So now that Netflix has managed to spread its influence over to Europe and even set up its own Nordic version (that I have dubbed Nætflix, and I will refer to it as such from now on) I decided I should check it out. Turns out it’s really neat and convenient, and it introduced me to four pieces of Marvel Anime that I have now watched to completion.
Marvel Anime is a project done in collaboration between Marvel Entertainment and Madhouse; I assume with the aim of introducing Marvel character to a Japanese audience who might not be big into western comics. The result was four series of 12 episodes each: Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Men and Blade. Nætflix only had Japanese audio, and a choice of English or any Nordic language subtitles. I watched Iron Man and Wolverine with English subtitles, and X-Men and Blade with Norwegian ones.
I found these interesting for many reasons. First off simply seeing how these heroes had been adapted to suit a Japanese audience. I was surprised at how true they managed to stay to the characters (to my knowledge, at least) and yet make them fit more with what the Japanese would expect. Unfortunately that also carried with it certain tropes that recur in anime that could be considered annoying. Not that western comics and cartoons don’t have their own tropes, mind you.
I also found it highly interesting to note the slight differences in how they draw westerners differently from the Japanese themselves. I would go so far as to say that most of us here in the west probably think that anime characters look white for the most part, and it’s only when you put them up against how they draw westerners that you can truly appreciate the differences, subtle as they may be.
I will admit to not knowing much about the original canon of these characters. Iron Man and Blade I really only know the movie versions of, though I have read a few Wolverine and X-Men comics. As such I might not be the best to judge how closely they stick to the source material.
Enough of that though, let us jump into what I thought of the respective series, and I’ll go in the order I watched them.
This show starts off on the right foot. I can totally imagine Tony Stark decided to take a week or two to learn Japanese and then hop over there to do science for no particular reason. A friend suggested he’d rather send everyone in Japan a “Learn English in 10 days” kit, which is a fair point, but I think Pepper would veto that. Stark has always been a playboy, so their decision to draw him in the bishounen (pretty-boy) style is not that weird.
The backstory for this Tony Stark is basically the same as the one in the movies, with only minor variations. So I kinda expected that he and Pepper would be, you know, an item. But instead he’s presented as single and even given a new love interest. Not a big thing, just a curiousity.
And Wolverine has a short guest appearance that doesn’t really amount to much of anything.
While it got a strong start, the show doesn’t really keep up the pace and ends up becoming very anime in the final half before the ending is basically anime essense in its purest. Also the villains kinda come out of nowhere, and though it sets up some intrigue, it never really feels like it’s followed through on and ends up becoming very formulaic.
Final verdict: It’s alright. While the quality declines towards the end, I never felt like it got outright bad. And the suit designs are nice. So if you like Iron Man, it could be worth checking out.
This one has a much more contained story, focusing only on Logan’s quest to reclaim his long-time love Mariko from the evil crime lord that her evil father wants to marry her off to. On the way he faces off against said father who is a crazy strong swordsman despite his age, and a curious assassin named Kikyo who is obsessed with fighting Wolverine in fair combat, and happens to have almost the same mutant powers as Logan as well, plus some others I won’t spoil.
The plot is honestly pretty weak, with loads of characters acting like idiots simply because the story demands it. It’s definitely my least favourite of the four, though it does score a few points for being complete crazypants at times. Oh, and Cyclops shows up in his traditional tight-hooded costume to give Logan a lift in the Blackbird.
Final verdict: While it has a few bright spots, it is largely weak and nonsensical. And the decision to draw Wolverine in the bishounen style doesn’t feel like it quite fits. If you’re wondering which of the Marvel Animes to skip, this would be my first suggestion.
The three things that struck me right off the bat with this thing: 1) Cyclops is the one who fell prey to the bishounen virus this time. 2) Logan is drawn is a much more rugged and fuzzy style like he traditionally is in the west. 3) Holy shit Storm’s boobs are ridiculous, especially considering the very slight frame they’ve given her otherwise.
Now as with every other X-Men of the last 20 years or so, this starts with Jean Grey’s death. The other half are about Jean Grey’s resurrection, and it does even manage to start hinting about that before the season is complete.
I enjoyed this one. It’s nice to see the X-Men working as a team, and Beast is an absolute badass. Even the newcomer is interesting with a cool power, even though it maybe feels a little overpowered at times.
Where the show suffers is when characters make a stop at Moron-land and become utterly daft to such degrees that I’m not sure whether to blame comic book tropes, anime tropes, some combination of both, or sheer bad writing. And Cyclops is a total emo.
Final verdict: I’d say it has more good than bad. Worth checking out if you have some knowledge of the X-Men. Has some really neat cameos. Don’t feel it worked as well as an introduction.
I will say right off the bat: This was my favourite of the four shows. All my knowledge of Blade comes from the movies, but even so I had little trouble following this show.
It works well as an introduction, it has an over-arching story, and yet most episodes are their own little self-contained story. Blade is undoubtedly kick-ass in most anything he does, and I really got a feeling for how he has built his reputation among the vampires.
The show introduces several types of vampires that feel a bit silly at times, but the animators did a good job with the transformations. And I like that certain mysteries are never fully explained.
There’s also a whole cross-over episode with Wolverine when they go to Madripoor, which is the same island Logan himself went to in his show. And even the assassin/mercenary Kikyo shows up later on and we get some back-story on him.
The whole thing feels mostly well-paced, the story is actually interesting and I didn’t notice a heavy reliance on tropes, so overall I am having some difficulty coming up with any major complaints about it. There are a few little things that I don’t really want to discuss because of spoilers, but apart from that I’m drawing a blank.
Final verdict: It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. If you’re only going to check out one of the Marvel Animes, I would recommend this one.