The Powerpuff Girls: 10th Anniversary Collection (DVD)

Chemical X goes great on nachos.

Meet the Powerpuff Girls. For six seasons—plus a theatrical feature and an anime interpretation—these three superpowered elementary school girls, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, used their powers to fight crime and save the day. If you’re a fan of this cartoon, then brace yourself, because your day has arrived. This tenth anniversary box set features every episode from all six seasons, plus an astounding 30 hours of bonus features.

You know the story by now: In his efforts to make the perfect little girl, Professor Utonium accidentally added the mysterious Chemical X to his formula resulting in the creation of three girls who combine adorable with ass-kicking. Befriending the local Mayor, the girls become the resident superheroes of city of Townsville. Among their many villains is Mojo Jojo, a super-intelligent monkey who longs to rule the world, and who has a personal reason to hate the Powerpuff Girls.

Miss Bellum just delivered this episode list for mayoral approval:

Season One

Episodes: “Insect Aside/Powerpuff Bluff,” “Monkey See, Doggie Do/Mommy Fearest,” “Octi Evil/Geshundfight,” “Buttercrush/Fuzzy Logic,” “Boogie Frights/Abracadaver,” “Telephonies/Tough Love,” “Major Competition/Mr. Mojo’s Rising,” “Paste Makes Waste/Ice Sore,” “Bubblevicious/The Bare Facts,” “Cat Man Do/Impeach Fuzz,” “Just Another Manic Mojo/Mime For Change,” “The Rowdyruff Boys,” “Uh Oh Dynamo.”

Highlights: The introduction of most of the rouge’s gallery, including Fuzzy Lumpkins, the Gangreen Gang, Him, the Amoeba Boys, the Rowdyruff Boys, and, of course, Mojo Jojo. Mojo clearly rises to star status as his secret origin in revealed and then, later, we get a look at his morning breakfast routine.

Season Two

Episodes: “Stuck Up, Up, and Away/Schoolhouse Rocked,” “Collect Her/Supper Villain,” “Birthday Bash/Too Pooped to Puff,” “Dream Scheme/You Snooze You Lose,” “Beat Your Greens/Down n’ Dirty,” “Save the Day/Los Dos Mojos,” “A Very Special Blossom/Daylight Savings,” “Mo Job/Pet Food,” “Imaginary Friend/Cootie Gras,” “The Powerpuff Girls Best Rainy Day Adventure Ever/Just Desserts,” “Twisted Sister/Cover Up,” “Speed Demon/Mojo Jonesin,” “Something’s a Miss/Slumbering with the Enemy.”

Highlights: Spoiled brat villain Princess is introduced, Bubbles becomes a second Mojo, broccoli aliens invade the earth, Blossom is tempted to a life of crime, the girls create a fourth sister in the lab, and a very unusual guest shows up at the girls’ slumber party.

Season Three

Episodes: “Fallen Arches/The Mane Event,” “Town and Out/Child Fearing,” “Criss Cross Crisis,” “Bubblevision/Bought and Scold,” “Getting’ Twiggy with It/Cop Out,” “Jewel of the Aisle/Super Zero,” “Three Girls and a Monster/Monkey See Doggy Two,” “Candy is Dandy/Catastrophe,” “Hot Air Buffoon/Ploys R Us,” “Helter Shelter/Power Lunch,” “Powerprof,” “The Headsucker’s Moxy/Equal Fights,” “Moral Decay/Meet the Beat Alls.”

Highlights: A body-switching experiment leads to city-wide craziness, the girls experiment with new looks, both the Mayor and the Professor do some superheroic crimefighting of their own, and, yes, this is the season with the fan-favorite “nothing but Beatles references” episode.

Season Four

Episodes: “Film Flam,” “All Chalked Up,” “Get Back Jojo,” “Him Diddle Diddle,” “Members Only,” “Knock It Off,” “Superfriends,” “Nano of the North,” “Stray Bullet,” “Forced Kin,” “Keen on Keane/Not So Awesome Blossom,” “Power-Noia,” “Nuthin’ Special/Neighbor Hood.”

Highlights: Sleazy Hollywood producers want to make a Powerpuff Girls movie (how much of this mirrors real life, I have no idea), a trip back in time reveals where the professor’s love of science came from, the other heroes of A.W.S.M. (Awesome!) are introduced, the girls become the subject of an infomercial, there’s some romance for the professor, and is that a powerpuff squirrel?!?

Season Five

Episodes: “Monstra City/Shut the Pup,” “I See a Funny Cartoon in Your Future/Octi-Gone,” “Toast of the Town/Divide and Conquer,” “Burglar Alarmed/Shotgun Wedding,” “Save Mojo/Substitute Creature,” “The Boys are Back in Town,” “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey,” “Pee Pee G’s/Boy Toys,” “Seed No Evil/City of Clipsville,” “Lying Around the House/Bubble Boy,” “Documentary/Girls Gone Mild,” “Curses/Bang for Your Buck,” “Silent Treatment/Sweet ‘n Sour.”

Highlights: side character the Talking Dog gets an episode in the spotlight, the Rowdyruff Boys make a couple of return appearances, Buttercup searches for inner peace, there’s a Powerpuff-stlye silent movie tribute, and a new villain—Mask Scara—is introduced.

