Plot: Yugo is a mysterious child who was adopted by an innkeeper named Alibert. When Alibert found Yugo in the forest, a message was magically conveyed to him – This boy has incredible power; the ability to manipulate Wakfu, which, as of now, manifests itself in the creation of portals – and when he grows up he’ll need to embark on a journey to find his true family. Several years later, Yugo discovers his latent abilities and Alibert reveals the secret of his past to him so he can finally start his journey and find his real family.
Breakdown: This series is based on Wakfu, the MMORPG, which is a sequel to another MMORPG, Dofus. I’ve never played either game, though I have heard pretty good things about them.
That being said, I’ve also heard great things about this series. It’s even popular to call it France’s answer to Avatar the Last Airbender. I think my jury’s still out on that claim for now.
Yup yup, this is a French cartoon (and just to sate people who might bring this up – it can also qualify as an anime) And my experience with French animation is surprisingly limited, mostly contained to Totally Spies, Code Lyoko and Sonic Boom, which is weird because I love those shows…well….two of them.
Other than that, I’ve seen a handful of French short animations, which tend to be largely and heavily artsy. Not that that’s bad at all, but I have to be in the mood for that.
As an intro, this first episode does okay. It’s a bit too quick with the pacing, though. Especially near the end where they basically jump from ‘Oh Yugo has portal powers’ to ‘Yugo, you’re destined to embark on a journey to find your real family. I know because the magic floaty glowing text told me when I found you.’ in about five seconds.
It doesn’t really do proper world-building though. I was struggling to write the plot section because I wanted to include aspects of the world but I soon realized that they didn’t really explore it very much. I caught glimpses of dragons and magic and Wakfu, though they don’t really explain what Wakfu is – I know Alibert and Ruel are bounty hunters, but I don’t understand why their main weapons are shovels.
The main enemy is a robot guy thing named Nox, and he seemed really interesting and cool, but I’m kinda unclear on what he is considering this is a largely fantasy-based world yet he’s clearly a robot/cyborg thing.
Speaking of characters, I found myself liking mostly everyone so far. Yugo’s a cool little kid. He’s responsible, he’s always helping out his father and I like his comedic moments. I especially enjoyed his brief bits of banter with Alibert, such as when they’re being attacked by someone possessed by a demon, customers run out of the inn and Yugo starts panicking because they didn’t pay their bill, but Alibert assures him by saying he’ll remember their faces.
Alibert is pretty cool too. He seems like he’s a great dad and an equally great bounty hunter.
Ruel is greedy, but entertaining. He provides some good information and can seemingly hold his own in a fight, despite his age.
The only one I didn’t much care for was the mysterious cloaked dragon guy who left Yugo in the woods. However, I’m 99% sure that’s just because his voice acting coupled with his animation really throws me off. I was shocked to learn that he was voiced by a woman. No wonder the insanely deep voice sounded artificially distorted and weird.
Speaking of voices, apparently, despite the love of this show, most Wakfu fans vehemently suggest not watching the dub (Especially S3, which features an entirely new cast.) I kinda brushed it off because most people bark ‘Dub bad!’ without any real justification for it, but yeah….it was kinda justified. Half of the cast is perfectly fine. Not amazing, but fine. I especially liked Yugo and Nox’s acting. However, the other half is either unfitting to the point of the voice not really fitting any living being I can think of, like dragon dude, or the acting is really strange like they’re reading from a script that only has one to five words per page.
I’m not going to harsh on the dub too badly, however, because the English dub was produced by the series own producer, Ankama, done at Flix Facilities LLC. and it was funded through a Kickstarter. The third season, however, was co-produced and dubbed by Netflix.
I really liked the art in this series. It’s very stylized while still being fairly simplistic. The colors pop, the landscapes are quite beautiful and the characters are all very distinctive from each other with easily identifiable silhouettes, there some cool design choices in regards to hair and clothing. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I want Yugo’s hat thing.
However, the animation will take some time to really gel with me. This series is animated entirely in Flash, which, while being a joke to a lot of people, is still an incredibly useful animation program. And let me make it clear that I am very aware that there are many great and beautifully animated series that were animated in Flash. Some of my favorite cartoons were made with Flash.
The thing is, it’s also cheap and easy enough for most animators, no matter their experience or skill level, to use, which leads to the market being oversaturated in series that tend to look like trash and give the software as a whole a bad name.
Flash animated works tend to have what I like to call ‘Paper doll syndrome.’ Basically, you can instantly imagine where all of the hinges are when something is animated. Instead of moving naturally, it looks like a bunch of separate parts moving together because some unseen puppeteer wills it that way.
They also tend to have a weird bounciness to them. Like once they start moving, no matter how slight, once they stop their bodies feel the need to bounce in the other direction a bit for no reason.
Wakfu has both of these problems, but it not due to lack of skill, experience or budget. As far as I know, Wakfu’s budget was very high. The show is praised for its animation in spite of the aforementioned trends – and I can see why. It’s extremely dynamic, flows fairly well and the action scenes are done in a manner that is fast-paced without looking sloppy or weird. I definitely feel like characters, creatures and objects are interacting with their environment and that everything is real within their world.
A good chunk of my unease here is likely just a general dislike of the bouncy paper-dollness as a whole. It’s incredibly distracting to me and reminds me a lot of those cheap badly produced Flash shows that do that a LOT.
Hopefully, I just need to get used to it here.
The music is also REALLY good. I love the opening theme song, and the background music is very fitting and well-made.
Honestly, I’m really not expecting Avatar-level quality here, but I think it will be a fun watch, and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series. I think I’ll switch to subbed, though.
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