Ask John: Why Doesn’t Heroman Get Any Respect?
Why doesn’t Heroman get the respect it deserves. I know it just my opinion, but I felt that Heroman was the best anime of the last year, if not of the past five. The story felt familar yet fresh at the same time and was an absolute joy to watch. it really felt like I was watching a modernized version of Bronze age american comic. The character were spectacular and fresh. Joey Jones (A Stan Lee name if I ever heard one) was not only a joy to watch as his character grow through the series, but fresh in the sense that he was not dark and brooding. The art and music were fantastic as well, leading to a series that was very popular in Japan. So why do so many anime fans in america disrespect it?
The answer to this question is actually contained within the question itself. While certainly not a flop, Heroman was not especially successful in Japan or America partially because it’s unlike conventional, contemporary anime. Anime has proliferated in Japan for fourty years and has developed specific characteristics and engendered fans that gravitate toward specific characteristics. In America, traditional comic book hero fandom and anime fandom have traditionally been separate and frequently opposed. Many American anime fans gravitate toward anime because they’re unsatisfied or unfulfilled by American comic hero stories. So Heroman, a Japanese hybrid of American superhero mythology ended up existing as an orphaned novelty rather than a show genuinely embraced. Japanese and American viewers seemed to find it too unlike the anime that they prefer. For Japanese viewers it was neither Japanese enough to be familiar nor American enough to be entirely novel. For American viewers it wasn’t Japanese enough to be fully satisfying.
The viewer ratings for Heroman in the Tokyo area typically hovered around the 2% range, meaning that Heroman was watched about as much as Gokujo Mechamotte Iincho, Saikyo Bushoden Sangoku Engi, and repeats of Gintama and first Naruto TV series episodes. It typically fared better than very niche audience programs like Senko no Night Raid, Animal Tantei Kiruminzoo, and Angel Beats, but Heroman’s 2% viewing rating trailed far behind the 5% and higher ratings earned by the most popular TV anime. The difference between 2% and 5% ratings doesn’t seem like much, but with over 50 other anime TV series airing during the same weeks that Heroman aired, Heroman was consistently one of Tokyo’s ten least watched anime TV shows.
Granted, Joey Jones is not a “dark and brooding” character, yet neither are the protagonists of much more popular concurrent TV anime including One Piece, Inazuma Eleven, Heartcatch Precure, Fairy Tail, Ookiku Furikabutte, Metal Fight Beyblade, and Gokyoudai Monogatari. Heroman’s art design and animation quality were impressive, but they were also tied to a story filled with the sort of illogical character motivations and gaping plot holes typical of American comics yet not so prevelant in anime stories. To put it bluntly, and with no offense intended, the Heroman anime series was simply dumb much of the time. Countless plot developments were highly implausible or felt entirely arbitrary. Characters frequently made decisions that seem entirely appropriate for American comic characters but don’t make sense in the rational context that we expect from anime. Heroman’s origin is never explained, nor does it make any sense. Despite Professor Denton discovering the Skrugg’s weakness to sound, he never bothers to tell the authorities or military about his breakthrough discovery. Joey suddenly manifests superhuman powers with no explanation of how or why. The US government seems obsessed with Heroman yet never seems to care much about the discovery of alien life nor the remnants of advanced alien technology. The US military is apparently both trigger happy and ignorant as it opens fire on an unarmed civilian vehicle in episode 14 yet still can’t find and capture a single teen boy. Doctor Minami gets a face-to-face meeting with the President despite no one knowing Minami’s intentions. Minami also proves able to commandeer the army with no effort at all. These and countless other circumstances throughout the show are egregiously stupid. In fact, it’s the very dumbness of Heroman that made the show a somewhat beloved novelty for viewers. The show epitomized the philosophy of “dumb fun,” but “dumb” is not typically an adjective frequently applied to anime.
Ultimately, Heroman was merely an interesting diversion. It’s too silly and stupid for most hardcore otaku to take seriously, yet it’s still probably too “anime-esque” for typical American comic fans to fully embrace. The show does exhibit a pronounced “Stan Lee” character, but that tone is precisely what alienates the show from most anime otaku who specifically watch anime because anime is the opposite of “Stan Lee” aesthetics. The show is fun to watch, and I do think that an appropriate number of international anime fans do acknowledge Heroman in that respect. However, taking the show seriously is an entirely different demand. The show is near impossible for the vast majority of viewers in Japan and America to take seriously, and that circumstance is why Heroman isn’t given greater respect.