Posted on 25 June 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, X-Men




Overall, the past season has turned out to be excellent, but there is one interesting are where it is below average: the animation. Unfortunately, the earthquake’s mark on the anime industry shows up the clearest here. And so we got quite an interesting series to walk away with the award for the best animation of the season: this one.

This series doesn’t look as good as Madhouse’s best looking series, but it still is a wild and vivid looking series. the colours are really varied, the animation is bold and strong and the character designs are completely unlike any other anime out there, even considering that this is based on an American franchise.

If you’re also looking for good action, then this show has it, and buckets of it. It’s a really well directed show in technical terms: the action is plentiful and always moving, making sure to alternate enough between characters to keep everything dynamic. Couple this with the gorgeous animation and you’ve got a very entertaining series to watch.

Now, where this show falls down a bit is the plot. It’s not bad like Iron Man or anything, but it made a number of core design decisions that prevented the story from fully delivering. The creators unfortunately tried to do two things at the same time: first of all they wanted to make an epic and action-packed action series, and on the other hand they wanted to create a serious drama about mutants and teenagers with powers and the people around them. These don’t really blend well together.

The result is an action-packed series that tries to be deep, yet doesn’t have the time to actually flesh out its characters. It has like five different villains who all are tied together, and yet it has nowhere near enough time to focus on all of them, leaving some key villains as dull and uninteresting. On the side of the good guys meanwhile, the creators introduce a rather annoying new character. You want to see the X-Men kick ass? Well, there’s a Mary Sue amongst them who keeps stealing their spotlights. This reduces Storm in particular to someone who doesn’t just do anything, but the rest of the cast also particularly near the end is ignored in the favour of some random whining teenagers. Essentially the entire final conflict is nothing more but dictated by Teenaged angst and emo. This doesn’t work with characters who aren’t well fleshed out!

This is a shame, because the parts about the X-Men themselves are quite good Wolverine in particular is a lovable character, but the tension between them is also healthy and interesting, and whenever the teenagers aren’t at the centre of the attention this show really kicks ass. It’s just a shame that the finale of this series, the place where everything was supposed to come together, gets completely dominated by teenagers who don’t know what they want to be. Compare that to the Wolverine series: it knew exactly what it was, it knew exactly what it wanted to do and all of the characters knew their roles and were fleshed out sufficiently, while at the same time the series delivered a lot of neat action. Its acting and production values may have been horrible, but this balance is something that unfortunately the X-Men lacked majorly, and that’s why they get the same rating.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Doesn’t know what it wants to be, and therefore doesn’t come together at the end leaving a bad taste. It’s really good at writing action scenes, though.
Characters: 8/10 – A bit of a mixed bag, but most of the characters are interesting enough to keep watching. The teenagers just aren’t.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Gorgeous animation and visuals and a strong soundtrack to boot.
Setting: 8/10 – The backstory behind the X-Men remains a fascinating one.

Suggestions:
Wolverine
Toward the Terra
Read or Die OVA

Posted on with categories: X-Men



So, I guess that this is where the string of awesome endings ends then. This episode on its own was already pretty lukewarm, but I have to be harsh after having seen such a string of fantastic endings: this episode could have been much better.

First of all, the technical terms. This series had consistently the best animation of the entire season, so you’d expect the animators to really go all out this season. And instead they come with a finale where people mostly stand and talk about cheesy morals and values. Oh sure, there was eye candy, but everything suddenly happens in still frames. It still looks better than many other series this season, but it just didn’t live up to the standards this series set.

The production values weren’t necessarily the problem, but the dialogue was: it was dull. not well built up and wasn’t what this series had been building up to in the first place. Characters just stand helplessly after attacking… once, and they just talk about trying to convince Takeo not to emo. That’s just cheesy.

In the end, my biggest fear for this show turned out to be true: Hisako is a freaking Mary Sue. None of the regular characters did anything in this episode, just so that Hisako could take the spotlight. This series refuses its cast to shine just because of Hisako. Cyclops only got a few lines to get over Jean’s death while this episode just kept repeating Takeo over and over.

