An American boy named Joey Jones lives in the sprawling California town of Center City. He always wanted to be a hero but instead he works part time at a small diner to support his grandmother and himself. Being an orphan is tough, especially when you have a snooty rich bully who is there to make things miserable. His life makes a change towards the unbelievable when he sees the ultimate toy being broadcasted on television, and obtains a broken version of the spiffy new plaything when one of the bullies friend's throws it away. Joey fixes it up one day and then later on that night, during a thunderstorm, the toy is struck by lightning and becomes the ultimate hero.
Heroman is a whiz-bang throwback to what made former Saturday morning cartoons fun; a romp back to our childhood imaginations, all wrapped up in an unabashed slice of Americana pie, alongside wholesome and simplistic storytelling. Come on, who would not want their very own giant robot?
It should come as no surprise as to how this series is so American. Stan Lee was the original creator, and even makes several "cameos" all throughout the series in his own animated likeness. Aside from the obvious anime art style, there is very little about this production which screams Japanese, and with some slight editing, it could be marketed in the States easily with no one being the wiser. Knowing this, it is surprising that this production was not picked up by some kind of American licensing company; been dubbed, and then thrown back in the form of television waves, and into the minds of thousands of unsuspecting American kids on Saturday mornings.
Almost everything about this series is some kind of homage to the cartoons that were showcased in the Western hemisphere. Joey is the typical bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed suburbanite white kid who has a hard time talking to girls and dealing with bullies. Psy is his "minority friend" who is both cool and athletic. The two teens visit an egghead of an inventor named Professor Denton who puts together all sorts of nifty gadgets which are later used to get them out of a plethora of dilemmas. Oh, and there is a pretty, rich, but kind cheerleader named Lina who likes Joey and provides moral support for the gang; as well as her muscle-head of a jock brother who hates Joey. As for the main villains, the Skrugg, they're your run-of-the- mill alien invaders which have about as much motivation for conquering planet Earth, as their 50's B-movie counterparts. Yeah, everything is going according to plan in the tropes area.
At the helm of the animation department is the studio BONES. And it shows. BONES is known for excellence in animation, and Heroman is no exception to this rule; vibrant and colorful character designs, backdrops, and the attention to detail is impeccable. The representation of Center City is a realistic, albeit idealistic prospect into American life: Streets are cracked but have a rustic charm, there are mom-and-pop shops on every corner, and everyone is a patriotic and smiling ball of folksy charm. In fact, Heroman himself is a representation of the good old-fashioned American superhero; a veritably mute Captain America with the red, white, and blue armor to boot.
Characters are bubbly, and full of personality in both the fluidity of their movements, as well as the vim and vigor of their voice-actors. Mikako Komatsu plays a convincing Joey Jones with a high-pitched voice that oozes a charm that is all his own, and showcases that tricky time called adolescence perfectly. However, the two characters that really steal the show in terms of their voice-acting performances is that of Cho, playing Professor Matthew Denton, and Yasunori Matsumoto as the evil Dr. Minami. Denton is a hyperactive and rail-thin brainiac of a scientist, and Cho exhibits these attributes exquisitely. As for Dr. Minami, he is the anti-Denton; A cackling, stereotypical, and egotistical evil scientist with the twiddling mustache to back it up, and a thirst for attention and power that has become the hallmark of the classic villain. Seriously, if this guy was not such a genius he would be kidnapping damsels in distress and tying them to railroads so that they may languish in terror, waiting for the next steam train to squish them.
So, all hail Heroman! The anime without flaw. Not quite. While the characters are a fun throwback to the cartoons of yesteryear, and there is plenty of eye-candy to satiate the choosiest of aesthetic freaks; Heroman is a bit flat. I guess an example is in order, so remember when I described the characters as a homage to the cartoons that we grew up with? Well, a lot of times they feel too much like a homage and less of a creation all their own. Heroman, despite being the titular character is nothing more than a toy that was given super powers and with no personality of his own; sure he's a cool looking hulk of a superhero, but aside from a boyhood fantasy come to life, what is there? Joey is an every-kid, but he seems a bit bland as a lead for a story. Everyone puts their all into voicing these characters well, and the effort most certainly shows, but it seems at times that their talent is really outrunning the material they have been given to work with.
But the most uninteresting main characters, unfortunately, are the Skrugg; a bona-fide bore of baddies that are about as interesting as an unsalted cracker. These "villains" could have easily been used to tell a more compelling tale of scary visitation, and could have even been made into a cautionary tale. The Skrugg could have invaded because they view humans as a threat, or because they want to deliver a message much like Klattu from The Day the Earth Stood Still (the good one, not the one with Keeanu Reeves). Instead the viewer gets giant, bipedal, talking cockroaches. Riveting. They tried to conquer planet Earth because; invasion is fun, I guess. They are flat, boring, and lack the motivation to make them interesting antagonists. Dr. Minami was a typical, two-dimensional bad-guy; but at least he had enough kick to him that made him more of a character, and less of a catalyst of something for Heroman to whack.
A graphically bright and bubbly adventure that just goes to show that good, clean, fun has not gone away. But as a story, it feels as flat as a soda that has lost its fizz. All in all, Heroman gets an A for effort from its cast and crew, and warrants a necessary four star rating. Take away a star if you are looking for something more distinguished. — Dallas Marshall
Recommended Audience: Some mild violence, but nothing that is not already shown on typical kiddie fare as of late. It would be safe to say that kids 7 years or older would get a hoot out of Heroman.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Heroman © 2010 BONES
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