「The Return – 集結」 (Shuuketsu)
Marvel and Madhouse Studio’s third of four collaboration projects kicks off the start of the spring season and begins with a bang, showing when Jean Grey (Hino Yurika) was manipulated by Mastermind and went out of control as Dark Phoenix. As I described in the Spring 2011 Preview, the actual story takes place a year later, when Professor Xavier (Hori Katsunosuke) summons his inactive X-Men from all around the world to deal with a new problem arising in northern Japan — a group of supremacist mutant hunters called the U-Men.
Much like the opening theme and episode titles suggest, this first showing focused on the reassembly of the X-Men and getting their leader Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops (Morikawa Toshiyuki), out of the depressed state he’s in after losing his lover Jean. It also served as a bit of an introduction to the benevolent Professor X and his dream of seeing a peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, while foreshadowing the twisted organ harvesting going on in Japan from young mutant Ichika Hisako’s (Tamura Yukari) point of view, who’s slated to become a junior member of the X-Men under the alias Armor.
For a premiere episode, it worked well as a lead-in to the plot taken from the X-Men: Legacy comics, and allowed me to get accustomed to the new character designs. Unlike the Wolverine anime that came before it, X-Men has a much more American style to it, most notably in the smaller eyes even for female characters like Storm (Hisakawa Aya), and the big burly stature of male characters, Beast (Tanaka Hideyuki) and Wolverine (Koyama Rikiya). Wolverine looks and behaves more like a beast, so it’s taking me a while to get used to it coming fresh off of the Wolverine anime. He’s much more like I’ve known him to be, though I still think they’re overdoing his temper a bit. I suspect it’s to help emphasize the love/hate relationship he has with Cyclops, some of which we saw this very episode. As for Professor X, the old wise man voice that Katsunoke portrays him with is the exact same one he used as the grandfather in the Mokke anime, so I can’t help but be reminded of the latter every time I hear him speak.
If not for the Japanese voices, this latest collaboration project can barely be perceived as anime, which may be intentional since the idea was to dub these shows and bring them stateside from the very beginning. Admittedly, I’m actually a bit torn over the change though. For canonical sake, it’s always nice to see something adhere to the original material, but part of the appeal of these projects (at least for me) was how they put a Japanese anime spin on American superheroes. However, given that I’ve already got a good taste of that from the Wolverine adaptation, I’m quite content with seeing how a much more faithful X-Men one turns out.