The X-Men Episode Guide 4×12: ‘Lotus And The Steel’
The early ’90s were spoiled for choice when it came to comic book adaptations. Not only was Batman: The Animated Series on the air, but X-Men led Marvel’s push to get on the small screen, diving right into the often convoluted continuity of everyone’s favorite mutants, luring in a generation of fans, and paving the way for cartoons to follow. That’s why we’ve set out to review every single episode of the ’90s X-Men animated series.
This week, Wolverine goes to Japan, because Wolverine is a super huge turbonerd. And that’s real.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, we finally made it beyond good and evil, as all the mutant telepaths in the world escaped from their tubes and used their comined psychic power to send Apocalypse back into normal space-time, where he will probably die and will most certainly never be seen again, which sent Cable and Bishop back to their own miserable timelines, happy as a couple of clams. If that sounds a little complicated, well, you didn’t have to watch it six times to write about it, so you got off lucky.
That said, if you’re going by the order that’s on the DVDs, which I am, then this week’s episode should be the yuletide spectacular, “Have Yourself A Morlock Little Christmas,” but since I covered that one back in December for what I hope are obvious reasons, we’re skipping ahead to the next one this time!
In our discussion of the most convoluted villainous plots, the Commenteers brought up a lot of needlessly complicated plans, including that time Dr. Doom kindapped the Fantastic Four, shrunk them down, and made them live in a little town made of model train parts. The correct answer though, as it always is when discussing needlessly complicated and terrible comics, was Identity Crisis.
Wolverine’s love of Japan has been the source of some pretty great comics and one pretty lousy movie, so I think we can safely say that “The Lotus and the Steel,” from writers Ted Pedersen and Francis Moss and producer/director Larry Houston is at least working from a little more solid ground than we got from all the stuff with Apocalypse and the time-travelers.
Incidentally, while we’re on the subejct of Houston, he gets what might be the best/worst credit placement in the entire series, as his name appears above a flashback of Wolverine running bare-ass naked (or at least as close as BS&P would let him get) through the Canadian wilderness.
I wonder if that’s like a Director’s Guild sort of thing, where you’re guaranteed to have your name placed by a certain amount of body hair every year, and this was the only way they could work it in.
So what’s with all the flashbacks? Well, turns out Wolverine’s having a little therapy session with Professor X — who, I remind you, is not a real doctor — trying to figure out why he’s been so stressed lately. X, being the sensitive listener that he is, chooses to do this by asking Wolverine what exactly he’s afraid of, and then listing off a bunch of traumatic events from Wolverine’s past, like the battle with Proteus and his conditioning from the Weapon X program. Presumably he then plans to ask why Wolverine is being such a tiny little diaper baby about everything, and if he wants a little baby rattle.
Eventually, though, Wolverine just decides the hell with it and announces that he’s leaving the X-Men so that he can go to Japan. Or maybe it was more of a teary, heartfelt decision based on his anger growing more and more out of control and endangering those around him — that stuff about being fed up with these clowns he’s working with might just be me projecting a little bit. Either way, he packs up and heads out, but not before Nightcrawler can appear in a mirror and offer some spiritual advice.
And that… that’s pretty weird, right? Even for Wolverine, mirror hallucinations seem like they might be a little out of the ordinary. But as Wolverine knows, mirrors are the enemy and must be destroyed on sight.
Seriously. The last thing this dude does before bailing for another country is bash in a mirror and junk up his wall. I can just imagine Cyclops in the next room gritting his teeth with a monotone “Oh no Wolverine, please don’t go. We’ll miss you so much.”
Having destroyed enough property to permanently lower the resale value of X-Mansion, Wolverine heads off to Japan, complete with a preeeetttty stereotypical bit of background music that walks right up to but does not actually include a gong. The object of his travels: Oku, a friendly and vaguely Buddhist monk who sets Wolverine on a plan of self-improvement that involves more meditation and fewer shirts.
Judging by the montage of temple chores set to a dusty instrumental score labeled “THE ORIENT” that someone found in a closet during the production of this episode, things seem to be going pretty well for Logan. He even makes a new friend in the form of Kisara a young lady from the nearby village who, despite being Japanese, appears to be saying the word “konnichiwa” for the very first time.
The production values on X-Men are always a bizarre little rollercoaster, but folks, this episode looks bad. There’s a bit later on where they use the same footage of motorcycles roaring toward the village twice in the span of about 90 seconds, and the voice acting isn’t too far behind the animation.
