Review by Sean Boelman
Australian animator Michael Cusack is best known for his work on Adult Swim animated series Smiling Friends and YOLO, and his latest project — Hulu’s Koala Man — is his biggest yet, both in terms of length and scale. Although the series does experience a few growing pains, it’s a very enjoyable entry into the genre.
The series follows a suburban father in Australia who has a not-so-secret alter ego of being a vigilante fighting petty crime and code violations, as he finds himself thrust into an adventure like none he has ever experienced before. It’s a blend of absurdist humor with grounded emotion, in a way that Cusack has been known for succeeding in before.
For those who are familiar with Cusack’s other work, Koala Man is more in line with YOLO than Smiling Friends. It’s surprisingly wholesome, though that’s not to say it’s clean — there is one episode about a planet-f*cking alien. But a lot of the focus here is on the family unit and trying to keep the family together, which gives it a really endearing quality.
Interestingly enough, the eponymous superhero might be the least interesting character in the series. Although the character is compelling and complex, viewers may find themselves even more drawn into the subplots than the main story. For example, the protagonist’s children often steal the show.
Much of the humor in the series is very culturally-specific to Australia, but it’s still pretty accessible. For example, there are several shrimp… er… prawn-themed jokes, and an entire episode that revolves around the idea of “showbags.” (The show made this American experience an unexpected amount of longing for Australian novelty toys.)
Cusack voices the protagonist as well as several side characters, and he does a great job. But in the supporting cast, he has assembled a veritable who’s who of Australian and New Zealander talent. From Sarah Snook and Rachel House to Jemaine Clement, Miranda Otto, and Hugh Jackman — the voice cast is absolutely nuts.
The animation style of the series is pretty varied in design, giving it a refreshing feel of diversity. The main family is animated in a very clean style, akin to Rick and Morty, while the supporting characters are generally much rougher. And the settings are absolutely gorgeous, whether it’s just everyday suburban Australia or something more whimsical.
Koala Man may not be as sharp as some of Cusack’s other work, but it’s his most ambitious series yet, and he delivers something funny and touching. Hopefully fans will connect with this show like they do his others so that we can get more adventures with Dapto’s favorite vigilante.
Koala Man streams on Hulu beginning January 9. All eight episodes reviewed.