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Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: TV.

US animated online tv series (2021). Netflix. Created by Megan Nicole Dong. Directors include Jen Bennett, Christina Manrique, Jeremy Polgar and Katie Shanahan. Writers include Jen Bardekoff, Todd Casey, Amalia Levari and Minty Lewis. Voice cast includes Parvesh Cheena, Chris Diamantopoulos, Megan Nicole Dong, Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Brian d'Arcy James, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jessie Mueller, Josh Radnor and Lea Salonga. Eighteen episodes of circa 26 minutes, except for one of 74 minutes. Colour.

The warrior Rider (Mueller) and her sturdy warhorse flee the army that destroyed their village. Cornered, the latter falls off a cliff, taking with her the magical object Rider believes can bring victory; called the Artefact, it glows as they fall.

The Horse (Glenn) finds herself transported to a brightly coloured Dimension and able to talk. Trapped in a sealed-off valley, she persuades the five centaurs who live there to help her escape; they join her as she travels a rainbow road, hoping to return to Rider. This land is Centaurworld, once connected to Horse's world but now separated by a rift: the Artefact is one-sixth of a key which, if collected and assembled, could return her home. However, in this Fantasy quest narrative, the heroine's companions are not the traditional warriors, mages, healers and so forth, but characters more suited to a musical theatre troupe – though, as there are about three songs an episode, their talents are not wasted.

The centaurs include: Durpleton (Radnor), whose non-human half is giraffe; he is friendly, unfocused and, though there is much competition, the dimmest; Glendale (Dong), half gerenuk, a nervous kleptomaniac whose thefts are stored in her "portal tummy" (arguably a Pocket Universe of sorts); Ched (Diamantopoulos), an aggressive but insecure half-finch; and Zulius (Cheena), a vain half-zebra. Fortunately their leader, the half-Llama Wammawink (Hilty), is fairly intelligent and – her village having been wiped out when she was a child – very protective of her found family. Though all have some Magic – Zulius can stop time (see Stasis Field) – Wammawink is the most powerful. Centaurs are also able to shoot tiny versions of themselves from their feet, which would be charming if they were not traumatized and screaming.

During their journey the companions meet many strange creatures, such as a whale shaman who removes pain by absorbing memories (see Memory Edit) – clearly a metaphor for Suicide – and Wammawink has to explain that this is no way to solve problems. Meanwhile, Horse is alarmed to discover her appearance is becoming softer and rounder. Once the key is assembled Horse steps through the resulting portal – just as Rider does the same in her world: both doorways open into a void inhabited by the exiled and horrific Nowhere King (Mitchell), a Monster. Though defeated, the King escapes and plans to destroy the now connected dimensions: Rider agrees to raise an army in her world and bring it to Centaurworld, whilst Horse will stay to train the centaurs in War.

As she tries to rally an army, Horse discovers she can enter a person's mind and experience their backstory (a kind of Dream Hacking), during which the individual is temporarily immobilized. In the human dimension, Rider's General (James) quickly agrees to help, but before their army can arrive, the Nowhere King's forces confront Horse's: to buy time she enters the Nowhere King's mind ... a Centaurworld Elktaur (Mitchell) loved a princess (Salonga) from the Human dimension; believing she would never love a centaur, he uses the artefact's powers to separate into a man and an elk. That man is the General; the embittered Elk became the Nowhere King. An unnamed, ominous character in season one, the princess – who had married then left the General – uses the artefact to merge them back into the Elktaur, then kills him.

The portal between dimensions (called The Rift, and powered by the artefact) is magical, yet it clearly utilizes Technology as the Elktaur was originally its maintenance engineer – and he used a spanner to repair it. The Nowhere King manipulates the Rift to blend different animals to create hybrid Monsters called Minotaurs – the radiation generated is also responsible for his mutated form. The show's tonal dissonance – between on the one hand the silliness and characters regularly bursting into song, and on the other the darker plot/worldbuilding elements and the encroaching Horror – may be jarring to some. Nevertheless, these elements are individually well executed, combining to produce an entertaining and memorable series. [SP]


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