Hi everybody, Junko here! Since Moeronpan is taking this season off, she’s asked me to do a guest review of one of this season’s anime. And the show I will be reviewing is….Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers! Moeronpan was originally going to do a First Impression review of this show, but given that she knows basically nothing about the Avengers in general she felt I was more qualified, as a huge fan of the Marvel universe. I’m starting off with a batch review of episodes 1 and 2 which, although not marketed as such, are basically a two-parter. Let’s get started! D-SMASH!!!

I’d be more inclined to buy the DISKs if they came with tiny Avengers!

Episode 1 Summary:

Brothers Akira and Hikaru receive a mysterious message from their father, who left them at their aunt’s house years ago and has not contacted them since. He has chartered a private jet to fly them to America, where he has been at work developing a mysterious new technology. On the way over, the brothers are introduced to their father’s boss: none other than Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

Once in America, their father reveals the product he and Tony have developed: DISKs, a new invention which allows them to trap supervillains inside…you guessed it, small handheld disks (coming soon to stores near you).

The public announcement of DISKs’ creation seems to be going well – superheroes from all around the Marvelverse are in attendance, as well as a handful of sweepstakes winners, including three ordinary American teenagers: antisocial Chris, outgoing Jessica and superhero-otaku Ed. Suddenly, Thor (whose lack of an invite is literally explained by Tony as “we couldn’t send mail to Asgard”) appears and announces that all the supervillains held in captivity have broken free. (Guess you shouldn’t have held your big party at a maximum-security prison, eh Tony?) Chaos breaks out as the mastermind behind the jailbreak is revealed: none other than Marvel’s number one fangirl-bait, Thor’s brother Loki.

I’m pretty sure everybody saw this coming.

My Opinion:

Yes, Marvel Disk Wars is one of those anime that’s basically a 25 minute toy commercial. However, it definitely has more going for it than just the tie-in product (a good sign, because I honestly can’t see plastic disks selling as well as collectible cards or other such common offerings). It mixes nods to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Loki’s design, the presence of SHIELD agent Phil Coulson) with both comic mainstays and lesser-known heroes and villains. The presence of the X-Men and Spider-Man alongside the Avengers provides something for Marvel fans of every kind.

Where it falls short, however, is in its appeal to those not already familiar with the vast Marvel universe. The first episode hurries through the five kids’ introduction, seemingly to get to the heroes as fast as possible. And once they’ve shown up (particularly veteran spotlight-stealer Tony) they pretty much dominate the rest of the episode. The entire middle section seems to be one long parade of “hey, look, all these heroes and villains!”As a result, the five kids come off as generic, one-note characters – especially Chris, who reminds me of every other aloof, antisocial guy in anime. Complete with skull-themed attire and giant headphones, of course! I was also rather disappointed by Akira and Hikaru’s dad – for the first half of the episode, all photos of him were conspicuously covered up, so I was hoping for some sort of big reveal. Instead, we get an ordinary scientist who suffers from a major case of Same Face Syndrome with Tony.

The pacing is incredibly awkward, and the big “reveal” of Loki as the primary villain fell flat – both because you can see it coming a mile away (from his prominent place in the opening credits and conspicuous absence among the captive villains) and because Loki has very little to say and comes off as surprisingly dull. I do hold out hope that this will change  in future episodes, especially as the creators seem so aware of Loki’s appeal.

Despite the pacing issues, this episode left me looking forward to the next one. I’m excited to see how the hero/kid pairings develop, as I believe Chris’s partnership with Captain America could pull him out of the “generic antisocial guy” stage. The team-up of shy Ed and boisterous Hulk promises to be a treat as well. And the surprising reveal of the painfully awkward, clumsy scientist working with Akira’s father as Spider-Man paid off where Loki’s entrance fell flat. All in all, out of 5 Dios , this episode gets:

dio     dio

Some quality Sailor Thor action.

Loki channeling his inner Junko here.

Episode 2 summary:

Chaos has broken out at the prison as Loki and his team of villains attack the assembled heroes. SHIELD’s attempt to send in backup results in an ambush by even more baddies. The heroes initially seem to be winning until sneaky King Cobra successfully captures the object of Iron Man’s affections, Pepper Potts. With Tony and the team at his mercy, Loki finally reveals his mischievous plan.

Meanwhile, Akira and Hikaru’s father is attacked and injured by one of Loki’s minions, in search of an item called the “installer”. Assisted by Spider-Man, the boys escape with the installer, but they are forced to leave their father to an unknown fate. While escaping, they run into Chris, Jessica and Ed. After successfully escaping from Green Goblin, Akira encourages the others to assist him in aiding the defeated heroes. They all readily agree – except Chris, who, to nobody’s surprise, is not much of a team player and would rather save his own skin.

Back at the party gone wrong, Loki forces Thor to kneel before him as he announces his plan: he will not release Pepper unless the heroes agree to be trapped within the disks originally meant for his fellow villains. Though Captain America gives a rousing speech about justice and sacrifice, it is to no effect as one by one, the heroes are trapped within their own invention.

The moment all the shippers have been waiting for (part 1)

The moment all the shippers have been waiting for (part 2)

My Opinion:

This episode is a lot stronger than Episode 1, as it focuses on bringing separate groups of characters together as soon as possible so as not to be split between too many stories at once. The kids get a little more interesting as they are given time to interact with one another, though Hikaru still has not developed beyond “quiet older brother” and Chris still comes across as rather one-note as well.

The writing for the heroes also seems to have gotten stronger and more consistent. While I had to laugh at the Avengers shouting out every single attack like characters in a fighting game (“Wasp Sting” I can understand, but “Shield Throw”? Really, Cap?) I felt like their dialogue, especially Tony’s, was more human and less of an attempt to pile witty one-liner on witty one-liner.

The exceptions to this are Green Goblin, who seems to be unable to say anything beyond “I’m going to get you, Spidey” and Agent Phil Coulson, who, disappointingly, lacks any personality beyond “info dump”. Also, I don’t know whether this is actual dialogue or was added by a particularly creative fansubber, but at one point Thor actually shouts “In the name of Mjolnir, I will punish you!” Fanfic writers, start your engines. I want to see those Sailor Thor fics!

The stand out characters for this episode were definitely Loki and Spider-Man. The creators are very aware of their audience – Loki forcing Thor to kneel before him and sensually stroking Cap’s face are scenes right out of several hundred fanfics. Spider-Man comes across as the most three-dimensional and well developed character, possibly because he is by far Marvel’s most popular character in Japan and the writers make sure to give him a lot to do.

The show definitely still has its failings (the “installer” which Akira’s father entrusts to him is never explained, and its purpose is still completely unknown) but the improvement it showed over just one episode is enough for me to want to see more. I only hope that once the kids and their disk-bound partners team up it doesn’t devolve into a “villain/monster of the week” type show. We’ll find out next week!

Out of 5 Dios, this episode gets:

dio  dio  dio

Cap thinks he is in a fighting game

A particularly excellent line from Spidey