Top 10 DC or Marvel Anime (According to MAL)

The Spring anime season was great and Summer holds a lot of promises. One of the most anticipated series is Suicide Squad Isekai. Created by Wit Studio, the anime promises to be one heck of a ride. There is a chance that the hype exceeds reality.  We will know in a couple of weeks, when episode one airs on June 27th

As we wait with bated breath, I thought it might be nice to prime the pump with other DC and Marvel anime. Having only seen a couple, I turned to MAL fans for guidance. Using series weighted scores, we came up with a pretty good list of favorites. We looked at both anime series and movies for our countdown. This is the result of our efforts.

As you review the post, please feel free to let me know if I overlooked your favorite DC or Marvel hero anime. Leave a comment below and let me know your picks.

10. Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers

  • Premiered: Spring 2014
  • Episodes: 51

The Avengers was the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Debuting in September 1963, the story’s premise was pretty simple. A group of superheroes are up against a variety of villains. The story arc directed who would appear. Changing up the characters was gold for Marvel. Since hitting newsstands, the property has seen growth in cartoons and live-action productions. With a solid narrative, The Avengers gained a loyal fan base across the globe.

Coming in at number ten, we have Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers. Toei Animation would join forces with Walt Disney Company Japan to create this anime. Toshiaki Komura came in to direct the series. He worked previously on the Precure franchise. The studio teamed up with Bandai to produce a series of toy lines. Marvel Disk Wars aired on TX Network in Japan and Disney XD in North America.

Tony Stark and Stark Industries developed a device to catch villains. This new technology becomes the source of allowing Loki to escape the Raft. During the breakout, Loki is able to use the tech to trap some of the Avengers. The fate of the world and the Avenger team rests on the shoulders of five teens.

The critics give Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers high marks for its animation and storytelling. The series’ success would inspire a Nintendo 3DS game. Generally, the series has mixed opinions but I think this is one anime worth giving a view.

9. Wolverine

  • Premiered: Winter 2011
  • Episodes: 12

Wolverine is the creation of Len Wein and John Romita Sr. The comic creators would debut their characters in the pages of The Incredible Hulk #181 (1974). Since his unveiling, Wein and Romita’s character has become a pillar behind Marvel’s success.

In the early 2010s, Marvel Entertainment teamed up with Madhouse to adapt four of their properties to anime. Wolverine would become the second in their run. They sought out Hiroshi Aoyama to helm the project. This director has a long resume, including work on such classics as Monster and Master Keaton. A legend in his own right, Hisashi Abe would lend their talents to directing the animation. The series aired in Japan on Animax and on G4 in the United States.

Wolverine follows Logan to Japan, as he searches for his beloved. The daughter of a crime boss, a rival gang kidnaps Mariko Yashida. She is a pawn in the criminal underworld’s power struggle. Wolverine is on a quest to rescue his sweetheart. He traverses Japan hunting down the baddies. A couple of years later, The Wolverine would retell the story in the film.

The critics took issue with elements of the anime series. They took aim at the simple story, clunky visuals, and bad voice acting. Despite their concerns, anime fans found the series enjoyable. If you are a Wolverine fan, this anime may be worth giving a shot.

8. Iron Man

  • Premiered: Fall 2010
  • Episodes: 12

Marvel continues their dominance in our countdown with our eighth entry. Iron Man is a Marvel property created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby. Tony Stark would make his first appearance in the pages of Tales of Suspense #39 (1962).

Iron Man was the first of four anime born out of a partnership between Madhouse and Marvel Entertainment. The studio chose Yuuzou Satou to oversee the direction of the 12-episode series. His resume includes work on great series like Claymore, Death Note, and Monster, among others. Someone with an equally impressive resume, Ai Kikuchi would serve as the chief animation director. Episodes aired in Japan on Animax and G4 in North America.  

The series follows Tony Stark’s adventures in Japan. Within the walls of Lab 23, scientists work on a new power source. Called the Arc Station, there are some bad actors who have their sights on this eco-friendly energy. The organization Zodiac attacks the lab to acquire the Arc Station. Iron Man must take back the power source by fighting the Zodiac and their mecha.

Iron Man is a pretty good story, however; there are ‘anime’ fans who have problems with the series. Specifically, there are some who feel that Marvel and DC should stay away from anime. This may or may not be true but nobody can argue that Iron Man is widely popular.

7. Ninja Batman

  • Premiered: June 2018
  • Episodes: 1

The seventh entry is the second oldest character in our list. Batman is the creation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27 (1939). Almost a century old, the Dark Knight can credit its longevity to good storytelling and a faithful fanbase.

