The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

X-Men

Title: X-Men
Genre: Action
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 1 Apr 2011 – 24 Jun 2011

Synopsis: Professor Charles Xavier is the founder of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, an establishment for mutants that serves as a haven from the prejudicial treatments of the outside world and as a training facility to hone their inherent abilities so that they can use them to protect mankind. In addition, Xavier formed the X-Men, a team of elite mutants led by Scott Summers to battle against evil forces. One day, they received news of a missing mutant in the Tohoku region of Japan, and Xavier dispatches them to see what is going on. However, how will the team move when Summers is still grieving over the loss of his lover Jean Grey during a fierce battle between them and a group of lawless mutants known as the Inner Circle, a year ago?

The Highlights
Characters: Stay true to their original comic characterization, much to my delight.
Plot: Decent development and a passable curveball towards the end, but otherwise simplistic.
“Dark Phoenix Saga”: Using this as a precursor to the main plot raises curiosity.
Atmosphere: Much grimmer and darker than Marvel‘s last two anime series.
Nerd raeg: Not this time… for real!

Now that both Iron Man and Wolverine have turned out to be duds, the latter being more sucky than the former, many people will naturally not have high expectations for MarvelMadhouse‘s third series, X-Men. To be frank, it’s fair to say that very few people are expecting anything good from it. I belonged to the horde that was ready to use a flamethrower at will from the first episode, thinking that there would be nothing to salvage from a collaborative project that has been nothing more than a sinking ship. Fortunately – and unexpectedly – X-Men isn’t as terrible as many anticipated; the show got off on the right foot with a satisfactory first episode, and then proceeds to put in a decent effort to narrate a decent story with decent characters and decent characterization. Perhaps “decent” is the most apt way to sum it up in one word; it’s not great but in light of its previous two terrible Marvel brothers, it’s a positive start.

If there’s one thing this series got right, it’s the character designs. For once, the main characters look like their originals which, although this may mean more to Marvel fans, sets the right impression for the average audience. More importantly though, the characterization is executed fairly well: Summers is the no-nonsense stoic spearhead, Logan is the team’s muscle that spares no attention to mushy moments and tiny details, blue-furred Beast plays the brain of the group and Professor Xavier plays the iconic role of their facilitator. The only issue is Storm; her lack of presence both as a second-in-command and as a lead character is uncharacteristic. In the presence of the accurately adapted characterization of her team members, I was expecting her to be more spiritual and mature as she’s usually known for.

The story is a very mixed bag. On one hand, the show has good ambiance: the grim and serious atmosphere makes X-Men a slightly above-average action series and it complements Summers’ constant battle against his inner demons, this forming the core of the narrative. Furthermore, there is a deceptive plot detour where the true main villains aren’t necessarily the ones the audience may pinpoint from the onset. On the other hand, despite the plot twist, the story itself follows a familiar route of a band of good guys fighting against the bad while facing their deepest secrets. And there is also the issue of inconsistency in the animation department. The visual quality of the fight scenes can range from fluid to messy, where the former instance is the kind of animation standard I expect most action series should at least meet, and the latter is like a pile of greyish confusion, which action series should not be going for.

The MarvelMadhouse project may be a bold initiative to bring a portion of Western cult classics into a different medium but the result so far has been, to put it mildly, utterly disappointing. Considering that its first two productions are throwaway material, X-Men comes off as a satisfactory consolation prize. It’s not that good per se: the characters are not so memorable and the plot is basically run-of-the-mill. On top of this, I wondered why the show used the “Dark Phoenix Saga” only as a precursor rather than the main plot, particularly when the arc alone makes for a highly compelling and daring storyline. To sum it up, X-Men is like an edgier, shorter and more simplified take on Fox Network‘s X-Men: The Animated Series back in 1992. I guess it’s fun to watch, and if one can mute the rages of their inner fanboy, they may appreciate this show for what it’s worth. I’m just wondering if this show could’ve been a lot better had it been a 2-cour series with more mutants involved.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: AC

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