“This is a whole new side of Granville. A very disturbing side.”
“Rivalry Weak” takes place during Rivalry Week, an annual spirit week of sorts when SFIT and the local art college, SFAI, prank one another. The heroes plan on stealing a statue of Lenore Shimamoto from the art school, much to the dismay of Honey Lemon, who secretly takes art classes there. Granville assigns Fred and Wasabi to help her protect their lunch room from vandal SFAI students. Gogo reveals that she knows Honey has been going to both colleges, as she has been sleep-talking about SFAI. They’re unable to steal the statue and end up in the house of Lenore Shimamoto, where they find a secret lab.
They’re caught and escorted out, but Honey grabs Lenore’s journal. She and Gogo read it, and in it, Lenore details her secret scientific studies and how isolated the secret has made her feel. In the journal, she mentions a breakthrough, but it stops there. The next day Herman E. Kabo, a man claiming to be a historian, stops Honey and she gives him the journal, but it’s really Obake in disguise. Wasabi and Fred are captured and painted to the wall by the artists. Honey goes to the museum and inquires about the journal, but it’s not there, and they say that nobody named Herman E. Kabo works there. The heroes track Honey’s SFIT student ID, which was in the journal, to find Obake. However, Obake has been waiting for them and traps each hero in a personalized room: Honey and Gogo in a copy of Lenore’s lab, Fred and Wasabi in Fred’s room and Hiro and Baymax in Hiro’s room. Fred and Wasabi go up against copies of themselves, Hiro’s room fills with water, and the walls in Lenore’s lab begin closing in A New Hope style.
Honey reads a sign on the wall that says “Don’t ignore the pressing on the walls,” and realizes it has a double meaning. There’s a flower pressing hanging on the wall; she pushes it in and the walls stop moving. Fred and Wasabi have “Facing yourself is the hardest part” and thus decide to switch, with Fred fighting the fake Wasabi and vice-versa. Hiro’s sign reads “Find the whole solution to your problem,” and he locates a covered hole in the floor. He uncovers it and the room drains. The heroes face Obake, but he quickly leaves. Honey finds the journal, apparently left by Obake on purpose. Honey’s friends tell her they knew she was an artist, and don’t fault her for doing it or being secretive. Obake has discovered the rest of Lenore’s secret: she has notes on the rest of the pages in invisible ink.
I have mixed feelings on all of Honey’s friends simply accepting her secrecy, regardless of how effective it was. But I like everything else about her story in “Rivalry Weak”: I really appreciate that her hero worship of Lenore Shimamoto comes back into play and bears some significance. I also like the notion that she’s afraid to completely be herself and the fear that her friends will judge her for going to art school. Not only does she learn that her idol was an artist and scientist, but that her friends think it’s cool for her to do both. It was pretty funny that Gogo already knew, too, and the flashback of Honey sleep-talking is great. Speaking of funny, “Rivalry Weak” sees a huge improvement of the show’s comedy in general. Scenes with Granville ordering the kids around and joining in their pranking hijinks are hilarious, and I loved it when Fred and Wasabi are stuck and she decides to just leave them there. There’s a scene involving Fred and a whistle that I found pretty funny too.
That being said, “Rivalry Weak” actually has a rather more serious tone to it than several of the recent adventures. This is by far the most we’ve seen of big bad Obake in a single episode, out and about as opposed to sending his minions to get what he needs. I’m curious about his ultimate motivation and the glowing side of his face, but I enjoy what we have seen of this character so far. I like that he’s learning the weaknesses of each team member, and unlike his underlings, he doesn’t underestimate the kids. Strictly speaking, they don’t win in this episode, as they get Lenore’s journal back but Obake gets the information he needs.
The assumption of the city of San Fransokyo in the original Big Hero 6 movie is that when the earthquake of 1906 hit San Francisco, the city was rebuilt using Japanese technology and architecture to withstand future earthquakes. However, “Rivalry Weak” is the first time this has been explicitly stated or even mentioned in the series. Lenore’s journal stops on the day before the earthquake, and Honey surmises that the quake is what stopped her research (until Obake shows the audience that there is more to the journal). It’s interesting that they decided to make direct reference to the event that resulted in this alternate history. In many ways, it feels like these showrunners are invested in continuing their story from the first movie and expanding it, as well as taking the characters in new directions while (mostly, anyway) keeping their personalities intact. This makes the faults of Disney Channel’s other animated spin-off of a popular movie title, Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, stand out even more in comparison. The animation in Big Hero 6 is also a perfect transition from the film’s big-budget CGI to the small screen.
In short, “Rivalry Weak” is anything but weak. For the most part, I appreciate what they’ve done with this show, and the emphasis on Honey is a welcome development. “Rivalry Weak” has a lot going for it. Although the episode is only about 22 minutes long – not counting commercials – it feels huge. Honey’s admiration of Shimamoto and Obake stealing her painting in “Failure Mode” take on new importance in this episode. Obake is finally out in the open, doing things on his own and revealing himself to the heroes. Comedic scenes involving Fred and Wasabi, in particular, are genuinely funny. If I have one gripe, it’s that there isn’t a big battle in this episode, as the heroes are working against traps Obake has put them in. Fred and Wasabi have to fight their copies, but that happens in all of fifteen seconds. Nonetheless, in the time they were given this episode accomplishes a lot and is fun throughout.