Featuring the Voices of: Matthew “Thundercats (2011)” Mercer , Eric “Ren & Stimpy ‘Adult Party Cartoon’” Bauza , Norman “The Walking Dead” Reedus
Director: Hiroshi “Highlander: the Search for Vengeance” Hamazaki
Writers: Brandon “Dead Space: Aftermath” Auman , Kengo “Tokyo Gore Police” Kaji
Follows: “Marvel Anime: Iron Man”
Followed By: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher
Today’s topic may be about a good ol’ American made superhero icon, but the feature itself is a product of the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s like being told that you’re getting a Baconator from Wendy’s, only it was made by a sushi chef. You know it’s going to resemble what you asked for: it’ll probably be made with some fine Kobe beef, but there’s also the very high possibility that after you bite into it, something with tentacles is going to be smiling back at you from between those buns. That just sounded more x-rated than it needed to be. You’re welcome.
Back at the turn of the Willennium, Marvel created its own Japanese influenced comics known as the Mangaverse, where classic characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man were given new spins and designs based on pop culture tropes from across the pond, just without going so far as to include rape monsters. The Mangaverse started as a larf but went on to become a canonical dimension in the Marvel pantheon of alternate realities, designated Earth-2301. For those curious new-comers out there, the main Marvel universe that we all know and love is known as Earth-616. The 2301 wasn’t the first instance of a slathering of wasabi and roe on a Big Mac though. For that, we’d have to toss Mr. Peabody some Beggin’ Strips so he’d take us on a trip in the Wayback to 1978. Japanese geek dream factory Toei created their own version of Marvel’s Spider-Man for a live-action TV series. Ever wonder what the webslinger would look like as imagined by the people who gave the world Sailor Moon, Power Rangers and Prince of Space (“MST3K” fans know that last one painfully well)? I present to you: Supaidâ-Man .
Unlike the American live-action TV series that came the year before, at least that Japanese shit was fun stupid and not just stupid stupid!
Anyway, that was 35 years ago. More recently, in 2010, Marvel produced four 12-episode animated maxi-series for Japanese television network Animax that starred Marvel characters adapted to appeal to the new foreign audiences while trying to keep the core characteristics that made them globally popular in the first place. The subjects for this targeted marketing project were Iron Man, Wolverine, the X-Men, and Blade. Not sure how Blade made it into the mix to be honest, given that his cinematic career went out with a fart back in 2004 with Blade: Trinity. This isn’t like the days before the internet when Japan was always 10 years behind in terms of catching up to US pop culture. Whatever the case, if you’ve seen the Iron Man movies, then you should be good to go here without having to have seen the 12 episode anime. The titular villain is the only real new addition to the story, but his background is heavily linked to the events of the first live-action movie, so we dirty gaijin won’t be left out of the loop. With all of that said, let’s see what’s in this spicy tuna burger.
For starters, IM:RoT (love that acronym) is written by Kengo Kaji and Brandon Auman. Kaji wrote for Tokyo Gore Police and Uzumaki (two brilliant pieces of Japanese guano lunacy), while Auman penned several episodes of “Iron Man: the Armored Adventures” and “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. Ironically enough, NOT the Technovore centric episodes of either series. I can’t speak much for “Armored Adventures”, but “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” is one of the best comic book cartoons since “Batman: the Animated Series”. A pretty solid pedigree to build something spectacular around, correct? That fucking two star rating at the top of this page says otherwise.
Tony Stark (Matt Mercer) is up to his usual high-tech industrialist antics. His latest project is The Howard: a super-powered surveillance satellite designed for Marvel’s Black Ops peace keeping organization SHIELD. You know, Strategic Hazard something Espionage something Dentists or whatever. The satellite is named after Tony’s dad Howard Stark, and will allow SHIELD to go full-on Big Brother on the Earth to prevent global terrorism. Basically, they’re looking to do a full Orwell and go 1984 squared, which would be 3936256… I don’t know, math humor? Anyway, a planet spanning snooping plan that will allow its controller to record everybody in the world on the shitter and/or masturbating in the shower? Yeah, no way this can POSSIBLY go wrong!
