The global rise in the popularity of anime has resulted in an interesting conundrum. Several international shows have blatantly imitated the aesthetics of anime, if not several of the storytelling features, as well. This repeatedly begs the question as to what exactly constitutes 'anime,' with several non-Japanese productions constantly skirting the line.
One such show whose exact status makes for an especially complicated case is Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. This cartoon basks in its anime inspiration, but some of the forces behind the French-animated series are also Japanese. While also taking some influence from American superhero comics, the show's rather obvious ties to Japanese animation make its definition as either wholly Western 'cartoon' or Japanese 'anime,' or a combination of the two, complicated. Let's examine the show's various ties to the country that birthed anime to explain why Miraculous is so tricky to pin down.
Miraculous Is a Magical Girl Cartoon
As well as American superheroes, Miraculous is very much made in the vein of magical girl anime such as the iconic Sailor Moon, who are themselves superheroes of a different mold. This is seen namely in Miraculous's star, a cute, somewhat fashionable, female superhero, as well as the transformation sequences. The stock footage of when Marinette becomes Ladybug is straight out of a magical girl show, from the excited shouting to the equally theatrical poses.
The team of superheroes that Ladybug eventually comes to be part of not only resembles some Western superheroes, but also the team of Sailor Guardians. This stems from the similarities between many magical girl and tokusatsu shows, which typically have a team of similarly dressed, colorful superheroes.
Miraculous Is Partly Made in Japan
The exact inspiration for Miraculous was its producer having watched numerous anime. The anime aesthetic also extends to the animation itself, and initially, this was going to be even more so the case. The original promotional video for the series employed traditional 2D animation, hoping to bring to the screen a sense of manga-esque color. This presented problems with animating certain scenes, however, so the decision was made to animate the series using CGI.
The iconic Toei Animation Co., which has produced such works as Dragon Ball Z, the original Generation 1 Transformers cartoon, and of course, Sailor Moon, also co-produce and distribute the series. The show was of particular interest to the studio due to its similarities with PreCure, a series of Toei's that is also a magical girl show. This not only brings the magical girl influence full circle but also further complicates the matter of whether or not Miraculous counts as an anime. After all, Toei is a Japanese company, which is commonly accepted as definition enough, though it did not actually animate the series. That task fell to different animation studios, some French and another being South Korean. This itself doesn't negate the show possibly being an anime, as numerous unquestioned anime-branded series' have had their animation outsourced to South Korea, like Netflix's Castlevania.
In fact, a number of shows on Netflix and other streaming services, despite having next to no Japanese connection, are labeled as 'anime.' This is obviously a purely marketing-based decision, but it does blur the line further about what constitutes anime and whether the label is now completely watered down. Bolstering Miraculous's claim to that label is its upcoming spinoff manga courtesy of Japan's Kodansha. So, even if it started with the French, the series is now being officially connected to the country where its main influences originate. Whether this further legitimizes Miraculous as anime or muddies the issue more, is up to the fans.