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Wolverine: Marvel Animated Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 18, 2012 by  



Featuring an alternate storyline on Marvel’s iconic character, Wolverine.  A heavy hitting anime series that X-Men and Wolverine fans will surely enjoy!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2011 Superhero Anime Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wolverine: Marvel Animated Series

TV EPISODE RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 12 Episodes (284 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: MAD HOUSE/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASED: July 31, 2012

Directed by Hiroshi Aoyama, Rintaro

Series Composition by Kengo Kaji

Story by Warren Ellis

Music by Tetsuya Takahashi

Original Creators: John Romita Sr., Len Wein

Character Design by Hisashi Abe

Art Director: Katsushi Aoki

Anime Production: Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Rikiya Koyama/Milo Ventimiglia as James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine

Fumiko Orikasa/Gwendoline Yeo as Mariko Yashida

Romi Park/Kate Higgins as Yukio

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo/J.B. Blanc as Omega Red

Hidekatsu Shibata/Fred Tatasciore as Shingen Yashida

Iemasa Kayumi/J.B. Blanc as Koh (Huáng)

Kazuki Yao/Vic Mignogna as Hideki Kurohagi

Masato Hagiwara/Steven Blum as Kikyō Mikage

Misato Fukuen/Danielle Judovits as Min

Fumie Mizusawa/Stephanie Sheh as Agent Tsukino

Hiroshi Tsuchida as Takagi

Kousuke Takaguchi as Ang, Machida

Masaki Terasoma/Crispin Freeman as Tesshin Asano

Sayuri/Stephanie Sheh as Miyuki

Sho Hayami as Juō Kurohagi

Takanori Hoshino/Jamieson Price as Vadhaka

Tokuyoshi Kawashima as Kai

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Matthew Porter as Cyclops (Scott Summers)

Yuji Ueda as Scarred Man

The love of Logan’s life, Mariko Yashida, is forced back to Japan by her father Shingen, a notorious crime lord. Once in Japan, she is forcibly betrothed to Kurohagi, a cruel criminal associate of her father, to solidify their business interests. Logan is determined to get her back, yet is plunged into a tangled web of corruption and violence at every turn. But with the help of young assassin Yukio, he just might manage to claw his way through the criminal underworld to confront Shingen and save Mariko.

Wolverine, one of the most popular and iconic characters of the Marvel Universe.

Many have grown up with this character, may it be reading the comic books, owning the toys, video games, watching the animated series or the live action films, and the popularity of James Howlett a.k.a. “Logan”/Wolverine has reached worldwide.

In 2010, Marvel collaborated with Japanese animation studio, Madhouse for a four title anime series which included “The X-Men”, “Blade”, “Iron Man” and “Wolverine”.  The goal was to reintroduce the Japanese audience to the characters and aired on Japanese television from 2010-2011.  The storyline would not be canon and would be more of an alternative storyline than what one would have read in the American comic book series.

In America and the story of Wolverine, the “Romeo & Juliet” style of relationship between Logan and Mariko Yashida is well-known to comic book fans.  Mariko Yashida was known as the woman who helped calm the feral Wolverine and the woman that Logan was deeply in love with.   Unfortunately, she was the daughter of Japanese crimelord Lord Shingen, leader of the Clan Yashida.  The storyline would be important in the Marvel Universe as it wold introduce people to Yukio, Sunfire, The Hand and also the Silver Samurai.

With the live action film of the second Wolverine in pre-production and a storyline focusing on Logan and Mariko, the Madhouse 12-episode anime series would focus on that relationship but with a slightly different storyline than the original comic books.

For the anime series, Mariko Yashida has been missing for quite awhile and Logan has been looking for her since her kidnapping a year ago.

One night, Logan saves a man named Tesshin Asano who was being attacked by members of AIM and in return, Asano tells Wolverine of where he can find Mariko.  He learns that the crime organization Kuzuryu, led by Mariko’s father Shingen, has kept her against her will and forcing her marry a shady businessman named Hideki Kurohagi, in order to expand his operations.

