Aiming to coexist with humans, the X-Men, an elite group of mutants, have dedicated their lives protecting people like themselves and also the people who fear and hate them. For many of us the X-Men's story is a well-known, thanks to 20th Century Fox's movies, various animated television shows and comic books about this mutant super-hero team. The first episode of Madhouse's X-Men anime is no different.
Being Madhouse and Marvel's third twelve-episode series brings different kinds of expectations from everyone. In my case those expectations were not met but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The episode begins with this interpretation of the X-Men fighting their fellow teammate Jean Grey, in her not-so-lucid form known as the Phoenix. (An overused plot point, sure, but it has worked all these years.) Putting aside Scott Summers/Cyclops' over dramatic screams, this first scene set up the team, their powers and the tone neatly. By the end of this scene Jean Grey dies, (shocker right?) but the interesting part is that while the team blames a mutant illusionist called Mastermind, Scott realizes that there is another mutant involved: Emma Frost. After the introductory credits the actual story begins.
The X-Men have disbanded and Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters has been closed for a year now. The rest of the episode is just about bringing the team back together to aid a young mutant girl in Japan named Hisako Ichiki (known as Armor in the X-Men comics) who has been kidnapped by the Inner Circle and their awesome-looking Sentinels. As an avid comic book reader my perception of this first episode is "well-informed" (I spend a lot of time on Anime Vice's sister site: Comic Vine) and for me this was all a big déjà vu.
The set-up reminds me a lot of the canceled animated series: Wolverine and the X-Men. Of course, unlike Nickelodeon's show, this first episode was a bit slow-paced. Aside from the first scene, the episode only focused on character traits and premise set up. The combination of an American story handled by Japanese storytellers is no as seamless as one would hope. Yet, one must always remember that this was originally made for a Japanese audience, one that probably is not as aware of the X-Men as Americans would be.
Anime is known for it's "extraordinary" tales, taking things to the limit, but a lot of this seemed restricted by its original counterpart, including the disappointing X-Men 90's-esque opening sequence. Originally, I kind of expected a story-line that would fit better with a Japanese tone. Aside from the squid with human intelligence who gives classes at a university this was very much Americanized. From an anime-viewing standpoint this would probably come off as bland but this isonly the first episode.
I probably do not know how to perceive the show. Should I look at it as an anime or a US-influenced animated series? Aside from that I have to say that the voice acting was pretty good on the most part and the animation is very attractive. It is a satisfying introduction to what the rest of the series will be. I will certainly continue to watch the anime and try not to judge the rest of the series by its first episode.
Episode 1: The Return - Joining Forces
Summary: When Jean "Phoenix" Grey's mind is taken control of by Mastermind and the Inner Circle, she sacrifices herself to protect the world. A year has passed since Jean's death, and the X-Men have since disbanded and the Xavier Institute closed. When Professor X receives word that a mutant named Hisako Ichiki has been kidnapped, he sends out a call to Storm, Wolverine and Beast. After being informed they are to fly to the Tōhoku region of Japan, where Xavier's psychic abilities cannot seem to reach, Wolverine and Storm go to talk to Cyclops, who has been brooding since Jean's death, in order to convince him to join them.
Company: Madhouse Studios
Air Date: April 1, 2011 (JP) / October 21, 2011 (NA)
Run Time: 23:33
Watch on G4 Fridays at 11PM ET
-- Geo (sora_thekey) 24/7 geek! -- Follow me on Twitter: @sora_thekey