As I mentioned in my review for X-Men Anime, my background knowledge in anime is pretty limited. I’ve seen some of the “must-see” titles – like Akira, for example – and caught the odd episode of Dragon Ball Z, but aside from that? Zilch. Still, my interest in Marvel Anime was piqued – the line even included big names like Iron Man, X-Men, Wolverine and Blade – even with the weak reviews that were rolling in. I thought perhaps it would serve as a nice gate-way drug to bigger, better titles. And, you know what? I actually enjoyed Iron Man Anime, and I wouldn’t mind digging deeper into the world of anime after all of this.
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. The Armored Avenger’s fight is only just beginning.
Iron Man Anime, heavily influenced by the movie-interpretation of the Armored Avenger, tells a pretty basic story. Stark brings his Arc Reactor to Japan and…chaos ensues. It’s seen as a threat from all sides – political, business-wise, you name it – and Stark is relentlessly hounded from the first episode to the very end. There’s no real weird turns or shocking twists. By no means is it perfect – far from it – but I enjoyed the overall adventure. Iron Man Anime comes along as a great, mature take on the character, but with the added bonus of robots duking it out in nearly every episode. And while there is a healthy dose of action, this show tends to throw the focus more on the business and political ramifications of what Stark is trying to accomplish. It’s not overbearing, but it’s not overlooked. There’s more than a few tense moments involving characters hunched over keyboards trying to defuse a nasty situation by clicking a few keys.
I can see why this is considered the weaker of the two releases, compared to X-Men Anime. While it felt like X-Men Anime has a narrative that was always being propelled forward with each episode, Iron Man Anime takes some obvious breaks here and there. While the ongoing subplots remain lingering in the background, the series does get sidetracked on occasion for the odd ‘done-in-one’ tales. In fact, Iron Man Anime feels more like a traditional animated series as opposed to X-Men Anime. Still, the entire series does seem to wrap up nicely in the final two episodes, with nary a loose string.
The finished product here is also very different than the one that was teased, with changes to the animation quality and style, so I can also see why that would upset a fair amount of viewers. What we got wasn’t exactly what was expected, so the resultant backlash is understandable.
The series also suffers a bit from the “freak of the week”-curse, with Iron Man finding himself facing off against a new armored assailant with nearly each new episode. The only time the series really breaks away from this is with the two-part finale. That being said, some of the “freaks” do play into the overall structure of the story so it doesn’t seem as obviously overt and repetitive, but it does get tiresome around the eighth or ninth episode.
Also, that cameo by Wolverine? Completely useless. It was kinda funny, yeah, but overall it served no purpose whatsoever.
When it comes to the voice acting, everyone across the board worked fine for me. While many found Adrian Pasdar to be a bit stiff in the role of Tony Stark, I thought he did a fine job. True, he started out a bit stilted in the first few episodes, but really came into the role for the second half of the series. In fact, by the end of it, he sounds pitch-perfect as Tony Stark, and I was impressed to hear him really give it his all during some of the action scenes.
Still, I really enjoyed Iron Man Anime. It may not have been as exciting as X-Men Anime, but I thought it stayed true to the comic book roots of Iron Man and spun some good tales. Nothing groundbreaking, mind you, but something Iron Man fans would likely get a kick out of.
Looking into the two-disc DVD release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have provided a pretty basic DVD release for the title. Not overflowing with content, but still a substantial amount of extra features. The audio and video is actually pretty top-notch. The video, best I can tell, is pretty much flawless save for the occasional banding. But even the banding is far and few in-between, and very easy to miss. The intentionally soft look to the series help present a polished finish nearly free of blemishes. The video quality is really surprising, and the same goes for the audio. The Iron Man Anime DVD has a very boisterous and loud mix, usually giving the entire sound system a nice workout. The mix is center-based, but still gives a nice immersive experience when the action really kicks up. The default language setting is Japanese with English subtitles, but that can be quickly altered to your preference with a quick trip through the set-up menu. A very nice presentation, all in all.
Taking a peak at the bonus features here, what we get is some pretty interesting details for those looking to learn more on this anime project. “The Marvel Anime Universe: Re-Imagining Iron Man,” “Voicing Tony Stark: Interview with Keiji Fujiwara,” and “21st Century Hero: The Technology of Iron Man” explore why the creators behind the series chose the X-Men as one of the anime projects and why Iron Man works in this style. It’s mostly talking head and EPK-type material, but given how short some of these run, you won’t be wasting much time going through these. The “Special Cross Talk Session: Marvel Anime’s Iron Man and Wolverine” looks to be on older featurette or documentary carried over onto the release (from a TV special, perhaps?). It’s actually fairly interesting and worth a watch, clocking in at a fairly impressive 30-ish minutes.
Overall, Iron Man Anime is a worthwhile installment of the Marvel Anime line, despite the hiccups here and there. While the onslaught of somewhat repetitive enemies does get a bit tiresome, the characters and their respective personalities does save it. Toss in some solid animation and voice acting and it’s a fairly good product overall. It does have the tendency to drag or get off-track on occasion, but overall I found it pretty fun, mostly thanks to the enjoyable characters. The best part is … it feels like Iron Man. It brings the characters alive in a respectful manner that no fan should be able to pass up. It even manages to wrap up all of its plotlines by the end of the last episode and gives a cool send-off that should leave the viewer satisfied. It’s not the best Marvel Anime product, but it is one that is easily accessible and quick to pick up.