It was nearly five years ago we first stumbled across MIRACULOUS: TALES OF LADYBUG AND CAT NOIR on the Disney Channel and, it has to be said we were immediately hooked. By we, I mean my youngest – The Littlest Craggling – but I also mean me.
At first it just seemed like another weird high concept kids programme – like a slightly more surreal P J MASKS – but as time went on and creator Thomas Astruc slowly peeled back the layers of the fictional world, it was clear it was something more substantial. Entry level anime? Perhaps. Wildly inventive world-building? Certainly. It’s peculiar blend of Chinese and European influences made for an unusual and intriguing end product. Chinese mythology but it was something which recaptured the thrill I’d had as a youngster watching the westernised adventures of GATCHAMAN in BATTLE OF THE PLANETS.
Initially repetitively formulaic, it chronicled the adventures of modern-day Parisian teenagers Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste who have the ability to transform into superheroes when evil threatens the city. Marinette transforms Ladybug, while Adrien transforms Cat Noir using magical objects known as Miraculouses. They’re constantly called into action by the machinations of the villainous Hawk Moth who is determined to seize their Miraculouses and uses enchanted butterflies known as Akumas to possess everyday citizens and turn them into supervillains.
As the series has progressed, however, and delved into the history of the Miraculouses and, indeed Hawk Moth himself, it’s widened into a fictional world of super hero mythology that rivals that of Marvel or DC.
Consistently bright, colourful and uplifting, the series has displayed endless creativity in building its own mythology, incorporating not just superheroism but high school hijinks, time travel and a tragic backstory or two. With three seasons and seventy-eight episodes in the can and a fourth season scheduled to premiere later this year, the stage was set for a side step into feature-length adventure.
When their class is invited to New York for French-American Friendship week, it’s the perfect opportunity for Marinette to spend time with her friends, especially Adrien. Adrien’s father, Gabriel Agreste aka the villainous Hawk Moth, is also travelling to New York drawn by a unique exhibition of an ancient eagle talon necklace, a totem which could possess powers that Hawk Moth wants. When danger strikes, Ladybug and Cat Noir must team up with their American counterparts and save the day.
MIRACULOUS WORLD: NEW YORK – UNITED HEROEZ expands the mythology of the existing series in unexpected and significant ways, not least of all in bringing a whole cadre of hitherto unmentioned American heroes into the world – heroes which aren’t powered by ancient artefacts. The likes of Majestia, Knightowl, Sparrow and Aeon and the other unidentified American heroes are based on amalgams of the DC and Marvel pantheon but they’re only the supporting acts for the headline stars.
This feature doesn’t offer much in the way of help for new viewers jumping onboard now, plunging as it does straight into the action as Ladybug and Cat Noir take on frequent recurring villain Mr Pigeon (one of Paris’ most often akumatized citizens) and then plunging straight into the tweenage drama of Marinette’s crush on Adrien. For dedicated fans of the series, though, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Despite the obvious threats to exposing the secret identities of the heroes, the series travels across the Atlantic well and its fun to see the heroes dealing with a new city and all the challenges that entails.
The plot clips along at a fair old pace, with plenty of action for heroes old and new. Intriguingly as well as delivering an exciting standalone adventure, it also sets the stage for a companion series exploring the evolution of a secondary team of Miraculous-enhanced heroes based in New York.
Slickly animated, wholesomely adventurous and brimming with imagination and inventiveness while retaining the rhythms and rhymes of the series itself, MIRACULOUS WORLD: NEW YORK – UNITED HEROEZ is a successful leap to feature length adventures for the serialised superhero saga. With more features planned in the MIRACULOUS WORLD series, at least two more seasons of the original series and an animated musical on the way, it seems like there’s no limit to the ambition and adventures of Ladybug and Cat Noir.
MIRACULOUS: TALES OF LADYBUG AND CAT NOIR and MIRACULOUS WORLD: NEW YORK – UNITED HEROEZ are available to stream now on Disney+.