Supernatural, Slice-of-life, Comedy Anime

This blog entry is about what I’ve been watching lately: Supernatural, Slice-of-life, Comedy Anime. They have been my escape from the stress of the world, my home life, and my MFA program (anime is not my focus). So, I am going to share these gems with you, because I’ve really enjoyed them. They are comedy, so they are light-hearted; slice-of-life, so there’s no big conflicts; supernatural, so they’re more interesting (to me at least)

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K (Netflix)

All three seasons are available subbed, but season 1 is also dubbed with solid voice casting. Netflix produced Reawakened, a six-episode follow up that covers the remainder of the manga, which is available subbed and dubbed. Seasons 1 and 2 are 24 episodes each, while season 3 is only 2 episodes (I believe it was aired as a holiday special).

Kusuo Saiki is a teenage psychic with near limitless power, whose greatest desire is for an anonymous normal life. This is challenged not only by his insane powers (that he strives to keep secret) but by the people in his life. While his family is full of dramatic and immature individuals, his friends are just odd– at the beginning this includes a self-proclaimed best friend who is literally too dumb for telepathy and a teenager with a hero complex and a rich fantasy life. Kusuo just attracts these odd people, despite his monotone demeanor. Over time it becomes clear that his sarcastic attitude and dry sense of humor hide a person capable of true kindness and of being fond of others.

Episodes are set up as segments, 4-5 per episode, that may or may not connect to each other. All but a couple of episodes take place during Kusuo’s second year of high school, and this is something that gets addressed as they seem to celebrate the same holiday or vacation period multiple times per season. Kusuo often speaks directly to the audience, offering explanations for his world, a lot of which is his fault.

The first season is the best place to start and the dub can make for solid background noise (although you may miss some key details or visual gags). If you like season 1, you’ll like seasons 2-3, but they will require more attention since there is no dub available. Reawakened is dubbed (by a different voice cast) but some things may be confusing without seasons 2-3 as reference– particularly the last episode, which is a direct follow up to season 3.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san (Crunchyroll; previously on Hulu)

The single-season anime is made up of 12 episodes and only available subbed. It is available on Crunchyroll and was on Hulu for a little while before rotating out.

Kohina Ichimatsu is an elementary school girl living alone in a big house. One night she plays “the Kokkuri game”, which is reminiscent of a ouji board, but played with a ¥10 coin and a piece of paper, acting as the pointer and board respectively. There is a warning not to play this game alone because otherwise a spirit will come and haunt/possess you (depending on the translation). Kohina summons Kokkuri, a fox spirit and former deity. To his surprise, Kohina is not afraid because she is a doll and therefore incapable of emotion. Upon discovering this poor girl living all alone and pretending to be a doll, Kokkuri takes on the role of a responsible adult and decides to move in and take care of her. This opens the door for other supernatural creatures to come into Kohina’s life. 

This show is absolute shenanigans. Although it is clear that Kohina’s determination to be a doll is a result of trauma, it is used to comedic effect as Kokkuri tries to help her become a real girl again. Additionally, Kohina’s greatest love is cup noodles. They are perhaps the only thing she will openly admit to having an attachment to and refers to them as “fuel for dolls” in the first episode. Later, we learn that Kohina is being bullied with a vase of flowers on her desk (a vase of flowers is typically placed on the desk of a student who has died) in part because her mind is almost always focused on cup noodles and begins the show caring little for anything else.

There is one element I am not so fond of. Eventually a dog spirit and a tanuki spirit move in as well. The tanuki is a trickster and a layabout, mostly interested in girls and gambling, but proves to be secretly kind and becomes a protective uncle to Kohina. The dog spirit has a much more complicated role. The manga explains it a little better: dog spirits are curses created by torturing a dog to death. This dog spirit is said to have died cold and alone, resulting in a curse. The only person kind to this dog when they were alive was Kohina and as a result this dog spirit is obsessed with her. Claiming that Kohina is the only thing they like (including themself), this dog spirit wants to marry Kohina and desires nothing but her love, but it’s in a very sexual way. The dog spirit is recognized by the cast as a pervert, but still lives with Kohina. It is so much ick, no matter how much justification is given. The situation is meant to be comedic, but it is just uncomfortable. I feel, however, that the rest of the show makes up for this comic misstep.

