So we’ve all heard that it’s hard to be a woman in Japan, but being a Japanese geek comes with its own troubles. For some, it’s a life lived in front of glowing screens, a dateless existence spent in a six-mat tatami room with posters of idol group AKB48 plastered on the walls. But here’s Disney’s “Big Hero 6” (released in Japan as “Baymax”), a Christmas animation extravaganza that elevates the Japanese geek to superhero status. And he’s cute, too.
This is the first Disney animation feature in which the stars have Japanese names: 14-year-old genius Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) and his older tech-wizard brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney). The boys’ parents died, and they are being brought up by their exuberant Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph). Interestingly, Hiro comes off as a cross between a typical Tokyo chūbō (a slang term for junior high school kids) and a young Lionel Messi, while Tadashi fits the normal Hollywood bill of a polite young Japanese male. Despite their names, the brothers only speak English and there’s nothing in their surroundings to suggest a penchant for samurai or idols — they are, however, obsessed with robots. Aunt Cass, who runs a cafe and seems to have at least three different nationalities coursing through her veins, never serves Japanese food to her nephews, just ribs. Ribs every time.
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