Season Six

Episodes: “Prime Mates/Coup D’Etat,” “Makes Zen to Me/Say Uncle,” “Reeking Havoc/Live and Let Dynamo,” “Mo’ Linguish/Oops I Did It Again,” “A Made Up Story,” “Little Miss Sunshine/Night Mayor,” “Custody Battle/City of Nutsville,” “Aspirations,” “That’s Not My Baby/Simian Says,” “Sun Scream/City of Frownsville,” “West in Pieces,” “Crazy Mixed Up Puffs/Mizzen in Action,” “Roughing It Up/What’s the Big Idea.”

Highlights: There’s a trip to the Old West as well as a visit from a familiarly-named pirate, the girls become 20 stories tall and have to save the day delicately, and even the Narrator gets in on the action after he’s kidnapped by Mojo Jojo.

The Powerpuff Girls is an excellent example of how clever filmmakers/animators/showrunners can make a lot out of very little. This was a micro-budgeted show when it first premiered, with barely enough money to animate anything, let alone an over-the-top superhero action/comedy. There are numerous shortcuts on screen during those first few seasons, such as freeze-frames and flashes of white light to fill in for action or movement. The creators make these shortcuts work in the show’s factor, though, giving it its own sense of style. Instead of looking cheap, the show instead looks cool.

As The Powerpuff Girls grew in popularity—not to mention ratings and merchandizing success—the look of the series improved as well, with smoother animation and richer colors. The improvements are most noticeable in the fourth season, most of which aired the same summer as The Powerpuff Girls Movie hit theaters. It was also in the fourth season that the creators experimented with more 30-minute long stories instead of the usual pair of 15-minute ones. These longer episodes tend to feel padded, though, and most of them could easily have been scaled down. The creators must have realized this, because the remaining two seasons go back to using mostly 15-minute stories.

The show’s sense of style is the first thing most viewers note about it, but excellent voice acting bolsters the entire project considerably. Cathy Cavadini (The Secret Life of Bees) as Blossom, Tara Strong (Ben 10) as Bubbles, and Elizabeth Daily (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) as Buttercup all do excellent work, making the three fairly lookalike girls distinct from one another, but the best of the bunch is the one-two punch of Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as the narrator and Tom Kane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) as Professor Utonium. These two bring much humor and energy to their roles, combining old-fashioned 1950s voice-over mentalities with a modern sensibility. Finally, let’s not forget the hilarious work done by Roger Jackson (Scream) as Mojo Jojo. His rushed yet oddly formal manner of speaking makes the character so much more than just your average evil monkey.

Just who is the target audience for this show? That has been a topic of debate for many years now. The in-your-face cuteness of the show—just look at the girls’ huge eyes—lead many to dismiss it as “too kiddie.” Others, however, upon discovering the show’s humor and its countless pop culture references, feel it’s too sophisticated for the youngsters. It looks like to me like the writers have crafted a nice balance between the two. When the show gets too cute for its own good, that’s when it makes with the sly humor. When it starts going too far off into self-referential humor, that’s when the creators let the characters’ hearts show through. It’s what animators call “the Bullwinkle effect.” Like Rocky and Bullwinkle before it, The Powerpuff Girls is one of those cartoons that can be enjoyed on one level as a kid, for the basic lighthearted adventure, and on a whole other level as an adult, for the witty references.

As stated above, the picture quality on the first seasons is pretty rough, and that’s reflected on these DVDs. The colors are soft throughout, and scratches and grain can be seen regularly. Sometime around seasons three and four, the picture quality, just as the animation got a boost, the DVD picture gets a boost as well, with brighter colors and cleaner visuals overall. The 2.0 sound is good throughout, making the most of the booming explosions and the Mayor’s hysterical cries.

How about all of these extras? Creator Craig McCracken’s original short films that became the show’s pilot—originally titled The Whoopass Girls—are all here, giving viewers a look at the girls’ real origins. Footage from the Space Ghost Coast to Coast special where the show debuted is here as well, along with McCracken’s unedited interview from the event. A CNN interview with McCracken follows. Mojo Jojo and the Mayor provide separate commentary tracks on two episodes, which are funny at first, but the joke wears itself out after a while. There are two bonus episodes, a holiday special, “Twas the Flight Before Christmas” and the 2009 10th anniversary episode, “Powerpuff Girls Rule!!!” There are two music videos related to the show, one from Apples in Stereo and the other from the always awesome Shonen Knife. The rest of the disc is made of up short cartoons and live action shorts used to promote the series over the years. These are in varying styles and tones, with some running five minutes are longer. My favorites are the feature film-quality live action shorts, which show what it would be like to be an ordinary person living in Townsville. These are well made and very funny. Finally, to find the poster that comes with the set, you have to take all six inserts, reverse them, and line them up to make a mini-mural designed by McCracken. It took me, like, forever to figure that out.

If you bought that Powerpuff Girls Season One two-disc set that came out a while back, and you’d like to continue collecting the seasons, then the bad news is you’ve got to buy Season One again, because everything that was on that set is also on this one. It’s a scheme to make our favorite evil monkey proud.

Anyone who likes cartoons should like The Powerpuff Girls. Anyone who likes The Powerpuff Girls should really like this gigantic box set.

The Verdict

Once again, the day is…not guilty!

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