Centaurworld’s Cheerful Setting Masks Dark Themes and an Emotional Storyline

Centaurworld, an animated series and musical comedy, was released on July 30, 2021, with a second season released later in the year. Fast-paced, random, and set in a candy-colored world, the series seems entertaining for younger children at first glance but incorporates heavy, emotional tones and moral complexity that could appeal to an older audience.

The story centers around Horse, a resilient war horse who falls through a portal and winds up in the whimsical land of Centaurworld. There, centaurs of all species – such as llamataurs or treetaurs – spend their days doing magic spells and embracing the over-the-top weirdness of their colorful world. Horse wants nothing more than to return to the familiarity of her own war-torn realm, but she must cooperate with a wacky band of centaurs in order to do so.

In some ways, the story of Centaurworld follows the formula of a traditional children’s fantasy show: the main character finds themselves in an unfamiliar world and must embark on a daring quest to collect essential artifacts and defeat a menacing villain, undergoing character development along the way. But Centaurworld’s dark undertones, lurking beneath its perpetual silliness, set it apart from the rest.

At first, the show’s cheerful setting can be overwhelming. The stark contrast between the muted shades and sharp angles of Horse’s home world and the bright, round shapes and pastel landscapes of Centaurworld makes Horse stick out like a sore thumb among the centaurs – and her personality sticks out even more. In the first episode, she meets a herd of centaurs and is astounded by their absurd magical abilities and carefree personalities. Realizing she needs their help to make it back to her own world, she persuades them to join her, promising adventure and excitement. Throughout the show, her seriousness is counterbalanced by their silliness.

But their silliness is revealed to mask their tragic backstories. Centaurworld wasn’t always a land of sunshine and rainbows. In the first episode, one of the characters mentions a brutal war that used to plague the vibrant world, but is shushed by the others before she can elaborate. The characters continue their happy singing routine, but viewers are left with vague unease as they wonder how this pastel fantasy land could have once been caught in a violent war.

As the story progresses, audiences encounter more and more unnerving elements that hint at Centaurworld’s blood-soaked history. The carefree ways of the centaurs suddenly seem like a way for them to block out and ignore the past. Aside from mentions of war, unsettling moments are sprinkled throughout the episodes whenever the show’s absurdness seems over-the-top to the point of discomfort. For example, a recurring tree character screams in agony whenever he moves his legs. Swatting away bugtaurs seems almost unethical due to their human-like features. Lastly, one of the running gags includes a main character’s kleptomania, which she deals with by constantly stuffing things – inanimate and living – into her magical portal stomach. Some of the kidnappees plead for their lives as they’re being stolen.

Additionally, the show features a menacing main antagonist, the Nowhere King, who the main characters first encounter during the last episodes of the first season. With a bulging, inky body and a creepy skull of a face, the Nowhere King has the potential to terrify younger viewers, especially in scenes where he’s using his ink to swallow protagonists.

Some of the dark elements of Centaurworld seem particularly jarring due to the show’s juxtaposition of humor and heartbreak. In one episode, Horse learns, through a flashback, that one of the herd members is a war orphan, and sings a heartfelt lullaby to comfort her. However, the song right before is a short track about magical farts. The next song is a chilling introduction to the Nowhere King. This tonal contrast epitomizes the randomness of the show.

But Centaurworld doesn’t just introduce dark or emotional storylines – it also holds deeper discussions on pain, loss, and body image. For example, throughout the show, Horse’s art style gradually shifts to become rounder and more colorful. She is initially alarmed by Centaurworld’s effect on her appearance, believing she won’t be recognized when she returns to her world. The other characters are unable to empathize with her sadness. However, they sing her a celebratory song about her changes and how “everyone should be proud of their magical bodies.” Later on, Horse has transformed to the point of being unable to recognize herself. In one episode, a whale centaur she meets offers her a chance to numb away her emotions by entering the whale’s stomach. Dejected and hopeless, Horse accepts, and jumps into the whale’s mouth. Her friends, who are normally extremely carefree and happy, are horrified by her heartbreaking surrender, and journey into the whale’s stomach to convince Horse that it’s okay to feel sadness, and that not all hope is lost. Eventually, they also convince the whale to release all of the pained souls she’s absorbed throughout the years. Through this dramatic metaphor, the show imparts a message to the audience: despite the suffering and pain that life can bring, giving up and fading away is not the answer. Centaurworld’s life lessons and handling of difficult topics introduce complexity, which may not be initially expected of the show.

Centaurworld also introduces complexity through different characters’ ideologies. While Horse believes that independence and suppressing emotion make you strong, the rest of the herd prioritizes fun, excitement, and community. As the herd travels throughout Centaurworld, searching for shamans who can help Horse return to her own world, they encounter unique societies, such as a singing forest, an underground civilization of moletaurs, and a community of performing cattaurs. Each shaman imparts their philosophies to Horse’s herd: the tree shamans believe in the greater good but are unable to empathize with the pain of loss, the moletaur shaman enforces strict rules and dislikes outsiders, the cattaur shaman enjoys daily entertainment to forget past tragedies, and so on.

Songs are an important part of the show, and often introduce key elements of the plot. The centaurs never hesitate to break into song, and eventually, Horse realizes that songs are an effective communication tool for the world’s inhabitants, and sings many of her own. While some songs seem random, others are emotional and powerful, or even haunting. Most of the songs are catchy or powerful, thanks to the talented voice actors.

Centaurworld’s satisfying, hand-drawn animation style is also fairly noticeable. Bright colors and epic-fantasy surroundings make the show look appealing, vivid, and fun.

Overall, Centaurworld’s art style, great songs, humorous moments, and character development make it a good choice for any age. Each episode is only 20 to 30 minutes long, so it’s a quick and easy watch for anyone who can tolerate the characters’ chaotic antics. Although the show contains many entertaining elements, its dark undertones and discussion of loss make it truly unique.