In the end, I’m unfortunately going to have to rate this as high as Wolverine. I still think that it’s better than Wolverine: its action and animation are just too superior for that, but the plot of the X-Men just turned out to be a disappointment. The only thing that I can really praise is the way in which Sasaki Yui was actually the villain, but even that was just glossed over in this episode thanks to Hisako’s “Sasaki is a good person!”-thing. The thing is that I really like a good action series, but this series ignored just too many chances to shine thanks to Hisako. Storm and Cyclops got reduced to mere side characters who never got to do anything. The direction of the series in the small scale is really good. In terms of the bigger picture though, it left a lot to be desired. Compare that to Wolverine: it knew what it was, it delivered on that and it made sure it was really entertaining in the process. The token female also knew who she was and what her part was, and it nicely made all its subplots come together and give all of them a nice conclusion in the end.

It’s a shame, because I saw the two big flaws of this series coming from very early on in the series. The way in which the series kept juggling around villains was bound to backfire: Sasaki Yui was the big exception because she tied the U-Men together, but when the focus suddenly turned to Takeo the show fell apart: we know just too little of him, and the cheesy messages to get him back in this episode had no meaning behind them whatsoever. It’s just the same cheesy morals that you see everywhere. We never really saw anything from Takeo to warrant this.

It’s the thing about enjoyment again: I really enjoyed the X-Men, but the flaws are big enough to leave a bad taste; especially this episode. Wolverine in comparison was consistently entertaining and left no bad taste whatsoever. The big problem with this series in the end was that it didn’t know what it wanted to be: on one hand it wanted to be an action series. That’s fine, but then don’t throw in Takeo or Hisako. On the other hand they wanted to focus on child mutants and their issues. If that’s the case, then drop the action or at the very least make it a much less significant part of the series, get a good voice actress for Hisako and focus more on their characters. This series tried to do both and got tied up.

And I now just realize that I typed up half of the review of the actual series. Um yeah. Expect a lot of repeats in the actual review…
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 18 June 2011 with categories: X-Men




Hostages are a very common trope, but then again it’s no big surprise because it’s often the most logical thing to do. You have a bunch of people who don’t want to listen to you? Just threaten to kill their best friend and they’ll squeak differently. With all tropes, there are a ton of ways to do this, whether good or bad. The first half of this episode of the X-Men showed a bit of a strange version though.

The guy with liquid powers could have killed Cyclops, Sasaki and the others that he caught easily if he wanted to. the result was that Storm and Cyclops just stood there while they easily could have zapped everyone, and the only one who did something was Hisako, being the only one stupid enough to not understand the implications of her actions.

This is where Wolverine (the TV-series) stands above the X-Men. Wolverine’s storyline was simple but effective, and was really just a bunch of powerful men duking it out for the sake of romance and stopping at nothing until they achieve their objectives. In the X-Men, the plot is dictated by teenaged emo. That’s just… less impressive.

Having said that though, this episode once again looked absolutely gorgeous, and the adults here were as good as ever. In terms of building up this series only manages to increase its tension and atmosphere, exactly as an action series should. Compare this to Sengoku Basara Two, which spent a ton of time building up to a final episode that ultimately was a let-down. Despite its plot issues, this show remains engaging and well told.

Oh, and this episode also showed a new trailer for Blade, and unfortunately it seems like the acting is going to be a problem again. That’s the thing with Madhouse: they always have great and unique visuals and character designs, but because of that they get really hard to animate consistently. The footage was only a few seconds long, but that was enough to show that the animators didn’t avoid this and the show will be full of stiff acting again. It’s a shame, because the X-Men avoided this really well.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 12 June 2011 with categories: X-Men




Seriously, now this is what I’m expecting out f a great action series. This episode filled in what this show had been missing so far: an engaging storyline. It finally revealed why everyone had been doing the things they did, and it worked wonderfully. It was a bit of a wait (heck, the series will be over in just two episodes), but this episode was exactly what this show needed to really put that sense of urgency to the whole conflict. I admit, Sasaki Yui turned out to be a great villain.

