Despite being someone who watches far more varied types of media I have fallen out of the know when it comes to moder cable animated series. I have cursory knowledge about things like Steven Universe and the like but haven’t taken the time to really watch them. As I have said and must continue to say: there is just so much new television that it’s impossible to keep up. But, in the haze of being vaguely aware of shows one caught my eye. A new Disney show focused on magic: The Owl House!
Following Luz, a quirky nerd (who is not all that nerdy when you know anything about teenagers but that’s not here or there), as she is accidentally whisked away to magical world of the Boiling Isles. Once there she befriends the cernudgeonly witch Eda, her pet The King of Demons, and her talking house hooty. After saving Eda and a group of misfits from jail Luz decides to stay on the Boiling Isles, make friend and learn magic. Of course ailing yourself with the outcasts means she will have to work harder than ever.
The series has major Gravity Falls vibes in kind of the best way. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the creator of Gravity Falls is the voice of one of the characters and that the creator of the series worked on that show. But they have so much in common. A fantasy world that focuses just enough on the gross and strange to feel unique but not off putting. A braggadocious trickster as a main mentor, a desire to twist well worn tropes in a way that feels like they’re telling a story and not just trying to be clever, and finally a deceptively deep art style.
The art and animation in this season is actually far better than in Gravity Falls. Which, for all its greatness, does show its age in places (just like Avatar. I mean that two-part opener is rough to go back to). Owl House goes harder on big set pieces that all look great and move super fluidly. They’re a treat.
But that action is a treat in the actual meaning of the word. The season is not one giant epic. It’s not a Shonen battle series in disguise or even a more serialized mystery like Gravity Falls. Instead, The Owl Houses focuses on self contained episodes and stories that work to build the characters. These episodes don’t come from nowhere. Sometimes a villain will reappear but the story is often focused on a character centered stories. Luz trying to learn magic or her friends healing past pains.
They’re not flashy stories, usually. But, when it times to get epic the team does it right by keeping Luz in perspective. She is never the strongest in the room so when she gets to do something epic it feel momentous. Similarly, the strongest in the room get to show off their great power without it looking like they’re over powered.
With the episodes being more character focused it is kind of a shame that the wider cast doesn’t feel as fleshed out. Luz, Eda, and King are well explored and textured characters. But Luz’s friends Willow (sick Buffy reference), Gus, and Amity all feel a little shallow. Not to say that they don’t get their moments. Gus being hyper-confident is great. Amity being stoic just long enough for Luz to show up and become a bumbling wreck, and Willow being nice but having a backbone (I guess) also works. But that is the most I can really pull. They don’t feel totally distinct or as memorable as they could be.
As neat as this all is the series has become notable for its LGBTQ representation. A push for less-gendered pronouns in romantic quips. Characters dressing outside of what they’re usually coded. Luz literally wearing a gay pride outfit as her school uniform. A gay dance sequence where they tango and beat monster (obviously my favorite moment. I mean it’s not like I put a first dance between two love interest framed as a fight or anything… please read Dieous, it’s good), and some gay relationships in the background. Like Willow having two dads. It is all a net positive to be sure, but I’m also dubious of some it.
None of it is bad to be clear, but when you put characters in “wacky” outfits or push for a message of friendship while also having a romantic relationship not being developed and played for laughs it’s strange. I can only think of the reverse. An example is Eda dressing up in a tuxedo. Is a good image. But then I imagine someone like Spongebob wearing a dress in a similar context and it being framed as a joke. It still pushes the idea of dressing for what you feel fits you, but also playing it as a possible joke feels off. It would be like saying just two guys kissing is funny. Even if you’re supporting the position it is still framing the act as a joke.
The series is primarily a comedy despite me not mentioning much of the jokes. They are funny. Very quip heavy like Gravity Falls. Some surrealist jokes, and general gags. But one punching bag it makes fun of is Harry Potter. It saying how sorting hats make no sense or that Quidditch is a dumb sport for the Golden Sntich. This is all funny, and now in context of JK Rowling totally losing her status to people with any social taste, feels like a call out. The series is saying that you can be different while still being good. You don’t need some white kid with glasses to beat a dark lord, it can be a nerdy Latino girl (or is it Latina? You get my point) with a her diverse friend group, no prophecy, and no conformity. It’s a season that says being who you are and working hard is good enough. Standing up for those society doesn’t like good enough. You don’t have to win that fight, but not standing down is a good start.
I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!
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