Let me say this before I delve into the review for the first episode of the new Iron Man anime. Out of all of us here at Apoc Cheesecake, I watch the least amount of anime – well modern anime at least. I’m a child of anime from the late 80s and early 90s. Cousins used to send me VHS tapes of DBZ eps they recorded off TV. Robotech got me into Macross. Then there was the boom of dubbed anime on network TV with Ronin Warriors and Sailor Moon.
I’ve not watched a full season of any anime concurrent with Japanese airings since Love Hina in 2000. That’s not to say that I don’t watch anime, but I definitely don’t watch much. When it comes to the world of fansubs, I’m usually downloading Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. FMA (haven’t started Brotherhood yet), Haruhi, and Hellsing are a few of the modern ones that I catch.
I’m actually surprised that I’m the first one here to write a review on this season considering how much less I watch compared to my friends here. However, I am the Iron Man fanboy out of us, so I guess it’s up to me to cover Iron Man for the upcoming season. I just wanted to let you all be aware of my point of view before we continue. Also, these reviews will not contain a complete synopsis of the episode, but will potentially contain spoilers. Please be weary of that.
With this being the first episode, let’s get some “one and done” things out of the way. Firstly, the art style – an interesting take on Tony. I don’t follow the individual comics religiously, but I do keep up with what’s going on in the stories of my favorite characters. Having not followed any of Marvel Mangaverse (is Tony even in any of those?) I found Tony’s design to be different and fresh. Not a bad thing at all.
I have to give the writers two thumbs up for capturing Tony Stark’s personality perfectly. He’s brash, he’s arrogant, and he’s an unrelenting flirt – all traits that show up in spades in episode 1.
The requisite 3D portions of the show looked ok, though there were parts where the obviousness (outside of the armors) really took away from the enjoyment of the scene. As for the armors, the use of CGI for them was no doubt a no brainer from a production standpoint. While I thought they were ok, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a Japanese version of Armored Adventures (of which I’ve only seen two episodes). However, the movie aesthetics of the armor helped shake loose that feeling eventually. The armor itself looks to be a faithful re-creation of the Mark IV armor seen in Iron Man 2, but don’t let that have you thinking that this show exists in the movie-verse.
The show borrows quite a bit from the movie universe – the designs for the armors, the helmet HUD, and arc reactor in particular – but the tone of the show helps establish it as standing on its own two feet. Personally, I’m split on this whole “one foot in the movie-verse and one foot not” and it’s a trend I’m not liking with other franchises (i.e. Transformers, yes I’m a TF nut.). The part of me that likes it likes it for the fact that familiarity with the designs and what not will hook viewers who a) aren’t Iron Man fans from the comics but loved the movies and those that b) are anime fans who will catch a glimpse of it in a trailer, think of the movies, and then consider giving the series a whirl. The part of me that doesn’t like it doesn’t like it for the fact that it’s once again establishing a tech-based villain. This will make it particularly difficult to introduce other enemies from Iron Man’s laundry list of villains like Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom. The Japanese setting would be a perfect place for Iron Man to be fighting these guys. Just imagine what Madhouse could do with an Iron Man versus FFF air fight over the skies of Tokyo. Instead, it looks like we’ll be entrenched in another “tech company wants to hijack Stark tech for their own use” with Zodiac. I’m sure it’ll work, especially with only a 12 episode run. I’m thinking the only villains we could possibly see from the comic books are ones who already have their own set of armors like Crimson Dynamo, Guardsman, and Titanium Man. Actually, the Dio armor in episode 01 may qualify as a variant of the Guardsman armors.
As for the episode itself, all I can say is that it was slow. That’s to be expected from a first episode that’s trying to establish the overall arc of the story as well as the relationships between characters. And there were plenty of other unfamiliar charcters that Tony interacted with. His scenes with Dr. Tanaka, Nanami, and even the Minister of Defense did quite a bit to set the tone of not only how they see him, but how Japan as a nation sees Tony. I think this part of the storyline could be very intriguing. I was a little disappointed in the one scene Tony had with Pepper. It just seemed flat, but that’s probably because my brain already has the predetermined notion about how they should be around each other.
I was most disappointed in the amount of action and even more disappointed in the action that was present. The fight stuff just seemed anti-climatic. It had potential to be this awesome slugfest and then in an instant we’re done. We spend the first 15 minutes, give or take, on juxtaposition and the 5 minutes of action we did get was just there. It’s like the writers knew they had to fit it in somewhere and just shoehorned this scene in. I know that’s not the case as it did establish the malevolent force of the story, but it sure felt like it was just there. I did like the Aliens-inspired mecha at the end though. Maybe they’re saving his other tricks for future eps – or at least that’s what I’m hoping. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though as this is the first episode.
Overall, not a bad episode. Iron Man fans can nitpick all day about some of the things they didn’t like as I did above, but I’m not going to let that stop me from enjoying this series. I can’t wait to see where they go from here and what will happen when the writers can finally get into a comfortable groove.
(Note: Iron Man 01 subbed by the folks at Force-Works was used for this review.)