I’m getting rid of my television set soon—and by soon, I mean I’m already halfway there. Phase one, take the signal out and revert every channel back to gray static. I got that done over a year ago, and I haven’t touched the remote control since. Phase two, toss the actual unit away or sell it; I mean, it was a 30-inch LED flat-screen.
You’d think parting ways with what most people deem a domestic necessity (one I’ve had for more than a decade, at that) would be as heart-wrenching as moving out or, even scarier, moving countries. But it really isn’t that hard once your prized possessions become clutter—or in my case, a slim black box that no longer sparks joy in the age of streaming services and online spoilers.
At least, that’s what I thought until I revisited just how much influence TV has truly had over me.
Growing up, I wasn’t immune to adult cautionary tales about how watching too much TV was a silent killer. It could stir misbehavior. It could teach kids curse words. Mindless jingles could run laps around my mind like broken records. I’ve heard them all. While I admit that the hearsay was true to some extent, my core memories with my favorite TV shows and cartoon characters have brought me too much joy at present to ignore it. In fact, they aren’t just ready-made flashbacks but milestones.
The first song I ever sang was from a TV show. So was my first nickname. TV also taught me how to spell “toupee,” which helped me win my sixth grade spelling bee. But most notably, I first learned about love through TV, and it was from a series you probably haven’t heard of yet.
Before anything else, yes, “The Powerpuff Girls” has an animé. It’s called “Powerpuff Girls Z” that aired back in 2006, and it’s a godsend for my inner child. Yes, it exists, and yes, its two-episode arc about Bubbles and her childhood crush is enough to cement itself as iconic.
In “Bubbles’ Troubles,” the first of these two acts, the titular character spills the tea to resident chismosasBlossom and Buttercup about her chance encounter with love at first sight.
Years ago at the playground, Bubbles met soft-hearted rebel and fellow blonde Cody, who protected her from bullies. She recalled it as “the first time she saw a boy cry.” Still shaken from the ambush, Cody cheered Bubbles up and promised they’d play together again someday. However, much to the girls’ dismay, that was the first and last time Bubbles and Cody talked. She could only hope that their paths would cross again.
We then witness just how fate works. Since the day he saved Bubbles, Cody has grown up in the hospital, suffering from a terminal illness. Overcome by dread and refusing to get treated, he gets cursed and turns into a monster that wreaks havoc across Townsville.
I admit I’m not the world’s most reliable narrator. This story is nothing new, and you can probably get a hundred iterations of it on Wattpad. But the tears I shed from watching Bubbles save Cody and see him beyond his beastly form are irreplaceable. I vividly remember the sheer tenderness in her voice when she said with her whole chest that Cody “wasn’t a monster, but someone with a gentle heart” whom she always waited for.
Bubbles didn’t get her happy ending (yet), but she had no shame fighting for Cody—flaws, emotional baggage, and all. That was more than enough to tug at my heartstrings.
No love story has compared to Bubbles and Cody’s, and 10-year-old me would die on this hill (so would 22-year-old me, honestly). I’ve seen and read a handful of equally moving accounts, but I’ll always return to these two animé blondes. I cried buckets watching them for the first time, and again as I revisited the episode now. Finding out that Bubbles lifted Cody’s curse in the second act, “Bubbles and the Beast,” made their journey all the more precious.
Ironically, love is all around us, but it’s not every day that we discover its truest form through an almost forgotten animated show. Bubbles and Cody have become my compasses to loving those around me way before I learned about cheesy tropes, red and green flags, and love languages. I’m not God’s strongest soldier, so I’ve longed for a Cody who’d be my rock in rough water. I’ve also prayed for a soulmate like Bubbles, who’d make me feel seen and understood when the rest of the world wouldn’t.
Relationships in animation have come a long way since Bubbles and Cody. With canonically queer cartoon couples like Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, it’s inspiring to witness fellow storytellers experience the same lovestruck epiphanies that I’ve treasured since childhood.
In shows where the sky’s the limit, why not add love to the equation, where it’s freely accepted and celebrated? Take it from my favorite bubble-blowing superhero in pigtails, who firmly believes that saving the world and following your heart are two possibilities that need not be mutually exclusive.