Amphibia: The New Normal
October 4, 2021 5:25 AM - Season 3, Episode 1 - Subscribe

[this is jumping ahead a bit...] The start of Season Three. After the momentous events of the previous episode (True Colors), Anne is back in Los Angeles! BUT the Plantars are stranded there with her, Sasha and Marcy are still stuck in Amphibia, Marcy is additionally in a tank on life support, and King Andrias plans on using the Calamity Box to send robots to invade Earth. But first, Sprig, Polly (now with legs!) and Hop Pop meet Anne's parents, the Boonchuys.

Since this episode premiered a couple of days ago, I decided to skip ahead so a thread could up up while the episode is still fresh. I will post a recap of the first two seasons of Amphibia as a comment.
  • It has been five months since Anne and here friends were stranded in Amphibia by the Calamity Box.
  • Throughout the first scenes of this episode, Anne is still wearing the armor shirt Marcy had made for her in Amphibia. Also, look carefully: before the shot change where Hop Pop reveals himself, Anne still has the twigs and leaves in her hair, but afterward, they're gone. They stay gone for the rest of the episode.
  • The thing that convinces Anne that this isn't all a dream and she's really back home: her phone has signal! (Her battery got supercharged due to the events of a previous episode.)
  • Polly: "Legs! Legs! Legs!" Sprig: Pushing every button he can find, diving into sewer holes. Hop Pop: Cautious about all the dangers that must surely await them in this new world. Anne: What am I going to tell the folks? Mostly the truth, but not that her friends betrayed her, not that Andras betrayed her, and not that she plans to go back to stop him. But first she has to find a way back.
  • The scene of Anne reuniting with her parents after her unexplained five-month absence is terrific. I don't think I've seen a reunion scene like this in another cartoon that's so effective. But then Hop Pop accidentally emerges from hiding before Anne was ready, and her reveal is wrecked.
  • Her parents take it pretty well, given how weird Anne's story. Anne's mom (voiced by the mother of Amphibia creator Matt Braly!) calls the Plantar's world "Amphibiland," which Sprig corrects. Amphibiland was the working title for the show in development, and the title of the pilot short.
  • Anne is desperate not to let the Plantars get taken away, which they're sure they well if the authorities are told of their presence. Her parents reluctantly accept them staying with them, but insist they should be kept inside, at least for now, under "quarantine." I've heard it mentioned that the episode, and the following montage music "The Quarantine Song," were both written before COVID hit.
  • When Anne's Dad tells Anne and the Plantars they're on lockdown, Hop Pop immediately takes his side. Used to being the authority figure, he is.
  • I think this is the first time we see the inside of Anne's bedroom. It looks to be of typical girlishness. There's glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling, and striped banners in the colors of the flag of Thailand on the wall. Sasha and Marcy's initials are carved into the wood of Anne's bed.
  • Anne puts on like half her clothes at once. The best bit is the hat with a picture of a fish and the words FEAR ME beneath it. Is it supposed to be telling fish to fear her, or to hear her because supposedly she is a fish, or possesses some fearsome fish-like quality?
  • Among the wacky moments to follow: Anne's parents fussing over Anne, Sprig reading a comic book entitled MONDAY CAT, Polly riding Anne's cat Domino, the Plantars soaking in an overflowing tub croaking (and Polly in the toilet), Anne looking up "How to defeat evil Newt King" on "Doogle," and Sprig microwaving nearly every inanimate object he can find (nearly trying it with Anne's phone).
  • Polly kicks Anne's dad twice in this episode, just testing out moves with her legs. Rambunctious little pollywog.
  • Anne: "We can't go out for an hour?!" Anne's Dad: "Last time you went you, you got trapped in another world for five months!' Sprig: "That is a pretty good point." Anne: "Shush!"
  • A major point established is that Anne has gotten a lot more mature in her time in Amphibia. Being nearly eaten many times by monsters and being betrayed by friends repeatedly can do that to someone, perhaps.
  • Anne: "Earth is gonna be a cakewalk compared to Amphibia! The bugs are tiny, the birds are small, and nothing's gonna be trying to kill us for a change!" SEGUE
  • We return to Amphibia for a bit to see what Andrias is up to, in his castle high in the sky. Marcy is in a life support tank, and apparently Andrias has plans for her. But he also wants Anne eliminated--after seeing her powered-up form in True Colors, she is likely a threat all by herself. He sends an advanced frog robot to Earth with the Calamity Box to destroy Anne, but not be seen in the process... and also, to get the next book in a series Marcy introduced him to, and he considered getting some more "po-ta-to chips" as well, but thought better of it. Could it be that his paling around with Marcy wasn't entirely an act?
  • Disguises are made for the frog folk. The market they go to is actually not very large, not really a supermarket so much. Nearly the whole public area is there in that initial shot of its interior, even the cafe area and the vegetable section.
  • Polly: (kicks Anne a couple of times, wispering) "Gimmie a quarter. I wanna buy a lottery ticket!" Really? For only a quarter??
  • Hop Pop, like many people, is introduced to durian and is... overwhelmed. I love Anne telling another shopper, "Durian first-timer over here." These little insights into Thai culture are great.
  • When the evil frobot passes the refrigerator magnets, it messes up its cloaking field. Possibly an important detail?
  • Anne appears to be able to summon her Calamity powers when her friends are in danger, more than to protect herself.
  • Using her powers exhausts Anne and causes her to pass out. Sprig waking her up with the smell of durian is a nice payoff for earlier in the episode.
  • While the frog robot repairing itself at the end was ominous, perhaps more ominous than that was the news that Anne feels bad after using her Calamity powers. Not just exhausted bad maybe, but something else. They're definitely setting something up there.
  • Finally: new show close! It's great! The earlier ones were great too, but this one is so animated, happy and energetic! I wonder if they'll keep it when things get darker, as it seems now they are bound to?
posted by JHarris (7 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
About the jump-ahead: Season 3, to be the last, of Amphibia just began, and there are surprisingly few text reviews of it on the internet it seems, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to get this in here. I don't know if I'll go back and fill in the other episodes, I don't think the episode-by-episode posts are really that popular, maybe a few specific choices? If I had seen more season-wide posts for other shows before I started with those, I might have done them that way first.

