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Marvel Anime: Iron Man - Complete Series

12 Episode Anime Series Directed by Yuzo Sato Based on the Marvel Comics Character

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Iron Man is Made in Japan?!...Let's Sock it to Shellhead Japanese Anime Style!

  • Jun 4, 2012
Marvel Comics and Japanese anime. Two of the most awesome mediums of entertainment. When Marvel signed with Sony (Japan) and Madhouse studios to create several anime series, I had my hopes up for the best but kept a hesitant eye before I indulged in them. Well, after finishing the fabulous “X-Men: the Anime series” last week, I’ve decided to check out “Iron Man: The Anime Series”. Directed by Yuzo Sato, the 12 episode anime series appears to have been more inspired by the first “Iron Man” film rather than current comic book continuity with some changes in detail and origin story. I was a little disappointed with this fact since I wasn’t that impressed with the film to begin with. But Japanese direction and the story by comic book maestro Warren Ellis managed to keep anime and Marvel comic book sensibilities come together for a solid “Shellhead” series.

I’ve noticed that the mood and the tempo between the original Japanese dialogue (a little more serious in mood) and the American dubbing (a bit more carefree and Hollywood-like) differed significantly even when they were delivering the same plot. I noticed this when I played the English dubbing along with the subtitles, I’ve also switched between languages to see which one I liked better and on this series, they seemed to both be a little flawed. I chose to use the English dialogue since it had more character to it than reading the subtitles.

The series begins with Tony Stark (Keiji Fujiwara, English voice by Adrian Pasdar) arriving in Japan to promote a new source of energy based on his own Iron Man chest plate that he calls the Arc reactor. It will be the source of limitless, clean energy that can provide power to Japan once it is operational. With the aid of a fellow young intelligent scientist, Dr. Chika Tanaka (Takako Honda, Laura Bailey) who overseas operations while being by a reporter, Nanami Ota (Shizuka Ito, Eden Riegel), Tony takes Japan by storm which makes some authority figures very nervous, Minister Kuroda (Unsho Ishizuka, Neil Kaplan) included. Tony is set to retire his Iron Man persona and has mass-produced a version of his vaunted armor in the form of “Dio” which will provide security to the reactor. However, Stark’s first steps to promote world peace is about to be derailed by an organization called “Zodiac”, which is a division of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) as they steal the Dio armor and wreak havoc in the Arc reactor with the use of their own mechanized weapons. To make matters worst, Tony has to deal with the return of an old friend who has turned for the other side…

The story arc of the 12 episodes carry different themes and devices that can prove to be a little too much to follow for a child, and it carries enough intricacies to appeal to the more adult viewer. The dialogue has the occasionally profanity and the mood is definitely geared for the young adult. The series does take a little longer to pick up but as with most first season series, it does get going towards the halfway episodes, and as with most anime, it gets much darker and grittier the more one dissects its themes and commentary.

This is a Japanese creation despite the story by Warren Ellis. So I expected the familiar messages as to how weapons themselves are instruments that can be used for good or bad. The direction also had a strong statement as how a country that supposed renounces war can have a stockpile of weapons (is it pointing at the U.S.?) and how peace can only be achieved through equality in an energy source. It presents Stark as a futurist, a man who had his principles changed after a brush with tragedy and the encouragement of man named Yinsen (Hiroaki Hirata, Kyle Hebert). Stark is well-developed in the series. He is portrayed as a past ‘death merchant’ who is now ironically promoting peace. The Japanese are reluctant to embrace his goals as he has been labeled a merchant of death in the past. There is something to be said in the story arc about acceptance, and how Americans and the Japanese differ in their approach in life.

The film does start off pretty light, and in one episode there is what many can call ‘fan service’ as Wolverine (Milo Ventimiglia, Rikiya Koyoma) seemed to have appeared simply to promote his own upcoming anime series. His appearance appeared to be a little cheap and a minor filler to add some ‘fat’ to the story. I also noticed some episodes that did not make the transition well in between episodes. The story about the villain called Sho (Kenichi Suzumura, Michael Sinterniklaas), who seems to have been inspired by “Machinesmith”, wasn’t developed well into the series. The episode with Aki (Marina Inoue) had its merits to promote Stark’s character, but it also wasn’t transitioned well. The direction had some rough spots and frankly, I was disappointed that they did not take advantage of the Stark-Fujikawa storyline from the comic series which would have added solved some continuity issues.

The series does start off light and even has some injections of humor courtesy of Nanami and Ichiro. It does become a lot more darker after episode 6, as other characters are introduced and developed; I was a little disappointed that the Ramon Zero armor and its pilot, Capt. Sakurai only played a small part in the series. There is a lot that goes on from episode 7 onwards, and I had a slight ‘rushed’ feeling in between episodes so that they could wrap things up quickly. I mean it left some under developed elements such as the Zodiac mechs and Dr. Tanaka. There were also moments that I felt that it came a little too close to over-sentimentality, but hey, this is anime, and this is the way things are done usually.

Now, Iron Man should engage in a lot of heavy-metal battles right? Those who are looking for armored battles will not be disappointed. Each episode never slows down and each one has a major encounter. The battles are snazzy and pretty violent at times. The effects and the sound were effective in presenting the action and the urgency of the situation; the stakes also become higher after each battle. The mech designs of the “Zodiac” warriors are based on, well, signs of the zodiac and they had that cool anime personality around them. The Ramon Zero armor and Kuroda’s armor both had the samurai look around them, which gave them an ancient look in contrast to Stark’s more modern armor. The only complaint I have about the battles was that they all seemed to involved blasting, kicking and punching that it misses with the portrayal of strategy and resourcefulness that made the source material special. The animation by Madhouse is pretty fluid and smooth. They also avoided the use of the “over-expressive eyes” and yet the characters had that anime look around them.

“Marvel Anime: Iron Man” had some more of an uneven feel to it but it is still a whole lot better than the animated series that have plagued American TV. There were some episodes that really stood out (I especially liked the one with Tanaka and Stark stranded in an island) but there were ones that felt that they were fillers to stretch the series. Be that as it may, the series had its own share of welcome twists and turns, while some devices are predictable (I saw where it was going from episode 3), there is enough here to satisfy the Marvel comics and Anime fan. “Iron Man the anime series” is still a fine beginning of Marvel’s transition to the world of anime which resulted in the more smoother “X-Men Anime series”. Light Recommendation  [3 Out of 5 Stars]

Iron Man is Made in Japan?!...Let's Sock it to Shellhead Japanese Anime Style! Iron Man is Made in Japan?!...Let's Sock it to Shellhead Japanese Anime Style!

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June 08, 2012
I still haven't watched either series yet even though I own them. I will be checking them out pretty soon.
June 10, 2012
well, with me I usually buy a bunch of them as soon as I see the price is right. Anime and foreign film dvds/bluray are very expensive here in Cali. That causes a back log for me.
June 05, 2012
So...is this a new anime trend, adaptations of American comics? If it is, I think it'll be interesting to see what's next.
June 06, 2012
I think Sony (Japan) and Madhouse is on several projects. There are two more anime series coming out in July, and I will probably be getting them also. I did see some episodes of the "Blade" anime, but I had mixed feelings about it.
June 04, 2012
Mentioning Ellis was enough to convince me. Thank you for including much more in your interesting recommendation. Well done.
June 05, 2012
Ellis also has a reputation with me. I liked the X-men anime a lot more than this one honestly. It was also written by Ellis and Yes, I have reviewed it also if you are interested.
June 04, 2012
Great review with lots of good pictures too!
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Marvel Anime: Iron Manis an appealing episodic reboot of the venerable Marvel Comics franchise, and part of a wider anime collaboration between Marvel Entertainment and the popular Japanese animation studio Madhouse. The live-actionIron Manfeatures serve as the launching point for this 12-episode series, which finds Tony Stark (voiced byHeroes' Adrian Pasdar in the English-language dub) in Japan, constructing an Arc Reactor station that will provide limitless worldwide energy, as well as a new prototype armor, Iron Man Dio, which will allow him to gracefully exit the superhero business. Both plans turn sour with the arrival of the Zodiac terrorist organization, which commandeers both the Dio suit and the station for its world-domination plans. In his pursuit of Zodiac, Stark is pitted against the group's giant robot warriors, as well as a long-lost figure from his own past. Rendered in the bold and often striking animation by which Madhouse has earned its reputation,Marvel Anime: Iron Manis also action packed throughout its 12 episodes, and hews closely to its comic legacy thanks to writer Warren Ellis, who weaves appearances by established figures from its canon like Pepper Potts, Chika Tanaka, and even Wolverine (voiced by Pasdar'sHeroescostar Milo Ventimiglia, who reprises the role for theWolverineanime series) into the story. If there's any complaint to be had, it's the relative facelessness of the Zodiac, which pale in regard to nefariousness when ...
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