Heroman is a weird one. I’m not talking about the actual content since I always write these opening paragraphs before watching the series or film. No, I’m referring to the fact that it was written by Smiling Stan Lee. Yes, the same one who was President and CEO of the United States’ Marvel Comics back before they lost their damn minds and made a lot of insanely stupid decisions like Jubilee becoming a vampire, Nightcrawler becoming half demon, Polaris being retconned as Magneto’s daughter, Speedball becoming Penance and if I keep listing these we’ll be here for tens of thousands of words. Anyway, Stan Lee wrote the original manga with illustrations by Ohta Tamon. It picked up an anime adaptation not even a year after the manga started getting released from Bones. The same studio behind Soul Eater, Fullmetal Alchemist and Wolf’s Rain. So, have Stan Lee’s skills at writing goofy and highly entertaining silver age style stories held up and if so how well do they transition to anime format? Face front, True Believers, let’s look at Heroman and find out.
Young Joseph Jones is a poor teenager living on the west coast. One day he takes a broken toy robot from the garbage and decides to fix it. But fate has its own plans for young Joey. After a lightning bolt strikes the robot it grows to a massive size, transforming into the titular titan Heroman. Joey finds that he can control the behemoth after helping avert a highway disaster. The two face their great challenge when evil aliens called the Skrugg follow a radio signal to Earth with the intent of destroying the planet. Zounds, how will our heroes handle this situation?
The story itself is kind of lacking. The skrugg are evil for the evils and don’t really have even slightly developed motivations. There’s also a lot about the plot that doesn’t make much sense not the least of which is bolts of lightning being magic. Heroman gains new abilities as needed by the plot which can come across as overly convenient. The story is also kind of predictable since it does follow a silver age aesthetic. However, the story is fun and a lot of the goofier elements do work in the context of a silly superhero story and those elements that are pretty predictable are vague enough that you can still enjoy watching it. It just doesn’t have much tension since it’s less a matter of “will they get through the situation” and more a matter of “how will they do it”. Part of what makes the goofier elements work is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it does have several very funny moments to show for it.
The series has characters who largely follow tropes. Including the scientist who does all the scientific stuff instead of having a particular field of study. They aren’t bad characters by any means and most of the main cast does get some good character moments. They just don’t extend very far from their tropal traits, which kind of works for the series. Heroman himself is a really good example since he’s largely defined by… well, being heroic. He can’t speak, or chooses not to, and rarely does anything besides fight for justice. It works in context since Joey has to initiate his transformation from a toy to a giant and he’s a robot. I also appreciate the fact that regular humans largely don’t respond to Heroman with hatred and mistrust, which is a bit of a departure from most of Stan Lee’s creations.
The artwork is pretty good. Not the best I’ve seen from Bones but still well done. It features really good action sequences, some interesting alien designs and background Stan Lee because that guy’s been appearing in his own work and in things based on his work since… he and Jack Kirby showed up in Uncanny X-men 98, I think. The character designs aren’t bad, although Spike Spiegel would consider Psy’s hair going too far and Lina almost always wears her cheerleading uniform for no good reason. In all fairness, Psy, Joey, Holly and Professor Denton rarely change clothes either, but she’s the worst offender just because her regular outfit is a uniform that’s supposed to be worn for practices and actual athletic events. Not as a regular thing.
The performances are pretty good. Particularly coming from Komatsu Mikako, Kimura Ryouhei, Obata Mayu & Yasumura Makoto. The music is also well done, overall. It goes well with the aesthetic.
There really isn’t any. The ho-yay factor is a 1/10.
Heroman is a goofy series with under-developed characters and a story that doesn’t make a lot of sense in several ways. And I kind of love it. In an age where most super hero comics have gone a darker and stupider route, a series like Heroman that returns to a more fun, exciting, and light-hearted sensibility is very much a welcome change. It blends anime norms with silver age super hero norms and the result is just a very enjoyable experience. It’s not deep, but it is unquestioningly and unabashedly fun. Check it out if you’re a fan of more light-hearted super hero works or if you just like silly action works. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Excelsior! Next week, I end the year with a look at Heat Guy J.