“Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” is unmistakably a DreamWorks show in tone, bringing the same coziness though in a new and unseen medium of animation.
Producer Radford Sechrist shapes a wonderful wasteland of quirky figures from a sentient pile of goop with a child’s voice and level of maturity to our own jaguar-fisted Kipo (Karen Fukuhara). Season two rounds out major characters, introduces new ones and gives much-needed depth to the purple-tinted protagonist that earns it praise as a fitting followup to the highly distinguished first season.
It is difficult not to note after watching both shows that “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” shares an incredibly similar team structure to both installments in the “Avatar” series, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Avatar: The Legend of Korra.” This comparison becomes more fitting after watching both seasons of the show.
All three teams have four sentient “fighter” types including the protagonist and at least one nonverbal pet for comic relief. “Kipo” breaks the tried and true “Avatar” formula in a number of ways, though, firstly in seasonal story structure.
Aang’s journey is a three season culmination of exploring and engaging with a beautifully built world to ultimately deal with one overarching central conflict. Korra’s journey is more segmented and sporadically focused, tackling one major villain each season whose motivations and actions are irrelevant to the last.
"Kipo" incorporates both these styles, having each season build out from the cliffhanger of last season while focusing around a totally different aspect of the same odyssey that emerges as a result of Kipo and friends’ actions.
Despite its popularity in Western black culture, animation (both Western and Eastern “anime”) detrimentally lacks representation of its audience in other works. “Dragonball Z” and “Naruto” prove dated in their depiction of caricatures of black characters.
While the genre has permeated through American culture and burrowed itself in the psyches of most Gen Z constituents, unfortunately few young viewers find characters that look like themselves in their favorite cartoons.
“Kipo” embodies an effort of effective cultural awareness and representation that provides an excellent model for child-oriented animation to follow. All human main characters are black, and Dave the talking bug (voiced by Deon Cole) is unambiguously the same despite his green exterior. Hip hop and rap comprise most of the soundtrack and spectacularly hype up fight scenes.
Unlike other explicit attempts at progressive representation in children’s media, intertwining black culture only builds a unique world and story. It is not portrayed as the centerpiece of the world, either; simply the lens through which Kipo and co. view the rest of the Surface and its diverse creatures and groups to befriend.