Genre: Historical Drama/Action
Year Released: 2019
Distributor: YouNeek Studios
Running Time: 15 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: Malika: Warrior Queen (series in production)
For Fans Of: Yeelen, Mulan, Shaka Zulu, Black Panther, Strings, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
-The Malika pilot is streaming on YouTube.
-Malika: Warrior Queen is based on a graphic novel series by Nigerian filmmaker, author, and illustrator Roye Okupe who also directed the series and owns YouNeek Studios.
-This is the first collaborative animation effort between YouNeek Studios and Anthill Studios.
-Culture/History/Geography Bonus: Despite the Kingdom of Azzaz being fictional, the five kingdoms that are unified are based on real locales of Africa. There’s Kano (Nigeria), Fon (Nigeria/Benin/Togo), Nupe (Nigeria), Bornu (Chad/Nigeria), and Mandara (Cameroon).
-Hilarious in Hindsight: King Bass totally got his staff moves from Kilik from the Soul Calibur games. Tell me no one played that game when he’s able to be atop his staff when it’s vertically planted on the ground before flipping from it.
-Malika is voiced by Adeusa Etomi-Wellington. Her other work involves acting in The Arbitration, King of Boys, and Up North among other Nollywood films.
-Malika: Warrior Queen was executive produced by Niyi Akinmolayan whom some should know on Iridium Eye for being involved in Plaything and Adventures of Lola and Chuchu. Interestingly enough, Akinmolayan has a record for directing the highest-grossing Nigerian film The Wedding Party 2 (coincidentally enough, that film also features the aforementioned Etomi-Wellington in a lead role.
It’s the start of a new decade and I’m ready to start out with something fascinating. In 2019, I discovered the Nigerian animation scene by pure accident. I legitimately didn’t know there were studios in Africa and I didn’t want to rely on just Japan, America, or even France for reviewing animated works. Anthill has been the leader of Nigerian animation and I covered three of their works so far: Plaything, Adventures of Lola and Chuchu, and The Sim. When I found out that they were coming out with a series involving an African history bent and the pilot was released, I just had to watch it and kickstart January with something new.
Will this animated work be worthy of royalty?
Malika: Warrior Queen takes place in the West African kingdom of Azzaz in the year 1499. This was a unified kingdom between five smaller fiefdoms and they are held together by the queen of Azzaz, Malika. However, the stability of the five allied locales comes under question when some people such as the traitorous Ras that wants a civil war. Malika does her best to keep the kingdom together, but there are fractures showing up throughout the five areas and that’s not counting rival kingdoms such as the Songhai Empire (what’s now part of modern-day Mali). Malika certainly has a stern rule, but even she has trouble trying to keep the peace since war is impending in Azzaz.
Could this be? Are my eyes deceiving me? An animated feature that takes place in Africa made by Africans and shows [GASP!] actual human characters in positions of royalty? For the love of Dobet Gnahore, someone please tell Disney and their fans how cowardly they are since an animation studio had the sheer audacity to do something like this when the House of Mouse is literally 0 for 2 when it comes to showing actual black characters in their animated franchises that take place in the birthplace of civilization. That alone brought a smile to my face knowing that fact in contrast to the biggest animation studio ever. Okay, getting that out of the way, Malika: Warrior Queen has a lot of good things going for it. The animation is certainly good (especially the fight scenes), it shows a competent African royal who could wipe the floor with any princess character I can think of, and it actually respectfully presents the culture in animated form. It’s a breath of fresh air here. Even though the plot is on the simpler end, it’s still intriguing seeing a realistic fantasy story while incorporating some tasteful wuxia elements that aren’t overpowering. I enjoyed the textures of the character’s clothes and the natural hair which was a very nice touch. There was an intriguing plot twist at the end when it came to the connection with Malika and King Bass which I won’t spoil and I certainly like to see how this affects them. YouNeek and Anthill put the effort into this animated pilot which I won’t deny.
Malika: Warrior Queen does have elements that do weigh the crown more for better or worse. There was one flaw in the animation where an outdoor background didn’t mesh with the CGI characters when Ras was talking to the title character. While it was awesome seeing Malika kick butt both physically and intellectually, there were times when she got close to Mary Sue status at times until the end. Don’t get me wrong, seeing a character like her is great, but there were times when she came across as a superheroine which wasn’t needed here. There were also some cliche elements to the plot which I wasn’t a fan of. The first and most obvious one was the fact that her father the original king was killed by her uncle even if it happened offscreen. No, I’m not going to make the most obvious comparisons to other stories here. The other one involved someone who clearly wants there to be some separatist from the kingdom even if he did get into Malika’s head a bit. There was also a clear Matrix moment as one dodges a sword. It was fine in Plaything and Adventures of Lola and Chuchu, but this felt weird here. The pilot ends on a cliffhanger which only left me wanting more. I really hope the full series when it gets done gets just as good if not better than what’s in this feature.
This pilot was a great start to a potentially fun series. Compared to other pilots I’ve reviewed such as the Hunter X Hunter Jump Festa OVA, I saw more potential in Malika. The respect for African culture and incorporation of retooled elements of West African history was a brilliant touch. You don’t see stories and this kind of care in American cartoons, that’s for sure. I do wish they would’ve toned down on some plot cliches and some animation hiccups though. I hope the rest of Malika: Warrior Queen becomes quite magnificent.
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like historical dramas or war dramas.
Subtract 1-2 points if you need a complete story.
-Amazing and dynamic fight scenes
-Strong respect and accuracy for African history and culture
-Very good start to a series
-Ends on a major cliffhanger
-Some plot cliches
-Some CGI animation is better than others
Final Score: 8/10 points
Content Warning: Malika: Warrior Queen isn’t that offensive, but I wouldn’t recommend it to the younger viewers. The fight scenes get intense even if they’re bloodless and the content involves political elements which could go over the heads of most children.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Malika: Warrior Queen is property of YouNeek Studios and Anthill Studios. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of YouNeek Studios.