Netflix delivers another stunning video game series adaptation with The Cuphead Show.
Following the fantasy melodramas of game-based animations Dota Dragon’s Blood and Arcane, The Cuphead Show serializes the hilarious misadventures of Cuphead and his younger, straight-strawed brother, Mugman.
While the original 2017 video game saw the duo tumbling across Steamboat Willie-inspired locations and blasting big bad enemies, the series brings Cuphead and Mugsy to life with snappy quips and conversations about ice cream, as well as brotherly love.
After binging the cartoon over the weekend, I must say that Mugman is the low-key star of the show, and here’s why.
A love letter to Mugman disguised as a Cuphead Show review
Mugman is the responsible brother
Don’t let the show’s title fool you. Cuphead may spearhead the thrilling moments of this dynamic duo, but Mugman is the essential lifeline to his elder brother’s reckless actions.
The creators of the show were very deliberate in making Mugsy more than just a little bro right from the first episode, “Carn-Evil”. While the so-called hero was slamming balls at the skeeball machine, Mugman noticed that the carnival was actually a front for the Devil’s soul-stealing business.
This reality is even evident to themselves as brothers. During the chase scene with the Devil, Cuphead fessed up and said that it was all his fault that they were in this situation, to which Mugsy wholeheartedly agreed.
Right off the bat, Mugsy cements his role as the one who always bails out his debonair sibling. You can actually call him a hero’s hero at this point.
He’s a cup (or mug) with flaws
Despite his intellect and firm beliefs, Mugman is a flawed character, plagued with confidence issues and stage fright. Is this the neverending curse carried by the blue-nosed character? Not exactly.
In contrast to Cuphead’s static hero facade, Mugsy trudges through his low points and comes out as a more dynamic character who changes for the better. Facing the raging tides? He’ll boost his confidence with Dirk Dangerous goggles. Scared of ghosts? He’ll spend a night in a creepy cemetery.
Regardless of the situation, Mugman prevails as a character because he adapts beyond his flaws, molding himself to be a reliable partner for Cuphead.
The little brother speaks to the “player two” identity in me
In case you didn’t know, Mugman is the default “player two” character in the video game, akin to Luigi in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. As the youngest of five brothers, I can definitely relate to Mugsy and his side character lifestyle.
In the very first scene where Elder Kettle passes out pancakes, the character comes off as a clumsy and miserable version of Cuphead who fails to catch his fresh batch. Weirdly enough, I do think that’s the point of his portrayal.
Though seen as just a deuteragonist, the show highlights Mugman’s clear intentions of being the right-hand man who just rolls with the punches. As cheesy as it sounds, he really does love his brother, and I feel that way too.
Growing up with four siblings, I was always the odd one out, especially in gaming. I was left to my own CD of Tigger’s Honey Hunt while jealously watching everyone else play NBA Live 2003 and Actua Tennis.
Now in the age of MOBAs and team-based games, I automatically take the role of tank or healer because I want to support my brothers in the same way Mugsy supports Cuphead.
Amidst the tribulations and triumphs, Mugman reminds us that you must take pride in playing second fiddle when the main player is someone you care about dearly.
With that being said, this Cuphead Show review is not meant to dethrone Cuphead as the face of the franchise, but to give recognition to a well-written, relatable character in video games and animation.
Love you forever, Mugman.
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