The OTHER Iron Man movie of 2013 is a straight-to-DVD anime that may or may not take place between The Avengers (2012) and Iron Man 3 (2013). The story centres on mysterious new villain Technovore, who targets Tony Stark with his strange and unstoppable bio-organic technology. This forces Stark on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and features non-super-powered heroes Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury and, surprisingly, The Punisher.
I had watched the Iron Man Anime series, which shares a few similarities with this film in that there is a link to the live-action Marvel Universe, with the series taking place after Iron Man (2008) and featuring characters from that film. Iron Man is a character well suited to a Japanese audience, and that series saw Stark setting up a shop in Japan with a Japanese scientist counterpart fulfilling the role that Pepper Potts normally would. The series was OK, it had a better pace and was more interesting than the snail-pace X-Men anime and had an art style more consistent than the uneven Wolverine Anime.
The animation is fine; mixing what I think is traditional animation with digital representations of his armour for the action sequences. Some of the action flies by too fast, and no real sense of geography is offered. The character representations are pretty, and the villain’s method of killing people is visually interesting, so overall the art is solid if frenetic.
In terms of voices, the series had the star power of Adrian Pasdar, which the film replaced with Mathew Mercer, a fine replacement who sounds a lot like Nolan North when in Tony Stark mode. Troy Baker, known for being Nightwing in the new Injustice: Gods Among Us game, is Hawkeye while Seth Green’s wife Clare Grant is Black Widow. All do fine work, though the guy who plays Nick Fury is a little off. They also draw him as if he’s stoned throughout the whole thing, bizarrely. He’s not calm and collected like Samuel L Jackson’s version, just sedate.
The celebrity draw of the film is Norman Reedus, who plays Frank Castle, the Punisher. He gets top billing, and I think they designed the Punisher to look more like Reedus then any Punisher that has been on-screen before. He ads a cold calmness to the role, and lacks the southern accent I became used to hearing out of Darrel Dixon. I always enjoy hearing a familiar voice in a cartoon; half the fun of watching contemporary DC cartoons is to pick out the celebrity voices and see how well they suit the roles.
He is a surprising and welcome addition, and his absent is strongly felt. He’s only in the film for a little bit, in the first half. And it is in this first half where the film has any interest and innovation. Once he leaves the film devolves into boring and uninteresting clichés, many of them associated with Japanese animation.
The villains are children who haven’t grown up, and who live in one big room. One of them is weird, catatonic, and sits in a chair. The whole sequence reminds me of Akira (1988) when we are introduced to the superpowered children. There are a few visual cues from the location as well as how the villain’s physical damage towards the end resembles Akira’s Tetsuo. And, like Tetsuo, the villain takes control of a satellite. The final 20 mins of the film deal with the villain’s powers in overdrive, and a lot of this visually looks like some Neon Genesis: Evangelion in both design and action. The Technovore, in human form, waxes lyrical in a very wordy, unrealistic fashion, which is common of Japanese animation and is a staple of the form, I suppose.
Safe to say that in this second half I lost the most interest, and wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on. Rhodey was injured but came back OK, the villain took over the Helicarrier and then a whole city and it was all very confusing, and to be honest, boring. The whole affair is an OK way to spend your time, but it ultimately isn’t the most original piece nor is it the most exciting. The Marvel Anime have always been hit-and-miss, and at this point I’m not sure if it is a problem with the quality of the productions or all the moments I have issues with are simply conventions of a medium I’m not all that familiar with. That is to say that I’ve asked myself “would I enjoy this more if I was Japanese and understood anime?” So…I’m hanging out for Iron Man 3 tomorrow. That should be fun.