The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Heroman

Title: Heroman
Genre: Action
Company: Bones
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 1 Apr 2010 – 23 Sep 2010

Synopsis: Joey Jones is a simple, good natured boy who lives with his grandmother in Center City. He’s rather poor, and even working part time at a diner he can’t afford the newest, shiniest robot toy the rich kids at school have. But the resourceful boy makes due by salvaging a broken one thrown in the trash. But just as Joey had finished repairing the toy, a mysterious, extraterrestrial lightning storm zaps the robot into life, transforming it into Heroman, a white, hulking figure who mutely acts on Joey’s will based on the directives on Joey’s special arm controller. This hero appears just in time, as an alien threat known as the Skrugg positions itself to invade Earth. Is pluck and friendship enough to repel the insectoid menace and save the world?

The Highlights
Comic books roots: Cliches abound, but at least done well.
Animation: Clean designs, smooth frame rate; an overall excellent looking show.
Low Ambition: Successful execution, but could have done so much more.

I’m certain, when approached to create an original story for a comic book-esque Japanese animation, Stan Lee wrote down some generic words like “Hero”, “Skrugg”, and “Center”, and threw them into his automated superhero ad-lib machine, from which the concept of Heroman popped out. That is to say, Heroman repeats so many common ideas and scenarios seen in other comic book stories that it will never escape that indictment of unoriginality. But if one is willing to buy into the youthful fantasy of a secret super-powered friend, you’ll find that this anime is so earnest and likeable that it’s easy to overlook it’s overly tame approach to its material.

Heroman closely follows the superhero formula; skim through any synopsis and you can list for yourself the staggering number of comic book clichés it contains. Joey and company are pure characters with simple personalities, and the villains fill stock evildoer roles including: invading aliens, crazed scientists, and government experiments gone wrong. It’s likely none of the few plot twists the series has will surprise you.

But tropes are common for a reason: done the right way they work, and Heroman does a lot of things right. The opening act swiftly moves through all the necessary introductions and exposition with the efficiency of an expert storyteller worthy of Stan Lee’s reputation, like on smooth autopilot mode. The cast of characters are colorful and interact well with each other, with goofy professor Denton and Joey’s firecracker of a sister Holly a few of my personal favorites. They remain upbeat and cheerful, but not to the extent of becoming annoying. Best of all is the superb animation. Mecha battles and flashy powers are right up studio Bones’ alley, and they deliver fluid action scenes that compare with the best on TV. Additionally, throughout its length the series makes charming nods to its faux-comic book roots, such as the first ED drawn in comic book panels and episodes concluding in a dramatic “To Be Continued”. Far from having complaints about production shortcomings, I can only praise Heroman for its attention to detail.

Perhaps because the anime aces all the basics of storytelling that there is a mild letdown about the direction Heroman goes, or more precisely, where the story doesn’t go. Plotlines about government cover-ups, a budding romance, and a former acquaintance turned anti-hero were all interesting angles never explored. Some more thought is given to the backstory of Joey’s father, and an overriding theme about what it means to be a hero, but hardly enough to be truly satisfying. In its effort to maintain its status as an inoffensive, safe kids’ cartoon, the title forsook plot complications and complex character motivations, even though it grasped its core material so well I’m confident it could have handled an extra wrench or two in the works quite easily.

Heroman can be looked at in two ways: as a dumbed down superhero action spectacle, or as a very excellent Saturday morning cartoon. Although Bones thrilled its audience when it flexed its considerable production muscle, it also ended up highlighting the childish story with zero ambition. However, while Heroman left a number of more adventurous ideas on the wayside, in the end its likeable characters, tidy presentation, and reliably fun action set pieces made its flaws forgivable, if not forgotten.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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