It’s been about a year since Marvel announced they were rocking out four Anime mini-series based on their most well known properties; Wolverine, Iron Man, Blade and The X-Men. A year since Internet Jesus Warren Ellis was revealed as the man who would be outlining the four series. A year since we discovered that it would be animated by Madhouse, the studio behind a bunch of the recent Marvel and DC direct-to-video animated movies, not to mention Paprika and Ninja Scroll.
With that mix they surely can’t have gone wrong… But there’s been a lot of ‘meh’ in the press about them since the Americans got a preview last week, so I sat down with the first episodes of the Wolverine and Iron Man series to report back on whether they’re worth the wait.
** beware, here be spoilers **
The episode starts with a cold open in which Wolverine is happy and in love. For about ninety seconds that is, until sea-assassins come to spoil his day. You remember when you and your partner were having that romantic night on a yacht when three flying ninjas came out of the water and shot you a lot? It was just like that. I’d avoid watching the opening just so it doesn’t bring on any flashbacks. But for everyone else who didn’t experience that, it’s not a bad opening, I guess.
A minute later and it’s time to ROCK OUT, because it’s the catchy Wolverine theme that’ll stick in our headmeat for years to come. That was sarcasm, keep up. Allow me to reflect on past comic-based animated series: The 60′s Spiderman had a memorable theme tune. The 90′s Spiderman and X-Men cartoons had memorable theme tunes. This does not. The Superfriends theme is more memorable than this. The tune that informs us Wolverine has arrived is a minute-long guitar solo that drones on while Logan jumps about, ‘snikk’ing his claws, while also introducing characters that one can only assume will become part of the show’s mythology. Or maybe they’re arbitrary characters that were left over from another animation. I’m hoping the former is the case, because I’d like to think the flashing lights and inevitable seizure were worth it.
We finally escape the opening titles and end up a year later. Where Wolverine saves the day with beer. No, I’m not kidding. There’s a nice bit of action where he rescues a cop from (more) ninjas, who have surrounded him on a rooftop. Why he thought a rooftop was a safe place I do not know, not that it matters, because he’s not on the rooftop for long. I would have paid more attention to this battle, but I couldn’t help being distracted by Logan sounding like a teenager. Let’s take a look at the voice actors who have portrayed Wolverine in the past. They are in their late 30′s or 40′s, they have the vocal range to bring the gravelly, burly Wolverine we know to life (even Mark Hamill managed to pull it off), and yet they pick pretty-boy Milo Ventimiglia, who sleeps through his lines here like he did through all four seasons of Heroes.
Back to the story (and more importantly, the review, rather than the ranting) we discover that Wolverine’s lover from the opening, Mariko, is being forced to marry some doosh. Kinda wish we had seen more of what went down in the year that was glossed over; Logan is now ‘old friends’ with a cop who has all the information needed to find her. This is now ten minutes in, over half the runtime of the episode, and it seems this has been 90% exposition.
Suddenly, Wolverine is fighting for his lover’s honour with wooden swords. Wait, let me rephrase that; Wolverine, who has ADAMANTIUM CLAWS is fighting for his lover’s honour with WOODEN SWORDS. Sure, it’s a nice bit of action, but WOODEN SWORDS? Really? He has metal claws and he’s fighting with WOODEN SWORDS? I can’t really get behind that. It’s fight to the death – and he can’t die – but he won’t cheat and use his damn claws and end it?
I guess if he did so, we’d have a much tamer series ahead of us. Episode one would end with “Wolverine and Mariko lived happily ever after” and the following 11 episodes would involve the couple going to the park, feeding the ducks and occasionally beating up pond-ninjas.
Although judging by the opening episode, that might make for a better show.