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Marvel has really done some major things in the entertainment world recently. First they started their own production studio and under that they shepherded the creation of the Marvel MCU with the films that have now become collectively known as Marvel Phase One (“Iron Man,” “IM2,” “Incredible Hulk,” “Thor,” “Captain America,” and “The Avengers”). It was a long-term risky gambit that paid off huge!
On the smaller screen they’ve had some success as well with critically and fan acclaimed shows — “Spectacular Spiderman,” “Wolverine and the X-Men,” and “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Last year however Marvel reached out to Madhouse Studios in Japan, one of the premiere animation houses, to produce a cross culture mash up that fanboys had dreamed of. And with that Marvel Anime was born. Given some creative license with the properties there are thing both new and familiar about each series. With four separate series the results were a bit of a letdown for some titles and great for others. Here I will be reviewing what I thought were the two best series — “Blade,” and “X-Men.”
“Blade” is actually a throwback to the original version of the character in some ways, but is still very influenced by the live action films starring Wesley Snipes. In this version Eric Brooks aka Blade is still a badass vampire hunter. He still has cool tattoos on his head, and still rocks the leather trench and shades. But this Blade grew up in England, traveled the world to learn swordsmanship, and was trained by a descendent of Abraham Van Helsing, Noah Van Helsing. And therein lays the link to the original version, while the visual look is pretty much from the films except him being bald.
The main baddie is another familiar face in the form of Deacon Frost, but this is where the creative license comes in as this Frost is different from both the comics and film. But what the writers here were able to do was craft a story using all kinds of different vampires from different cultures throughout Asia, and it gives the action some seriously cool moments. Another cool aspect of the short series is a cameo by everyone’s favorite mutant, Wolverine. I won’t give away much but I will say, though it could’ve been better people may want to watch the “Wolverine” anime first as a character from that plays an important part in Blade’s story and history.
And speaking of Wolverine, he cameos in two of the Marvel Anime series and features or stars in another two, one of which is of course “X-Men.” Now before I go on I should say one thing. In the Marvel Anime universe there were two very distinct versions of Logan. In all but “X-Men” it’s a younger and slimmer looking Logan, voiced by “Heroes” star Milo Ventimiglia. This version takes some getting used to if you can at all but many didn’t like this take. In “X-Men” we get a Steve Blum voiced Logan that looks and sounds like what we’re used to. It’s a little jarring if you just watched the other three anime with “Pretty Boy Logan” (as I refer to him) and then along comes “Badass Logan” in “X-Men”.
But that aside “X-Men” is a great fit for the anime format. The action comes across really kinetic and flowing. There are some interesting new characters and they even use a newer X-man in the form of Armor, a Japanese girl who creates an energy armor that enhances her strength and durability. Man is it cool to see in motion, cause the comics just don’t do her justice. The story takes a few cues from past comic storylines, the biggest being “Proteus” from the 80’s, and yet it still tells its own story.
What I really liked about both of these is not the familiarity but the differences. The liberties taken actually helped make the stories more interesting. Also setting them firmly in Japan/Asia gives the look and feel a completely different vibe. I truly believe that this could be a great ongoing series of shows, with each year bringing another four. I’d love to see Daredevil, Iron Fist, Punisher, and Deadpool get one and have Deadpool be the linking character. But I digress.
Each series comes with a behind the scenes making of, as well as interviews with the Japanese crew that created them. So if you’re a Marvel Fan, an anime fan, or just want to see something damned cool, check these out.