I was curious to check out the Marvel Anime collections, especially the Iron Man one. Given my love of Japanese media and enjoyment of Iron Man in filmed entertainment, I was hoping it would be a case where two great tastes tasted even better together. Unfortunately, for me, the result was more like pickles and peanut butter.
Iron Man Anime is a two-disc set, with six episodes on each disc running about 23 1/2 minutes an episode. When you start it up, the default is subtitled with Japanese audio. It’s also possible to run them dubbed, with an English audio track, in which Tony Stark is played by Adrian Pasdar. The credits are in Japanese, not subtitled, so I don’t know why Jeph Loeb, Alan Fine, and Dan Buckley were listed. (Although since Loeb is now head of Marvel Television, that probably explains his credit.)
I couldn’t get used to Tony Stark speaking Japanese and looking so much like a blow-dried 80s yuppie. The strong shadows would have worked better for me in a manga, but then a figure would move, and it reminded me of David Bowie’s “Blue Jean” video, with the shaded face paint.
The Iron Man armor, which is computer-generated animation, is a much more effective visual, but not enough so for me to keep watching the cartoon. Since I didn’t see enough to be sure I was getting the whole plot, here’s how the studio describes it:
Tony Stark arrives in Japan to help implement his goal of world peace by building the Arc Reactor, a carbon-neutral power plant, that once operational will be able to provide limitless (thus free) energy to the world. Set to retire his Iron Man persona, and about to mass-produce a line of Iron Man armor known as “Iron Man Dio”, Stark’s plans are derailed by a series of high-tech Mech monsters. Zodiac, a top secret organization funded by the terrorist group A.I.M., is out to disrupt the Arc Station, steal the Dio armor, and put an end to Iron Man.
When I first turned on the dubbing, I forgot to turn off the subtitles, and I was amused by the mismatches. Most were due to the audio elements being longer than the visual text, but a couple did change, such as when a sleeping co-worker is awakened. On the screen, it reads, “I’m full…” but the English dialogue says, “One more sake,” giving a very different impression of the nap. Because of the additional information in the audio dialogue, I recommend watching these dubbed.
If my experience is anything to go by, though, this is for collectors only, those who want every Iron Man DVD available or those who follow Madhouse’s anime releases. I’m not sure superhero fans will like the different visual look, and anime fans have a lot more entertaining choices available, shows that were envisioned as such to begin with. If you’d like to see for yourself, here’s a clip featuring the Tony Stark character:
and one with Iron Man:
There are a small number of bonus features, but they’re your typical promotional pieces, short and lacking depth. Disc one has two special features:
“The Marvel Anime Universe: Re-Imagining Iron Man” (10 minutes) praises how superior anime is to Western animation, especially if you look at the character as a mecha. Warren Ellis (credited for story) participates, along with several executives, who summarize the plot and visuals. Lots of mention of the “Marvel universe” and its importance, but no mention of specific creators (unless talking about the animation studio Madhouse as one entity counts).
“Voicing Tony Stark: Interview With Keiji Fujiwara” (5 minutes) is subtitled footage of the actor answering a few questions about playing the character. With his shades and his goatee and a little age in his face, I’d watch him play Tony in live action.
Disc two has another two:
“21st Century Hero: The Technology of Iron Man” (7 1/2 minutes) features the same folks as in the Anime Universe segment talking about how forward-looking the armor is and a little about the character’s comic history and changing visuals.
“Special Cross Talk: Marvel Anime’s Iron Man and Wolverine” (29 minutes) puts four Japanese creators, two for each character, into a blank white room, where they talk to each other about their experience working on these properties.
There is also an X-Men Anime, with the plot described as follows:
The X-MEN are reunited following the death of a teammate and are summoned by Charles Xavier to Japan following the abduction of Hisako Ichiki. There, they confront the U-MEN, a lunatic cult that steals and transplants mutant organs to further strengthen its own army, and the battle for justice is on. Discovering a series of bizarre occurrences in the area, the X-Men investigate, only to be confronted with a terrible truth that will force them to confront long buried secrets.
The special features on that set are:
“The Marvel Anime Universe: Re-Examining the X-Men” (9 minutes, disc one) has the same talking heads and general puff-piece approach as the similar Iron Man featurette.
“X-Men: A Team of Outsiders” (10 1/2 minutes, disc one) mentions more of the comic history and the team’s concept.
“Special Talk Session: Marvel Anime’s X-Men and Blade” (32 minutes, disc two) starts off as a behind-the-scenes documentary, where several of the creators discuss their preconceptions of the brands. Then the four of them wind up sitting together and talking. Instead of a white room, they get a picture window with high-rises behind them.
I’m sorry this is such a minimal review, but I was disappointed that I wasn’t grabbed more by these offerings, and I’d rather spend more time on works that are exciting me these days. (The studio provided review copies.)