Save the Cheerleader, Save this Old Viewer’s Soul: Heroman 01

heroman OP main cast

I watched the pilot of Heroman and promptly fell in love. I fell in love the way the comic books of my youth made me fall in love with the whole idea of saving and protecting others using super powers. The show made me feel like I was 8 again, and for a 24 minute show, that’s shaving over one year per minute from my life.

This is priceless to me. I was going through pilot episodes of the spring season and finding no luck in enjoying myself with both Angel Beats and then Arakawa Under the Bridge, I was getting worried about becoming too jaded about anime (a concern that visits me at the beginning of each new season).

I never really think that each new season is bad, only that I acknowledge that finding shows for me to truly get into is a challenge. Heroman kept it simple. I liked super hero stories as a kid, why not make me remember love?

heroman 01 roach alien gainax gunbuster pose

This isn’t the kind of remembering love that I usually talk about. Aside from the trademark Stan Lee cameo that exists in every Marvel licensed feature film over the past decade, there aren’t many overt references, at least in the pilot episode.

If anything, it’s the feel of the show. The old tropes (geeky kid being bullied, sympathetic rich daughter cheerleader, bully older brother of the said cheerleader, COCKROACH ALIEN, heroic robot toy coming alive from discarded toy parts – I’m almost certain there are related tropes for each of these) that feel current, not old-fashioned. I really like this.

It all comes to a head in the lovely ED sequence, where the slice of life moments of the characters are delivered in comic book panels and pages (Western, and not manga). The whole sequence really feels like an issue of Spider-Man, maybe with a dash of Archie comics for the lightheartedness.

Another thing I like about this show is that weirdly enough, it reminds me of why I loved America as a kid. There was no cooler country. Mind you, this was before a liberal arts education, a nationalist anti-colonialist streak, and a would-be career as a post-colonial literary scholar. I am nostalgic for that naivite. I’d rather believe in heroes rather than cast them as villains.

This is a really big topic for a first impressions post on Heroman to take on. Growing up here in the Philippines, the American Dream was omnipresent. Whether you dreamed it or not, you had an opinion on it. The cultural hegemony of the United States on us was spectacular. Even today it persists, despite all the trashy television and news that gets shown on local cable TV.

This is one of the reasons why I love this show I think. I’m programmed to like it. Combined with the anime tradition of super robots, I really don’t stand a chance do I?. I willfully ignore (at least for now) any political reflection or issues with myself that arise from this experience.

I’m having too much fun remembering how I’d rent issues of The Incredible Hulk at my classmate’s house on the way home from school back in 1986 for Php 1.00. I suppose I wanted to be American too. I was 9. What did I know?

But I know this much now: An naive and unselfish kid who wants to be a hero is very easy to love. Why shouldn’t he get to control the Heroman robot. Why shouldn’t I?

heroman 01 to be continued

Further Reading

A very comprehensive Heroman first impression post on taikutsu remedy, where many visual references (to GAINAX robot shows) are pointed out.

A former Kim Possible fan really likes Heroman in a charming post (Shockerz 04/06/2010)

Someone got the idea of the ridiculous ‘American’ setting right and why it’s awesome to put a superhero origin story in it (Landon 04/04/2010)

The Giant Robo reference isn’t lost on me too (Schneider 04/04/2010)

Over at the UK, there is only mild expectation (Hanners 04/02/2010)

A self-professed Stan Lee fangirl weighs in with her expectations (Janette 04/02/2010)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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41 Responses to Save the Cheerleader, Save this Old Viewer’s Soul: Heroman 01

  1. schneider says:

    The show is ostensibly Western comics, and that’s why I love it. My brother is a comic book fan and we got a kick out of watching the first episode. Lina~

    Together, WE ARE HEROIC

  2. Snark says:

    Query: Why am I linked as a former Kim Possible fan? =P

    But yeah, Heroman is an awesome throwback.

