Why Netflix should have given more budget, more space and more love to Maya and the Three Warriors, the Mesoamerican-inspired animated fantasy series by Jorge R. Gutiérrez?
Once again, I finish watching an animated series with the tear threatening to ooze from the eyes and the very strong feeling that yes, we truly live in a time full of excellent animated series.
Just in the past few days, Seeker Y has spoken highly of the fifth season of Rick and Morty, while earlier we had talked about Invincible, Castlevania, The Dragon Prince, Carmen Sandiego e Star Trek Lower Decks. We then obviously talked a lot about She-Ra, by the way treats both toxic relationships, both queer ones.
In short, in recent years we have been surrounded by beautiful animated series.
And yes, also Maya and the Three Warriors falls into this category. And it could have been an even better series if it had had the budget to do more episodes!
In this article, therefore, we will talk about Maya and the Three Warriors, the animated series by Jorge R. Gutiérrez which aired this October on Netflix.
We will see its positive aspects, which are really many, including animation, story and high-level characters. But we will also see its flaws, which are mostly attributable to the budget and Netflix.
ATTENTION: this article will contain SPOILERS on the whole series
The plot of Maya and the Three Warriors
Maya and the Three Warriors is an animated series consisting of a single season of nine episodes.
It was created by Jorge R. Gutiérrez, former author of the animated series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera and the animated film The Book of Life. The series was distributed by Netflix.
In short, the plot is a hero's journey or, rather, heroin. Maya she is the youngest daughter of the rulers of Theca, one of the four kingdoms of a fantasy world based on pre-Colombian Mesoamerican populations.
Destined to become queen of Theca and to abandon the dreams of a life as a valiant warrior, she will soon have to take up the sword again to face an impossible task. Indeed, the god of war Mictlan wants to sacrifice Maya to increase her powers, as Maya is actually daughter of the goddess of death, Micte, with whom his father, the king of Theca, had had a clandestine affair.
The search for the three warriors of the prophecy
With her father injured and her three older brothers dead in battle to protect her, Maya must take her fate in her hands. Following a prophecy, the princess travels to the other three realms (the Islands of the Moon, the Jungle Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Barbarians of the Golden Mountains) to recruit their best warrior from each of them.
The people Maya will gather are all young people with a tragic past and who, in some way, have suffered a trauma. We will therefore have Rico, a young wizard of the Isles who lives as an outcast, having an uncontrollable power with which he killed the old Gran Brujo. It also adds up Chemi, an albino archer of the Jungle who grew up among animals, hunted by humans because she was considered cursed and called "el Monstruo Blanco". Finally, let's see Picchu, strong and valiant barbarian of the mountains tormented by his past, since his entire clan was exterminated by the very woman he spared.
Confrontation with the god of war
With these three warriors, and also flanked by the charming Prince of Bats, Zatz, in turn half human and half divine, Maya will descend into the world of the dead to try to kill the god Mictlan. However, things don't go as planned.
Forced to retire, Maya, Rico, Chimi and Zatz will be able to save themselves thanks to the totally unexpected intervention of the goddess of death Micte and, above all, thanks to the sacrifice of Picchu, which destroys the gates of the world of the dead.
Thus, Maya will discover that Micte never hated her, but that he always tried to protect her from Mictlan, even at the cost of separating from her, sending her to her human parents.
The three remaining heroes have no choice but to prepare for total war with Mictlan, who prepares to rise in strength to destroy the four human kingdoms to take revenge for the insult he has suffered.
Thus, Maya, Rico, Chimi and Zatz bring together the four kingdoms, strong in their growth and the symbolic power of Picchu's sacrifice. Also rallying the supernatural allies they've made along their journey, the four heroes take on Mictlan and his army at Theca's gates.
There are many and many a die during the battle, including Micte and Zatz. Not least the same allies of the god of war, whom Mictlan sacrifices to increase his power and transform himself into a huge two-headed dragon. But in the end, by sacrificing her own life, Maya manages to defeat Mictlan.
Thanks to your own sacrifice, Maya not only gets to give everyone the chance to say goodbye to their fallen comrades, but also to stay with Zatz forever. Maya, in fact, will become the sun, and Zatz the moon.
