Final Thoughts (for now): Big Hero 6 The Series

Warning: Spoilers. 

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Thanks to the UK getting the series release early, I have managed to see the first five episodes of Big Hero 6: The Series. What did I think?

Well first off, my initial guess of the series probably being filler has been pretty much correct. A lot of it is just random, lighthearted adventures of our beloved heroes. The only episode that seems to actually add anything to the movie’s lore is Fred’s Bro-Tillion, which gives us more of Fred’s family.

I will admit, Fred’s Bro-Tillion and another episode, Food Fight, which is a Cass-centric episode, were actually very enjoyable and fun. After Issue 188 (the one that introduced the new, unappealing character of Karmi) left a bad taste in my mouth and Big Roommates (that had Honey move in with Gogo) ended up being mostly boring, those episodes did actually make me smile and keep me invested. Food Fight was a fun episode that gave us more of Cass, her interests outside of Hiro and the cafe, and a legitimately cool villain (and Gordon Fucking Ramsay makes a cameo) and Fred’s Bro-Tillion had a lot of great jokes and Stan Lee is awesome. Those episodes were genuinely good (not great, but good and fun). It does give me some hope that the show might not be a total garbage fire. But the show still pales in comparison to what it could have been.

I’m starting to suspect that budget is a huge issue with the show. The animation is just so stiff and clunky and the style has been polarizing for a lot of people. I know I can’t expect movie quality animation, but there are other Disney shows that have fluid, beautiful animation. Just compare it to the Tangled series and there’s a huge difference. The writing is also hugely hit or miss. I can’t say it’s because Disney had no faith in the project since they’ve already renewed it for a second season, but I have a feeling there’s a low morale among the crew. I mean if you ask people if they want a proper BH6 sequel or a lower budget cartoon follow up made for kids, they’ll probably go for the sequel.

While it’s still a little too early to tell, it doesn’t look like the characters are getting the development everyone was asking for. Wasabi in particular is kind of getting the short end of the stick, behaving more cowardly and anal than he was in the movie. Baymax is mostly used for comic relief and getting his mechanisms messed with than being the heart and soul of the team he actually is. The only character who seems to be actually getting anything consistently is Fred. In fact the show seems to focus more on Hiro’s relationship with Fred than anyone else. At least Honey and Gogo are badass female characters are usual.

A lot of the villains are more like comic relief than actual threats. I know there’s supposed to be a Big Bad that’s actually intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have villains with some credibility. I also find if baffling there are a few instances where our heroes just…let the villains get away. Like you’re not even going to try to stop them? That kind of cements the fact that the villains aren’t a real threat. If you put any of them in the same room as Yokai he’d kick their asses.

But I think the major problem with the show–as someone else pointed out–is the lack of real HEART. The original movie had everything: exciting action, clever comedy, layered characters, a chilling villain, but, most of all, an emotional core about love, loss, forgiveness and healing. The show, on the other hand, is mostly just comedy. Baymax Returns touched on the heart a little, but didn’t have the same emotional impact as the first movie. The fact that we don’t see Hiro and Baymax interact as much in the series when they were practically inseparable in the first movie says a lot.

So yeah, unless there’s a major twist for the season finale, I don’t think the show is going to be anything really special. The show will probably get better, but it already made it clear it’s mostly just a kid’s comedy rather than a legit continuation of the first movie.

And with that, I think I’ve gotten everything I feel about the series out of the way. Now I can focus on my other interests before the actual sequel eventually comes out.

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Cuphead: A New Canadian Classic

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Chad and Jared Muldenhauer, two brothers from Oakville, Ontario, Canada (which is basically next door to the city I live) had a dream: make their own video game. In 2013, they set out to make their dream a reality by working on a new and original video game¬† that had the aesthetic and charm of a classic 1930’s cartoon. After a few delays to perfect the project, Cuphead was released in 2017 to rave reviews.

Like a lot of people, I was drawn to it by the design and style. It was so refreshing to see traditional hand drawn animation (and beautiful, well done animation for that matter) on a video game format, and the characters looked like a lot of fun. Finally, this year, for my birthday, I got it as a present. And after over a month, I have completed it! (On Normal of course, I’ll get to the expert mode soon.)

