Seis Manos is Netflix original animated series with a wonderfully unique take on the occult and a hybrid mix of Mexican and Chinese culture. Unfortunately, a tone-deaf presentation makes it impossible to have any emotional investment in the characters and outcomes of the story.
What is Seis Manos about?
Seis Manos literal translation is six hands. This refers to the three Mexican orphans who studied Kung Fu under their Chinese Sifu. Both of them have two hands, and when you multiple two times three you get six, hence six hands.
Now some of you may think that a bunch of Mexican kids learning Kung Fu in Mexico sounds ridiculous, especially since this show seems to take place between the late seventies. However, if you read up on your history you will discover that the Chinese not only helped build railroads in California but also Mexico.
So it is not so strange that there would be a Chinese dojo, with a Chinese instructor in Mexico. Therefore, I bought into the idea of three orphans learning Kung Fu in Mexico.
Seis Manos has unique twist that involves the occult and dark magic.
A crime boss by the name of El Balde has somehow gotten his hands onto a substance that can transform men into literal monsters. In fact, the first episode is about El Balde turning one of his henchmen into a monster who wreaks havoc on the town.
When the monster appears at the Chinese dojo, it kills Chiu, the sifu of the three Orphans, and begins their quest for revenge.
The cast of characters in Seis Manos is diverse and enjoyable to watch, even if they follow clichés and tropes.
Brister is a U.S. DEA agent sent to investigate what’s going on in the Mexican City of San Simon. I make mention of this side character first because he is voiced by Mike Colter, the same man who played Luke Cage. I bring this up because on screen Mike Colter tends to be stiff and phony.
Within the obscurity of a cartoon, Mike Colter gives life to his character and has more acting range than he does on live-action shows. Brister is funny and Colter’s performance definitely deserves a nod.
In addition to Brister we have Isabella, Jesus, and Silencio.
Isabella is played by Aislinn Derbez and is the weakest character and voice actor of the bunch. Potentially, this is because Isabella is played by an actual Mexican actress, so it’s possible the language barrier negatively affected the performance.
But what really disappoints me about Isabella is that she is the typical goody two shoes.
She always does what’s right, always tries to protect her orphan siblings, and she never strays from the path of righteousness. Although it’s nice to see such a pure and noble character, it makes her pretty boring personality wise. Combined with lackluster voice acting, Isabella wouldn’t be able to carry Seis Manos on her own.
Jesus is the other orphan played by Jonny Cruz. Although Jesus is also two dimensional, his character is a lot more fun to be around because of great voice acting. Jesus is the typical big guy, comic relief character with a big heart and a funny quip. Every time Jesus is on screen, you are pretty much guaranteed a joke or a funny moment.
However, Jesus’s constant jokes also contribute to the jarring tonality of the show. We’ll get more into that later.
Silencio is the last orphan on the list and he doesn’t talk. The voice actor isn’t even credited on IMDB because he literally has only five or 6 lines in the entire season. However, Silencio is the most interesting character because of how the animators chose to give him personality. Silencio is a man of action and can actually be pretty funny through his non-dialogue. He’s also interesting because unlike his siblings, he is full of rage and has no problem killing cartel members.
Another character is Officer Garcia. Although she is not a part of the orphan crew, she is technically the protagonist of the show. She is voiced by Angélica Vale who does a decent job of expressing a small town cop embroiled in a battle with the occult.
The irony is that Seis Manos is supposed to be about the three orphans getting revenge for the death of their master. However, without Officer Garcia the plot of the show would never move forward.
Garcia is the only one who actually takes action to find out what to do next while the orphans tag along.
Garcia and Brister are the ones who scout out El Balde’s crew and figure out what to do next in the grand scheme of things. For this reason, I think Garcia and Isabella’s voice actors should have been swapped. Angélica turns in a much stronger performance than Aislinn.
Lastly, we have El Balde played by Danny Trejo. El Balde is a great villain and Danny Trejo makes sure to give him an excellent, growling, menacing voice to bring this character to life. Although his character is also two dimensional, Danny Trejo’s performance turns El Balde into an intimidating and menacing character.
Presentation and its terrible tone-deafness:
The presentation of Seis Manos is a mixed bag. The musical score by Carl Thiel is incredible and captures the feeling of late 70’s Mexico perfectly. However, the animation can be hit or miss. Sometimes the animation is stuttering and choppy while other times it is fluid and detailed. Still, it serves its purpose and does a fine job of giving you great action.
However, where the show really suffers is in its beautiful, vibrant, world. Sound confusing? Keep reading.
If you were to watch Seis Manos long enough, at some point you would think you were watching a cartoon on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, or the long shuttered Fox Kids. The light hearted nature of Jesus and the various bits of comedy really make you think you’re watching a kids show.
And then someone gets eaten alive.
Or a man transforms into a hideous monster.
Or a person’s head gets blown apart, blood included.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
See how this website describes Seis Manos. https://decider.com/2019/10/03/seis-manos-on-netflix-stream-it-or-skip-it/
Seis Manos is a show that is clearly aimed for adults, but for some bizarre reason it’s presented as if it’s a kid’s show.
Are the creators expecting parents to sit on the couch with their 6 year old child to watch cartels massacre an entire village?
For every funny quip that Jesus makes, a blood bath of corpses follow. Even the orphan Silencio, literally jabs his fingers into someone’s temple and causes blood to burst out the hole.
Seis Manos is violent, gory, and totally not appropriate for kids, but it looks like it could be.
The art style is completely wrong for Seis Manos and the constant bits of humor detract from any emotional investment you were hoping to create. You cannot show us a scene of a child being squashed by a statue and then have a follow up scene where a DEA agent says, “Man, why does everyone keep calling me gringo, don’t they know I’m black?” A child just died. Not the right time for a funny quip.
The non-stop jokes make it seem as though the creators of this show were too afraid to embrace the violent and gory content of Seis Manos. Almost as if they think all the blood and gore is going to turn away viewers.
But it feels completely wrong.
Avatar the Last Airbender was a kid’s show that dealt with serious topics, and when it was time to get serious, there were no jokes to be thrown around. When Aang transformed into the Avatar, there wasn’t a sudden joke about him having glowing eyes or anything like that.
Seis Manos is an adult show pretending to be a kid’s show that doesn’t understand why their jokes ruin the mood and atmosphere of their setting. The colorful palette makes the show too bright and cheery which doesn’t match with the horror setting they have created.
In reality, Seis Manos should look more like Castlevania or Claymore, with a darker bluish palette. This is a dark show with dark themes, creepy witches, and demonic monsters. There shouldn’t be a joke after a village gets massacred by a cartel boss. These horrible things happen in real life and it’s not appropriate for Jesus to lighten the mood by making a joke.
Despite these gripes, I really enjoyed my time with Seis Manos.
The story has a lot of depth to it and the characters are really fun to watch. There are plenty of plot twists and setbacks to keep this show extremely engaging. However, I do think they need to pick a tone and go with it. Either they change the art styles to match the darker tone of the show, or they reduce the amount of gore and violence and turn this into a kids show. You cannot have it both ways because at some point, Seis Manos is going to make me not care what happens to these characters.
And that would be a real shame because the idea behind this show is very cool.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing the second season.
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