With the new information, Logan heads to Tokyo to save her but despite finding Mariko, he is captured by the Yashida clan.  And Shingen tells Logan that if he can beat him one-on-one in a fight using a boken (a wooden sword), he can have Mariko back.  But despite the awesome fighting skills of Logan, Shingen’s swordskills are too powerful and too difficult for him.

Logan is shot and drugged by Hideki Kurohagi and brought to the middle of nowhere.  When he awakes, he has been treated by an assassin named Yukio.  Who is willing to help him and join him in his quest to find Mariko because she wants revenge against Shingen for killing her parents long ago.

Logan will do all he can to find and being reunited with Mariko but standing in his way are Shingen and Hideki Kurohagi but also the mutant swordsman Kikyo Mikage, the Russian mutant Omega Red and the huge statue-monster known as Vadhaka.

Will they make it in time before Mariko is forced to marry Hideki Kurohagi?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Wolverine: Marvel Animated Series” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles in English.

It is important for those who are familiar with Wolverine and the X-Men to know that Marvel gave free reign to Madhouse Studios to create an anime series that was an alternate version of what readers/viewers are familiar with Wolverine in America.  The series was created to introduce Japanese viewers to the backstory of a few of their iconic characters, but with a style that would be suitable for Japanese viewers.

So, while James “Logan” Howlett in America is known as a man who has lived for a very long time and is known for wearing his jeans, pilot jacket, hat and cigar and usually has a hairstyle that viewers are familiar with, Madhouse created Wolverine to be more youthful, more stylish and sporting longer hair.  The brown hat or jacket, the blacks or green pants that Logan would wear has now been replaced by a red jacket, black tank top, blue jeans and dress shoes.

And as expected from a major anime studio such as Madhouse, the character designs look very good, the art backgrounds are well painted.  But very cool emphasis on the actual character designs, especially close-up of the characters faces.

DVD quality for the most part is good, but as expected on DVD, you are going to see banding and slight softness.

It’s important to also know that this Japanese anime series is a TV Series and not an OVA or film.  In Japan, studios don’t have as much as time to complete a series before it airs on television.  So, it’s not going to have the detailed environments as one would expect from an OVA (which is a Japanese version of a direct-to-video release that was not aired on television and has a higher budget than a TV series, nor under a tight deadline for staff to finish in a few days) or film.

For example, rooms are not complete filled.  You see a chair, a desk and maybe a few plants in a large space.  You see a lot of open spaces, buildings, walls, etc.  But for the most part, the animation is good, especially during the action sequences.

As for audio, both are presented Dolby Digital 5.1 and both sound great, but it all comes down to preference.  I preferred the Japanese voice acting, especially between the two Logans.  Actor Milo Ventimiglia of “Heroes” fame, does the voice of Logan and thus gives him a more youthful feel, as opposed to the voices many have grown up listening to Logan/Wolverine in other animated series or the live action films.  It took me a while to warm up to hearing Milo playing the voice of Wolverine, but because this is an alternate storyline and Madhouse’s re-imaging of the Logan/Mariko storyline, I was open to changes, including vocal differences.

Subtitles are easy to read, thick yellow subtitles that don’t necessarily stay in the bottom center but also are seen wherever the characters face is located.  So if the character’s mouth is high, the subtitles will appear in the top.  So, the subtitles remind me of closed caption subtitles in terms of subtitling placement.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wolverine: Marvel Animated Series” includes the following special features:

  • Wolverine Meets X-Men – (30:10) The Madhouse Studios staff which includes Fuminori Kizaki (director), Hiroshi Aoyama (director), Kengo Kaji (series treatment/script) , Mitsutaka Hirota (series treatment/script) discuss Wolverine, the X-Men and animating Wolverine in Japan and the challenges that they faced in making an anime version of the popular character.

As a long time collector of the X-Men comic books and having read and owned so many of the comics, action figures and video games, Wolverine was one of my favorite characters.

