'Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts' Review: Unlike Any Animated Adventure You've Seen



by Dave Trumbore

The series follows a young girl named Kipo (Karen Fukuhara) who emerges from her life underground only to be thrust into an adventure on the surface of a fantastical post-apocalyptic Earth. Fast forward a few years, factor in a writers room that included Sechrist, Wolkoff, and Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic); art direction by Angela Sung (The Legend of Korra); incredible animation work from Studio Mir; and out-of-this-world tunes from music supervisor Kier Lehman (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Insecure) and composer Daniel Rojas (Downsizing), and you have the latest Netflix animated sensation from Dream Works. There have been a few 'human girl finds herself flung into a magical fantasy world' series of late, as seen in Amphibia and the 2020 debut of The Owl House just to name the most recent.

Highlighting those visual delights are pitch-perfect musical cues that play up the tension of a stand-off, the frenetic energy of a daring escape, or the clashing of wills between warring factions in a savage land.

You can better appreciate the outlandish characters, take in the scenery-which will be very familiar to Los Angeles folks, even with 200 years' worth of wear and tear-or try to guess what Kipo is about to do next, almost in a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' sort of way. It her allies who tend to play by the rules of strategy, stealth, and combat while Kipo prefers diplomacy, making friends, and, should it come to it, absolute chaos. They are complemented by the fantastic cast which includes Fukuhara, Sydney Mikayla, Coy Stewart, Deon Cole, Dee Bradley Baker, Sterling K.

Brown, Lea Delaria, Joan Jett, and John Hodgman and GZA. And when Kipo allows those imaginative characters to let loose in the wild frontier landscape, backed by bumping tunes that make for one banger of a playlist, everything gels together wonderfully well. This is a future when human civilization has been drastically reduced and fractured; without establishing that existing community groups have kept hold of some vestiges of our contemporary society, it a little jarring when they come out of nowhere while the rest of the world has changed so much.

Published on January 15, 2020
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