[TV REVIEW] Cuphead game transformed as classic homage to cartoons in Cuphead Show

ART+STYLE.+Unlike+modern+animation%2C+the+backgrounds+and+scenery+usually+use+oil+paintings%2C+contrasted+with+the+cel+animation+of+the+characters.

Fair Use: Netflix Cuphead Show

ART STYLE. Unlike modern animation, the backgrounds and scenery usually use oil paintings, contrasted with the cel animation of the characters.

Through pure nostalgia alone, Cuphead managed to revive rubber hose animation, an art style from the 1940s. With the game gaining critical acclaim, how does the world of the run-and-gun indie title compare to the world of the new Netflix show?

Visually, quite well. The animation, character design, and set design are meticulously planned to mimic the look and feel of 1940s rubber-hose cartoons. Unlike modern animation, the backgrounds and scenery usually use oil paintings, contrasted with the cel animation of the characters. Although this creates a disconnect between the animation and the backgrounds, it shows the intentionality of the animators in emulating the art style. However, the Cuphead Show also incorporates three-dimensional backgrounds, such as Cuphead and Mugman’s house, alongside some moments in the introduction. The character design is also on-point, keeping the rubber-hose style, yet also having unique designs for background characters, something that requires great effort. More subtle forms of this art style include the title cards in the intro, alongside the filter that manages to add flair and character without detracting from the experiences.

The animation, character design, and set design are meticulously planned to mimic the look and feel of 1940s rubber-hose cartoons.”

The sound design also contributes to the look and feel. The voice actors provide distinct personalities to each of the characters, with their accents and manner of speaking once again resembling those of 1940s era cartoons, which may seem grating to some. In spite of this, the music, while also serving as yet another factor to this period piece, should still be pleasing to everyone. Jazz permeates through the show, whether that be through the background music or the musical numbers sprinkled in throughout the episodes. While some may find musical numbers annoying, at the very least it seems that the show intended for them to be there. As for an extra treat, the background music incorporates many leitmotifs from the game, mainly for the bosses, which show up as characters in specific episodes.

But how does the plot allow for musical numbers? The answer may highlight a slightly weak point of the show. To fully emulate the cartoons of the 1940s, the show focuses on more simple, lighthearted, slapstick comedy. Although overarching plot threads and cliffhangers are being developed, there wasn’t enough time in twelve episodes to fully give those justice. As for the comedy itself, it’s just simple fun. The jokes tend to be hit or miss, and the plot tends to focus on character flaws. The antagonists are cartoonishly evil, especially considering that the Devil is a character, yet the protagonists aren’t fully moral as well. Although the Cuphead Show focuses on the relationship of siblings, the family shows flaws as well, including Cuphead’s bullheadedness and stupidity, Mugman’s neuroticism and cowardice, and Elder Kettle’s senility. In spite of this, the fact that Cuphead and Mugman always pull through, through brotherly love or their stupidity ruining the villain’s schemes, show how despite everything, the characters are good at heart.

The Cuphead Show is a great experience, but certainly not the best modern animation has to offer. Through its distinct style and comedic delivery, the series clearly knows its audience, catering to people interested or nostalgic for classic 1940s-esque cartoons.

Rating ★★★☆☆

If you liked The Cuphead Show!, you might also like Amphibia and The Owl House.