Logan, better known as the mutant Wolverine, cuts a bloody swath across Japan, trying to rescue his love Mariko from a marriage arranged by Shingen, her evil crime-boss father.
Hereís a little background: After conquering the worlds of film and television over the past few years, the suits at Marvel Entertainment realized theyíd never attempted an anime take on any of their characters. Teaming with anime giant Madhouse, Marvel put four series into production: X-Men, Iron Man, Blade, and Wolverine. The shows premiered in Japan in 2010 before being picked up by G4 for broadcast here (where reaction wasnít exactly enthusiastic).
I was aware of these shows, but I initially had no interest in them. Then I read that Warren Ellis hand a hand in their conception, which immediately changed my mind. Ellis, one of the best comics writers of the past couple decades, is being sold as the writer of these series, but his involvement has been overstated. According to statements made by Ellis himself, he wrote treatments for the series, and these treatments were then expanded and rewritten by others, and the final scripts were more than a little removed from Ellisís original concepts. So let that be a warning.
Hereís another warning: Wolverine is a bad show--really bad. Rather than building an anime series around the character of Wolverine, the people at Madhouse instead dropped a character named Wolverine into a run-of-the-mill anime story. The main character has a few things in common with the Wolverine comics fans have known since the early Ď70s and many others have come to know through the various cartoons and feature films, but in most respects heís your typical anime hero. He heals quickly, his bones are coated in adamantium, and he pops his claws and slices fools into lunch meat, but heís tall, thin, and mopey, more emo and Twilight than berserker Canuck.
Complaining about this may strike some as nothing more than nerdy nitpicking, but turning Wolverine into a young, whiny beanpole is like casting Arnold Stang as James Bond. Regardless of what you do around the edges, the core of the character must remain the same. Someone either forgot that or chose to ignore it, and thatís enough to sink this series.
But they didnít stop there. They went one step further and created a plot thatís dull and drawn-out, taking what shouldíve been a two-hour tale and stretching it out to five. Twelve episodes comprise this season, and thatís a good seven too many. The setup is taken care of in the opening half of the first episode, and the final episode is nothing but resolution (although despite having twenty-three minutes in which to wrap up everything, the producers couldnít be bothered to come up with anything resembling a final scene), but what comes in between is repetitive filler. Wolverine fights some of Shingenís hired goons. Wolverine fights Omega Red. Wolverine fights a statue thatís come to life. Thereís no point to any of it. I quickly grew bored, hoping it would either hurry up and get to the point or simply end.
Some of the plot here was inspired by Chris Claremont and Frank Millerís classic 1982 Wolverine miniseries (which is also providing some of the plot for the next Wolverine feature film), but even these elements have been bent and corrupted in needless ways. Yukio, an assassin introduced in those comics, appears here, but sheís turned into a bland, faceless sidekick for Wolverine, running alongside him, getting knocked aside during fights, and helpfully tossing Wolverine a weapon whenever it appears an opponent is about to get the drop on him. Standard anime nonsense.
There was a time in my life where I thought anime put American animation to shame. Seeing Star Blazers after having been brought up on a steady diet of Super Friends provided quite a shock. Compared to what I had become accustomed to, anime was quicker and more fluid, which was a definite plus for action-oriented stories. Feature anime can still be quite impressive, even downright stunning, but if these shows are any indication, television anime is now just as cheapjack as anything Hannah-Barbera used to crank out. Itís obvious that a lot of limited animation was employed; character movements are awkward and jerky.
And itís always great when you get to the big fight and half of it consists of shots in which the camera pans across still drawings, speed lines substituted for actual movement.
Whoever was in charge of casting voices for the English dub really screwed the pooch. Fan favorite Steven Blum has voiced Wolverine in several recent video games and animated offerings, but here heís relegated to voicing a supporting character. So who voices Wolverine? Milo Ventimiglia. So everyoneís favorite centuries-old, cunning, expert, rage-fueled killing machine ends up sounding like a clerk at Urban Outfitters, a guy whoíll pop his claws and sell you a Pac-Man T-shirt.
Again, I know a lot of this likely comes off as fanboy bitching, but Wolverine gets everything wrong. A Wolverine tale in which the main character is portrayed as a whiny twit who takes more than ninety minutes to exact revenge is like a Superman story in which the main character ignores an alien invasion in favor of finishing his Daily Planet story on a strike by Metropolisís sanitation workers. Itís just not right.
The show is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio; the transfer has been enhanced for anamorphic displays, and the twelve episodes are spread evenly across two DVDs. Image quality here is very disappointing. The softness you find in so much anime is on display, which robs colors of vibrancy just a bit. Banding is often a problem, but itís nothing compared to the combing and aliasing on display; the line work devolves into little more than jagged lines at times (Wolverineís signature haircut proves very problematic).
Both the original Japanese track and the English dub are presented as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Thereís quite a bit going on in the rears during action sequences, but itís not quite as smooth or seamless as it should be. Thereís a slight disconnect to dialogue in the English dub (itís a little too forward in the mix), but this isnít a problem in the Japanese track. English and English SDH subtitles are available.
Marvel Anime: Wolverine Reborn (9 minutes) explores the origins of the series.
The Ferocious Anti-Hero: Wolverine Defined (9 minutes) covers the history of Wolverine.
Wolverine Meets X-Men (30 minutes) is a roundtable chat with the animation crew.
This is a pretty terrible show. Unless you count yourself among the seriesí fans (there are a few), donít waste your time here.