In “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts,” music truly does make the world go ’round.
The third and final season of Netflix’s “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” premiered on Oct. 12.
The season, like the two seasons preceding it, has 10 episodes. The show is an animated series produced by DreamWorks Animation Television.
The show takes place in an inexplicably music-based post-apocalyptic world where, centuries ago, a mysterious event caused the animals on the surface world to mutate. Pigs grew four eyes and three pairs of legs, dragonflies grew to the size of horses, and rabbits towered over buildings.
These animals, referred to by the characters as “mutes,” short for “mutants,” drove most humans to burrow into the Earth, afraid of what new power these animals might hold.
Oh, and did I mention that lots of these new animals could talk?
The surface world became a dangerous, volatile place ruled by anarchy. Each species of animal gifted with sentience and speech divided into their own factions, refusing to associate with one another unless they were fighting over territory or food.
In the first season, title character Kipo is forced to escape her underground city because it was attacked. As she roams the surface world, she meets Wolf, a hardened surface dweller and fellow human.
Wolf tries to teach her the ways of the surface: Fight first, ask questions later. Trust no one. Especially not mutes. Kipo firmly rejects these notions.
Even in the face of hostility, Kipo has an innate ability to see the humanity in everyone, even in the giant talking snakes who threaten to kill her and her new friends.
She does this by identifying the one thing she and these talking animals have in common: music. Instead of fearing the mutes, Kipo befriends them.
Later in the first season, Kipo meets a human named Benson and his immortal insect companion, Dave.
As Kipo travels across the surface with her new friends in search of her father, they discover a sinister plot related to the attempted kidnappings of humans from the burrows.
The second season explores this plot point further as Kipo, Wolf, Benson and Dave directly face the mute responsible for the kidnappings.
The third season introduces a new threat: Dr. Emilia.
Dr. Emelia, a human scientist from the same burrow as Kipo, believes humans and mutes cannot live in harmony. She despises mutes and believes they should be “cured,” or turned back into normal animals.
However, these animals are sentient. They are people threatened by Dr. Emelia as she aims to take away their person-hood so humans may once again rule the surface.
Kipo and friends directly oppose Dr. Emelia.
In their travels in season one, they were able to experience the beautiful and unique cultures of the different types of mutes, everything from the Umlaut Snäkes, who love hard rock, to the Timbercats, who prefer folksy banjo music. They believe these cultures are worth protecting, especially since now, these mutant animals are their friends.
Season three follows Kipo as she tries to recruit humans and mutes to her “Human Mute Ultimate Friendship Alliance” in an effort to defeat Dr. Emelia.
“Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” is a visually stunning show. It utilizes the medium of animation to its full capacity with breathtaking environments and dynamic character designs. Each scene explodes with color and detail.
Despite being set in a post-apocalyptic world, the environments are not all metal and grime.
Instead, what were once sprawling, prominent cities have been taken over by nature. Not only does this environment allow the post-apocalyptic genre to be more accessible to younger audiences, but it also creates a unique setting for the characters to interact with.
The soundtrack includes catchy hip-hop beats that perfectly compliment the colorful, energetic animation style. Plus, in almost every episode, a new song is sung by Kipo, Wolf, Benson, Dave and their mute pals. The songs, often silly and fun, serve as a break from the tension.
The character designs use contradictory shape language to communicate that appearances are deceiving.
For example, Wolf is aggressive and tough, but all the shapes comprising her character design are rounded and soft. This works well to characterize Wolf. She is a young girl, so, people might mistake her to be shy or gentle. But when Wolf perceives a threat, it is clear that she is competent and well-versed.
In addition to maintaining its unique style, season three improves upon previous seasons in terms of plot and pacing.
As opposed to the second season, which contained filler episodes, each episode of season three is relevant and clearly contributes to the major plot.
Within each episode, there are still self-contained conflicts, like worrying about asking a crush to a dance, struggling to forgive people who have hurt you, and not knowing who you can trust. These themes ground the characters and make them more relatable.
The pacing of the third season is well-balanced. It creates just enough tension to keep viewers interested and wanting more, but the season doesn’t move too quickly and takes its time to flesh out the conflict and characters.
One aspect of the show that stands out is the message it conveys.
Despite being a show primarily intended for younger audiences, “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” does not shy away from difficult discussions about morality.
First and foremost, “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” argues that empathy is just as powerful and important as brute force.
Before Kipo went to the surface, humans and mutes were at war with each other, each believing the other to be dangerous and hateful.
Instead of judging the mutes, Kipo observed them with curiosity and understanding. In the end, it is not brute force that heals the rift between humans and mutes. It is kindness, compassion and a willingness to see the world from the other person’s point of view.
The villains in the show are always those who refuse to look at the world from any perspective that isn’t their own. This is the ideology Dr. Emelia holds.
In a moment of frustration in season three episode four, Kipo laments, “Why does she hate me so much?’
Her father, Lio, responds, “It’s not you she hates, Kipo. It’s the future you represent.”
And what future does Kipo represent?
She represents a future where people do not make assumptions about others based on stereotypes, a future where people solve problems with empathy and compromise rather than force. Kipo represents a future that might be unfamiliar and difficult, at first.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for.