Like Saiki K, Gugure! is set up in segments, though they are more interrelated and follow some kind of chronology. Kokkuri proves to be an admirable stay-at-home father and a father-daughter bond definitely forms between himself and Kohina. Aside from some truly problematic instances of sexual humor, the focus is really more on how this little girl’s life improves with these supernatural creatures. There is no explanation for why Kohina decided to be a doll, but it is clear that their presence is healing some serious trauma. 

Special Mention: Ghost Stories (Crunchyroll)

Not exactly slice-of-life, but shenanigans galore. Available subbed and dubbed on Crunchyroll, but you’re going to want to watch the dub.

The story behind the production of Ghost Stories is shenanigans. So, Ghost Stories was a show that aired in Japan before making its way to the US. With less than stellar success, the team behind the dub was given very little direction on the translation (no one had high hopes for the property and no one cared), so the dub deviates in a number of areas from the original, with much of the dialogue ad-libbed by the voice actors. If you are familiar with “abridged” series on YouTube, you’ll get an idea, but basically include American cultural references and mature humor not originally found in this Japanese Childrens’ Program. (And all the political incorrectness. Do not take anything seriously.

This show does follow a plot. An elementary school girl named Satsuki, her younger brother, and her father move back to the town where her late mother grew up. As a youngster, the mother sealed away a number of spirits that are now being released. Satsuki now has to seal them away again. She is helped by her neighbor, their classmate, a girl from the grade above, and a previously sealed away ghost. 

Like Saiki K and Gugure!, Ghost Stories are half-hour episodes (so anywhere between 22-25 minutes). Unlike these other shows, each episode follows one ghost and sealing it away again. Some of the episodes are truly spooky, but balanced well with the juvenile humor. Overall, it’s shenanigans all around, but a little more plot and a little less slice-of-life. One important note: the opening song is cute and sweet, but you want to stay for the closing song, which, surprisingly, is original to the version originally aired in Japan.

Other light anime:

Fruits Basket (a 2019 remake based on a manga, available on Hulu and Crunchyroll)
A family is cursed to turn into animals based around the Chinese zodiac (plus the cat) when hugged by a non-family member of the opposite sex. A high school girl comes to live with them after the death of her mother and romantic comedy ensues. Believe it or not, more of a realistic show than a supernatural one, aside from the ever-present curse. The main focus is on the relationships between the characters.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (available on Crunchyroll)
A teenage girl gets reincarnated as the villain of an otome game (a romance video game where the lead follows a path to end up with one of a number of suitors). She realizes this as a child and does her best to avoid “doom endings”, which are those in which the villainess gets exiled or killed.

Ouran High School Host Club (available on Netflix)
A teenager is attending an over-the-top wealthy private school on scholarship when they accidently break a multi-million dollar vase belonging to the school’s host club (a club where people go to be romanced or kept company– not sexually) and therefore has to become a member of the club– one of the hosts– in order to pay off their debt. However, this student turns out to be biologically female, leading to shenanigans surrounding keeping her secret as well as romance between herself and the other members.

Note: Crunchyroll is an anime streaming service similar to Hulu. A lot of what is on Hulu is on Crunchyroll, plus a LOT more– including a few Japanese dramas.

Other News…

Right now, a lot of what I’m doing is trying to relax. I’m currently on an anime kick, and have been watching other things, but it is the sort of light-hearted silliness I talk about above that I’ve really been drawn to and enjoying. I’ll note some of the other light programs I’ve been watching at the end of this post– heavier stuff can wait for another time. Although next week, I begin working with the same Superheroes in Film class I took two years ago. I’ve spent so much of this blog discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe… so… that might come back.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend

Originally written June 6, 2020…

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt began during a more hopeful era. It tells a story that is outrageous but ultimately optimistic. Created by Tina Fey, the series follows Kimmy Schmidt, who was recently found after being held captive in a doomsday bunker. Lacking the knowledge that comes with growing up and experiencing the outside world, Kimmy experiences a series of misadventures as she tries to figure out adulthood in New York. Although the series ended with some loose ends, in the end, Kimmy became an independent adult both capable of supporting herself and happy. The show made pointed commentary on a number of aspects of society, including the role women occupy in society– thanks in part to her friend, Jacqueline, who starts as an upper east side trophy wife. In this “choose your journey” follow up, released about a year after the series ended, Kimmy is preparing to get married when she learns that there might be another bunker. Daniel Radcliffe is delightful as her fiancé, Frederick Windsor, twelfth in line for the British throne.

