Joey is an orphan living with his grandmother in Center City on the West Coast of the United States of America. Joey, like any other boy his age, is interested in robots and gadgets and dreams about owning a particular toy robot called a Heybo. Heybos have very advanced mechanisms and controls but with great mechanisms comes great price; the robot is too expensive for Joey, whose only source of income is a part-time job at a restaurant and he needs that money to help support himself and his grandmother.
One day, when Joey is on his way home from school, he happens upon a couple of bullies who are playing around with a Heybo. Long story short, the bullies manage to get the robot run over by a car and Joey retrieves the wreckage from a trash can. Once home, Joey fixes the robot and names it Heroman. Later that night, a thunderstorm results in Heroman getting wet and, improbably, struck by lightning. The result is amazing, Heroman grows massive in size, gets emblazoned with the colors of the American flag and responds to Joey's commands!
At the same time in space, an alien race called the Skrugg is preparing an invasion of Earth. Now it's up to Joey and Heroman to save Earth!
Over the years there have been several attempts at merging Eastern manga and anime with Western comics and cartoons. Batman had two manga outings (Child of Dreams and Death Mask), while the X-Men saw their manga counterparts run straight into a wall. Spiderman and The Hulk made appearances as early as 1970, and many people already know about the promised anime adaptations of several well known titles (Wolverine, X-Men, Iron Man, etc).
The problem is that all of the attempts thus far have not been as successful as one might hope or expect. One of the reasons for this is because the titles that have been adapted to date are already well known, and each has a wealth of existing storyline that makes reinvention more difficult (which some may find odd, but have a think about and you'll understand why).
It's strangely ironic that it has once more fallen to Stan Lee to light the way forward.
Originally a manga written by Stan Lee himself and drawn by Ota Tamon, Heroman tells the story of Joey Jones (a true Stan Lee name), an orphan living with his grandmother in Centre City. He spends his days attending school and working part time at a cafe (where Stan is also a regular customer), but all the while he wishes more than anything to be a hero.
In all honesty I wasn't sure what to expect from Heroman. The name itself is very typically Stan Lee in its simplicity, but one would expect a tad more complexity from the story itself. The plot is very, very straight forward and in true Stan Lee fashion, the story can at times be very "preachy". That said, the simplicity of the tale is rather appealing as there aren't any of the hang ups typically associated with East-West crossovers.
The main reason for this is because Stan Lee decided against using pre-existing material and started from scratch on a totally new idea. He wanted to create "a hero for the 21st century", and in a certain sense he managed to achieve part of that goal. The only problem is that while Heroman may be a different take on traditional heroes for the Western world, the whole idea itself is a throwback where Eastern media is concerned.
An orphan and a giant robot are nothing new in anime and manga. Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still showed just how good the format could be given the right setting, story and characters, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Other shows like Tetsujin 28, Gad Guard, Top wo Nerae and even Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann all play around with the concept to a degree. Anime and mange are rife with tales of humans and their super robot counterparts, so it may seem a bit strange that Stan Lee would use the idea to herald a new age of crossovers.
Thankfully Stan is a very clever man (I'll explain this in a bit).
Bones have produced a very good looking show for the most part. The animation is very crisp and fluid, and the numerous actions scenes are choreographed very well. The characters follow Ota's original designs for the most part, and are reflective of the shows Western heritage, although one does have to wonder about the patterning on Heroman as it seems a bit too US-centric.
One thing that bears mentioning is the palette used throughout the series. Bright, bold colours abound which, together with the distinctly Western characters, give Heroman an air more akin to traditional Western comic book adaptations (the original X-Men cartoon for example).
Unfortunately, while the visuals may be very good, the same can't be said of the acting. Komatsu Mikako and Kimura Ryohei play the roles of Joey Jones and Simon Kaina fairly well, but the series has one inherent problem when it comes to acting. The whole show is geared towards a Western mentality, a factor which will inevitably cause problems for any seiyuu unfamiliar with the mindset. Because of this there are occasions where the acting in just doesn't seem to mesh well with the on screen action, and there are several occasions where the actors either ham it up too much or become completely wooden.
That said, the series will probably receive an English dub at some point, but whether that is better or not remains to be seen.
A big plus for Heroman is the quality of the sound effects, almost all of which are crisp, clear, and very well choreographed. The series is littered with great noises, whooshes and explosions, all of which would become a veritable cacophony if they were mixed with music, so it's a good thing the majority of the show is relatively unencumbered in that department. The background music is often subtle and varied, and the tracks are used in a very intelligent manner.
Like many other anime out there, Heroman makes use of two opening and ending themes to highlight the midway point of the series. The first twelve episodes feature "Roullette" by Tetsuya (of L'Arc-en-Ciel fame) as the OP, and "Calling" by Flow as the ED. Both are upbeat, but very typical, J-rock tracks that work quite well with the theme of the series.