It should not be surprising that Batman would show up in anime. Our seventh entry belongs to Ninja Batman. Kamikaze Douga, YamatoWorks, and Warner Brothers partnered to produce the movie. They chose Junpei Mizusaki to direct the venture. Takashi Okazaki, Afro Samurai creator, worked on the film’s character designs. Due to several rewrites, the final film would wind up with two versions.

What would happen if Arkham Asylum and Batman landed in Feudal Japan? In the worst prison in the history of comics, Gorilla Grodd is creating the Quake Engine. The engine starts up, with Batman and the inmates go on a journey back in time. This event leads to the Joker becoming a warlord. Bruce Wayne must now set the timeline straight by reactivating the Quake Engine.

The critics gave the movie high marks. Ninja Batman would receive a manga adaptation, which went on to earn a Seiun Award for Best Comic. IGN stated of the movie, ‘DC tried something new by bringing in visionary Japanese animators to offer a refreshing take on one of the company’s most beloved characters.’ A fun experience, Ninja Batman is one of our favorite superhero anime.

6. Iron Man: Rise of Technovore

  • Premiered: April 2013
  • Episodes: 1

Marvel’s Iron Man makes his second appearance on our countdown. Iron Man: Rise of Technovore is a film by Madhouse and Sony Pictures Entertainment. This chapter adds to Madhouse’s Marvel anime universe. Adapted from Brandon Auman’s story, Hiroshi Hamasaki would direct the project. Daisuke Niizuma led the film’s animation. Theaters across Japan showed the film, while the rest of the world had to settle for watching it on DVD.

The film’s plot centers around a villain’s new biotech that surpasses anything Stark Industries can produce. Created by Ezekiel Stane, the Tecnovore has the ability to shutdown Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits. Under Zek’s direction, A.I.M. conducts a terrorist attack and frames Tony for it. Iron Man must go into hiding to evade S.H.I.E.L.D.’s manhunt. While on the run, Tony has to find a way to set things right. 

Generally, the critics found the story less than stellar but gave high marks to the film’s animation. The critics seemed to believe the film played it safe, rather than bringing something new to the story. Despite how the critics saw the movie, Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore holds a respectable rating in MAL.

5. Blade

  • Premiered: Summer 2011
  • Episodes: 12

Eric Cross Brooks is one of Marvel’s favorite characters, thanks to Wesley Snipes’s portrayal of Blade in the movies. Initially a supporting character, Eric would come into his own. A black hero, he was the creation of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. Marvel Comics The Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973) would introduce Blade to the world.  

Nearly four decades later, Blade would cross the ocean for an anime adaptation. The tale of Blade would become the fourth and final installment in the Madhouse and Marvel Entertainment’s joint venture. Madhouse would tap Mitsuyuki Masuhara to direct this series. His resume includes but is not limited to credits on Polar Bear Café and Chi’s Sweet Home. Cindy Yamauchi would lead the series of animation and character designs. The studios would air on Animax in Japan and G4 in North America.

A ‘day walker,’ Eric Brooks is a vampire with the ability to walk around in daylight. This is due to having mixed blood, both vampire and human course through his veins. Blade finds himself traveling to Japan to confront Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed Eric’s mother. His quest leads him to discover a vampire cabal known as the ‘Existence.’ He must discover who is behind this coven and destroy it before they take over Southeast Asia.

Critics tend to give this story high marks, proclaiming it better than its Madhouse predecessors. James Harvey of Marvel Animation Age would state that ‘The madness of Blade’s world translates perfectly to the twisted stylings of anime, resulting in a visceral adventure that’s worth tagging along for!’ Not a perfect series, Blade lands in the top five of MAL’s fan ratings for a Western superhero anime series.

4. Avengers Confidential: Black Widow to Punisher

  • Premiered: March 2014
  • Episodes: 1

The fourth entry marks the second time the Avengers team hits our list. This film devotes its runtime to a side quest for the Black Widow and Punisher. Madhouse and Marvel would team up once more to create Avengers Confidential: Black Widow to Punisher. They would pick Kenichi Shimizu to helm the film project. Cindy Yamauchi leads the film’s animation team. Straight to DVD, the film was released to North American and Japanese home audiences.

As the title suggests, Black Widow and the Punisher team up in this film. The story starts off with the Punisher foiling a S.H.I.E.L.D. covert operation. To set things right, Nick Fury enlists the Punisher and Black Widow to take on Leviathan. This criminal organization has set its eyes on selling stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. tech. The duo finds themselves in conflict with Nick Fury’s endgame, which leads Black Widow to defy S.H.I.E.L.D.

