Summary: This week, I would say Armor kicks ass and takes names, only Armor doesn’t care what your name is unless your name happens to be Emma Frost. A pretty decent breather episode is marred by some poorly animated, bafflingly dark action scenes, but on the plus side, we get to see Beast do some more SCIENCE!, and the X-Men have a pretty bitchin’ coffee machine.
First thing’s first, everyone blaming Madhouse for the name of the “U-Men” should probably be informed that their ire is misdirected; Grant Morrison came up with that idea a decade ago in New X-Men. I don’t remember if this was made explicit in the comics, but I think the idea was that the U-Men had named themselves after the X-Men, because they thought “if you mutants can have powers and organize yourself into para-military teams, then dammit, so can we.”
I thought it was weird that they didn’t call themselves the Y-Men- since, in theory, they would like to surpass the X-Men with their combination of harvested mutant biology and technological savvy-but everything in New X-Men was just slightly off-kilter like that. Anyway, it made sense in the context initially, which is hard to tell from Madhouse’s adaptation; I’m just pointing out that it’s not Engrish, as much as this show may be littered with it otherwise.
Second, this episode kind of had to wage an uphill battle with me, since I’ve never been keen on the concept of secondary mutations. It seems to me like the writers just take characters whose powers have become outdated (Angel), or where the writers have exhausted what they think they can do with a particular power (Emma and her telepathy), and just make up a convenient excuse to give them a new trick they can play. Furthermore, they seem to reverse-engineer the mutations from whatever the characters’ name/image is; how convenient that Emma’s mutation allows her to turn into a glittering diamond- she looks downright frosty.
I generally don’t nitpick the “science” in superhero stories- if your premise is the guy is an alien from a planet where everyone has superpowers, fine, I’ll bite- it’s fantasy. The problem is that X-Men in particular often makes a big deal about being tied to actual science, hence the emphasis on genetic mutations rather than flowery origin stories. To put it another way, I can accept hard sci-fi and I can accept magical origins, but if you give me one and and pretend it’s the other, I feel betrayed. I just can’t believe that these uber-convenient, new-power generating “mutations” are fair game in a world where favorable mutations are still rare.
All that said, I was presently surprised when they got Emma’s mutation out of the way relatively quickly- instead of belaboring the “what happened to Emma?!” idea for the whole episode (which the trailer led me to believe they were going to do), they diagnose it as a secondary mutation immediately. Better yet, Beast is like, “Did I mention I made a vaccine for that?” Thank you Madhouse, for dealing with a plot point quickly and sensibly; I am not being sarcastic here.
When Everyday Battles are Mysterious Affairs
I don’t know if this episode aired on television with poor visual quality, or it was just my particular file, but their were major problems with the visuals. About half the episode was way too dark, making it impossible to tell what was going on in the two action sequences. Fortunately, Hisako’s inferno-palette made her easy to see, so we could see the all-important moment when she kicked one the of the U-Men in the face, which was probably the best part of the episode anyway, but still; I should be able to tell what’s going on in a scene. If I can’t even tell what’s going on, then I’ll just have to make up stuff to bitch about.
Also, even though Hisako’s powers continue to be the highlight of this show, I didn’t think her “armor” looked as good this time around- I don’t know what it was, but in the last episode it was amazing, and this time she kind of looked like a red blob. I wonder if their animation budget was slashed for this episode for some reason.
The action scene between Wolverine and the tentacle-mutant (pictured above, for a given value of ‘pictured’) was particularly egregious; I wasn’t even sure which X-Man was fighting until the end of it. It just looked like a vaguely man-shaped blob fighting some tentacles.
Nerf “How Stupid is Cyclops?” Indicator
Apparently Cyclops is still pissed at Emma because they didn’t find any Cerebro-blocking tech at the U-Men’s base, therefore- by process of elimination- Emma must be screwing with Cerebro. I know he’s grasping at straws because he can’t bring himself to trust Emma, but seriously, how stupid is that?
They don’t know the full-extent of the tech the U-Men possess, because they had nowhere near the time to do a complete inventory of the U-Men’s base- and what time they did have, they wasted interrogating Emma (but enough about that.) Meanwhile, I’m not sure if they investigated any of the U-Men’s tech; they only found out that the U-Men had a device that was monitoring their powers because Emma was kind enough to tell them.
Actually, while I’m picking on Cyclops for being stupid, I’m more annoyed that no one called him on it- it would have totally made the episode for me if Beast said “Scott, that doesn’t make any sense because we still don’t know bollocks about the U-Men’s tech, stop projecting all of your crap onto Emma.”
I have to say though, as much as I bitch about Cyclops, the animators have made him a very fine specimen of two-dimensional masculinity; he’s much prettier than the X-Men:TAS Cyclops from the ’90s, who looked kind of like Vin Diesel with brownish/red hair. I can’t blame Emma for being into him, even if she can think rings around him- even in her diamond form, when she’s technically a rock.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
The scenes at the mansion were fairly enjoyable, although I’d be hard pressed to say why- other than Beast looking at some monitors and examining people, very little actually happened. I think I just enjoy it when the X-Men are in the mansion because then I feel like I’m actually watching X-Men, not “vaguely familiar super-team goes to Japan.” Epic battles aside, to me X-Men has always been about hanging around the mansion between missions.
I found it mildly irritating that Beast judged Emma’s condition comparable to the doomed Hellfire Club student’s, even though it didn’t make sense to me that her case could be similarly advanced but also “benign.” So like, her mutation is similarly taking over her body and destroying her mind, but like, in a benign way? I just don’t get secondary mutations, folks.
Next Time, ON X-MEN:
I was surprised to see Hisako in one of the classic X-Men blue-and-gold uniforms in the next episode preview, as well as what appear to be Danger Room sequences. I think we all knew that Hisako was going to join the team eventually (especially since she puts them all to shame in combat, and yes I’m looking at you “Stormu!”), but as far as her parents know, she’s there to get vaccinated. It seems awfully sudden to start dressing her and training her like one of the team, and quite honestly unfair to her parents. I hope there’s some explanation offered for why the X-Men are apparently treating her as one of the team now, other than “well, she’s here now, and we had a spare uniform….”
On the other hand, seeing Hisako deflecting Cyclops’ optic blasts with her armor (plus the references to her uncontrollable power) means there’s an excellent chance she’s going to be kicking the living shit out of Cyclops again in the next episode, so you know I’m on board for that. There are two kinds of people in this world: people who enjoy seeing Cyclops in pain, and people who wonder what Emma sees in him…wait, I think those two groups are actually the same people. I forgot where I was going with this, make up your own anti-Cyclops joke and I’ll get back to you.