It’s been a pretty long time coming – the 26 episodes of this second season were spread over more than a year, with long gaps between its bursts of releases. But it was well worth the wait, and after all I hadn’t been waiting as long as many fans: I didn’t get into the first series until after the second had already begun to air, as it was the stunning S2 intro sequence that first piqued my interest. It displayed sequences I never thought were possible for Flash animators, great characters and of course, what is for me the best cartoon theme song of the last ten years at least, ‘Sur tes pas’.
So I entered the second season unashamedly a big fan. I remain one at the end of it, though there were disappointments on the way and I felt like where season two was going to make or break the show to a wider audience, it ultimately fell short and squandered its opportunity to swell its fanbase. I’m quite fortunate – I could pick up the show’s magazine while I was in Paris (not that it was easily found), and I snapped up a Yugo figurine when Ankama were in London for the MCM Expo (complete with hilarious broken English on the box) – but where I had hoped to see the title gain a popularity up there with the new My Little Pony, sadly it was never to be and if anything, enthusiasm died as season 2 looked to be meandering and lacking in direction or a strong antagonist. And those criticisms were, I have to say, pretty valid.
Season 1 – don’t read on if you don’t wish to be spoiled - left us with the show’s driving antagonist nothing more than a pile of dust. Tristepin was also dead, and nowhere to be seen in the intro sequence. The Eliacube, the item that had sent Nox into his madness, was in the heroes’ possession, which was a politically sensitive situation. When Yugo and Adamaï decide to interact with the cube, it releases Quilby, the only other member of the Eliotrope race – who tells them the rest of the race, or at least the children, are safe but sealed away in another dimension. He sends the Brotherhood on a quest to retrieve his ‘Dofus’ so that he may be reunited with his dragon half, a step towards freeing the Eliotrope children. But all is not as it seems with Quilby, and the heroes are too trusting. Meanwhile, the demon Rushu, lord of the Shushus, yearns to be unleashed.
The elements of a great second season are there, but sadly it doesn’t work quite as well as the first season, perhaps mirroring it too closely. There are two major problems, and the first is the procrastination. Though some of season 1’s weakest episodes were when the Brotherhood diverge from their quest to help people in need, that was okay because they needed character-building and allies. Here, a point is made of how the characters are uncomfortable they are wasting time, and it just makes the overall arc feel very weak: the brilliant last three episodes in particular could have been expanded to five or more, rather than more time being spent on boufbowl or ‘wabbits’. The second problem is the lack of a great antagonist. Nox made the first season brilliant: he was sinister, iconic and yet also sympathetic. He was not defeated, except by himself, and he was always there, a driving, menacing figure with an agenda. Here, Quilby’s deception is clever but means there is little impetus until the big climax, Rushu is mostly comical until the very end and has no defined goal to be directly stopped, and generally the season lacked the impression of time running out.
For all it is inferior in story terms to season 1, though, there is much here that is brilliant. New characters are really endearing – Eva’s sister Cléophée is a great addition; Remington Smisse, though underused at the end, is an extremely interesting cad of a man, and Quilby himself is until he goes all Espada brilliantly duplicitous. The Sufokians were great for so little screentime. Some of the incidental stories are superbly-crafted and I even liked Goultard (see the specials) showing up at the end to fight alongside his student: everything was going a bit Gurren Lagann so in my view it worked superbly.
I feel Ankama were wearing their influences on their sleeves more here. The Eliotrope plot felt very derivative of Dragonball Z, and Ankama let loose with the references to other media, from a whole episode pastiching video games (with Pinpin posing like Chun Li) to Easter egg cameos from numerous anime characters: Luffy, Naruto, Mei, Muten Roshi, Ichigo…
The anime influence has always been there, of course, and it’s not as though Wakfu lost its unique flavour. And though some parts looked awkward or just lazily animated, other segments were masterful – witness all Quilby’s big fights, or the best of the boufbowl scenes. They also developed the mix of flash with traditional animation for dynamic zooms into a character, and there I felt a tingle down my spine: if this angle is developed, it could make a whole new, superb avenue of flash animation.
I’m sad that there may be no more Wakfu on the TV. Though Yugo’s arc is largely complete, there’s still so much more story to tell. Well, a Dofus feature is in the works, and purportedly one for Wakfu too. But if there’s a season 3, sign me up.
Because I can’t think of any other property that could nearly reduce me to tears by having a character take off his hat.