Hilda, a new Netflix cartoon with potential
There’s been a resurgence of new, quality cartoons lately. However, most are no longer on traditional networks, such as Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon; they’re on Netflix, and Hilda is another solid addition to its portfolio.
When Hilda was first released a few weeks ago, I paid no attention to it. The art seemed too simplistic, the show’s description too lackluster. But, after careful analysis, I think it’s surprisingly good. It may not be a contender for the best original show Netflix has brought us this year, but I think it’s worth your time if you are a fan of animation.
One confusing aspect of the show is the demographic it’s trying to appeal to and the type of show it’s aiming to be. Is it trying to engage adults like Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Dragon Prince or is it trying to pose as a more laid-back slice-of-life show primarily aimed at kids but also watchable by adults?
I say this because it’s fairly dark (strangely reminiscent of Gravity Falls in the first few episodes), and it has continuity from episode to episode, as well as permanent change in the beginning of the season. The very first episode concerns political bureaucracy—an “adult” topic. There’s also deep and interesting lore to this world that’s presented to us in the first third of the season.
However, a lot of episodes in the middle of the season are slice-of-life style and have little to do with previous episodes. “The Tide Mice” is about Hilda finding a magical spell that’s obviously too good to be true—a story model used by countless cartoons in the past. Despite some change in the status quo of our main characters, it all reverts back to normal at the end of the season. The “change” only lasted a couple episodes.
“The Ghost” is the best episode of the season. A character deals with an unprecedented change in her life, and it showcases the domino effect that it has on her well-being. Simultaneously, it illustrates the dangers of making promises you can’t keep, and the harm that can arise from them. The main characters have a fight at the end of the episode, but both conflicting sides are depicted fairly well, and the audience can sympathize with both.
However, the very next episode, “The Storm,” chooses to have a black and white storyline lacking any moral ambiguity, with an obviously cookie-cutter villain. The interesting concepts brought up—mankind’s hold on nature—are never fully explored, and it left me with a tinge of disappointment.
The characters are all very likeable, especially Hilda. With her quirky, adventurous, free-spirited, and charming personality, she manages to constantly entertain, and is easily the best character in the show. Frida, one of her friends, is basically Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She cares a lot about grades and her image, is smart and competent at what she does, and is a bit of a snarky know-it-all. David, her other friend, is basically—you guessed it—Ron Weasley. He’s brave when he needs to be, loyal, and has quite a few sassy one-liners. Despite his obvious role as comedic relief, even he gets some character development in season one.
The music and animation in Hilda are gorgeous. Despite some of the character models being eerily reminiscent of Steven Universe, it has much more consistent animation, something I was worried about before watching. The movements are fluid, the backgrounds are detailed, and I can safely give the show an A-plus for animation. The same goes for the music—it’s reminiscent of the electronica genre, and does a great job of setting the tone for each episode.
The season concludes satisfyingly, the final two episodes being close seconds to “The Ghost” in terms of my enjoyment. There’s an air of charm and warmth to this series, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this is a great show to watch.
Hilda isn’t perfect. The show’s quality varies greatly from episode to episode, and I think it’s still confused on what it really wants to be. But it has a lot of potential, and I predict that the following seasons will be much better. That said, season one is still worth your time.