The spring anime season officially started today with the premiere of Stan Lee and BONES studio‘s collaboration project, HEROMAN. Much like I described in the Spring 2010 Preview, the story here follows an orphan boy named Joey Jones, who works part-time at a diner to support himself and his grandmother. Before heading off to school one morning, Joey sees a commercial for a new toy robot called Heybo and wants one, but it’s way out of his budget. On his way to school, a wealthy girl named Lina tries to invite him to the cheerleaders’ dance party, but Joey is clueless and turns her down as usual, thinking there are better guys out there for her. Despite not getting involved with Lina, the mere sight of them together pisses off her older brother Will and his friends, so they take it out on Joey until his friend Psy steps in to chase them off. After school, the same rich bullies wreck a newly bought Heybo and toss it out, so Joey decides to pick it up and spends several days piecing it back together, eventually naming it Heroman.
While working one night, Joey notices that it’s starting to rain and he rushes home because he left the sunroof window open. Just as he arrives, Heroman is struck by lightning and transforms into a giant self-aware version with a push of a button on the remote control that attached itself to Joey’s arm. Off in the distance, Heroman notices an explosion and with a another push of a button from Joey, takes off running in that direction and teleporting onto the freeway, where Lina and her father have gotten into a car accident with a fuel truck. Using his controller, Joey orders Heroman to rescue them and he does just that, even protecting them from the gas explosion that followed suit. Meanwhile, aliens known as the Skrugg are orbiting Earth and ready to invade it, having received a spacial transmission from an overzealous professor named Matthew Danton, who was only trying to make first contact with extraterrestrials.
Despite having the BONES effect in full force here, this first episode didn’t really change my impression of the series much. It was pretty much straight out of the manga for the first half, while the latter half was changed up a fair bit, switching in a car accident in favor of a vengeful samurai spirit possessing a disgruntled employee. The end result was the same however, with Heroman saving Lina and protecting her from a gas explosion, and a barrier from Joey’s controller shielding him from harm. Don’t take this as a knock on the series though. I merely knew what to expect coming into this premiere episode, so it just didn’t really surprise me one way or another.
On the plus side, BONES doesn’t disappoint and everything is simply better animated with voice-overs. The character designs have a refreshing westernized touch to them (e.g. Stan Lee‘s recurring cameo), with idol/actress Komatsu Mikako (Joey) and new seiyuu Obata Mayu (Lina) providing believable performances in their respective roles. The extended scenes of Joey fixing the Heybo were also a nice touch. On the slightly negative side, it comes off as an Americanized shounen series, which the subtitled OP/ED songs and 6:00pm JST airtime reaffirm. I’m not too concerned about that just yet, but I’m still not completely sold on the whole “boy turned super hero/alien invasion” premise either.
There’s no questioning that this series looks nice though, so hopefully I’ll get a better idea if the story’s for me in the upcoming weeks. I do recommend checking out the first episode regardless, as this is an original East meets West piece of work you don’t see very often. Plus it’s Stan Lee’s creation no less.
Note: This is one of CrunchyRoll‘s new simulcasts for the spring season.