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Western Animation / Kirikou and the Sorceress

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Kirikou et la Sorcière (Kirikou and the Sorceress) is a 1998 French animated film, directed by Michel Ocelot, loosely based on "Fereyel and Debbo Engal the Witch", a West African (Fulani) fairy tale. Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour composed the soundtrack.

It tells the story of a tiny baby boy, named Kirikou, who is born in a spectacular way (all by himself, without effort of his mother nor outside help) and can speak and walk immediately after being born. After a couple of questions, he learns that a wicked sorceress, Karaba, has cursed the village, extorted the women's gold and jewels and devoured all the men and boys, except his uncle, who is on his way to fight the sorceress. He tricks the sorceress, saves his uncle as well as the children of the village (twice!), brings the water back to the dried-up spring and, among other things, discovers the sorceress' true motivations.

There's lots of controversy because of the depiction of nudity, although people in pre-colonial West Africa did walk that way in a completely asexual atmosphere. But since America has terrible issues with women's nipples, the film wasn't released in the United States until 2002.

It was so successful that it spawned an interquel called Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages (Kirikou and the Wild Beasts) in 2005 and a musical, Kirikou et Karaba (Kirikou and Karaba), in 2007. A second interquel, Kirikou et les Hommes et les Femmes (Kirikou and the Men and Women), was released in 2012 and focuses on the people of Kirikou's village and beyond.

Kirikou and the Sorceress provides examples of:

  • Aesop Amnesia: The village's children are none the wiser when climbing in the ominous black tree right after the sorceress' canoe misadventure Kirikou saved them from, despite Kirikou soundly warning them both times and a mother warning them after the canoe incident. Sure enough, they're trapped again and it's up to Kirikou to save them before Karaba gets them. And that's after they sang about how brave and smart he is.
  • All-Loving Hero: Kirikou harbors no hatred for anyone and really wants to know what makes Karaba evil.
  • Ancient Egypt: Kirikou's grandfather is dressed like an ancient pharaoh, rather randomly so since Egypt is quite far from West Africa. He has a postiche beard under his chin and wears a white Hedjet crown, overall resembling a black version of Osiris.
  • Antagonist Title: Kirikou is a Protagonist Title but the sorceress, Karaba, is the Big Bad.
  • Anti-Villain: Karaba is evil because of all the suffering she went through at the hands of men, including a very subtly implied rape. All the bad things that she allegedly had done are ultimately proven to be false. She does hate everyone, but she gets better.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Why is Karaba the Sorceress wicked?" by Kirikou, naturally.
  • Artistic License: How does Kirikou see anything in the animals' tunnels he uses to cross Karaba's domain? He presumably doesn't have senses as developed as the burrowing animals either.
  • Audible Sharpness: When one of Karaba's fetishes passes her the Poisoned Lance, the camera lingers on the nasty-looking blade. It shines and sounds very sharp indeed.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted with Karaba although she does get prettier when she makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Big Damn Hero: Just as the villagers are about to kill a de-powered Karaba who turned good, The Wise Old Man of the Mountain conveniently arrives in time and reveals that Karaba really did stop being evil, and that the village's men who were believed to have been eaten by her are actually alive and well.
  • Bookends: Kirikou's first line in the film is, "Mère, enfente-moi!" ("Mother, give birth to me!") His last line, after he comes back to the village and nobody believes it's him, is, "Mère, reconnais-moi!" ("Mother, recognize me!")
  • Cassandra Truth: Twice, when the now adult Kirikou returns to his village and tells everyone that he is the very child they knew and loved. If his mother didn't come forth and recognize him as her own son, they never would've been convinced. The next one is when he tells the villagers that Karaba is no longer a sorceress. They only interpret it as her still being a sorceress who just lost all her powers, and therefore they want to kill her. At that moment, Kirikou's grandfather, accompanied by all the men who disappeared from the village and were turned into fetishes by Karaba, comes forth and convinces the villagers that Kirikou wasn't lying about Karaba.
  • Constantly Curious: Kirikou.
    Kirikou: [after asking a lot of "Whys"] Why?
    The Wise Old Man of the Mountain: You're quite right to keep asking me "why", but from one "why" to the next we'll go right back to the Creation of the World — and beyond that, knowing you. We'll never have time to talk about Karaba the Sorceress.
  • Dark Is Evil: Karaba's giant round hut and fetishes are all very dark black.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The first two stories in Kirikou and the Men and Women are centered around the woman who gets her hut burned down in the first film and the village elder with the nice hat respectively. The fifth is centered around Kirikou's mother and her musical skills, which she passes on to Kirikou.
  • Discard and Draw: When Karaba's thorn is removed by Kirikou, she loses her power over the men she turned into fetishes and her aura that destroys all life around her. Instead, life starts actively blooming around her, and one kiss from her turns Kirikou into a grown man.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Even after saving the other children from the sorceress several times, bringing back the water supply, and even turning Karaba good, the villagers still treat Kirikou like complete crap.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Karaba wears lots of jewelry, including in her hair and on her breasts, and forces the women of the village to give up all their gold and jewelry to her. However, one woman tried to cheat the rule and hide some of her jewellery in her hut, and when the fetishes found it, they burned her hut down.
  • Fertile Feet: During Karaba's Heel–Face Turn, the plants and flowers she previously had eroded with her Walking Wasteland ability, comes back to life prettier than before. This may also be the reason a kiss from her turns Kirikou into a grown man.
  • Forced Transformation: The witch's army consists of men she has transformed into fetishes. When Kirikou tears out the source of her suffering and her witch powers, they all turn back to their true forms.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Kirikou challenges the witch and her rule while being naked throghout the movie.
  • Guile Hero: Kirikou proves again and again by foiling Karaba's plans that his mind is his greatest attribute. Not surprising, considering his mum is the only Reasonable Authority Figure in the village and his grandfather is The Wise Old Man of the Mountain.
  • Grumpy Old Man: The old man of the village, but he's not very wise (nor humble).
  • Happy Ending: Karaba turns good, all the men of the village who supposedly were dead were actually alive and well, and all the main problems for the village seem fixed.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Karaba is said to hate men, women, and children.
    The Wise Old Man of the Mountain: Karaba doesn't like children, she despises women, she hates men and she wants to do them all the harm she can.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Karaba at the end. She turns all the men back to normal and fixes everything.
  • Hermit Guru: The Wise Old Man of the Mountain, Kirikou's grandpa.
  • Hot Witch: Karaba, the eponymous sorceress. She's stated to be as beautiful as she is evil, and indeed even the hero Kirikou admits as such.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The villagers believe that Karaba ate the village's men. It turns out at the end to not be true.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Karaba's star-like afro.