What are my thoughts?

Well, I will say that those delays paid off because there’s so much DETAIL in this game. Like the animation of course is a real gem, but the music is excellent and there’s all sorts of hidden achievements and surprises. You can tell Studio MDHR went all out on this game. There’s definitely enough things to keep you interested in playing.

While the gameplay is hard, it also helps you learn how to be a better player. You have to form strategies on how to beat the enemy and advance. Try this charm here, try this super there. The bosses are actually a lot of fun, and I would always throw up my arms and shout “YES!” whenever I beat them. And for the most part I didn’t find them TOO hard. The only boss that really and truly frustrated me, oddly enough, was Beppi the Clown. But even the toughest boss feels so rewarding when you are able to beat them. I was able to pass with the lowest grade of B- and was even able to get a few A+ grades!

The platforming/run n gun levels (where you collect coins) I found more difficult and less enjoyable to be honest. Mainly because even though they’re short, there is just so much stuff thrown at you. I was honestly stuck on the run n gun levels of Inkwell Isle Three for over a week, that was how bad it got (I was able to beat the infamous Dr. Kahl’s Robot before those levels). They’re less fun and rewarding than the bosses, that’s for sure.

Despite the platforming, the bosses, challenging but engaging gameplay, and overall beauty of the game kept me interested and makes it one of my faves. But most of all, as a fellow Canadian, I feel a great sense of pride that an independent studio from my country can achieve worldwide fame and acclaim.

If you are interested in this game, please buy it legally from Steam and the Windows store. The creators had to quit their jobs and remortgage their houses to make the game possible. Luckily it paid off since the game has sold over 2 million copies, but still, they’re not exactly a big conglomerate corporation that won’t hurt over a few pirates. (I find it interesting that they had to go that route. I’m sure they could have put it on a crowdfunding website and it would have had the same success, but then again, maybe they didn’t want to potentially screw people over if the game didn’t succeed. Either way, it’s a rare risk that paid off.)

Here are some tips I have to help you win the game:

  • Don’t be afraid to look for help. If you are stuck, you can look up tutorials on YouTube on how to get ahead/look for secrets. The game should be fun most of all.
  • Similarly, don’t be afraid if it takes you a long time to finish the game. Again, the game should be fun, and you should be able to finish it at your own pace. Take your time if you need to.
  • The P Sugar charm is your friend. Use it as much as you can, especially on levels that require a lot of parrying.
  • The Chaser weapon is a good weapon to get you started, but be warned, it does not do a lot of damage. I recommend the Roundabout since it has a wide range (can hit more targets) and does a great deal of damage. The Lobber weapon is great if you have to shoot down at a target; I used it to beat the Dragon boss, Grim Matchstick.
  • I recommend using the Heart and Twin Heart Charms for the airplane levels since there’s a LOT of stuff that will be thrown your way. I don’t recommend them for other levels because they decrease your attack power and will draw out the level.
  • When you do the Pacifist mode for the Run and Gun Levels the Smoke Bomb charm will help you a lot.
  • Otherwise, keep firing. Fire fire fire. Use the Supers to your heart’s content.
  • Maneuverability is a HUGE asset to the game. This is something I admittedly lack since I kept dying a lot in the game. If you need to, you can go on simple mode to practice before using regular.
  • When you’re on King Dice’s level, use the P Sugar charm to help you with the dice because there will definitely be some mini bosses you will not like. Carefully determine which bosses you can handle and try to land on their number. Remember, if you lose to a mini boss you have to start the level all over again.
  • Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! You will beat the game, I promise. There were times when I thought I was going to be stuck for good but I got through it. You can do it too.

I’ll probably add some more when I beat the game on Expert, but overall, this should help you get started.

Finally, I should mention my fave characters. The bosses I found most fun to play were Werner Werman, Phantom Express, and Hilda Berg. The easiest were Goopy Le Grande and The Root Pack. In terms of characters I like on a personal or aesthetic level, my faves are Cagney Carnation (very original, I know), Baroness von Bon Bon, Cala Maria, and the Devil. I honestly love this game’s interpretation of the Devil. I love his overall design, the different forms he can shapeshift into, the attacks he can use, the animation on him, and how he’s just chilling on some random isle running his own casino. I also love the animation on King Dice.