To recap:
In Season One, young frog Sprig Plantar encounters Anne Boonchuy out in the woods outside of the town of Wartwood in the world of Amphibia. Anne is a Thai human girl from Los Angeles, USA, Earth. She and (as we discover later, her two human friends Sasha Waybright and Marcy Wu) were brought to Earth by a magic artifact music box, which we later discover is called the Calamity Box. Anne is taken in by Sprig's family, consisting of his sister Polly the polliwog and grandfather Hopidiah "Hop Pop" Plantar. Through a series of "wacky adventures," Anne gradually gains the acceptance, then respect, of the residents of Wartwood (a town famous for being slow to grant those two things). Other residents include
  • frogs: One Eye Wally, Loggle the woodsmith and store-owner; Felicia, Ivy and Sylvia Sundew; Mrs. Sadie Croaker; Stumpy the restaurateur; witch child Maddie, her baker father and tadpole sisters
  • toads: Mayor Toadstool and assistant Toadie, and
  • newt Albus Duckweed.
Throughout Anne and the Plantars survive the attacks of many monsters (Amphibia is overloaded with huge and ravenous predators), and Anne slowly learns to be more responsible. She saves the whole town on at least one occasion, and the life of a random citizen (who turned out to be Polly) when the town froze over. She also learned to drive the family snail, Bessie.
Partway through, she stood up to tax enforcers from nearby Toad Tower, where live militaristic toads overseen by General Grime. Hop Pop came out of it looking like a hero, inspiring an uprising among the frogs, which Grime sought to quell by feeding Hop Pop to a plant monster. Then, Anne learned that Sasha had been found by the toads and used her bossy social skills to rise to become Grime's second-in-command. Their reunion ended though when Anne stood up to Sasha for the first time, resulting in a sword fight between the two 13-year-old girls. Anne won, Sasha received a scar on her cheek to mark the event, and due to various events (involving Wally and explosives) Toad Tower began to collapse. Anne and the Plantars tried to save Sasha from falling off the tower but, rather than have them risk their lives to save her, Sasha let go of Anne's arm willingly, and fell... but was caught in the air by General Grime mid-leap, saving Sasha from death. Grime and Sasha left, retreating into the woods. End of Part One.

During this time, Anne reveals the music box that sent her and her friends to Amphibia to the Plantars. Hop Pop finds information on it in the family library, that it's called the Calamity Box, and that it's reputed to be very dangerous. Anne takes the box to a traveling market called the Bizarre Bazaar, where she almost shows it to a mysterious shopkeeper named Valeria, who has other artifacts with her bearing the symbology of the box. Then, Hop Pop asks Anne to loan him the box so he can give it to "his contacts" to gain more information on it, but instead, for fear of the danger it poses to his grandchildren, he buries it beneath a tree in the yard.

