Cultures collide in Seis Manos, a gritty new anime drama set in Mexico in the 1970s. The eight-episode series, which was released earlier this week on Netflix, is a bloody and violent mix of martial arts, supernatural mystery, and crime drama. At a panel at New York Comic Con, the co-creator and two of the voice actors discussed the importance of this unique melding of styles.
"I've described the show as Machete meets Kill Bill on the set of Coco," said Alvaro Rodriguez, who created the show with Brad Graeber of Powerhouse Animation, the studio behind the Castlevania TV series. Developing the series, he added, "was a little bit of Brad and I doing a duet of 'My Favorite Things' and bringing in Kung Fu and Mexican culture and Mexican cinema and mysticism and all kinds of stuff in this soup that became Seis Manos."
The series centers around a trio of Mexican orphans who have been trained in martial arts by a Chinese sensei who took them in as children years ago. After demonic monsters attack their small town, they must team up with a local police officer and an American drug enforcement agent to battle the ruthless cartel behind the mayhem. The anime style gives a gritty feel, and this is definitely an adult show, with abundant violence, gore, and profanity.
The cast discovered that this mixture of cultural influences worked surprisingly well. "I did not know how close these worlds are, telenovelas and anime," said Mexican telenovela icon Angélica Vale, who plays Garcia, a young police officer who falls into the chaos on what is supposed to be a quiet patrol in a sleepy town. "You guys just love drama," she joked of the anime fandom.
Before landing the deal with Netflix, Rodriguez revealed that they shopped the show to "different people who loved the idea of the show but didn't know who the audience would be for it, and therefore were afraid to do it. Or we met people who said, 'That's not anime, anime is Japanese.'" His response: "Well, this is Mexicanime," which the panel audience loved.
The cast also includes Aislinn Derbez as Isabela and Jonny Cruz as Jesus, two of the orphans. (The third, Silencio, does not speak, the result of a brutal attack as a child.) Luke Cage alum Mike Colter plays Brister, an exasperated DEA agent who feels right out of a Blaxploitation movie, and From Dusk Til Dawn and Heat star Danny Trejo is El Balde, the devious cartel kingpin who orchestrated the attacks.
Cruz plays the comic relief, but he was serious about the importance of entertainment like this. "Growing up I never really got to see myself as the hero," he said. "So to see brown [characters] and for them not to be a drug dealer, for them not to be a terrorist, [but] to be the hero, that is something that's been a dream."
Vale, who is best known as the lead in the telenovela La Fea más Bella (which inspired the American series Ugly Betty), embraced her first English-language role and is proud of the inclusive message it sends (even if it's soaked in blood and demons). "My [young] kids won't watch the show for a couple of years," she said, "but when they see it they will finally recognize themselves in there, and that's very important to me."
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