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Upin & Ipin is a 3D-animated cartoon about five-year-old twin boys who live with their sister and grandmother in a village in Malaysia. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this show. I've seen bits and pieces of it, thanks to my Indonesian relatives (Upin and Ipin is also broadcast in Indonesia, oddly enough, with Indonesian subtitles) but I've never actually paid attention (Upin and Ipin's voices always annoyed me) so I always ended up leaving the room after five minutes. But something inside me said it might be a good topic to explore, so here we are today.
The episode I chose to watch was Episode 1, Season 5, "Belajar Lagi?" (Study again?). I chose this episode at random, because I knew that the characters don't age, like the Simpsons, so it wouldn't matter which episode I watched. In this episode, Upin and Ipin come back to school after an unnamed school holiday. There's lots of drama and excitement as they prepare for school, see their newly-renovated classroom, catch up with old friends, and play a game in school. After watching this 20 minute episode, I can honestly say that I am an Upin and Ipin convert.
Upin and Ipin is just pure kid fun. They might be Malaysian kids, but they act like any other kid on the planet. Everything about life is amazing to them, from the shoe polish that their sister uses on their shoes, to the way their new classroom shines. This show is a celebration of the magic of being a kid, without being too heavy-handed or moralistic. My favorite scene, and this is a SPOILER ALERT, in case you were thinking of watching, is when their classmate, Mail walks in to the classroom like a cowboy. When Mail's classmates ask him what's wrong, there is a unified gasp of horror when he answers, "circumcision." Circumcision is an everyday thing in a Muslim-majority country like Malaysia. But to see it through the eyes of a child brings laughter and joy to even a jaded adult like me.
If you're looking for something different to watch with the little ones, or you just want a good laugh, I recommend Upin and Ipin. I would like to say one final thing, however. I am not familiar with the socio-political situation in Malaysia, but there was one character who gave me pause. Upin and Ipin's classmate, Jarjit, is a Sikh boy (evident from the turban he wears) with a booming, adult voice. I'm not exactly sure if this is a stereotype, or if this is meant to be derogatory. If anyone out there knows, feel free to drop me a line, and I will post your answer on this page.
The image of Upin & Ipin was taken from here.
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