“If anyone ever tells me it’s a mistake to have hope, well then, i’ll just tell them they’re wrong. And I’ll keep telling them till they believe. No matter how many times it takes.! – Madoka Kaname, Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
What defines a magical girl? Is it the sparking transformations and glamorous forms she takes? The magical items or powers she wields? Or is it her unbreakable determination. The answer varies based on person to person.
From playing the classic tropes, to completely shattering the sub-genera, our heroines draw their magic not only from their friends and ones they cherish. But their inner selves- their hope and believe that often proves enough to overcome anything life can throw at them. Sailor Moon uses her kindness to reach the hearts of her enemies. PreCure draw power from their friends, families and communities to win in the end. And Madoka Kaname uses her own will and desire to save others to do something incredible.
Our heroines don’t need to have this incredible prescribed destiny or overwhelming power to forge ahead. They have the will to move forward, and the heart and hope to stand up. Even if the odds are so highly against her favor and life could be lost.
For the longest time we saw those virtues in Winx Club, but Fate…nothing.
One of the biggest concepts in the original Winx Club was the key idea that all you had to do was believe in yourself- and that would lead to you unlocking hidden magic in your heart. Despite the later seasons straying from this core, it’s still a message that resonates and is so embedded with the first original act of the series that older fans including myself have associated with this.
Fate: The Winx Saga is said to be Rainbow’s attempts to regain an older fan base. One that they have long since been ailing from their main animated series in hopes of gaining a younger viewership. Between moving to a pre-school channel in native Italy, and the concept-that makes me want to scream- that only kids are consuming animation, what we currently see in new content that takes the story, world and characters we have spent endless years with feel alien.
It has always been known that Iginio Straffi has longed for a live-action take on the series. But a ‘dark, edgy and mature’ take on a bright, and typically upbeat series is a far cry from what any fans hoped for. Nevermind the clear complications of having two series of the same name tailed for preschool kids, and young adults going on at the same time.
There is a LOT I can say about Winx in its present state, and Rainbow as a whole. None of it positive, yet utterly enraging. But that is a long-winded chat for some other day. But just as alien as season eight’s Winx feels to me, Fate feels all the stranger and a total slap in the face. The might have said Fate was for someone much like myself, a twenty-five-year-old that spent her own teen days running a site and writing fanfiction for the series. But the narrative tells us another story.
The story follows Bloom, an emotional teen who’s world has been shaken after fighting with her mother yet again, Bloom unknowing uses magic and sets her home on fire- burning her mother in the process. Wheeling from the trauma, and the discovery she has magic and that is a real thing, she heads to Alfea. A military-esque school in the Otherworld. Her simple plan of learning control and resume her life on Earth are discharged as she learns the truth about her and danger arises. As she struggles to uncover the past, drama arises between herself, her roommates and her budding love-interest, Sky.
I feel more inclined to say that Fate was inspired by Winx rather than actually being an adaptation of the story in any way. Strip away the names, specific casting and a few events and you would have another rather unremarkable magic teen drama in the vein of CW’s series. Adding the brand power of Winx was just an easy way to get a generic, uninspired YA series, get greenlit, and help with marketing.
The things that made Winx, well Winx have been discarded. The lore, their world and even the characters themselves are hollow shells of even what season eight gave us. This endless world of magic with limitless magic is grounded, ruled by an iron fist by Queen Luna. Magic is far less creative and inspired and mostly limited to elemental aspects; fire, water, earth, art, light and mind.
Do I have to mention that the fairy forms aren’t a thing? Bloom does however unlock the forgotten magic of transformation at the end and gets a pair of fiery wings.
Not only is the Otherworld dull and boarding, we have no idea about any of it. There is no worldbuilding. If you have magic do you have to enlist in this world’s military? How magic completely works, what realms are there, what being a fairy or specialist means- we never get an answer to this. For a fantasy series set in another world this is a huge deal.
