Summary: I can’t decide if the problem is that these really aren’t the characters I know, or if it’s just oddly written for a first episode, but something is definitely off with this anime adaptation of my favorite superheroes; so far, Beast is the only redeeming feature.
I don’t know about this most recent X-Men adaptation, I just don’t know- is it boring to me because I’ve been an X-Men fan for a long time, and I’ve seen all of this already? Or is it just boring because it’s boring?
This is rough for me, because I was an X-Men fan long before I even knew what “Japanimation” was, and seeing the X-Men done justice with an anime sensibility is an idea I can get behind, big time- it just doesn’t seem to be happening here.
To their credit, Madhouse decided to use the more recent X-Men comics for inspiration for this series, meaning there’s some stuff here that hasn’t already been mined to death in all of the previous cartoons and movies. However, there’s a reason why I haven’t been reading the more recent X-Men comics; they’ve all kind of become a pseudo-intellectual pain-in-the-ass, and I do not use the term “pseudo-intellectual” lightly.
X-Men For Dummies?
The first episode of Madhouse’s take on Marvel’s Merry (ha!) Mutants goes with the ‘getting the band back together’ theme; the X-Men have been disbanded for a year, after Jean Grey, also known as “Phoenix,” killed herself to save the world, as she does. When young mutant Hisako is kidnapped, the X-Men decide to fly to Japan-with even Cyclops, Jean’s mourning boyfriend, getting off his brooding ass at the very end to go with them, because that’s what she would have wanted, or something. As a pilot, it’s not riveting stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need constant action; I’m fine with not a lot happening in an episode. However, for a lot of nothing to become interesting, the writing has to be good, and/or the characters have to be likable, and this episode mostly fails on both counts.
This seems very much like X-Men-by-the-numbers to me; Wolverine and Cyclops fight, half over Jean and half because they’re just assholes, we see the Phoenix raptor, Storm does some weather stuff, and Xavier is wise and benevolent in that general way of his. None of the characters seem to really have their full personalities intact- Storm especially seems like pod-person Storm, more related to Halle Berry’s movie incarnation of the character than any comic-Storm I’ve ever read- and there just doesn’t seem to be much to get excited about, either for an X-Men fan or someone new. Newbies will probably be less bored at the very least, but I wouldn’t know.
This is neither here nor there, but both Jean and Storm seem to have been given proper comic-sized boobs, circa 1993, even though you might have thought getting an anime makeover would have de-boobed them a little. I don’t really care, but it seems like they’re trying to capture a style from an earlier era of comics where that’s concerned because the comics have kind of gone away from giving all women ginormous chests in recent years.
I really don’t know what to make of Jean’s appearance either- I thought from reading the pre-air summaries of this show that it was going to open with Jean already dead, and that’s fine- she’s been dead (again, and mostly; it’s complicated) for a while in the comics already, and putting her in the cast would just lead everyone with X-Men knowledge to wonder when she’s going to do the the whole “giant firebird in the sky” thing that she does and kill herself.
However, to have Jean die in the first five minutes? That seems like a bit of a waste; this is a new continuity. They could have done whatever they wanted with the Phoenix storyline. Of course, from her prominence in the OP and ED, it’s doubtful that she’s gone for good, so I guess it’s too early to say anything about how they’ve handled that.
Also, considering that Jean died in the first five minutes of Wolverine and the X-Men too, I guess this has become something of an X-Men meme: No Jeans allowed, in any continuity! If you see a Jean Grey, kill it with fire! Wait, she is fire, kill it with ice!
At Least There’s Beast (and Mr. Devilfish)
That pretty much says it all; Beast is the most like his old self, even if they do seem to have upgraded his intelligence to the point where he can now bio-engineer fish to teach college classes, which is quite possibly the only thing I liked about this episode. I don’t like his design, but the “cat-Beast” look, as opposed to his classic ape form, has been canonical for years already, so I can’t really complain.
In fairness to this show, character-wise Beast is the only character here I have any sort of investment in to begin with: Storm, Cyclops and Wolverine were always just wallpaper for me. My real interest was in Beast, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, Jubilee, Jean when written well (and she’s often not) and a handful of other characters that are probably not going to appear in this version.
I can totally understand leaving out Rogue and Gambit; so much of their character is put across in the way they speak, and that’s hard to do when everyone is speaking a different language, where they lose their distinctive regional accents. Nevertheless, this is far from a dream-team of X-Men for me, and that’s not really the show’s fault- I can’t blame them for using the most representative sample of the franchise.
Anyway, I will continue to watch out of my old love of this universe and cautious optimism that it will get better- I think it will, just because I found this first outing so awkward that it would almost have to get better once the mutants start fighting and blowing things up, as they do. For now though, it’s got a long way to go.
In the meantime, I might just console myself by watching episodes of the ’90s cartoon with this superior Beast: