Terrible TV Time #2: They Were the Winx

I think I've said it before, but here it is again - if you're a fan of the magical girl genre and live in North America, you are largely screwed.  The good stuff rarely ever comes here, when it does it's either online only or hyper-overpriced if you like to watch TV shows on an actual TV (*coughMadokacough*), or only experienced via illegal, malware laden avenues.  And what you usually get is... not that good.  The leading example of this problem is the Italian-made genre entry, Winx Club.

I've watched this show every season it's come out.  I like it, like so many other series, for the potential to be much better than it actually is that its owners are more than happy to leave unfulfilled.  4Kids brought it over, and while it was okay, it was never a stand-out.  People tried to blame their notorious editing practices on the plot-hole-tastic nature of the final season they aired (the third one).  But then Nick picked it up after a few years in limbo, retranslated it so it was closer to the original Italian stories, and proved that, no, you really couldn't blame 4Kids for the quality issues.  Winx genuinely wasn't that good.  Nick made improvements, to be sure - the biggest being some of the new voices, especially Flora (4Kids' Flora always sounded like she was trying too hard to sound nice & came off as condescending, while Nick's Flora seemed more naturally nice & authentic, possibly because all of the girls' voices were mined from their young sitcom actresses).  But no, those plot holes were always there, those bad romances were always there, those dropped story threads were always there.

It seems, with this weekend and the debut of the (very good) new TMNT series, Nick has a new "hero" show on their list, and they can safely drop Winx.  And frankly, I can more than understand why.

In keeping with Mela tradition, we have topic breakdowns as to why I really can't blame Nick for dropping Winx Club.  Some are from this last micro-season, some are from the series as a whole, but it's one of those things where you think a bit & it all piles up.

Reason #1: Forever Boyfriend-itis:  Every Western-produced magical girl series I've seen has suffered from a plot disease I call "Forever Boyfriend-itis"; namely, every girl has her designated love interest, they meet early on, and the only complications we get are usually forced love triangles or soap opera twists.  W.I.T.C.H. in the comics was horrible for this, although the writer eventually starting moving away from it bit by bit.  I've only seen one Japanese entry with it, Yes! Precure 5 Go Go!, but even there, one girl got to stay happily single and one wound up finding her Forever Girlfriend.  It unfortunately sends the message not that romance is part of life but that romance is part of a girl's life to the point that they should feel incomplete without it; also, given the reliance on forced love triangles, it also sends the message that co-ed friendship is not possible and any friend of the opposite sex has designs on your man, despite all evidence to the contrary.  Winx Club did this from the very beginning, and it doesn't look like it's ever about to let up.  This latest season has given our main couple a straight-out-of-sixties-soaps amnesia plotline and one girl being jealous of her Forever Boyfriend's childhood friend.  Last season, we had one guy getting upset that his girlfriend was spending more time with her music producer than him.  Before that, the happily single girl resisting an arranged marriage was first perfectly okay with a stalker, then okay with the arranged marriage because her stalker was the guy in the deal; they were sickeningly co-dependent, and his death felt like a relief instead of a tragedy.  These aren't good romances at all - they're tired, they're distracting, they feel like throwbacks to the days before Women's Lib in their execution, and they weaken every character involved.  Yet Winx is content to run on these instead of ever trying to improve.

Reason #2: The Reoccuring Villain Dilemma:  I've seen this other places, but for some reason, animation can't keep a reoccuring villain from being a reasonable threat because they're (a) afraid to take them off the table for long and (b) determine to get that "the hero wins" ending.  So as a result, the villains who keep coming back again & again feel weakened and unnecessary as the series progresses.  (For the record, going too far in the opposite direction and having a baddie who wins every time even if the heroes don't know it can breed the same kind of audience apathy through a sense of pervading hopelessness; I'm sure this is one of the reason people bailed on Secret Saturdays, where even what the heroes had for dinner somehow played into Argost's plans).  As much as I'm tempted to call this The Vilgax Principle, I think The Trix Principle fits better.  First season - they damn near win if not for Bloom's eleventh hour power boost; second season, they're minions of a new baddie who had to rely on him to get a power boost that ultimately proves futile; third season, same as second only with added catfighting over him as a love interest.  They were set aside for the fourth season, but the Wizards of the Black Circle became inexplicably nerfed midway through themselves.  So now the Trix are bad, they're minions again, they (or at least the leader Icy) are smitten with their new boss again, they rely on him for power boosting again, and they seem to have no motivation other than "we're villains" when they at least had a decent reason in their earlier appearances.  In the episode Nick chose to air for the season 5 premiere, the Trix want to keep a kid from planting a special flower.  Aim high, girls.  It's close to almost taking over the magical world's major urban hub if you squint, I guess.