The OP and ED for the second half of the series, "Missing" by Kylee and "Boku no Te wa Kimi no Tame ni" (My Hands For You), by Mass Alert, are far less upbeat than the first two tracks. "Missing" is more of an emotional rock track, with all that entails, while "Boku no Te wa Kimi no Tame ni" has a slight feeling of angst. Strangely though, both tracks are equally well suited to the series, especially given that events become more serious later on.
As for the characters themselves, well, anyone who has read a Stan Lee comic will find many things that are familiar, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're good. Joey develops fairly well over the course of the series, but the main problem is that he is the only character who receives any substantial growth. What is surprising is the lack of attention given to Simon, Lina, Professor Denton, and even William. It would have been nice to have more insight into their respective characters over the course of the show, and while there are some efforts made in that direction, these seem more like afterthoughts than anything else.
My main gripe with Heroman is that William Davis, Lina's older brother and the guy who keeps tormenting Joey, doesn't get anywhere near the attention he deserves. Yes, he starts off as a bully, but his transformation is just as profound as Joey's, and it would have been nice to see how his character copes with the change.
Now while it's pretty obvious that the series possesses a number of issues, that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. The truth is that even with all its flaws, Heroman is a rather entertaining series, especially as it's a throwback to the super robot shows of bygone days. Yes it has more cheese than Switzerland (and the plot has about as many holes), but the story is well put together and the whole thing looks good. Granted there are problems with the acting but they're mainly from cultural differences rather than a lack of talent.
Which brings me back to the reason why Stan Lee is a clever man. When one considers Heroman from a manga and anime perspective, it clearly falls short of the mark set by many other super robot tales. Likewise, when consider from the perspective of Western cartoons and comics the series is nowhere near the level of Stan Lee's more popular franchises.
Where people get it wrong is in assuming that Heroman is an attempt to cross the East-West divide. It isn't, and the proof of that is in the fact that we have a traditionally Japanese super robot show created by an American and set in the US. Heroman isn't an attempt to cross the divide, no, it's an attempt to bridge it. By choosing this type of show, Stan Lee is sending a message to both DC and Marvel that if they want to crack the Eastern markets then they need stop trying to re-invent existing heroes, and should instead focus on creating new content using existing manga and anime as inspiration.
Heroman may not be as good as some of the older super robot shows, but what it heralds may be a new dawn for anime and manga, especially if Marvel and DC get the message.
Okay guys, let's talk about HEROMAN, the current front runner for anime of the goddamned decade.
So one day Stan Lee got up and said "I bet I can put those crazy Japanese to work!"
And so he did.
The result is HEROMAN, a throwback to old comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, teenage superhero shows and the 90's in general with glorious HD Bones animation. This shit is so nostalgic that when the overly elaborate commercial bumpers showed up I literally heard "Heroman will be right back after these messages!". This series is also most likely the most American(superior) anime ever produced. Taking place in CENTER CITY, CALIFORNIA, all the architecture, cars, people and etc are distinctly American. Like 30 seconds into the episode you see a traffic pile up, a Hummer, an oil refinery, several American flags, a garbage truck, a black person, a yellow school bus, Stan Lee having coffee, a most likely crime-ridden suburban neighborhood, a cheerleader, Flash Thompson and capitalistic toy commercials. I shed _tears_ when I saw that fucking school bus.
But yeah, basically it's about this kid who's suspiciously similar to Peter Parker. He gets picked on by jocks. One day he fixes up an action figure, the action figure gets struck by lightning and BAM, there's a giant, scowling Captain America knockoff looking at him like "the hell do you want, kid?". Then they go save the day after the kid punches his giant wristwatch. This giant guy is the titular HEROMAN, and he basically has one setting: Punch the shit out of stuff. Perfectly fitting for the most American mecha since Megas XLR.
Animation's obviously great.
The ED for this series is one of the best ever, because I know Stan Lee probably directed it. The whole thing is like a moving American comic book and you see Heroman playing baseball and the drums. It's just awesome as hell.
Then we come to the one flaw, most likely put in there on purpose by bones to get back at Stan Lee for making them do this. The main character, Joey Jones, is probably the girliest male lead in any robot show ever. Noriko and Nono were infinitely more masculine than this kid. Don't know who those people are? Get the hell outta here and watch Gunbuster and Gunbuster 2, and in the mean time cry that you haven't already. But yeah, Joey is a woman. He has a girl's voice, he dresses like a girl, his body structure is like a girl and all of his mannerisms and movements are those of a girl. It's almost creepy to know that this kid is a male. I bet there's a collective terabyte of yaoi featuring him already, and that's just awful.
But that's only on the outside. As of two episodes in, Joey is a competent and almost hotblooded hero. No fear, no whining. Hell, the kid runs at the giant cockroach aliens right aside Heroman like a badass.
