Released on: February 18, 2022
Available on: Netflix
Developed by: Dave Wasson
Starring: Tru Valentino, Frank Todaro, Grey Griffin, Joe Hanna, Luke Millington-Drake, Wayne Brady, Cosmo Segurson, Dave Wasson
Oh boy! New, official Cuphead content! Some time ago, I reviewed the beloved 1930’s cartoon-inspired run-and-gun action game Cuphead. Long story short, I loved it. When I heard that they were making downloadable content, I was ecstatic. Sure, it’s been in development for a while now, but good things come to those who wait. Thus, I continue to wait with bated breath. That said, Cuphead as a brand took off as I started seeing toys, clothing, accessories, and the like in stores. Heck, it even got its own cartoon on Netflix, the appropriately named The Cuphead Show.
Naturally, this announcement caught my eye. I adored the Cuphead game and was starting for more of that delightful lad with a cup for a head. My expectations tapered a bit when I saw the trailer since, while it looked splendidly animated, its pacing looked wild. It gave me late 1990s cartoon vibes rather than the 1930s ones. Nevertheless, I wanted to provide the Cuphead show a chance! Is the Cuphead Show worthy of a place next to the fine china?
Unlike most cartoons today, the only central overarching plot point of the Cuphead show is that the eponymous character Cuphead owes the devil his soul. How did that happen? By playing the devil’s game (of Soul Ball) and losing, of course. Other than that bit of story, each episode tells an original tale of Cuphead and his pal Mugman. I like this approach, as it emulates the classic style of cartoon storytelling. While I love cartoons with a grandiose story, it is nice to have some shows whose episodes are all self-contained.
I am a little torn when it comes to the Cuphead Show’s animation. On the one hand, the show as a whole is beautifully animated. The show doesn’t shy away from complex shots and handles them gorgeously and smoothly. Everything is bouncy and colorful, just like the game. On the other hand, sometimes the screen does get a little too busy. I found myself overwhelmed with the amount of stuff on-screen at times and how fast everything was thrown at me.
This brings me to my next point. The first few episodes of the Cuphead Show have some restless pacing. It doesn’t detract from the episodes’ plot (as those are straightforward), but it feels a little overwhelming and loud. At first glance, the Cuphead Show feels like it was trying a little too hard to be wacky and zany. It felt like the show was trying to find its footing with its first few episodes.
However, the later episodes solve its pacing issues and are much more coherent. It was as if the show finally got a chance to breathe, which made taking in all of the gorgeous visuals a lot easier. I saw a lot of references to the game’s characters, and the stories turned out to be much more fun.
I never expected the Cuphead characters to have speaking roles when I played the games. For the Cuphead Show, the voices they chose for each character fit them well. I love that a lot of them have an old-fashioned American accent. It makes everybody’s antics that much funnier. I also find the voice for the devil and King Dice to be delightful. Wayne Brady does an excellent job as King Dice, and both he and the devil being outplayed by Cuphead and Mugman was hilarious!
One thing that caught my ear was the Cuphead Show’s musical score. While I’m not the biggest fan of the original songs, the show doesn’t shy away from using the game’s soundtrack to set the stage. The game’s music is nothing short of amazing, so hearing used for a show appropriately is most welcomed.
Currently, the Cuphead Show only has twelve episodes, with each episode being fifteen minutes apiece. This makes the Cuphead Show easily bingeable in an evening. While watching it, I noticed we were getting through the episodes quickly. That was when I realized that, what felt like only a few hours, was precisely the case, and we were already halfway done with the series.
While the Cuphead Show barely holds a candle to the amazingness of the game, it is still a fun watch. I did enjoy my time with the Cuphead Show, but it isn’t without its faults. I recommend the Cuphead show to those looking for wacky and zany cartoon antics with a simple overarching story. However, the show might not be suited for people sensitive to fast and loud visuals.