Monday, March 07, 2022

Aya of Yop City, on

Kids come of age pretty much the same everywhere in the world, but late 1970s Ivorians had way cooler music than us in the West. Aya does not partake of the nightlife as much as her fun-loving friends, because she is a serious teen. Try as she might, there is not much she can do tame the drama exploding around her in Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie’s Aya of Yop City, which premieres Thursday on

Aya wants to be a doctor and she is not about to let any dumb boys distract her from that. Her friends are a different matter entirely. In fact, Adjoua just got knocked up by Moussa, the wastrel son of the richest man in town, Mr. Sissoko, the owner of the brewery. He also happens to be Aya’s father’s boss. Adjoua’s hard-boozing journalist father, considers the unplanned pregnancy to be his winning lottery ticket. That assumes that Moussa really is the father, but when the bundle of joy arrives, the Sissokos start to doubt.

Although there is not a lot of racy material,
Yop City has a mature, socially grounded sensibility. Adapted from Abouet’s graphic novels, the animated Yop City has a youthful energy and a funky 1970s vitality. For extra authenticity, Abouet & Oubrerie incorporate vintage commercials from the era. The animation is stylish, but it is the jazzy afropop/highlife music (Miriam Makeba, Tabu Ley, Johnny Bokelo) that really gives it a cool vibe.

French thesp Jacky Ido provides numerous voices, including some of the more knuckleheaded guys. The character design is reasonably expressive, but the recreation of 1979 Abidjan really sparkles on-screen. Life was clearly hard for 99 percent of the people, but there are also clearly good times to be had.

The narrative itself is pretty standard stuff and very little is fully resolved, but that kind of universality is sort of the point. Just about anyone can identify with the characters, their life stories, and their day-to-day challenges.

The animation is striking and the music still sounds as fresh in the film as it did when it first blasted out of Abidjan radios. Recommended for fans of sophisticated animation and 1970s African popular music,
Aya of Yop City starts streaming Thursday (3/10) on