The X-Men are reunited following the death of a teammate, and are summoned by Charles Xavier to Japan following the abduction of Hisako Ichiki (Armor). There, they confront the U-Men, a lunatic cult that steals and transplants mutant organs to further strengthen their own army, and the battle for justice is on.
I'm a huge X-men fan. What makes that rough for me is that I'm also a big believer in canon and continuity. In other words, movies like Wolverine: Origins and the First Class movies just make me angry, as a fan that spends half the time trying to get backstories right. Which is why I was so happy with the two X-men based anime, Wolverine and X-men. They were perfectly done, perfectly converted from West to East.
STORY: I had to laugh out loud. When the anime started it was like reliving my childhood, watching an updated (and non-English) version of X-men: The Animated Series.
The thing about continuity in comics that are long running is that you can't simply can't explain things like the Phoenix in 5 minutes. So they manipulate stories, characters, and the like to use them in their own way and kinda make sense. Having the X-men go to Japan to rescue a Japanese young mutant made sense! And by the end of the anime we essentially had the Astonishing X-men line up.
Also, the story focuses on a 'line that was popular in the earlier comics: People hate mutants. That's just not a plot that's touched on much anymore (mainly due to the lack of mutants in the comicsverse), and it's a classic. It was good to see.
Art: Again, old school X-men TAS reminiscent. It's a more mature style then most anime, but it's also more Western. Especially the T and A. Reminded me quite a bit of Jim Lee's work.
Sound: So dramatic! Fit the story very well.
Character: Wow, the banter between Wolverine and Cyclops (or Cyclopsu if you want to get technical) was great. Characters were pretty close to their comic book counterparts, all the way down to Jean begging to be killed, Cyclops being emo, Beast the genius, etc. Storm could have been improved upon but frankly I liked the difference in anime Storm versus comic book Storm. She had a very cool look to her. And Wolverine was just awesome; and I'm saying that as someone who is not generally a Wolverine fan.
Enjoyment: I seriously enjoyed this anime and it ties in to the Wolverine anime pretty well. I'm very glad Marvel had a heavy hand in making it, wish they'd put so much devotion into their movies too. I recommend this anime for X-men fans and those new to X-men alike.
To say X-Men is the best of Madhouse's Marvel anime is to damn the series with the faintest of praises. Yes, it's better than the likes of Iron Man, but there's still something vital missing here.
I want to say that that something is heart, but each episode's so lovingly animated that this time I can't really accuse Madhouse of not trying. Indeed, I kept up with X-Men for that reason: this is a fluid and excitingly drawn series that, in the end, just never convinces us that these characters are worth caring for.
Cyclops is the angsty pretty boy and Wolverine the wise-cracking bastard;
that's all we get from them. This wouldn't be problem if the series didn't go out of its way to try the viewer's emotion, but there's just too much empty melodrama here, and as it gradually becomes clear that X-Men can't handle its characters, the series devolves into an increasingly hollow experience, where the more I just want to see stuff blow up, the more we're dragged through the likes of Xavier's dull dealings with old flames and bastard children.
Quite frankly, I felt empty after watching this, like I'd wasted my time. Never again, I say!
Let's go back to our old friends at Madhouse in their attempts to adapt Marvel comics. I've already looked at Blade, which was okay, but let's look at another attempt. In this case, the X-men, a super hero team that hasn't been well written in the comics proper since Chris Claremont's run ended. Which is a pity since Claremont's run made them my favourite super hero team. It's not like they've gotten all bad writers either. They got Grant Morrison and he can do really well when writing original works or when given proper oversight. Unfortunately, they let him off his leash for his run
on the book and he piddled on everything, as Grant Morrison is wont to do. Can Madhouse succeed where so many have failed? I'm going to go full blown nerd and take a look.
Our tale opens up with the very end of the Dark Phoenix Saga, which is a bad sign right off the bat. The saga worked in the comics, well the first time it was used, because there was a lot of build up, time to get invested and because it was done in a time when super heroes almost never died and when characters stayed dead as opposed to coming back in a couple months. But this has no build up at all. If you don't know the comics then you have no reason to care about what's happening and if you do you've probably gotten used to seeing Jean die at this point and it just doesn't affect you anymore, whether you like her as a character or not. During the fight, the X-men notice that Jean was being manipulated by the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle, which they just refer to as the Inner Circle in this. A year passes and Xavier summons Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine & Storm to the Institute because he finds out there's something strange going on in Japan. There's a region where neither Cerebro nor Xavier can scan and mutants there are going missing.
