Astounding post-apocalyptic animation with both humor and heart is hard to come by these days, as our burning world exponentially slides deeper into climate crisis. Thank our Mother Earth that Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is here to soothe that burn.
Created by the excellently named Rad Sechrist, and streaming on Netflix, this rewarding cli-fi series about a rewilding Earth careening between utopia and dystopia is firmly anchored by its eponymous feminist heroine, surreal biodiversity and bizarro misadventures, which only grow stranger with each episode. And yet, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts never surrenders its persistent defense of much-needed optimism and species solidarity.
Indeed, Kipo’s anthropomorphic surrealism is its most intriguing attribute.
Gangster mod frogs in skinny ties, rampaging mega bunnies and monkeys, skunks on jet skis, brainiac wolf rappers, metalhead snakes and so much more populate its rewilding fantasy with aplomb and smarts. Wu-Tang Clan co-founder GZA and humorist John Hodgman inhabit genius wolves known as Billions and Billions (a nod to astronomy legend Carl Sagan), while delivering a rap history of the universe’s birth in a setting most SoCal residents recognize as the Griffith Observatory. Rock legend Joan Jett voices a mega snake whose desire to eat legions of riotous lumberjack cats is waylaid only by Kipo’s righteous guitar skills, which serve as her primary, healing superpower.
The animation, brought beautifully to life by art director Angela Sung, from the unforgettable cli-fi classic, The Legend of Korra, is alternately dizzying and contemplative, recalling the wonder of Hayao Miyazaki and the elastic estrangement of Masaaki Yuasa. There is literally so much going on that multiple viewings are repeatedly rewarded.
It’s quite unlike anything else on television, as the pre-millennials used to call it. That makes it a much-needed rarity in our precarious epoch punctuated by environmental devastation and geopolitical madness.
Much like Dreamworks‘ similarly psychedelic and underrated feature film, The Croods, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is the best thing the animation studio has ever created, as well as an aspirational standout in a transmedia wasteland throwing in the towel. Do not miss it.