In Season Two, around three months after Anne arrived in Amphibia, the passes out of the valley thaw at last, allowing Anne and her surrogate family to leave for the capital of Amphibia, the newt city of Newtopia, ruled by King Andrias. They have the usual wacky but dangerous adventures along the way, including one involving a couple of characters who look and sound very similar to Grunkle Stan and Soos from Gravity Falls, and another resulting in the temporary reactivation of an ancient factory, which produces a single frog-shaped robot, who follows the group from a distance for many episodes to follow.

An odd thing... back in the first episode, there was a moment of danger that Sprig was in, and Anne saved his life by holding back the claw of a giant preying mantis. She exhibited strength greater than one might expect of a 13-year-old girl then, and it was easy to miss, but her eyes glowed blue for a moment while she did so. In the first episode of Season Two, there was a similar moment, and the glow was a bit more obvious this time....

Upon arriving in Newtopia, Anne is reunited with her other friend Marcy, who has been in Newtopia all this time. By using her natural intellect and curiosity to help better the city, she has become a ranger working for the somewhat goofy, but huge, King Andrias Leviathan, who she has befriended. Unlike as with Sasha, Anne and Marcy immediately renew their friendship, and spend several episodes in Newtopia bonding while King Andrias looks for information on the Calamity Box in his own library.

Weird fact #1 about King Andrias. He seems to be a thousand years old? Weird fact #2: the basement of his castle has weird ghost-like blob creatures that become corporeal and harmless when exposed to mirrors. And weird fact #3: he seems to be worshiping a strange being in the basement, a hulking behemoth with nine red eyes, that no one else knows about.

Andrias tells the Marcy, Anne and the Plantars that the three gemstones embedded in the lid of the Calamity Box have lost their power, and must be recharged at three temples, depicted in one of his books. Anne and the Plantars leave to return to Wartwood, to reclaim the box from Hop Pop's "contacts" and to prepare for the trip. Hop Pop finds the box is missing, but it had just been stolen by burrowing creatures and is recovered, although not without straining Anne's trust.

Marcy arrives on a giant trained bird, named Joe Sparrow, and reveals a trick she learned from Andrias, how to remove the stones from the box. Marcy stays in Wartwood for a bit (and has her own wacky adventures there), before they begin journeying to the temples. Each temple has three tests relating to the stones, each with its own quality that matches with a natural affinity of one of the three girls. The temple for the green stone, of Wit, is first. Marcy overcomes its challenges and they find a magical device to use to recharge the gem... but, while it charged, a hitherto unnoticed green glow drained out of Marcy's own eyes.

The second temple turns out to be a lot more freeform. These three challenges, for the blue gem of Heart, are presented by Valeria, from back in the Bizarre Bazaar, and are Anne's forte. Anne has matured a lot since coming to Amphibia, and passes all the tests, which seek to prove selflessness. Anne requests that Valeria recharge the gem, and she begins to do so... but, hearing her friends might be in danger, Anne takes the gem after it appears to be charged, but before all the blue light has drained out of her eyes....

While this has been going on, Sasha and Grime have been on the run out in the wilderness of Amphibia, for Grime has been branded a traitor to the kingdom after the events at Toad Tower, and they are chased by the newt general Yunan, who is a fun character but kind of crazy. They appear before the toad council to try to convince them to overthrow King Andreas. They say they won't unless they can retrieve the artifact weapon Barrel's Warhammer, which they do. When Sasha tries to lift it, her eyes glow red for a moment, and in response, the hammer seems to wake up, becoming easier to lift and more powerful. They return (although Sasha's headstrong leadership loses her two of her toad friends along the way) and gain the council's support.

Sasha, with Grime, then finds and reunites with Anne and Marcy just as they approach the third temple, apologizing for the fight at Toad Tower. The third temple is of Strength, and it's Sasha's forte. She overcomes the trials, recharges the red gem, and the light drains unnoticed out of her eyes like with Marcy's gem and partly with Anne's. All the gems charged, they return to Wartwood to celebrate and prepare to meet with King Andreas. Grime comes along with, claiming to have reformed, but really Sasha and Grime plan to use their friends' audience with Andreas to open the gates and let the toad army in and take over.

During all these events, the frog robot from before finally catches up with them in Wartwood, where Polly befriends it and names it Frobo. It's pretty powerful!

Then come the events of the last episode of Season Two: True Colors. Anne, the Plantars, Frobo, Marcy, Sasha and Grime arrive in Newtopia with the Calamity Box and its three charged stones. Before Andreas can receive it and send the girls home, however, Grime threatens Andreas with Barrel's Warhammer, and has some toad solders who snuck in after them to open the gates to let in his army. Anne is furious with Sasha, who threatens to send Anne back to Earth with the box alone, separating her from the Plantars forever, but the box doesn't seem to work. She has the toads take all of them, including General Yunan, Lady Olivia (a Newtopian noble) and King Andreas to the dungeon, with the King under special guard.

