With the last post I talked about a cartoon that perfectly encapsulates the fall season. But that’s not completely true. It captures a particular part of the season, the part that’s misty and aesthetically pleasing, autumnal and creepy and a bit romantic. But there’s something else that comes along around this time of year. It tends to flare up with the changing of the clocks and the shortening of the days. A low-key depressions comes out to play, and that too is part of the season. But there’s also a cartoon for that.
Bee and Puppycat is a cartoon about a young woman named Bee and a small, grouchy creature that stumbles into her life which resembles both a puppy and a cat. And if the season is bringing with it a bit of depression then this is the cartoon for you.
While the show is wonderful, it’s not all that surprising that it never really caught on. The single 10-episode season (plus pilot) had a release schedule from hell. The pilot was posted to YouTube in the summer of 2013. The series began posting toward the end of 2014. It then stopped at episode 4. The back half of the series was then released through the subscription service VRV in November of 2016. It wasn’t until this October and November that episodes 5-10 were put out on YouTube with the rest of the show, allowing people to watch the entire run without paying $9.99 a month to access it.
Visually, it seems to share a lot in common with fare like Steven Universe. It has a very cutsey visual design and while the palette isn’t quite as bright as Adventure Time’s, the colors are pastel and candy-like. And like these shows, the visuals belie a deeper level of maturity to the show.
Bee has an incredibly mundane life. She’s mildly depressed, low on funds, worried about rent, and doesn’t have a fulfilling job. Puppycat wanders into her life and brings all sorts of promise. Puppycat is a mildly mystical creature of indeterminate species. He shows her what he does on his own, which is to travel to a strange void-like dimension where he is assigned a temp job by TempBot, and Bee subsequently tags along on these assignments. Yes, her entry to magic and fantasy is becoming a temp worker. While this enables her to dress in crazy costumes, travel to other planets, and meet bizarre alien creatures, it’s somewhat telling that her wild escape from reality is to become a temp worker. It’s something that still does not provide her with consistency, and she actively pursues in order to pay rent.
Aside from the themes of the futility of everyday life, there’s also so much loss. The mildest example of this is probably Deckard, Bee’s friend and neighbor. He’s a prep cook with the ability to be a great chef, but lets his fear of change stop him from applying for better jobs or going to culinary school. Then there’s Cardamon, Bee’s landlord. He’s a small, humorless child who is in charge of his family’s finances, and it is revealed that he spends most of his time and attention taking care of his comatose mother, whom he pretends is a sleeping princess. And of course, there’s Bee. Her past is shrouded in mystery, and I won’t give it all away, but on thing that comes up is that she has a device she calls the “Dad Box”. It’s a machine her father made her to feel less lonely on her birthday, which means his absence on her birthday was a regular occurrence. While the Dad Box makes its appearance halfway through the series, it does lay some groundwork for more of Bee’s dark past.Most excellent modern cartoons have a theme to them that there’s magic in everything, or that friendship and compassion can surmount any obstacle. Bee and Puppycat takes a more somber approach to magic and adventure, showing a mundanity to daily life no matter where in the universe it is. If Adventure Time is Harry Potter then Bee and Puppycat would be The Magicians. While friendship and understanding play a large role in both, this show is grounded more in the neuroses and personal trauma of the characters. Though while it may not push a message that there’s magic in everything, it does take the approach to life that no matter how magical your surroundings, none of that matters unless you learn how to be okay with yourself. It’s not the easiest cartoon to watch, but if you want something that can help you confront the seasonal ennui head on, I can’t think of better travel companions than Bee and Puppycat.