Inspired by Africa’s diverse histories and cultures, Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire is a captivating 10-episode animated Afro-futuristic anthology series created by Triggerfish that premiered on Disney+ on 5 July 2023. Triggerfish is a computer animation film studio situated in Cape Town, South Africa, and Galway, Ireland. The studio’s animated feature films include “Adventures of Zabezia” (2012), “Kumba” (2013), and “Seal Team” (2021) – each an animal-themed CG movie. They’ve also worked on TV specials and short films such as “Stick Man” (2015), “Revolting Rhymes” (2016), “The Highway Rat” (2017), “Zog” (2018), and “The Snail and the Whale” (2019) – all in association with Magic Light Pictures. The studio’s accolades include a variety of nominations and awards for their aforementioned works. Triggerfish previously worked on “Kiya and the Kimoja Heroes” for Disney+ on 22 March 2023 before “Kizazi Moto”, and have since made “Supa Team 4” for Netflix on 23 July 2023 – both lighthearted superhero-themed series.
Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire was also executive produced by Oscar-winning director Peter Ramsey – best known for a little animated masterpiece called Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018).
These ten roughly 10-minute sci-fi rich and sublime stories, each with distinct styles, are all beautifully and vibrantly animated with equally eclectic music. So much so that an entire article could be devoted to its diverse visual and audio styles alone. From contemporary 3D animations to traditional 2D, even stop-motion, they run the gamut of artistic nuances with a unique African flair and sensibility. Drab or dull is nowhere to be found, as each episode is tantalizing to the eyes and ears and different enough not to become stale or homogenous. And despite the “Afro-futuristic” or fantasy aesthetic, the themes in each entry remain universal.
EPISODE 1 – Herderboy (Uganda)
Directed By: Raymond Malinga
Written By: Raymond Malinga & Mpho Osei Tutu
Set in the mystical Chewzi Kingdom in the highlands of Uganda, the first episode is a coming-of-age story following young Ndahura (voiced by Koona Blair Matthias), a herder of cybernetic cattle. When the herd is attacked by a terrifying scarlet-energy beast, the Nyamiyonga, Ndhahura, goes off to battle the monster and rescue a captured calf. After his harrowing ordeal, he returns victorious, having managed to mystically ‘tame’ the beast, much to the awe of his fellow herders.
Anyone remotely familiar with Sony’s critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic “Horizon” videogame series can see a visual and aesthetic similarity with “Herderboy,”; particularly with its natural, serene pastoral environment contrasted with highly mechanic animal life, as well as the visual cues of blue (docile) and red (aggressive) fauna; not to mention the ‘hacking’ element at the end.
Those many parallels don’t, however detract from the relatively simple, well-executed and sufficiently paced, self-contained tale.
EPISODE 2 – Mkhuzi: The Spirit Racer (South Africa)
Directed By: Simangaliso ‘Panda’ Sibaya & Malcolm Wope
Written By: Leslie Pulsifer
The next episode is a hi-octane, over-the-top entry with bombastic visual stylings of something you would expect from the Japanese animation house Studio Trigger (ala “Kill la Kill” and “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners”). The episode’s strength lies in its themes of displacement, gentrification, ancestry, and togetherness.
We find our young protagonist, Manzo (voiced by Nasty C), competing in the Soweto Super Circuit race against an intergalactic overlord called Ogun (voiced by Hakeem Kae-Kazim), who threatens to demolish the neighborhood if the boy loses. Needless to say, the odds are stacked against our mere mortal main character, who goes up against this super-powered opponent.
If you don’t like Studio Trigger-style anime – grandiloquent underdog stories about the indomitable (collective) human spirit against an insurmountable obstacle – then there is no convincing you on how good this episode is. It’s unapologetic cotton candy.
EPISODE 3 – Moremi (Nigeria)
Directed By: Shofela Coker
Written By: Shofela Coker & Vanessa Kanu
“Moremi” sees a world troubled by soul-eating monsters from the underworld. Told through the experience of Lou (voice by Tolowanimi Olaoye) and complementary flashbacks, the story recounts the tragic tale of the titular Moremi (voiced by Kehinde Bankole), a woman who sacrificed her child to seal away the evils that torment mankind. But unable to bear being separated, Moremi embarks on an odyssey to bring her child back, even if it means damning the world.
Moremi may be the best story in this anthology, rooted in actual African religion and folklore. “Moremi” is one of those tragedies of antiquity, akin to Persephone to a degree, with the theme of the underworld and the heavy and bitter price one has to pay for cosmic balance/peace. The sense of loss felt for a mother and her child does come through, which is the strongest element of this story, making it also the most emotionally impactful.
