So… this is actually a pretty all right show. So far.
I didn’t write anything about the first episode mostly because not enough happened for me to have much more than a neutral impression. With the second episode, the mood for the series has been better established, and I can more or less see where it’s going from here. And really, it doesn’t seem too terrible.
To be honest, I’m actually kind of impressed with how things are unfolding. Tony Stark is not arbitrarily in Japan. He has a reason to be there, and it’s believable enough. The reaction of the Japanese public to his presence in their country is also reasonable, subdued to an extent, and clearly different from what the American public would be like. That Marvel and Madhouse have been able to successfully plant this very American character into a Japanese setting has been a nice treat, even if the story itself doesn’t fall very far from your standard superhero fare.
The episodes so far remind me somewhat of the 90’s Batman: The Animated Series crossed with the 80’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with more of the former’s storytelling and plot set-up style and more of the latter’s silliness, I suppose, though the fact that there’s a subpar reporter tailing Stark everywhere probably caused that association more than anything else. Sadly, Iron Man has none of Batman’s cleverness or innovation (though certainly can rival his technological output as a super power), but this may be because his villains are not nearly as interesting. I mean, really, a terrorist organization with mecha named after astrological signs? Been there, done that.
But I never expected this to have a creative plot anyway. I’m more interested in how the characters develop, if they do at all. Stark is pretty established, and while I’m incredibly thankful they didn’t go for Yet Another Origin Story, I’m kind of afraid that will limit his ability to grow within the series since he’s probably, at some point, already faced most of the obstacles ahead. Then again, it was established day one that Iron Man’s complete lack of humility wouldn’t mesh well with Japan, and it would definitely be interesting to see more culture clash happen as we go on. Indeed, the government and politics of Japan have thus far presented themselves as more of a hindrance to Stark, however slight, than the Zodiac.
I’m disappointed with the action scenes in the series so far though. All of Iron Man’s fights with the Zodiac robots have been boring and seem more or less the same. The enemy mechs’ designs are inelegant and bulky, and they seem to go out of their way to make sure you never really get a good look at them. The cgi integrates well enough, and I’m happy with how Iron Man himself translated visually, but considering how much of this franchise is built on advanced technology and explosions, I was expecting a lot more, Madhouse.
On the bright side, Tony Stark’s design is kind of fun, if expectedly hilarious. The general bishounen aesthetic doesn’t mesh well with facial hair, which obviously denotes manliness, but Stark pulls it off well enough. Really, the only thing that bothers me is the largeness of his eyes, which is another generalized anime aesthetic, but one that usually trends down when it comes to older and more mature characters. So given that, I think Stark’s eyes are waaaay too big. But hey, his voice actor is doing a swell job, and he even kind of looks like Robert Downey Jr? His nose is a bit too narrow though.
Still not expecting a lot from this, but it’s not what I feared, and if they manage to sneak in a few good action scenes and some halfway interesting character development, then I think I’m good.
And I’m feeling a little better about the rest of the Marvel x Madhouse ventures… even if the next one has Wolverine has a total bishie ninja or whatever.