This weekend at the C2E2 convention in Chicago, Jeph Loeb, Marvel's Executive Vice President, Head of Television, showed off a boatload of footage from several upcoming Marvel animated shows. One of the things Loeb shared with attendees was the first full episode of Marvel Anime: Wolverine.
Marvel Anime has been in development for three years and consists of four different series: X-Men, Wolverine, Iron Man, and Blade. Iron Man was the first show on air, and has already completed a full season in Japan. Wolverine is the second show, and is nearing the end of its first season. Both shows will be getting their premieres on American television on G4 later this year.
Although I'm sure there are plenty of illegal downloads available on the Web, the screening of Marvel Anime: Wolverine was a nice treat for C2E2 attendees because it was the first time the show had been shown in the United States with subtitles. Read on for our review of the pilot episode.
Marvel Anime: Wolverine focuses on Logan's younger days in Japan and his relationship with Mariko Yashida, the daughter of Japanese crime boss Lord Shingen. Those familiar with Wolverine's comic book history will note that Logan's relationship with Mariko is a critical part of the character's backstory, and Marvel Anime: Wolverine touches on the same basic narrative from the comics.
In the opening scene of the pilot episode, AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) operatives kidnap Mariko while she is with Logan in New York City. The scene offers the first glimpse of the action in the show, and it doesn't disappoint (if you're a fan of anime). Logan doesn't get to whip out the claws until later in the episode, but when he does it's definitely satisfying.
Sometime after Mariko is kidnapped, Logan saves a Japanese detective named Tesshin Asano. Asano came to New York City to tell Wolverine about Mariko. As in the comics, her father is forcing her to marry against her will. In this show, Mariko is being forced to marry Hideki Kurohagi, the head of AIM.
Asano convinces Logan to return to Japan to help aid in his investigation against Shingen. Once back in Tokyo, Logan sneaks into Shingen's compound, but is caught and challenged to a one-on-one fight with the aging crime boss, who is also an expert swordsman. This fight is one of the best parts of the episode, and really demonstrates how Marvel Anime will be different than any of the other Marvel animated series in TV. It's violent, it's fast, and it's definitely anime.
Speaking of which, I should preface the rest of my review by saying that, if you're not a fan of anime, you probably won't enjoy Marvel Anime. That might seem obvious, but it's worth saying. Personally, I'm not a huge anime guy. I like some of it, and certainly respect it as a genre, but it's just not my thing.
That being said, I thought Marvel Anime: Wolverine was well done, particularly the action sequences. It's certainly odd seeing Wolverine in anime style, but I have a feeling that there's a huge segment of fans who will be really into the artwork on the show. You can tell that Marvel gave Madhouse (the Japanese animation studio behind Marvel Anime) free rein to reinvent the character - and they ran with it. You should be fairly warned: the Wolverine anime probably takes the biggest liberties with the design of the title character. If you can't tell from the images, this is NOT the Wolverine you know.
So, will American audiences connect with the show? I'm not sure. With its fanboy demographic, G4 is definitely the right channel for the anime Wolverine. Still, the genre is definitely for a niche audience. Here's a test: Go and watch the trailer for the Marvel Anime: X-Men series. If you like the look and feel of that, you'll probably enjoy Marvel Anime: Wolverine.
This probably won't be something I'll tune into regularly when it comes to TV this summer, but I definitely give Marvel credit for thinking outside of the box when it comes to its properties. Will you be watching Marvel Anime?
Check back for updates on when, specifically, G4 will beginning the Marvel Anime series this summer.