Being a Miraculous Ladybug fan isn’t for the faint of heart.
For those who don’t know, Miraculous Ladybug: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir, is a CGI-animated series set in Paris about two superheroes who regularly rid the city of villains created by the show’s antagonist, Hawkmoth.
But for those in the fandom, it’s the stupid show about two sweet but extremely naive teenagers who don’t know that each other are superheroes and thus look like idiots whenever they start rambling about the person they like. And also, Hawkmoth sucks and his designs are ugly.
If you took offense with the fandom summary, chances are you are not a fan of the show.
Miraculous was meant to be groundbreaking, but I don’t think the creators could’ve predicted how popular it’d become.
The show has two demographics: kids the creators meant it for and teenagers/young adults that have latched onto it with an iron grip.
It was made for kids 6-12. It has bright colors, cute character models, decent plot lines, and most importantly, merchandise. It’s especially evident with the first season, where the episodes mostly consisted of “villain-of-the-week” plots with very predictable beats. Villains like “The Bubbler” were clearly made to be action figures and I’ve seen graphic novels that were literally scene by scene screenshots of the show.
Zagtoon, the show’s production company, have stumbled upon an absolute lottery ticket of a show. Neither Jeremy Zag nor Thomas Astruc could’ve predicted their show would become an international hit, airing across multiple countries around the world with legions of fans ranging from first graders to college grads.
They’ve attempted to produce other successful kids’ shows, but MLB is a unicorn. The show is a little bit campy, a little bit too ambitious, but heartwarming and charming overall.
However, this is the kind of show that is impossible to enjoy unless you lower your standards.
Miraculous is not Avatar: The Last Airbender. It is not My Hero Academia. It is not The Owl House or Steven Universe or Infinity Train.
It is Miraculous Ladybug and complaining about it not being as good as those other shows fundamentally means locking yourself out of the fandom.
I myself started watching the show in middle school, right after season one had ended. I was a little older than the target audience, but as I was (and still am) a giant cartoon nerd and francophile, it hit the spot.
However, the show has always been riddled with problems:
One, the animation quality fluctuates greatly. The entirety of season one was animated by SAMG, and their work far outmatches that of the other studios. This is best exemplified by the debut episode “Stormy Weather”. The models are detailed, the colors pop, unique camera angles are utilized, the lighting is chill-inducing, and the VFX are crisp. Sometimes, I’ll rewatch this episode just to admire its quality. SAMG obviously take great pride in presenting the best form of Miraculous for fans.
On the other end of the spectrum are the episodes animated by DQ and Symbiosis.* These studios were hired probably because the cost of production by SAMG was too high. While we are ultimately grateful that the show was able to continue, some of the episodes made by these 2 companies have been deemed “unwatchable” by the fanbase. An example of this would be “Captain Hardrock”, one of my least favorites episodes visually . Its colors are flat, the models are clay-like, and nearly nothing about it is attractive.
Sometimes, the bad quality even takes away from the story. “Captain Hardrock” was the introduction for Luka Couffaine, one of Miraculous’ key characters. Unfortunately, his model was distracting with its plastic eyes and wholly unappealing appearance. Much of the fandom still have a bone to pick about his features, especially his apparent lack of eyelashes.
In addition, the characters’ wardrobe outside of the superhero costumes never change; many extras are unashamed copy-and-pastes of each other; and the streets of Paris are suspiciously empty.
We set aside reality when watching the show, but these are undeniable shortcomings. The animation studios no doubt have to save money for the more important elements, so Sailor-Moon levels of wardrobe were never expected, but Adrien is a model and Marinette is a fashion designer.
On the topic of outfits, many fans find the superhero costumes worn by the teenagers to be hyper-sexualized. Ladybug wears a skin-tight bodysuit, as does Chat Noir and most of the other superheroes. The creator has noted he takes inspiration from American superheroes, who have traditionally worn latex form-fitting suits in comic and cartoon adaptations. However, because the heroes are still minors, some are uncomfortable with their portrayal.
Moving on to the show’s writing, we come upon the power struggle between Zagtoon’s head, Jeremy Zag, and the show’s creator and mastermind, Thomas Astruc.**
Firstly, there are differing opinion about the men themselves. Most fans are fond of Zag, for seeing the potential of Miraculous and bringing it to life with the creation of the studio. Simultaneously, fans are not enthusiastic about his habit of spoiling very important character designs and animation clips. Way before the start of season three, fans knew more about new heroes like Viperion than we should’ve. Zag comes off as a Tom Holland, so excited about everything, things just come tumbling out before he can stop them. Endearing but annoying all the same.
