Japanese Anime and Marvel Comics. Two of the most awesome things in entertainment. I have always been curious when “Marvel Manga” was published in the U.S. in the 2000’s to know just how anime would translate Marvel’s premier titles. Well, it appears that director Fuminori Kizaki with writer Warren Ellis had created something that gives a lot of respect to the X-Men mythos and continuity as well as giving our favorite mutants the Japanimation flavor that has been the mark of success in Japan and international shores.
Please pardon me while I credit both the Japanese and English language voice cast. This is one anime series that oddly, was better in the English language.
“Marvel Anime: X-Men” begins after the corruption of Jean Grey to the Phoenix force and her death. The X-Men have been separated until Prof. Xavier (Katsunosuke Hori, Cam Clark) assembles the key members namely Cyclops (Toshiyuki Morikawa, Scott Porter), Wolverine (Rikiya Koyama, Steven Blum), Storm (Aya Hisakawa, Danielle Nicolette) and Beast (Hideyuki Tanaka, Fred Tatasciore) to investigate a strange anomaly in Japan and to rescue a young mutant girl named Hisako (Yukari Tamura, Stephanie Sheh) who may have been abducted along with other mutants by a band of anti-mutant terrorists called the U-Men. This lunatic group wants to harvest mutant organs so they can simulate mutant powers. But what the X-men have found is something much more sinister and dangerous that they need the help of former Inner Circle member Emma Frost (Kaori Yamagata, Ali Hillis) to combat the machinations of Mastermind (Haruhiko Jo, Travis Willingham) and save the world from an Omega-level mutant boy called Takeo Sasaki….
I’ve always known that Japanese anime is always able to go to the limit when it came to mature storytelling. This X-Men anime makes the American cartoon series “Evolution” and the 1990’s series appear so 'kiddie-like' by comparison. We all know how Warren Ellis likes to hover around the edge of what is mature and what is mainstream, and so this would come as no surprise that Sony has opted to use Anime to tell such a story with so much depth and morality plays that no doubt kids would be lost around it. This 12 episode series captures the themes of bigotry, ignorance and discrimination that the other X-Men cartoon series could only hint at. The direction by Kizaki does not stay from going into sensitive topics and issue which sold the X-Men comic books in the first place. The evils of humanity, of mutants and how someone with a noble cause could stoop to levels unbecoming, what the evils can come when one tries to play god.
If you are going ask under what continuity this series fits in, I would say that this anime begins its own after the death of Jean Grey. It does have references to the Genosha story arc and the saga of the Hellfire Club. It does introduce new characters that were inspired by existing ones in the comic series. There was one villain in the U-men that were inspired by Cameron Hodge from the X-tinction Agenda storyline while the robotic foot soldiers had that mecha influence around them. Yui Sasaki may have also been inspired by Moira McTaggert. The second half of the series felt very inspired by the "Hellfire Saga” in "New X-Men" and "Astonishing X-Men" (sans Sebastian Shaw). Be that as it may, this is not all about tributes and references, Warren Ellis and Fuminori Kizaki wanted to create something different and introduces a lot of fresh new twists that can fit into existing continuity. The 12 episode series is definitely far more grittier and darker than I had anticipated as each episode develops the core premise that it had intended. Nonetheless, X-fans would be right at home with this anime series.
Characters are also developed quite well, and it was to be expected that any anime would focus on the pain of lost love and several existential themes. It was to the scripting and the direction’s credit, that it was able to develop the team dynamics rather than focusing on one or two members. The English dubbing provided the right personality and tempo to our favorite mutants. Logan talked like Logan while Hank McCoy talked like Hank McCoy. I also enjoyed the way they developed the Hisako character along with Emma Frost. It was effective and imaginative that way the two characters were introduced into the story. Now, despite the inherent darkness in its story, the dialogue (better in the English dubbing) had a good balance of clever wit and occasional dry humor to form a chemistry between the characters.
Of course, any X-men series would have to have a lot of action and this anime series does not disappoint. You see the X-men is drag out brawls with the U-Men and the forces of Mastermind. Some fights are more violent than others, and it seemed to lead into a build up to the final confrontation. There were some usual mild posturing on the past of Wolverine but the direction seemed to abandon this for a meaner kind of “Canuckle-head” (as Jubilee from the comics often calls him). There is some blood and brutality especially in some sequences, but they weren’t over the top. The effects did feel different from what we used to with the American series. This is after all, anime and it is never afraid to go ‘dark’ and scary. The final two episodes were the most intense and suspenseful of them all, as the series went to its final endgame.
The designs were exceptional, and they had that anime influence around them. The uniforms and appearances had that Frank Quitely influence from “New X-Men”. Wolverine did look more feral and scary at certain points of the story. I could also excuse (ahem) the way Emma Frost, Storm, and Yui Sasaki were designed; after all, didn’t Jim Lee always drew the X-Women with such voluptuous bodies? Storm and Emma Frost had never looked better. I did notice that there were some “Ninja Scroll” touches on the part of villains Wrath, Neuron and Marsh and this really amused me. The animation by Madhouse studios were almost flawless, you do have to excuse some mild synching issues when using the English language since this was originally intended with Japanese viewers in mind.
I suppose I could go on and on as to how much I’ve enjoyed this X-men Anime series. But I guess I should stop now, since I am bordering on giving away spoilers right now. I really cannot find that much to nit-pick with this series, except that there was a sequence that was a little too dramatic and I wish there were more to the membership than what was in the 12 episodes. Well, there is season 2, and so I would be waiting for it to come to Dvd. This anime series is perfect as a Japanese anime adaptation and gives a lot of depth and layers to the existing X-mythos. This is how you do with an animated series, take it as your own and imagine.
Japanese Anime and Marvel Comics. Two of the most awesome things in entertainment. I have always been curious when “Marvel Manga” was published in the U.S. in the 2000’s to know just how anime would translate Marvel’s premier titles. Well, it appears that director Fuminori Kizaki with writer Warren Ellis had created something that gives a lot of respect to the X-Men mythos and continuity as well as giving our favorite mutants the Japanimation flavor that has been the mark … more
Wolverine, Cyclops, and a core group of Marvel Comics' venerable X-Men head to Japan to prevent a mutant uprising inMarvel Anime: X-Men, a stylish revamp of the long-running franchise that's strong on action, if less so on plotting. That's an unfortunate situation, especially given the brand's history of complex and mature storylines; here, the action hinges largely around the capture of Armor/Hisako Ichiki by the mutant-eugenics squad the U-Men as part of their plan to create a mutant super-army. From there, the story splinters into subplots involving the Inner Circle's Emma Frost and Mastermind, as well as the rise of a mysterious condition affecting mutants across Japan. The disparate elements never quite jell into a cohesive story arc, leaving much of the storytelling weight to rest on the numerous action sequences, which are plentiful and animated with kinetic power by the animation studio Madhouse, which partnered with Marvel forX-Menand three other franchise revamps (Iron Man,Blade, andWolverine).X-Menis unfortunately the most lightweight of the quartet, suffering from weak characterizations, dull antagonists (the U-Men, while unpleasant, are second-string villains when compared to the operatic heights of Magneto, among others), and some unfortunate anime renderings, most notably on Storm, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost, who are built along decidedly titillating (and therefore sophomoric) lines. Sadly, the final episode suggests that the second season ...