Miraculous Ladybug: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir (2015-present)
As anime crossed the Pacific into North America, it uncovered the opportunity for viewers to engage in a global community that embraces local cultural differences (Mckevitt 2010); “the case of anime thus serves as one tangible illustration of the impact of cultural globalization on the United States in the last quarter of the twentieth century” (McKevitt, 2010, p. 895). Miraculous Ladybug: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir represents an interesting case of hybridization within the global-televised-animation sector. The series is produced through a partnership between French and Korean animation and production companies. Additionally, it has been licensed to air in the United States by Nickelodeon and in other countries, most prominently by Disney (Xandrellium, 2015). Miraculous Ladybug follows two middle school students, Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste. These protagonists live double lives as superheroes called Ladybug and Cat Noir (respectively) who protect Paris, France from dark energy. Their powers are granted to them by gem stones that are home to small immortal entities known as “kwamis” (Astruc & Thibaudeau, 2015). The creators of the series define their inspiration of the series’ conception as a fusion between Japan’s Sailor Moon, America’s Spiderman, and France’s Amélie Poulain (Xandrellium, 2015)—representing the vast cultural fusion that the show embodies.
Miraculous Ladybug incorporates elements of Japanese anime, but unlike Avatar: The Last Airbender and Sym-Bionic Titan, it follows a very American storytelling format as shown through its child-oriented narrative (Daliot-Bul, 2014; McKevitt, 2010). It is also heavily inspired by American superhero characters; Marinette mirrors Spiderman in that she possesses bug-like powers and swings across tall buildings while patrolling her city of residence and fighting crime. Her partner, Adrien, is also described by the series’ creators as the young male version of Marvel’s Catwoman (Xandrellium, 2015). In this sense, the inspiration behind the protagonists is based on American content; however, rather than being held in the United States, the series is set in Paris and features landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Trocadero. It also features Parisian architecture and other elements of its culture, such as its food, lifestyle, and mannerisms. Additionally, unlike Sym-bionic Titan, the protagonists attend a Paris-based middle school that correspondingly follows a European education system rather than adopting to American schooling norms (Astruc & Thibaudeau, 2015).
Outside of storytelling elements, the success of anime in North America, especially during the start of the 21st century, led to more attention to its style and artistry (Fennell, et. al. 2012). As a result, some American programming began, and continues, to adopt anime’s visual features (Otmazgin, 2014). The character designs of Miraculous Ladybug follow the typical anime style of: large eyes, small noses, and small mouths (Mckevitt 2010); however, in contrast to traditional anime which is almost always hand drawn, Miraculous Ladybug’s animation is done through Computer-Generated Imagery. The animated sequences of the series takes plenty of inspiration from the “magical-girl” anime genre. Similar to Sailor Moon, Marinette’s transformation to Ladybug and corresponding powers result from magic rather than science-fiction (Xandrellium, 2015). Magical kwamis that accompany both Marinette and Adrien are also similar to the character sidekicks seen across Japanese anime—which tend to personify talking animals, or animal-like creatures.
Another factor that places Miraculous Ladybug in a similar tier as Japanese anime is its incorporation of heavy branding, marketing, and merchandising: “Anime’s soft power as a factor in America was analyzed through questions regarding merchandising of anime shows, as merchandising is one of the key ways in which anime makes its money” (Chambers, 2012, p. 7). Producers and investors of the series rely on toy sales as its success metric, which has resulted in its international recognition through various branding efforts (Xandrellium, 2015). Overall, Miraculous Ladybug represents a truly hybrid cultural product as it incorporates an American premise, French settings and cultural components, and Japanese-inspired character designs and production strategies. Based on its global recognition, Miraculous Ladybug has verified that culture can be fused to create an internationally-successful product that, doesn’t fight Americanization, but incorporates elements of it, along with other cultures, to tell a story.
Many historians have studied globalization from an American standpoint, but often ignore the reciprocal effects (McKevitt, 2010). Historically, early anime (60s and 70s) took inspiration from American content—most notably, from Disney and Warner Brothers animated films (Daliot-Bul, 2014). However, “[c]oming full circle from the first days of Japanese animation, in a 2010 interview Disney and Pixar animator and animation director Glen Keane said that Japanese animation had a huge influence on him . . . and that Japanese animation is part of Disney’s animation heritage” (Daliot-Bul, 2014, p. 83). Anime’s popularity in North America illustrates the impact of cultural globalization through imported media content and its inherent power in connecting people to one another despite clear cultural differences (Mckevitt 2010).
Essentially, within the era of globalization:
. . . the experience of the local changes in response to global processes are of unprecedented scale and kind; cultural globalization is thus the reconfiguring of local conditions in response to the ‘transplanetary and supraterritorial’ flow of symbolic systems of meaningful ideas, images, and goods (McKevitt, 2010, p. 894).
Japanese anime has sparked a movement in the American animation market. Not only has it been featured on widely-popular cable networks, but its entrance onto US broadcasting space has sparked an entire fan base around the form of storytelling (Daliot-Bul, 2014). More significantly, its popularity has influenced animators and directors to incorporate many of its elements into American cultural products (De Jesus, 2014; Otmazgin 2014). This fusion represents an alteration in the relationship between different nations; rather than solely relying on cultural hegemony, culturally-hybrid content is establishing itself within popular media—proving that, in certain cases, Americanization is in fact making room for Hybridization.
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