*This review does not contain spoilers.
Looking for your next animated obsession? Well, look no further. Created by Noelle Stevenson (creator of the Lumberjanes comics) and Dreamworks, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power dropped on Netflix on November 13th (moved up from the original release date of November 16th). You’ll have a blast watching Adora and her friends fight the Evil Horde, using their wits, magical powers, and teamwork to succeed. The animation is beautiful, and the show is laugh-out-loud funny. The characters are full and complex, and make you truly care about them. This show is exceptional in that it is more than the sum of its parts, all of its aspects working seamlessly together to make it a success.
The show follows Adora (Aimee Carrero), who was raised by the Evil Horde to fight princesses, but when she finds a magical sword in the forest, she is transformed into a princess herself. It isn’t until Adora sees the destruction the Horde is causing in their quest for world domination of the planet Etheria, that she realizes she needs to switch sides and join the rebellion.With her new friends, Bow (Marcus Scribner) and Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara), they work to reform the princess alliance to fight the Horde. Each of the princesses has a different power or ability that makes them valuable in the war effort. Adora herself is the most powerful princess of all as She-Ra, Princess of Power – a very Avatar the Last Airbender-type role where there used to be a line of She-Ra’s – one in each generation – but the line was broken and she is the first in a long time, chosen to bring balance back to the world.
Whenever Adora holds the sword and says the words “for the honor of Grey-skull,” she transforms into She-Ra. As She-Ra, she grows a few feet, has super strength, and many other powers that Adora is still learning how to use. One thing she does by accident is transform her horse into a rainbow Pegasus who talks. One of the interesting parts of the show is watching Adora figure out how to use her powers, and how to be a leader. It’s a learning process for her, and she still has a lot to go by the end of the season.
The other characters also all have their own fascinating arcs. Princess Glimmer spearheads the initiative to reform the Princess Alliance, and earn her mother’s trust and respect. Bow is the heart of the team, always providing support and backup to Glimmer and Adora, and is also usually the voice of reason. He doesn’t have powers, but he knows his worth – he also has wicked archery skills. Catra (AJ Michalka) has the most interesting arc of the entire cast. As Adora’s former best friend in the Horde, she is hurt that Adora abandoned her. She works most of the show to bring Adora back to the Horde, and also to prove herself to the Horde. She’s been playing second fiddle to Adora’s first chair her entire life, and she now has to work through her feelings about that. Even on opposite sides of the war, Adora and Catra’s love for each other is still strong, but as they become ever more at odds, it’s unclear if their friendship will survive. The other princesses each have distinct personalities, powers, and obstacles, and bring a new dynamic to each episode. Princess Entrapta (Christine Woods), the tech princess, becomes particularly important, as her inventions can be used for either good or evil.
One of the lovely things about She-Ra is how empowering it is for girls and women. Each kingdom is ruled by a princess, not a man, and the show hinges on how powerful they are when they all work together. The one male in charge in the entire show is Lord Hordak (Keston John), who rules the Evil Horde. The one patriarchal institution in the show being evil is a hardly veiled reference to what this show thinks of institutions that keep women out of power. Even in the Evil Horde though, every character we meet in a position of power under Hordak, is a woman. The women in this show are portrayed as smart, strong, and no one doubts their abilities, or the worth of their contributions. The only princess that mentions having to fight for respect, is Princess Frosta (Merit Leighton), because she is only 11. She is, in fact, the most authoritative of the princesses in a vibe very similar to the Little Bear on Game of Thrones.
The show is hysterical, and knows how to take its light moments, but it also knows when a scene needs to be serious, and flips seamlessly between the two tones to create a show that is funny, but also full of depth and heart. As you get caught up in the story line, and invest in the characters, you won’t want to stop watching. Appropriate both for adults and children, this is the perfect show to watch with your children or with your friends. Also, have fun rocking out to the show’s awesome theme song, sung by the Voice competitor Aaliyah Rose.