There are quite a few issues in this, some more minor and some significant. I'll go over them one by one, in no particular order, not including the mishandling of the Dark Phoenix Saga since I already talked about it. For starters, this series has a lot of short, dumb moments. Beast giving a squid a microphone that enables it to speak English, the characters standing around talking and expositing when they should be taking action, the villains having a good chance to kill the heroes but not bothering because they haven't finished going over the details of their evil plan yet, Cyclops' motorcycle that fires missiles and laser beams. Why does a guy who can fire solar powered optic blasts need a weapon-laden motorcycle? Does he just have a laser fetish? Wouldn't that be like Wolverine's motorcycle having claws? He can just hit the stud on his glove or bring one hand up to his visor. Oh, wait his costume in this doesn't have the glove button. The field leader of the X-men, Everyone, he gets rid of his iconic costume for something that looks terrible and doesn't have one of its most useful features. That was surely a smart decision. Those aren't even all the little dumb moments. There's a scene where they're trudging through a blizzard, freezing and shuddering. The problem being that Storm can control the weather. She should be able to banish something like this in seconds so that they can do what they need to do. There's also a scene where they're in the Blackbird and a flying mutant attacks them. Who do they send to fight a flying mutant in mid-air, while traveling at a rapid velocity? No, it's not the person who can fly. They send Wolverine. Yeah, his healing factor isn't going to save him if he falls off of a flying jet. Hell, Cyclops had to slow his descent to save his life when Proteus threw him off a cliff and this is going to be a lot worse of a fall then that.
Moving on to the bigger problems, there's a lot of lazy writing in this. Early on, Storm gets weakened from using her powers a bit and it feels like a flimsy excuse to take her out of the fight. The problem is that anyone who knows the character knows that she doesn't weaken that fast. She once brought a massive storm to Latveria that threatened to destroy Doom's castle and warped the weather for dozens of kilometres and she only became tired when dispelling it. If you don't know the character it just makes her look ineffectual, which isn't an ideal way to portray one of your heroes in a serious work. Beast also gets an electronic scanner that does whatever the plot needs it to do. Then we've got Mastermind, who's the leader of the Hellfire Club in this for some reason. Did they not want to use Sebastian Shaw because that one terrible film made him a nazi? They add telepathy to his powers, even though he's never had telepathy in the comics, and he's, apparently, strong enough that he can manipulate the minds of two different mutants who are supposedly the most powerful telepaths in existence. How exactly does he manage that when he's supposed to be far less powerful than them? Never explained. Then we have our continuity problems. When talking to Hisako, a new character, Storm tells her about how she was lost and couldn't control her powers properly until meeting Xavier. Except that she had full control over them and was revered as a Goddess when Xavier went to recruit her to rescue the original X-men from Krakoa. Why even change that detail? Then we've got the problem with the major conflict. It's basically a rehashing of the Proteus plot line, except done ineptly. The secondary mutation thing is stupid. Yes, I know they did it in the comics too, and it was stupid there too. The climax is just really weak.
On the positive side, they do handle the conflict with Emma Frost joining the X-men somewhat competently.
This series has some characters who were interesting and well developed... in the comics. You wouldn't know it to watch them here. They come across as pretty one-dimensional and a lot of their dialogue is stilted. To make matters worse, their habit of standing around rambling about how “they should do something” while not actually taking action makes them look like a group of incompetent morons. Xavier gets it the worst since we find out that he has yet another kid he never knew about. Dude, use a damn condom. The villains aren't any better. Mastermind and his group get a really good opportunity to kill the X-men but they take so long to get around to it that the X-men escape. Our secondary villains, the U-men, are just stupid and evil for the evils. They're like a 90s dark and gritty take on badly written Silver Age villains who never got developed . We have Grant Morrison to thank for this stain on the X-men's Rogues Gallery, and I do hope that someone rubbed his nose in it and told him that he was being bad. Otherwise he'll never learn. On a slightly positive note, there is some stuff with Emma Frost acting as a teacher to Hisako that's pretty decent.