Now, most fans are not fond of Thomas Astruc at all, despite being the brain behind the show. He’s the main target for blame when the writing is simply not up to snuff and when fans fight, he fights right back. On social media, fans will complain about how a character was handled and Astruc typically wastes no time in pointing out he has everything under control and that fans should mind their business.
While Zag gives Astruc control of the show’s progression, there are times where he exacts his executive power and alters the show’s writing if he thinks it would help with things on the merchandising/distribution side. This is a very common practice in the industry and is often viewed as a negative use of power. Often, this ruins the creator’s vision and blocks significant representation or important development from taking place.
Oddly though, Zag’s alterations have rarely been looked on negatively by the Miraculous fanbase. As well as the goodwill Zag has with the fandom, his changes actually benefit the characters and push forward their arcs and stories. As a show that can go entire seasons with minimal internal development, all executive revisions are welcomed.
However, Astruc often rebels against these changes and will reverse some of the development the characters have undergone.
The main character that comes to mind is Chloe Bourgeois, one of the show’s antagonists and a consistent catalyst for Hawkmoth’s schemes. She was written to be the stereotypical entitled rich kid who oppresses people around her and raises hell when she doesn’t get what she wants. Her hero is the titular Ladybug, which is made even more ironic by the fact she considers Marinette her greatest enemy. Through circumstances, she was given the Bee Miraculous and became a public superhero. Though still a bully, she was well on her way to receiving a redemption and becoming a force for good.
Then Astruc struck back.
Out of seemingly nowhere, she turned her back on becoming a good person. The first hammer dropped when she transformed into Queen Wasp, working hand in hand with Hawkmoth to discover the identities of the heroes. But to drive home the fact Chloe was evil and would always be evil, in season four, she disavowed her step sister, called her best friend Sabrina her slave, and lowered her father to the position of a servant who was only good for getting her what she wanted. Previously, her relationship with Sabrina was improving as seen in season three’s “Miraculer” and Chloe’s family had come closer together after her father became akumatized in season two’s “Malediktator”.
But we can only assume Astruc’s vision for her character didn’t include her redemption, so he reversed those developments, and thus, Chloe’s character suffers from the inconsistencies that tend to plague most of the characters’ internal arcs.
Maybe fans can also pinpoint this power struggle as to why Marinette never seems to grow out of her obsessive stalker stage with Adrien despite confessing to him in season three. It is at times as if crucial events never took place.
Miraculous Ladybug travels a turbulent road and it’s extremely easy to see why fans drop the show or outgrow it every day. But somehow, the fandom remains strong and populated with passionate members who love the show even with all its flaws.
The beginning of season four started with the release of episode four, but all the fanbase could say was “It isn’t Miraculous Ladybug if the episodes aren’t out of order”. If you stick around long enough, you get used its quirks and even grow fond of them. After all, you’re sharing your frustrations with thousands of other fans.
I have seen comments saying they’ve left the show behind but not the fandom, because the fandom is amazing. That’s true, to no small extent. There are websites dedicated to streaming episodes in real time and a group of anonymous but beloved translators who work hard to translate the show from German, French, Portuguese, etc, to English. There’s fan art created just hours after episodes are aired and no time is wasted in critical discussions being held about the new content. Theories, predictions, character analysis, and more come pouring from the floodgates and you realize this fandom is alive.
The fandom even have a name for the subset of fans who actively hate the show but still stick around to point out all its mistakes: ML salters. Sometimes the “salt” in question is legitimate criticism but often, it’s just nit-picking details that the rest of the fandom both acknowledge and disregard.
In addition to the salters, there are many video essays that tear apart the show, criticizing its characters, the writers, and its direction. In their comment sections, thousands of comments repeat the sentiment that Miraculous Ladybug is not a good show.
Well, that might be true depending on who you ask.
But the show has been around for more than five years and the light within the fandom hasn’t dimmed even a little. These characters have become people’s muses and inspiration. They mean something to fans and fans want to be with them to the end. I think that’s something special for a show about an evil butterfly man and a couple of teenagers.
*Another studio, Assemblage, also animated for Miraculous. However, they only animated one episode “Reflekdoll”, so they weren’t counted. However, their quality was on par with SAMG’s work and have worked on series such as Netflix’s Trollhunters.
**I am in no way suggesting I know anything about these two men’s personal relationship. However, I am implying their individual visions butt heads from time to time.