I only just watched this special today, but since the original series ended I have watched 30 Rock, which was not only created by Tina Fey, but starred her. This has provided me with a better sense of Tina Fey’s style as a creator, and enabled me to catch the references to the previous series. The “choose your path” style is well done, and considerably lighter than Netflix’s previous highly publicized attempt, Bandersnatch. For one, in this episode, you don’t have to watch on a computer to make the choices. For another, because Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is considerably lighter than Black Mirror, the episode does its best to help the audience meet the correct ending. Some choices will reverberate through the episode, while others will end with a member of the cast pointing out that the ending is the wrong one. Some choices provide additional scenes or change the jokes. Overall, it’s a lot of fun. *coaxes toward a happy ending

Although I enjoyed it, it feels very out of place right now. This is a time of fear not only in the United States, but globally. Kimmy’s adventures take her not only out of New York, but into an Indiana State Penitentiary and the middle-of-nowhere West Virginia. Some of the jokes– the worst-case scenarios– feel all too real (so far I’ve encountered an anti-metoo movement and a robot apocalypse) in 2020. So, on the one hand, I appreciate Kimmy’s hopeful nature and how she ties up the remaining loose ends with a happy ending, but on the other it feels like content from another time (which makes sense, since I’m sure it was made last year). After watching shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race, Saturday Night Live, and The Masked Singer include socially distant quarantined episodes, it feels very strange to watch something that was released less than a month ago depict a world that is not only kinder and more hopeful, but alive and active.

Last fall I began my Master’s Program, in which I study television. I’ve learned a lot of things about the industry and content– the increasing number of streaming platforms (Disney+, Peacock, HBOMax) has been particularly interesting and provided fascinating discussion. In our last few weeks of the spring semester, however, our speculation turned towards what COVID means for TV/film production. So, I couldn’t help but imagine how dark and sad Kimmy’s world would be if it were anything like this one. We already knew that Kimmy’s world was a brighter one, but never has it been clearer. Content production is starting up again; what will storylines look like? What do I/we/audiences WANT them to look like? While it has long been in my nature to try to avoid terrible news and do my best to forget about it, the remote episodes have been strangely comforting. It is a reminder of the fact that COVID, at least, is a global pandemic, something connecting all of humanity right now. More and more often when I look outside I see beautiful summer weather and it feels weird to be inside (even though that is generally most of my summers because heat and sun), but the reminders of our shared experience make staying inside feel less like a personal fault. Are these reminders important/needed/wanted?

It leads me to my larger question: what responsibility do content creators have, if any? Should content be in production right now? This fall what will we want to see? Last semester I began researching binge-watching and re-watching (and binge re-watching). There are probably millions of hours of content that already exist. Netflix and Friends are a perfect example. Would legacy TV (not streaming/On Demand) benefit from re-airing old content, or would that be a step closer towards the end of legacy? I have many questions about the implications of industry choices. This is my way of coping (also crochet dolls, which I WILL be posting pictures of eventually), I suppose. It is not the biggest issue right now by any means, but it is relevant. Things will never be the way they were before this year. Currently, first amendment rights are being threatened, which may have a large impact on what content gets made and what messages are spread about this year. COVID and the production issues surrounding it have almost taken a backseat to the many protests, riots, and calls for action/change. Many episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit have been advertised as ripped from the headlines; before this year, I would have expected our current situation to be covered, but now I’m not sure even how you would do that, let alone if it will be possible.

