return of Nerissa; the comic story fleshed out the series' backstory, while the TV version showed that they could still do sympathetic villains despite what the first season indicated.  Obviously, this was before Disney locked up the real Greg Weisman and replaced him with the LMD that's doing Young Justice.

Of course, this got me thinking - why do I like WITCH? More often than not, the comics frustrate the hell out of me, and if the second season wasn't following the series' best storyline & helmed by a talented writer, I'd expect it to be as violently hit-or-miss as the first.  The first season showed that, for every good idea or character revamp, they introduced an equally bad idea or revamp.  For example, Will was no longer as whiny & Caleb actually had a personality, but in return, Cornelia became a thoroughly unlikable bitch & Elyon became an irritating dumbass.  The second season, sadly, continued this by fleshing out the Old Guardians & Nerissa but giving us stupid stuff like the Hearts of many dimensions (one of which was held by Cornelia's kid sister) & Matt as action hero sidekick.  Aggravating.  I think I'm with Ryan - it's more that I like the concept than the actual execution. There's some neat mythology there, but too often the main heroes are just, well, annoying. They act like real thirteen year olds, but dammit, thirteen year olds are a pain in the neck. It's something I like but desperately wish would live up to its larger potential.  Judging from the synopsese on the Wiki for the Italy-only storylines, that was never fully realized.  W.I.T.C.H. remains, sadly, a nicely designed mess that should've been better than it was.

And I've decided that, if I muster the nerve to ask an artist for a commission picture on Saturday, I'm getting Will or younger Nerissa. 

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(Original date: 8/26/2006)

Technically, tomorrow is the last episode of WITCH on ABC Family, but since it's a comic relief episode, I'm not counting it. This was the backstory and advancement episode. It's much more significant, and I'll bet ten bucks that it's better overall. But there was one development that left me wanting to know more and angry I probably can't get an answer without resorting to bootlegs sometime next spring.  Yeah, I don't do bootlegs.  The bootleg scene has lost what honor it had, and no, I'm serious.  Besides, Disney holds W.I.T.C.H. in such low regard that the TV series is all over Youtube.  I'm really surprised but glad it's still out there.

I've always loved Nerissa. She struck me as intriguing. Even though the comics portrayed her as simply evil and power mad, there had to be some good in her to justify the choice of her as a Guardian. I was always curious what it was that made her so blindly power mad and disappointed that there was never an answer or at least an added wrinkle to suggest it wasn't always so.

But the TV show has humanized Nerissa with two simple scenes, and despite its many, many flaws, I will love it for doing that. In the first scene, the flashback to Old Guardians' youth, you see the confrontation between Nerissa and Cassidy; immediately after firing a fatal blast of energy at her teammate, Nerissa looks devastated. In the comics, she looked wicked and grimly determined. Here, she looks pathetically in over her head, having done something she never thought she could or wanted to do. 

At the end, as Yan Lin and Halinor confront her, she lashes out at them for mentioning Cassidy's death. Her usual over confident, vicious smirk is replaced with a look of wounded rage. Her line: "You can never know what she (Cassidy) meant to me!" Then she flees, even though a victory for her would have been assured. I don't know about you, but to me it suggests Nerissa felt guilt and it was still eating at her. 

In the comics, she hated Cassidy for 'stealing' her power and thought nothing of killing her. In the TV show, she never intended the death of her friend and tries to conceal her guilt. One of the greatest flaws in the comics was its tendency to have one-note, one-side villains; the TV show now looks to be trying to correct this, casting a vicious, conniving fallen Guardian as a once sympathetic figure. The possibilities are ripe to flesh out their background even better in this continuity, and I would love to do it see it done well. Yes, here's why I'm fascinated by Nerissa.  The TV show made her more awesome & tragic, which was probably what it did best.

(Note: I have only seen one story that attempts to tell the story of the Old Guardians from the comics' perspective. My thoughts? It inspired a rant about knowing your time period on Fanficrants back when they were tolerable, and I'm gonna MST it.And I did. The end result was typo-tastic, but I think there's a couple good lines in there.  We'll be finishing up this retrospective with the rant itself, in case you're not a MST reader.

About the only disappointment with the Old Guardians on TV is that, while Kadma is mentioned, she's not seen in the flashbacks and hasn't been mentioned as still on Earth or otherwise.  An LJ friend was good enough to point out that, yes, Kadma was actually in the flashbacks.  Also, despite Wikipedia's claims, they still haven't confirmed what Cassidy and Halinor's elements were. That still bugs the hell out of me.  One of the more irritating fan theories was that each of the Old Guardians matched up to whoever they most visually resembled as far as powers (Kadma & Taranee were both "the ethnic ones", so they both had Fire; Halinor & Cornelia were blondes, so they both had Earth; etc.).  Even in the works that made it stateside, this was disproven, since the meetings with Kadma established that she was the Earth Guardian.  The show finally confirmed that Cassidy was the Water Guardian & Halinor the Fire Guardian, so even if it slogging through the Hearts of Many Dimensions & Nerissa being Caleb's mother, it was worth it just to finally have one of the comic's plotholes filled.

I realize that people won't believe me, that they hate the TV show for changing the comics continuity and starting out so weak, like so much of Disney's current TV animation. But they've finally hit their stride, and they've improved on the source material with this tweak to an underdeveloped character. It makes me happy to see someone recognized that there had to be more to Nerissa than standard cackling evilness.  They only kept the stride going when the Old Guardians (nicknamed C.H.Y.K.N. by Hay Lin) were on screen; once Cornelia's cat started talking & Halinor turned up alive in another dimension & Matt's ferret turned into a mighty werewolf hero-thing, it just kept tripping.  Such a massive waste of potential!

