First off – what’s with the lack of effort on the intro music? It sets the tone for the series and looks like the makers of the 2021 limited animated series ‘Maya and three’ put in zero effort into it, or just forgot about it until release date was around the corner. Luckily, the rich tapestry of colors in the animation makes viewers immediately forget about the low energy introduction.
Created by Jorge R Gutierrez, this 9-episode Netflix series is an epic tale of Mesoamerican princess Maya of the Tecas, who goes on a quest to find the greatest warriors in her land, to help her defeat the God of War. So it treads on high-fantasy realm, with Gods, demi-Gods, magic and high-voltage battles, all culminating into an Avengers’ style ‘end-game’ war.
You have the usual themes of friendship, love, sacrifices and a lot of the characters feel borrowed from popular children’s tales, like Chimi the albino archer is inspired from ‘The Jungle Book’, she is raised by animals, just like Mowgli. Then there is the asocial wizard Rico, who has a Harry Potter like story, an orphan who is looked upon with fear by most of his kind, but finds a mentor in a grand old wizard. It’s the unique use of elements from Aztec mythology that makes this series stand-out from the crowd. For example the God of War is called Lord Mictlan, who according to Aztec lore was a God of the Underworld. And just like the Aztecs were obsessed with the concept of death & afterlife, a lot of things in ‘Maya and the Three’ reflect some or the other form of death – like even the moon looks like a skull. These little details were fun to watch.
Those who love bright shiny colors will instantly fall in love with the series. One can probably find every shade in the world in this creation, with grand Aztec architectural wonders dotting the landscape of the story. The animation is great, although there are a lot of flashy sequences with strobe effect that can get heavy on the eyes. Maybe not the best idea to binge-watch this. I took four days watching the nine episodes and it’s definitely more entertaining if you watch just one or two at a time.
As an adult viewer, the series feel it’s a lot longer than necessary, even though it’s not slow per se; a lot of action is constantly unfolding, but it’s not exciting enough to keep you thrilled throughout. What’s commendable about the show is how the makers don’t save tragedies for the last. There’s a lovely sobering sequence of princess Maya’s people dancing to honor all the soldiers who were martyred fighting while the God of War. It’s akin to the ‘Day of the Dead’ the Mexicans/Aztecs observe to honor the souls that have passed away. All the nine chapters have someone dying and parents who haven’t touched upon the concept with their little ones might have some discussing to do; especially when the ‘dance of death’ comes on.
The mention of dance brings me to the music in this series – like with the lackadaisical intro piece, the makers don’t put in a lot of thought to ambient sounds. Except for the folksy track ‘Bolon Chom’ (which is now on my playlist), a lot of the soundtrack is a little off and makes the corresponding scenes seem chaotic. Like there’s a scene of Maya and her warrior friends fighting two lower Gods and the music that accompanies the face-off sounds like traditional music played during weddings in south-India (to be more specific – Tamil Nadu). That was just super-weird and annoying to watch.
While younger viewers will probably not notice some plot-holes, but there are a few too convenient twists in the second-half that do not fall in sync with some of the earlier story-line. Some of the dialogues also get a little repetitive, but as a cartoon meant for kids, it’s important to repeat a few punchlines to make them memorable, so I am not going to fault the creators on that. They’ve given us a strong feisty teen protagonist in Maya (voiced by Zoe Zaldana), who is believable as the fearless princess who wants to save the world. Chimi, the brightly drawn warrior of the Jungles was my favorite, maybe because she prefers the company of animals over humans. In-fact, I love how all the women in the show are always ready to take on the world and are definitely more badass than the men.
Overall, ‘Maya and the Three’ is a very entertaining show for kids, maybe not as much for adults who already consume a lot of animated creations. It’s a 7/10 from me.
Subscribe to our podcast on YouTube by the same name – Abstract AF
Listen to Episode 50 for a lowdown on 22 Studio Ghibli films