The Cuphead Show! review: The animated series is a cup-smashing delight

The Cuphead Show! (L to R) Tru Valentino as Cuphead and Frank Todaro as Mugman in The Cuphead Show! Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022
The Cuphead Show! (L to R) Tru Valentino as Cuphead and Frank Todaro as Mugman in The Cuphead Show! Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022 /

The Cuphead Show!, based on the 2017 popular indie smash hit video game Cuphead by Studio MDHR, has finally arrived on the Netflix streaming platform.

It has been a long wait since production was first announced in June 15, 2020, with many teasers and trailers released in between. The wait has been worth it, now that The Cuphead Show! is out with 12 episodes to enjoy. So, just how much fun is Cuphead and Mugman’s leap to television? That is what I’m here to talk about, so grab yourself your favorite cup and drink with a bendy straw, as we talk about The Cuphead Show!

The Cuphead Show! review: Should you watch or skip?

The story is a relatively simple one. Cuphead and Mugman live on the Inkwell Isle, a land filled with cartoon folks of all sorts, many of which have a funny bone to pick with the pair of brothers. These make up the bulk of the conflict in the episodes. Some are one-off adventures, featuring a cast of familiar foes from the run-and-gun platformer and a set of new faces as well. Some, however, follow a serialized thread through the season, being Cuphead and Mugman’s multiple run-ins with The Devil and his minions.

I think this first season has a lot of wonderful episodes, enjoyable from start to finish. The pilot was amazing in my opinion, with great animations, jokes, music; everything was a dime. Another good episode was “Roll the Dice”, featuring King Dice in the villain role, and what a villain! Episodes like these are the show at its very best, and as you might expect, they are loaded onto the front of the season.

Definitely a running start, however I don’t think the show is able to keep that momentum constantly. I understand the need for slower, less wild episodes, but given the source material’s stellar collection of baddies and ne’er-do-wells, I found myself wishing the show emulated that with antagonists at the center at each conflict, rather then more situational episodes like “Handle with Care” or “Dangerous Mugman”. Not that these episodes don’t have good jokes. They do, and they are enjoyable in their own right, but in the back of my mind, I’m just impatient to get to bosses.

The Cuphead Show! animation team does a wonderful job of paying homage to the genre

Similar to the video game, as well as some other Golden-Age-animation inspired shows such as The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, The Cuphead Show! harkens back to the rubberly and logic-defying style of cartoons of the 20s and 30s, and the animation team does a wonderful job of paying homage to the genre while adding that modern polish. The slicing of a stack of pancakes in half down to the plate is but the first of many visual gags, that hit hard and fast before you can predict them, which makes it all the funnier.

The Cuphead Show
The Cuphead Show! (L to R) Tru Valentino as Cuphead and Frank Todaro as Mugman in The Cuphead Show! Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022 /

To dissect a bit more on the show’s humor and writing: when the punchlines and story points are communicated visually, that is when I enjoy the show the most, by far. However, on the dialog side of things, The Cuphead Show! falls rather short on the creative side. If there is one thing that really perks my ear, in a bad way, is when I hear that stereotypical, fill-in short of lines such as “What the–” when a character is surprised, or “Oh shut up”, followed by a strike to minion after an upsetting comment. Stuff like that is pretty played out, and is definitely the show’s weak point among a wide set of strong ones.

Over all that would be my one main note of criticism with the show, is the verbal humor and the general writing of the characters, which give off a more child-friendly-show vibe then I would have liked. A bit disappointing, especially when you consider the source of inspiration for the show. Today, cartoons are often placed in a sharp divide between kid show and adult show, but in the 1920s and 30s, cartoons had no need to favor one or the other. The video game was able to replicate that wide appeal, but The Cuphead Show! is clearly aiming for a younger viewership. That said, there is still a lot for adults to enjoy. The visuals deliver on that end, with some moments of particularly wicked  but in the long run, I feel like the writing will have older viewers gradually lose their interest.

And that’s The Cuphead Show! Given the popularity of the game and all the advertisement Netflix has invested in getting the word out (not to mention the cliffhanger that ends the season), I’m confident a Season 2 announcement is all but inevitable. And well deserved, all things considered. Whether you’re a wide-eyed sippy cup or a mature mug of coffee, you’ll find something to enjoy in The Cuphead Show!

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