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(Original date: 4/24/08)

Prepare to get meta with our italic commentaries, since this is a reprint of a reprint.  I'll be highlighting the old commentary in another color for ease of reading.

I originally wrote this two and a half years ago for Fanficrants. I wound up leaving that group because for every helpful or funny rant, there was just another "OMG (insert character here) wouldn't act that way!!1!". That really goes without saying for most fanfics, and pointing it out constantly is not only irritating but makes you look like an 'any excuse to whine' sort. Also, it went in cycles where one fandom would really dominate, and I had left because everyone ignored the mods' requests to take all Kingdom Hearts related rants over to a specialized community. That, and since they usually got about a dozen or two entries a day, it was eating my friends page alive. Still, I wrote one thing of value for it, so here it is. 

This is a three-pronged rant for Disney's WITCH series. Keep in mind that I'm mostly familiar with the comics & books, although a good size of that info could easily be applied to the TV series. I anticipated a whole new wave of crapfic because of the TV series, but Jetix opted to bury it because it didn't look like hastily-drawn Flash-based crap. So in that sense, I was spared. There's still plenty of crapfic to be had derived from the books, though.

First off, your amazing new Guardian cannot have the powers of all of the others. This - the five powers in one person - is the condition that would serve to free Nerissa from her prison in Mt. Thanos. Don't say you don't/won't/can't know this, since it's in the currently-available books. It won't kill you to read for a change, especially something as simple as this. Of course, if you're gonna think this is a good idea in the first place, you might as well put a big blinking sign on your story's summary that says 'MARY SUE'. In the comments for this post, others & I expanded on 'elements' that wouldn't make any sense. I've seen Lightning, Gravity, Music, Flowers, and Ice - all of which are covered by Will, possibly Will & Hay Lin, Hay Lin, Cornelia, and possibly Irma & Hay Lin. Looks like Taranee alone is spared a hanger-on quasi-clone, but since Taranee in general is ignored as 'the ethnic one' in fanfics, I'm not surprised.

Second, stop assigning the Old Guardians powers based on whom of the current Guardians they physically resemble the most. It's confirmed in both the books and the comics that only three have had their power revealed: Yan Lin controls Air like her granddaughter Hay Lin, Nerissa held the Heart, and Kadma controls Earth. This is said in dialogue in the body of the story. Only Halinor and Cassidy aren't clearly assigned powers. So please stop deciding that since Halinor and Cornelia are both blondes that they must both have Earth powers or that since Kadma and Taranee are both darker skinned they must both control Fire. This also goes for personality; even if you think Cassidy looks like Irma, there's really only a need for one attention-seeking joker. Either one is just plain shallow and shows a certain amount of laziness. Thanks to the TV show, I have just adopted that Halinor was the Fire guardian and Cassidy was the Water guardian, since it filled in this blank nicely. Same goes for adopting personalities, since only Yan & Kadma got any development; I really liked that Halinor was something of a coward, and it hindered her skills as a guardian.

Finally, if you're gonna tell the Old Guardians' story, remember that they were active at least 35-40 years ago, and odds are that their 'origin' story didn't exactly parallel the first book/issue, what with a kindly elder handing the Heart over its bearer and so on. So there's no cell phones, none of your favorite bands, and no cable TV. If Nerissa's TV is gonna talk to her, it's gonna tell her to jiggle the rabbit ears. Ask your folks or grandfolks about it, if you really care. After all, the only one of them who had a family is a grandmother. Remember this section - within the next month, I'll be linking back to this, and I don't want to completely repeat myself.

Thanks for your time on the Amazing Electric Internet. I didn't know how to end this. Sorry.

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Like I said, I wish W.I.T.C.H. had been better.  I wish it hadn't wasted time with dull romances where the leading men had next to no personality; I wish the heroines were better & less whiny; I wish the TV series had been more consistent & didn't have the stench of executive meddling in every other episode.  It really should've been good enough to break the magical girl genre into the mainstream, but between its built-in mediocrity & some of Disney's bizarre business choices (like those awful comic/prose hybrid books that satisfied on neither front), it was not to be.  I will always have fondness for W.I.T.C.H. because, if it just had a bit more work behind it, it would've been a real contender.  Sigh.  "What If"s are always strangely hollow.

Comments

  1. Oh, this is such weird timing! I was actually thinking about the comics just the other day - unless I'm remembering this incorrectly, one of the later story arcs (that never got an English release) was about the Elements themselves judging the Guardians' worth as heroes or something like that? Sounds potentially cheesy, but I would've liked to read it just the same.

    Anyway, I agree with all of your points completely. Should've been more of a "big thing," but it's very easy to see why it wasn't. Sigh.

    Hey, have you seen the first two episodes of The Legend of Korra yet?

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  2. I think I remember that story arc; it was right before the last one they translated into English (which was also when they finally got power-ups, making them the slowest sentai team ever in that department). The fiftieth issue was the last one I really enjoyed, since (if I remember correctly) it explored what if the group had never met & a possible future for them as well that was, in a comic rarity, pretty positive. WITCH had a lot of good points at times, so it was a shame to see it squandered.

    And yes, not only did I watch Korra when it aired but also this morning. AMAZING. Korra herself is the heroine I want to be able to write - flawed but very likable & admirable. And I love the setting, too, and the use of big band-style music. I cannot wait for next week's episode. I really can't put how much I enjoyed it into words without repeating myself stupidly. If this show doesn't get the same amazing ratings as its predecessor just because it's headed by a heroine, then the audience is beyond hope.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't wanna count any chickens, but check this out.

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  4. That quote fills me with indescribable happiness, and I am NOT kidding. That's really all I want to see.

    ReplyDelete

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