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Review: Yakari – Yakari, the film (2020)

Directed by: Toby Genkel, Xavier Giacometti | 84 minutes | animation, , | voice cast: , , , , , , , Ann Reymen, , , , Esther Lybeert, , , , Geerard van de Walle, Pommelien Thijs, , ,

“Yakari” is the first cinema adventure based on an ongoing and still popular comic book series of the same title since 1969 (two TV series previously appeared). Protagonist Yakari is a young Sioux Indian. In this well-kept animation film we get to see its origins.

Yakari lives with his father – his mother has died – with the Sioux, somewhere in South Dakota in the United States. As the film begins, we witness his first encounter with Little Lightning, a fast-paced but indomitable mustang. Yakari dreams of riding this beautiful animal one day, but the weather forecast seems to throw a spanner in the works. With a tornado coming – heralded by the fleeing bison – the chief decides that the time has also come for the tribe to seek refuge elsewhere. But Yakari does not want to leave this place until he has befriended Little Lightning …

As befits a heroic, stubborn protagonist in an (animation) film, Yakari sets off, despite all the warnings from friends including Rainbow and Buffalo Calf and his dog Hanging Ear. He is determined to see Little Lightning again. In fact, he wants to ride him! As if it should have been, Yakari soon gets that chance. Little Lightning is trapped under a rock, and brave Yakari manages to free the animal. To Yakari’s grief, the horse immediately flees. But then does the Great Eagle appear in a vision (or is it real)? He gives Yakari an important message as his totem animal, and as proof of his courage he is given a special feather. In addition, Yakari is given the gift of talking to animals from his totem animal. Of course he has to test that on Kleine Bliksem!

“Yakari” is a modest, but beautiful-looking animation film. The 2D backgrounds are animated in beautiful pastel colors and the figures appear to be hand drawn, but they are not. The story is simple and stays true to the comics. A big plus is that the focus usually stays with Yakari and his adventure; nothing, no detours to funny sidekicks or unfinished storylines. The movie doesn’t have to scream to make a point; the strength is in the well-written characters. This makes “Yakari” with its message of respect for flora and fauna – just like the albums – extremely suitable for young viewers. And thanks to the always captivating story and beautiful animations, older film lovers will love to watch.

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