This turned very depressing very quickly. My general point is that with all the post apocalyptic media produced (original Twilight Zone and Hunger Games come to mind), you would think that efforts would be made to fight back and try to create a world that doesn’t look like a terrifying dictatorship created thanks to a zombie virus (so many post-apocalyptic zombies viruses…). So, do programs like this Kimmy Schmidt special help or hurt? The special is satirical but is ultimately optimistic. These fictional worlds were something to strive for (Friends depicts a waitress living with only two roommates in Manhattan), but these protests are a huge reminder that these worlds were not so optimistic for everyone. Going back to how things were isn’t a good thing and growth only comes through pain. So, while I appreciate this light hearted special and the choices it makes, I am still left feeling uncomfortable. I can imagine, however, that I would’ve enjoyed it more had I watched it right when it was released.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Finale

Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt recently released its final episodes, the second half of season 4. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the show follows Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), a woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and has spent the last 15 years living in an underground bunker, under the impression that the world had ended. Now free, Kimmy decides to move to New York City where she finds a cheap apartment with a quirky roommate and and even quirkier landlady (Tituss Burgess and Carol Cane) and employment as an assistant to a wealthy upper east side woman with too much time and money on her hands (Jane Krakowski). Jon Hamm makes recurring appearances as her charismatic kidnapper.

New York is very different from her small town in Indiana and Kimmy’s naiveté is demonstrated not only as a small town girl in the big city, but as an adult woman who missed growing up– her last experience in the outside world was as a teenager in the midwest. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt uses outrageous and surreal situations and characters to make its point. There are references and parodies throughout to other works, such as The Nanny Diaries (2007), Mary Tyler Moore, Sliding Doors (1998), and others. While it approaches being a millennial realistically (ie no money and poor job prospects), the show does not hesitate to create outrageous and seemingly impossible situations (ie sentient robots in the workplace). Still, Kimmy remains ever the optimist even as she learns more and more about the world she missed.

When I rewatched the snow in preparation for this post, I realized that I was half expecting it all to be a dream. While it doesn’t end that way, surrealism seems to win out in the end, giving everyone a happily ever after. Some plot threads are left unresolved, while others are tied up too quickly, but it’s not an entirely unsatisfying way to end the story. 

At its core, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a story about social politics. While it often employs hyperbole and surrealism to get its point across, some of the situations are unfortunately not that far from reality. In another show, The Good Place, there’s a line in season 1 where a male character claims to have slept with a female, who denies it. His response: “Yeah, but who are they going to believe. Me or a woman?” This show similarly isn’t afraid to go there. Kimmy’s kidnapper almost goes free during trial because he is a charismatic white man.

Over and over, the show examines the effect race, gender, and sexuality have on your life. Jokes are constantly made about all three, with throwaway lines that treat horrible behavior like it’s normal, referring to behaviors or treatment that is accepted as fact based on stereotypes. There are also impossible situations presented as normal to make a point. For example, in the first season,  Kimmy’s roommate, Titus, finds himself treated better as a werewolf than he did as a black man. Later, Kimmy’s employer– and later friend– Jacqueline is revealed to secretly be a Native American, rather than a white woman. As a wealthy white woman she is still shucked aside for a younger model by her husband, but as a Native American woman she is used later used for PR for her boyfriend’s family, the owners of the Washington Redskins. 

The overall message has to do with Kimmy not wanting to accept things for how they are. Having missed 15 years of societal evolution, and lacking the cynicism of an adult, she brings to light things that everyone else takes for granted. Ever the optimist, Kimmy just wants to help people and change the world, eventually realizing that she can’t change the adults, but she can have an impact on the adults children will become. Much like the show does, Kimmy creates a fictional work (a novel) designed to hold up a mirror to society. 

Interestingly, while Titus and Jacqueline find satisfying romantic relationships as the series close, Kimmy does not. (Nor does landlady Lilian, an older woman who continues to defy and meet expectation.) While she has a few romances through the series, for Kimmy, a happily ever after isn’t about finding a man. I actually found this jarring, which is disappointing that this is what we’ve come to expect instinctually. Meanwhile, gay serial dater Titus ends the series with a husband and children. There’s a message about happiness not necessarily being what you expect, but in the end I think each character met a satisfying end to their arc. 