  • In Vino Veritas: In Kirikou and the Men and Women, those strange fruits that had been on the plant a little too long cause the old man to admit his love for everyone in the village. Except Karaba.
  • Innate Night Vision: Not only can the lookout fetish see everything moving on the savannah at great distances (even ants), he can also do it at night.
  • Interquel: Kirikou and the Wild Beasts and Kirikou and the Men and Women consist of segments that take place between scenes in the first film.
  • Kid Hero: Exaggerated. Kirikou is actually a BABY hero, if one whose mind is supernaturally closer to a young boy.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Karaba is a dignified, regal sorceress with dark magic and cursed soldiers at her command.
  • Likes Older Women: Despite being a baby, Kirikou asks Karaba in marriage when she pulls a Heel–Face Turn, saying that he doesn't like little girls. She doesn't accept, of course, but then her kiss turns him into a handsome young man.
  • The Musical: Kirikou and Karaba.
  • Mooks: Karaba's fetishes (no, not that kind of fetish).
  • Mordor: Not an entire nation or country, but the area surrounding Karaba's round hut looks pretty dead.
  • National Geographic Nudity: The reason why the movie got rated R in the US.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We don't see the village's men (who got turned into fetishes by Karaba) turn human again before they come back at the village carrying Kirikou's grandfather.
  • Overnight Age-Up: A kiss from Karaba turns Kirikou from a cute baby boy into a handsome young man.
  • Parents Know Their Children: Kirikou's mother is the only one who is able to recognize her son after his Overnight Age-Up courtesy of Karaba.
  • Poisonous Person: Not in the traditional way, but Karaba is associated with poison and blight nevertheless as a motif. Her personal weapon is a poisonous lance, all life withers and dies under her influence, one of her minions is a venomous viper, and she derives her sorcerous powers from a venomous thorn stuck in her back.
  • Power at a Price: The thorn in Karaba's back gives her magical powers, but it also causes her intense pain all the time. When Kirikou removes it, she feels much better and hardly even regrets the loss of (most of) her magic.
  • Protagonist Title: Kirikou's name is in the title. It's coupled with Antagonist Title.
  • Rampage from a Nail: Karaba has a poisonous thorn stuck in her back, stuck so deeply in the only way to remove it is with one's teeth. When it's removed, she gets better.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The fetishes (Karaba's mooks), the one serving as lookout on top of Karaba's round hut included, have red eyes.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In Kirikou and the Wild Beasts, Kirikou gets rid of a black hyena pursuing him by dropping a wild bees nest on it. After that, he mends the nest and puts it back on its place on the tree while apologizing to the bees.
  • The Scream: When Kirikou removes the thorn from Karaba's back, she lets out a scream of pain loud enough to be heard in the village. Then she doesn't feel pain anymore and her evil magic disappears.
  • Smelly Skunk: When using tunnels dug by animals to secretely cross Karaba's domain, Kirikou bumps into a skunk. While he manages to chase the animal away, it releases a gland full of stinky gas, much to his displeasure. He later saves a family of squirrels from the same skunk, and gets another release of stinky gas as a result.
  • Stock Beehive: Averted in Kirikou And The Wild Beast. When Kirikou encounters a beehive, it looks exactly like the one in the page image, although the bees' behavior against the hyena are not realistic.
  • Super-Speed: Kirikou runs incredibly fast for a Brainy Baby with very short legs.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: When Kirikou steals Karaba's jewels, she utters this and called her fetishes a bunch of useless imbeciles. In doing so, she ends up leaving herself completely exposed.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After her Heel–Face Turn, Karaba is much more gentler.
  • The Unreveal: We never learn why Karaba had that venomous thorn driven into her back. Kirikou asks the question, but his grandfather deflects it.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: None of the villagers seems fazed by the fact that Kirikou can speak and walk perfectly fine despite being a newborn.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Karaba enrages both times that Kirikou thwarts her attempts to kidnap the village's children and when he manages to solve the dry water source problem.
    • When Karaba's jewels are stolen, she goes into yet another fit of rage and goes deal with Kirikou herself. This leaves her exposed and far away from the all-seeing fetish that could have potentially warned her about Kirikou's impending attack.
  • Walking Wasteland: Karaba strikes barren the ground she walks on, although this might also be an effect of her poisonous spear.
  • Water Source Tampering: Kirikou decides to investigate the cause of the source drying up and finds out a creature has been drinking it all for a while (the creature's belly has grown gigantic from all the water). He then borrows a red iron to pop it like a balloon, restoring the village's water supply, but at the cost of himself nearly drowning.
  • When Trees Attack: In her second attempt to kidnap the village's children, Karaba sets up a tree for the children to climb in. It turns out to be alive (well, more alive than a regular tree), its branches close themselves forming a cage around the children and it then runs at high speed towards Karaba's hideout. Kirikou thwarts that attempt by catching up with the tree on the road and cutting its trunk with a machete, and the only thing that returns to Karaba is a tree trunk as a result.
  • Wicked Witch: Karaba appears to be an evil and petty sorceress, although she is less wicked than she lets on.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Kirikou already knows how to speak seconds before exiting his mother's womb, instantly knows how to walk, and proves to be the smartest and wisest member of his village, despite being a baby. Even his childlike curiosity is a sign of wisdom, because he actually questions why Karaba is evil rather than blindly hating her like the rest of the village does.