Positive aspects of Maya and the Three Warriors
Talk about the positives of Maya and the Three Warriors it is difficult, because there are too many. Here, therefore, we will look at some of them.
I just want to make a special mention of the maturity with which the complex relationship between Maya and Micte's parents. It would have been very easy to play on the "natural" rivalry between the adoptive mother and the natural one, but it did not happen.
In general, in fact, Maya and the Three Warriors it is a work that deals with the various types of love and the various types of families in a very mature way. It clearly states, in fact, that there is no single and perfect family model, and that any nucleus in which there is love is good and right.
That is why, in the end, it is natural for Maya to have a father and two mothers. And that Chimi, when she sees her own dead family, sees her birth mother and the monkey that raised her.
I will also make a short special mention for the cast original which he dubbed Maya and the Three Warriors, very talented and all made up of Hispanic people.
The names are honestly impressive: ranging from Zoe Saldaña (Gamora in the MCU) who voices Maya to Diego Luna (Cassian Andor in Rogue One) who voices Zatz, to Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus in Spiderman 2) for Mictlan and Stephanie Beatriz (Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn nine nine) for Chimi. And let's not forget that there is also Danny Trejo (Machete in Machete)!
Visual positives: worldbuilding, character design and animation
The world that the series portrays is beautiful and takes both hands from mesoame mythologiesricane and their aesthetics.
I cannot say that I know these populations very well, their customs and traditions, and how they were transmitted to the Central American populations of today. However, of course Maya and the Three Warriors it made me curious to know more.
From an aesthetic point of view, then, the series is a feast for the eyes. The character design it is of a very high standard and I hope, in the next few years, to see many cosplayers who try to bring them back.
I also particularly appreciate the fact that no characters have been sexualized (except Picchu. But Picchu can). And that all the women in the show are beautiful, but without all having the same face (unlike what happens in Disney) and without all being conventionally attractive.
THEanimation di Maya and the Three Warriors, then, it is really of a high standard.
The typical style of Gutiérrez is maintained, with its characters with strange and exaggerated proportions, but more emphasis is placed on the richness of the details of their costumes. Taking advantage of the rocky and massive aspect of many gods and monsters, the animation sometimes takes some movement almost from stop motion, which, however, do not make it any less refined.
The idea of giving mass and power to the drawings by making them overflow beyond the black bands of the screen is very nice.
In short, similarly to works like Promise e Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, we are faced with an animation that explore the potential of your medium.
Positive aspects about the characters: an inner search
Maya and the Three Warriors it's a story over the top, and well aware of it.
He never backs down, therefore, when it comes to going big. We are on such a high level of magic that it is over the top, and it is a gorgeous sight.
However, the spectacular magic does not take the focus away from the heart of the story, which is the characters and their quest. Which then, in reality, each of them looks for a way to overcome their pain and their traumas.
Traumas which are themselves extremely over the top, why even on an emotional level Maya and the Three Warriors does not hold back, when you have to go big. And so, Rico is not just an outcast wizard, but an outcast wizard because he accidentally killed his mentor with forbidden magic. Chimi is not only an outcast savage, but an outcast savage because she is considered a supernatural monster by humans, who then exterminated her jungle family. Picchu is not only a tormented barbarian, but he is a barbarian tormented by the remorse of having caused the death of his entire clan due to a compassionate gesture.
The only one not to have enormous past traumas is Maya, who in any case has to live with the death of her brothers and abandonment by her birth mother. However, it is also true that Maya will forge her own story / tragedy right during the series. In fact, where others grow up and overcome their traumas to have a future (except Picchu), Maya is a meteor that becomes all the more luminous the closer it is to the moment to go out.
Positive aspects of history: the encounter with death
Maya and the Three Warriors it's a story over the top even when it comes to pulling emotional rights at the plot level. In fact, it had been a long time since I had seen an opera with such a high death rate.
But, after all Maya and the Three Warriors is a series that knew it had only one season, so it had no audience favorites to run and unnecessary cast to thin out. Thus, Gutiérrez knew he didn't have to take it slow. And so he didn't take it easy.
