Working Through The Queue: Centaurworld Season 1 (2021)
I've managed to watch more shows this year than I have compared to any year from the past decade, so I feel I have a wider variety of programs to compare this against when I say that I think this is the best show of the year for me so far. It's also a top runner for my favorite show ever, especially considering that I've now done two back-to-back viewings of the season which is something I've never felt compelled to do with any other show.
Centaurworld follows Horse, a warrior horse who's been separated from her rider (known as Rider) during their attempts to escape a hoard of minotaur beasts. Horse falls off a cliff with an artifact that they've stolen for their war effort, and when she wakes up she can now talk. She also immediately meets an array of bizarre centaur creatures and learns that she's landed in another, stranger world dubbed Centaurworld.
What follows is an incredibly engaging quest as Horse not only goes on a journey to return home but begins a personal journey of learning she can't solve all of her problems through violence, of learning how to face and accept her emotions, and understanding what it means to be accepted by others and to love and be loved. It is an expertly paced series that's rich in its themes of friendship, love, empathy, and family dynamics while also being chock full of fart jokes, weird faces (there is some phenomenal horse face is this series ya'll) , and subtly creepy jokes. Toss on top of that some pretty fantastic singing with memorable songwriting and every episode is a treat that just keeps building upon a very richly realized world.
The voice acting is topnotch throughout as the core cast really enrich their characters with subtle and consistent personality traits. Kimiko Glenn kills it as Horse, really bringing out the character's struggles while impressing throughout the show with her singing. Pretty much everybody killed it though, but I do need to point out that show creator Megan Nicole Dong's turn as the kleptomaniac Glendale (who has a portal in her stomach and knows a little too much about horrible murder) tends to steal a lot of the scenes she's in.
There's also a ton of great guest characters and actors and they all pretty much steal their scenes as well. Guest stars include Santigold, Johanna and Klara Söderberg, Paul F. Tompkins, Jamie Cullum, and Renée Elise Goldsberry to name just a couple. And everyone is just pitch perfect for their roles and you never want their sequences to end. Especially Flula Borg's character Comfortable Doug, you can just go ahead and green light the Comfortable Doug spin off series right now Netflix.
A healthy chunk of the show's drama is nicely balanced between some interpersonal conflicts and internal mental strife as the different characters have to deal with and/or overcome their own issues. In some cases it's processing trauma and PTSD, while other times it's focusing on accepting how your body changes or how to move on through depression.
At the same time there is a slow buildup to the core villain of the series, creepily foreshadowed through evil nursery rhymes until he makes his goopy entrance. Voiced by Broadway theatre leading man Brian Stokes Mitchell and designed to look like a nightmare mashup between a Bloodborne boss and an Adventure Time character, the only real complaint I have about the Nowhere King is that there's just not enough time with him. They do seed some interesting potential backstory elements for him though, so here's to hoping for a Season 2.
On a real quick side note, as I was watching the show some elements felt really familiar. I couldn't connect Megan Nicole Dong's name though in my memory until I finally realized I already followed her Sketchshark tumblr. Once that clicked it was easy to connect a direct line from this:
To stylistic elements like character Ched's 'Handsome For Eight Seconds' magic spell:
Truly, this show is a thing of beauty.
I know Centaurworld won't appeal to everyone and that's ok. But if you like to feel joy and appreciate great animation with some pretty fantastic musical compositions then like seriously, get thee to Netflix and watch some weird-ass mystical centaur action. In the meantime I'll be fighting the urge to do a third watch through so soon.....