Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Plot: Down-on-their-luck folklore creatures Papa Bois and Buck open a shady astrology centre and receive their first client, a man seeking the heart of his unfaithful lover.
Context: I have said on a few occasions that Caribbean folklore is a treasure trove that can be mined for content for various media. And while this is usually done for horror or dark fantasy content (short films Douen, Rolling Calf, La Diablesse and Soucouyant are some examples), Trinidad and Tobago filmmaker Shane Lee Kit went the adult comedy animated route with his webseries Papa Bois (PB) and the Buck. The first episode, Buck’s Astrology Centre, was released on November 28 on YouTube.
Now while Trini and Caribbean audiences may be familiar with the folklore characters of Papa Bois and the Buck, we have Red Mango Readers from all over the world (the rest of our top five are US, UK, Canada, Australia and India, big up yourselves) so let me do a quick explainer. In the folklore of TT and St Lucia Papa Bois (French patois for “father of the wood”) is the mythical protector of the forest and is often portrayed as a short, elderly African man with horns and cloven hooves. In TT and Guyanese folklore, the Buck is a diminutive spirit with sharp claws and teeth, and when kept and cared for by humans will grant them wealth. In 2019 the creature skyrocketed to fame when a family in the southern Trinidad settlement of Gasparillo claimed a Buck had been harassing and attacking them, even sucking one boy’s toe. Unsurprisingly, the Buck in question was never found.
Now that everyone is caught up, on to my review of Episode 1 of PB and the Buck.
Review: The Papa Bois and the Buck we meet in “Buck Astrology Centre” have seen better days. PB, once a demi-god who defended the Caribbean forests, is a washed-up, “highly functioning alcoholic” whose powers have faded and is the less-than-proud owner of the failed bar, the “Bois Den”. He uses the location to open the titular astrology centre with his buddy Buck, a sneaky little fellow who is not granting anyone’s wishes of wealth but seeking to scam people out of their wealth as a self-styled mystical guru. Their very first client is a man whose lover has been cheating on him (in Trini parlance, she has been “horning” him) and wants help from “Pandith Master Sai Guru Sri Buck” to recapture her heart. As expected, things do not turn out well (no spoilers, watch it yourself!).
The premiere episode is very well done. The animation is strong, with colourful characters (both literally and figuratively) and detailed backgrounds sprinkled with funny Easter eggs. The wavy, fluid animation style reminds me somewhat of the highly underrated 90s Comedy Central series Dr Katz, Professional Therapist. Returning to the characters, PB and the Buck make for quite the comedy duo, with PB’s frustration and resignation complementing Buck’s greedy amoral scheming. The client, Mr Lester-Singh, is a riot and had me going with his antics (I said no spoilers, stop trying to pick my mouth). The voice work for all three is very solid.
As mentioned above, this is adult comedy, so you have that irreverent style. But the profanity that there is bleeped out and the mature content serves the material and does not feel overdone. It’s hard to compare the comedy style to a Hollywood series, as it is very much couched in Trinidadian humour, especially the in-jokes. But the story here is broad enough and recognisable enough to be to elicit laughter from any audience. And you can tell work and skill went into crafting the jokes and gags.
So yeah, I had a blast with “Buck’s Astrology Centre,” and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment of this wacky duo. All signs point to a bright future for PB and the Buck.
Score: 8 out of 10
You can watch PB and the Buck Episode 1 for yourself by clicking here and you can follow them on social media by clicking here for Facebook, here for Instagram and here for Twitter. And you can check out more Caribbean animation content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating tabletop games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.