Creature Design in Amphibia
Much of this final review was written around the same time as part three, but I guess I got a little sidetracked, now posting them nearly a month apart. This will by necessity contain some major spoilers, beginning with a fact first revealed in only the second season: that the civilization of Amphibia wasn't always pre-industrial.
Part 4/4 (final!)
We already included some creatures that don't physically exist in Amphibia, so how about these things Hop-pop only sees in a dream? A procession of giant, towering beetles with incredibly long, daliesque legs and an ancient Egyptian aesthetic, there's one with an ibis-like head, one with an owl-like head, one with a spider's head and one whose fully insect-like head features both a pair of ox-like horns and elongated mandibles. The dream sequence is symbolic of the elderly frog's fear of aging and death, and never mentioned again, but you have to wonder if these distinct figures are really from only one grandpa's imagination. Since we know supernatural forces exist, we can't rule out that he got a glimpse of Amphibia's actual "death gods," or at least that he's remembering imagery he's seen from its ancient culture.
Another bug-bird, one of the last new varieties in the show, but a very good one! a lovably nasty looking carrion bird with four big eyeballs and a serrated beak!
When the kids are spooked by several sets of glowing eyes, they turn out to all belong to the same creature: the four pairs of eyes are scattered asymmetrically around the misshapen body of a lumpy, crawling insect. Its mis-matched segmentation and pink veins give it an unnatural, patchwork sort of quality, as if it was several different species fused together! Maybe it's another result of magical experimentation, or maybe it's part of some very strange life cycle.
While traveling through a fog-shrouded chasm, many massive, ominous shadows are seen. Most are only legs or indistinct blobs, but one is a looming beast with huge spines and smiling, toothy jaws.
Another mood-setting scary critter is a giant snake, seen in the process of swallowing a cute, cartoon mouse, with overlapping armor plates and dark spines lining its body. Very cool and threatening! I like its color scheme a lot as well, with the cool grey plates on its upper surface and pale, mottled, cream colored underbelly.
We're now up to one of the funnier and weirder episodes of the whole series, which at one point has the Plantars, in a brief montage, stealing the horn of a "sky goat," a black goat with bird's wings. They're being pursued through an icy landscape not only by the goat itself, but by a band of exceptionally large toads with parkas and bone spears, one of whom is riding the goat, so in just a single shot we can extrapolate a pretty wild quest to retrieve the horn from a toad culture that presumably holds the bird-mammal pretty sacred. Why did our main characters do this, though?
Well, after stealing the horn, they need "cursed obsidian," which they're seen chipping from a cavern where they're immediately attacked by slimy, black octopus-like tentacles. This is all with a soundtrack of demonic chanting, as Hop-pop reads from an old book sewn together from skin. That's right: the Plantars are peforming a forbidden ritual to awaken an ancient evil!
Obsidian Mine Tentacles
To complete this ritual, the sky-goat's horn has to be played like a trumpet, and then a piece of the obsidian has to be placed in the horn to "corrupt its sacred message." Hilarious! This is, apparently, the only way you can summon...
I guess they were allowed to show characters communing with the forces of darkness, but calling something a "cockatrix" as they originally planned was too far. Chicka-Lisk is still a cool enough name though, for a giant chicken similar in design to the one seen in the series intro, albeit with wings anatomically exactly like a pterosaur! Chicka-Lisk is an intelligent demonic entity capable of turning things to stone with its gaze, much like some interpretations of the cockatrice and basilisk that inspired it, so again, why did they do this?
Naturally, it's because they forgot to come back from their travels with any presents for their neighbors, so they need to make a big pile of fake presents and then they need a monster to destroy the presents for them. Obviously.
Moving on to a relatively normal story, the next episode opens with a cute little beetle serving as an alarm clock! Not only does it emit noise, but its giant red eyes flash!
Another piece of bug-technology from the same episode, these wasps have loudspeaker-like proboscises, and can transmit sound or speech. This is only used by Felicia, the mother of Sprig's best friend and love interest Ivy, to keep tabs on her daughter, and we don't see exactly how she sends the messages. I guess it could be that they're given something to say and just sent off, like carrier pigeons. You would expect something so useful to have been seen elsewhere, but maybe it's not all that easy for the average person to train these insects? Felicia is shown to have a lot of rare and carefully trained talents.
These interesting creatures look like blue beetles with the pincers and eye stalks of crabs, but they get their name from the fact that they steal small objects! Each beetle carries what it's stolen on its back as they migrate together as a swarm. This would most likely be part of their mating habits, you would think!
We already saw a blood-sucking, moth-like mail carrier in season one, and it's too bad we don't get the continuity of ever seeing it again, but we do get to see mail carried by an adorable, tiny fly in an adorable, tiny mailman outfit, and later by a larger, more threatening yellow wasp version!
