Tuesday, May 27, 2014

X-MEN Episode Sixty - February 3, 1996


The Lotus and the Steel
Written by Ted Pedersen & Francis Moss

Summary:  Wolverine, growing increasingly unhinged, leaves the X-Men for Japan.  He tries to find inner peace with Master Oku, a mentor from his past.  Jubilee, distressed over Wolverine’s state of mind, sneaks out of the mansion and follows him to Japan.  Meanwhile, Master Oku’s village is invaded by bandits led by the Silver Samurai.  Wolverine is asked to help the villagers fight against the Samurai’s men and stop their yearly “tribute” payment.  After speaking to Master Oku, Wolverine realizes that his true role is that of protector.  He helps the village defeat Silver Samurai and end the yearly extortion.  After being reunited with Jubilee, Wolverine returns home.

“Um, Actually…”:  As far as I know, Silver Samurai has never led a gang of teenage motorcycle thugs in the source material.

Review:  And this is how the show eventually got around to the obligatory “Wolverine in Japan” story.  By the standards of the series, it’s not a terrible solo Wolverine story, but anyone expecting something on the level of the original Wolverine mini is bound to be disappointed.  The best character work in the episode occurs in the first five minutes, as the story opens with a therapy session between Professor Xavier and Wolverine.  There’s a montage of past episodes, all featuring some psychological turmoil for Wolverine, which is a nice reminder of the tighter continuity of the earlier seasons.  Wolverine’s anguish over losing control and devolving back into an animal is well played, largely because Cal Dodd does such a fine job selling the idea.  

After Wolverine actually arrives in Japan, the story focuses less on a coherent character arc, or an exploration of Japanese culture, and somehow turns into a Spaghetti Western starring Wolverine.  Two characters are introduced, the hotheaded Suichi and his peaceful sister Kisora, but they remain ciphers throughout the episode, simply fulfilling the roles you would expect them to play.  And Jubilee’s decision to travel to Japan leads to absolutely nothing, although I guess the producers saved a few dollars by recycling footage of her poorly piloting a mini-jet from Season Two’s “Red Dawn.”  There is some effort to resolve Wolverine’s conflict from the episode’s opening, which of course can’t end with him quitting the team.  Master Oku teaches Wolverine that everyone has their purpose, and perhaps Wolverine’s can be found in protecting others.  Really, this is just a way to rationalize Wolverine’s vaguely Buddhist beliefs with his role as the most violent character on Saturday Morning TV, but the scene accomplishes what it needs to.  Wolverine’s scenes with Master Oku are the highlight of his trip to Japan.  Silver Samurai and his teenage motorcycle gang are best forgotten, however.  Even as irony, they're not particularly enjoyable.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

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