The name “Moremi” may also be an allusion to Yoruba Queen Moremi Ajasoro of Ife, a legendary Nigerian folk heroine.
EPISODE 4 – Surf Sangoma (South Africa)
Directed By: Nthato Mokgata & Catherine Green
Written By: Nthato Mokgata, Catherine Green & Phumlani Pikoli
Despite an aquatic tragedy in his youth, Niabulo (voiced by Mandisa Nduna) is a seasoned surfer along with his friend, Mnqobi (voiced by Omiga Mncube). As the story unfolds, Niabulo must confront his fears and overcome the terrifying trauma he suffered many years ago in order to save his friend from a supernatural fate.
This is the anthology’s only “horror” episode, and there are obvious Lovecraftian elements here – particularly with the ominous squids. At the very least, it has the foreboding unspeakableness of a good Stephen King tale present in this narrative’s DNA.
EPISODE 5 – First Totem Problems (South Africa)
Directed By: Tshepo Moche
Written By: Tshepo Moche
The best way I can describe this episode is if “The Proud Family” was set in Africa and heavily based on ancestral worship and spirituality. It’s another colorful growing-up episode focusing on a young Sheba (voiced by Rene Sethako). In this world, the technology makes little sense and is simply a plot device, as it’s arbitrarily based on recognizing if a person is an adult or not. In her attempt to expedite her transition to adulthood – through a totem ceremony – Sheba briefly winds up in the spirit plane, where she meets her other lively and colorful ancestors.
It’s clear there are themes of identity and reverence for your heritage/ancestors at the core, and it’s targeting a much younger demographic. But overall, this may be the weakest episode of the anthology, made even more so by the other coming-of-age stories on this list.
EPISODE 6 – Mukudzei (Zimbabwe)
Directed By: Pious Nyenyew & Tafadzwa Hove
Written By: Tadadzwa Hove
Muku (voiced by Pious Nyenyewa) is a self-centered graffiti artist who tries to make a name for himself and gain followers on social media. While tagging ancient monuments at ruins, things take an unexpected turn when he winds up – through some alternate dimensional / time travel loophole – in “Muchadenga,” a futuristic neon-drenched megalopolis. There, he meets a scavenger named Rumbie (voiced by Genesis “Gigi Lamayne” Manney), and the two are chased by a bird who intends to send them back to where they belong. Through the brisk and zany misadventure, Muku learns a valuable lesson: that there are things more important than himself and his vain pursuit of popularity on social media.
Another madcap, off-the-walls adventure that gave vibes of the spider-mob chase sequence in “Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse”. This entry truly embraces the “futurism” of the Afro-futuristic motif of “Kizazi Moto” in its portrayal of “Muchadenga” – an alternate future timeline where Zimbabwe was not colonialized. It’s also refreshing that the highly advanced metropolis isn’t one drenched in abject pessimism like in most cyberpunk forays and seems to evade the cynical trappings of such a setting in storytelling. Those who really embrace their African roots and the importance of community can take a lot away from this one and its hopeful message.
EPISODE 7 – Hatima (South Africa)
Directed By: Terence Maluleke & Isaac Mogajane
Written By: Isaac Mogajane
It’s hard not to overlook the overtly anti-racist and anti-discriminatory messaging of “Hatima,” particularly as a counter to generational prejudice propagated amongst many African cultures and tribes. A race of “merpeople” (African Atlanteans) are at perpetual war with surface dwellers. The story’s protagonist, the troubled Mati (voiced by Nkosinathi Mazwai) of the aquatic denizens, learns his people are descendants of a human woman who, by exposure to sodium chloride, cures her terminal ailment but also transforms her into an amphibious humanoid. Feared and shunned by her own people, her offspring and her former tribe have fought ever since. With this revelation, Mati breaks the cycle of violence and hatred by reconciling with his human adversary Ntsako (voiced by Lebo Mochudi), accepting that the two sides are fundamentally related to each other.
Much like “Moremi,” this narrative perfectly blends the past with present events to accentuate the emotional resonance of the overall story. “Hatima” is one of the more profound episodes on this list and one of this series’ best episodes mainly for its excellent execution of its poignant theme.
EPISODE 8 – Stardust (Egypt)
Directed By: Almed Teilab
Written By: Almed Teilab
Pre-destiny and self-determination are the themes of the eighth episode. In this world, scrolls are handed out to persons which states their destined purpose or “role” in society. Enter young Nawara (voiced by May Elghety), who wants hers. Nawara is given one by the sage Oracle (voiced by Laith Nakli), but it’s a blank one. Feeling slighted and denied, Nawara is determined to get a real scroll anyway and goes after the Oracle to steal one. This turns out to be an enthralling adventure for Nawara as she ends up helping out the Oracle in various ways instead. Nawara eventually concludes, for herself, the role she wants to have, that of an Oracle, a decision she makes all on her own.
