Anime Netflix Television

Seis Manos is Hands Down the Best Netflix Original Anime of 2019…and Here are Some Bomb Ass Reasons Why

The year is 2019 and the anime scene is hot, hot, HOT. And amid the clangor of every other series, Seis Manos comes in hot with its enticing plot, fiery characters and addicting progressive attitude. But what is it about this series that’s so alluring? Well, buckle up, kiddos, because I’ve got a lot to say about this one!

The year is 2019 and the anime scene is hot, hot, HOT. And amid the clangor of every other series, Seis Manos comes in hot with its enticing plot, fiery characters and addicting progressive attitude. But what is it about this series that’s so alluring? Well, buckle up, kiddos, because I’ve got a lot to say about this one!

Seis Manos
Netflix via IMDb

First, we need to define the standards we are basing this decision on:

-Setting

-Style

-Character Archetype

-Social Issues

Why do we need to establish these areas? Well, any good writer or analytical writer will recognize that these four issues contribute to the overall feel and ultimate perspective of a piece of media regardless of its intention — one cannot analyze a work of fiction without viewing it through some sort of lens. In my personal case, that lens will be that of a Latina writer who consumes copious amounts of fictitious media, but that does not exclude any other lens a reader brings to the table. Even so, any lens you look through should be able to spot the major points that make this series great. So, let’s crack into it!

Setting: 

Seis Manos takes place in 1970s Mexico, specifically in the fictitious town of San Simon. Why is this unique? Well, to have any anime (hell, any animated series in general) set in 1970s North America is rare; how many main characters can you recall who not only drove the plot but also did so in a pre-modern era? Moreover, to set the series in Mexico is a bold move. Truly, to set a plot in a still developing country, much less a sleepy town like San Simon, is a writing technique sure to draw the eye of the consumer. But don’t be fooled — this setting is meant to continually pull the consumer in.

Style: 

The setting of this anime is unique in that the animation does not conform to your typical anime animation; rather, it holds animation more akin to a Western animated series. While this may seem innocuous at first glance, it is important to realize that the animation actually contributes to the overall viewership of the series. For instance, one may actively seek out an episode of Young Justice without second thought about the animation or the amount of effort it may take to produce such an episode, but tuning into an anime series with a similar Western style may seem a bit out of the ordinary. This animation style appears to be meant to appeal to a much broader audience than that of traditional anime, which makes the series unique regardless of its content. 

Character Archetypes:

-The most obvious out-of-place character archetype is that is the Seis Manos Sifu, Master Chiu. Chiu is technically out of his element in that he is a Chinese martial arts master who takes it upon himself to train three young orphans. However, this also gives him a character type akin to Batman because of his choice to take younglings under his wing. The fact that he chooses to settle himself in Mexico, of all places, gives him an air of mystery and a hint of edginess; what other man with his esteem can you pinpoint in such a niche environment?

  • The Seis Manos themselves have an edge all their own with their individual martial arts styles:
    • Isabela focuses on Hung Ga, a style which focuses on remaining close to the ground, specifically in horse stance. Her signature move, Tiger Claw, is adept with tearing, grasping and clawing at an opponent. 
      • Isabela is the most grounded and down-to-earth of her siblings, giving her an edge in knowing when to pick a fight and when to let things go. This is most prominently displayed in her willingness to let her brother Silencio be arrested for the murders he committed in his past. Make no mistake — Isabela knows which battles to fight, and this undeniably makes her That Bitch throughout season one.
    • Rather, Jesus pursues an intriguing fight style dubbed Drunken Boxing. “Drunken” martial arts styles generally refer to any style which resembles a drunken person, but specifically includes strong hits, agile dodges, swift grappling and sly feinting. His sister continuously scolds him for his indulgences in alcohol, but, unfortunately, these indulgences seem to further his advancement in this technique. The Drunken style appears to enhance both his ability to fight and his personality in that he becomes more authentic to himself and his fight style when drinking — not an ideal circumstance, and certainly not one to model oneself after, but an important character point nonetheless.
    • Silencio…oh, Silencio…chooses to fight according to the Bak Mai style. Western culture may know this style best by referring to Pai Mei from the popular Kill Bill film series. This fight style, which is loosely translated to “White Eyebrow” relies heavily on the emotion put behind its actions; Silencio’s potent (and understandable) anger fueled by his past drives him to become more headstrong and audacious as the series progresses. His eyebrows also become progressively whiter as the episodes go on, which is a tribute not only to his style but also the man that style is modeled after. Silencio’s fate is truly indeterminable based on his aggressive personality and fighting style that leads him into questionable situations…not that I, an avid fan of morally ambiguous characters, am complaining.

To conclude this point, each sibling has a fight style that correlates directly to their personality. This not only separates them into tres aspects of the Seis Manos, but also gives us a perspective into how each style works with one another. 

