OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series ("Lakewood Plaza Turbo" pilot 2013; 2016-current). 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, 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. 91 eleven-minute episodes (plus pilot) and 18 shorts to the end of season two. 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). Gradually plot arcs manifest: who is K.O.'s father? Who is the Shadowy Figure? Has the P.O.I.N.T. Prep Academy, where superheroes are trained, become corrupt?

Created by Ian Jones-Quartey, who developed Steven Universe with Rebecca Sugar, OK K.O. is more child-orientated than his previous series, being very cartoony in style. The idealistic K.O. is very engaging and likeable, but increasingly other characters' stories have shared centre stage. This is an amusing, nicely odd show, influenced by Manga, old computer games and animation history. [SP]


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