A bizarre suburban vigilante is front and centre in this Fresh Blood series.
Very little happens in the first season of Koala Man. Even more so than Bin Chickens, the show is decidedly low-concept, and relies heavily on the interactions between its characters. Fortunately, not only is dialogue Koala Man’s greatest strength, but its titular lead is arguably the single most well realized character across the slew of recent iView animated series.
The audience learns next to nothing about the man behind the koala mask, even what he looks like underneath it. I gathered that he’s been assuming his current mantle for almost a year and a half, thanks to an opening sequence that the show smartly assumes is unnecessary beyond the first episode. In addition, he appears to be in a relationship, which is the type of detail I would love to see expanded upon in a follow-up.
Yet despite being shrouded in mystery, the season cleverly reveals Koala Man (the character)’s dedication to protecting his community, whether facing physical threats, consternation, or the role’s growing impact on his psyche. There’s no overarching continuity, but I felt able to track a subtle and effective progression of character behaviour.
Which leads me to the importance of dialogue. If he were a real neighbour of mine, I’m sure a self-styled local council enforcer like Koala Man would be downright insufferable. The gravity with which he treats even the most minor of policy violations seems destined to clash with an indifferent majority. I can’t speak for non-Aussies, but I’ve seen plenty of people with the same everyday annoyances as the minor characters here (such as not having enough space in the bin); their reactions to being chastised aren’t simply hilarious, they’re also brilliantly realistic.
The dialogue also adds to what should be the show’s other selling point: it feels the most Australian of the Fresh Blood animations. There are likely dozens of references in its 3 short episodes that will only be caught by Aussie viewers, rewarding the audience for trying homegrown content, as well as shaping a more unique comedic voice (there’s a joke about Coles eucalyptus oil that made me laugh out loud).
In terms of its animation, there weren’t the same issues with movement as in Bin Chickens, although, I personally wasn’t as much of a fan of the drawing style here overall. Anyone familiar with creator Michael Cusack’s previous work shouldn’t be surprised when Koala Man’s generally simplistic designs give way to, or share scenes with, cruder ones (he’s also behind the cult YouTube series Damo and Darren, my homeland’s answer to Beavis and Butthead). I understand that Cusack is demonstrating his own style, but I preferred the show’s visuals as they were.
Koala Man is unambitious yet thoroughly enjoyable, and viewers checking out any Fresh Blood creations on iView should check it out. Its ideas are remarkably well formed despite its restricted length, and I’d be interested to see what could be done with a longer format in the future.
All 3 episodes of Koala Man are now streaming for free on ABC iView.