San Diego Comic-Con 2010
Iron Man Anime: First Episode Impressions

by Todd Ciolek, Jul 24th 2010

The men and women behind Mad House's new Iron Man anime series know what's important when it comes to Iron Man: namely, the recent movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. In the show's first episode, Mad House sticks to what the film laid down and occasionally peppers it with more traditional anime cliches. Tony Stark is once again an almost unthinkingly cocky hotshot millionaire, and he doesn't care if the world knows he's Iron Man or if he hits on the first woman he sees in Japan. That's because Tony has more important things in mind. He's in Japan to develop a revolutionary new energy generator and a new version of Iron Man, all without interference from any country's big, mean military.

The Iron Man anime's first episode, "Enter Iron Man," is seldom new ground to anyone familiar with superhero stories, Japanese or American. We know that Stark's new mass-production armor, named Iron Man Dio (an admittedly cute Black Sabbath nod), will go haywire. We know that Tony's plans to retire as Iron Man will be derailed by supervillains. We know that he'll make passes at the women he meets, including scientist Chika Tanaka and barely competent reporter Nanami Ota (who fulfills the role of every blandly written anime love interest by falling onto the hero and then slapping him). And we know that Iron Man, the good ol' yellow-and-red version, will make short work of the troublesome blue-and-silver Dio.

And then, just when everything seems mired in cliché, the show hits our hero with a surprise. He's attacked by a giant robotic version of Scorpio from the Zodiac, a recurring team of villains in the Marvel universe. Yet this Scorpio is a multi-eyed mechanical Giger alien, straight out of a Guyver manga panel. It's yet another cliché, but it's the only interesting point in the episode, and Scorpio at least sets up a plot broader than “Tony Stark flirts with a reporter.” Scorpio also amends one of the problems with recent Iron Man media: too many of the villains are just evil versions of the good guy.

Mad House went with a shiny, sharp look for its characters, one slightly less exaggerated than the pointy style used in their Highlander anime film, and it's not terribly far from the typical realistic anime style seen in, say, the recent Golgo 13 series. Tony looks strangely lean, however, as though Peter Chung dropped by the studio. The animation's slightly above-grade for TV, though it picks up considerably in the all-too-brief fight scenes.

As first episodes go, it's stable, halfway pretty, and disappointingly by-the-book. Perhaps Mad House can't be faulted for giving Marvel and its fans exactly what they expect, but an anime adaptation of a well-exposed Western property should at least do something out of the ordinary. There's only a slim promise that this version of Iron Man will be any different from what we've seen many times before.


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