I don’t know how the myth that cartoons are only meant for the viewing of younger audiences initially came about, but it is an unfair misconception that various creators, animated television shows and animated movies have had to fight against for generations.
Although efforts on behalf of Pixar, The Simpsons, anime and many other companies and productions have taught us time and time again that animation can be a medium that audiences of all ages can enjoy, I still occasionally come across people that are shocked when a cartoon exhibits an intellect above that of your average fourth grader.
Bojack Horseman, whose last episodes just dropped on Netflix, continues the proud tradition of pushing back against the stigma society places on animated media and may just be one of the finest examples of cartoons as art to date.
One of the most appealing (and frustrating) aspects of Bojack Horseman is how hilariously and heartbreakingly human its characters are. Yes, the show has jokes, and yes, they are as sidesplitting as they are sharp, but the real appeal comes from the honesty in which the writers and actors portray the characters. The titular Bojack Horseman, voiced by Will Arnett, is far more than a goofy anthropomorphic horse: He is a deeply broken and self-destructive alcoholic who you will hate as much as you cheer for. He has his ups and downs, and the show does not sugarcoat the latter as he seeks to become a better (or at least bearable) person. It does not sugarcoat the downs of any of the characters, because Bojack Horseman is, when you come down to it, an ensemble effort on behalf of one of the most talented casts in television: a cast that can make you cry just as easily as it can make you laugh. And it will make you laugh (I can safely say without hesitation that Todd Chavez, voiced by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, is easily one of the most absurdly entertaining characters in the history of TV. Just saying).
Bojack Horseman is also not a show that is content to stay in what we would consider normal boundaries. Creativity abounds in each episode, from background sight gags to clever story structures. One of my favorite episodes takes place underwater and has almost entirely no dialogue. Another consists of Bojack giving a eulogy, and… that’s it. An episode that’s just an extended monologue. And it works. Just when you think the show is going to settle down or that it can’t possibly retain its freshness for much longer, it manages to surprise you.
And it does so until the very end. Season 6 is the perfect way to cap off a series that is funny, perceptive, and bravely depressing all at once in a way that is 100 percent believable, regardless of the equine nature of its protagonist. Bojack Horseman may not always be a fun journey, but it is one that is well worth making nonetheless.
Bojack Horseman seasons 1-6 are now available on Netflix.