A good children’s program is a more important part of household dynamic than you might think. Children can cause enough discord without you also hating the things they watch. Unfortunately children’s programming frequently ranks as the cheapest, ill thought out, cash-in garbage there is. It’s funny how we use our children as a precious resource to justify giving in to any demands made by teachers unions but accept as a matter of course that modern programming would do well to live up to the standards of Thomas and Friends, you know back before they were CGI animated. A children’s show that is not just tolerable, but that the parents enjoy watching with their children is rarer than it ought to be.
That takes us to an entertainment company in France called Ankama. They’re known for an MMORPG called Dofus and Wakfu is an animated program based on it. Typically, this is the last sort of situation you’d expect anything worth watching to come out of. So just how enjoyable is Wakfu anyway? Well, let’s put it this way, the show being quite old was shown to me by my at-the-time 24 yearold roommate because he enjoyed it thoroughly. You see he was a fan of Japanese anime and Wakfu managed to penetrate that fandom to a certain extent. Fan-made subtitles were done to translate it out of French, and in the last couple of years it’s received an official English translation on Netflix. It got there through a kickstarter fundraiser to fund the translation. Yeah, this show was good enough that a kickstarter campaign actually worked and a product came out of it.
I’ve watched Wakfu’s first season with my children at least six times now (I really recommend leaving it to the first season and we’ll get to that later). It’s that enjoyable. The main villian is convincing and genuinely dangerous. Encounters with him go badly, often in ways that last most of or the whole way through the ending of the first season, his motivations are relatable, and his goals are clear. Silver screen villains rarely get the formula as correct as this. Character flaws of the protagonists often result in permanent consequences for the group and they become such trouble that they have to overcome those flaws and grow to proceed. One of the main characters literally starts the show unable to control his demons, that remains a serious issue for most of the first season. The show can get very serious, but it doesn’t stay that way long enough to be detrimental, nor does it stick to the innocuous for too long. Wakfu gets extra points from me for being brave with consequences for bad decisions. This isn’t one of those shows where the reset button gets hit at the end of every episode. There are a lot of shows for adults that can’t seem to get over that trap. It takes most of the first season for the narrative arc to really find its footing, and prior to that the pacing can seem a bit off, but once it hits that stride mid season it just does not let up for a moment and the experience is immensely enjoyable.
The voice acting by the French cast is competent, energetic, and expressive. The English cast, not so much. Depending on the age of your kids you may have to bear with it, but I used it as a motivator to get them reading faster. That’s something you’ll have to feel out but use the original audio if at all possible. Though not as strong a recommendation, I also don’t recommend going past season one, not just because season one is the strongest season but because season two ruins one of the best endings in any children’s show ever. Season one, on it’s own, is simply a better story. I’d say, as a target, the optimal age group for this show is 9-14, most of the cast is dealing with the troubles of early adolescence. Between finding your nerve, liking who you see in the mirror, dropping your facade, learning how to take risks, and of course love, the show deals with many issues in that age group without using kid gloves, and I absolutely love the lack of coddling. I don’t know if this show represents French television well, but if it does they are worlds ahead of the United States in figuring out that treating your children like infants will cause them to stay that way.
If you can’t tell by now, or by the title, I really do adore this show, and you should do yourself a favor and stop suffering through dreadful children’s television and watch Wakfu instead. It’s just that good, you may end up enjoying it as much as they do.