I will give the series some credit on this one. There's a lot about the art that's really well detailed and done. Unlike the Blade anime, they actually get Wolverine's brutish appearance basically right. Although he's still too tall and his height fluctuates from scene to scene. Seriously, they make him roughly as tall as Storm and she's supposed to be a good twenty centimetres, or eight inches, taller than him. Speaking of messing up with Storm, they get her eye colour wrong in this. Although the X-men do, for the most part, look like themselves. I will, however, say that the art really fails when it comes to facial expressions. The major characters spend the bulk of their time grimacing, snarling or just looking generally grim even when nothing bad is happening. Are super heroes not allowed to have fun ever? They also made the bold choice of using the worst costumes the X-men have ever sported. See, there was a time when Marvel decided that super hero costumes couldn't be colourful or visually appealing, they had to be stupid looking and with really muted colours. In this case, mostly black with a little bit of dull yellow. The one exception is Emma Frost, who gets a costume so ridiculously fan-servicey that it makes her White Queen attire look prudish. The fight scenes are mixed. Some of them work pretty well, others are a garbled mess where you can barely tell what's happening.
The cast they get in this isn't bad, but they don't exactly give their best performances. I don't blame Tamura Yukari, Hisakawa Aya, Morikawa Toshiyuki or any of the other actors for that. They're just playing a group of perpetually snarling people who don't have any emotional depth. Because that's the route Madhouse decided to take. The music isn't bad either, but it is kind of dull.
There are a few scenes between Emma Frost and Hisako where Hisako seems to be a bit “hot for teacher” but that's the extent of the ho-yay for the series. A possible schoolgirl's crush.
This series is really bad. The story line is riddled with problems, both small and huge, without having anything to make up for them. The characters are insultingly one-dimensional, particularly if you're a fan of the comics. The art is the best part of the series and even it has its share of issues. The voice acting is passable but not good. If you want to see the X-men at their best, track down anything from Chris Claremont's run. It lasted nearly two decades so there's a lot there. Alternatively, you could look for the 90s cartoon from Saban Entertainment. If you want to see them at their worst... well, this isn't as bad as House of M, but it wouldn't be a bad choice. My final rating is a 2/10. Next week, Ankoku Cat.
Part of a 4-series deal between Marvel and Madhouse, I eagerly anticipated the X-men anime. Based off a comic that features my favorite Marvel Comic team, the X-men anime focuses on the titular group as they re-form several years after the death of a teammate (for your comic fans, guess who gets to kick the bucket). In the process of investigating the exploits of a psychotic cult known as the U-Men, the X-men recruit two new female teammates and discover there's more to the U-Men's plot then meets the eye . . .
Story (6/10): The story of the X-men anime is a mish-mash of various
comic book story-lines, only set in Japan instead of the U.S. The story is fairly well-structured, and each episode leaves viewers guessing at what the outcome of the next episode will be. It keeps you hooked to the end, and the flaws that crop up here and there won't dissuade viewers from seeing this one to the end.
Unfortunately, Warren Ellis's yarn just doesn't weave into a great story. As characters, the U-Men are pretty bland, only defined by how despicable their schemes are. Their enigmatic leader has a lot of gravitas, but even he's bland as far as egomaniacs go. Pacing is also pretty bad, with big twists happening with little lead-up provided by the conversations between characters. One mysterious organization from the comics that gets some backstory in the show doesn't really make a proper appearance in this show, despite having build-up. In addition, one of the most popular X-men stories that ends up incorporated in this series lacks weight here because one of the key characters involved, as well as his relationship to a main in the series, isn't properly developed. While emotional ties made the original arc, it doesn't really work well here, and the climax is unsatisfying because of it.
On a more minor note, the X-men roster in this anime (Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, and later Emma Frost and Armor) is a bit odd. Comic book fans will inevitably find the roster odd, as the main cast basically feels like a fragmented version of the New X-men from the Chris Claremont days. On the plus side, the writer carefully plants mythology nods and characters to appease comic fans (which I certainly appreciated).
Art (8/10): Madhouse delivers a visual experience fitting of the X-men. Characters are rendered with lush detail that emphasizes darker colors to match with the grimmer atmosphere of the series. Even Wolverine's crazy-hair (which took a BIT for me to get used to), is faithful to his comic design. Aside from some ridiculous proportions on the part of the female characters, all of the character designs satisfied my desire to see well-proportioned characters in anime every so often. Each major/minor character design is also distinct, and the villains in particular get some really freaky yet cool-looking designs.
Background are drop-dead gorgeous from the front lawn of the X-mansion to the holo-screens brimming with detailed English text. The colors also compliment the series' tone very well, supplying dark colors in much the same way the palette does. The animation, meanwhile, is good. Fight scenes are intricate and fast-paced, though a couple do turn into shaky-cam messes. The only time this quality slips is during casual conversation scenes. It's a bit limited, and relies too much on the voice actors to sell the characters.
Sound (7/10): The opening and ending themes in this series are cool, but lack the staying power that the 90s X-men series' theme had. The music is fine, but so standard, I rarely ever took notice of it.