On the day The Howard is set to make its launch into orbit (to the chagrin of EVERYBODY who doesn’t already live in a nudist colony), the launch site is assaulted by a group of mech suited mercenaries called The Raiders, who are seemingly set on keeping SHIELD’s balls off of everybody’s lips while they’re sleeping. If these guys are anything like their NFL counterparts though, they fail their jobs 96% of the time. Not exactly the kind of confidence you should be instilling in potential clients. Though they’d probably manage to screw the job up if left to their own devices anyway, Iron Man and War Machine (aka runner-up Iron Man) are there to make sure that Howie makes it to its new home amid the stars. Yep, Jimmie “War Machine” Rhodes (James Mathis III) is along for the ride too, so expect the casual dick measuring contests between he and Tony, as well as the usual “Rhodey saving Tony from his own overconfidence” routine. Given the “your real friends are always there when you need them” mentality of the ol’ superhero team-up scenario, don’t be surprised if War Machine also ends up being our tale’s Deus ex Machina… or Machina ex Machina, as the case may be. Speaking of machines, enter Technovore (Eric Bauza).
Well, don’t enter him, exactly. I’m no robosexual. You know what I meant.
In its original American form, Technovore looks something akin to a Human Centipede made of Terminators. A Termipede, you might say. It’s made up of a colony of rogue nano-machines (i.e. microscopic robots) that allowed it to regenerate from damage and change its shape at will. This new version of Technovore is similar, yet very very different. Like every time a new Ninja Turtles show comes out. Instead of being pure machine, Neo-Vore’s actually an evil albino emo anime teen who speaks in anti-corporate rhetoric like an Occupy Wall Street castaway… wait, don’t go yet! The nano-machines are still in effect, but now they act more like a living techno-organic armor that can morph around this kid like liquid metal, T-1000 style. While Techy could presumably be using this to whip out an arsenal of blades, he opts instead to weaponize a series of floating spheres that hover around him. Guy’s got more balls flying around him than The Tall Man! But, not nearly as many balls as porn icon Houston, who added “author” to her resume when she chronicled her life in the autobiography, Pretty Enough: The Story of the Gang Bang Queen. A truer story than “The Real World”.
The attack on the Howard launch complex leads to a whole buncha civilian deaths, but TV fails to prevent Howard going into orbit thanks to Fe Sapien’s timely interference. The villainous ne’er-do-well refugee from One Direction gets away, but before he does he makes sure to detonate the control tower and everyone in it, including Rhodey and Starky. Ozzy Osbourne’s favorite hero escapes, but his sidekick ends up buried under a million tons of concrete and steel. He tries to dig through the rubble to find him (really? No GPS locator for such an emergency?), however Tony’s got shit to answer for with the powers that be like right fuckin’ now, so SHIELD sends a search and rescue team in to recover Iron Man Junior while Stark’s interrogated by SHIELD head honcho Nick Fury (John Bentley). The cycloptic hard-ass wants to make sure Stark himself had nothing to do with the attack on the Howard launch party (because… reasons?), and also wants him to stay out of the public eye (ocular humor!) until SHIELD can get the whole Technovore problem neutralized. Not one for the sidelines treatment (plus, his name is plastered across the fucking marquee), Iron Pants pops his clutch and invites the authority to bite his shiny metal ass, taking off to find TV on his own and deal out some genius billionaire philanthropist vigilante justice! Because we comic geeks love our crossovers and team-ups (and because The Avengers is one of the highest grossing movies EVER), Fury sends agents Black Widow (Clare Grant) and Hawkeye (Troy Baker) out to bring the errant outlaw back. Hey, when your villain has the potential to create techno-organic tentacles, you can’t just have a big sausage party! Hence, Busty St. Widow. Speaking of tentacles, I’ll bet Mickey Rourke’s electrified whip gimmick went in a whoooole different direction for the Japanese cut of Iron Man 2. Hell, Whiplash was probably the hero!
In his efforts to hunt Techy to avenge Rhodey, stop the baddie AND prove that his old clunky iron dick is superior to the shiny young morphing dong of the new hotness, Tony needs a tour guide to the underworld (not the the literal underworld, otherwise he would’ve been ringing my hotline) to help him connect the dastardly dots and find the fiend for which he searches. He needs someone with a history of deep involvement in the world of illegal death dealing on a military scale. Someone to whom human life is justified as disposable for the right reasons: his reasons. Someone to whom the justice system is to be ignored for the sake of his own benefit and to whom “morals” is a four-letter word. Someone willing to shoot his own friend in the face if the situation calls for it. Yes, Tony needs the help of… Dick Cheney! But, despite his cyborg circulatory system, “Deadeye” Dick’s a little old for this line of work, so Tony just tracks down The Punisher (Norman Reedus) instead.