Briefly used to fill some potholes, this insect is almost egg shaped, with a cute little smiling face that can barf up a quick-drying cementlike substance!
wish we got a closer look at these! They're flies being ridden like horses, so I'm just assuming that's the pun here. Their fly-eyes also have dark, slanted stripes, which is something some horseflies and other biting insects do have as well.
The most "normal" giant moles we've yet seen, almost exactly like a regular mole, except the fact that this huge species is hairless and has rodent-like incisors. We have seen that some of Amphibia's giant moles are omnivores or even herbivores, unlike Earth moles!
I'm so glad we see at least one flea in the show, my favorite insect group after flies. It's accurately shaped and accurately scaly, too, but with glowing yellow eyes, and the prickly facial growths of a flea are covered up (or reimagined) by a hilarious mustache and dangling tongue. Fleas are apparently kept as pets and behave just like dogs, but this pet met an unfortunate end at some point, and gets reanimated by dark magic. This actually doesn't go horribly awry, surprisingly; it's just a service one magically inclined frog girl is willing to do for a good customer; the only trouble is in gathering the components. Another occult ritual story, so soon!
That same dark magic gives us another one-off plant monster, a rotten tree brought to life with your typical spooky, Halloweeny rotten tree face. It also gets a green-blue tongue, which has been common to a lot of the vegetable entities!
One of the necessary spell components is "Bogbird Bile," and we get to see to see this very funny toucan-like animal that can spew massive quantities of disgusting green puke. Not a bad defense mechanism; there's a lot of birds that regurgitate at predators!
Spotted for just a moment in Amphibia's icy mountains, a Wooly Mantis is a pretty cute pun but makes for a seriously cool looking species! They're so shaggy, the brown hair completely hides their legs, but they've also got enormous tusk-like mandibles, big yellow mantis eyes and fluffy looking antennae. It intrigues me that the mandibles are so much larger than their clawed forelimbs. I wonder what they prey on?
I like the squarish, scaly looking feathers of this bird-faced giant bat; the whole animal looks like a gargoyle! It even has a more lion-like tail!
One of my favorites, of course! Seen inhabiting a boiling hot swamp, these creatures resemble silvery worms or eels, each with a pair of batlike wings, a gaping lamprey mouth and large, bulging yellow eyes with multiple pupils. Very fun, exotic looking creatures you would pretty much expect to live in a place as threatening as a volcanic bog.
Possibly the single largest animal seen in the series, the Narwhal Worm is a titanic segmented annelid with a huge, gaping mouth like a toothed whale, little yellow eyes and a back covered in thick, dark armor plates with a huge, curved horn on its head, not so much like the horn of a narwhal, but a little more reminiscent of a beetle's horn. It has the vibe of the kinds of giant creatures you see in a lot of manga and anime, to me; it almost wouldn't be out of place in Berserk.
This humanoid toad monster seems to be made of rock with a molten hot interior, every crack in its surface brightly glowing. It has a very artificial feel, possibly animated by magic, and perhaps creations like this were common even before the original, apparently long forgotten invention of Frobots?
Present in the same volcanic cavern are some nasty looking segmented worms with centipede-like legs, fanged mouths and curved, thorny looking spines, their faces reminiscent of a Xenomorph chestburster. Not only do they live in magma, but they too have glowing cracks throughout their armored surface. If you're wondering why Sprig looks so terrible here, it's because the air is so dry. He is an amphibian after all.
It's apparently a cultural tradition of toads to enjoy a gigantic, weaponized cake that destroys its surroundings, and the biggest danger it presents are the giant wasps hiding inside. They're really beautiful specimens, too; their abdomens are black with pale pinkish stripes, and the rest of their anatomy is protected by cool blue-grey, ruggedly spiky armor with vivid pink eyes. They can also shoot out and replace their stingers! I've seen a lot of wasps that can do so in media. It's always pretty cool, but it's also pretty funny when you know, anatomically, that stingers are part of the reproductive system.
In addition to another giant-size star nosed mole, this shot shows some creatures with the bodies and antlers of deer, but they have chitinous, hairy legs, four additional small legs dangling from their necks, and arachnoid faces with round, red eyes and fat, fangless chelicerae. Whether the arthropod parts are meant to evoke spiders or ticks is hard to say, because it could be a pun on deer ticks, but you could also call them Spideer.
At one point, three of our side characters infiltrate the enemy stronghold only to be attacked by an electronic system that manifests their innermost fears. These include a lady newt's twisted doppelganger of herself, an assassin's secret phobia of grubhogs, and a human character's fear of disappointing her friends, which eventually meld into one huge, hideous blob of different bodies and faces with demonic grubhog tentacles. Fun! I could have gone into more detail, I guess, but I'm trying to do only the bare minimum of plot spoilers to review these designs.
