Just like the Cuphead video game, The Cuphead Show! (and yes, that exclamation mark is part of the title) goes to great lengths to homage and replicate a very specific style of animation – the 1940s, Fleischer Studios-esque rubber hose look and feel is what they’re going for.
Impressively, the show totally nails it. Faux film grain, episode title cards, even the songs and incidental music – courtesy of the awesome Ego Plum, who I was lucky enough to chat to about his work on the show – the show’s creators go to eleven on absolutely every aspect to make it feel like a newly discovered relic from the 1940s.
The concept of the show almost doesn’t matter – but it concerns two mischievious brothers, Cuphead and Mugman, who live together in the woods, in a cosy cottage with parental figure Elder Kettle. Yes, they’re both cheeky youngsters with actual cups full of liquid for their heads – and Elder Kettle is, yep, an actual kettle.
Though the show does have an arc – with Cuphead owing his soul to the Devil being a repeated plot point – there’s several episodes that stand alone with either no or minimal references to that aspect, which is refreshingly old school too. By the end of the season, however, this storyline comes back in a big way – and the final episode even ends on a cliffhanger which will whet your appetite for the already-confirmed second season of episodes.
All in all, I had an awful lot of fun with Cuphead’s mile-a-minute visual gags, wonderful animation – which even features some lovely stop motion – and excellent voice acting. The number of old school cartoon tropes and references it packs in to its relatively brief run is nothing short of amazing and it’s a wonderful, lovingly crafted tribute to the sights and sounds of 1940s animation. Even more of a relief is that, though there are nods to the video game, no familiarity with the game itself is needed.
I genuinely can’t wait for more Cuphead; I’ve even done something I rarely do and have gone back to watch a number of episodes more than once; the scattershot, fast paced humour and visual gags definitely lend themselves to repeat views. Though I had my concerns about how well the style of the game would translate to an actual cartoon, I needn’t have worried: The Cuphead Show! has ended up in very good hands.
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