I guess Big Pun must still be really popular in Japan, cuz I can’t think of any other reason he’d be shoehorned into this story. Especially given Stark’s whole “murder is not the answer” philosophy. His entire basis for becoming a superhero (beyond his ego) is to make up for all the years his company developed military weapons that led to the deaths of untold tens of thousands of people! Yet, rather than contact Captain America or some other non-fatal character who could get him the info he needs, Stark’s first choice is to shake hands with a devil whose mitts aren’t red because he’s an actual devil, but because he’s been elbow deep in so much blood in his lifetime that they’re stained that color.
Without pulling the veil back too much (IM:RoT was just released last year, after all), I’ll just say this about the rest of the movie – it’s pretty much a testament to Japan’s love for mech porn, twisted monsters, penis shaped entities that shoot sperm-like tendrils, and the island nation’s long standing feud with China. Shanghai gets it pretty hard in the last 15 minutes or so. And when the ACTUAL deus ex machina comes around in the end, it is PAINFULLY stupid, despite Tony saying he’s not stupid for preparing such protocols for said emergency. It’s not the prep that’s dumb, it’s the circumstances required to activate said emergency protocols and… damn that old gypsy chieftain for touching my face and whispering “No spoilers!” after I ran over his wife while getting road head! Ra damn it! Where’s Joe Mantegna when I need him?! ARGH!
Anyway, enough about the story. If you want to see the rest of it for yourself, that’s on you. As for me? On with the complaining!
Let’s start by addressing the elephant-shaped turd in the room: the voice acting. When it comes to an animated movie, voice acting should be your first priority. Your movie can look like utter eyeball orgasms, but if your voice cast spends their time jamming filthy Q-Tips into my ear canals, I’m not gonna care. The voice acting just straight up murders this movie. Red handed. In front of witnesses. On camera. In the middle of the Super Bowl halftime show.
Matt Mercer’s Tony Stark is baaaaaad. I don’t mean black breakdancer in an ’80s movie “baaaaaad” to mean exceptionally good, I mean the originally intended detrimental terminology of the word, extended outward with numerous additional ‘a’s to accentuate the shittiness of this performance. Mercer’s reading Stark’s trademark cocksure dialogue with about as much aplomb as a guy reading the instructions off of a Hungry Man frozen dinner box. Granted, the writing’s not exactly up to Joss Whedon standards, but that doesn’t mean your cast shouldn’t put a modicum of character into it. Sadly, Mercer’s performance isn’t the only one to pierce the annoyance centers of my cerebrum. Norman Reedus is a terrible choice to voice The Punisher, and was no doubt hired for his recognizable (yet still affordable) name due to “The Walking Dead”. Brooklyn born and raised Frank Castle does NOT sound right with a southern drawl, even as slight a one as Reedus tries to rein in. On top of the accent, Castle’s also given that perpetual “guy who just woke up” gruff whisper voice and doesn’t come off as bad-ass, it just makes him sound really disinterested and cranky. Finally, John Bentley as Nick Fury? After watching Samuel L. Jackson give us a calm, calculating, completely in command version of the visually impaired roughneck ever since the post-credits tease from the original Iron Man, it’s weird to see him vocally portrayed here more like Jules fuckin’ Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. You know how Japan is though: all black people fall into one of two categories – 90s rap videos or 70s blaxploitation movies. To them, all Samuel L. Jackson characters look the same.
When it comes to adapting characters for Japanese audiences, Iron Man is a natural fit. Sure, the “wealthy industrialist” aspect of his persona kinda conflicts with the traditional Japanese transforming hero archtype of loner motorcyclist/orphan child/unassuming shoe-shiner, but imagine him as Roger Smith from “Big O” and it’s not so hard to see Japan getting behind him. Stark’s snark remains intact, it’s just really flaccid. As for Iron Man, I was looking forward to seeing something interesting in regards to the suit design, but was disappointed to see it’s basically the same stuff we’ve been given in the US. About the only real change made to Iron Man was his methodology toward killing robots. Rather than just punching and shooting everything into scrap metal, during a fight scene with a few dozen SHIELD mandroids (“big robots” for you uninitiated), Tony fights more like Casshern than Shellhead! He was running and jumping around and doing sick axe kicks! When did Tony Stark become Tony Jaa?! Just one of those little tweaks to appeal to the foreign market. Feels weird, but I understand why it’s there. Besides, how can I say no to SICK AXE KICKS?! WAAAAAAAAAA!
