‘Heroman’ is Just Crazy Enough to be Your New Guilty Pleasure [Review]
Stan Lee's been busy as ever over the past year, joining forces with a number of publishers to create new properties across a variety of media. Among those projects were a few anime and manga offerings, including "Heroman," which has been in print in Japan's "Monthly ShÅnen Gangan" since September of 2009 and debuted as an anime in April of this year. English subtitled episodes have been airing almost in tandem with Japanese air dates over at Crunchyroll, where members and casual visitors alike have had a chance to give the show a spin. Armed with an affection for Lee's decades of superhero work and a passing affection for anime, I did just that. Here's how "Heroman" tastes:
It's a Stan Lee shake spilled into an undercooked shonen stir-fry, served on a gold platter. Naturally, it's paired best with a cocktail -- and make it a double.
Soon after, a bizarre lightning storm hits town, mysteriously transforming Heroman into a hulking, seemingly sentient robot that only Joey can command. The transformation happens just in time for Heroman and Joey to respond to a car crash caused by the same storm, saving Lina and her father form a fiery demise. The duo's adventures have only begun, however, as an evil alien empire prepares to invade Earth in response to an unwitting welcome message broadcast by Denton.
Taking the show at face value and considering its target audience makes linking the core concepts of "Heroman" to Lee's previous works fun rather than frustrating and that's the way it should be. Even the show's closing credits are decorated with Lee imagery such as a Marvel Comics cover homage featuring the "Heroman" cast. It's just plain fun. This argument wouldn't be possible without the vibrant animation of BONES, however, which deserves as much credit as Lee for helping the show transcend mediocrity and producing something casual superhero fans, as well as otaku can willingly commit (if guiltily) 25 minutes a week to.
Another issue I couldn't help but notice is the show's potentially weird pseudo commentary on American nationalism. It may or may not be a consequence of the show's "District 9-only-the-prawns-are-organized-and-evil" plot, but it still exists in bite-sized portions. Military and law enforcement personnel shown to demonstrate cowboy-like overconfidence die horrible deaths while ordinary civilians seem to escape conflict without much fuss. On the other hand, Joey, the savior of the human race, successfully slays every alien he encounters with the help of a robot dressed like Captain America, so viewers probably shouldn't read much (if anything) into any of the show's perceived social commentary.
If you're looking for a little lighthearted anime escapism with an emphasis on punching aliens in the face, Stan Lee's most high-profile anime to date won't leave you wanting. If you aren't already familiar with shonen and superhero shorthand (or properties capable of launching action figure and videogame lines), however, "Heroman" might not be the show to shake you out of your comfort zone.