I don’t know about you, but when I heard the X-Men anime was coming to Netflix my hype levels were on Iceman walking into Studio 54 with Emma Frost and Dazzler on his arms! The X-Men are so iconic I’m gonna skip over the drawn out intro, include the trailer (above) from 2011 and hit you with some honest feedback; this anime should be the shit, but it’s nothing special. I’ll break it down by story, characters, and animation.
Same Story, Different Setting
When you hear the words anime and X-Men in the same sentence, you expect a crazy story, impressive action, smart writing, and a wild use of powers. Sadly, there wasn’t much of that to go around and it’s a big missed opportunity for Marvel and Japan. Following the death of Jean, the X-Men are disbanded, and Cyclops sulks for 365 days straight. In due time, Professor X gets the band back together when mutants disappear from and strange things start going down in Japan.
Most of the 12-episode season is about the X-Men investigating missing mutants like Armor, battling the mutant organ harvesting group of haters called the U-Men, and discovering the oh so mysterious truth that there are more powerful forces pulling the strings.
The theme of hatred is ever present. Japanese citizens repeatedly make disparaging comments, so it’s clear that mutant discrimination is not exclusive to America. On one hand that’s a welcome angle, but it has been done over and over in X-Men comics, movies, and shows. If you’re going to turn the astonishing X-Men into a legit Japanese anime production, you’ve got to come with more creativity than that fam. Eventually, secondary mutations become the focus, yet it always feels like a secondary plot point as the X-Men dig deeper into the telepathy blocking secrets of Tohoku and an old colleague of Charles Xavier.
We Out to Japan. Who’s Coming?
There is no X-Men team without their fearless leader Scott Summers, and while he’s ready for duty most of the season, it takes him a little while to get there. There’s no real way to get into Cyclops’ character without getting into some *light spoilers* so I’ll keep it brief. Ya boy was so hurt after Jean caught the Phoenix RIPs that he brooded, ate, slept, stared, stood, and cried at her death site for a year then came back to the squad and was the most militaristic, one-dimensional, emo, Emma Frost hating character I’ve ever seen.
Speaking of Ms. Frost, it takes a few episodes for the White Queen to get elevated to a lead hero, but they do a really good job with her character once she’s introduced. They manage to capture her penchant for education and mentoring, and they rise to the challenge of introducing Emma as a member of the X-Men. The details of her diamond form (like not being able to use her telepathy in that form) are presented properly, and she becomes one of the most likeable X-Men in this anime.
Logan is the other character that this show gets right. His brute mentality is properly displayed from start to finish. He goes from wildn’ out on a TSA agent because of the metal detector, to asking Beast to repeatedly punch him in the face to go berserker mode. His height is flat out wrong, but you can easily get past that with the boatload of one-liners he’s continuously blessed with. He butts head with Cyclops on the regular, yet they put their differences aside when it’s time to give bad guys the business, and that’s what these two are all about.
Storm is, arguably, this anime’s biggest travesty. She’s a legit one trick pony, and it disgusts me. How dare you include the weather goddess in your far east adaptation and only allow her to use her lightning powers the entire show? Seriously, I can only recall one time she uses any other form of weather and it’s in one brief scene in the first episode! Then you paint her as this incompetent mutant who ran to Professor X when she was commanding earth-shattering storms years before joining the squad? I could keep going. And look, I understand you can’t have an omega level mutant crushing everyone on sight, but that’s where smart writing comes into play.
Beast is barely passable as a genius. Far too often he is placed in conversations with other smart people and given technology or devices that make it seem like he’s the intelligent one, without him flexing much expertise. I will give the writers one thing; they handled Beast’s creation of the serum to cure and immunize mutants suffering from Damon Hall syndrome so well. That’s…that’s all I got.
Armor & Professor X
Professor X and Armor have pretty significant roles, and some villains are also in the mix, but Hisako’s presence is the only one that has any impact throughout the entire season.
Beautiful Animation Everywhere
To put it simply, the show looks dope. The very first scene is ramped up to 100 so you know what you can expect in the good moments, but the problems begin when the X-Men are simply walking around, talking, and doing mundane things. Everything falls flat and you find yourself wishing for more pop. Of course action shows up relatively frequently, so your serotonin levels never dip too much, but it’s not a good feeling to grow weary of the scene you’re currently watching. Anime is supposed to draw you in and have you salivating for more.
Wolverine’s design is such a great depiction that I’m seriously considering devouring the Wolverine anime that also just came out on the Flix (and I’m a Wolverine hater). Cyclops’ slimmed out visor was a nice touch, especially since he doesn’t do much else but shoot people and mope. They get Storm’s white hair right but the brown eyes she has are a shame. Luckily any time she jumps into a fight, the white eyes come out and the lightning visuals are a real treat. Armor’s psionic exoskeleton is the coolest part of the animation, and Emma Frost’s team uniform is so over-the-top White Queen that you can’t help but love it.
The Final Verdict
You can skip this one, unless you’re a hardcore X-Men fan or trying to devour any anime take on American heroes. Madhouse knew what they were doing in the visuals dept but a lack of character depth for so many key mutants strip away the potential this production had like paint thinner. Too much talking when our heroes could be stopping a villain is one of the prime examples that continuously cause you to roll your eyes and expose the writers’ subpar work.
Props to the job they do with Emma Frost and Wolverine, but the piss poor work on Storm and Cyclops is offensive. Mutant discrimination will always be a key part to the X-Men story,, but you have to go harder than secondary mutations, Mastermind, and another illegitimate young Chuck child as your big reveals if you want to impress Marvel fans at this point! I hate to say it, but don’t waste your time.
Cover Image via Chaospin