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I’m just going to get my SPOILER ALERT out of the way up here. I should also mention that I almost never go spoiler-free in my assessments.
Before I watched the movie, my Oscar predictions went something like this:
The Lego Movie (will win)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (might win)
Boxtrolls (too good for the Oscars)
Big Hero 6 (too Japanese for the Oscars)
Book of Life (too Mexican for the Oscars)
Song of the Sea (too Irish for the Oscars)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (extremely too Japanese for the Oscars)
And, after seeing Big Hero 6, only one thing changed:
Big Hero 6 (too thin for the Oscars)
There are too reasons for this. One is that the movie doesn’t feel very Asian. As someone who watches anime regularly, I’m familiar with the tropes and style of Asian culture and this movie didn’t give off the same feeling of an anime at all.
This was really disappointing for me because I was looking forward to seeing a film for kids do something as well-paced and magical as a Ghibli film, but with a superhero twist. Instead, it turns out that setting it in “San Fransokyo” has absolutely no bearing on the plot, tone or style of the movie. It’s really just a Western movie with a backdrop of an Asian-like city. It makes me want to watch the film dubbed in Japanese, just to get some of that Asian feel that I wanted going into the movie.
The other reason is the incredibly thin plot of the movie. Other reviews have covered that extensively, so I won’t bother with it here, but yeah, it was a big problem for me. Why was it about revenge? Why give Hiro a revenge arc? Revenge arcs are tricky to pull off. It has to feel justified. You need to be with the protagonist in wanting revenge, surprised when they find it in their heart to forgive, and generally nodding along with every choice they make. I think there were a lot of problems with the way they handled this, though. In case you don't remember, the revenge story went something like this:
Hiro sees his brother Tadashi run into a building to save Professor Callaghan, and it explodes. Later, Hiro concludes that a person wearing a Bleach-like mask named Yokai stole his invention and tracks him down. When Yokai is revealed to be Callaghan, Hiro swears vengeance because his brother died in vain.
The problem with Big Hero 6’s revenge arc is that the event seems distant. Did Hiro see this guy kill Tadashi in front of his eyes? No. And the reason to be mad is as thin as the plot. Because his brother died in vain? Yeah, blame the survivor! Hiro isn’t an idiot. He’s smart. That’s why it annoyed me to see him channeling his anger like this. Why couldn’t he understand that Tadashi made a choice to stupidly run into a flaming building? And it disturbed me just how much Hiro seemed to want to brutally murder Yokai. I think less time should’ve been given to that and more time given to developing the other characters. Not to say that the other characters didn't make an impression, despite having nothing to do. I hope GoGo Tamago gets her own spinoff.
For all my gripes with this one, it’s harmless. It just feels too much like a How to Train Your Dragon expy for me to fully enjoy, and it’s disappointing how it doesn’t embrace the spirit of anime. Most of the problems will be fixed in the sequels, hopefully. Speaking of, what are they going to name them?
Big Hero 7? Big Hero 6 2? Big Hero VIII? Big Hero 6: Lost in New York? Big Hero 6: Now For Some Proper Character Development?
…wow I’m a bitter person.