This review will contain spoilers for the first 3 seasons of ‘Bojack Horseman’.
The medium of animation, namely cartoons, is a fairly simple one to many people. Draw some characters and backgrounds, write an interesting story, tell a few jokes, and you have a hearty laugh. It’s a simple medium, where most cartoons can thrive if they put in an optimal amount of effort. But that’s changed recently. The common cliche regarding cartoons is that it’s for kids. While yes, that it is, for the most part, true, these days, there are still plenty of cartoons that still resonate with both kids and adults. You have your shows like ‘Steven Universe’ and ‘Star vs. the Forces of Evil’, that appeal to a wide variety of demographics, and then you have adult cartoons. The big names that probably come to mind when you think about adult cartoons are probably ‘The Simpsons, ‘South Park’, and ‘Family Guy’. They follow the structure laid out above, with ‘South Park’ sometimes putting in some biting social commentary. And that leads me to ‘Bojack Horseman’.
Bojack Horseman is simultaneously one of the most interesting and most difficult cartoons I’ve ever watched.
The world of ‘Bojack Horseman’ is populated by people and animals, which leads to plenty of puns, quips, and jokes.
The main character of ‘Bojack Horseman’, is, of course, the horse himself, Bojack Horseman. He’s a down on his luck celebrity has-been from the late 90s, from a show that can only be described as ‘Full House, but with a horse’. He soon fades from stardom, and in order to get back into it, he writes a memoir. Or, rather he gets a ghostwriter. This is where Diane comes in. She helps him write the memoir, as he falls for her. The love isn’t reciprocated, however, and Bojack goes into a downward spiral that gets him to question his life choices and whether or not he’s a good person. The second and third seasons continue with these themes, with it becoming ultimately harder and harder to tell whether or not he is a good character. And that’s the interesting thing about Bojack. He’s a sympathetic character, despite his many mistakes. He hurts everyone he touches, like a chaotic Midas, but he’s still a person of ambiguous character who has lead to the downfall of other characters. He leads to the death of a former co-star, and abandoned one of his best friends in a time of need, but yet, I still feel sympathy for him, possibly because of the masterful writing of Bob Raphael-Waksberg.
What Waksberg lacks in a normal name he makes up for in raw writing talent. The first 5 or so episodes of ‘Bojack Horseman’ seem like the kind of thing you would see in a normal animated sitcom. But instead of the usual sitcom tropes of the characters arcs being contained into a single episode, where everything is forgotten about in the next episode, it subverts that, and makes the arcs carry on throughout the seasons. Bojack’s depression, if it did take place in a single episode arc of a sitcom like say, Family Guy, would be seen as off-kilter, but the 3 season arc of his depression works, as it details a downward spiral where, even when he’s up, he’s down. It destroys the ‘holier than thou’ persona of most celebrities, where Bojack is cynical, bitter, and self-loathing, to the point where, at times, his cries for help feel like a search for another person to push away. It’s probably one of the most brutally honest depictions of depression I’ve ever seen in a TV show, and Waksberg pens the character with gusto. That’s not to say that Bojack is the only character of note, even. Diane is written as something of a nihilistic realist, and is likely one of the few people keeping him alive. She marries Mr. Peanutbutter, a dog who’s somewhat of a rival to Bojack, which leads to sort of a weird love triangle. Peanutbutter, the star of another sitcom that ripped off Horsing Around, could easily be written as another foil to Bojack’s arguable straight man, but he’s got his own set of issues too, which is strange, considering how bubbly his character is. Todd, Bojack’s roommate, acts as sort of a comedic relief in a sea of miserable characters. He’s probably the funniest character on the show.
This is the crux of ‘Bojack Horseman’. Nobody is perfect. Everybody is flawed. Even the most bubbly and happy people on Earth have their own set of issues, which, while being something of an obvious statement, is something that people can often forget.
The voice cast of ‘Bojack Horseman’ is pretty impressive, too. Bojack himself is played by Will Arnett of ‘Arrested Development’ fame, and honestly, his portrayal of Bojack just shows that he needs more roles. His portrayal of Bojack definitely surprised me. He owned the role, and his scenes where he had to display raw emotion felt genuine, and from the heart. Alison Brie plays Diane, in one of her more mellow roles. Her voice acting was pretty good, with her more emotional scenes resonating better than her comedic scenes. The biggest surprise of all was definitely Kristen Schaal as Sarah Lynn. Whilst Brie’s comedic scenes feel somewhat weak, Schaal delivers perfectly. Her dramatic scenes are also surprisingly great, which is definitely strange, considering most of her resume consists of comedies.
The seasons themselves can be ranked pretty easily. Every season, at one point or another, feels like a gut punch. The first season of Bojack is the weakest of the bunch, with comedy taking the centerfold for the first half, whilst drama takes the centerfold for the second half. It’s a good season, relatively speaking, but in comparison to the rest of the seasons, it falls flat. The second season of Bojack is the second best. The ending especially hits hard, considering how hard Bojack tried to get back into Charlotte’s life. The third season is the best of them all, with the final two episodes ‘That’s Too Much, Man!’ and ‘Downer Ending’ eliciting genuine tears from me at times. The third season feels like a continuous gut punch, with a barrage of emotional scenes and episodes that will make you cry.
I’m simultaneously hyped for and dreading the 4th season of ‘Bojack Horseman’. I’m hyped in part because I can’t wait to see where it’s going from here, but I’m dreading it for the same reason. I don’t know where it’s going, but for me, that’s part of the appeal.
Bojack Horseman gets a solid 9/10.