Yet as bothersome as not being able to answer rather simple questions, the characters themselves are far worse in many regards. Not only are they shells of their former selves, but for the most part they are utterly unlikable.
Bloom, naturally leading the story, is perhaps the worst character. Yes, she is dealing with a lot and is struggling to figure her magic out and the truth. Yet she is constantly running around trying to make things about her past. Demanding answers that no one has, disregarding everything for her own selfish desires. Constantly making every bad choice she can and trusting people left and right without a moment of though because she is just that desperate. I wish I could say everything wasn’t about here, but well it kind of is. Still much of the time she is pure annoyance and only at the end does it seem like she is realizing just how bad she has been.
Almost, but not quite as bad as Bloom is Stella. And does writing this kill me as I adored Stella. It has always been known she had a lot of baggage preseries involving her family. But Stella did everything to overcompensate to be liked and loved. This one takes that into reverse, and is mean and as self involved as they come. Constantly belittling her roommates, and even setting Bloom up to walking into actual danger are only some of the key points of action. It isn’t until they tell, not show us this was a result of her childhood and her demanding mother are we clued in. Add in the problematic love triage between her, Bloom and Sky only adds to the fire.
Our strong, and independent Aisha is unrecognizable. In her shadow we have a perfectionist babysitter that has such high morals that she becomes a teacher’s pet. Her role is limited to either bossing people around, or helping Bloom out- and sometimes both at the same time. The only thing we know about her past is that her powers awakened when she failed a test.
Next addition to the roster is Musa. Yet again we see a beloved character as a shell of herself. With her power being changed from music to mind we see a vastly different persona as music was a part of who she was. The only backstory we get for this empath is she was a former dancer before her enrollment and pre series start, Musa used her magic to feel her mother’s pain as she died. Most of the time Musa is found wearing headphones to block out people’s emotions as well as ignoring her suitemates. And the rest of the time she is likely making out with her boyfriend, and roommate’s brother Sam.
Despite being the only notable male fairy the series raved about in the press as they mentioned breaking gender norms, we get barely anything on him. His sister however…
Would be the last member rounding out the main cast, Terra. The Flora, but not really Flora stand in. In truth the only similarities between the two are the powers and that each girl has insecurities, yet the latter stem from different areas. For Terra quite a bit of it is drawn from her physical build, as well as her being a self-proclaimed nerd. She is so insecure in herself to the point she is awkward with the tendency to talk too much and too fast. Yet it is very endearing as she is the most real character we have.
Very rarely do we see all five of the core girls on screen at the same time, and even at the times where they are paired off their exchanges are catty and ill-meaning. Then suddenly by the third act they start acting like friends with no build up. Only at the end of the season did early signs of friendships for Musa and Stella and Musa and Terra. And with a series that has to be so invested in their characters and their dynamic this serves as a utter fail.
The series spends too much time focusing on teen drama, that it lacks urgency and leaves the actual threat in the shadows until the final act. And it’s not Bloom coming to terms with things, or setting out to set things right in the end that resolves things. It’s her impulsive nature and again, bad choices.
Someone I admire once said that a story needs heart. For the original Winx this was largely the friendship and bond between characters. Everyone is keeping secrets, questing who they can trust, betraying left and right and above all else no one is even being honest with themselves. There is no heart in the story and that is telling that the behind the scenes had no heart either.
You can tell when the people working on something just love it. How much love, heart and passion are poured into a work. You can’t even find a pulse with this. Just an attempt to make a genetic and mediocre script go viral.
With horrible pacing, constant letting and not showing, and lackluster development of characters and understanding of the world and lore. Fate is a narrative mess that plays mind games. Characters you feel sympathy for, not empathy for aren’t even noteworthy to recall names.
Everything Winx embodies; belief and hope have cast aside to be ‘mature’.
Once more fans find themselves bid in by nostalgia and walk away dismayed and proving yet again Rainbow has no clue about their fanbase. Because Fate wasn’t for us.