Centaurworld – Season 1, Episodes 1-10 (2021)

Happy New Year! There’s probably one person out there right now going, “Hey! This isn’t the start of the ‘Festival Orchestrating’ arc for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Kai, AKA When They Cry: Kai!” Well that potential reader is right–I haven’t finished up Kai, partly because my computer can’t play Blu-ray discs so I’d have to watch it in the cold living room, but also because I’m lazy. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching things! I’ve got movies lined up, but not as many shows since so many are things I’d want to cover here. But during the holidays I checked out Centaurworld, a Netflix animated series that looked goofy as hell. And it is! But it also has a dark undercurrent that leads to a fight with an eldritch abomination. So made for me, really. Oh, and it’s also a musical. There’s a lot going on.

The series starts in a war-torn world ravaged by a horde of minotaurs. A Rider (Ms. Jessie Mueller) is trying to get a magical artifact to safety, but the evil army corners her and drives her horse off the cliff. The artifact activates, and now we’re following Horse (Kimiko Glenn from Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas) who can now talk in the cartoonish world of Centaurworld. She finds a herd of… interesting characters: Wammawink (Megan Hilty), an overprotective purple llamataur who feels an overwhelming desire to keep everyone safe; Glendale (Megan Dong, who is also the series creator), a weird little klepto gazelletaur with a portal tummy where she stashes all her ill-gotten gains; Zulius (Parvesh Cheena), a super gay zebrataur; Durpleton (Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother), a giraffetaur who’s a complete idiot; and Ched (Chris Diamantopoulos, a voice actor I know as Green Arrow from Justice League Action), a buff finchtaur who instantly hates Horse. After freaking out that she’s gone from a dark fantasy world to a kids’ cartoon, Horse convinces the herd to travel the Rainbow Road and help her find a shaman who will tell her how to get back home. Wacky hijinks ensue.

Up first is Waterbaby (Renée Elise Goldsberry), a hippotaur shaman who once trained Wammawink in the magical arts. She tells the gang about the other shamans that Horse will have to visit before she’ll give the final piece of the Key. Oh, right, the artifact is a key that connects Horse’s world to Centaurworld. While the gang goes off, a mysterious Woman (Lea Salonga, AKA the singing voice of Jasmin in Aladdin and Mulan in Mulan) warns of the doom this could bring.

From there, they visit Big Tree (Klara Söderberg of the band First Aid Kit) who gives people what they need, not what they want. Horse is given a vision of Wammawink after her tribe was wiped out, and Durpleton gets farts that tell him what a good boy he is (voiced by Tony Hale). It’s a goofy show. Horse takes Big Tree’s piece of the Key by force, and that episode ends with a creepy lullaby about some evil called the Nowhere King. There’s an encounter with a Beartaur (David Johansen of New York Dolls) that shows that minotaurs once attacked Centaurworld, then it’s off to the underground realm of the moletaurs. Sure, there’s a shaman there–Judge Jacket (Santigold)–and another piece of the Key, but really the character worth remembering from this is Comfortable Doug (Flula Borg, AKA Javelin from The Suicide Squad). Oh, and Horse’s tail now talks (voiced by Paul F Tompkins), demonstrating that this world is changing her.

Another Key piece is with the cattaurs, who Zulius hates because Splendib (Fred Armisen) is definitely not his ex. Nope! Horse’s animation style fully matches Centaurworld by this point, which isn’t something she’s happy with. After Horse steals yet another piece, the cats sing about the Nowhere King, making the creepy rhyme even more ominous. The last shaman appears to be a no-show, so the gang is entertained by Sunfish Merguy (Jamie Cullum) while Horse laments her new appearance. Turns out the Whaletaur Shaman (Rosalie Craig) actually is there, and her thing is swallowing people whole so they don’t have to feel despair anymore. Wammawink stages a desperate rescue before Horse is killed. With all the other shamans visited, Waterbaby meets the gang at the portal to Horse’s world. After a tearful goodbye, Horse enters the rift between worlds, which Rider also enters from the other end! But their reunion is cut short, because the rift was a prison for the Nowhere King (Brian Stokes Mitchell), and they just unlocked the doors. The Woman swoops in and takes the key, saying the Nowhere King’s imprisonment is worth more than the lives of Horse and Rider. Horse’s friends disagree, which might not have been the best decision… The gang confronts the Nowhere King, and in the end the two worlds are connected and the evil elk-like goo monster has escaped to Rider’s world, reuniting with his minotaur army. Realizing both worlds need their own army, Horse stays in Centaurworld to gather up troops. End season 1.

