If you like mythical adventure stories, this new Netflix animated series is for you.
By Melissa Farthing, Copy Editor
WARNING: This review contains major spoilers from “Maya and the Three.”
Time for a blast from the past: Does anyone remember the review I wrote for “Victor and Valentino” that was published in The Huntingtonian two years ago? Don’t worry, I’ll give you a second to look it up under my author page on our website. Found it? Okay, good. Now that you’ve taken the time to peruse my article instead of just skimming it or not even reading it at all, you’ll know that I gave “Victor and Valentino” a blazingly lousy review. However, the one shining light the show contained in my eyes was that it celebrated Mexican culture.
Guess what? A new cartoon just dropped on Netflix that also celebrates Mexican culture. The only difference is that it’s actually well-written. And engaging. And thoughtful. And good.
If you haven’t guessed already, the show in question is Jorge Gutierezz’s highly-anticipated “Maya and the Three.” This show was announced in late 2018 when I was a senior in high school. It’s surreal to think that I’m watching it now as a college junior who is more than halfway through her studies.
“Maya and the Three” is an epic story that follows Maya, a fifteen-year-old girl from the fictional Mesoamerican kingdom Teca. One day, a prince from the Underworld visits Maya and delivers dreadful news: Maya must come to the Underworld to be sacrificed, or the ancient gods will destroy her world. Oh, and Maya is also half-god, thanks to her human father’s affair with the goddess of death, Lady Micte. To save her kingdom, Maya must embark on a dangerous quest to find three mighty warriors that will fulfill an ancient, god-defeating prophecy.
Like “Victor and Valentino,” “Maya and the Three” is aimed at kids but be warned that it is very dark for a TV-Y7 rated series. There’s no blood (except for the blood of the gods, which is literally liquid gold), but there are constant battles between the forces of good and evil. The fight scenes are visually stunning and well-crafted; the animators working on the show received numerous opportunities to flex their creative muscles. Characters and objects would sometimes pop out from the screen and overlap onto the letterboxing, which was a neat effect I haven’t seen done anywhere else.
Despite their splendor, I do feel like some of the action sequences were overly drawn out. Sometimes, a villain would fall and rise up three times before finally being vanquished. As much as I was entertained by the brawls between man and god, certain ones seemed to be padded to add more time to each episode.
Many characters also die in “Maya and the Three;” in fact, it seems like nearly half of who we meet along the way perish by the end of the series, including Maya herself! However, they don’t die precisely in the way you might think. The series finale includes a touching scene where everyone who has passed reappears in spirit-form to reconnect with their living loved ones. It’s also revealed that Maya and her boyfriend, Zatz, will live on by becoming the sun and the moon. Seeing Maya’s family and friends say goodbye to her at sunset was a powerful and bittersweet way to end the series.
Speaking of characters, I can’t forget to mention how strongly developed they are in “Maya and the Three.” I’ll be honest; I saw Maya as a somewhat bratty, spoiled child at first. Luckily, that changes as the series progresses. Maya’s heart grows wider each episode as she meets new faces and begins to show compassion for them. By the final episode, I was genuinely rooting for her as opposed to just her cause.
The other three warrior characters are all likable and relatable in their own unique ways. My favorite character was Rico, the Rooster Wizard. A comic relief character was desperately needed in this forbidding series. Despite his goofy exterior, I appreciated the depth of Rico’s backstory and how the writers didn’t shy away from showing the demons of his past. The scene where one of the gods made Rico call himself “worthless” was brutal to watch.
I’ll end my review by appreciating one of the most distinctive attributes of “Maya and the Three:” its designs. Wow, are they stunning! Pulling inspiration from ancient Mesoamerica, the show treats viewers to intricate landscapes and kingdoms that look like something pulled straight from a fairytale. The amount of detail put into the backgrounds, costumes and buildings is astonishing. If you’re looking for some artistic eye candy, you can easily find it in “Maya and the Three.”
Despite a few gripes, I was overall impressed with “Maya and the Three.” I would recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of fast-paced, intense adventure stories, mythology, Mexican folklore, or all three!
On an unrelated note, we’re now 94 episodes into “Victor and Valentino,” and that cliffhanger from the pilot STILL hasn’t been addressed. Sigh.