This show lasted only one year, but it deserves a lasting legacy.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2)
It’s the future and humanity kind of wrecked Earth, making giant mutant animals into the dominant life form of the surface world. Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) lived in an underground community, called a burrow, until she was thrown from it when it was destroyed by a giant animal. She soon met other surface survivors: The feral Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), the mutant pig Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker), the con man Benson (Coy Stewart), and Benson’s immortal bug friend Dave (Deon Cole). Together, the four manage to find the remainder of Kipo’s burrow and, eventually, rescue them and Kipo’s father (Sterling K. Brown) from the evil mutant mandrill Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens), only for it to be revealed that Scarlemagne was not the only threat. Now, the humans and the mutants must unite to deal with Dr. Emilia (Amy Landecker), a mad scientist who wants to destroy all mutantkind.
This has been one of the best shows of the year and I am legitimately sad that it apparently only gets three seasons. However, I also have to acknowledge that it had a fantastic and emotionally powerful ending. It may have been but a brief candle, but it burned brighter than many series that lasted twice as long. Despite that, I don’t think Kipo ever got the same amount of praise as other shows like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a series that I genuinely thought didn’t have the same level of quality storytelling as this one (although it also had a hell of a final season).
I don’t think I really acknowledged this before, but this is one of the few shows that I’ve seen in a while where there are no white people in the main cast (aside from Dee Bradley Baker who makes pig noises). The show itself never really makes any acknowledgement of race at all, which meant that what normally would be a major accomplishment in representation mostly went unnoticed. It can’t even be attributed to the source material, since Benson, in the webcomic, was a large bearded white guy, as opposed to the thin gay black man that he became in the show. I just want to give the show its due.
The key to this series was the worldbuilding and the sincerity. It takes place in a world that, while it is a dystopia with things like “death ivy” and ruined buildings everywhere, also is filled with creative creatures that have amazingly vivid designs. There are Megabunnies, sentient colonies of tardigrades that can create psychic projections, and even Bees that communicate by dubstep instead of normal dancing. They throw in some giant corgis just for the extra cuteness, because why not? Then, rather than having a bunch of overly dramatic protagonists, we get a bunch of kids who are just trying to make the best of things. Moreover, the show’s protagonists tend to survive better because Kipo is willing to make friends with mutants and work with everyone, rather than Benson’s previous method of stealing or Wolf’s “attack first” mentality. It presents us with two people who are surviving (three if you count Dave), but by the end of the series it shows us that cooperation and harmony lead to everyone thriving. The show genuinely wants to point out that we are stronger together, but it does it through solid narrative, rather than trying to inject morals. The last season is realistic about how hard it is to get people to work together, but it is unambiguous about the merits.
Overall, this show was a great addition to all-ages animation and I will miss it. Goodbye, Kipo, you did great.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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