Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (2020). DreamWorks Animation Television. Created by Radford Sechrist, based on his webComic Kipo (2015). Developed for television by Bill Wolkoff. Executive Producers Yoo Jae Myung, Radford Sechrist and Bill Wolkoff. Directors include Chase Conley and Young Ki Yoon. Writers include Christopher Amick, Joanna Lewis, Ben Mekler, Taylor Orci, Radford Sechrist, Kristine Songco and Bill Wolkoff. Voice cast includes Dee Bradley Baker, Sterling K. Brown, Deon Cole, Karen Fukuhara, Sydney Mikayla, Dan Stevens and Coy Stewart. Ten 24-minute episodes. Colour.

Earth, 200 years in the future: in the chaos following an attack on her Underground settlement, 13 year old Kipo (Fukuhara) is expelled onto the surface. Though she is scientifically literate, this world is unfamiliar to her, with Mutant animals variously displaying extra body parts, gigantism (see Great and Small), anthromorphized bodies and Intelligence (see Uplift). She befriends one, a blue, six-legged, four-eyed pig, calling it Mandu (Baker). Kipo then meets Wolf (Mikayla), a young scavenger girl in a wolf pelt, who very grudgingly agrees to help her return home; they are joined by the laid-back pair of Benson (Stewart), a human, and his pal Dave (Cole), a large talking bug who is on a permanent life-cycle loop. Kipo's colony is also sought by Scarlemagne (Stevens), an ivory-tickling Mandrill whose court of primates, including people, dress as eighteenth-century nobles (see Apes as Human): he plans to expand his empire using human soldiers.

Whilst searching for her colony Kipo interacts with various mutant societies: scientifically curious wolves ("let knowledge be our prey" – though as it turns out, so are Kipo and her friends); giant plaid-wearing cats; colossal bunnies; rocker snakes; and a Hive Mind of Tardigrades. The latter lulls the group with wish-fulfilment dreams, the individual tardigrades effectively behaving as living nanobots (see Nanotechnology) to manipulate brains (see Dream Hacking), eventually intending to devour them. Kipo dreams of rejoining her parents; Wolf of Kipo and herself as buff adults, having boisterous adventures on the surface.

Kipo discovers she is part mutant, manifesting animal powers when attacked: there are hints that her father, Lio (Brown), manipulated her DNA (see Genetic Engineering) during a childhood illness. Wolf reacts badly: raised by a wolf couple who ultimately used her as their younglings' first hunt, she reacts to Kipo's secret as a similar betrayal, but eventually comes to her senses. The human colony is found, but Scarlemagne now attacks, capturing the population; it is revealed that Kipo's father knew Scarlemagne in the past, who now kidnaps him. The season ends with Kipo and friends vowing pursuit.

Unusually for western children's animation – none too common in adult animation either – the show has a mainly black cast of characters, with one, Benson, casually stating he's gay. The vibrantly rendered Post-Holocaust (cause unknown) world, interesting worldbuilding and a memorable soundtrack, make this is a strong and intriguing new series. The likable characters – Kipo and Wolf in particular – and unanswered questions (not least, the cause of the mutations) mean that season 2 is awaited with anticipation. [SP]

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