Among Netflix’s recent anime deluge, Seis Manos may be its most inspired and diverse effort yet. Machete and From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series writer Alvaro Rodriguez (Robert Rodriguez’s cousin!) and Castlevania producer Brad Graeber co-created the new series, culling inspiration from 1970s martial arts and blaxploitation films, blending them modern anime styles and setting the narrative in a small Mexican community. It’s a compelling genre/cultural mashup, for sure, but does it work?
SEIS MANOS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: In an underground cavern, a group of toughs gather around an altar. A statue stands in the middle: a reaper, holding a scythe in one skeletal hand, a flower in the other.
The Gist: A centipede crawls through a skull in the cavern, illustrating how creepy-crawly the place is: like, 100-legs creepy-crawly! One shirtless man puts his hands on a scorching-hot urn, branding an emblem on his palms. The goon jefe, El Balde (voice of international treasure Danny Trejo), forces him to swallow some powder. Next thing you know, the guy grows claws and his eyes turn yellow and he becomes rather feral — so feral, he rips the pistol hand off a miscellaneous goon, and disarmingly (sorry), it flies through the air, still firing bullets. (I’m so sorry. So so sorry.) The demon-guy runs off, goons in pursuit.
Cut to a Mexican town. Domingo (Carlos Luna), a 12-year-old orphan, shoplifts a mango from a merchant. Chased by the cops, he hides in some sort of dojo sanctuary, where Isabela (Aislinn Derbez), Jesus (Jonny Cruz) and the mute Silencio train to be whupass kung-fu warriors under the mentorship of wise old Chinese guru-master guy Chiu (Vic Chao). Our heroes were also orphans once, so they give Domingo some food and a bed, and maybe fulfill his desire to lead the next generation of Latinx chopsocky champs.
The next day, Chiu is alone at the dojo while his pupils are in town. Demon-guy stops by for a far-from-cordial visit, and Chiu recognizes the brand on his hand — probably from his past, not because it reminds him of Toht, the Gestapo dickhead from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Chiu compound-busts Demon-guy’s arm, but he heals quicker than Wolverine, even. In the village, Isabela pumps gas when Demon-guy arrives to wreak terror. El Balde and his muscle arrive. So do local cop Garcia (Angelica Vale) and an American DEA agent, Brister (Mike Colter), who has a bit of a Shaft thing happening. Demon-guy glugs down some gasoline, lights a match and tosses it down the hatch. Blooey! I think he just invented the Mexican Fireball, only $12.99 during happy hour at Applebee’s! Domingo dies in the melee. Crestfallen, Isabela, Jesus and Silencio return to the dojo and become extra crestfallen upon finding Chiu’s lifeless body.
Our Take: Yep, it works — so far, anyway. Seis Manos is conceptually ingenious, huffing heavily on some mighty grindhouse vibes while adhering to the vivid visual style of anime. One commonality of its many influences is, of course, violence — and Seis Manos is as violent as a bear attack in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy in the middle of D-Day. Like, violent-as-the-bible violent. Which is pretty violent.
So, come for the aesthetic synthesis, stay for the gore. The story is fine, an excuse to stage some skillfully rendered, uberkinetic action sequences. The series is completely in line with the entertaining light art/heavy trash aesthetic balance of Rodriguez’s other projects, and we’ll see if he and Graeber can maintain the forward momentum generated by the first episode.
As for the old-grainy-film-stock visual effect? It’s a cliche now, and probably should be retired. It’s just a flourish, and not a deal-breaker though.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Silencio screams wordlessly upon finding Chiu dead on the dojo grounds.
Sleeper Star: Garcia seems like the only sane person in this narrative. “Grand theft mango,” she sighs while gumshoeing a pre-teen fruit thief, then speaks too soon: “How come nothing big ever happens in this town?” You asked for it, lady.
Most Pilot-y Line: “You’re one of us now. One of hers. Santa Lucifera. And you must honor her wishes to seal the deal,” El Balde says to the not-yet-a-demon guy.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Seis Manos is fun, and doesn’t seem that violent because it’s a cartoon! It’s a different type of weird compared to the usual weird anime, which means it may draw criticism from staunch purists — or draw in new viewers.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Seis Manos’ on Netflix, a Very Violent Mashup of Crazy Anime and Gritty Grindhouse appeared first on Decider.