The call has gone out to the universe inviting aliens to come and visit us so we're not alone; will it be answered? Hells yes!
What They Say
Center City, West Coast, USA. Joey loves heroes, and lives together in the city with his grandmother. While working a part-time job to support himself, he enjoys his life surrounded by Psy, his sarcastic lone-wolf friend, and Lina, a bright, cheerful girl from a well-to-do family. One day, Joey picks up a toy that was thrown away, repairs it, and names it "Heroman." But just then, a bolt of lightning strikes the toy! To Joey's surprise, a giant-sized "Heroman" is born before his eyes!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name that's been running in Monthly Shonen Gangan written by Stan Lee and Bones with artwork by Tamon Ohta, Heroman is a new show that definitely fuses East and West together in an intriguing way. I grew up reading a whole lot of books based on characters created by Stan Lee and others as well as all sorts of other creations of his over the years. And I've loved the way Stan Lee is always inserted into the movies based on Marvel Comics properties (and love his cameo in this episode) but I'm not exactly what you'd call a fanboy. I like what he's created, but have felt that he's still trying to do mostly the same thing. S I was quite curious as to how this blending would turn out.
Heroman focuses on middle school student Joey Jones who attends the Center City Middle School. He's a fairly average kid, decently smart but not on the popular side which means he's regularly picked on. What draws the attention to him is that he's good friends with Lina, a popular cheerleader who happens to like him a lot and even tries asking him out a few times even though he refuses. That she likes him is bad enough but she has an older brother who is the epitome of the high school style jock so he causes plenty of trouble for Joey with his group of friends that are always following him around. Joey's essentially a loner outside of a friend named Psy who seems to get the way Joey is and encourages him in his various small endeavours.
Joey's a good kid though and he works hard, both at school and at a restaurant where he earns some money to help out the grandmother he lives with since he's been orphaned. Joey's also got a good friend in the form of Professor Denton who fills the "Doc" role from Back to the Future. Even the "To Be Continued" tag at the end of the episode gives homage to the logo of that film series. Denton's been spending his years trying to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence and he believes he finally has, though Joey doesn't quite believe him. That angle only plays out in the last frames of the episode as we see the alien bad guy crawl out of his insect like hive to gaze down upon the planet that has called out to meet alien visitors.
Where a lot of this episode focuses is on Joey's life and how he fits into the scheme of things with the mild bullying he gets. Where his life changes is when one of the kids who gives him grief ends up having his new toy destroyed by a car. The small remote controlled robot, named Heybo, becomes junk but Joey is intent on fixing it and enjoying it himself, which he does. At least until it gets struck by lightning (and a different alien energy force) which turns it into a tall muscular robot that Joey names Heroman. It's not really a robot as it has a real intelligence about it, but it's hinted at here and not explained outright. What we get is a boy and his super hero that operates together through the remote control that now covers half his left arm and wants to do the right thing, which is started off by saving Lina after she ends up in a car accident. Such is the way heroes are born after all.
The visual design for the show is one that is very highly appealing. While Bones has not always been consistent for me with their stories, more often than not I really like their character and visual designs as well as the overall flow of the animation. Nothing disappoints here with it as the characters look great, the colors are fantastic even streamed and the action plays out well when it does hit. The area that's probably going to be controversial for some is the design (and name) of Heroman himself. With it being a small robot that's then made much larger, it has a very different feel to it. The design has the kind of curves and angles you normally don't get in Japanese robot designs but it has such energy to it that I was continually drawn to it. The face itself when it finally changes from the lightning speaks of an interesting personality that should come from it as well. Of course, with the show taking place in the US, I suspect some will be annoyed at the red, white and blue aspects in its design as well since it plays up the American angle, but it's a welcome change from the norm.
This blending is something that I have to admit that I really got into as it got going here. A lot of the appeal is the character designs and animation from Bones. This is definitely following the traditional American super hero model, right down to the same initials for Joey Jones that you get in many comic book characters. It's not a fast start here as it's building who Joey is and where he lives, the kind of situation he's in, so that we can understand what kind of hero he'll become with Heroman himself. There's a lot to like here, familiar as the concept is overall, but it's already one really great looking show and that in itself is a huge draw. The combination of Stan Lee and Bones looks like it could be pretty significant here and it kicks off the spring 2010 anime season in a big way for me.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.