Review: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power – Season 1

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a stunning evolution of a 1980’s classic

A hit for Filmation in 1985, She-Ra: Princess of Power (a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe spin-off) ran for more than 50 episodes and generated millions of dollars in toy-sales (as it was created to do). Now owned by DreamWorks and with showrunner Noelle Stevenson onboard, the female warrior has undergone a major reimagining for an online audience.

Now titled She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, the story centres around orphans Adora (Aimee Carrero) and Catra (AJ Michalka). Found and raised by the Horde to fight in their take-over of Etheria, the girls grow up like sisters under the harsh tutelage of commander Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint). Tired of being pitted against each other for the rank of Force Captain, the girls sneak out to the Whispering Woods to blow off some steam.

While there, Adora discovers the Sword of Power that awakens her She-Ra alter-ego and after meeting Rebel fighters Princess Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) and Bow (Marcus Scribner), she learns that the Horde is the true enemy. Defecting to the Rebellion in order to help Glimmer restore the Princess Alliance (a union between the princesses of Etheria), Adora leaves the Horde. This causes a rift between her and Catra and puts them on opposite sides of the war between the Horde and the Rebellion.

Since her creation in the 1980s, She-Ra has become a gay icon like no other and with diversity and feminist issues being of major public focus in recent years, DreamWorks and Netflix have embraced it whole-heartedly.  Gay characters, black characters, Asian characters, a possible trans character, a curvaceous princess, a female-majority cast and even a talking activist pegasus, She-Ra And The Princesses of Power has covered nearly every equality base there is. But the real victory here lies in the character development.

The series establishes Adora and Catra’s family-esque backstory as the central relationship from the outset. Layers of sibling love and rivalry, along with Shadow Weaver’s influence over the girls as their mother-figure, form one of the most interesting, complex and relatable hero-villain relationships in children’s entertainment today.

And the great character development doesn’t stop there. As the change in the title suggests the main themes of this retelling are unity and inclusivity. Each of the princesses in the series has significant character flaws and complicated backstories that have to be overcome, in order for them to work together to save Etheria.

Even the friendship between the main characters Adora, Glimmer and Bow has its dramas. Princess Glimmer’s fraught relationship with her mother and co-dependent friendship with Bow make the show relatable to young and grown alike.

Of course, no series can please everyone. The new animation style, which has both Avatar: The Last Airbender and SailorMoon influences, has met with backlash from some fans who preferred the, let’s be blunt, uber-sexy character designs of the original show.

Yet more controversial for some is the changing and omission of key elements of the She-Ra mythology. She-Ra herself is now an avatar-type weapon/warrior that Adora is not the first person to become, and Castle Grayskull, though still mentioned in the She-Ra transformation cry, is never actually seen. Added to this, the replacement of the Sorceress character with the Old Ones has caused some YouTubers to speculate about whether or not DreamWorks owns the rights to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe — and therefore, the rights to certain elements of the mythology featured in both original TV shows.

Regardless, the only thing that’s worth getting upset about, is the ditching of the original show’s theme music and score. Everyone can remember the theme songs to their favourite kids’ TV shows. As children, the catchy tunes became our anthems and battle cries. They wove themselves into the nostalgia of our childhoods and as such, were a huge part of what made shows like She-Ra: Princess of Power so iconic. Unfortunately for Stevenson and her team, the new theme song and music score just don’t match the power and emotion of the original score composed by Shuki Levy, Haim Saban and Erika Lane. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia-tinted-glasses, who knows.

Yet despite this shortcoming and the occasionally too heavy-handed hammering of agendas, the series expertly walks the line between series and serial storytelling. Well-written and with engaging and relatable characters, it’s a worthy successor to the princess of power throne — and well worth a binge-watch.

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