Hiro Hamada is a brilliant inventor, a child prodigy that at the age of fourteen is already enrolled as a student in the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Lacking friends and feeling he needs no social connections outside of his older brother Tadashi, Hiro is more comfortable with machines around him than people. So when Tadashi disappears into a mysterious portal, Hiro is crushed and lost without the support he had always depended on. Enter Baymax, a personal healthcare robot of Tadashi’s invention, that is just what Hiro needs to overcome his grief and discover the truth behind the Masked Man responsible for the tragedies that have and will befall the city Hiro calls home.
Having begun a confrontation with the Masked Man at the end of volume 1, the situation quickly gets out of hand for our six heroes as none are experienced in combat nor used to the powered suits that Hiro has provided for them. Despite this Hiro is able to gain the upper hand on the Masked Man through pure grit, but before he can land a decisive blow he is stopped by Baymax. Why would he do this? And now that they know who the Masked Man really is, what is the real story behind that mysterious portal? As our heroes prepare for a final showdown, Hiro is reminded of the faith and hope Tadashi had placed in the world Hiro would one day create.
How Was It?
The central story of Big Hero 6, Hiro overcoming the loss of his brother and finally being able to accept his place in society, is fantastic. As a protagonist he may have been given an inconceivably intelligent mind, but that is only a means to an end. What is far more important to this story are his emotions and the connections to others that he has kept at arm’s length for most of his life. With all the action that is packed into this and the proceeding volume, it is nevertheless the relationships between Hiro and Tadashi, Hiro and Baymax, and Hiro and his Aunt Cass that are most essential to this hero’s arc. As an adaptation of a movie, we are with these characters for only a brief two volumes, but the level of emotional connect the reader is able to make with the central characters is surprising given how restricted the time we spend with them is. It is a testament to how simple this story really is, in spite of many embellishments, and how well it is executed by both the original authors and Haruki Ueno who provided the beautiful illustrations and words of this version.
To match our hero we are given a villain whose plans may be a complicated mess, but whose reasons for doing so are as simple as can be. The Masked Man works wonderfully as the antagonist in Big Hero 6, because he is not just pure evil or focused on his own aggrandizement or pleasure, but has rejected the world and its rules to save someone that he loves, screw the consequences. It is this simplicity, once again, of the story and the motivation of its characters that allows Big Hero 6 to be as good as it is, because it does have its problems, they are just mostly overshadowed by everything that I have mentioned to this point.
The problems with Big Hero 6 arise when you move beyond the first two heroes, Hiro and Baymax, and to the other four heroes that give the property its title. GoGo is spunky, Fred is super rich, Honey Lemon is nice and Wasabi is well Wasabi, and that is really all I remember of the other heroes now that I am writing this and thinking back on what happened during the story. I am just happy I remembered all of their names and what they look like both in and out of their suits. The four of them may act as an important catalyst in moving the story forward by providing Hiro with the support that he needs to keep taking forward steps in his life. But it is very difficult to think of these four as individuals and not just a single entity or unit, as so little is known about them or their motivations, other than they are Tadashi’s friends and therefore by default are Hiro’s too. If it were not for the rest of the cast previously mentioned, this issue would have been much more than what it ultimately ended up being, just a minor hiccup is an otherwise solid narrative.
The art in Big Hero 6 is excellent, the characters are detailed and consistent, the action is easy to follow and there was never a time when I was unsure of who was speaking, which shows that Haruki Ueno is quite the mangaka, as those are some things that is definitely not always the case with manga. If I were to make a complaint about the visuals it would be in the backgrounds, which are mostly lacking and with little detail except is a few instances. This is similar to the world that all of this takes place in, San Fransokyo may be the cool amalgamation of San Francisco and Tokyo, but not much is explored outside of the thin veneer of a San Fran clone with a Japanese paint job. For all the complaints I have made, I still fully enjoyed reading Big Hero 6. It was fun, it was fast paced and it never took the science-y stuff too seriously. It focused on what it does best and was better for it.
If you are looking for a quick and satisfying ride, with plenty of action and emotional weight, Big Hero 6 is a great read and a small commitment at only two volumes. While more time with the minor characters would have done great things to fill out the story and world, we are none the less treated to a solid adaptation of a movie that stays faithful to the original, which itself is an adaptation, and at the same time get just a little extra. It may have a few minor flaws, but I fully recommend giving it a try.
Big Hero 6 Vol. 2 was published by Yen Press on September 22nd, 2015. Original story and concept by Marvel Worldwide Inc., adapted and illustrated by Haruki Ueno and translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley, the series is two volumes.
Date of Publication: September 22nd, 2016
Translator: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Author: Haruki Ueno
Publisher: Yen Press