Anime review: Iron Man

Quite some time has passed since Tony Stark made his identity as Iron Man public, and now he hopes to bring free renewable energy to nations around the globe by building arc reactors on a much broader scale. One such nation to see the installation of an arc reactor is Japan. Stark sets up shop - a little home away from home - to oversee the final stages of the arc reactor's completion. He also wants to test out new Iron Man Dio armor suits, which will be worn by younger pilots, as he seemingly intends to retire his career as Iron Man once his plans with the arc reactor have been completed.

However, the honeymoon status only lasts so long, and the Iron Man Dio suits are overridden by some outside force. They leave Stark's lab and as he attempts to track them down he comes face to face with the first robotic member of Zodiac. Stark quickly realizes there is something larger at play than he originally anticipated, and both ghosts from his past and new threats will face him before the record is set straight in Japan.

In typical fashion, Madhouse has done a knockout job with the animation. There is a great blend of 2D animation with cel-shaded 3D models that help bring out more dynamic panorama views and action-packed fight sequences. The Iron Man suit itself has plenty of detail up close, and the energy blasts from his palms look cool each time he fires them off. Aside from peeling back layers of the Zodiac mystery, Tony Stark spends his time in Japan constantly crossing paths with a peppy (if not unlucky and mildly annoying) reporter named Nanami and trying to seduce his head researcher Dr. Chika Tanaka. Neither one of these subplots is particularly well-written, and might have better been scripted as minor side stories for a single episode. Instead, they tend to bog down the fun and excitement in Iron Man with sappy melodrama.

The anime is full of cliché subplots that could easily fit into any other generic anime if you were to remove Iron Man from the lead role. A few of the overarching storylines that run for multiple episodes are interesting enough, and Tony Stark's past as well as his friendship/rivalry with handsome Japanese hero Captain Nagato Sakurai help to best develop him as a character. Sakurai and Stark are the most well-rounded characters in the show, while the major villains are guided by boring and highly illogical ideologies. The Zodiac suits are there more or less to beat Iron Man senseless before the superhero eventually gathers his bearings and they are blown up in spectacular fashion The show seems to forget just where it was planning to go originally, as the final episodes are a huge departure from the introductory ones.

The dialogue ranges from halfway decent to bland and uninspired. One brief appearance by Wolverine acts as a plug for Marvel and Madhouse's other anime works, but this story is otherwise concerned entirely with Iron Man. The story is at its best when it runs a plot line over the course of a few episodes, building up the tension and sense of intrigue. As a whole, it is not particularly well-scripted, but there have also been far worse offenders in the field of tie-in anime projects. This is an anime aimed strictly at Iron Man and Marvel fans, and does not rank particularly close to the quality of the comic books and movie franchise that inspired it.

My rating: 6.75 (out of 10)

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