The “Wolverine: The Animated Series” is part of a project to introduce western Marvel characters to the Japanese audience with tailored animation towards traditional anime. Iron Man, X-Men and Blade are also a part of this project. The plot of the Wolverine story is simple: Wolverine’s girlfriend, Mariko, is kidnapped by her father, Shingen, from the United States and brought to Japan to be wed to his right hand man, Hideki Kurohagi. From here Wolverine travels to Japan and fights hundreds of henchmen to get her back. Along the way, allies are made and some boss-fight type battles ensue with past foes.
The first issue lovers of Wolverine may squawk at is the design choice of Wolverine. He is tall and svelte instead of the average-heighted solid brute that he is usually portrayed as. He looks like more like a male model who gets in street fights. Milo Ventimiglia gets the vocal duties as Wolverine. He does a fine job with the standard dialog, although he does come off as younger sounding, laid back guy and not too gruff. Every episode has at least one or two fight scenes and each episode ends with a cliffhanger as too keep you interested in what will happen next.
Unfortunately the series is hampered by generic plot devices and even more generic fighting sequences. There is much to-do and seriousness in the fight scenes but all of it seems like back and forth uselessness until the final blow happens. There were some liberties taken with the indestructibleness of Wolverine. He takes a lot of punishment but heals almost immediately. In fact, people get shot, sliced and punched however no one seems the least bit hurt throughout until the end. This makes for very tedious fight scenes for the remainder of the series once you watched the first couple of episodes. Dispensable thugs with automatic weapons are nothing than slight annoyances. They are easily disposed enough with the effort of a kid stepping on an anthill. It reminds me of the G.I. Joe cartoon from the eighties, millions of bullets flying around and no one gets hit. There is some blood but nothing more than you would see in a PG-13 movie. When blood does occur, it is usually in a stylized manor and very controlled.
Finding the target audience seems to be tough. The story is something a 7-8 year could grasp but the violence may not be appropriate for that age group. Anything older than a teenager may enjoy the stylized PG-13 violence but will roll their eyes at every plot turn. It’s not epic enough for you to become emotionally invested in either. Yes, there is world travelling however the environments they travel to and fight in could be anywhere as there is nothing too distinguishing about the locales. Realism definitely takes a back seat in this series as well. The story wants to be gritty and dark but when it comes to certain physical, realistic aspects such as gravity, being able to breathe underwater, how easily swords and claws can be put into concrete and glass; it all becomes lazy and convenient for the character depending on the circumstances.
There are no outstanding moments in the series that elevate it beyond being mediocre. Even the final battle scene lacks any differentiating moments from the rest of the battles. There is only one semi-memorable scene in the entire series which seems to parody the wedding scene of “The Graduate” for one or two camera shots, but it may be entirely coincidental.
“Wolverine” is shown in a 1.78:1 widescreen, anamorphic format. It looks fairly similar to watching on a low def channel on TV. It is rather soft-looking and nothing pops off the screen at you. The colors are basically strong with none of them being too vivid. There is no distracting aliasing or compression.
It is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The audio is clean, there are many swords being unsheathed and clashing with one another and it all sounds realistic. The soundtrack is mostly power ballad type electric guitar riffs to pump up the atmosphere. It fits the bill for anime. The disc defaults to the Japanese track so you will have to manual choose the English track which I recommend.
There are a couple of extras; however, they are not too informative. “The Marvel Universe: Wolverine Reborn” and “The Ferocious Anti-hero: Wolverine Defined.” They consist of mostly the makers talking about the idea, the characters and the production.
It is hard to recommend “Wolverine: The Animated Series” to anyone except diehard Wolverine fans that want to soak up everything they possibly can, or teenage boys in the 12-14 year old range. The story, animation and action are mediocre at best with nothing elevating it beyond something you would come across on Sunday morning cable. The DVD presentation is just fine for the genre.