Unlike the boyscout style of Scott Summers (Cyclops) or the comedic banter between Hank Pym (Beast) and Bobby Drake (Iceman), Wolverine was unlike any other character in the Marvel Universe.  A mouthy, angry and blunt character who did what he wanted and suffice to say, because of his presence, X-Men became popular.

From Wolverine’s debut in the pages of the Incredible Hulk #180 to the loss of Mariko, the fight against the Brood, the Fall of Mutants, X-Tinction Agenda, the loss of his adamantium in his bones and many more X-Men storylines to come, still Wolverine would be an important character in the X-Men Universe and for the Marvel Universe,  he would continue to be a thorn not just for the bad guys but also for the good guys.

He was the walking time-bomb, the person you just don’t want to mess with.

In Japan, back in the ’90s, right around the time when America received its first major X-Men animated series, the “X-Men” received a manga adaptation.  Granted, it was nothing like the American comic books but it would introduce Japanese readers to the popular X-Men characters and villains.

And while many Japanese have gotten a taste of Marvel superheroes through the live action films, many may not be familiar with Wolverine, many have no access to what was released in America and truthfully, there have been so many stories that many people probably have missed out on everything X-Men overseas. Unlike in America where Wolverine graced the pages of his own comic book series, on “Uncanny X-Men”, “X-Men”, “X-Men Unlimited” and a plethora of X-related titles, let alone guest appearances on “Spider-Man”, “Fantastic Four”, “The Avengers”, etc.   There is way too much stories revolving around Wolverine that Americans can easily tap into.  Not so much in Japan.

So, with the popularity of the superhero live action films, it’s great that Marvel and the popular anime studio, Madhouse have teamed up to collaborate and work together on “Wolverine”, “X-Men”, “Iron Man” and”Blade”.  And because Logan (Wolverine) has had a close storyline with Japanese characters in the original comic books, what best than to explore Logan’s relationship with Mariko than in an anime series.

Of course, there are decades of storylines that American can tap into but to make it accessible for Japanese, a story had to be told in 12-episodes and it was important for Marvel to give Madhouse some leeway and get away from the canon storyline.

And for the most part, the Madhouse storyline works.  No matter how you cut it, Logan and Mariko are the Romeo & Juliet of the Marvel Universe.  People of two different worlds but two individuals who are deeply in love.  Logan who will do anything to be with the woman he loves and Mariko, the woman who will sacrifice herself in order to protect the man she loves.

And of course, if Wolverine is involved, you have to make this series action-packed and that is what Madhouse has done.  Every episode, Wolverine is always against someone or something.  May it be a fellow Weapon X member like Omega Red or just a large group of bad guys working for a rival clan.  One can expect plenty of action in every episode.

I actually enjoyed how Madhouse utilized the character of Yukio much more in this anime series over the original comic books, it was quite entertaining to see Omega Red incorporated into this series, along with seeing Cyclops of the X-Men appearing for a shortwhile.

As for the DVD, Madhouse’s animation and character design was good, audio for action-based series was good, especially hearing the utilization of the action scenes and voice acting was good, although I preferred the Japanese version more.  I’m so used to the Wolverine voice of the older animated series to even Hugh Jackman’s voice for Wolverine but because this is a different, alternate storyline and with Wolverine being much more youthful, it took a while for me to get used to actor Milo Ventimilia (who starred in “Heroes”, “Rocky Balboa”) as the voice of Logan.  But for the most part, both vocal tracks are well-acted.

Overall, this is a series that is action-packed, but yet a tragic tale that may be different in story of how the story was originally told in the American comic books, but remains loyal to the fateful relationship of Logan and Mariko.

If you are an X-Men or Wolverine fan and have an open mind to a more different, alternate storyline of Marvel’s iconic character, then definitely give this action-packed anime series a chance.  Definitely recommended for X-Men fans and anime fans who are into action-driven anime series!

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