I'll cut to the chase, "Marvel Anime: X-Men" is not a revolutionary step-forward in superhero animation, nor is it a crushing failure a la Marvel's prior straight-to-DVD animated films. Running 12, 20-minute episodes, the series is another installment in Marvel's new anime experiment, which also tackles Iron Man, Wolverine, and Blade. When I first heard of this experiment, I suspected the project was intended to serve a two-fold purpose: introduce superhero fans to the anime style and most importantly, draw in anime fans willing to try any new series once and hopefully, hook them on Marvel characters. As a superhero fan first, "X-Men" is a crushing bore of a series, barely resembling what I know to be the legendary super group; however, the minor anime fan in me, sees a clichéd but effective series that might have stood better without a coat of comic book paint.
The series begins with a tasty carrot for X-Men fans, the death of Jean Grey, but anything resembling a classic comic tale disappears there, as a dull mystery story involving mutant children in Japan being kidnapped slowly rouses our heroes into action over the course of two episodes. It's immediately worth noting, while "X-Men" was originally produced with a Japanese voice cast, the subtitled translation is a hair on the stiff side, robbing the series of any chance at humor. The English dub on the other hand, has dialogue more fitting of the characters (although it's still a far cry from being faithful). For instance in an early sequence involving Logan passing through airport security, an agent with a metal detector wand passes it over Logan's crotch. In the subtitled version, Logan nearly whines with anguish, "I can't take these off," as he brandishes his claws. In the dub, a wise-ass take on the character bluntly states "Lady, what you're looking for isn't in my pants." It's a bit crass, but it feels more like Wolverine and having Steve Blum do the dub doesn't hurt much either.
The actual story driving "X-Men" is competent but uninspired. The basic gist is a group of super villains known as the "U-Men" are attempting to create anti-mutant weapons. Tying things together is the story of a figure from Professor X's past (don't get your hopes up, it's not Magneto nor anyone one-fourth as exciting) as well as the past of a scientist connected to the case. At 12 episodes, the story isn't meaty enough, padding time with uneventful, single villain fights, convoluted conspiracies and a three-part final act that features some of the worst superhero action I've ever witnessed. The metaphysical finale really drives home the feeling this was a separate anime idea quickly disguised as an X-Men tale. The English voice cast is the saving grace for X-Men fans, but even then the characters struggle with identity issues making for an inconsistent experience overall. With some judicious editing, the series would have had potential for more appeal to Marvel fans, but the end product is more suited for anime aficionados; X-Men fans can stick with the 90s Fox series and the more recent "Wolverine and the X-Men."
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sports a solid palette of colors that are often a bit too muted and not always due to stylistic choices. The animation itself is very smooth, and the image itself is free of edge-enhancement, however, in addition to the muted colors, the contrast is lower than desired.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track, despite having a stronger voice acting cast is slightly off-balance, mostly in the vocals department. It's not as immersive as expected, especially compared to the original language track. A Japanese 5.1 track is available as well as English and English SDH subtitles.
On disc one, "Re-Examining the X-Men" covers character design and concepts in a breezy four minutes, while a basic 10-minute primer to the X-Men themselves occurs in "X-Men: Team of Outsiders." Disc two features a 30-minute "Special Talk Session" with Marvel's Anime director, which covers both the X-Men and Blade
The "X-Men Anime" is bound to disappoint X-Men fans with its meandering story and mediocre action. Anime fans may enjoy the spin on popular genre conventions, but even looking at the series removed from its comic book coat of paint, it's merely an "ok" series. Rent It.