IRON MAN 1:01-1.02 Review

Tony Stark heads to Japan in the first of four Marvel Anime series.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

The long awaited Iron Man Anime series has landed on G4, just over a year since its U.S. home was announced at Comic-Con. And no one can accuse Marvel of jumping into Anime lightly. With a story by Warren Ellis and animation by the Japanese Studio, Madhouse; Iron Man and the three other Marvel Anime series should have had instant credibility with comic book and Anime fans.

Unfortunately, that's more true in theory than in execution.

The story finds Tony Stark (Adrian Pasdar) ready to retire Iron Man for good and move to Japan to create a new arc reactor as the start of an initiative to give the world free energy. And to replace his armored alter ego, Stark assigns three new pilots to wear his Iron Man Dio armor before mass producing them.

From an animation standpoint, most of the Iron Man visuals are crisp and exciting. Tony Stark and the other human characters don't look quite as good as the technology and armor, but they're fairly easy to accept. This show clearly takes its cue from the Iron Man movies with Robert Downey Jr. and it replicates several visuals from the films; including the way Stark controls the armor and the way that he puts it on.

However, the story doesn't seem quite as polished. Stark's motivations are largely glossed over and he's portrayed so closely to his film incarnation that Downey should probably have gotten a special credit for this. Pasdar delivers a passable Iron Man. He's not great, but he's at least somewhat believable as the cool exec with a heart of steel.

But Anime dubs have long had a bad reputation for shoddy acting and sadly, Iron Man continues that trend. The vast majority of the English voice actors on this show are beyond atrocious. There is no heart behind any of these performances and if I didn't know better, I would have guessed that this was a fan dub.

Special disdain has to be reserved for Eden Riegel's character, Nanami Ota; a largely incompetent reporter obsessed with getting an interview with Stark. Do you remember the days when Lois Lane would throw herself out of a building to prove that Clark Kent was Superman? Nanami makes that Lois seem calm and rational.

The entire tone of the series changes every time that Nanami enters the story and the resulting slapstick is more embarrassing than anything else. It doesn't help that Stark's lone defining characteristic when he's out of the armor is a desire to kiss Nanami or Dr. Chika Tanaka (Laura Bailey), the beautiful scientist in his employ. 

The rest of the first episode revolves around Stark losing control of the Dio armor; which ends up in the hands of the Zodiac organization… which apparently recruits villains on the basis of how loudly they can shout their names before fighting. The initial Zodiac design is bizarre and actually works because it seems so alien to the series. But Iron Man dispatches him so quickly that it doesn't amount to more than a cameo.

In the second episode, Stark finds himself accused of smuggling nuclear materials into Japan. And while Stark chases the real thieves, guess who happens to be carrying a camera box that looks just like the box the thieves are using for the plutonium? If you guessed Nanami, then you've seen any animated series, ever.  

And sure enough, the rest of the episode devolves into a chase sequence, with the bad guys chasing Nanami with an invisible tank and Iron Man attempting to pursue. On a side note, the inside of Stark's car morphs into another machine that puts on his Iron Man armor, in the coolest sequence of both episodes.

There's also a new character introduced, whose voice actor is amazingly bad. When the Japanese operative on the motorcycle berates Stark for breaking the laws of his country, it was as if the voice director asked the actor to read the lines as if he was the special voice feature on Final Draft.

For all of the apparent weaknesses of the story, Iron Man could have been truly special if the voice cast had been chosen with care. The shocking lack of good performers seems to scream that this was dubbed on the cheap.

And there is no excuse for that.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5/10