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

The first time I encountered She-Ra was about 8 years ago on Hulu. Like any new ‘network’, Hulu was taking advantage of inexpensive syndicated programming to draw in viewers. She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985) was literally a sister show to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). Since He-Man had such success getting boys to buy their toys, Mattel wanted to capture the interest of girls as well. 

The original She-Ra follows Adora, long lost sister of He-Man‘s Adam. She had been kidnapped from planet Eternia and raised on planet Etheria by the Evil Horde to be one of their Force Captains. (Confusing, right?) After being given the Sword of Protection by her brother, Adam, she defects and joins/leads the rebellion. The original She-Ra wore a skimpy outfit, though more elegant (Grecian?) than her brother’s, but she too fought “For the honor of Grayskull”.

While He-Man has been rebooted several times, this is the first time for She-Ra, which is attempting to draw on the popularity of comics geared towards girls such as Nimona and TV shows such as Steven Universe. All of these programs feature female characters that are just as sexualized as their male counterparts (read: not at all). Steven Universe is also known for its portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community, which She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018) is not afraid to draw on. 

The best way to describe She-Ra (2018) is that it is the midpoint between Steven Universe (2013-present) and Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008). The art style resembles Avatar in many ways, but also contains the roundness and soft edges of Steven Universe. The characterization is much closer to Avatar, though, with characters that are unafraid to emote in that obvious anime way. The show features themes of friendship rather than romantic love, but it’s clear from the get-go that gender and sexual preference really don’t matter in this new Etheria.

The society is primarily a female dominant one, with the main villain Hordak as the only male currently in power. However, this does not relegate male characters to the roles typically played by their female counterparts. No, instead of just a gender flip, She-Ra does something much, much better and more interesting; creating a society that has males and females playing an equal part because gender/gender identity are not important in She-Ra. Gender and sexuality aren’t underplayed, just never referenced. Characters come in all different shapes, colors, styles, races, etc and not a single character bats an eye. They are far too busy just trying to live their lives.

Despite being raised by the Evil Horde, Adora’s moral compass points towards truth, justice, and compassion. She’s actually shocked to learn that the Evil Horde regularly hurt innocent people (and that they’re called the Evil Horde). She is somehow ignorant to everything about them, believing instead that the Rebellion are the ones causing unnecessary destruction and harm.

This brings me to a pattern that I’ve found throughout various programs. I don’t have a name for it, but basically it boils down to this: Two friends (often shipped), usually one of them is blond/e and blue eyed, while the other has dark hair or looks less ‘normal’. The blond/e is, for lack of a better word, derpy. These naive characters always want to fight for what’s right and are strong enough to make a difference, however, they struggle with seeing through deceptions or that sometimes things just aren’t that black and white. The other friend is a lot more savvy, with a better understanding of how the world works and that things are not always as simple as they seem. These characters are usually of similar strength or power, but the friend is usually not “the hero” in their world, like the blond/e is.

This is the case with Adora and Catra. While it becomes clear very quickly that all of the characters are a departure from their 1980s counterparts, their relationship really is a product of 2018 sensibilities and ideas. They have a very honest, heartfelt relationship as two characters who were raised together by Shadow Weaver, Hordak’s second-in-command. It’s unclear if 2018 Catra possesses the same abilities as 1985 Catra, but she is a feline humanoid, complete with ears, claws, and a tail. While Blonde, blue-eyed Adora follows the Horde because she believes they are on the side of right (and because they raised her), Catra sees through their lies and is under no impression that they are the ‘good guys’. After feeling betrayed by Adora’s defection, she becomes increasingly self-serving, trying to work her way up the ladder– especially when Adora’s absence opens up a big promotion.

