Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny season 1 part 2 — Po, Four Constellations are delightful in this visually-rich tale
The second instalment of Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny season 1 had big shoes to fill. With three blockbuster films, three animated shorts, one TV series, and one web show, the franchise has expanded in leaps and bounds ever since Po proved his worth as the Dragon Warrior in the first film.
Following up from where the first season left off, the second season wastes no time in establishing characters. If the first season was an origin story for the Four Constellations — Nu Hai (Haley Tju), Bao (Gunnar Sizemore), Jing (Laya Deleon Hayes) and Fan Tong (Makana Say) — the second season charts how the four panda cubs take on evil powers, but not without the help of Po (Mick Wingert).
After defeating the original Dragon Master Jindiao, the Four Constellations have turned into quite a celebrated quartet. Bao has been selling his autobiography to the Panda Village residents, much to the dismay of his twin sister, Nu Hai, who thinks that her brother is all pomp and no show. The peaceful Panda Village does not have much to offer to the hyperactive Panda cubs, who seek excitement in mundane chores of doing their grandmother's laundry and babysitting. Then, one day, the pandas and their Master Po are invited to the Forbidden City by the emperor to investigate a mysterious drought that is plaguing the city.
Perhaps in a bid to keep it topical, Paws of Destiny has implemented a number of tropes and narrative devices that are callbacks to several high-budget franchises. Once out of the Panda Village, Po and his motley group of students encounter Monkey King Sun Wukong (James Sie), the legendary supernatural trickster, who challenges Po to defeat him and exit his castle before sun-down. Inside this castle, the reality is not what it seems. Much like in Inception, the pandas' subconscious selves collide as they begin share-dreaming involuntarily; their realities are manipulated a la Avengers: Infinity War. However, the pandas are able to escape Sun Wukong's abode and quickly journey forth.
On the other hand, back in the Panda Village, the Wellspring (the source of all the chi in the world) has also completely dried up. The ongoing drought has dwindled the food supply, with Mr Ping forced to serve sawdust broth to his customers. In such a condition, Mayor Li decides to journey across China to inform his son Po about the latest development, with Mr Ping (James Hong), his cart, and Grandma Panda (Amy Hill) in tow.
Once in the Forbidden City, the Four Constellations learn that the emperor has died, and his daughter, the feline princess Xiao (Lacey Chabert) will be coronated the new ruler. The beautiful Xiao is constantly pitted against her adopted sister, the lizard Shi Long (Sumalee Montano). While Xiao loves Shi Long, she leaves no stones unturned to boast of her beauty and ridicule Shi Long's unpleasant appearance. The pandas are tasked with protecting Xiao during her father's funeral but are shipped off to the Volcano Island to derail them from completing their job.
There is a lot going on in Paws of Destiny, but the show never loosens its grip on its viewers. It is a feat to tell a simple story of good versus evil in a 13-episode-long narrative, and Paws of Destiny is able to achieve that with ease. There are parallel storylines continuously being unfolded, new challenges are being hurled at Po and company, new mythical creatures and flying vehicles are being introduced. What makes the show a winner, however, is its emotional core and its endearing characters that have been kept intact since the inception of the franchise.
Li is an overtly emotional father, who cannot be prouder for the achievements of his son; Mr Ping is unhealthily attached to his cart, and upon its loss in a freak incident, is left a broken goose. There is Po, who is continually battling anxiety, in the anticipation that the rag-tag band of pandas will no longer require their Master's guidance. Nu Hai knows that she bears leadership qualities but is afraid to overstep, Bao is aware that behind the facade of overconfidence, he is just a young panda yearning to be taken seriously by his friends. Fan Tong is clumsy but has a heart of gold; all Jing wants is to heal the world with his newfound powers and in all her villainy, Shi Long is a heartbroken, embittered daughter desiring her father's attention and her sister's approval.
Paws of Destiny adheres to the overarching themes of the Kung Fu Panda universe rather faithfully, with lessons of kinship, self-worth and wielding power responsibly, peppered throughout the series. Created by Emmy Award-winning executive producers Mitch Watson, Elliott Owen and Lane Lueras, the CGI does not feel sloppy at all. The cutting-edge animation is used to its fullest potential by exploring a multitude of landscapes — desert, volcanoes, seas and river, caves — you name it. Add to that the music by Leo Birenberg, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece in its own right.
Although geared towards children's consumption, this Amazon Prime Video Original series is perhaps one of the best to come from the platform.
(All images sourced from YouTube)
Updated Date: Jul 08, 2019 16:35:34 IST