The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Iron Man

Title: Iron Man
Genre: Action
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 1 Oct 2010 – 17 Dec 2010

Synopsis: Tony Stark, the dashing and ingenious CEO of Stark Industries, is moving to Japan to utilize the resources of Lab 23, which houses the world’s first Arc Reactor. His purpose for moving to the country is to pursue world peace by mass-producing armor suits known as Dio through replicating the Iron Man technology. However, an ominous threat looms over Stark’s goal, his industry and the whole country when a clandestine organization known as Zodiac attacks him and steals the Dio prototype.

The Highlights
Tony Stark: Too preachy to be charismatic, too idealistic to be interesting, and too pretty for a superhero.
Execution: Lacks style and polished animation; uncharacteristic for a Madhouse show.
Plot: Simple and predictable; needs minimal effort to see what happens in following episodes.
2009 trailer: Comparing to the actual series, it’s false advertising.
Nerd raeg: Imminent.

It doesn’t take a true-blue fan of the popular Marvel superhero to know that this Japanese adaptation has been lukewarm at best. When the trailer first made its premiere during Comic Con 2009, it got a handful of people to geek out at how promising its anime counterpart would be at depicting one of Stan Lee’s most recognizable works. The result, on the contrary, is an underwhelming and mildly entertaining series that feels like a typical Sunday morning cartoon. Although this would inevitably be compared and scrutinized with its original western counterpart, judging purely by its own merits, this show has come off short with delivering what could have been a much more riveting action series.

Like any Iron Man adaptation, the key factor always centers around the man behind the armor suit: Tony Stark. What makes Stark a consuming figure is his character, one who has everything a man wants but who nobly yearns to redeem himself by saving the world through his technical ingenuity. While this anime version of Stark does retain the general idiosyncratic outline, it fails to make his character remotely absorbing to watch. His periodic comments on world peace are too preachy and his overly idealistic views lack substance because his formerly indifferent ways towards war and violence are unexplored. Shallow as it may be, but Stark’s metrosexual looks and vanity would also likely peeve many Iron Man fans out there, a stark (no pun intended) contrast to the western version that is more reckless and egotistical, yet charismatic.

While action is mostly synonymous when it comes to having a superhero in an anime, Iron Man’s lack of style and polished animation is out-of-character for a show produced by Madhouse, a studio I look up to for stylish execution. Although shows like Rideback and Kurozuka lack engaging storylines, the studio still made the two shows work with some awesome action scenes and fluid animation. Iron Man lacks both components, particularly the latter that even makes this show occasionally look like a poor GONZO production. Apparently, it’s a major difference from the 2009 trailer which boasted explosive action and an adrenaline rush together with an orchestral score.

Perhaps just as disappointing as the execution is its shallow storyline and unengaging plot development. There hasn’t been any particular episode featuring Iron Man’s foe Zodiac that spurs viewers to wonder who is indeed the mastermind. The episodes employs the “Robot of the Week” trope, with different astrological signs for each of them, and a few of them are filler episodes. What all the episodes have in common is their predictability; it requires minimal effort to know what’s going to happen in the next episode or even the remaining course of the story. Simplistic and shallow, the plot doesn’t make any attempt to explore other aspects of Iron Man that could have spiced things up, such as Stark’s personality issues.

While watching Iron Man, I sometimes wondered what really could have made the show a lot better. It could have borrowed the source materials for story writing or even rehash the superhero’s arch-nemeses. But I personally believe that any adaptation is entitled to be independent with its content and need not be in line with the original source. Even so, Iron Man fails as a standalone series for its bland action scenes and lame storytelling. Perhaps the most criminal aspect of Iron Man is its climatic final episode, an unpalatable dish filled with cheese and melodrama. It’s dissatisfying to see that Madhouse has fallen short in delivering what could have been a bold anime version of Iron Man. Although I didn’t want to think about it, I reckon Madhouse is beginning to lose its touch in presenting the goods.

The Rating: 5
4/10

Reviewed by: AC

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