This insect is referenced in an earlier scene, and when we finally see one, its a giant moth whose markings make its thorax and wings look a lot like one big skull, each wing having a single dark eyespot. We don't find out exactly how it makes corpses, except that when it later crash lands, there's a beautiful purple explosion of what's PROBABLY toxic dust.
When we finally encounter more Olms and see their underground city, we also meet the largest and oldest of their kind, and she looks quite a bit different from her "children;" a thicker, lumpier, darker creature, with a shorter face and wider toothy maw, massive external gills she can even use as appendages, and beady blue eyes that aren't covered by skin. I wonder just why she looks so different? If this is the "queen" of a eusocial species, I suppose it makes sense for her to be adapted a bit differently. She seems to still be blind, but the eyes are perhaps a lot more sensitive to light?
Cute! These round, black bats have glowing fly-like eyes and mosquito-like proboscises, and they can presumably feed on just about any body fluid, but they're encountered inside the Mother Olm, drinking from her brain matter! They're pretty large, too, each roughly human size.
The numbr of horned beetles in the series is so high we've already skipped a couple, but here's one more for you: an extra large, extra bulky one with a single massively thick, curved front horn and short spikes throughout its armored body, domesticated by toads! This is a point in the series by which the toads are no longer villains; all of Amphibia has had to unite against the same single threat.
This is almost our very, very last animal species for the whole series, but it's a charming one. Hyena bees! The bodies, eyes, wings and antennae of wasps, with shaggy hyena heads and torsos! And they even live in a big hive together, where they apparently make honey!
So, here's where we have to drop the big spoilers: King Andrias, as you might have surmised, seems to be the main villain of the series, launching the Frobot army as part of an effort to invade and conquer the human world, having learned of it from the teens that stumbled magically into Amphibia. This is not, however, the first interdimensional war his empire has been involved with: both the Mossmen and the Shadowfish are actually the last survivors of dimensions Newt civilization has already destroyed centuries prior. Their empire dates back millenia, fueled by magic and technology stolen from other worlds, and each Newt ruler - Andrias's bloodline - has left a copy of their consciousness preserved in a single alien computer, The Core, a malevolent entity with the collective thoughts and voices of these long dead, megalomaniacal giant salamanders.
For much of his life, Andrias has been desperate to prove his worthiness and live forever in the matrix of the Core, but the music box - the magical artifact that can bridge worlds - was hidden from him centuries before the events of the series. To make a longer story short, part of his plan to retrieve the box and conquer more worlds resulted in the rigid caste system we've already seen: frogs as farmers, toads as fighters, newts as scholars, with the very existence of higher technology hidden from all of them to keep Andrias disproportionately powerful.
A pretty dire escalation for "Frog Show," honestly.
...So much escalation, that the finale has the three human girls flying into space to battle Amphibia's apparently artificial moon, taken over by the Core and defended by a MAGNIFICENT horde of weird, ominous invertebrate-like mechanoids! It's hard to even choose favorites from these designs, but we can go over them individually thanks to Joe Sparrow's conceptual art!
S1 is a neat little rounded, chunky crustacean, with one eye, curved fang-like mandibles and a pair of large thrusters on its back. It kind of gives a "water flea" impression.
S2 is a pointed, radially symmetrical one with a spiny, conical face, a ring of eyes, a ring of insect-like limbs, and a conical tail ending in earwig-like forceps.
S3 is a segmented and flattened form, like a trilobite, a triops or a horseshoe crab larva, with one vertical red eye on top.
S4 is one of the most interesting, resembling a spiny, pointed seashell with eyes on the sides and multiple thin, spindly crab legs. As you might have seen in the earlier screenshots, this one can split its shell open like a beak to reveal its internal raygun!
L1, finally, is the last "large" design (hence the lettering). This one has a tiny little round head with large eyes protruding on short stalks, hammerhead style, with thin mantis-like claws and a number of long back spines on its thorax. The rest of it is a very, very long serpentine body with a fish-like tail and rows of protrusions shaped a little like rib bones; the whole machine kind of like an elongated, skeletal fish with a crustacean for a head.
It was also interesting how much these constructs evoked prehistoric marine Arthropods. Besides the inherent cool factor of that, it really calls to mind a lot of Japanese space shooters!
Unbelievably, we're now finally down to just one, single creature, seen in just a momentary cameo at the very, very end of the series. Remember me saying that Joe Sparrow (the bird, not the real guy) and Bessie the snail had an affection for each other? The final creature needs little elaboration beyond its image and its name: