Big Hero 6: The Series
Hong Gyun An
Children’s – Action, comedy, sci-fi
1 Volume (ongoing)
Hiro is a boy genius, and together with his friends and a healthcare robot named Baymax, the six of them form the superhero team Big Hero 6! But are they ready to be secret crime-fighters and also handle their everyday responsibilities?
Like a lot of people, I had never heard of “Big Hero 6” until the Disney movie. I heard it was based off a Marvel property, so it was strange to me that the next entry in the Disney canon would be a Marvel title. I wasn’t that interested in it, and combined with Disney skipping 3D releases here in the US, I didn’t end up watching it for quite a while.
But I did, and I ended up loving it. (Who can resist Baymax?) Eventually, Disney would make a TV series sequel with a 2D animation style instead of the movie’s CG, which is what this release is based on.
You can get into the whole manga vs comic debate over this title, as this is isn’t a translated work from Japan, but the art is clearly manga style. The real confusing part is the book’s cover and credits page lists it as a part of Yen Press’ JY imprint, which is targeted at kids, but it’s not advertised on there and is instead listed on Yen Press’ website. I wonder if it was changed so that the company could advertise or push it as a manga with Yen Press’ lineup versus a Western graphic novel like most of JY’s titles. You do read this in Western order (left to right), so that was part of why I wouldn’t classify this as a manga.
Disney’s Big Hero 6: The Series stars Hiro, a 14-year-old tech genius attending college, and Baymax, a healthcare robot originally designed by Hiro’s brother. Then there’s Fred, a superhero fanatic, Go Go, the blunt and practical one, the often-cowardly Wasabi, and Honey Lemon, who is kind but also has a bit of a mad scientist streak when it comes to chemistry. Together, the five plus one robot have created weapons and suits to take up secret identities as the superhero team Big Hero 6, but they’re normally found at SFIT, the city’s premier science and technology university.
Anyway, as I said, Big Hero 6: The Series is adapted from the TV show; it is not a collection of new adventures. Volume 1 covers three episodes of the show: “Issue 188”, “Failure Mode”, and “Baymax Returns: Part 1”. These are episodes 2, 7, and 1, which was a double-length premiere.
Yes, episode 1 is the third chapter of the book. In case you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, suffice to say, at the main end of the movie before the epilogue, the gang isn’t ready to be a full-time crime-fighting team, which is where The Series‘ pilot picks up from. But for some reason, the first volume of this adaptation decides to put that tale at the end, and, presumably, save the second half of the episode for volume 2. Bizarre. In addition, in the second chapter, Hiro and friends roll their eyes at Globby, a villain they find weak and annoying. But anyone who hasn’t seen Big Hero 6: The Series is going to wonder who this Globby is and why Hiro and friends are giving this (in Hiro’s words) subpar villain a time-out like in a game of tag. There isn’t any narration like, “This is Globby, he’s actually [backstory from episode 3]” to help cover up the fact this book skips four episodes.
It is fairly common for an adaptation to skip parts of its source material, but there is absolutely no reason why any missing information couldn’t be smoothed over or explained rather. The book literally just throws you into a chapter, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense why suddenly chapter 3 is going back in time to a few weeks (I’m guessing) before Chapter 1.
Sure, on TV, plenty of shows play episodes in random order, and Big Hero 6 isn’t the most complicated Disney story out there, but I can’t understand why not stick to chronological order in a collected volume like this. And without going into more detail, Globby is a fairly significant character in The Series, so skipping his introduction is a shame.
So unfortunately, while you have a whole book here, Big Hero 6: The Series volume 1 comes across as more like random comic book issues you picked up as you stumbled upon them at comic book shops and secondhand markets rather than a connected story.
I did a brief comparison of “Issue 188” (available for free to watch here), and there are some differences. Like, the TV show opens with Hiro playing with a VR headset when Professor Granville walks in; the book opens with some brief narration and Karmi masked up before flashing to what seems to be a new, brief flashback of Hiro being summoned to talk with Granville. From watching the beginning, most lines seem to be based on or directly lifted from the TV script. But it’s good to know not everything is just a direct copy of TV episodes, which gives potential readers more reason to want to experience this adaptation.
The third chapter, as I’ve already explained, shows the gang really coming back together and taking up the Big Hero 6 mantle (although not in full). The first chapter introduces Karmi, another teenage genius and microbiological enthusiast who makes it clear she has no interest in getting along with Hiro. There is someone she’s interested in, though. Chapter 2 is about Hiro facing his first real scholastic challenge while the villain Globby learns more about his powers. Oh, and Baymax learns about art.
Each chapter features action and Hiro maturing a bit, as although he’s a whiz at designing tech, he’s still an adolescent truly experiencing both the educational and social aspect of school — and a school where he’s the youngest student. The first and second episodes were natural choices to adapt since they set things up, but by skipping Globby’s intro, the second chapter ends up feeling like filler.
On to the visuals. While me classifying this as a comic may bring up images of lackluster art and awkward attempts by OEL and other foreign works to capture the manga feel, Big Hero 6: The Series really does look like something produced in Japan, particularly a lot of professionally-produced web manga. The style reminded me a bit of the Kingdom Hearts manga, especially with the funny faces. Fortunately, this title isn’t overloaded with the comedy bits as the Kingdom Hearts manga tends to be. The art captures the movie and TV series’ designs well overall, but I wasn’t a big fan of how Fred was presented. Yes, he’s rather dramatic and serious about his love for superheroes and his rivalry with his (non-villain) nemesis, but he’s very exuberant to the point he often annoys his friends. Here, his brow always seemed furrowed and just… not peppy. But most importantly, Baymax — especially when paired with Hiro — is adorable as always.
This is a kid-oriented title, so the paneling tends to stick with clearly defined rectangles. There is lots of whitespace, and the manga-style feel might be a good introduction before some younger readers try to tackle a “backwards” (right-to-left) graphic novel. Plus, the first volume is about 200 pages, so the story is never cramped. Each episode is given plenty of room to breathe and for readers to enjoy at their own pace. There are also some bonus 4-koma at the end that tied into each chapter, and these were cute as well. But one thing in particular that stood out to me was the placement of sound effects. Hong Gyun An sometimes places words on top of the main art and sometimes behind, In one example, Big Hero 6’s opponents are throwing a lightning ball at them, and in the cone of the throw is the word “wham”. In most cases, words are layered behind the main art, but yet it’s still easy to read them. Rather nice that they don’t overpower the characters.
I want to see Big Hero 6: The Series stick to chronological order and smooth things over for those who haven’t watched the show. I enjoyed seeing this Japanese-inspired world in a Japanese-inspired format, but whether Big Hero 6: The Series is already or wants to be classified as a manga, it should work on its chapter-to-chapter flow to fully embrace its manga-ness. The art already does a good job of this, so now it’s the story’s turn.
Yen Press published the Big Hero 6 manga adaptation. Other publishers like IDW Comics have published books related to the franchise.