A little like long-running Japanese shows like Ojamajo Doremi or Hitman Reborn!, it feels a little arbitrary to split up The Powerpuff Girls into seasons, given that episode one of this season aired less than a month after the big conclusion of season 1.
And as I mentioned in my impressions of that season, it’s clear that at least the first few episodes were already under production at the very beginning, because the intro features Princess and Lenny Baxter, who are the villains of the first two half-episodes.
That said, while seasons 1 and 2 feel like very much two halves of a whole, season 3 begins to depart from the basis and experiment a little more. So really, what this second season serves to do is to really lay down the formula, and that’s what it does. Other than the two episodes featuring the Smiths and that belated introduction of Princess, season 2 doesn’t rely on establishing new recurring villains, and instead has great emphasis on getting its leading cast of antagonists firmly esconsed in the minds of its young viewers. Mojo appears in numerous episodes, the Gangreen Gang get to do their thing a few more times and even Sedusa gets a second outing.
The series also does two rather clever things to get its baddies remembered – firstly, it puts different villains in the same episodes together to collaborate and play off each other, so that the Amoeba Boys might find one of Mojo’s dastardly plans, or Princess might decide to fund another of the baddies, all building to that season 3 classic ‘Meet the Beat-Alls’; and secondly, it has a lot of the characters do impressions of each other – so silly voices are imitated (especially the Mayor’s), more than once Him gets an imitation featuring a feather boa (as well as a great episode about time dilation at speeds approaching the speed of light), and a whole (brilliant) episode is given over to Bubbles thinking she has become Mojo. It’s remarkable how seeing a character impersonate another will highlight their most memorable features and as a result make them more familiar.
Which isn’t to say the recurring villains make this series. There are some neatly-done one-off characters, like the ‘imaginary friend’ Patches and the unforgettable fourth Powerpuff girl Bunny. The series takes a pop at box-ticking cartoons with a brilliant overly-Politically Correct alternative superhero group for a while, and takes pride in very grey moral areas like when broccoli aliens are dispatched by being eaten alive.
There’s also some nice straightforward episodes that are purely character-driven, covering what happens when the girls just play at being the girls, and if Buttercup (the tomboys are always the best!) seemed to be given a relatively short shrift in development in the last series, here she conspicuously takes centre-stage for episodes covering her stubborn and insecure sides, with one about her refusing to take a bath and another about her relying on her comfort blanket.
Season 2 of Powerpuff Girls may be essentially more of the same, but that is actually quite a clever thing for it to be.