Okay, on the topic of tweaks, let’s talk Technovore. Rather than just being a rogue AI, TV’s one of those kids whose dad was a huge dickhole that placed impossible educational standards on him his entire life, and treated him like he was nothing more than the $20 worth of organ meat he’s be sold as in a batch of Farmer Vincent’s Fritters. Impossible parental expectations? Japanese kids can identify with that. On top of it, he’s got a connection to Tony’s past (“No spoilers!”) which throws in another dimension to the proceedings. Also, Techno works way better as a human in a morphing suit of armor than as a weird cyber monster. At first I questioned why you’d want your big feature headlined by a bad guy that’s barely a footnote in the hero’s history. The exact question being “What the fuck is this?”. But, by turning ‘Vore into a threat to Stark on a tech level, an intelligence level AND an old generation vs. new generation level, I was on board. I’d be interested in seeing this version of Techy carry over into the actual comic series, especially given Iron Man’s notorious lack of depth in his rogues gallery.
Like most Marvel characters, the appeal in Iron Man is in the person behind the heroics. IM:RoT ignored that for the most part, and thus Tony takes a backseat to almost everybody else in the cast. Maybe if they’d spent less time trying to build a market for other characters and remembered whose name is actually in the title, we would’ve had time for a little more characterization. It’s a PG-13 movie too, so you can’t even market this to kids who would look past the bad voice acting and poorly constructed story because of the Punisher’s graphic gun violence toward a gang of arms dealers and the casual use of the word “shit” by a few characters. Then again, parents these days let their 5 year olds play Grand Theft Auto, so what the fuck do I know.
Final judgment? I like Technovore the villain more than I like Technovore the movie. I’m okay with sitting through the cliched “hero turned outlaw” story, but I think tossing in The Punisher was unnecessary. There are a couple of decent moments showing off Stark’s self-absorbed personality (the best of which can be seen in one of the screenshots below), but very little is shown of his insecurity as the old guy at risk of being outdone by the younger model. And that big emergency plan at the end? Eyeballs deep in bullshit. As for me, I’ve gotta finish trimming my Cthulhumas tree and putting together my wreaths of shapeless horror for next week’s Feast of the Damned Souls, so I’m gonna get my hoary hosts of Hoggath in gear. See yourselves out and feel free to take one of the human skin umbrellas by the door. Don’t want ya getting wet and catching a cold this time of year. After while, crocodiles!
The movie’s called Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, and The Punisher gets top billing in the credits over both Iron Man AND Technovore?! Whatchoo talkin’ about, Reedus?
“Damn! These iPhones are getting RIDICULOUS!”
Of course Japan would create a supervillain that looks like a big armored dildo straight out of Daft Punk. Of fucking course.
“Yes, Ron. Everybody knows about your weird fetish and we’ve all accepted it as a major part of who you are. But this is a call center and if you can’t come to work dressed appropriately, we’ll have to let you go.”
Sure, he looks cooler because of the black in his color scheme, but there’s a reason War Machine’s also decked in silver: he’ll always be second best when it comes to Iron Men.
Tony Stark realizes too late that he neglected to include a rear ventilation system in his latest armor design…
“I can hear you whispering back there. For the record, I lost my eye during a VERY intense game of Paper, Rock, Scissors that got out of hand. Never play that game drunk. End of story.”
“Yeah, I mean, it came out fine. I wish I’d gone with the ‘me as a centaur’ plan though. Alex Rodriguez swears by his guy. Oh well, maybe next time.”
“Hello, ma’am. May I have a moment of your time to tell you about Android-tology?”
I hope that little red dot’s a bindi, cuz if that guy isn’t a practicing Hindu, he might wanna start praying that reincarnation’s a thing real quick.
Punisher’s about to learn the meaning of the term “like fighting a rhino with spitballs”.
This is what Burt Gummer means when he says he has a new “magazine rack” next to his toilet.
Castle knows that Stark pissed in his coffee, but he’s not going to give him the satisfaction of spitting it out.
Vigilantes get a little too kinky for my tastes.
“Deal with it.” (I’m too lazy to animate a pair of 8-bit sunglasses into the picture. Use your imagination.)
“What what? In the butt butt!” (Since we’re digging up internet fads)
“Do I leave my breasts so exposed because it allows me a tactical advantage by distracting my enemies, or am I just seeking the wrong kind of attention from would-be father figures? It’s way past time for me to get to know me.”
I knew there was going to be a tentacle monster in this movie somewhere! This is what happens when your population eats genetically engineered, cube-shaped watermelons!
After that day, Tony Stark never watched Asian schoolgirl porn again… or ate spaghetti.
Featuring an appearance by special guest kaiju Dogora! (Godzilla was busy filming his big American re-debut)
Anubis will return next time in
“It’s an Open Sore On a Putrid Shore”
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