Review: Kulipari an Army of Frogs

When the Amphibilands, a village populated by frogs who live in peace and protected by a magical barrier known as the Veil, is in danger after the evil scorpion ruler Marmoo join forces with the Spider Queen Jarrah, a young frog named Darel must venture out of the Veil to seek the Kulipari, an ancient clan of poisonous frog warriors who defend the Amphibilands from evil.

Kulipari: An Army of Frogs is a 13 half-hour episodes childrens animated show released on Netflix and an adaption of the trilogy of children books “Kulipari”, written by former Football pro Trevor Pryce.

The series follows the journey of a young frog named Darel who dreams with becoming a member of the Kulipari, a group of frog warriors who are able to wield the poison within them to become stronger, and follow the footsteps of his father, one of the strongest Kulipari to have ever lived. The problem is that only frogs born with poison can become Kulipari and Darel did not Inherit his father’s powers and is simply a regular frog.

However, things changes when Lord Marmoo, a powerful Scorpion who has managed to unite all the scorpion tribes under his banner, makes a deal with the Spider Queen Jerrah, a powerful dreamcaster and former student of the Turtle King to break the veil her former teacher casted years ago the first time the scorpions tried to invade the Amphibilands and conquer the Amphibilands.

For a number of reasons, Darel ends up following some of Marmoo’s soldiers and learns about their plan to invade his homeland and thus, alongside his friend Gee, has to travel to the home of the Turtle King in search of the remaining Kulipari so they can stop Marmoo’s plans.

The plot is a very simple good vs. evil Heroes Journey story and remains that way throughout the entire series. There are no major plot twists and you could argue that is to be expected when you consider this series is aimed to the younger demographic (that is not to say it is a light show, it can be brutal at times). However, I disagree that the same could be said about how one-note some of the characters are. For starters, the character of Gee, who is one of the characters with the most screen-time in the series, is defined by one character trait: he eats a lot. Same with Coorah: She knows how to heal people (and has a running gag about wanting her friends to get hurt so she can practice).

The same happens with the Kulipari themselves. Aside from Burnu (and to an extent Quoba in the final episode) none of them have anything beyond some basic characterization. Lord Marmoo is just a generic bad guy who wants to conquer the world, his one saving grace is that he is voiced by Keith David, who is able to make every word he says feel threatening.

There is some solid characterization from some of the side-characters, but that’s it.

Not helping the flat characterization is the character design, namely that the default expression in the frog characters resembles a smile. In other words, sometimes you have a serious moment, but the characters look like they are smiling at the situation and it becomes really jarring. The animation is serviceable, but it looks awkward at times. The blend with computer animation in the background is very conspicuous. The characters are also not nearly as expressive to fit the high-quality voice acting.

That’s a shame because the world is an interesting one. The idea of Poison-users able to use it to become stronger is a creative one, the Amphibilands looks gorgeous and i love stories about anthropomorphic species.

The music is nice, though. there are some really good songs that do give the series a magical feel or complement the action really well. when the series let’s the music shine, it does not disapoint.

For the story, as i said before, it is a simple good vs. evil story and it is told as an ongoing storyline with each episode following where the previous one left off. The first 9 episodes work pretty well, even though the eponymous Kulipari do not appear until the seventh episode. It is mostly well-paced and it manages to end in an overall high-note. It would have been a good point to end the series for now.

The final four episodes, however, are a mess. They are confusing, the pasing is all over the place, we have the characters going through what should be important character moments as little more than plot points to be rushed through, the character motivations contradict earlier episodes and there is no clear explanation why and the episodes seem to try to convey a message about having faith.

And the reason why this is becomes clear once you check out the books.

The first nine episodes adapt the first Kulipari book (how well Icannot tell since I haven’t read them). the remaining four, however… adapt the last two…together.

Let me repeat myself: The remaining four episodes try to adapt two whole books when the first one took more than twice that number.

No wonder that it is a mess. They probably had to cut a lot of stuff. Hell, Lord Marmoo, the villain of the entire series, barely appears in the final episode.

I don’t understand why it was decided to do it this way, to cram the entire trilogy in just one season instead of dividing it into three, when the end result could not be anything but the character going from plot point after plot point with little time to breath.

Despite my criticism, this series is serviceable.  I do think that younger kids will be able to enjoy the ongoing storyline and I didn’t find anything particularly offensive. But i would say to pretend the last four episodes did not happen and that episode nine was the final one.

Kulipari:Army of frogs is available on Netflix.

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