The series opens with the defeat of Theca's army and the death of Maya's three brothers, and ends with a final battle in which a notable part of the cast, including the protagonist, dies.
La deathin short, it is treated as a serious threat in Maya and the Three Warriors, and as something we all have to deal with.
However, in Maya and the Three Warriors death is not treated as uniquely painful. As tragic as it is, in fact, death is not only not necessarily the end of everything, but it is also what de facto gives value to life. And a death encountered on your own terms, while fighting for what you believe, is not a defeat.
I think a series that looks at death with acceptance and compassion is especially important today. The covid has confronted us with our fear of death. And as fair and natural as the fear of death is, we cannot be slaves to it.
Negative aspects of Maya and the Three Warriors
Let's now look at the downsides of Maya and the Three Warriors. However, these are not inherent problems of the series.
On the contrary, in my opinion it is mostly external problems, caused in some way by Netflix, not by whoever created the series.
Why are the sentences in Spanish not subtitled?
Before moving on to the seriously problematic aspects, let's briefly see a minor aspect, but one that has particularly disturbed me. I state that I have seen the series in English with subtitles always in the original language. I also state that Maya and the Three Warriors is a series whose original language is English, but with many cases where it is switched to Spanish.
Well, I could not fail to notice that, where the sentences and words in English were always reported, sentences in Spanish only were omitted and replaced with one [speaking Spanish].
Personally, I found it very bad taste. In fact, put this generic [speaking Spanish] compares speaking in Spanish to how other sounds that have no lexical meaning are subtitled, such as grunts or roars. In this sense, it almost makes you think that what is said in Spanish is not important for the plot (when, on the contrary, it is indeed).
Or however it tends to treating Spanish as a language that "so much the listener does not know", unlike English, and therefore it is placed on a par with invented languages never translated. And that, honestly, is quite insulting, because Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world.
What do they know that watching the series is not a deaf person who knows or understands Spanish, but that with these bad subtitles will not be able to know what the characters are saying, unlike me who, however, I can at least hear the voices of the personages?
A story too long to tell in nine episodes
As you may have understood from the plot above, in Maya and the Three Warriors there is enough story to fill well over nine episodes.
In fact, although all the characters are sketched quite precisely, the relationship they develop with each other and the resolution of conflicts with their past would have needed more time to be rendered properly.
Of course, the series in general still maintains a high level, but there are times when you can just feel that presses hard on the accelerator. Even staying in one season and without inserting fillers, Maya and the Three Warriors he could easily benefit from five or six more episodes.
In this way, in fact, we could have better explored different aspects of the story. In particular, those who would have needed the most are two.
The love story between Maya and Zatz
The first is the love story between Maya and Zatz. Of course, it is clear that the love between Maya and Zatz is a story born as exquisitely adolescent and very much based on “oh, 'this guy is fascinating”, without too many deep motivations. And of course, it is clear that Gutiérrez plays with the trope of the protagonist who puts herself with the shadowy quasi-antagonist of the moment, and then winks at us, as if to say “but who are we to fool? Of course Maya will be with Zatz, are you going to ask yourself? ".
However, between adolescent flirtatiousness and "we love each other so much we become the sun and the moon, united forever" there should have been some kind of growth. And this growth I would have liked to see.
The second is the resolution of the storyline barbarians who ravaged the village of Picchu.
(But, in general, give me more Picchu. Picchu is my favorite character. He just deserves love.)
In fact, both Rico and Chimi have somehow dealt with their own past traumas. On the contrary, Picchu never faces his own traumas. Of course, he will eventually face a sensible closure, which goes well with his quest for an honorable death to see his family again.
However, it would have been interesting to review the warrior who exterminated her village, and find some kind of stronger closure for that storyline.
Some conclusive words
In short, as far as I'm concerned Maya and the Three Warriors it's a series I needed. She is epic, fresh, fun, and capable of pulling impressive emotional stunts. I love his animation and his characters, and I also really enjoyed his story, albeit relatively classic and prototypical.
Personally, I think there is a need for more similar series and I hope that Gutiérrez will have the opportunity to do many other animated works of this kind. His works are a pleasure to see, and I would like Gutiérrez to have the recognition (and funds) he deserves.