I came into Amphbia between season one and two. I had seen some of my friends chatting about it online. As I love animation and have been impressed with Disney’s run lately, I wanted to give it a try. What I discovered was an incredibly unique show that has completely blown me away.
Amphibia focuses on the character of Anne Boonchuy, a Thai-American teenager. On her birthday, her friend Sasha pressures her into shoplifting an item from a store. Little do the ladies know, the items is a magical box that transports them, along with their third friend Marcy, to the world of Amphibia. The friends are separated, and Anne is found by a family of frogs called the Plantars. Hop Pop is the grandfather, and the kids, Spring and Polly, instantly bond with Anne. The show is about Anne finding her friends and getting home.
But it starts with an interesting pace. From the get go, they set the physical boundary that Anne can’t leave their valley for the entire first season. The winter months keep the family from making their way to the capital Newtopia. So, the entire first season focuses on Anne learning and becoming part of the world. Wartwood, the Plantar’s hometown, becomes such an important part of the story. They really take the time for the audience to meet each individual and fall in love with this place. When the plot does finally kick in, you truly care about these people as we’ve seen them through Anne’s eyes.
Anne is a particularly fascinating character. I love her journey. In the original press release, it described Anne as being “self-centered” which is actually a strength in the show. I mean this in the nicest way possible: I found Anne really unlikable early season one. This is not a bad thing, because it gave her character so much room to grow. Early on, she can be a bit manipulative to the wholesome, good-natured frogs. But part of her story is growing into a better person. It’s so amazing seeing her change in such a short amount of time. Matt Braly’s team does an excellent job.
Anne’s growth is particularly clear when other human characters come into play. Sasha’s entrance into the series places her into a position of being the perfect foil for Anne. Anne has had an in depth character journey with the good guys. Sasha stays the same as she ends up with the more powerful antagonists that don’t force her to change. They end up on two completely different trajectories even though they have the same goal to get home.
And then there’s Marcy, who is just the best. I don’t want to give anything about her away. She is an experience that needs to be seen, and I mean that in the best way possible. Marcy is quickly becoming my favorite character. I love her so much!
Amphibia wouldn’t be what it is without the frogs of the world. The people of Wartwood are full of love. They might have been wary of an outsider like Anne in the beginning, but they learn to care for her as one of their own. The Plantars are so pure and considerate. Hop Pop rides this line between being an adorable old man and having some kind of mysterious past. Polly is a one-liner machine. But Spring is the heart of the group. His best friend relationship with Anne is the glue of the show. If I had to pick a word to describe the show, it would be “charming” and the Plantars embody that.
The biggest moment of the series so far is the narrative shift between season one and two.
I actually had a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around the plot of season one. It felt like there were only three or four actual BIG plot episodes out of the season. The rest felt like character stories and adventure of the week world building narratives. It didn’t feel like there was a bigger plot happening at times. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of storytelling at all.
But I also fell into this trap kind of thinking before with another show I love.
Steven Universe’s first season felt very adventure of the week with no real big context of a larger story. It felt like a lot of character stories and nothing more. Then after the season one finale, the plot kicked in. This is how Amphibia has been so far. But it wasn’t until Steven Universe started getting into later seasons that the audience was able to see the seeds planted in season one. I mean the “Cookie Cat” song in episode one is about Rose Quartz and Steven, which did not become apparent to me until the season four finale.
So, I have to wonder if Amphibia is following a similar format or am I reading into it too much. Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong if the first season is just character story and world building. Amphibia does it really well. But I do have to wonder if there is something more that isn’t revealed yet.
Though, there is a huge shift between season one and two. Season two is more plot focused as Anne and the Plantars head out of their home and go into the bigger world. The show starts introducing more political and social commentary as we learn that toads and newts hold different status in the world compared to the frogs. The series completely deepens in ways I didn’t think possible. It tackles loss and trauma while never losing it’s charm. I can’t wait to see where the story goes.
Of course I have the mention the diversity of the show. As I said above, Anne is Thai-American which often is a focus in episodes as she shares her culture with her found family. Series creator is Matt Braly is also Thai-American, and he created Anne so kids like him who were growing up now could be seen. Also, Matt’s mother, On Braly, is the voice actress for Anne’s mother, which is just the cutest note ever. Brenda Song makes her return to Disney Channel voicing Anne, and my goodness is she so great in the role. Diversity is in front of and behind the scenes of the show with the voice cast including Haley Tju as Marcy, Anna Akana as Sasha, and recently in season two, the legendary Keith David has joined the cast. But I don’t want to spoil who he plays, because it’s such a treat! I also can’t wait to see more of Zehra Fazal’s General Yunan who is both threatening and endearing as a third party threat.
I also just wanted to say I LOVE that theme song! It is so freaking catchy. I get chills every time the beat drops at the giant chicken. Which doesn’t make sense without context, so check it out:
If there was anything about the series I would love to see different, it would be the introduction of a LGBTQA+ storyline. Now, it’s not a requirement by any means to have queer storytelling in every show. But there’s been such a big push for it lately. Braly worked on Gravity Falls, and it’s been well documented how hard Alex Hirsch fought and lost his battle with Disney censors. It would be cool to see Braly pick up those reins and keep pushing for it. Dana Terrace, another Gravity Falls alum, created a queer storyline in her show, The Owl House. Again, I’m not saying it’s a requirement for Amphibia. But as a queer fan myself, it’s always nice when creators include it. I didn’t get to grow up with queer characters to look up to. I think it would be great if the next generation grew up with an abundance of them.
I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Amphibia. There’s so much to love about this truly unique show in the pantheon of Disney animated series. The character work and world building are some of the best around. And as the plot is continuing to deepen, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
At the moment, the show is in hiatus until 2021. Season one is on Disney+. Season two can be watched on the Disney Now App or you can buy episode for $1.99 on YouTube. Now is a great time to catch up on this absolutely gorgeous series.
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