Available to view on Netflix
Po (Jack Black) has to make “The Journey to the West” in true Monkey King fashion if he’s to regain his honour. In the latest entry to the Kung Fu Panda franchise, he’s neither the Dragon Master nor the Dragon Knight (the title of this latest series) because his tomfoolery destroyed a village. Also, he let it lose its most precious protected relic to two weasels. If he can’t recover the stolen WuGao Gauntlet with Luthera of Landreth (Rita Ora), a bear from England, then he’ll have a lot more to lose. But this female knight has problems too.
If this plot sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it before in Avatar: The Last Avatar and Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. It combines ideas from the early seasons. One is in finding your true potential all over again. To see Po wanting to see people to have faith in him is far more important than the other arc about saving the world from a Thanos level threat.
The former Dragon Master strayed from the path because he’s still the bumbling panda. Even though he was once the best fighter in all of China, he’s still the bumbling panda. His carelessness let the weasels steal the gauntlet, and that’s the reason nobody believes in him. If he’s lucky, maybe what he can learn from Luthera can restore his honour. But it goes beyond learning the five key virtues of knighthood—friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety—something that she still has to accomplish herself.
Wandering Blade (Ora) is a conundrum. Her behaviour is more like Batman. She prefers to work alone despite Po’s best efforts to say let’s team up. Until she realises that teamwork is important, she’s destined to fail.
We don’t know much about her past until “The Lost City.” To say too much will ruin her character development cycle. I had to really feel sorry for her, because of all that she lost, in what she desires, and what she represents for women’s liberation in this alternate history of the world–which is based on our reality, but only with anthropomorphic animals replacing humans.
Everything revealed in the first episode, “A Cause for the Paws” and second sets up the series. The backstory about why the Gauntlet is important is explained in the third, and afterwards, the merry chase to find the weasels is finally on!
Veruca (Della Saba) and Klaus (Chris Geere) are the most deliciously evil characters to grace the animated world in a long time. Saba and Geere are the perfect talents to deliver the nastiness that’d even make Gru blush and The Joker to say bravo. If Delia doesn’t get an award for her outstanding voice acting work, then I’m going to complain. their natural British accents add more gravitas than anything else.
This girl’s been evil since day one, and her desire to overthrow the English monarchy drives this series. She wants to restore the order of mages she once belonged to, and apparently the Gauntlet is one of four objects that’ll grant her the ability to break the world. To give away the actual plan will ruin the last half of the season. All I can say is that her goal is worse than Megatron’s own from Transformers Prime. Anyone who’s seen that series will know what I’m implying, and for those who haven’t, you’re going to cackle.
I’m glad Jack Black is back in the role. He really made the character in the films, and the past series weren’t all that spectacular until Paws of Destiny, where Po has to teach a new generation the virtues of patience, and yes, Kung Fu Fighting. Although I would’ve loved to see that tale continue, to come up with a good pitch to continue Po”s adventures must’ve been tough.
Either the producers can put the franchise to rest, or draw inspiration from one of four China’s greatest literary novels. Most people are familiar with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West because they are the most frequently adapted, and I’m glad DreamWorks went with the latter.
The other two, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber (Story of the Stone) aren’t as well known, but I suspect the studio went for further inspiration down the lines of Macbeth when concerning the fall of the mages in Europe. There’s a backstory concerning a witch-hunt, and that’s more Shakespearean than anything else. We might get more of a revelation come season two, but for now, everything we need to know about Veruca but were afraid to ask is covered.
Kung Fu Panda The Dragon Knight is better than Legends of Awesomeness because we have a stronger ongoing narrative, like in Paws of Destiny. The films exist in its own world, and have never acknowledged what’s been put on the networks. Had they, then we’d have a huge world ripe for crossover, which is rare for any cartoon to do, save for Teen Titans GO to which I’m still scratching my head at its popularity.
Official Kung Fu Panda The Dragon Knight Trailer