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Thread: Seis Manos

  1. #1
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    Seis Manos



    I saw promos for Seis Manos at SDCC last weekend and noticed mi jefe Danny Trejo from Man at Arms: Art of War was on the cast.
    Gene Ching
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  2. #2
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    Anyone watching this?

    I hear it's good but we've let go of our Netflix recently.

    How ‘Seis Manos’ Blends Grindhouse, Kung Fu Cinema, and Mexican Identity
    10/07/2019 - by Kate Sánchez - Leave a Comment
    Reading Time: 6 minutes



    Set in the 1970s, the new Netflix Original series made in partnership with Viz Media, Seis Manos, focuses on three Mexican siblings after the murder of their adoptive father. On their path to find the killer, the siblings, Jesús, Isabela, and Silencio are pulled into a world of the cartel, magic, and monsters. While Seis Manos’s story is well-executed, it’s the ability of the showrunners to blend together Mexploitation, Kung Fu cinema, and Mexican idetity.

    Exploitation cinema is hallmarked by exploiting current trends, niche genres, and often rests on a foundation of violence, nudity, blood, and all of the things most would like to keep out of the cinema. As the genre that has brought us countless B-movies, it also is a space with many subgenres like Blaxploitation, Mexploitation, Spaghetti Westerns, and more. The grindhouses of the 1970s and 1980s were theaters who made their names showcasing exploitation cinema and became havens for genre lovers.

    Exploitation cinema in Seis Manos happens at different levels, the easiest of which to identify is the 1970s setting focused on Mexican Narcos. The characters, namely the DEA agent named Brister and the Mexican police officer, Officer Garcia work to embody the leads of Exploitation films, often law enforcement or adjacent working to . Through Brister, we also see an attempt to distill the Blaxploitation genre into a single character. Sadly, this doesn’t work as smoothly as the creators would have liked.

    As the only American in the series, put there to be a stand-in for the audience, he detracts from the story with his jokes made at the expense of the characters and ultimately, their culture. His inclusion was an obvious way to pay homage to the large collection of the Blaxploitation genre that was formative in the grindhouses but doesn’t come off as well-executed as the other elements of Seis Manos. That said, the heart of Mexploitation cinema is beating within almost every shot of Seis Manos. By positioning the antagonist El Balde as a cartel leader, the genre defined by narcos and extreme violence is alive and well.



    Running parallel to Blaxploitation in the United States, Mexploitation movies were close to their American exploitation film counterparts, with low-budget science-fiction films that often starred Mexican luchadores such as the revered El Santo. Seis Manos, despite its 1970s setting, finds its life in the Mexploitation of the early 1980s and 1990s when the genre switched to focusing on the cartel and branching into Narco-cinema. That said, it is perhaps Mexican American writer-director Robert Rodriguez’s style of Mexploitation that is most present throughout the series series.

    Credited as a pioneer of Mexploitation in the United States, influences from Rodriguez’s films from El Maraichi to Machete find a place in this series. It is perhaps his action-horror romp From Dusk Till Dawn that most exists in Seis Manos, as the members of the cartel turn to monsters upon coming into contact with the magic of Santa Nucifera. The series drips with blood, mutilated bodies, and the worship of death.

    Sies Manos also follows the long tradition of American Exploitation blending with elements of Kung Fu cinema, namely the fight choreography and story structure. Our main characters, adopted by Chui, who serves as both their loving father and Sifu, are each adept in different forms of Kung Fu, all custom fit to their personalities.

    Jesús uses the most recognizable form of Kung Fu for Western audiences, Drunken Boxing (Zuì Quán), made famous in the United States by Jackie Chan. Isabela is a master of Hung Gar, a style that originates from the “fighting monks” of the first Shaolin Temple in Henan province and with five variations based on five animals: tiger, crane, snake, leopard, and dragon. And finally, Silencio uses Bak Mei, also known as the White Eyebrow, a name worked into his character. The style itself is a lethal style not modified for competition and known as the most explosive of styles.



    The use of King Fu cinema is present even beyond the use of the martial art itself and the featuring Chinese characters on the title screens. The revenge structure of the series works like many in the Kung Fu genre: Master is killed, students avenge master, student grows. By adding the brutality of grindhouse gore into the fluid movements of martial arts, the show executes a storyline that thrives on both.

    In addition, every episode begins with a line from Daoist texts, the guiding moral code by which Chui taught his children. Even beyond that, there are references to Bruce Lee’s teachings and advice as Isabela is told to be like water in order to conquer the bruja who has taken over her body.

    I’m Mexican American, which means that I can talk on the superb use of Mexico and folklore in the series. But, it also means that I can’t speak to how well Chinese representation in the show outside of the tropes of the cinema Seis Manos pulls from. What I can speak on, however, is that while some may see Mexico and China as an unlikely pairing, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This isn’t just because of the pervasive nature of Kung Fu cinema, which was beautifully covered in the documentary Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks, it’s also because, in some areas of Mexico, there is no difference between Chinese and Mexican identity, it’s one in the same.



