Kerry67 Reviews Marvel's Wolverine Anime!
Earlier today, I reviewed Marvel Anime's new "Iron Man" series, which airs at 11:00 Eastern on G4TV. For those who might be interested in what I thought of Marvel Anime's take on the Armored Avenger, that review can be found here. I had originally intended to post this review simultaneously, but as I began, I found that I needed more time to ruminate and decide what I REALLY thought. My conclusions are as follows:
In his second review of Marvel's new anime series, Kerry67 looks at "Wolverine." What worked, what didn't, and what remains to be seen? Again, spoilers await.
The prospect of a Wolverine anime did not fill me with as much trepidation as the Iron Man one did for one very good reason: Wolverine has long had an association with Japan, going back to the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller mini-series of the early eighties. I knew there was some meat on that bone, and I was anxious to see how that was interpreted for the screen. As the show began, and I got my first look at Wolverine, my initial reaction was..."Hmmm." This Wolverine is a younger, leaner Logan than, perhaps we're used to. Then I heard Logan speak. Actor Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) does a workman-like job of dropping his voice into a lower register and adding a bit of the broken glass we'd expect, but...it just didn't sound like Wolverine to me. As I said, I had to take some time and sort through what that meant and how I felt about it, and it seems that the fault is predominantly mine. After years of the '90's X-Men cartoon, I discovered that actor Cathal J. Dodd was the defacto voice of Wolverine in my head. Determined not to let this cloud my entire perception of the show, I shrugged my shoulders and continued watching.
The first thing we see is Wolverine on the deck of a yacht in a New York harbor, standing next to his love interest, Mariko. He looks, dare I say it, happy. As any fan of Wolverine knows, anytime Logan is happy, some bad JuJu is about to go down. Suddenly, some large, amphibious mechs with NASTY machine guns surface from the harbor, and Logan, being the guy that he is leaps in front of his beloved to take the assault. Here's where I got really interested. These guns do a massive number on Wolverine, turning parts of him to absolute hamburger. Yeah, this cartoon is VIOLENT! And I mean that in the best possible way. We see his healing factor close the wounds as he launches a claws-out assault on the mechs, freezing on a close-up of The Wolverine's snarling face, then the opening credits.
When the action resumes, it picks up some time (months? Years?) later as a business-suited man is chased across a rooftop by a group of guys in haz-mat suits carrying high tech weaponry. Wolverine just happens to be there and goes absolutely bat-crap on these guys. One particular sequence that sticks out is when the haz-mat guys activate a stealth/cloaking apparatus on their suits and disappear from view. Cut to a close-up of Logan's face as he "Sniff..Sniff's" for a second, then spends about fifteen seconds skewering them. They're dead, no "if"s, "and"s or "but"s. That's two pretty violent action sequences in the first ten minutes of the show!I still have reservations about Logan's design and his voice actor, but I'm beginning to warm to this show pretty quickly.
We learn that the besieged "businessman" is an old colleague of Logan's, and he has news for him regarding Mariko's whereabouts. It seems she was kidnapped (from the yacht, presumably) by a Japanese crime lord named Shinjen. Shinjen's Yakuza family has been getting arms supplies from A.I.M, hence all the high tech haz-mat goodness, and is also planning to marry off Mariko to one of his subordinates. The deal seems to be: help take down Shinjen and you can have the girl.
We now move the action to Japan, where, apparently, the bulk of the series will take place. Logan does a bit of Solid-Snake-like hiding in the woods, but is soon found out by Shinjen who, it seems, has some super-powered whamma-jamma himself. After taking down a group of Yakuza thugs without even raising his pulse, Logan discovers that Shinjen is Mariko's father. The two men agree to a duel using practice katanas. If Logan wins, he can take Mariko away from this pre-arranged marriage. If not, well, you get the picture. Oh, and by the way, Shinjen is a master swordsman; Logan...well, not so much. After getting his Canadian arse handed to him for about three minutes, including getting split open from navel to gullet by some sort of "Force Push," Logan is still healing and ready for more. Then, someone REALLY plays dirty and tranqs him. That's when we meet Mariko's intended, who has apparently been doing the liason work with A.I.M. He tells us that Logan's mutant genome causes the drug to work faster. Now, we all know that The Wolverine's healing factor will purge that from his system in no time, and we are not disappointed. He shakes loose and...roll credits on episode one.
As I stated in the "Iron Man" review, the fact that I've covered much of the plot to this episode has to be balanced against the fact that this is an ongoing, episodic television show, and most of what we see here is setup for the drama to unfold. The first episode is filled with (admittedly action-packed) exposition, character introductions, and a carrot on the end of a stick named Mariko. So what was my final analysis?
I'm still not sure if I buy Milo Ventimiglia as Logan, and the leaner look of the character took me out of the story a bit, FOR ABOUT A MINUTE. The fight choreography is extremely well-done, and, if this had been a live-action movie, Tarantino himself couldn't be prouder of the blood that was let. It has, admittedly, been almost 25 years since I read the Claremont/Miller mini-series, but it seems all the story beats are there. Adding the A.I.M. angle was an interesting idea that could produce some pretty interesting story possibilities down the road. Overall, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Truthfully, the Iron Man anime is the better of the two, but this one ain't bad. I'll definitely be back next week.
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