Social Issues:

This series is also not shy about addressing social issues from the beginning:

  • Gender:
    • Within the first couple minutes of episode one, it becomes clear that gender does not hold confines amid certain roles in the show. This is not only a refreshing take on gender roles in modern America, but also in Mexican culture. 
    • Garcia, a Mexican Federale, is the first female in her region. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Garcia overcomes more gender gaps in proving herself to Brister, an American Vietnam veteran as well as other characters. She goes on to become a hero to not only the town of San Simon as a whole, but specifically to the children who survive their parents slain  by El Balde. Garcia is a vital character, albeit supporting character, in displaying that a headstrong woman with nerves of steel can go on to lead the masses — and in this day and age in America, that is, quite frankly, a cool drink of water on a hot summer’s day. 
    • Another supporting character who deserves our undying love and respect is Lina. An auto mechanic by day, Lina confesses to delivering drugs for El Balde — unfortunately, this is the same man who cut off her hand as a child and slew Silencio’s family. Silencio, who happens to be her lover, is less than pleased about this revelation. But Lina’s character must not be judged solely based on her relationship with Silencio; she managed to not only get by in life but rather excel in her chosen profession regardless of her gender, which is quite a feat in the 1970s.
  • Disability:
    • While on the topic of Lina, it should also be noted that her disability, the hand which was brutally cut off by El Balde in her youth, is never focused on. Lina has one hand. She is an auto mechanic well versed in her trade. She also happens to be the lover of Silencio and the deliverer of drugs for El Balde. But she is never, NEVER the topic of inability. This topic hits home for me personally, but is an extremely important message as a whole in that those with disabilities, physical or mental, are not limited in any capacity. 
    • Likewise, Silencio also represents a niche group of disabled individuals as a mute. Silencio’s character is rooted in rage that stems from witnessing the brutal murder of his family at the hand of El Balde when he was a child. During said incident, his tongue was cut out. Since then, Silencio’s anger has been building and ultimately contributes to the power and rage behind his chosen martial art style. But more importantly, this displays strength found in his disability, a quality which is confirmed when Isabela simply states that he has “more anger” than she or Jesus during battle.
    • Of course, Lina and Silencio form a strong bond between them that appears to be grounded strongly in their respective disabilities. And while it’s true that these things are not looked upon as restraints, it’s more heartwarming to see how the two use the abilities they do have to help one another; trust me when I say that you don’t know happiness until you see Lina and Silencio play a guitar together.
  • Race:
    • To start, Seis Manos presents an interesting racial stance simply with its setting; not only is the anime set in Mexico, but in 1970s Mexico. Joining Mexican culture with Chinese culture is a dicey move in itself, but to do so in post-Vietnam war times is quite bold. The combination of Chinese martial arts and Mexican heritage seems odd at first, but considering the marginalization of these cultures, it makes sense. Here we have two races, both looked down upon in the era of focus, joining together to create forces previously unheard of. That alone is not only bold but truly progressive in my opinion.
    • What examples of these joined forces are shown?
      • To begin, the simple act of Master Chiu showing face is a progressive act because, well…he’s a Chinese martial arts master residing in Mexico.
      • To continue that point, Master Chiu chooses to not only take in three orphans but also train them individually in their own martial art technique; here we see the young not only learning from the wise but also adapting to survive their unique, niche environments.
      • Brister and Garcia also present their own racial aspects:
        • Brister, a grizzled Vietnam veteran, continuously makes derogatory racial comments toward Garcia and most other Mexican characters despite being on Mexican turf. Case in point: Brister at first refuses to learn or understand anything about the culture of the country he’s in, right down to genuinely believing that “Mexican” is a language. Regardless, Garcia and the citizens of San Simon stand their ground against him and eventually realizes he needs to open his mind if he truly wants to help the town.
        • Brister himself is also on the receiving end of racial backlash based on his ignorant behavior — he is referred to as a “gringo” several times throughout season one and takes offense every time. In his mind, “gringo” refers only to white individuals, and to be referred to as a gringo is a justifiable offense. Of course, he doesn’t quite understand that the word refers to ignorant outsiders rather than a specific race, so his baffled facial expressions will live on and our laughter will continue.
        • Interestingly enough, Brister being Black doesn’t seem to phase most people. It is his temperament, not his race, which determines his character. This, combined with the lack of stereotypical animation, is quite refreshing considering the amount of stereotypical an racist depictions of Black characters seen in Eastern anime. This is a topic we could crack into further in the future, but for now we’ll leave it here and appreciate Brisker as he is — ultimately, a sheer bad ass.

So, there you have it — a comprehensive list of reasons to watch Seis Manos and also make it The Anime of 2019. The social issues raised and impacts made are enough to qualify this series as one of Netflix’s best animes to date, and hey! Have you seen the Seis Manos siblings? Because I guarantee you can’t start watching this series and not fall in love with all three of them!

Have opinions about the Seis Manos series? Drop a comment below or hit me up on Twitter to share what you have to say!

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