Reason #3: No One Likes Green Aesops:  Seriously, no one does.  Even those of us who want to see nature treated with respect and the environment preserved find them preachy & heavy-handed.  No matter how good your intentions are, it just doesn't work out.  Season 5 of Winx has a villain whose whole set-up is that he became a powerful monster thanks to an oil rig exploding & being exposed to pollution; to get more power, he needs more pollution.  Besides an episode that seems uncomfortably close to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, this is about as simple-minded as it gets.  About the only thing Winx didn't do in this scenario that its obvious inspiration Captain Planet would have is portray the oil rig's employees as willfully evil (they're innocent people that the girls rescue, whereas at best with CP you'd have them as gullible dupes).  I grew up with this stuff - how can people keep telling the same message over & over, yet let the plots get dumber instead of better, treat the issues worse instead of more intelligently?  I know a lot of other people have been very put off by this season's message-tastic approach, and you'd need to be willfully ignorant to let it slide.

Reason #4: BuyItBuyItBuyIt... Wait:  It's usually surprising to see what a cash cow Winx Club is in its native Italy - tons of merch on the shelves, a spin-off about the Pixie characters that were largely distractions in the mother show, and two popular amusements parks, among other sources of revenue.  But in the States, you're lucky to find dolls.  When the show was done by 4Kids, there was a bit of a merchandizing push, but it died quickly.  Nick hasn't done anything really to revive it except find a new doll maker.  This creates a problem because the show has become increasingly merchandise driven.  Season 4 brought this to the fore with the plot tumor known as Love & Pet.  In Italy, you could buy Pixe Pets at stores and interact with them on the show's website Webkins-style; here, NOTHING.  Every time they stopped the action so we could watch the pets frolic was a huge confusing distraction.  When you see a show's merch on your shelves, you understand why a show has to spend so much time promoting it; when you don't, you wonder why the dubbers didn't just trim it a bit to keep things moving.

Reason #5: Keep the Art Shift:  For some reason, Rainbow (the show's producers) decided to do their movies in CGI, while keeping the show in hand-drawn.  When Nick aired the first movie, I was struck by how much BETTER it looked in CGI.  The girls' gangliness was gone, they seemed a lot more expressive, the magic transformations & attacks looked better, and the series as a whole seemed to improve via the art shift.  Keep in mind that this evaluation is from someone who finds the Green Lantern show well-written & interesting, but would really rather watch it in hand-drawn.  Even with the shady storytelling, you have to wonder if keeping the CGI look would've led to a further improvement of the rest of the elements down the line. 

Winx Club has elements to recommend it - the girls all have distinct personalities & quirks (and none of them are as strangle-able as Rainbow Dash), the universe has interesting possibilities, and now that we can hear the original soundtrack on Nick's dub, that is pretty catchy (especially their transformation themes - that Believix one is an earworm).  But it's yet another series allowing itself to coast instead of reaching its potential, and sadly, even older audiences are willing to give it a pass.  Nick appears to have given it the ultimate pass with this week, and if it's swapped out for Power Rangers reruns next week, it'll be confirmed.  They really gave it a good push, but I think they've realized it just won't succeed & isn't willing to lift itself up to do so.  After all, it's making plenty of money being mediocre, a distaff Italian Ben 10 in that regard.  Unfortunately, this one is helping sink an entire genre's chances of being taken seriously on this continent, and for that reason, I am sort of sad.  I more than understand - I just wish a better magical girl show was waiting in the wings to take its place.

EDIT 10/6/2012: So it looks like, yet again, I was wrong and Nick inexplicably hasn't given up on Winx just yet.  But I have.  Between this and severring ties with the Ben 10 franchise, this has become the year of me ending my unhealthy TV relationships.  So even though it's still on the air, much like its brother-from-another-mother series, it's dead to me.

Comments

  1. You know, this really makes me wish W.I.T.C.H. (which I always felt had exponentially more untapped potential than Winx) had lasted for at least two more seasons.

    But you're right, American magical girl fans are pretty much screwed. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If there's one thing from Winx Season 4 I will always treasure is that one next episode preview that basically went like this:

    "Next time, the pets turn evil, but the Winx save them."

    Everyone knows they'd be saved eventually, but man, way to kill any possible excitement there. Precure seems to know how to hype stuff right. I saw Episode 36 of Max Heart recently (Go Back to Where You Came From! Pollun and Lulun's Big Adventure. Thanks random bootleg anime streaming site!), and Episode 35 only told me that they go missing, but not where and why. When they do, I did not see it coming.

    Well played Japan. Well played.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Magical Girl Obsession: Teeny Tiny Witch Hat Precure

Pilot Program Subject Three: Star Fairies (1985)

Magical Girl Obsession: KiraKira Mew Mew...er, Precure