Saturday At The Movies: Marvel Anime Wolverine

I’m not a big fan of cartoons produced in the Japanese-styled Anime or Manga aesthetic. I know there are a lot out there that are. Some of those fans write for this very website. Still, growing up, I was a huge fan of Star Blazers and Robotech. Silver Hawks was a pretty cool show and Akira was amazing. These programs, and a few others, were able to make the jump across the Pacific and reach North America households to much acclaim. More importantly, they fuelled the imagination of kids and got them interested in Anime and Manga. Maybe that’s why I like the DC Entertainment-produced, Anime-styled, Batman: Gotham Knight, released in 2008, so much. We got to see a favourite character from a radically different perspective.

Not to be outdone, Marvel Entertainment took that same idea and expanded upon it, creating four separate, 12-episode series’, based on their most popular comic book characters.

Anime Wolverine, released to North American living rooms in early 2011, brought the fan-favourite feral character (albeit younger and more rock-music oriented) to Japan, fighting off crime syndicates with a violent and exciting flair that matched both the character’s persona and the eastern animation style.

The twelve episodes of Anime Wolverine collectively tell the story of Logan in Tokyo, questing to find his love, Mariko Yashida who is betrothed to crime villain Hideki Kurohagi. Of course, it’s Mariko’s ultimate crime boss father, Shingen who is behind the unwanted union.

Each episode is a sequential chapter, under 30-minutes in length. The entire DVD, released earlier this year, runs over 280 minutes – a virtual marathon of anime! At the end of each “chapter” Wolverine fights a “boss” character (very much like the old Double Dragon video game!), bringing him closer and closer to Mariko and a final showdown with her father. You half expect the mutant hero to “level” up eleven times during the course of the DVD!

Anime cartoons are radically different than their European or North American brethren. Not only is the style distinctly dissimilar, the pacing of true anime-styled shows is an abrupt departure from what we might be used to in the west. They’re much slower for one. Anime and Anime Wolverine linger on scenes for long stretches of time, often without any dialogue. It’s a completely different visual and auditory language inherent in these cartoons and can take some getting used to.

That said, when the action erupts, it often erupts in a quick, flashing succession of cartoon cells, freeze-framed with camera panning or zooming on one singularly important moment. Visual tension is brought to heights you don’t normally get in other forms of animation.

If you’re a hard-core Marvel Comics fan, in Anime Wolverine you’ll get a number of star and cameo appearances and Easter eggs including: Cyclops of the X-Men and Omega Red as characters, S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. agents, long-time fan favourite locale Madripoor, and Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli in Heroes) as the snarling voice of Logan/Wolverine.

Believe me when I say that the “snarling” lasts all twelve episodes.

Overseen by acclaimed comic book scribe Warren Ellis, the 280 minutes of Anime Wolverine is a little long-in-the-tooth for a 30-something year-old fan, but broken up into chapters, it’s sure to keep you entertained with a great story and mind-blowing visuals. It will not only feed your eyes and ears with amusement but it could also teach you a different kind of graphic language. One you might not have been able to speak before the watching! Can you do any less?

Cue slow pan of inherent action sequence, shimmering with visual amazement.

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