The Marvel universe and anime finally collaborated in October 2010 when Marvel Anime: Iron Man aired. Soon followed by Marvel Anime: Wolverine, Marvel Anime:X-Men, and Marvel Anime: Blade, the diversity in the stories is united by the animation provided by Madhouse using Marvel characters. The plot might move more slowly than American-made storylines, but the animation and overall package more than makes up for that. And now, you can own X-Men and Iron Man on DVD from Sony!
In the X-Men storyline, our heroes have disbanded after Jean Grey/Phoenix flames out and things end in tragedy. But then a mutant teenager goes missing in Japan, and Charles Xavier recalls Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, and Beast to be X-Men again and rescue her. Along the way, they encounter serious trouble: a band of U-Men who are harvesting mutant organs to make themselves more powerful! Emma Frost, Iron Man, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Rogue end up pulled back into the mix.
As always, the team-oriented feel is what makes X-Men stand out. Wolvie and Cyclops just can’t get along; Beast is too smart to be truly social. Everyone wants to lead but no one wants the responsibility. Did I say team? Maybe it should be a “dys-team,” but the overall vibe is that at the end of the day, their mission, their love for humanity, brings them together where they are strong enough to destroy evil. It’s humbling to see what they can’t do but invigorating to see what they can accomplish when they work together.
While Iron Man has never been my favorite Marvel character or series, he’s gotten plenty of press since Robert Downey Jr. reinvigorated him onscreen. That playboy character translates well into the prideful, arrogant vibe that he transmits in this anime version, where Tony Stark is test-driving new technology in Japan.
This series finds Iron Man flying in space, battling a set of villains called Zodiac, interacting with Wolverine, wooing female reporters, dealing with mind-controlling villains, and finding a way to save the world in between making an spectacle of himself. And unlike Bruce Wayne as a “beard,” we’re left thinking that Stark is really what he’s like! But it’s exciting and witty in a way that the X-Men series is darker and more intense, which shouldn’t make you think that this series is fluffy…
It spends a good bit of time discussing the impact of nuclear weapons/energy. Most of it doesn’t end well, and some of the backstory of the villains here is tied into the bombs which were dropped on Japan during World War II. Like the harvesting of organs in the X-Men series, this is a little heavier than your normal Saturday morning cartoon about saving the world against someone who just wants to take over, vaguely. This is much more cause-and-effect: Stark has to take responsibility for what he’s done, and for what his country has done. It’s a bigger picture about what kind of impact we have on our world, and the footprint we leave behind, whether it’s a positive or negative one.