Can’t get enough of The Avengers hype? Do you love Jon Favreau’s adaptation of Tony Stark/Iron Man? Do you want more Iron Man and less S.H.I.E.L.D.? Does your fandom spill into the realm of animation too?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above, then you need to check out the Marvel Anime: Iron Man The Complete Series on DVD. Using the first Iron Man film as the only required back-story, Sony and Madhouse Animation brought everything that’s great about Japanimation to Iron Man–the mecha look, the fast action, and a slightly edgier approach than what’s typically passed for as cartoons in the states.
The story is set up nicely to bring Tony Stark to Japan because he wants to bring free energy to Japan, applying his life-saving Arc technology to create a large reactor to feed the country. But there’s a public perception that Stark has to overcome. He’s largely seen as a selfish, pompous, arrogant businessman who was a weapons czar for many years.
There are twelve episodes in all and secret organization funded by A.I.M. plots to expose Stark for the war criminal he was, not the hero he’s become. Madhouse came up with these ridiculously cool robot spins on the villain team Zodiac to battle Iron Man. There’s an interesting play on the origin as Ho Yinsin (the man who helped Stark create his first armor) plays a large part of this series, perhaps his biggest role outside of the comics. A Lois Lane-type subplot lies beneath each episode as a young Tokyo Journal reporter named Nanami Ota is assigned to cover Stark’s stay in Japan. As she investigates other cases, Ota’s path keeps crossing with Stark’s.
Stark’s character flaws play out well in these tales as the fish out of water. Japan is a great place for Stark to seek and obtain redemption while continuing to work on becoming a more worldly man. Action is abundant, bombastic and repeat viewings don’t get tiresome. Could Madhouse just do all of Marvel’s animation?
Unfortunately there is no Blu-ray release but if you need to see this in high definition, then seek it out on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video where it’s streaming in HD. The series ran on G4TV originally and reproduces well in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen DVD. Colors sing loudly and brilliant and is a pleasing experience.
Both the English dub and original Japanese audio are available in 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles available in English and English SDH. There are different translations and I actually prefer the English dub–a rarity for me–as there are more comic book references, inside nods to the comics, and more natural dialogue. I actually listened to the English Dub with the subtitles on to see the difference and there’s enough there to recommend the English track. But you have the option of hearing the great intonation of the Japanese track. There’s even swearing on the Japanese track, so it’s cool to be able to see (and hear) the differences.
The extras are satisfying supplements to the series. Emphasis is placed on adapting Iron Man to the Japanese sensibilities visually and putting a script that would work in Japan and translate that to English. Participating in interviews on the U.S. side are writer Warren Ellis, Executive Vice President, Head of TV at Marvel Television Jeph Loeb, Vice President, Development and Production of Marvel Television Cort Lane, and Manager, Development and Production of Marvel Television Megan Thomas Bradner.
Re-Imagining Iron Man (9:47) – an explanation of the fish out of water approach Ellis took and the culture shock Tony Stark in Japan.
Voicing: Tony Stark: Interview with Keiji Fujiwara (5:13) – a subtitled interview with the cool, laid-back actor who voiced Iron Man in the Japanese version of the series. He talks about his performance and how he interprets Tony Stark and the differences in what the anime brought as compared to the film. He was asked to use the film as inspiration but Fujiwara took it a little too literal as he sports a hairdo and goatee like Robert Downey Jr.
21st Century Hero: The Technology of Iron Man (7:30) – The Marvel TV talking heads return to talk about the armor and tech and how it relates to the real world.
Special Cross Talk: Marvel Anime’s Iron Man and Wolverine (28:53) – is a behind-the-scenes look at the Madhouse side of the anime series for Iron Man (Yuzo Sato and Toshiki Inoue) and Wolverine (Hiroshi Aoyama and Kengo Kaji). The animators talk individually and as a group about what it is that is attractive and interesting about Tony Stark and Logan as characters and how they wanted to explore, as well as their treatments concerning the Japanese culture, style and sensibilities. CG was used to do the action sequences and the Stark character is repeatedly referred to as a “strange” character. But they understood that you had to connect to each of the series emotionally for them to work.
Marvel Anime: Iron Man is the best I’ve seen Iron Man animated. There are older, inferior (Iron Man: Armored Adventures) versions out there but nothing as visually exciting or thrilling as this. I was a bit letdown by the live-action film, Iron Man 2 in the theaters because so much of it was devoted to S.H.I.E.L.D. and this is a great solution to that problem. At nearly five hours of material, Marvel Anime: Iron Man – The Complete Series is better seen in a few sit-down sessions than it was to see it spread out over 12 weeks and is a great companion piece to your Marvel movie collection.