  3. Shinmaru says:

    First episode of Heroman is pretty goofy, but it’s goofy in a way that is endearing to me. Watching this really is like stepping into a time warp — you’d find a place like “Center City” only in the comics. (Although the somewhat schizophrenic weather has been like Southern California lately, at least where I live … :p)

    I’ve enjoyed some first episodes so far, but Heroman is the one where I had the most fun watching it. Never really thought I’d say that before the season began, haha.

    • It could be Archie Comics’ Riverdale for all I care. Remember that city? It has a beach for the summer issues, and freaking ski slopes for the winter issues. Imagine that! Coastal ski slopes!

      I didn’t expect to enjoy this too, but I’m real happy that I did.

  4. moritheil says:

    The fusion of Japanese and Western art styles produces some interesting things. I remember being struck by the use of comic-styled lettering in the Haruhi op, for instance.

    Also, I note you omitted B gata H kei in your list of season shows. Is that sort of borderline ecchi comedy illegal over there now, or have you just decided it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it?

    • I haven’t seen B Gata H Kei. I was never into ecchi to the point of going out of my way to watch shows that feature it primarily. I suppose I’m not that kind of database animal. There would have to be a generous dose of my own pet tropes for me to consider a show (e.g. big robots, etc.)

  5. DTU says:

    The gainax observations are justified, the mecha designer worked on TTGL and Diebuster.

    But yeah, looks like it’ll be great. There’s a certain appeal from how simple it all is.

    Also, I need a Heroman revoltech.

  6. kluxorious says:

    This is out of topic but I think Ron from Kim Possible is so darn adorable.

  7. I think Heroman did a fantastic job of putting Bones ability to handle stylistic departures from anime norms on display yet again. I can always count on them for a bit of a break even as what they put on display is still technically cliched like with Heroman. Often the deciding factor for how much an anime or (anything for that matter) grabs me isn’t the content, but how it’s portrayed and conveyed to me the viewer/player/listener/reader and Heroman was certainly enough to grab my imagination by the balls and force me into it’s world for 24 minutes.

    • I don’t think I can make the same generalization for the rest of Bones’ works, but I do agree with your assertion for this one (not that I don’t like the other works, I actually like them very much even if I don’t make a habit of following studios).

  8. omisyth says:

    Music and animation was great. This is all I care about for this show.

  9. 2DT says:

    As far as I could tell, the powerful Americanness of this show slipped only once: When Joey stood up as he was called by the teacher. That’s a Japanese student thing.

    Otherwise, I was surprised. The white crosswalk light-man, spacious suburbia, flags in the classroom and outside of buildings… They nailed the visual cultural differences rather well.

    • It’s the same case here in the Philippines. It’s respectful to stand when conversing with the teacher. In college it’s far more relaxed, but then again my university was founded by Americans.

      When I was a lecturer at the same university, I didn’t require my students to stand — except when I feel like she wasn’t being heard by the rest of the class. Doing away with the need to stand up is very useful when the discussion is moving really fast though, which I’ve never really seen happen in high school anime and (Japanese TV) drama.

  10. drmchsr0 says:

    A good portion of my childhood was weaned on Spiderman (a Stan Lee classic) and Stan Lee had a rather tangible, if invisible effect on my childhood. (The other being classics like Speed Racer and watching Japanese anime at 12.)

    It’s partly the reason why I had high hopes for Heroman.

    I don’t really care about politics or anything because it’s Stan Lee making the American Tetsujin 28-Go (or Gigantor). How can one not like Stan Lee and what he makes? He practically wrote half of the comic book heroes we know 😦

    And you have to admit, his cameo was really hilarious.

    • His cameo is gratuitous, I mean, why would he ask for what he did to a kid running out of the restaurant? Didn’t make sense yo.

      While I’m nowhere near the same level of fan you are of him, I like the guy and his contributions to comic books.

      EXCELSIOR!