Now, this episode did have a few problems, but those are just minor bugs. It’s a bit strange why everyone just stood around casually chatting while the big bad guy was already getting his hands o the ultimate super weapon. They were lucky that he was waiting for his subordinate to arrive or he could have just left without any of them noticing.

a subordinate who looks downright creepy by the way. What I also liked about this episode was that despite the fact that it was an exposition episode, it still had plenty of action that just kept moving forward. In fact, that’s always been the strength of this show: the way it balances its action. There’s neither too little nor too much, and what’s there delivers. This episode only reinforced my beliefs that this show has the best animation of the season.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 June 2011 with categories: X-Men



Now this is what I call great action. The X-Men set out to create an exciting series, and really: they delivered on that. Wolverine’s strength was that it had solid action that despite the bad animation kept changing and was dynamic. The X-Men may have less action, but it’s all better built-up, it’s better directed, it’s better animated. It’s once again a major step forward for the Marvel anime.

Also, for once the villains are actually a bit menacing. I also like how the main villain isn’t the type to just sit on his chair and let his minions handle everything: instead he’s been infiltrating a research facility while the X-Men were fighting the (still pointless though) U-Men. Now, this episode did take away all doubts of Emma ever turning into a morally ambiguous character, but on the other hand: it is a solid explanation of what went on in that first episode, and it was definitely worth the build-up.

Also, Blade: the trailer and staff list have been released. In the trailer it looks less artsy than the X-Men, but we will be getting our first black main character since Michiko e Hatchin. The director is a very interesting guy: he was the assistant director of Gungrave, Shigurui and Tokyo Tribe 2… and the director of Chi’s Sweet Home and Kobato. Those just don’t mesh: as an assistant director he’s only after mafia, blood and gore, whereas the shows he has directed are incredibly cute. It has potential though: he really is an excellent director and I especially loved his work on Kobato. Meanwhile, it will be written by a guy who has only done live action adaptations so far. Again a completely new writer in terms of writing entire anime plots. It has potential, but because it’s going to air in an awesome season, I don’t think that I’m going to end up blogging it.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 28 May 2011 with categories: X-Men




Here’s the thing: after eight episodes, I can pretty much say that X-Men has the best animation of the season. Sure, some of the slice of life series may have more fluidity, but they also are a lot easier to animate and keep consistent. The animation with the X-Men is wild, vivid, colourful and very diverse. C has this too, but at the same time it does have a lot of off-model shots and CG. Tiger & Bunny meanwhile also has the CG working against its otherwise great eye candy. Ao no Exorcist is animated consistently meanwhile, but it instead just looks too mundane too often. The X-Men, while it may not be amongst the Madhouse series with the best visuals, still stands apart with its consistently interesting visuals and excellent character designs. This episode again looked excellent. Perhaps only Nichijou has better animation, but I have seen too little of that to really say something about that.

Overall this turned out to be quite a solid action series: the action kicks ass and appears often, there is intrigue, the characters all have their issues that blend together quit nicely. It’s only the storyline that I’m not yet convinced of: at this point it still feels a bit too random and unconnected. What was the purpose of the U-Men beyond just kidnapping a bunch of people? They really could have used that time to focus more on the characters and real villains.

Apart from that, this episode was really meant to build intrigue, and I’m curious to see whether that will pay off or not. A lot of the series this season are very big on the build up, and most of them are doing a great job on that, though X-Men still feels a bit iffy here. I’ve said before that the main villains here are uninteresting. Wolverine’s ending worked so well because it had a really charismatic villain. What X-Men meanwhile needs to do is build a finale around Sasaki and Xavier on one hand, and Cyclops and Emma Frost on the other hand. It will be much more difficult than just “have battle to defeat the big bad”, although that part definitely must not be half-assed either.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 22 May 2011 with categories: X-Men



With this episode, this show proved that Madhouse’s Marvel Franchise isn’t going to be purely about action. The talk between Scott and Emma? That was some good drama there, and it had nothing to do with action.On top of that, there was this entire air of mystery around this episode that made all the build-up really intriguing. That’s what build-up episodes should be: they’re mandatory for good storytelling, but at the same time they do not need to break the mood. This episode instead just changed the mood, and I’m glad to see that it worked out well.