The debate of self-determination vs. predetermination is a universal constant in human philosophy and storytelling, as old as the debate between nature vs. nurture. There may never be a universally accepted consensus on the topic, which is why this comes up often in many stories and narratives, even today – this was even the premise of “Kung Fu Panda” and, more recently again, in 2023’s “Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse” and conversely “The Flash.” Regardless of which side of the argument you may adopt, this is still a heartwarming entry.
EPISODE 9 – You Give Me Heart (South Africa)
Directed By: Lesego Vorster
Written By: Nonzi Bogatsu
The penultimate episode is primarily a parody/satire about the toxicity of social media, issues of authenticity, and the manufactured facades deeply engrained in our ubiquitous social media culture and that of influencers/artists. This heavy-handed entry takes it to the extreme, wherein social media influencers are literal gods who are governed and empowered by their followers.
Sundi (voiced by Sechaba Ramphele) enters a contest to become the next god of creativity. He wins the title only by degrading and humiliating the competition and announcer. He soon meets the competition’s judge, Maadi (voiced by Pearl Thusi), the goddess of plenty, in real life/in person. Sundi quickly causes Maadi to lose followers by revealing her real self on social media, and by extension, she loses her godhood. Indignant about how his society – by extension, reality itself – is more obsessed with false appearances, trend-chasing, and superficial personalities rather than real and genuine people, Sundi goes anti-establishment, bringing to ruin the very realm of the gods.
While this is a strong message about social media and the dangers of the propagation of idol worship, social tribalism, etc., those messages and themes get muddled in the execution. Sundi comes off as more of a hypocrite than someone who genuinely had a change of heart. This can mostly be attributed to the lean runtime that didn’t afford Nonzi time to really flesh out or explore the protagonist’s transition in a more organic way or the real ramifications of Sundi’s reform.
EPISODE 10 – Enkai (Kenya)
Directed By: Ng’endo Mukii
Written By: Ng’endo Mukii
The final episode is sadly a very pessimistic affair, as we follow mother goddess Shiro (voiced by Sheila Munyiva) and her daughter Enkai (voiced by Stycie Waweru). Curious about Earth and the humans who inhabit it, Enkai, against her mother’s wishes, visits the slums of Kirinyaga Mega City. It is a dystopia where corporations exploit the natural resources of the world to the detriment of society and nature itself. Rescued by her mother, Shiro and Enkai eventually leave Earth for a new world (Thayari), one devoid of the destruction and corruption of humanity.
Shiro is a clear allegory for the spirit of the Earth (or “Gaia”), whereas Enkai represents the new goddess of life/creation for the new world the two eventually inhabit at the end. Sadly, both Shiro and Enkai have a very pessimistic view of humanity, given how mankind is on a perpetual course of self-destruction and evisceration of Earth and its resources with little to no hope of redemption or salvation. In fact, and surprisingly, it is young Enkai who nihilistically remarks that humanity must save themselves, leaving them to their own devices/demise.
The sober and hopeless theme is clear and uncomfortable. Personally, I would not have capped off the series with such a negative entry and may have slotted a more hopeful episode at the end. It is undeniably a profound viewpoint about the state of Africa (Kenya) and, by extension, the world at large, especially since even the gods themselves have given up on humanity and there is no redeeming quality or caveat of hope to be found. Undeniably, however, it is one of the best-composed entries in this series, both in theme, art style, music, and execution. They may have just saved the best for last.
Verdict / Conclusion
Overall, “Kizazi Moto” sits well with all the other well-produced and gloriously animated avant-garde anthology series, like “Love, Death + Robots” on Netflix. It goes without saying that in mainstream media, there is a lack of stories, movies, TV series, cartoons, comics, videogames, etc., that have African locations, societies, history, cultures, or religions as their foundation – and “Kizazi Moto” fills that untapped niche.
I appreciated everything in “Kizazi Moto” and applauded the hard work of Triggerfish to produce such a high-quality product. So much so that should this series continue for a few more seasons, I would love more stories set in high fantasy, history, religion/spirituality, outer space, romance, suspense/thrillers, and action-adventure. In addition, a more flexible runtime per episode would also go a long way in bolstering the creativity of future episodes.
To its detriment, however, I believe Disney+ failed to market this nascent series adequately, which is often a sign of a lack of faith in the product on Disney’s part. I myself only came across it by happenstance, as I’m sure many people are learning about this series for the first time from this piece. If so, go check it out if you can, and hopefully, we’ll see a season/generation 2 in the works.
Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics, or video games. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.