Even before Harry Potter, magical schools have been a staple of fantasy stories — and they continue to be a tried and true setting for fantastical adventures. From The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Academy of Unseen Arts to Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy in The Magicians, from The Owl House’s Hexside to Fate: The Winx Saga’s Alfea, the concept of a boarding school where students learn the magical arts continues to be a staple of fantasy stories.
Peacock’s newest animated series Supernatural Academy fits that idea to a T — heck, it’s even in the title. But unlike some of the other examples, Supernatural Academy is home to a wide variety of magical beings, not just witches. The show’s first episode struggles with establishing the intended audience and the characters could be more compelling, but dammit if we aren’t suckers for “boarding school, but make it magic.” The concept is rich, even if all the pieces don’t quite mesh up just yet. If the show manages to find out who its target audience is, it could be a fun ride.
What is Supernatural Academy?
Supernatural Academy is a Peacock animated show based on a book series by author Jaymin Eve, following two twin sisters. named Jessa and Mischa, who were separated at birth and now reunite at the titular Supernatural Academy, joining forces to save the world.
While the show seems geared towards a teenage audience, the book series is described on Eve’s website as “sexy urban fantasy book series recommended for readers aged 17 and up due to language and sex scenes.” The books share the supernatural school setting, but the main character is a girl named Maddison, who is in her 20s, and even without the sex scenes and language the books seem to deal with more mature storylines. A quick browse of Eve’s website reveals that Jessa and Mischa are characters from Eve’s Supernatural Prison series — maybe the show is a crossover?
Who’s behind Supernatural Academy?
Supernatural Academy comes from 41 Entertainment, which is known for the Super Monsters titles on Netflix. The animation itself comes from Icon Creative Studio, which also did the animation for Disney Junior’s Elena of Avalor and Disney Plus’ Monsters at Work.
What’s the pilot about?
Jessa Lebron is one of the most popular girls at Supernatural Academy. A werewolf, she enjoys the company of her very cool friends, who she flirts with all the time, knowing they all made a pact to never start romantic relationships with each other. Her tight knit friend group is made up of a wide variety of supernatural beings, which is cool to see, even if Jessa walks all over them. She’s a rule breaker and while cavorting out in the woods with her dragon-shifter friend, Braxton, she sees the headmaster of Supernatural Academy attack a teenager and then take his unconscious body through a mysterious door.
Meanwhile, in the human world, misfit Mischa keeps having strange visions of a door in a forest, which she turns into evocative drawings. Urged by her new friend to turn those drawings into a comic, Mischa believes that maybe she’s finally settling in somewhere — but her anxious mother notices the drawings and begins to fret. Mischa brushes her off, but after a vivid dream where she turns into a wolf, she wakes up to find the couch in tatters…
What’s it really about?
The supernatural world versus the human one, and the inner politics between the magical species! We learn that dragon shifters are particularly rare, because centuries ago the Dragon King tried to take over the Fae realm and out of fear, people hunted them down. Some dragons treat wolves like Jessa with some resentment, since wolf shifters enjoy a certain level of status and prestige in the supernatural world. The headmaster seems to have it out for Jessa — and his shady actions in the woods certainly don’t help his case. But not all dragon shifters hate wolves. Despite the pact not to start a romance among the friend group, Braxton has it pretty bad for Jessa — how do interspecies relationships even work in this world?
The world is pretty compelling, even if the first episode can only do so much worldbuilding in 22 minutes, but there is enough to know that the supernatural world stays hidden from the human one and even amidst the supernatural world, there is tension between different beings. It’s made all the more interesting by the school setting, which brings various magical species together for some good old-fashioned learning.
Is Supernatural Academy good?
Supernatural Academy is caught in a weird dissonance. The animation looks like shows for younger audiences, reminiscent of Elena of Avalor, Miraculous Ladybug, and Monster High — shows where the audience dips as young as age 2. But the characters say “sexy” and “ass” and “pissed”, and seem generally more mature than the animation would suggest. And to make things even stranger, the source material is a series of sexy adult novels. It’s hard to figure out what the audience of this show is: Fans of the book, who may be expecting a steamy reverse harem romance? Teenagers drawn to the idea of a magical school, like in The Owl House or even My Hero Academia? Younger children who may recognize the style of animation as familiar to shows they’ve watched before?
Because of that, it’s a little strange to say it’s succeeding after just one episode of the full 16-episode season. The characters have promise, though their initial impression may be grating. Jessa in particular — a wolf shifter with blue hair who has an army of boys in love with her and whose father’s status as a high up official gives her instant popularity — feels like someone’s first DeviantArt OC.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing (Hey, we’re all for self-indulgent OCs here at Polygon dot com). But she doesn’t really feel like a hero we’re rooting for yet, since she basically has it all already. Mischa is definitely more of the audience surrogate, as someone raised in the human world. Still, seeing the different magical beings interact in a school environment is fun, even if a lot of those interactions are about how Jessa is so cool and popular.
The inner politics of the supernatural world is fascinating — they’re not just hiding from humans, but navigating tense relationships between the species. Jessa and Mischa learn about each other in the last few moments, but Mischa’s strange visions about the magical world heighten the intrigue. Since it affects Mischa’s character only her scenes really dive into it, which is a shame because Jessa is the one in the cool supernatural world. Hopefully, though, Jessa and Mischa will connect and grow as characters and really get to explore the magical world — without constant reminders of Jessa being adored and wonderful.
It’s not the best pilot in the world, but it is intriguing enough if you’re looking for a fun series about supernatural beings in a school setting that could build up to some epic fantasy adventures — if it doesn’t spend the entire time on Jessa’s circle of admirers.
When and where can I watch Supernatural Academy?
All 16 episodes of Supernatural Academy are available on Peacock.