The Iron Man character has received an incredible boost in popularity lately, not surprising considering the tremendous success of the two movies directed by John Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. This success has been translated into toys, videogames, soundtracks and other merchandise. Now it’s turn for Iron Man to have his own anime.
This isn’t Iron Man’s first venture into the animated world as he has starred in several cartoons through the years. This is however, the first one developed by a Japanese studio, the incredibly talented Madhouse Animation, the first in a four series deal with Marvel Comics.
The story sees American hero Tony Stark AKA Iron Man travelling to Japan to develop a new reactor that will create clean energy for the entire country. Shortly after arriving, one of his experimental suits is stolen and he’s attacked by a giant robot, which reveals itself to be part of “Zodiac”, an organization planning to use technology to take over Japan. As the story progresses he discovers more secrets about Zodiac, makes new friends (and enemies) and becomes Japan’s most talked about man.
The episodes are, for the most part, pretty straightforward. They never bother to go beyond point A to point B. Which in some way is fine because it saves the viewer from a lot of filler, but considering the main plot is very boring and predictable, it would’ve been nice to have some distractions.
Just what makes the story so boring? Well, it’s pretty ridiculous to begin with, which wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t take itself so seriously. Not only that but the pacing is all over the place, too much time is spent in nearly impossible to understand-technobabble rather than plot and character development and action. And it seems as if the writers couldn’t make their mind as to what version of Iron Man to follow, the anime tries to combine the realistic approach of the movies with the more fantastical elements of the comics, and the result is a laughable mess.
Another thing that disappoints almost as much as the story is the lack of characters from the comics other than Tony himself. Fans of Justin Hammer, Obadiah Stane, Jimmy Rhodes or Peppert Pots are sure to be disappointed and will have to make do with the new characters, which aren’t terrible, but are not as memorable or likeable. Tony tries too hard to be like Downey Jr.’s version of the character, and for the most part nails the “wild card” attitude, but it’s missing the darker side of the character. Where’s the alcoholism? The daddy issues? All that could’ve made him much more interesting.
The saving grace of the anime is the action. We get at least one fight per episode and they all look great, though sometimes they are hard to follow. The robots are done with CGI instead of traditional animation which makes them look much cooler. And the fights are not the only good looking thing. The whole series is wonderfully animated and nails the style it’s going for. The music on the other hand is full with generic guitar tracks and melodramatic tunes.
Iron Man is a decent first effort. But the fact that they didn’t explore the better elements of the character and delivered such a convoluted story makes it a disappointment. It’s still watchable, and fans of the character shouldn’t miss it, but don’t go in expecting greatness.