  11. Topspin says:

    It’s surprisingly lifeless for a Stan Lee and Bones production. They’re playing it too safe for me, like they’re scared of making an anime about Americans or something. The result is kinda meh for me, full of cheesy stereotypes that are obviously playing for sheer nostalgia and parody. That’s fine for an ep or two, but I can’t see myself enjoying it for a full series. It brings nothing interesting to the table except for the gimmick about the robot using Google Suggest to prod the kid into doing things, but at least it looks pretty.

  12. animewriter says:

    I’m going to give Heroman a try after reading your post, but I have my doubts. I, like some of the older commenters was brought up on American comics (spider-man & batman) and cartoons (thor, spider-man, the hulk) but once I got my first doses of anime (starblazers) and manga (lone wolf and cub) I was blown away with the more “complex” and “adult” plots and I slowly left American comics (excluding stuff like the sandman) and cartoons behind.

    • Well, I think if you can enjoy light and fluffy cute girl shows, you can enjoy bright and light-hearted hero shows too right? Japanese media has a great range I think, but western comic books have them too (see graphic novels like Sandman as you mentioned).

      It’s a matter of demographics, sure; but does anyone really make these kind of media for people as old as we are? Are we really targeted? I didn’t think so, so we’re only left with our arbitrary whims and our open minds.

    • redmaigo says:

      I was also brought up on American comics and I left too but not because they were not complex or adult enough. It was simply because I had grown up and moved on. Believe it or not Western comics have gone too far in the other direction; they have become too “complex” and “adult” for its own good.

      To quote an earlier comment, “Well, were you expecting Watchmen for 12 year-olds and below?”

      God lets hope not!

      The bad thing about Western comics is that they have become something to either parody or are rorschachs of snarky/ironic nostalgia.

      I say damn the 80’s UK comic writers AND Frank Miller who used the American super hero comic book paradigm as their self-indulgent playground. They inspired a thousand fan-boy imitators with Salieri complexes who are responsible for the modern day dreck that Western comics have become.

      Yeah, Stan Lee is still doing the same old, same old but it’s damn near 50 years later so everything old is new again.

      I welcome Heroman in all its cheesiness and pray too God that it rises above its influences.

      I have a feeling that I am going to be let down but I will stick it out for a cour or two to see if I’m wrong.

      God, I hope I am wrong…

      • I haven’t kept up with Western Comics, though during the time I was sinking money on them it was the so-called ‘Dark Age’ in the ’90s when heroes had to be anti-heroes just to be popular. Even the Dark Knight wasn’t dark enough LOL and had his back broken so a darker Azrael could have a go.

        And do you remember when they killed Superman?

        When I figured out how lame these things are as a marketing defibrillator for weakened brands, I stopped spending my money (and sank them into Magic: the Gathering LOL). I won’t comment on the current state of the industry since I haven’t been reading, but I don’t think there should be only one kind of style in the meta of a medium.

        I’m just glad that there’s a place for Stan Lee’s kind of cheese too.

  13. Robert Weizer says:

    this show and durarara are the only things I consistently watch besides Kamen Rider W and Tensou Sentai Goseiger right now

    it’s ALL quality in my book but I’m rather behindish on goseiger.

    as far as I’ve heard, nobody’s decided to sub the new SD Gundam thing.

    every time I see the fact that hetalia has a third season, I remember I need to get Season 2.

    finally, if someone writes about Giant Killing, House of Five Leaves, Hakuoki, or RAINBOW, could you let me know here or tell 21stcenturydigital boy to inform me over AIM or something? Out of the shows on chartfag’s spring 2010 list, those are the ones that I might want to see but am holding back on doing so until I have read several informed opinions on them

  14. shockerz says:

    Thanks for the pin! 😀 Heroman does bring back memory of the old times when american cartoon run amok among children & teens. Oh, I also did a list on recommended anime to watch this spring.

