DVD REVIEW: Marvel Anime - Iron Man and X-Men
Two new Japanese series hit home video...
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Fans of Marvel animation and unique new visions of their favorite comic characters will no doubt rejoice with the release of Marvel Anime: Iron Man and Marvel Anime: X-Men, now on DVD. A collaborative project between Marvel Entertainment and and the fan-favorite anime producer Madhouse, these series were two of the original four projects which each included 12-episodes. Completely re-imagined and uniquely made for Japanese audiences, the project included both the two series reviewed here as well as Marvel Anime: Blade and Marvel Anime: Wolverine.
Guided by fan-favorite scribe Warren Ellis, but developed completely by Madhouse, both Marvel Anime: Iron Man and Marvel Anime: X-Men bring to life these fan-favorite comic heroes as well as a number of new characters in unique ways.
Marvel Anime: Iron Man
Written by Warren Ellis with direction by Yuzo Sato, this unique story explores Tony Stark building an arc reactor in Japan to help provide clean energy as well as develop Iron Man Dio, a new prototype armor which would replace Stark upon retirement. Of course, where Stark goes, trouble follows as the terrorist organization Zodiac and their 12 mechs reign chaos on Stark Enterprises and Japan.
The series as a whole is well paced, with a script that is on par with much of Ellis' other work. Of course, the anime medium and comics differ, but the story develops the characters well and uses solid character designs, interesting antagonists, and exciting new allies. Most of the supporting cast of characters are well developed, especially JSDF operative Captain Nagato Sakurai, who pilots the Ramon Zero armor. Though Stark's love interest - Dr. Chika Tanaka - seems sometimes a bit too much like a Bond girl, the supporting characters all help make the series fun, exciting, and easy to follow.
Marvel Anime: X-Men
While not as much fun or as easy to follow as Iron Man, Marvel Anime: X-Men is still a very engaging and exciting series. Again, the story is uniquely Japanese and follows the reformation of the X-Men a year after the death of Jean Grey at the hands of Mastermind and the Inner Circle. Traveling to Japan to help find Hisako Ichiki (Armor) who's gone missing, Professor X brings together Beast, Wolverine, Storm, and Cyclops. Of course, the team finds themselves face-to-face with the U-Men, a band of mutant terrorists who are harvesting mutant's organs. Enter Emma Frost and Armor, who help fight the U-Men and explore the kidnapping of these mutants as well as an outbreak of secondary mutations.
Again, written specifically for the Japanese audience, this anime features less action and more character and story development, something many anime focus on but few American cartoons feature. That said, we Americans seem to need more action with less character and story development. Thus, this show formula may take some getting used to for those unfamiliar with anime. Of course, there's still plenty of action, though it's less engaging than the action featured in Marvel Anime: Iron Man. In fact, to a certain extent, the action here is less story-driven and sometimes seems almost forced, thrown into the show simply to have some action included. That said, there's still nothing like watching Cyclops blast the bad guys with his optic beams or Wolverine rip into the evil-doers with his claws. If you're a fan of the X-Men, there's something here to enjoy.
What's so interesting and cool to me is realizing, after having watched both of these Marvel Anime series, how alike both Japanese and American Marvel comic fans are; we both like interesting characters, engaging stories, and cool shows. Likewise, with some of the coolest animation from Madhouse bringing to life some of fandom's favorite Marvel superheroes, there's no doubt American fans will want to check out both Marvel Anime: Iron Man and Marvel Anime: X-Men, available now on DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley