OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series ("Lakewood Plaza Turbo" pilot 2013; 2016-2019). Cartoon Network Studios. Created by Ian Jones-Quartey. Executive producers: Ian Jones-Quartey, Curtis Lelash, Brian A Miller, Jennifer Pelphrey and Rob Sorcher. Writers include Toby Jones, Ian Jones-Quartey, Lara Jill Miller, Steven Ogg, Erin Shade and Dave Tennant. Directed by Toby Jones. Voice cast includes Ashly Burch, Jim Cummings, Melissa Fahn, Kate Flannery, Kali Hawk, David Herman, Ian Jones-Quartey, Courtenay Taylor and Kari Wahlgren. 111 eleven-minute episodes (plus pilot) and 18 shorts. Colour.

Lakewood Plaza Turbo is a shopping centre for Heroes, built by Mr Gar (Herman), ex-member of the Superhero team P.O.I.N.T. Staffing the Plaza's Bodega are the Alien Radicles (Jones-Quartey); bisexual ninja and secret witch Enid (Burch) – and K.O. (Taylor), a boy and wannabe-hero whose mother Carol (Flannery) (another ex-P.O.I.N.T. member) is Mr Gar's long-time crush. K.O. is befriended by child-Scientist Dendy (Fahn) – named after a Videogame console – who is an anthropomorphized Kappa (a mythological Japanese turtle): though she sometimes treats K.O. as a test subject his sweet nature rubs off on her, making her more empathetic.

Near to the plaza is a factory which builds evil Robots, run by Lord Boxman (Cummings), who regularly dispatches robots to destroy the Plaza because it is "crawling with friendship"; his investors complain about the resulting decline in productivity, eventually replacing him with one of his robot children, Darrell (Jones-Quartey). Darrell, like his sister Shannon (Wahlgren) and other siblings, are robot model types, each model sharing a Hive Mind; their love for their father is unreciprocated.

Though this is a fun show with robot fights, entertaining gags and off-the-wall humour, some serious themes are occasionally broached – examples include gun control, racism, stereotyping and the environment – with varying degrees of subtlety and oddness (such as a reverse furry convention, where many of the show's anthropomorphized animals dress up as humans); there is also a Romeo and Juliet pastiche with Rad and Shannon. The many sf tropes include Time Travel: for example, Red Action (Hawk), an exiled young Cyborg from the thirtieth century, departs to fight in a Future War, ageing twelve years in the seconds between return visits to Lakewood Plaza; but her elder self then comes back to instruct her younger self to postpone her departure from 201X (the year the show is set) by several years – a conversation which Enid and K.O. now remember taking place (see Time Paradox).

Lord Boxman teams up with the moderately evil Professor Venomous (Ogg), who was previously Carol's ex-P.O.I.N.T. beau, Laserblast (Ogg) and is thus K.O.'s father. Meanwhile another character, Shadowy Figure (Ogg), is trying to release the "Turbo" form of K.O., which is the subconscious personification of his negative emotions. Shadowy Figure himself is the very evil Turbo form of Venomous, who wishes to use Turbo K.O. to conquer the world; however Turbo turns on him, whilst K.O. realizes that burying his negative emotions rather than accepting they are part of him is the problem: Turbo is assimilated into K.O.

Created by Ian Jones-Quartey, who developed Steven Universe with Rebecca Sugar, OK K.O. was more child-orientated than his previous series, being very cartoony in style, but having many interesting characters and a concern with different types of relationships: for example the Boxman/Venomous alliance is portrayed romantically and its effect on Boxman's robots and Venomous' child-like minion Fink (Miller) are shown as the problems faced by step-children. This was an amusing, nicely eccentric show, influenced by Manga, old computer Videogames and animation history. [SP]

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