At the moment, there are two major pitfalls right now for this series. The first is its bad guy problem: they’re all boring and uninteresting. The two minions that were introduced in this episode? Who are they? The major bad guy? Why should I care about him? The sole salvation for this series at this point will be for them to turn that Sasaki teacher into a bad guy: this episode turned her into the by far most interesting villain here, her co-workers included. With an episode named “betrayal”, there were enough hints that the creators are actually planning this. Heck, screw the rest of the bad guys. Focus more on these guys!

Also, this episode confirmed my fears: Hisako is turning into a walking plot device. It also doesn’t really help her case that she has by far the worst voice actress of the entire series, but it’s also the way in which her only purpose in this episode was to prepare for her to run into Sasaki in the next episode. I still find it strange for the X-Men, who take care of who knows how many mutant children, would just insert her into the X-Men like that.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 14 May 2011 with categories: X-Men



So, the animation received an obvious dip in the past two episodes. It’s unfortunate, but that earthquake also hit Madhouse hard. The good thing is however, that despite the less impressive animation, this show still knows how to deliver great action scenes. The battle scenes are all well choreographed and they’re all balance din terms of the characters involved. It doesn’t stick with one character for too long, and instead of endless talking the X-Men actually do something, and do this efficiently. It’s a stark difference with Wolverine, who without the X-Men was like a wild beast who just kept charging.

Now, I’m impressed that the creators actually revisited Hisako’s parents. what made less sense is how they just allowed her to become a member of the X-Men, which is far too dangerous for her. Overall though, I’d still say that the worst part about her is her voice actress. She neither turned into someone who hogs all of the attention nor someone who constantly has to be rescued, and yet remains a young girl without her powers.

And the biggest potential pitfall for this series has not changed: the villains. They hardly have any build-up, and so far the best they did was prove to be menacing villains as soon as they started fighting. This show does a good job of building up the bond between the different X-Men, but the villains are just completely ignored. This episode even didtched the U-Men for another different villain who has even less build-up.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 8 May 2011 with categories: X-Men



Well, the message at the beginning says it all: last week, an episode of the X-Men was scheduled, but it didn’t air. Madhouse too was hit hard by the quake, and this was one episode that they just couldn’t finish in time. The irony is that this episode, despite being an obvious step back, still delivered. Compared that to Iron Man, which also suffered from production issues thanks to Redline: there it didn’t even look like they were trying.

So yeah, this was a build-up episode. It’s quite early, especially compared to Wolverine, but that series also had quite a simple plot. This episode was all about developing the trust between the old X-Men and their new characters. It’s the kind of episode where you can only tell whether or not it pays off when the series is finished. At the very least though: this episode gave some really clear hints that the bad guys will indeed get some major development as well. That’s good.

The thing with Hisako is mostly that she just feels out of place. It’s great to see an entire series about adults, and the tension between Emma and Scott is just much more interesting at this point than Hisako trying to gain control over her powers. And yet, I totally understand why the creators put her in the series. The X-Men have always been about providing a stable environment for mutants to grow up in. Youth is a very big theme in the franchise, despite the main cast all being adults. And Granted, Hisako could have been a lot more annoying. She may be whining, but she’s always to the point, and… well, with the way she’s been treated, I don’t blame her in a lot of cases. Just… don’t let it go on for too long. The key to good whining is balance and granted, this episode did not have a perfect balance there. My main issue with her is just that she may have been a little too quick in becoming a part of the X-Men…
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 23 April 2011 with categories: X-Men




This episode had two action scenes. And BY GOD where they excellent! This episode had a number of some people from the animation team of Birdy the Mighty Decode on it, and it really showed. The X-Men is a perfect series for these people to show their talents. These scenes were raw and brutal, and drawn with a ton of force and movement. Definitely the best action scenes of this series yet.

The last episode left me rather disappointed by that “fluids”-guy, but at the very least this episode really gave him a great action scene to close off. But Wolverine’s aerial fight against that flying mutant was awesome as well. More episodes like this, please!

As for the story, that also was quite neatly developed further, when Emma Frost of all people turned out to have a second mutation. The creators made good use of the fact that that one bad guy didn’t show himself in keeping the suspicions around her. These mutants with this second mutation are at the moment far more interesting than the U-Men, but let’s see what this series can do when it starts to develop these people in its second half.

Oh, and I also cracked up at Wolverine playing snooker.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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