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The end of “Steven Universe” and “Voltron: Legendary Defenders” left a pretty big whole in my appetite for cartoons, not because they were bad, but rather because I had been with those shows for such a long time that it felt like I would never have that same sort of connection with a show again. Whether or not this is a product of an unhealthy obsession with the series I watch has been a topic of internal debate for some time, but in the meanwhile I decided to get some skin back in the game after a friend recommended “Kipo” to me. Even after just the first few episodes, the series already has me hooked, and boy do I want to talk about it.
First of all, the characters in this show are absolutely delightful. Each of their personalities shines through the moment they appear on screen. Kipo, for example, even in just the first five minutes of the show, is established to be sheltered from the world above, having to adjust to the sunlight as soon as she makes it above ground. Her bubbly personality also comes through in the way that she explores a pretty much unknown world with zero reservations.
Wolf, on the other hand, is very reserved, at least at the start, and only focuses on finding Kipo’s home. She has seen the dangers of this new era, and thus takes a more cautious approach to living on the surface. She also wears the skin of a wolf on her back, symbolic of her backstory, which at this point has only been hinted at, and of her lone wolf attitude.
Benson just kind of…what’s the word…vibes? He, along with his bug friend Dave end their travels alone in order to assist Kipo, and act more as the brains of the operation. His eclectic music taste also occasionally joins them along the way, and adds a little bit more flavor to the soundtrack and their overall journey.
Speaking of music, the show’s musical numbers have all been superb so far. They really lean into the weirdness of the show, sometimes even moreso than “Steven Universe” and are all the better for it. My favorite thus far is probably “Yumyan Hammerpaw,” named after the megamute of the same name, and which comes across more like an epic ballad than a number written for a kids shows. From the instrumentation to the chorus, it all comes together perfectly.
However, the softer cuts, like “What We Have is You” also felt particularly well crafted. It is clear that, even just from the few flashbacks that have been given so far, Kipo’s relationship with her dad is something she cherishes greatly, and so this number really highlights that connection.
Most of that, of course, would not be possible without epic voice work of those like Karen Fukuhara and Sterling K Brown. Not only do the two of them have excellent singing voices, truly breathing life into the song, but their voice acting in general also helps establish their relationship. That goes for the rest of the cast too, as nearly every voice actor leans into their role in a way that feels genuine and engaged with the role, and despite how odd it is, even for cartoon standards.
The one major gripe that I have with the show thus far is the character designs, as often times I think their designs, as well as the facial expressions that results from them, can be misleading as to the actual feelings. One example that stuck in my mind was during the episode “Ratland,” when Benson and Kipo are riding in a boat together. At one point, Benson’s eyes get a more anime, deadpan aesthetic, and it ruins the more romantic atmosphere the show was trying to set up between the characters. On top of that, their eyes often morph into weird shapes, and the inconsistency can be very off-putting.
Overall, I find myself very excited to diver further into the show, and despite the lackluster character designs at certain points, it still has more than enough great elements, from the characters to the voice acting and music, to keep me invested for the foreseeable future.
Have you seen “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts?” How do you feel about the show (no spoilers please)? Let me know in the comments.
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