NOTE: This show is two episodes in at the time of review.
This show is far better than its other Marvel anime predescessors Wolverine and Iron Man, but that’s hardly a great feat. Now, since Wolverine is better than Iron Man (which not only had bad Stark characterization but mysteriously transported him to Japan to pair with an annoying genki girl for no good reason), one might deduce that the production teams are learning from their mistakes as they go along. I’m not too sure how valid that reasoning is, because I think all three shows were done in parallel at least in terms of general conceptualization. Still, what IS clear is that X-Men not only has a better character designer, the animation budget on display so far seems more well padded as well, which makes the first 2 eps a real treat especially when everything X-Men was previously under the aegis of western animators. I think the best explanation that fits the facts is that this particular series is meant to drum up momentum for the upcoming First Class film, which would explain the bigger resources used.
The show leverages on the Whedon created character Armor, who due to her Japanese ancestry makes for a easy (and plausible) plot reason to move the X-Men team to Japan on a rescue mission. (For obvious practical reasons this is a general requirement to bankroll this project, like with the two other sister shows) In this continuity she hasn’t met any of the senior X-Men before being swirled up in the U-Men main plot, who are the boogeys here. The series jumpstarts a bit from the end of the movie franchise with the death of Jean Grey, and retains the annoying Emoclops Summers from the same source. Now complaining about writers mauling Scott’ in mainstream Marvel continuity is a lost cause, some fans are still bitter with the shacking up with Emma, but generally speaking the Scott of the anime is the worst offender in terms of character assassination for the poor guy since the Dark Phoenix saga. If you get me, a notorious Lamerine (see?) hater, siding with the furry Canadian over Mr Optic Man it just goes to show how far the character has sunk. Now, anime shows have no issue with emotastic main leads, but it’s generally hard to carry the writing concept for a Western-centric franchise. Team dynamic stories do tend to ride this kind of development better though, so let’s hope he snaps out of it, especially with Ms Frost appearing. Then again, considering how Frost is used in the plot here, it might make things worse.
There are other minor things to point out, such as Storm being way too genteel or seriously nerfed in the powers department, all significant problems for a character that de facto led the X-Men for long stretches in the 00 years. Now, I have a sinking suspicion that all these changes are due to the traditional Japanese writer mindset, as presumably Frost is there to round out the tough nails girl quota and everyone with ovaries has to be written otherwise to please the otakus back home. This might be fatal down the road, or it might not. Still, Wolverine, Beast and ol’ Xavier are pretty spot on, which is encouraging. I found particular amusement in Wolverine, since he’s pretty much Takamura from Hajime no Ippo in terms of writing and acting, which is due to them sharing the same voice actor. (I was half-expecting the DYNAMITE PUNCHCLAWS song) In terms of the technical aspects, I’m pleased to see episode 2 maintaining the level of art design and animation, which gives me hope the quality won’t fall off a cliff by mid-show. Hopefully this will be the one gem that allows more superhero shows from the West to crossover into the Japanese animation world, and usher in more quality efforts in the future.
UPDATE: I was making ribald jokes on Emma having obtained a Better Bodies mod, but turns out there’s precedent in mainstream Marvel products. Ah well, she’s pretty much the rich man’s Power Girl now. Or a rich man’s ojou, judging from the cliche hair twirls.