Review: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts Season 1
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
I fell in love with this show pretty quickly. Originally a webcomic released back in 2015 (and unfortunately taken offline in 2018), Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is the mind child of Radford Sechrist and follows the adventures of a young girl trying to find her way home in a post-apocalyptic landscape full of mutants. The series has been getting a lot of critical acclaim and it fully deserves it. From its crisp animation style to its well-structured plots and scripts, the production of Kipo is top-notch and offers a lot for viewers of any age. What really cements the series on another level is the strong representation and handling of queer and POC characters.
The worldbuilding in the series grabs ahold of you pretty quickly and never let's go, casually revealing the mutant landscape and leaving crafty early signs of future story beats. Within that worldbuilding the characters flourish and flow through the story, riffing well against each other and building a strong empathic foundation that subtly reinforces the idea that not everything is clean-cut and simple (especially in a mutant wasteland). Kipo's relative innocence and willingness to learn more about people and embracing things that come at her as new experiences to learn from is refreshing and keeps the possibilities open even for quick one-shot concept characters she comes across.
As in many things I find myself truly engaged in, the wealth of villains and how they are portrayed is also what sealed the deal for me. Without too many spoilers, over the course of season 1 you follow the path of Jamack of the Mod Frogs, who's chase for Kipo leads to being an outcast and kinda-sorta learning he can alter his own path.
You have Billions and Billions, the astronomy-geek wolf partners who rap about the cosmos (one voiced by the GZA while the other is voiced by John Hodgman).
Michael-Leon Wooley lends his silky smooth voice to Tad Mulholland, a creature comprised of a community of tardigrades that feeds off the brain energy of others.
The core antagonist, Scarlemagne, drives the background threat of the series with a unique persona and odd motivation that draws together a lot of the other plotlines and character arcs in interesting ways.
Every character has their motivations and personal stakes, adapting and responding to the world and other characters around them. This depth of development is tackled in 25-30 minute increments, showcasing the strength of the writers and showrunners. Anytime I can fall into a well realized world like this and not get snagged on the usual tropes and character short-cuts is a blessing, and I love this series for offering up a genuine and heartfelt approach to a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure about friendship.
Season 2 is already up, and each season is just 10 episodes each. Considering the engaging nature of the series, it's probably all too easy to knock the whole stretch out in a couple binges. Highly recommended.
I'll also just quickly mention that there are lumberjack cats and that one is named Yumyan Hammerpaw, and if that's not enough to get you interested I don't know what will.