Looks like I have another situation where I found a series to be not as bad as folks were passing it off to be with Iron Man, as much mixed reception I’ve heard of Madhouse-Marvel’s anime work. This is still standard fare, but I don’t find it to be horrifically bad. With that in mind, I’ll be tweaking my review format slightly like I did with my Upotte review to reflect on what worked and not worked with Iron Man. Now onto the review…
Iron Man is the first of four anime titles animated by Madhouse that adapted a popular superhero franchise from Marvel Comics. The series originally aired in Japan for 12 episodes from October 1 to December 17 of 2010. It was licensed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, who aired an English dubbed version of the series on G4 starting in July 2011 and was released on DVD in 2012.
Tony Stark arrives in Japan with the purpose of building an Arc Station that will provide clean energy to the populace and claims to have retired as Iron Man as he is working on a mass-produced version of his armor called Iron Man Dios that will serve in efforts to curb any global threats. However, his efforts are sabotaged by a secret terrorist organization called Zodiac, who steal the Dios armor and plot to hijack the Arc Station for their own nefarious purposes. Tony resumes his guise as Iron Man in order to combat the robotic threats of Zodiac and figure out the organization’s motives.
Madhouse clearly put effort into the animation used within Iron Man and it shows with the visual presentation being above average for a TV anime. The scenery of the Tokyo landscape is vast with plenty of detail and vibrant colors shown with buildings and different locales. Character designs appeared to be going for a more Western style with facial designs looking more realistic in their proportions and details compared to more conventional approaches, with a good amount of detail depicted in their designs as well. CG animation was used in the rendering of Iron Man and other robots/ battle armors seen throughout the series which look slick, detailed and fit almost seamlessly with the anime’s regular animation. Battle scenes are well animated with movements looking fluid and intense, taking place on the ground, the air and even an episode occurring in space
With the series seeming to be made in mind for those who seen the 2008 live-action American movie or read the comics, fans will likely pick up on the subtle nods made to events and characters from both sources. And for those who haven’t seen neither source, there is an episode in the anime that focuses on exploring Tony’s origins as Iron Man and what led him to adapt his mentality to use his wealth for the better of humanity.
The main plot to Iron Man is a standard one that has been done enough times in conventional anime titles where the hero (Iron Man) is up against an evil organization seeking world domination (Zodiac). The series adapts an “enemy of the day” style plot for each of its episodes where Tony goes up against a different enemy threat from Zodiac for much of the show. In addition, the motives of the organization and the leader of Zodiac are rather predictable as the series presses on, killing much of the surprise the anime wanted to build up. While these elements are not so bad, they feel no different from the typical premises you can find in more popular anime titles and make the show’s plot feel kind of bland.
The weakest material coming from Iron Man comes in the motives of characters involved with Zodiac. Some of the enemies in the anime’s “enemy of the day” setup are human threats whose motives for joining the organization are poorly written and just an excuse to have them go up against Tony. This is especially a problem with Yinsen’s character as the anime effectively retconned his fate, just to create a weak twist in its plot when his actions and reasoning for involvement in Zodiac are contradictory to the type of character he was in the movie and comics.
While its plot is clichéd and rather forgettable, Iron Man is far from being a dud in my personal opinion. Action anime and Iron Man fans could clamor to the series for its well-animated battle scenes or just be giddy to see Tony Stark made into an anime character. Plus, the anime still has some respectability for its source material in depicting Tony’s character and origins, despite how Yinsen is depicted. However unless you come into this series looking forward to the fights or seeing Tony being Tony, Iron Man isn’t pulling anything groundbreaking with its plot and you will likely be disappointed with what it portrays.