Friday, May 9, 2014

Iron Man : Rise Of Technovore (2013)

Marvel has a long history of trying to court the lucrative Japanese market. This has lead to commissioning local artists to create manga versions of their comics and even the truly glorious 70's TV series Japanese Spider-Man. More recently they've also tried to tap into the growing US manga fandom with things such as the (frankly godawful) Marvel Mangaverse. In 2011, Marvel teamed up with legendary Japanese animation studio Madhouse to produce a series of anime series based on some of the comic giant's biggest brands- The X-Men, Wolverine, Blade and Iron Man. Iron Man: Rise Of  Technovore is the first feature length production to come out of the partnership and follows the Iron Man anime series.

Not that you need to have seen a single frame of said series to watch this movie. You can comfortably come into this being only familiar with the live-action Iron Man films and not miss a beat. The characters are clearly modelled after their Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnations, with a slight anime twist. If you're not  familiar with the characters at all though, you may be a little lost- there's few concessions for newcomers here.




The plot sees billionaire hero Tony "Iron Man" Stark launching a high-tech satellite (with the curious name of "Howard") only to be attacked by a mysterious new foe. This new enemy turns out to be Technovore, a dangerous young fellow with an axe to grind with our hero.


These Marvel anime projects have been curious hybrids, with the animation produced in Japan  based on scripts written in the US. The results have been mixed, but have often fallen somewhat short. The TV series have all seen their stories take place in Japan, or at least be connected to Japan in some way. Rise Of The Technovore however just concentrates on telling a typical Iron Man story and is all the more effective for it.

Madhouse are one of Japan's top-tier animation houses, so this is no slouch in the visuals department. This was made for home video release so it's not theatrical quality animation- but it's not that far off either. The animation is perfectly slick and well-produced, with expertly produced action set-pieces.

Many Marvel fans will enjoy seeing their favourite characters given an anime spin. Many familiar characters from the MCU including Nick Fury, Hawkeye and Maria Hill pop up and translate well to the new aesthetic.  However, if ever a Marvel character was destined to translate into anime form- it was Black Widow. The firey red-head is a natural fit into the anime world, and kicks copious amounts of ass. Surely she deserves an anime spin-off of her own?

Another highlight is the introduction of comic favourite The Punisher. Having starred in no less than three flop movie adaptations, Marvel's grittiest character hasn't really found his footing onscreen. The producers of these movies aren't constrained by the same rights-issues and red tape that hampers the MCU- they could potentially bring in any Marvel owned character, without needing prior films to set them up. Adding the gun-toting vigilante ( here voiced by The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus) to the Iron Man mix certainly shakes things up a bit and adds a bit of an edge.

Ultimately, what prevents this from being as good as Marvel's live-action efforts is the script. In the movies Stark's snark is genuinely funny. Stripped of the wit of the MCU version, and without Robert Downey Jr's charismatic performance, it's just not the same. The writing cross the board is much closer in quality to the Marvel straight-to-video animations than their big-screen outings.

If you're seriously into both Marvel and anime then this might just hit your sweet spot. For the more casual fan this is a pleasant enough way to kill ninety minutes. Maybe it's not Marvel-ous exactly (sorry), but it's not half bad either.

IRON MAN RISE OF  TECHNOVORE is available on DVD and BLU-RAY from SONY HOME ENTERTAINMENT in the US and UK.  Also available Streaming via NETFLIX [UK/US].



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