I kept describing this show to people as being very similar to Adventure Time, or at least the later half that went heavy on an overarching plot. It’s goofy, it’s silly, it has songs, and a plot thread about an ancient evil that is threatening to destroy everything. It’s a bit of a tonal whiplash, but I’m here for it. I tend to skew more towards the “ancient evil” element than “silly kids cartoon,” but for the most part I think it works, helped by the characters growing closer as the episodes progress.

I want Zulius to be my favorite character, I really do. He bring some authentic queer sass–voice actor Parvesh Cheena is gay–and he has some great comedic moments. But guys, I have to be true to my weirdness, so Glendale is my favorite. Her thing is she looks like a Muppet and has this weird voice, but occasionally sings beautifully just to make you question everything. She actually steals the Key back from Woman, so everything that’s going to happen from here on is more or less because of her! Again, the Nowhere King appears to be a big enough threat that the gang may wish it hadn’t gone that way.

I mentioned this is a musical, right? The songs are a big part of the show, happening diegetically–or in a way that the characters acknowledge they’re singing, as versus non-diegetic where the singing is more for the audience than something the characters are aware of. And a musical means I have to rank which songs I like the most. This was a hard task, since so many songs were really good, but I ended up with my top five. They are:

  1. “Nothing Good” by Lea Salonga. I’m a sucker for villains who end up inflicting their own pain onto others–see just about every “villain” in Steven Universe–and this is very much a song about being betrayed by someone you once loved. It also adds an interesting element to the Nowhere King, since that’s clearly who she’s singing about.
  2. “The Hero of My Story (Comfortable Doug)” by Flula Borg and various. Not all my favorite songs are serious or grim. Doug is more of a joke than a character and yet has one of the best songs in the series.
  3. “Taurnado” by Kimiko Glenn, Megan Dong, and various. The taurnado was an enemy I didn’t mention, but it sings like a siren, trying to lure the gang to their doom. It’s from an early episode, so Horse wasn’t being a team player and thought she was basically invincible, which led to Glendale almost dying. In fact, the contrast of Horse singing that everyone should follow her into danger with the taurnado luring them to their doom highlights Horse’s–at the time–self-centered world view.
  4. “The Nowhere King” by various characters. It’s a creepy lullaby that feels like more work was put into it than a lot of other songs. Most are the characters singing exposition, while this feels like a song you’d hear creepy girls singing to let you know that you’re about to die.
  5. “Frustration Tears” by Kimiko Glenn. Another song from before Horse fully bonds with the others, this is her trying not to cry in front of the others when going home looks like it may never happen. The visuals help, but that’s true for most of these songs.

And while I’m ranking things, my favorite moment of the first season is something truly forgettable to most people. Horse at one point loses track of the Rainbow Road, and asks for help from a Germanic hyenataur with braces and a purse, whose grandpapa was mugged by the Rainbow Road ages ago. He’s a total freak and only really there for one joke, but it’s the line said by Horse at the beginning of that encounter that just got me so good: “This guy will probably know what’s up. He has a purse!” So many good lines in the show, but that one just cracks me up the most.

Next: Season 2

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One thought on “Centaurworld – Season 1, Episodes 1-10 (2021)

  1. Pingback: Centaurworld – Season 2, Episodes 1-7 (2021) | Chwineka Watches

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