    Starting in the 19th century, Chinese migrations to Mexico were consistent until the 1940s. The series itself touches on one of the ways in which Chinese migrants came to Mexico, similar to the United States, to work on the railroads. Also similar to the United States, Seis Manos shows the violence some faced. While done to move the story, it’s important to note that anti-Chinese sentiment was and is real in Mexico, leading to the blocking of immigration.

    With that being said, much of Mexico’s northern states and norteño culture is influenced by Chinese migrants to the country, making Sifu’s life in Mexico more commonplace than someone without knowledge of history would think. While the series effortlessly uses Kung Fu cinema, it has work to do in exploring the perspective in this series is not from Chinese-Mexicans. Raised by Chui, one of the only moments of exploring this blended family comes in episode two, “Grief.”

    If you know anything about Mexicans, you know how we see death. It’s just another part of life. We sometimes celebrate it and the traditions, while having routes in indigenous religions, have been mixed to be predominantly celebrated through Catholicism. In a flashback, Isabela is dealing with the death of her bird, and instead of grieving in a way familiar to Mexican viewers, she seeks guidance from Chui’s book and begins to perform Dao funeral rites for her pet. It’s small, but it points to a part of the siblings’ identities that can be furthered explored if the series gets a second season.



    Through the grindhouse aesthetics and Kung Fu action, the connective tissue of the series is Mexican folk religion and the magic of curanderismo and brujeria that surrounds it. From communicating with the saints to astral planes, and more, the series uses the world of the supernatural that is real to many Mexicans to tie every aspect of itself together and create a story that is Mexican before all else. By grounding the majority of the magical choices in either the healing magic of the curandera or the death magic of the Santa Muerte replicant Santa Nucifera, the story is blended in a way I have never seen before.

    Beyond the magic, the animation style replicates that of old films, bubbling ever so slightly as streaks go through the scene as if recorded on 35mm and played for us. It feels like a period piece, played alongside grindhouse greats. Blood, magic, martial arts, and replicating 35mm film all push Seis Manos into a unique category of anime that isn’t easily described genre-wise.

    While not everything lands perfectly, specifically Brister, Seis Manos is an anime that looks to do more than just tell a one-dimensional story. By layering on different cinema stylings, the series is able to tell a story that most wouldn’t expect. Beyond that, the series crafts a visual and stylistic identity that uplifts a Mexican story while also crediting two genres, Exploitation and Kung Fu, both of which have a big impact on Mexican filmic storytelling.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #3
    I liked the series. In episode 5 one of the protagonists was a doing a section of Bung Bo. I thought that was a nice touch.

  4. #4
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    Nice MightyB

    Quote Originally Posted by MightyB View Post
    In episode 5 one of the protagonists was a doing a section of Bung Bo.
    Cool. I heard there was some Hung Gar in it too. Any other styles? Anyone know who was the choreographer or who designed the Kung Fu sequences? I IMDBed it but that wasn't telling.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  5. #5

    Hung Gar and Mantis both in it

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    Cool. I heard there was some Hung Gar in it too. Any other styles? Anyone know who was the choreographer or who designed the Kung Fu sequences? I IMDBed it but that wasn't telling.
    Thomas Leverett


  6. #6
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    Thanks for that, MightyB!

    As fate would have it, I was contacted by the makers of Seis Manos yesterday. We've been having a nice chat. We hope to have something exclusive for y'all, KungFuMagazine.com style soon.

    Meanwhile...

    Behind the Scenes on Netflix’s New Austin-Made, Mexico-Set Anime
    The many hands of Powerhouse Animation make light work of Seis Manos
    BY RICHARD WHITTAKER, FRI., OCT. 11, 2019


    All in the details: Seis Manos' storyboarding process

    Brad Graeber has two notepads. They're pocket-sized scrapbooks, crammed with references to martial arts films. In one, he keeps a complete list of every form and discipline used in a film. In the other, an exhaustive record of films and every fight sequence – where it takes place, what weapons are used, and, of course, the time code.

    It's an obsession that has led to his company, Austin-based Powerhouse Animation, unleashing their new show Seis Manos on Net*flix last week. And it all began with those notepads, and how the Powerhouse storyboard team turned them into some of TV's most thrilling and unique action sequences.

    The last three years have seen Powerhouse go from video game cutscenes and adverts (both still part of the business) to animating major shows like Castlevania for Netflix. Yet Seis Manos – the story of three orphans in Mexico seeking bloody revenge for the death of their kung fu sensei – may be the most meaningful for co-founder Graeber. Not only is it the company's first original series, developed in-house, but it's also a summation of his childhood influences, beamed into his brain watching grindhouse movies on UHF channels. "You'd see Kung Fu Theatre, you'd see Monster Theatre, they were all Seventies films," said Graeber, "and to me they all existed in a similar box."

