She-Ra, the original version, wasn’t something that I really grew up with as a kid. To be fair, I come into this as something of a novice. Outside of a friend that really liked He-Man and She-Ra, my exposure to the series was limited at best. Plus, to be fair, I was more of a Sailor Moon and Power Rangers kid growing up.
Still, however, DreamWorks Animated and Netflix partnership has produced two really amazing animated shows: Voltron: Legendary Defender and the now named Tales of Arcadia universe. When I heard that they would be rebooting She-Ra, I was curious. Then I heard that Noelle Stevenson was going to be the showrunner and I immediately got excited. I am a huge fan of Stevenson’s work, who has Nimona and Lumberjanes under her belt. This will be her first animated project and first time showrunning.
What is there to say about She-Ra and the Princesses of Power? Objectively, I liked it. The animation was fun and showed a diverse population. The characters unique and with their own issues brought to life by a top-notch voice cast. There was a great snappy sort of humor to it. It was full of messages on friendship, working together, and inner strength.
Was it a perfect show? No. Most of the episodes tend to move a little too quickly. Hopefully, the show gets at least five or ten extra minutes moving forward to, at least, allow the characters room to breathe. The finale was also a bit rushed overall. One princess just kind of showed up to join the Rebellion even though she didn’t show an interest before. They’re not minor issues, but they didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the series while I was watching. First seasons, however, are rarely perfect. I can only name like six shows that I think had perfect first seasons. I do, however, think that this start to She-Ra and the Princesses of Power provides a good foundation to build upon.
Stevenson and her writers room rightly make the first season about Adora’s (Aimee Carrero) journey from member of the invading force of the Horde to a proud member of the Rebellion. Even though she defects and joins in the first three episodes, it doesn’t mean that Adora doesn’t have her own self-doubt and guilt to wrestle with. She, personally, didn’t commit the atrocities on the people of Eternia, but she was part of the system that allowed it. It may be a weird comparison, but it functions as a metaphor to people who learn the un-sanitized version of history later in life. There is that feeling of guilt, followed by a desire to get involved and help. To her credit, when Adora does learn of what the Horde has done to the people, she course-corrects. She becomes an ally and tries her best to make things right.
It’s not an easy journey for her. Carrero does a great job showcasing Adora’s internal struggle while also giving her moments to let her feel like a teen. Plus the vocal chemistry between Carrero, Karen Fukuhara’s Glimmer, and Marcus Scribner’s Bow make for episode highlights. I don’t know if they recorded together or not, but there’s a nice flow to their interactions that make the Best Friend Squad a highlight to watch.
Similarly, there is excellent chemistry between Carrero and AJ Michalka’s Catra. The characters have a lot of history together, which Carrero and Michalka get across quite well. The best episode of the entire first season is “Promise”, which showcases their complicated history. It was honestly a fascinating dive into their shared past and current mindsets.
While the heroes are given a chance to be silly and weird, the villains also have the chance to be more than just “evil”. They’re fun and nuanced, allowing for layered sort of complexity to the conflict. Yes, it is a battle between good versus evil. Those fighting the battle, however, are just people. Stevenson makes a smart decision in fleshing out the bad guys this way. A personal fave being the reinterpretation of Scorpia (Lauren Ash), as a princess in the Horde who just wants a friend.
A serious shoutout to Lorraine Toussaint who kills it as Shadow Weaver. She’s clearly enjoying every moment being so unrepentantly evil and manipulative. It’s a blast to watch from start to finish with her.
Overall, the first season of She-Ra is a pretty fun reboot, despite the pacing issues. Granted, I’m a person who didn’t watch the original growing up. While it felt true to what I understand of the source material, it wasn’t overly reverential. It was its own unique sort of show with plenty of homages to other material. (Don’t think I didn’t see that Sailor Moon transformation sequence.)
If you like the original, then give it a watch. If you want to watch something fun for the afternoon, then give it a watch. If you want something that promotes strong woman and a close friendship for your kid, then give it a watch. It’s an awesome start to the series. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Overall Grade: B