Catra is not the only one who has something to work towards. Because these characters are portrayed as younger than they were in 1985, they are still learning who they are and where they belong. All of the Princesses are young, newer rulers, who are unsure about breaking away from their parents’ values. Individual episodes show the growth that comes with understanding that parents are not infallible and that just because something didn’t work in the past, doesn’t mean it can’t work in the present. All of the characters are growing up and we viewers get to see what that means.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a complex show that pulls on inspiration from many different places to create something more relatable than the original. I eagerly look forward to additional episodes and hope that this show gets the numbers it deserves. We need more of these earnest, honest shows that demonstrate characters of all different backgrounds getting along without judgement beyond what’s in a character’s heart. It’s a lesson everyone can benefit from.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Reboots have been the name of the game for some time now, but after the success of the CW’s Riverdale, it wasn’t surprising that the next stop would be another Archie’s property, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Really, the only surprise was that it ended up on Netflix instead of the CW, whose predecessor, the WB, aired the later seasons of the popular sitcom. The choice, however, did enable the show to go to places that simply wouldn’t be possible on network television, including casting the Spellman family as Satan worshippers.




In the original comics, Sabrina was a well-meaning witch under constant pressure to be “bad” by Aunties, Hilda and Zelda. It cast Sabrina as the pretty protagonist exhibiting teen rebellion in the form of trying to help rather than hurt at a controversial time in American politics. (I’m talking about the 1960s.) Over thirty years later, Sabrina the Teenage Witch became a live-action television show starring Melissa Joan Hart, then of Clarissa Explains It All fame. (Note: it was first a TV film aired on Showtime with only Melissa Joan Hart and Michelle Beaudoin making it to primetime.)

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the 90s were all about that girl power and that was something frequently demonstrated by our favorite witch. It also looked at the trials of growing up, particularly growing up feeling different, something all teenagers feel regardless of their standing in school hierarchy. In this version, though, Sabrina had her aunties and a wise-talking cat to help guide her. It was about learning how to be a witch as well as an adult woman, culminating in running away from her own wedding with high school sweetheart, Harvey Kinkle.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is based on a comic of the same name, which takes a darker approach to the characters, in line with other Archie’s properties. Here, the show again tackles the theme of growing up but further emphasizes growing up torn between two worlds. In both live-action series, Sabrina is only half witch, with a Warlock father and Mortal mother, and must learn to navigate both the magical and mundane worlds. In Chilling, however, Sabrina has always been aware of her parentage and heritage and is already practicing magic before her sixteenth birthday. Also, while Sabrina comes to live with her aunts just before her sixteenth birthday in the 90s sitcom, here Sabrina’s parents died when she was a baby and she has been raised by her aunties in conjunction with Cousin Ambrose.



Another key difference lies in the craft itself and the nature of talking cats. In the sitcom, magic is all very light and fluffy, accompanied by a ping! and some sparks or a puff of smoke. Sabrina just recites a rhyme and points and voila! *Magic* In Chilling, spells can be English chants but are more often recited in Latin and magic has lost the campy sparkles. Sabrina doesn’t even need to point anymore– perhaps a concept inspired by some of the witches to come after sitcom Sabrina, the Halliwell sisters and Willow Rosenberg. Additionally, the witches aren’t just born with their powers… well, they are, but they are also considered a gift from the Dark Lord, Satan, and upon a witch’s sixteenth birthday she is expected to sign the Book of the Beast and pledge herself to the Dark Lord or begin losing her powers (and continuing to age at the same rate).

In Chilling, witches are also in possession of familiars to help and protect them. They are actually goblins that take animal form and while their witches can understand them, it’s rare that the audience knows what the familiar is communicating through “caw”s and “meow”s. In both the sitcom and the TV film it derived from, Salem the cat didn’t start out as a cat but as a Warlock who was turned into a cat as punishment. In the TV film, it is the consequence of using magic to make someone fall in love with him (again continuing the idea of magic being for benevolence that contradicts the earlier comic), while in the sitcom it is punishment for the outlandish crime of TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD. (I hope the Millenials heard that in Brain’s voice, otherwise what is even the point?) In fact, the only reason Salem lives with the Spellman family is because Hilda was one of his underlings. The Salem of Chilling has yet to be given a voice (I suspect we won’t be getting Nick Bakay) but has proven an able protector of his charge, whom he came to of his own free will.



