Last season, I didn’t give Madhouse’s Iron Man much of a chance due to a couple of reasons:
1) I found the anime to be a bore. Despite all the action and energy, I didn’t care for anything that was happening on screen.
2) The recent Iron Man movies have contributed largely to Tony Stark’s characterization to a degree that can’t easily be ignored. I’m not sure what Madhouse’s intention was, but their version of Tony Stark seemed boring by comparison.
Have these problems been rectified for Wolverine, our favorite adamantium-lined, super-healing scamp?
Four episodes in and I feel as though the same problems that plagued Iron Man continues to plague Wolverine. We’ll get the nitpicks out of the way first. First off, the art isn’t too my taste, but this is no substantive criticism. I feel as though it harks back to the action anime of the 80’s/90’s. Secondly, I think the soundtrack’s shitty, and well, that’s all I’ve got to say about it.
Now, let’s get to my real beef with Wolverine. The basic premise of the show is that Wolverine’s former girlfriend is about to be handed off to some creep (and his character is played out with no subtlety whatsoever) in an arranged marriage, and Wolverine’s gonna go knock some skulls in to prevent this from happening. It seems to be an adaptation of some 80s storyline (as pointed out by AstroNerdBoy in the comments).
Like in Iron Man, none of the action in this anime really matters to me. Wolverine is not an origin story; we don’t really learn who Wolverine is, what he’s like or any of his motivations. Instead, we get a very quick and dirty introduction in the first few minutes of the first episode about his superpowers: he has claws and he has abnormally fast self-healing abilities. Non-stop plot follows and the brief snippets of Wolverine’s past hardly establishes him as a fleshed out character. Since I don’t know anything else about the guy, I can’t really give a damn about him and his woman.
A back story isn’t necessary, but the anime has to do much more to define Logan if it’s going to eschew his origin story. Many movies jump straight into the middle of the action without ever detailing its characters’ past. That’s fine as long as the characters and their actions have weight. Logan has to save his lover from being a pawn in a marriage of interests? These stories are a dime a dozen, but it’s not the unoriginality that even bothers me.
Godard once said something along the lines of “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them.” The bare bones of the plot is largely unimportant. What matters are the characters and what actions they take to resolve their problems. Essentially, if I knew who Logan and Mariko were, and could sympathize with them, I might give a shit. Unfortunately, their characterizations are flimsy and, as a result, their story could be anybody’s story.
Somewhat like Tony Stark in the Iron Man anime, Wolverine doesn’t feel like a distinct person. The anime Tony Stark didn’t feel like Tony Stark, but rather the archetype of the playboy millionaire. Yes, Tony Stark is a playboy millionaire, but you have to build his character on top of that. To his detractors, he’s simply a devil-may-care rich boy with toys; to us, he has real vulnerabilities (for starters, his addiction to machines) and thus humanity. Like Madhouse’s Iron Man, Logan here comes off as though he’s just another generic gruff, one-man army archetype instead of being a fully fleshed out character. As someone who doesn’t know much about Wolverine or his back story, the anime fails to give me the impression that he’s anything more than just his archetype. His actions don’t do enough to paint his character. I feel as if they could replace Wolverine and his adamantium claw with, say, a wandering ronin, and this wouldn’t affect the storyline one bit. The lack of characterization — the inauthenticity of Wolverine — makes him replaceable.
Granted, I don’t know much about the Marvel Wolverine. I didn’t grow up reading X-Men or any Marvel/DC comics for that matter. I did, however, have a friend growing up who was crazy about comics and especially crazy about Weapon X, aka Wolverine. The anime strikes me as something a long-time fan could enjoy. Maybe if you already knew who Wolverine was, you wouldn’t need an origin story, stronger motivations, or character-defining actions.
As a result, maybe you could just enjoy watching Logan brawl with his former nemeses like Omega Red in all its anime glory. I can’t do this; I don’t know who either of them are. A brief snippet of their former battles in some snowstorm just doesn’t suffice. For all I know, they could be anybody and that’s where the adaptation fails.