    Still, Seis Manos was a tough sell. Graeber starting developing the show in 2014 but was constantly rebuffed. "'It's not tied to a toy, it's not for 11-to-14-year-olds or 6-to-11-year-olds.' ... People who were friends would say, 'This is really cool, but it will never, ever happen.'" But it was more than simply a cool idea to Graeber; he wanted to expand the kinds of stories told in animation: who is portrayed, and who creates them, "and now we have an opportunity to do this, it's the kind of thing I want to do more and more of."

    Like everyone at Powerhouse, series director Willis Bulliner said Graeber would give him details about Seis Manos "in little spurts [and] I said, 'That sounds awesome. I want to be a part of it in any way that I can.'" When anime experts Viz Media first expressed interest in the show, Graeber had Bulliner work up some storyboard samples, "Then it was, 'Oh, we got picked up,' and then we hit the ground running."

    But while the show came from Graeber, he also knew when it was time to step aside and let other voices in – most especially Latino artists. The first big addition was scriptwriter Álvaro Rodríguez, co-writer of Machete and fresh off a run as story editor on Chicago Fire. Graeber credited him with giving the show heart and soul, as well as a deep knowledge of Mexican mysticism and cinema. "Every little thing he puts into the script has some 1930s Mexican black-and-white film that it ties back to, but also its own unique thing."

    Once Viz and Netflix decided to pick up the series, on came co-writer Daniel Domin*guez, while Powerhouse staff animator Eddie Nunez was in charge of character design, giving the show its trademark flex and sinew. However, suddenly Powerhouse was working on three shows: Castlevania, Gods & Heroes, and Seis Manos (and has now added the revamped Masters of the Universe), and that meant the team had to grow quickly. "That immediate ramp up can be scary," said Bulliner, "but when they say, 'the series is a go,' then you need people."

    First up was that storyboard team. Patrick Stannard had been working as an animator on Castlevania at that point, while Cassie Urban had been working on boutique animation, and both were looking to move sideways into storyboarding. Then Abbie Bullock, Julie Olson, and Giselle Rosser came on as new hires. According to Graeber, the storyboard artists quickly became the biggest advocates for and fans of the show. No surprise, since they were in from the start of the animation process, and modern digital animated storyboarding isn't just rough layouts. It's the first pass of a show, the muscle and bones under the story, and the Powerhouse team went further than most. "It looks like key animation," said Graeber. "They try to make the action as clear as possible, because we don't want that to change."

    Rather than breaking the work up by scene or by character, Bulliner assigned certain locations to each team member. "If we cut between two different locations for quite a bit, then a board artist might get two or three sequences in the Plaza Seis Manos, and another artist would get another location. It was a whole lot easier to get one model and just [storyboard] there, than hop through a bunch of different ones." At the same time, he looked at the individual strengths of the animators on character beats – who had a flair for spectacle, who could bring out the softer emotional beats – and tried to fit them where their skills would have the most impact.

    However, as deadlines loomed, the close-knit team depended on what Rosser called "mega-collaboration," with everyone's fingerprints on the big final action scenes. Olson added, "It was like jumping into the ring and going, 'Tag me in!'"

    When it came to creating a unified style for the fighting sequences, Olson said, "Brad and Willis kept us grounded." Unlike other fantastical shows, Seis Manos relied on real kung fu, "and that was a nice challenge. It capped us in a good way, because we had to get creative with these characters and the kung fu that they know."

    That's where Graeber's notebooks became really helpful: that, and the fact that Graeber actually studies kung fu under Thomas Leverett (Sifu Thomas, as Graeber calls him) of Del Sol Yoga and Kung Fu. Having a martial artist on-set for live-action is standard, but Graeber credits Nickel*odeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender with adding that same discipline in Western animation – a discipline he brought to Seis Manos by bringing Leverett to the studio for the storyboard team to film and study. "Everything from where you twist to where you place a foot for the coming up of the next move – those details add so much."

    Even so, while having a martial arts master on call for reference meant a richness of resources, the muscle memory instantaneousness of kung fu had its downside. Rosser said, "We'd have a moment where we'd go, 'Well, there's these two guys on this side,' and [Leverett would] go, 'Well, I'd just do this.' 'Oh, great, can you do it again? We totally didn't catch it on camera.' He'd say, 'Do what?' He had a million ways to do any fight sequence."

    Seis Manos is on Netflix now.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  7. #7
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    Our newest exclusive fight-focused review

    Mexican Martial Anime? READ SEIS MANOS: Netflix’s Stellar Kung Fu Anime by Kurtis Fujita

    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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