I just finished watching the final series of the Netflix animated series “Hilda”. It immediately became one of my favourite shows, and now that its finished I think it might be one of the most perfect cartoons made.
The story is fantastic, and its one of those few TV shows where I’ve really lost myself in it. The world that Luke Pearson, the original creator, has dreamt up feels very warm and inviting, though not without its conflicts. It follows the life and journey of the main character Hilda, her close family, and the friends she makes within a world where fantasy is very real.
It has a mix of old world fantasy elements, many from northern European lore, and avoids drawing on too many of the creatures commonly found in urban fantasy stories. What really sells it for me is how likeable and genuine the monsters, creatures and characters feel. Even the ones that are only in a single episode are well rounded in that they have meaningful lives within the wider world the show is set in.
The fact that the entire world is aware of and all the characters have to work around and live with the mystical creatures is a welcome change from so many other stories where maybe the kids can see the fairies, but all the adults don’t believe they exist. Here, it’s all real, and I think this makes the interactions between the kids, adults, and the creatures a lot more impactful.
Seeing the journey of the characters change as the show goes along was really pleasant. For longer running shows it is often a bit jarring that things don’t seem to progress, especially in animation where characters often stay the same throughout. In this series we see the characters grow, literally and figuratively, growing older and gaining new experiences. The story also touches on the emotional angst that people, often children, can feel. As a result the entire experience is a lot more authentic.
The art style is beautiful, and whenever I watch this show it revitalises my desire to learn how to draw and imagine. It mostly uses a restricted colour palette and everything is drawn in simple shapes and lines, but the town, wilderness, and the characters always feels vibrant and exciting. The marrying of the wilderness and the city comes across really nicely and seems like a really organic place, much like many of the old European towns that it is based on. I love that the city itself feels very modern, yet still has a sense of livelihood and wildness. It could have easily been a “concrete wasteland”, yet it comes across as a place that would be very nice and friendly to live in.
The animation is incredibly fluid, and there is always movement. I have seen too many cartoons where there is “downtime” where characters don’t do very much. I can understand why that’s necessary on occasion, but the animation in Hilda always feels active. This fits really well as it follows Hilda and her friends, who are very energetic children, so expressing that movement is vital.
The score accompanying the show is excellent, and complements the art style well. It carries a mystical vibe, and balances the upbeat and tenser moments. The team selected some fantastic voice actors. Having British and European accented voices is a really nice change in a scene dominated by American voice acting (even for dubbed foreign shows).
The production has managed a well rounded run. It has had 3 series of short and some longer episodes, as well as a feature length film. It started by adapting books and has moved on to tell original stories, and throughout it has kept a consistently high level of production quality. Given a lot of the cuts and disruption that the industry has faced recently I could have expected a drop in quality as the show went on, but it’s been as enjoyable now as it was when it first started. I am very pleased to see that it was able to continue through to a genuine ending and that it did not get cancelled prematurely, as so many other shows have recently.
I don’t think Netflix did a great job promoting it, and despite it being better than some of their other animated fare, I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about it. So if you have never seen it, and have a free moment tonight, I highly recommend you give it a watch. 10/10