You know, it has been a while since I have gotten the opportunity to experience anything related to the X-Men franchise. The last time that I got to watch something related to X-Men was when I saw X-Men: The First Class in theaters. Prior to that, I watched the first two live-action X-Men movies, along with X-Men Evolution and the cartoon from the 90s.
From what I can recall, the story of X-Men takes place in a world where super-powered beings known as Mutants have to deal with a society that has yet to accept them. Each medium that has gotten their hands on the franchise has given us a different take on the story. Seeing that Madhouse is taking another shot at the Marvel Animes, this might give us an opportunity to see another take on Xavier's elite team that fights for the sake of coexistence between humans and Mutants.
Join me after the jump to find out if the X-Men anime succeeds in delivering an interesting new take on the franchise.
Marvel Anime: X-Men Complete Series (DVD)
For a series that was suppose to give us a different take on an existing franchise, the X-Men anime takes us right into the middle of a battle between the X-Men and Phoenix, which results in Scott aka Cyclops losing the love of his life known as Jean Grey. Then the series focuses on the present as the team is sent to investigate a situation in Japan that is causing a spike Mutant growth, along with a mysterious interference that is keeping Professor X from scanning for any Mutants with the Cerebro. Along the way, the team encounters a new member and a former enemy known as Emma Frost that might have been connected with the death of Jean.
To those who are not familiar with franchise, in a certain point in the story Jean Grey ends up getting possessed by an entity known as the Phoenix. While in the versions that I have seen involved Jean returning to her normal self, the anime decides to make Scott go through a life changing ordeal. Unfortunately, Scott's lost tends to be more effective with people that are familiar with any of the stories that exist within the X-Men universe. As a series that was meant to bring in new fans, the series might have started off stronger if we were given the story that lead up to the battle against Phoenix. That way new fans would get a better establishment to the story.
During the current operation, the series decides to make Scott go through his own development as he must learn to keep his cool in the heat of danger. Veteran members such as Wolverine, Beast, and Storm come along for the ride as they each exhibit the traits that you know them for. While a good number of the cast is present, the main characters in the show are Scott and the new member of the team known as Hinako aka Armor, along with Emma Frost. Based on my experience with X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men Evolution, both shows tend to focus on the development of each character from episode to episode. For a series that spans 12 episodes, this sort of development would've played a great contribution to the series. Instead, we end up with episodes that drag on during certain points while a majority of the cast is only there to deliver small amounts of dialogue or contribute to the action sequences.
Since I haven't read any of the original comic books, it was interesting to see the anime take a darker route with the first set of villains known as the U-Men, since they specialize in performing unspeakable experiments on Mutants that they capture. From there, the story introduced former enemies, which ended up leading towards an unexpected twist that involved a secret that even surprised the great Professor X. Though it's unfortunate that most of the strong elements in the show end up getting overshadowed by the weaker elements, such as a slow pacing that fails to make any of the X-Men members stand out more.
Taking into account that Madhouse was in charge of this project, the animation lives up to their name as we see the team do their best to give the series a comic book-like feel with their choices in coloring and character lining. In fact, Marvel sent Madhouse artwork of the backgrounds and designs so that they can recapture part of that comic book feel in the series. While there were some instances where the designs suffered from a few off-model issues, it's not a major distraction from the rest of the action.
Being accustomed to the English voices in the previous installments, the English dub for the X-Men anime felt as good as any of the voice work depicted in X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men Evolution. Steve Blum's recent depiction of Wolverine returns with a vengeance, since he was also Wolverine in the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon. Overall, each character did a great job in delivering their lines. If there was one voice that I had a minor problem with, it was Hinako's English voice, since her voice felt a bit exaggerated at times.
As for the Japanese acting, the voices were not bad, which might be a surprise for most people. Fans of Fate/Zero and/or Nanoha will notice Rikiya Koyama's voice as Wolverine and Yukari Tamura's take on Hinako. While it felt a bit weird hearing the cast speaking in a different language other than English, the acting was good for what it was, which is a neat option to fulfill the curiosity of any X-Men fan.
Despite Marvel and Madhouse's efforts in reintroducing the X-Men to a new audience, the series felt like it was meant for those that have read the comics or have watched any of the cartoons related to the franchise. Depending on how much you are a fan of Scott or Hinako, part of that aspect will affect the your reaction to the series. Perhaps if the first half of story would've started off with the arc that lead to Jean's death, the series might have had a more interesting story. For what it's worth, the series will cost you around $19.99 or less, so fans will at least have something to gain with 12 episodes and extra features that have the people of Marvel and Madhouse talk about their experience with the project. If that's not enough to suit your tastes, then you are probably better off with just revisiting your favorite X-Men stories.
6.0 - Okay. 6s are just okay. These series usually have many flaws, didn't try anything special, or were poorly executed. Some viewers will love 6s, but most prefer to just skip them. Read more reviews before you decide.
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