Overall, this game was a blast and I’m really excited to see more adventures of these characters and more games from Studio MDHR.

How Same Face Criticism Can Become Sexist

Waaaay back in 2013, when Frozen came out, a lot of people pointed out one or both of two things: that Anna and Elsa had the same face, and/or that they had the same face as Rapunzel. It has since sparked the discourse of “Same Face Syndrome” looking at female character design in Disney animated movies.

At first, I was relatively on board with it. I mean, it seemed like a pretty big issue, especially since all three characters have huge-eyed heads on stick thin bodies. But by the time Big Hero 6 was being hyped, things got WAAAAAAAAAAAY out of hand.

The “Honey Lemon looks like Rapunzel!” claim has practically become a meme, but I noticed right away that it was less about wanting better representation and more about wanting to look for something to blame/make Disney look evil. Proof? The treatment of Gogo in fandom until the film’s release.

Gogo was either outright ignored in favour of debating Honey Lemon’s face, or, I shit you not, accused of looking like Elsa. I actually saw a post claiming that Honey Lemon looked like Rapunzel, Aunt Cass looked like Anna, and Gogo looked like Elsa. Not only is that extremely contradictory given how just the year before they claimed that Anna/Elsa/Rapunzel all looked the same (and now they admit there’s some differences) but I felt like the situation had gotten really sexist. The women of Big Hero 6 definitely don’t look identical to each other, have more diverse body shapes, and are scientists and superheroes…and the first thing you do is claim they all have the same face to make Disney look like the worst thing ever.

Like, all that mattered to these people was how the characters looked. Nothing else. Thankfully it mostly died down once the film was released, but the cycle began anew when Moana was in the works and people AGAIN tripped over themselves to justify saying that Moana looked like another Rapunzel clone. Yes, really. Because that’s not racist at all, taking the first Princess of Color in a long time and one of the few Polynesian characters in media and saying that she’s just another Rapunzel clone.

To add insult to injury, these people would be the type to claim that Disney was evil and DreamWorks Animation was so much better, showing how DreamWorks women have more diverse faces. Never mind that most DreamWorks female characters only exist in small or supporting roles and not as leads, all that matters is, again, their looks.

While it is important to have more female characters that aren’t doe-eyed waifs, at some point you have to realize that fixating solely on how a female character looks and not the role she plays in the story or how developed she is a character veers dangerously into sexist territory. You can be a woman and the hero of your own story but if you look too pretty or similar to another female character, it won’t matter as much.

The reason why I’m bringing this up again is because I came across some redesigns for the women of Overwatch. I don’t feel like it would be right to post the pictures here, so I will instead link you to them right HERE. (Disclaimer: this is NOT a personal attack on the editor or their editing skills, or saying that all the redesigns are bad. They have a right to criticize, I have a right to respond.)

While I have no problems with giving them thicker body types, what really strikes me is how some of the face redesigns are either unnecessary or uncanny valley. Like why do you need to redesign Ana and Moira? Their designs are pretty revolutionary for video game standards, and Moira just looks unappealing. Widowmaker is left in her unpractical outfit in order to give her zombielike eyes. I’m honestly really offended at the Zarya redesign; lord knows, we can’t have big buff women ALSO be beautiful and feminine at the same time.

See, the thing I liked about Overwatch was that is showed that ALL women can be beautiful and powerful. Women of colour, disabled women, older women, bigger women, you name it. There is definitely some deserved criticisms, such as making a lot of the women look very young and not having more women with thicker builds, but I just don’t understand why female character designs constantly need to be criticized and picked apart while nobody feels the need to redesign male characters for any reason.

Yes, it is important to be critical of things we love and consume. Yes, we need more diversity in female character designs. But if you find yourself overly fixated with how a character looks, point flaws that aren’t necessarily there, and don’t say anything about a male character’s design (beyond how he’s allowed to look different) at the expense at looking at the female character’s role in the story and how she can represent marginalized women…the problem might be with you first. But that’s just how I feel about it at least.