    Episode 2 was awesome nonetheless Joey did bring out his inner hero to defeat 3 over grown cockroach.

  15. vendredi says:

    Good thoughts on Heroman. I think one comment I heard summed it up best – “It’s like one of those cartoons I got up at 7:00am on Saturday mornings to watch.”
    Good thoughts too on the “American-oriented” programming – the Philippines, with it’s history of American cooperation (or occupation, depending on how you define it) is I think in many ways similar to post-WWII Japan in that sense. I think Japanese audiences will get into this show for precisely the same sort of reasons.

    Sounds like you didn’t get as much mileage out of Arakawa – I found it a worthy of filling the gap the recent completion of SZS has left – and much like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, it is very much an acquired taste. The really promising shows are still on their way though; check out Senko no Night Raid, House of Five Leaves, and Yojohan Shinwa Taikei if you haven’t already; you might find a gem there.

    • I find it rather (pleasantly) odd that there was next to zero anti-Japanese sentiment here when I was growing up. We were very much a US Banana Republic (in our case, sugar), and whatever anti-anything I noticed, it was anti-American (courtesy of leftist/nationalist/or outright communist propagandists).

      I remember how much of a victory it was touted when the Clark Air Field and Subic Naval Base were claimed or reclaimed from the US in the early 90s. It kind of messed with the Gundam Universal Century History, in that the Zeon forces used the Subic Naval Base as a strategic point in the South East Asian campaign during the One Year War.

      House of Five Leaves is the only show I was really looking forward to, so I’m definitely going to pick it up. I’m about to watch Night Raid, but I know nothing of Taikei.

  16. Pingback: Americanness and the Marvel Method in Heroman « 2-D Teleidoscope

  17. newgeekphilosopher says:

    This show reminds me of a parallel childhood I never had – one where I would have been a Marvel fanboy instead of a DC fanboy.

    Can’t decide whether to buy some Western comics to round out my collection – there’s a few volumes of the Starman Omnibus I have to get, that’s a Western comic book from the 90s that was actually good because it analyses a family of superheroes instead of just one superhero – a lineage of Starmans who uphold a family legacy no matter how much they claim to hate each other sometimes.

    There’s a decent Oni Press one shot graphic novel called Lola: A Ghost Story by J. Torres about the Phillipines which I bought and read because it reminded me of my Manila blogger buddies who don’t talk to me as much anymore . . . *sobs* it’s lonely in Sydney you know . . . the Lola comic is like The Sixth Sense for kids, or more accurately, young adults. Phillipines ghost lore in it looks fascinating – an alternative to the Yurei genre of J-Horror cinema I’ll bet.

    I dunno. Maybe I’ve just got increasingly varying tastes in the anime, manga, books and comics I consume. Asterios Polyp was a good one, and I hope to read Blazing Combat!

    • Philippine ghost stories are a rich vein of spooky tales. In a company I used to work for, people quit their jobs (at least 3 people) specifically because of the ghosts haunting the office. Ours were built by digging up an old cemetery. The building went underground instead of going tall, so the whole thing was a series of basements that used to be graves.

      I know nothing, and remain rather uninterested with all the books you mention. Comic books aren’t my thing anymore, but Heroman reminds me of the time I was into them, and that is good, and more than enough.

  18. Watching the first episode of this series was like having a piece of my past come back and visit me. Imagine meeting a grade or middle school friend right now (which has happened to me, it’s a weird feeling). I used to be a big comic book fan (Spider-Man specifically) and this bit of nostalgia had a strange effect on me. Instead of me checking away the cliches and tropes, and nodding my head apathetically as my expectations were met, I was checking away the cliches and tropes with a smile on my face and a sense of anticipation for each new scene. Perhaps it’s because this show brings back such treasured and old memories that I’m looking so favorably upon it. It feels like this old American kid is being pandered to with laser like precision.

  19. Pingback: We Remember Love Editorial Folio: Cultural Roots in Anime | We Remember Love

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