Oh and his best friend is a cross between Tai Kamiya and Joseph Gribble. That's cool.
Verdict: Get to watching. And also start watching Night Raid, House of Five Leaves and RAINBOW too.read more
This is a Stan Lee production in full. But it is severely lacking in many areas. The main protagonist, Joey, is a whiny kid who wears his pants to tight and relies heavily on his "cool" friend, Psy.
The robot, the titular Heroman, is disappointing. It looks like a direct tip-off of the Michelin man and whatever motion capture they used for the running of the thing is strange looking. Most of the time is spent listening to Joey's angst between shouting really uninspired attack names at the robot, which has to ask permission from the kid to to attacks that it already knows to do.
The antagonists are giant space bugs (yet again) and possibly the bully characters.
And Stan Lee also makes a requisite cameo to stroke his ego one more time.
Heroman is a weird one. I'm not talking about the actual content since I always write these opening paragraphs before watching the series or film. No, I'm referring to the fact that it was written by Smiling Stan Lee. Yes, the same one who was President and CEO of the United States' Marvel Comics back before they lost their damn minds and made a lot of insanely stupid decisions like Jubilee becoming a vampire, Nightcrawler becoming half demon, Polaris being retconned as Magneto's daughter, Speedball becoming Penance and if I keep listing these we'll be here for tens of thousands of words. Anyway, Stan Lee wrote the original manga with illustrations by Ohta Tamon. It picked up an anime adaptation not even a year after the manga started getting released from Bones. The same studio behind Soul Eater, Fullmetal Alchemist and Wolf's Rain. So, have Stan Lee's skills at writing goofy and highly entertaining silver age style stories held up and if so how well do they transition to anime format? Face front, True Believers, let's look at Heroman and find out.
Young Joseph Jones is a poor teenager living on the west coast. One day he takes a broken toy robot from the garbage and decides to fix it. But fate has its own plans for young Joey. After a lightning bolt strikes the robot it grows to a massive size, transforming into the titular titan Heroman. Joey finds that he can control the behemoth after helping avert a highway disaster. The two face their great challenge when evil aliens called the Skrugg follow a radio signal to Earth with the intent of destroying the planet. Zounds, how will our heroes handle this situation?
The story itself is kind of lacking. The skrugg are evil for the evils and don't really have even slightly developed motivations. There's also a lot about the plot that doesn't make much sense not the least of which is bolts of lightning being magic. Heroman gains new abilities as needed by the plot which can come across as overly convenient. The story is also kind of predictable since it does follow a silver age aesthetic. However, the story is fun and a lot of the goofier elements do work in the context of a silly superhero story and those elements that are pretty predictable are vague enough that you can still enjoy watching it. It just doesn't have much tension since it's less a matter of “will they get through the situation” and more a matter of “how will they do it”. Part of what makes the goofier elements work is that it doesn't take itself too seriously and it does have several very funny moments to show for it.
The series has characters who largely follow tropes. Including the scientist who does all the scientific stuff instead of having a particular field of study. They aren't bad characters by any means and most of the main cast does get some good character moments. They just don't extend very far from their tropal traits, which kind of works for the series. Heroman himself is a really good example since he's largely defined by... well, being heroic. He can't speak, or chooses not to, and rarely does anything besides fight for justice. It works in context since Joey has to initiate his transformation from a toy to a giant and he's a robot. I also appreciate the fact that regular humans largely don't respond to Heroman with hatred and mistrust, which is a bit of a departure from most of Stan Lee's creations.
The artwork is pretty good. Not the best I've seen from Bones but still well done. It features really good action sequences, some interesting alien designs and background Stan Lee because that guy's been appearing in his own work and in things based on his work since... he and Jack Kirby showed up in Uncanny X-men 98, I think. The character designs aren't bad, although Spike Spiegel would consider Psy's hair going too far and Lina almost always wears her cheerleading uniform for no good reason. In all fairness, Psy, Joey, Holly and Professor Denton rarely change clothes either, but she's the worst offender just because her regular outfit is a uniform that's supposed to be worn for practices and actual athletic events. Not as a regular thing.
The performances are pretty good. Particularly coming from Komatsu Mikako, Kimura Ryouhei, Obata Mayu & Yasumura Makoto. The music is also well done, overall. It goes well with the aesthetic.
There really isn't any. The ho-yay factor is a 1/10.
Heroman is a goofy series with under-developed characters and a story that doesn't make a lot of sense in several ways. And I kind of love it. In an age where most super hero comics have gone a darker and stupider route, a series like Heroman that returns to a more fun, exciting, and light-hearted sensibility is very much a welcome change. It blends anime norms with silver age super hero norms and the result is just a very enjoyable experience. It's not deep, but it is unquestioningly and unabashedly fun. Check it out if you're a fan of more light-hearted super hero works or if you just like silly action works. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Excelsior! Next week, I end the year with a look at Heat Guy J.read more
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