In many ways, Chilling is an appropriate successor to the sitcom, reflecting both the time and the change in TV and its priorities. While I found the writing to drag at times, rather than be suspenseful, the show does some really interesting things with the camera and the casting is excellent. For the bulk of the show, the camera’s focus remains blurry at the edges, giving the show a dream-like and surreal effect. It implies that perhaps Chilling is just a bad dream you are having, that such terrible things couldn’t exist in any world. The effects and lighting are consistent with the gothic feel, while the costuming makes the show timeless. While Sabrina is typically looking like she stepped out of the 1960s comic, members of the Church of Night take on a more Victorian appearance. Her best friends, Roz and Susie bring minorities and the trans community into play, while the appearances of technology are few and far between.

Now, the casting. Oh, the casting… it’s something I’ve been dying to talk about. Let’s start with Sabrina herself, Kiernan Shipka (Mad MenFeud: Bette and JoanThe Legend of Korra). I was constantly amazed by how much Shipka resembled Melissa Joan Hart in the role (and James Van Der Beek… check out Don’t Trust the B– in Apartment 23…). While she obviously plays down (or not at all) the camp that Hart brought to the role, she is just as earnest, well-meaning, and determined to fight for what’s right and those she loves. The casting is truly spot on, with Shipka bringing that same altruism to the prospect of Satan worship, while still subtly underscoring how odd it is that men are the ones in power in what one would expect to be a matriarchal society. (This was something the sitcom transitioned away from as time went by, with more and more women in roles of power).

One of the few women in power is played by Michelle Gomez, whom I know from her role as the Master (“Missy”) in Doctor Who. I knew going in that I should expect Gomez to once again play a villain, and from the first episode it is clear that, like Missy, “Ms. Wardwell” has her own agenda. Gomez once again plays up the creepy, though is more deadly serious than completely mad like she was as the Master (“Bananas!”). Still, aside from the occasional slip into her native Scottish accent, Gomez is perfection as the woman working in the shadows to steer Sabrina down a specific malevolent path.

Ambrose, although a character that did not exist in the sitcom, is one from the comics and, like in the comics, fills the role that Salem played in the sitcom. Like Shipka, Chance Perdomo seems to channel his predecessor, although it’s clear he is not a cat, nor as frivolously ‘evil’. He helps Sabrina get into and out of trouble and serves as a confidante, much like sitcom Salem did.

In Chilling, Aunts Hilda and Zelda are played by Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto respectively and here is a clear deviation from the sitcom portrayal. Hilda is kindly, but knowledgeable, rather than goofy, but over time becomes something of a black sheep. Zelda is just as knowledgeable and serious about magic, but that is where her interest ends. They are again the fun one and the strict one, but are again taken more seriously, and the disconnect from their sitcom counterparts is palpable. While they were both excellent, the difference in their accents was one I found distracting (though this was true of all the Spellman family), but I can appreciate how the cast was more colorful than simply a collection of thin, white, blonde ladies.

Harvey Kinkle is another change. While still kind and unknowingly affected by magic time and time again, this Harvey’s passion is art, while his older brother was a football star. Ross Lynch perfectly gets that combination of cluelessness and confusion that Nate Richert nailed in the sitcom (though, while I’ve never seen anything else Lynch has done, the brown hair was kinda jarring). This Harvey best demonstrates how the show manages to channel its predecessor (a nod to many of the now grown-up fans watching Chilling) while still bringing something new to the table.



Overall, I have really mixed feelings about this first batch of episodes (though it does have me wanting to check out Riverdale). The prophesized greater destiny trope is one that I feel has been played out, but I’m curious to see what Chilling does with it, especially after seeing that last episode. The characters remain compelling (some more than others) and we are given the “witchy” world in a way that we haven’t seen before. In the sitcom, The Other Realm was another separate plane of existence for the sitcom’s magical cast, but here the supernatural exists alongside and has influenced and been influenced by mortal humans. With the show influenced by other witches, such as in Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the vampiric True Blood, I have to wonder what the comics do and how they differ. I know, this is incredibly wishy-washy, but having just finished the ten episodes last night, I’m still not quite sure where I stand.


That being said, my nostalgia and appreciation for Chilling‘s production values means that I will almost certainly watch the next batch of episodes and keep an eye on when Netflix plans to release them…