The voice cast, on the other hand, is impressive. I only saw a little bit of the Japanese vocals, and I feel the voices lacked the character and distinctiveness needed to give the X-men justice. The English cast, on the other hand, is superb. Scott Porter gives a solid performance as Cyclops, blending his leadership experience, angst, and new found cynicism into each of his lines. Steve Blum and Fred Tatasciore steal the show as Wolverine and Beast. Here, Steve Blum is not only re-visiting his anime roots, but playing a character he's acted for years, resulting in a smooth, grizzly performance that fits the adamantium berserker perfectly. Fred Tatasciore, meanwhile, voices a Beast that embodies his scientific skill and trademark wit very well. Storm's actress exudes confidence and the motherly affection trademark of the character. Finally, Stephenie Sheh as newcomer Armor is great casting, as she sells the high school girl adjusting to the role of a X-man, yet still trying to be confident, extraordinarily well.
Emma Frost, however, was fairly forgettable. Her wispy, slightly icy delivery didn't have the punch that Kari Wahlgren's brilliant, very British performance in Wolverine and the X-men did. Meanwhile, Cam Clarke's Professor X is too ordinary to be worth mentioning. The extras and minor villains are fine but aren't particularly memorable. I can't give away who the major villain is, but Travis Willingham gives him a LOT of flair and sometimes, almost made me forget at the core of it, his character is kinda bland.
Character (8/10): As an X-men series, the central goal of the writer is to effectively show the comradery of the team. Warren Ellis does that excellently here.
From Cyclops and Wolverine's pool games, to Storm and Wolverine's contrasting personalities, and Beast and Cyclops' casual friendship, this series captures the dynamic between the X-men pitch perfectly. Each character feels thought-out and realized, and there reactions to newcomer Armor are very in-character. As for the character herself, I was surprised to find she was no way near as annoying as Jubilee in the 90s X-men series (though, her forced importance to the final conflict is a bit irritating and fanficy in nature) and was actually compelling in her own way. Professor X's characterization doesn't break any new ground, but Warren Ellis effectively relays his personality as well.
Unfortunately, Emma Frost is bland, and at odd with her comics persona. This wouldn't necessarily be unwarranted if her discovered morality was fleshed-out, but the character almost takes her turn to good as understandable. We get some peeks into the loneliness she felt as a mutant, but her turn to good still doesn't ring true. It's never sufficiently laid out why she betrayed the group of villains she belongs to, so I was never really sold on nice, mentor to Armor Emma.
The same could be said for the villains. Despite being visually interesting and having cool abilities, none of them really had much character. I suppose this isn't much of a problem for a quirky mini-boss squad, but this problem carries over to our big bad as well. Despite how cool his design and voice is, his scheme comes off as crazy and doesn't really mesh with his character aside from him just being evil. While evil overlords are fine, not enough time is given to his growth as a person, especially considering the myth arc he has.
There are two significant characters who I can't get too much in to because of spoilers. One is a scientist who taught Armor at a school similar to Xavier's in the past. Her personality is based off a character in the comics, and Warren Ellis tries desperately to convince us she's a strong character. And while I'll say she's well-justified, for how significant this person is, I never really connected with her. Meanwhile, the other character who plays a significant part in the climax really doesn't get any character and comes off as a one-dimensional macguffin.
Enjoyment (8/10): The biggest reason I enjoyed X-men was because of how loyal it was to the characters. The show looks and feels like a contemporary Marvel Comics story (but with more Japan) and gets the characters better than most of the modern comics do. I was intrigued by the plot and wanted to continue to watch it just to find out how it all ended up. I enjoyed Madhouse's well-directed fight scenes, and the friendly banter amongts the characters. Heck, I even enjoyed the token newbie female character more than I thought it would. Even if the plot lacked weight thanks to its flat villains, the mystery surrounding their intention was fun, and I felt Warren Ellis tried his hardest to sell each of the personalities in this stories.
Overall (8/10): I would absolutely recommend this series to X-men/Marvel Comic fans, as well as people not familiar with Marvel but are fans with anime. Its villains are severely short-changed, but the main cast is so likable and true to the pathos set up by the comics, I connected to them instantly. The fight scenes also put the characters abilities on display nicely. Sure, it's got several flaws, but it's a strong story that sells the colorful characters well.
While America sees plenty of anime on its shores, you might be surprised at how many American shows make it to Japan. From on-screen comic book heroes, to cult classic flicks, these 11 American shows and films have some "interesting" anime adaptations.