Kirikou and the Sorceress is a beauty unto itself. I'm not going to bother saving the conclusion till the end - I want it to be the first thing you read in this review, just in case you happen to stop reading early on: Kirikou is truly excellent and you should watch it as soon as you are able.
The eponymous Kirikou
is one of the most refreshing and unlikely protagonists I've seen in a while. In essence, he's a highly precocious baby. So precocious that in the first minute of the movie, he crawls out of his mother's womb, totally unaided, and strikes up a conversation with her. Rather than feeling conceited, or an affectation, the surge of surreal and alien concepts in Kirikou
feel as natural and simple as any fairy story. Because that's what Kirikou
is at its heart; a French - West African fairy story about a new born baby and his ongoing battle with the deadly sorceress Karaba.
Karaba too is a remarkable character, from her startling presence (think Maleficent
, with added nudity) to her tools of oppression: an army of charming, queer little fetish idols. Karaba wants everyone's gold and servitude, and won't take any shit about it. This could have made her a flat, two-dimensional villain in other stories, but here, the central premise of the story isn't so much about defeating her, as discovering why she is such an asshole to everyone in the first place. Rest assured, it's a good reason, and in hindsight, it seems to work as some sort of subtle cultural commentary. I'd love to go into it, but that would spoil the clever twist in the tale.
The animation itself is somewhat rudimentary, depending on lots of 2D scenes and a simplistic art style. Rather than being a criticism though, this gives the film a unique aesthetic you won't see anywhere else. Likewise, the story is similarly simple, yet it has more than enough nuance and original concepts to keep the viewer enthralled. Seeing this has inspired me to go searching for all the incredible folk tales I've somehow been missing - the ones not made created in Europe, or reinvented by Disney, anyway.