*Warning: Spoilers Ahead!*
Seis Manos episode 1 ‘Toppled’ sets the for what’s to except from the new Mexicanime right off the bat. The episode quickly dives into the complex personalities of the main characters and doesn’t shy away from ripping away small connections the viewer might make to surrounding characters. With the combination of martial arts, Mexican folk religion, and a complex family dynamic, Seis Manos is setting itself up to becoming a new fan favorite that will pave the path for future animated stories.
The episode begins with a shot of a mural of La Santa Nucifera, also known as Santa Muerte, in a cave-like environment. As we get different angles of the surroundings, there is a group of men leading an individual towards a cauldron with flames. As the individual, also known as Jaimito, lifts his hands from the cauldron, he is left with a brand that looks similar to a lotus flower. That is when El Balde approaches him and tells him that he is one of them now as he pours some black ashes on his tongue in a cross shape. From that moment on, things change for the worse as El Balde commands his men to kill Jaimito. Desperately struggling for his life, his figure begins to change, taking the form of a demon. Jaimito manages to fight off the henchmen, makes a run for it, and escapes with the vial of ash. El Balde orders his men to find him and bring him back!
The next scene takes us to a church as the voice of a young boy, Domingo, is saying a prayer. As he walks around in the town of San Simon, we get a glimpse of the community, which is when Domingo steals a mango from a vendor and is immediately chased by Officer Garcia. After a chase through the city and woods, he ends up watching Isabela and Jesus sparring with one another. Domingo is mesmerized be their intricate fighting style, and doesn’t realize Chui, also referred to as Sifu, is standing right beside him. After being startled, passing out, and having his face drawn on, Domingo finally meets Isabela and Jesus, and request to be trained at their temple. They both wonder why he is even there in the first place and question his ability to be trained.
As they decide what the best course of action, they witness Silencio training his patience with a beehive. As his frustration gets the best of him, we can easily see how Silencio can be a hotheaded character. Silencio allows his anger to fuel him, but Chui tells him, “Be the gentle rain, not the angry wave.” Based on the dynamic between Silencio, Jesus, and Isabel, one can already detect who’s going to become the leader figure, and who is going to be the rebellious hot head that trains for the wrong reasons; typical anime set up, right? When they decide to allow Domingo to spend the evening, we get to witness how he is not very domesticated, insinuating that he might not have a place to call home either, which is common in rural towns. Silencio is irritated by Domingo’s lack of manners, but before the issue can be addressed, Officer Garcia knocks on the temple’s door. She is in search of Domingo, the mango thief, but luckily for him Jesus and Isabela have his back. After setting the record straight with Domingo, Jesus and Isabela feel more reassured of his will to become a better person.
The episode then cuts to Larry, DEA special agent, delivering a new assignment to Brister, DEA agent in the nude. As the two exchange some dialogue about the new assignment, the confidence and power dynamic between them seems very atrocious; especially since Brister is sleeping with Larry’s wife. Even though they both work for the DEA, Brister’s treatment feels somehow similar to how minority groups are treated in present times; Seis Manos is keeping it real. Brister is not fond of the Bi-National Task Force assigned to him to investigate the one town in Mexico that is known for not having drugs; San Simon. Why would they send him there, weird right?
The second half of the episode is where the story really starts to take shape and rev the drama-and-conflict-engine. The history behind Silencio’s story is shown in the nightmare of El Balde killing his family and cutting out his tongue; talk about left speechless! Silencio is then woken up by his sister’s bickering because she can’t find Domingo and feels like her brother had something to do with it. They decide to go into the city to search for the young boy, but as they are on their pursuit, Chui is visited by a certain demonic friend back home; you guessed it, it’s Jaimito.
Chui demonstrates why he is the adopted sibling’s master as he easily overpowers the demon, and continuously breaks parts of its body. Chui’s martial arts skills are displayed magnificently, and the action sequences make one feel like they are watching an old school martial arts film. Unfortunately, the demon is able to regenerate, and gives Chui a seemingly never-ending brawl. The interesting part about the fight is when Chui gets a look at the lotus brand on the demon’s hand and freaks out. He goes for the kill with the Kung Fu Grip chest rip, which is a call back to the film Invincible Shaolin, but realizes he attempt is futile as he says,
It would appear one of us is out of Sundays.”
From that chaos, we are taken to the three siblings searching for Domingo in the heart of the San Simon. As the scene cuts to Domingo trying to make amends for his mango thievery, Jaimito appears, and starts devouring the vendors of the plaza. At that same moment, El Balde’s thugs show up, we see Brister make contact with Officer Garcia, and an all-out shoot out happens. As Silencio tries to stop the thugs from shooting up the plaza, Doming is trying to avoid all the chaos. Brister realizes that the situation is crazier than anticipated, and the thugs try to kill Jaimito; regardless of the collateral damage. Jaimito has a sudden memory episode and attempts to kill himself by drinking gasoline and lighting himself on fire. After the large explosion, there is a shot of Silencio looking at a statue that feel from a ceiling, and underneath the statue is an arm that slowly releases a bloody mango upon the floor.
After we get a quick look at El Balde getting the bad news about his men and Jaimito, we jump back to the siblings mourning Domingo’s death as they arrive to their home. In a cruel turn of events, the three stumbles upon their adopted master’s corpse, and are left utterly speechless. Silencio’s rage is displayed as the episode ends with him holding his dead master, and letting out, what is assumed to be, a scream of vengeance. A small detail to note is as Silencio is screaming, a part of his eyebrow turns white for some strange reason. For a first episode, the story really hits the ground running, and sets up the grand chaotic tapestry of how everyone’s story is going to intertwine to solve the mysteries that dwell in San Simon.