FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure *CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *psychological, sociological*
This 12-episode anime was a collaboration between Marvel Entertainment and the Japanese anime studio Madhouse, part of a joint endeavor that also included serials for Wolverine, Blade, and Iron Man. Wikipedia claims that X-MEN writer Warren Ellis "guided" most of these series, and in one of the promotional commentaries a speaker claims that they were guided by Ellis' version of the X-Men.
I confess to being completely unfamiliar with Ellis' contributions to any X-books. However, most of the plot-arcs in X-MEN are borrowed from the work of other X-writers.
The continuity, in a rare turn from most X-adaptations, begins in the wake of the death of Cyclops' beloved Phoenix, a character associated with the Claremont-Byrne run. The X-Men's first opponents in this series are the "U-Men," human fanatics who seek to gain super-powers by incorporating mutant flesh into themselves, from Grant Morrison's 2001 continuity. They seek to help a Japanese mutant girl who joins the X-Men and takes the code-name "Armor," a character originated in ASTONISHING X-MEN by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. In the heroes' encounter with the U-Men they rescue another Claremont-Byrne creation, the White Queen, who in this iteration is associated not with the comic-book "Hellfire Club" but with"the Inner Circle," which is apparently a legacy from this 2009 American adaptation. One other Hellfire alumnus is also represented as having been a member of the Circle: Mastermind, adapted by Byrne and Claremont from the old 1960s Lee-Kirby character. And finally, we see another Claremont-Byrne borrowing in that the X-Men end up fighting a super-mutant named Takeo. This character is freely adapted from the character "Proteus," the son of the X-Men's mentor Professor X, though Takeo's mother is, in the interest of keeping the action in Japan, a Japanese woman.
I have no problem with Ellis using any or all of these materials, given that they are all the property of Marvel Comics. But it does irk me that this was represented as being in tune with the comics-work of Warren Ellis, when so little of it derives from his plot-concepts.
That said, all the usual preachments on the injustice of anti-mutant prejudice are here, neither better nor worse than the usual sociological observations in the comic book series. Cyclops, who only reluctantly leads the heroes due to grieving over his deceased love, gets a little more character-attention than he often does in animated cartoons, but other characters-- Beast, Storm, Wolverine, White Queen-- sometimes prove fairly interchangeable. I didn't listen to the English-language version, but I rather doubt that the scripters managed to catch the comic potential of either Beast or White Queen, since most of the proceedings unfold with an apocalyptic grimness. I rated the action-scenes of WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN as "above average," and in contrast most of the fight-scenes in this Japanese co-production unfold in a welter of bedazzling FX-powers, engendering more confusion than excitement. On the other hand, though this X-MEN mixes in a lot of plot-threads, they all come together at the climax, whereas the WOLVERINE production was all over the place in terms of unity.
It's a pleasant enough series, but by far the greatest pleasure it offers is seeing the X-Men, who are supposed to belong to a myriad of cultures, using phrases that would've fit a Toshiro Mifune samurai-film:
"You must harden your heart against adversity! That is the fate of being-- an X-Man!"