The Complete Series
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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ears before Cartoon Network launched their adults-only animation block, Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken were busy creating modern classics like “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “The Powerpuff Girls.” Sure, the half-hour cartoons are probably best known for the merchandise blitzkrieg that exploited teenyboppers all over the country, but there’s something to be said for the fact that both shows originally aired late at night. Laced with enough pop culture references and adult humor to make the guys over at Pixar blush, “The Powerpuff Girls” may not have delivered the same bite later found in a majority of Adult Swim’s programming, but it certainly helped in bridging the gap between cartoons that both adults and kids can enjoy.
For anyone who wasn't lucky enough to experience the show when it aired on Cartoon Network, “The Powerpuff Girls” features the self-titled trio of pint-sized superheroes as they save the city of Townsville from a constant onslaught of criminals, creatures, supervillains, and even the Mayor’s own incompetence. Created by Professor Utonium in an attempt to produce the perfect little girl, the experiment went wrong when he accidentally added Chemical X to the mix, thus transforming Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup into superhuman kindergartners. It’s for the better, really, since villains like Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, the Gangreen Gang, Princess, and the über-creepy Him (a cross between Satan and Dr. Frank-N-Furter of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) are hell-bent on world domination.
Though "The Powerpuff Girls" may sound like something only teenyboppers would enjoy, the series is just as much for adults as it is for kids – and not in a guilty pleasure kind of way. It’s even been suggested that because of the importance placed on Chemical X, the show is really about ecstasy, but while some episodes (like “Beat the Greens,” where the children of Townsville must eat their way through an army of alien broccoli) would certainly support that theory, the rumors have been debunked by McCracken himself. Still, it’s hard to say whether the show is targeted more towards kids or adults, because even though every episode has some sort of moral to the story, there’s quite a bit of mature content sprinkled throughout.
One of the things that is so great about “The Powerpuff Girls” is that the quality of the show never wavered throughout its six-year run. Despite the fact that several of the best moments don’t come until later in the series, the first two seasons still feature plenty of classic episodes, including the Mojo Jojo origin story “Mr. Mojo’s Rising”; the creation of evil boy versions of the Powerpuff Girls in “The Rowdyruff Boys”; “Dream Scheme,” an episode featuring a villainous Sandman done completely in rhyme; and “Los Dos Mojos,” where a bump to the head causes Bubbles to act like Mojo Jojo for the day, complete with his trademark monologues.
Seasons Three and Four, meanwhile, marked a real maturation for the series, as the villain-of-the-week formula was dropped in favor of more focused, single-story episodes like “Criss Cross Crisis,” “Powerprof,” the return of "Dexter" regular Major Glory in “Members Only,” and “Him Diddle Riddle.” The best of the bunch, however, is “Meet the Beat Alls,” a hilarious homage to the Fab Four that finds Mojo Jojo, Him, Fuzzy Lumpkins and Princess teaming up to defeat the Powerpuff Girls, only to be broken up by the addition of Mojo’s new girlfriend, Moko Jono. The incorporation of Beatles lyrics into the dialogue is brilliant, but McCracken also gets in a few jabs at Yoko Ono that many would agree is a fair assessment of her musical talent.
The fifth and sixth seasons are just as solid, although there aren’t as many standout episodes save for the previously unaired “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey,” a rock opera about a magical gnome who tries to take over Townsville. That the gnome also happens to look and sound just like Jack Black isn’t a happy accident, either. It’s been widely documented that McCracken (a self-proclaimed fan of Tenacious D) had originally intended for Black to voice the character, but when the in-demand actor/musician proved too expensive to hire, a sound-alike was brought in to take over. Thankfully, it works just as well, and though there are other television shows that have put on far better musical episodes, this has to be the first time a cartoon has ever attempted such a feat. Why Cartoon Network ever prevented the episode from airing is unknown, but at least it’s finally been made available.
Smart, funny and blisteringly fast-paced, “The Powerpuff Girls” may seem at first glance like a cartoon for the ADD generation, but it’s so much more. A clever blending of 1950s American pop art and Japanese Tokusatsu, Craig McCracken’s little student-film-that-could is not only one of the most original cartoons ever made, but it also features the best working team in animation since Hanna-Barbera. It probably helps that both McCracken and Tartakovsky worked for the legendary animation company before getting their respective series, but that doesn’t dampen the effect their own work had on the industry. “The Powerpuff Girls” helped turned the cartoon world on its head with a unique approach to both animation and humor, and there’s not a single person who’s ever seen the show that would deny it.
Special Features: The 10th Anniversary Collection includes all 78 episodes on six double-sided discs (each with its own case and insert that combines to form a cool panoramic poster) and a host of bonus material that no fan should be without. Carrying over all of the extras from the Season One release (like the original "Whoopass Girls" pilot, the “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” episode with McCracken, and the first two “Powerpuff Girls” shorts), the rest of the set is comprised of show promos, character bios, music videos, and a handful of shorts starring the Mayor. The cream of the crop, however, are the two audio commentary tracks (one by Mojo Jojo on “Slumbering with the Enemy,” and another by the Mayor on “Something’s a Ms.”), the Season Four holiday special “Twas the Fight Before Christmas,” a new retrospective documentary on the series (“Who. What. When. Where. Why. How… Who Cares?), and best of all, the 10 year anniversary episode (“The Powerpuff Girls Rule!!!”) that premiered on Cartoon Network celebrating the monumental event.