Like the others on our list, the critics are all over the map with their reviews. There were some enjoyed the ride while others needed to get off. Regardless of the critics, anime fans give the movie high marks for its fight scenes and story. Based on MAL’s score, Avengers Confidential breaks into our top five superhero anime.

3. X-Men

  • Premiered: Spring 2011
  • Episodes: 12

Marvel Comics’ final anime entry rests in our third slot. The X-Men was the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Their first appearance was in X-Men #1 (1963). Canceled in the early 1970s, the X-Men would stage a comeback, thanks to the writing of Chris Claremont. The comic’s diversity of cast and relatable narrative is the key to success.

A fruitful property, Madhouse, and Marvel Entertainment teamed to create its third anime. They brought in Fuminori Kizaki to direct the series. Hisashi Abe and Junichi Hayama lead the anime’s visual aspects. Sony Entertainment produced the X-Men. Animax in Japan and G4 in North America aired the series. 

This story begins shortly after the Dark Phoenix arc. Professor X and the X-Men travel to Japan to find a mutant. The U-Men abduct Hisako Ichiki, also known as Armor. Their reason is to harvest the organs of mutants. Their journey leads to X-Men to learn that some of the mutants suffer from ‘Damon Hall Syndrome.’ This condition causes problems for the mutants and their ability to transform. Professor X and the team must find a way to stop this disease and save mutant-kind.

X-Men is far from perfect. The story is predictable and some of the characters are over the top. However, it is not a bad anime. X-Men is what it is and some fans will like it while others not so much.  This divide is why X-Men lands at number three on our countdown.

2. Batman: Gotham Knight

  • Premiered: July 2008
  • Episodes: 6

The Dark Knight returns to our countdown with this second-place finish. Batman: Gotham Knight is a direct-to-DVD omnibus. This project was the outcome of six directors and seven studios. Anime studios Madhouse, Production I.G, Studio 4°C, Warner Brothers, and others invested their talents in the episodes. Shinichiro Miki and Kevin Conroy came in to voice the iconic role of Batman. This video would fill in the gap between Batman Begins and the Dark Knight series.

The disc includes ‘Have I Got a Story for You’ (Studio 4°C), ‘Crossfire’ (Production I.G), ‘Field Test’ (Bee Train), ‘In Darkness Dwells’ (Madhouse) and ‘Deadshot’ (Madhouse). Each story includes its own set of villains and side characters. Unfortunately, none include Mark Hamill’s Joker. The key baddies in this production are Deadshot and Scarecrow. Unlike Marvel’s choice to have their stories take place in Japan, DC elects to keep the stories in Gotham City.

Warner Home Video would release a one and two-disc rendering of Batman: Gotham Knight. With the two-disc set, fans got the documentary Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story. Despite not being a signal tale, Batman: Gotham Knight is one of the top two superhero anime according to MAL.

1. The Magnificent Zorro

  • Premiered: Spring 1996
  • Episodes: 52

Coming in first place, Zorro is the oldest hero property on our list. In August 1919, Johnston McCulley penned the exploits of Don Diego de la Vega for All-Story Magazine. With foxlike cunning and sword in hand, this Mexican hero protects the people of Pueblo of Los Angeles in Alta California. DC Comics picked up rights to Zorro, which they would add to their Old West comic line.

The Magnificent Zorro is not a DC anime but the property is so I am including him. The series also goes by its popular name, The Legend of Zorro. Produced by TOHO, Ashi Production would create the anime. Katsumi Minoguchi helmed the project, with Satoshi Horisawa overseeing the animation. This is one of the few anime with an Italian and Japanese production staff. The show would drop to Japanese and Australian audiences.

Returning from studying abroad, Diego Vega finds his country under a dictatorship. The wealthy exploit the poor, with the government’s consent. Fed up, Diego sets out to make things right by taking up the mantle of Zorro. The series hops from one story to another, as Diego squashes out villainy.

Confession… I am a Zorro fanboy. I grew up in the comics and movies. However, western heroes do not fare well. The Magnificent Zorro seems to break those expectations. Of the anime on this list, this series is the only one to receive a rating of ‘Good.’ For this reason, we proclaim The Magnificent Zorro the best superhero anime rated by MAL fans. 

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Hey, everyone, I’m Louis or Carolina Comic Geek as I’m known by my Pinterest subscribers. A longtime anime fan, my first introduction was with Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. I enjoy writing and honestly was stoked to be a guest writer for 9 Tailed Kitsune.

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