Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Marvel in Japan. Again.

August 27, 2008 Commentary, News

I can’t help but laugh a little (and maybe cringe a little too) at the idea that Marvel is teaming up with Madhouse to create an Iron Man anime. Or, it seems that Iron Man might be sharing the the same anime as Wolverine? There will apparently be four series in total, but other characters involved have yet to be announced. It all seems rather jumbled to me right now, though whatever it is, the first series is due out in 2010, following/coinciding with the releases of the Wolverine movie and the Iron Man sequel.

Madhouse apparently has the creative license to “re-imagine” whatever the heck they want using Marvel’s properties. This phrasing does not bode well with me. …Has anyone seen the Spidey live action show Japan created? I’ve seen an episode. It is the most hilarious crack ever and is definitely one of those things that makes you go, “OH, JAPAN! OH, YOU! …WHY?!” It makes you wanna laugh and cry simultaneously. It’s so very stereotypical of Japan to “re-imagine” Spidey in a parallel universe where he not only has special, radioactive spider powers, but he pilots a giant robot! Yes! That is totally what Japan is all about. Giant robots. With everything. (Because everyone knows that mecha makes everything better.) In a similar vein… has anyone seen the Japanese Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “re-imagining”? Japanese Spider-Man was more laughing than crying. Japanese TMNT was more crying than laughing.

I’m not as big a fan of Iron Man and Wolverine as I am of Spidey and the Turtles, but I sure hope they get treated better. I do have some confidence in the Marvel/Madhouse team though. After all, the Spidey and TMNT adaptations are years old now and the industry has changed a lot since then. I don’t think Batman: Gotham Knight really counts as an example since they weren’t “re-imagining” it and it had a specific story role to fill between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but it still shows that more recent partnerships between US and Japanese companies have been more successful. I haven’t actually seen Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, but honestly, I think PPG was rather suited for the magical girl nonsense.

What I’m really curious about though, is whether or not the Japanese audience really wants American properties to be “re-imagined” for their sake. Case in point: American fans are generally pretty damn livid when companies do any editing on existing shows. 4Kids has a place down in the deepest level hell with along with Judas and Brutus in the eyes of most overseas fans, and even FUNimation, back in the hay day of DBZ, was not immune from rampant criticism. Can you imagine what would happen if an American company tried to “re-imagine” a Japanese property? If Viacom tried to remake Akira with “American cultural references”? There would be rioting in the streets.

Sure, American moviemakers have developed a gradual interest in making live action adaptations of Japanese works — Akira, Evangelion, Battle Angel, and so on, but for the most part, the people involved have said that they will try to stay as true to the source material as possible. They aren’t re-imagining much, if anything at all. Overseas fans don’t want their Japanese cartoons and comics filtered through a cultural lens. They are perfectly willing and able to digest foreign culture. They want to. They’re sick of their own culture; that’s why they gravitated to Japan in the first place.

So why is Japan different? They love US movies, which usually release in theatres subtitled. I’m not sure how big the audience is for US and other foreign comics, but we know that Japan loves Disney. And Harry Potter. So do superheros really need to be adapted for them? Did Spider-Man really need to become a mecha pilot for Japanese kids to be able to identify with them? (That’s a… really, really hilarious thought.) For Iron Man, I imagine his suit streamlined like whoa. It will be sleek and beautiful and have a billion new functions and be oh so very Japanesey. And Tony Stark will be flaming bishounen. But other than that, what would be changed? Billionaires and self-absorbed assholes exist in Japan too. And Wolverine? He should fit right in. He’s a mutant. Japan freakin’ loves mutants and monsters and aliens and that junk.

It is puzzling to me. But oh well. I guess we’ll find out in two years. If anything, I’m sure it’ll be a darn pretty anime if Madhouse is doing it. And Stan Lee’s other Japanese projects should be interesting too.

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