Here's the Thing About 'Hilda'
Preparing your own inner child for parenthood.
I have always loved cartoons. Being born in the late 80s to parents born in the late 40s left me exposed to the greatest animation that every decade of the genre had to offer. As I grew up, it became clear that cartoons were not going to be left behind as my G.I. Joe's had been. The shows I clung to as a child gave way for the early days of Adult Swim when I was a teenager, soon followed by the new golden age of animation that boomed as I became a full fledged adult. When I found out that I was going to be a father, the decision to see what children's programming I had been missing out on was an easy one to make, and soon enough I was pulled into the world of Hilda.
Based on the graphic novel series of the same name by British cartoonist Luke Pearson, Hilda grabbed my attention almost immediately. The whimsical world presented with a simple yet sincere animation style is reminiscent of the most fantastic elements of cartoons such as Adventure Time, but the far more realistic setting in which the human characters and mythical creatures exist follows rules more akin to real life than anything rooted purely in cartoon logic.
Hilda may have a special place in my heart because of when and how I came about discovering the series, and I'm willing to own up to that potential bias. Still, it is an objectively good show that hits many of the same or similar notes to other heartfelt animated series geared towards the same audience. The target demographic for Hilda isn't necessarily the same as Steven Universe or Adventure Time, something that is driven home by the occasionally preachy tone that is used to deliver each moral message to the youngest viewers. Still, it never feels like you are watching anything so blatantly informative as Dora and Friends, yet there is rarely an episode that doesn't leave viewers with some sort of lesson.
Much like almost every other animated series of the last two decades, Hilda eventually finds room for subplots to play out in the background of each episode, all of them snowballing into a storyline that becomes a main vein of sorts for the show. This isn't bad, as Hilda never has to sacrifice any of the trappings which ultimately make it a children's show in order to provide fans with more than purely episodic writing. Rarely is Hilda ever overt when it comes to teaching children how to deal with strong emotions that come from personal loss and disappointment. This leads to episodes which come with a palpable sense of urgency, or instill a kind of concern in viewers with children of their own that is rarely touched on in family friendly media.
As I watch Hilda through a critical lens, there isn't much that I can do other than be astounded by how it does so many things at once without suffering from pacing issues or worse. Nothing that feels like it might be important is ever abandoned in favor of a different storyline. It is easy to recognize the influences which the series and its creators have drawn upon, but there is never a moment that feels ripped from elsewhere. Hilda isn't a collage of cherrypicked concepts which proved successful on other shows, it's the culmination of careful attention to detail fueled by genuine passion for the stories that are waiting to be told.
There are plenty of things to appreciate about a good cartoon, and prioritizing those properties is key to catering to any audience. When I was little, I cared far more about cool characters with catchy names than I did storytelling or development. Looking back at many of those personal favorites only to see how poorly they have aged is at times embarrassing simply for the fact that I enjoyed them so much. The thing about Hilda is that the series itself has achieved a near perfect balancing act when it comes to prioritizing what each demographic wants from it. Hilda isn't just a show for children, it's a show for parents, and I cannot wait to find out what my own daughter thinks of it when she rewatches it in her own adulthood.