Cartoon Corner: Amphibia Season 1 Review

Gotta ribbit ribbit, Jump on in it!

What’s the Story?

Anne is just a normal teen, hanging out with her friends Sasha and Marcy, until one day when said friends convince her to steal a weird box from a thrift shop. Now Anne finds herself in a strange world filled with talking amphibians and a whole host of dangers and grossness she is just not prepared for. Luckily she befriends a local family of frogs who take her in and support her as she looks for her human friends and, hopefully, a way home. Of course before that she’s got to survive one madcap adventure after another, because if the giant insects and mind-controlling mushrooms weren’t a giveaway, this place might just kill her!

The Review

Disney does isekai! I’m joking of course, though only just. This series does fit the basic definition of the anime genre, in so much that it’s about someone from our Earth transported to another world. It also amuses me that this is one of two ongoing Disney cartoons that have that same basic setup, since The Owl House is also about a teenage girl being transported to another place (but I’ve already talked about the first season of that HERE). That’s about as far as the anime influences go as the rest of this series is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from this current era of Disney cartoons. What do I mean by that? Well, Disney cartoons all have a fairly similar list of ingredients of late. We’ll have wacky characters, episodic adventures that sometimes build into a larger story arc, lessons of the week delivered with a dose of self-awareness and a little bit of a dark edge to the whole series.

It’s a formula that works, as each series that uses it proves, and like anything that can make Disney money they’re going to exploit the hell out of it! (Just on a side note, I don’t want to make every Disney cartoon sound like their all carbon copies of one another because they’re not. They share a formula, that’s all, but just because you’re following the same recipe doesn’t mean you’re going to bake the same cake. Every series creator has their own special ingredients to add, if you’ll allow me to continue the metaphor).

Enough about Disney cartoons in general though, let’s talk Amphibia. When I first signed over my soul for Disney+, Amphibia was one of the series I was looking forward to watching. It took a while for the first season to appear, but when it did I found it was…okay. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, it just didn’t blow me away like I wanted it to. There’s potential with this series though, especially with the way it ended, but I’ll get into that in a little bit. This first season is very much about setting the tone, most of which is about Anne and the Plantar family getting into wacky hijinks, usually with Anne or one of the Plantars learning some sort of lesson along the way. The ongoing plot of Anne trying to find a way home or find her friends is pushed on to the back burner. We do get a couple of glimpses of Sasha, no sign of Marcy so far, and every time Anne tries to find out about the box that brought them to Amphibia she’ll get sidetracked by some sort of deadly danger.

For the most part it works. The episodic adventures are fun, whether it’s Anne getting the Plantars hooked on one of her trashy TV shows, Sprig getting everyone locked in a library because he’s bored or Hop Pop mind-controlling the kids for a moment’s peace, there’s a lot to enjoy. The characters are all fun, each flawed in their own way, but you can feel the bond growing between them. There’s also a nice sense of continuity between the adventures, when the Plantars lose their market stand in one episode it stays lost for several episodes before they find a way to get it back. When Hop Pop tells his sweetheart how he feels, she comes back later as his girlfriend and the same goes for Sprig’s love life.

That’s not what has me really excited this series though, it’s good, certainly, but there’s a couple of things that could push this series into great in the future. My favourite character so far, despite her limited appearances, is Sasha. I’m just fascinated by the relationship she has with Anne and the level of nuance to it. I mean on the one hand, yeah, she is a bully basically coercing Anne into doing whatever she wants. She clearly thinks that she knows best and is a skilled manipulator, easily able to wrap anyone she wants around her little finger. On the other hand, she does seem to care for Anne, she defends her from bullies, and is willing to let Anne go at the end of the series to save her. All that being said, the moment when Anne stands up to Sasha is the first truly epic moment of the series and I’m hoping they’ll be plenty more as I go into season 2 and onwards.

The Verdict

In the end, Amphibia is a fun series and worth checking out, even if I suspect it’s best is yet to come. Season 1 feels very much like a tone setter, letting us get to know the characters and giving us a sense of the world before things get crazier down the line. The conclusion of the series shows a lot of potential, especially in the dynamic between Anne and Sasha, something that I hope will be explored more in future seasons (not to mention we still haven’t seen a hair of what happened to Marcy yet). Give it a chance and hop onboard for this trip to another world.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

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