The Japanese have a somewhat … peculiar track record in adapting American properties. One need only look at the Japanese version of Spider-Man, in which he ends up with a giant transforming robot, to realize that one might have a bit of trepidation in knowing that another Marvel property is to be adapted into an anime.
Even in current day their track record is rocky; I'm really not sure that the world needs a bishonen Wolverine, and the X-Men anime has serious flaws. So Kathleen and I were a bit dubious about Iron Man as an anime.
I needn't have worried. The people adapting Tony Snark…er, STARK to Japanese animation obviously understand him pretty well – not surprising, as it turns out that this was done with Warren Ellis as the basic scriptwriter in conjunction with Japanese production people.
The anime takes place somewhere around Iron Man II (it was released the same year, so I don't know how much of II was known or guessed by the production crew), with Tony coming to Japan to supervise the construction of an Arc Reactor to help power Japan, providing safe, clean power for the country. One peculiar mistake, continued throughout the film, is that in this version the Arc Reactor uses plutonium for some purpose, even though the key to the Arc Reactor in the movies is palladium. This is confusing, but does drive part of the plot due to Japan's understandable nervousness about American atomic devices on their soil.
What makes this series work is that the plot, characters, and opponents are not only well done, but fit for Iron Man. The beautiful Japanese scientist Chika that Tony works with, the mysterious ultra-high-tech organization Zodiac which is working against him, the honorable adversary-sometimes-ally Sakurai, the more-competent-than-she-appears reporter Nanami, all are so very right for an Iron Man series, especially one based on Downey's wisecracking, irreverent, womanizing, arrogant-yet-insecure Tony Stark. It's a shame they couldn't get Downey to do the dub, that would have gotten me to listen to a dub, something I'll rarely do.
I don't like doing many spoilers in these reviews, but I will say that while I'm somewhat doubtful about a certain connection they drew between this series and the first movie, if you accept the connection (and I'll admit that it's a perfectly classic comic book connection), they work with it brilliantly. Tony is forced to deal, at least to some extent, with his own weaknesses as well as play to his own strengths, and discover the depth of his own commitment to being a man of peace who nonetheless must wield some of the most powerful weapons on Earth.
The animation is overall very well done, and captures the essence of the actual armor and the characters that we know while infusing it with the anime "flavor" and doing so very well. I enjoyed watching this show; it was fun to look at as well as to follow plotwise. And the Japanese KNOW how to do animated action SO very well.
This was a great anime, a hell of a lot of fun, and very true overall to the source material. I highly recommend it, and I certainly hope they'll be doing more in this series.