After a brief scuffle with Kisara’s brother, Soichi, over how, as Kisara puts it, “he… has a.. wild spirit” and his desire to fight enemies of the family rather than pay protection money, Wolverine heads back to the temple. And judging by the fact that Soichi didn’t spontaneously sprout six additional holes in his body that are gushing blood even after he literally challenges Wolverine to a fistfight, we can all agree that Logan has regained his balance. So yeah, things are going great!
Right up until he goes out to the woods and cuts down a tree, causing the Silver Samurai to appear.
For real: Dude just straight up Loraxes into existence after Wolverine cuts down a tree, and for the first time in this episode, I am actually paying attention, if only to find out just what the hell is going on here.
Turns out that the Silver Samurai was just dropping in to introduce himself and tell Wolverine to stay out of his business, and look. Despite my best efforts, I’m not a supervillain. I do, however, have to think that if someone is keeping to himself and helping to rebuild the local temple, maybe don’t teleport into the woods to try and intimidate him into doing what he is already doing. Maybe, just maybe, you just keep doing what you’re doing until that dude gets his head right and goes back to fighting racist robots in America.
Then again, he’s got a good reason to try to head off any interference, as he has suddenly found himself in the plot of literally every single action movie filmed in the ’80s that did not involve a Predator. As if on cue, his bosozoku henchmen arrive in town to tell the kind-hearted folk of the village that their protection payments are due, and, equally on cue, the villagers announce that gosh darn it, they just don’t have the money this time.
After Soichi gets involved, the Silver Samurai ups the payment to double the standard rate (whatever that may be) with a deadline of only two days, and to make his point clear, he sets the temple on fire too. And again, maybe do not do this right after meeting the super-tough-looking newcomer whose time at that temple is the only thing keeping him from exploding into a violent rage. This is basic stuff, dude. Just watch Road House once and you will get this.
Presented with a moral dilemma, Wolverine considers not kicking ass for about 20 seconds before Kisara shows up and tells him that he should probably just follow his “true nature.” Wolverine takes a moment to agonize over this, saying that he wishes he knew what his true nature was. Personally, I would think that would be fairly obvious what with having actual gigantic knives for hands, but, you know, I’m a literalist at heart.
While Wolverine is standing on a beach trying to figure out just what his fist knives are good for (hint: stabpunching), Jubilee has arrived in Japan, having stolen one of Professor X’s flying F-1 racers so that she can go help Wolverine deal with all his brain problems.
This is unquestionably the best thing about this episode: Jubilee trying to find Wolverine by waving around what appears to be a professional headshot of Wolverine wearing the shirt he is currently wearing and claiming that he came here to hang out with “an old cool guy,” and finding her detective work to be completely unrewarded. No joke, people: Jubilee is consistently the best character on this show, and she’s only been on it for like ten minutes total in four seasons.
Eventually, through the miracle of footage from previous episodes recycled into flashbacks, Wolverine comes to the conclusion that he should help the villagers (duh), and they set about Ewoking the local forest, digging pit traps, chaining up some logs and, for some bizarre reason, loading up tiny little hot air balloons. And again, as you might expect if you have seen, say, The Three Amigos, this proves to be devastatingly effective.
Needless to say, a few of the katana-wielding bikers manage to make it to the village, because if they didn’t, then we might come away from this show thinking that someone, somewhere could actually get things done without Wolverine showing up to do it for them. And that’s where the hot air balloons come in, dropping handfuls of logs right onto everyone’s pompadoured head.
There’s a great little bit of BS&P interference here, too — the leader of Silver Samurai’s henchmen has a Katana that he’s waving around for the entire drive over to the city, but as soon as he’s actually there and directly exhorting his men to go smash everything and everyone up, it turns into a suspiciously katana-shaped piece of wood before vanishing altogether. You’d think that would actually be a more imitatable bit of violence for the kids, but, well, this is the ’90s. If I had a nickel for every time I saw an actual katana on sale at a flea market right next to a box of X-Men trading cards, I would have been able to buy all the cheap knives I wanted in the fifth grade.
To their credit, the villagers do handle the gangsters on their own, dumping their ringleader into a literal pigsty, which, as awe all know, robs a criminal of all of his criminal powers. But the forces of evil aren’t done yet — as you may recall, there is a man in silver armor with a giant sword and the ability to teleport who’s actually at the heart of this particular problem.
You can probably guess how this little conflict ends, but for the record, Wolverine defeats Silver Samurai with the power of backflipping and then elects to just wiggle his claws around the inside of Silver Samurai’s belt instead of stabbing him.\
So… I guess that’s those anger issues sorted out, then?
Discussion Question: So like, Wolverine loves anime, right? We can all agree that he’s that guy? So what, I ask you, is Wolverine’s favorite anime and why?
Next Week: Rogue’s first boyfriend returns and also there are alien space bugs in “Love In Vain!”