The Iron Man: Anime is a Japanese take on the existing character created by Marvel Comics, and attempts to ground the series in a different locale with an entirely unique new enemy for Tony Stark to battle. The result is a well done, highly detailed piece of action fare that succumbs a bit too much to anime's penchant for over the top drama.
Tony Stark has traveled from the U.S. to Japan in order to test his newest Ark Reactor technology for the purpose of creating a clean and limitless renewable energy source while simultaneously unveiling his newest creation: the Iron Man Dio, an advanced prototype suit based off his renowned Iron Man design. During an initial test, the Dio armor goes out of control and is subsequently stolen from Stark's possession. Stark soon learns that a nefarious force known as Zodiac is behind the theft, and is now seeking to amass power for the purpose of taking over Japan and turning it into a military state. Stark must work within the confines of international and political red tape, and adhere to the jurisdiction of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) who have dispatched an agent with his own suit of samurai-like armor to deal with Stark, if necessary. Tony begins to unravel Zodiac's multi-layered plot in the hopes of stopping it before it is too late. But to do so, he will come face to face with a person from his past; a person responsible for turning Tony Stark into the man he is today.
The Anime is a hit, to be sure. It is layered with the Japanese attention to detail that leaps off of every animation cell and truly breathes life into the constructed, fictional world of the series. The perfectionism here is so abundant that I cringed when I began thinking of budget constraints. Unfortunately, there is a tradeoff, and that is anime's ages-old trick of reducing the number of character animation frames to reduce cost. There are a lot of looping animations, frame-freezes with traditional camera pans, and long shots of character expressions in an effort to take up as much time as possible within an episode's 30 minute length. Seasoned anime vets will pay of no mind, but for American audiences used to the frantic and energetic speed of shows like "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes," this is going to be a night-and-day difference. That being said, nothing can beat the Japanese attention to detail, vibrant color, and passion. Tony Stark's Iron Man suit is lifted straight out of the live-action films and rendered in beautiful detail. The Zodiac mechs are lively, inspired and original, but the battles themselves do "cheat" with a lot of the aforementioned visual trickery so common in anime.
Voice actors have been staffed very well. The veteran Adrian Pasdar is great as Tony Stark, though he absolutely pales in comparison to his American "Avengers" counterpart, Eric Loomis. Pasdar is a bit more reserved and a little more keen, whereas Loomis takes everything audiences loved about Robert Downey Jr.'s live-action performance and belts it up several notches. It isn't even a contest. Granted, Japanese anime is more about methodical pacing than all out action and riotous laughs, and Loomis' delivery would certainly not be the proper fit for the Japanese anime.
The story progression is laid out almost precisely to anime template standards, and that's not necessarily a good thing. Anyone who has watched a lot of anime is going to see overused and regurgitated themes permeating every single chapter, from the hero who doubts himself and gets defeated constantly, only to come back with an implausible victory at the end, to predictable people dying in over-dramatic fashion with sad piano riding the coattails of the scene every step of the way. It is of interest to note that this same formula plays out almost identically in both the Wolverine and Blade Anime series, with minor differences between the two.
That being said, I quite liked the series. There is enough quirkiness and action to offset the overbearing drama and craft a fun (albeit mature) take on Marvel's Iron Man character. It's not a re-imagining. It's the same character we all know and love, with history and experiences intact. It's merely a change of scenery.