When they leave, Sasha and Grime decide to redecorate Andreas' throne room, only to discover, behind a tapestry depicting the king as a benevolent ruler, a mural showing him as a dark and murderous despot. They realize it may have been a good thing for all concerned that they deposed the king. Unfortunately, Anne and friends escape, close the gates, thwart Grime, and release Andreas. Anne gives him the box, and he sets it on a pedestal that rises up out of the floor of the castle, causing energy to come out of it, and then rocket engines to emerge from the bottom of the castle, lifting it up into the sky. Ancient factories around Amphibia begin producing frog robots, which fly to the castle and surround the group. Andreas, like any proper villain, can't resist gloating that his ancestors weren't explorers, but conquerors, and now that he has the box, he can use it to invade other worlds, starting with Earth. As an example of his new power, he uses a laser cannon that emerges from the top of the castle to destroy, at a great distance, the recently-rebuilt Toad Tower.

Marcy, shocked, tells him that wasn't the plan.... Andreas, spitefully, tells the others that he had convinced Marcy that he would use the box to send her and the other girls to other worlds to have more adventures. He reveals, to Marcy's great dismay, that Marcy had seen a reference to the Calamity Box in an Earth book before, and then spotted it in the curio shop where (much earlier) Sasha then bullied Anne into shoplifting it. Anne is furious that Marcy did such a thing, while Marcy protests there's no way she could have known it'd work. Andreas gloats.

Anne, Sasha and Marcy put aside their differences for now to fight back against Andeas, and have the help of the Plantars, General Yunan and Frobo (Lady Olivia isn't of much use, but is defended by Yunan). Andreas tries to attack Polly, but is thwarted by Frobo. Andreas smashes Frobo to bits, leaving only his head intact, then tries to crush Polly... but her legs have emerged (she's a pollywog, remember) in a last-second growth spurt. She grabs the Calamity Box off the pedestal, but Andreas has grabbed Sprig and is holding him out the castle window, now far, far above the ground. Anne begs him to return Sprig to them, and Polly puts the box back. Andreas drops Sprig out the window anyway, sending him plummeting outside.

And then... Anne flashes back to their many adventures and the friendship that had formed between the human girl and the young frog. Her eyes begin shining blue... the blue gem of the Calamity Box flickers... a stream of light comes out of it and envelops Anne... Andreas, seeing this, says, "It's not possible..." a blue aura of energy forms around Anne, who starts shouting "GIVE HIM BACK..." she rises in the air... and things go *nuts*.

In a rather Dragonball Z-like action scene, but very well animated throughout, Anne leaps and smashes Andreas in the face! His crown flies off and hits the ground, causing the frogs, toads and newts to gasp. She smashes into him additional times, dodging his blows and a torrent of laser fire from the frog robots easily... but before she can land a knockout blow, her stamina gives out and, still saying "Give him back," passes out.

Fortunately, during all of this, Marcy had the presence of mind to jump out another window, whistle for Joe Sparrow, and rescue Sprig before he fell to his death. Inside, Andreas mentions Anne "still has the gift," but can't control it, so he can't let her live. Marcy returns with Sprig, in time for Anne to wake up to see him, alive. Sasha and Grime attack Andreas to give them time for Marcy to use the box to get Anne back to Earth, and it works this time... but, the Plantars are sent with her. Also, Andreas stabs Marcy through her back, clean through and out her chest, with his energy sword. Anne and the Plantars find themselves on the hood of a car in a traffic jam on the Los Angeles freeway. End of Part 2.
posted by JHarris at 5:46 AM on October 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Sorry for the inconsistent spelling of "Andrias," the only way I can write something like the above is at a sprint (I do have other things to do). For the record, properly it's "Andrias," not "Andreas." This might be useful if you need to search Doogle for how to defeat an evil Newt King.
posted by JHarris at 1:51 PM on October 5, 2021

That's a lot of words.

I enjoyed this episode, hopefully there won't be as many fillers this season, or at least more interesting ones; and it was a relief to see leafless hair and both shoes return.
posted by Marticus at 6:57 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

It is just possible that I'm obsessed.
posted by JHarris at 11:40 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hey, I love your work, but s2 can probably be a season post :)
posted by Marticus at 1:04 AM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Our home was so thrilled to have this show back. I think shifting the setting to the "real" world was a genius move. I can't wait to see what's going to happen!
posted by sleeping bear at 12:26 PM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say thanks for the recap. We've been watching these as they came out but were somewhat hazy on recollecting where the blue power came from, so this was super userful!
posted by Sparx at 4:00 PM on October 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

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