Almost makes me want to give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter a proper shot.
Obviously, I know who Daredevil is. I’ve never read any of his comics, but I’ve seen that (crappy) live-action film and his various interactions with Spiderman in those (also crappy) cartoons and video games, so I’m aware he’s a lawyer named Matt Murdock who was blinded by chemicals as a kid that heightened his other senses and all that. However, that’s pretty much all I know of him. I don’t know who his villains are, I’m more familiar with the Gordon Ramsey “Hell’s Kitchen” than the one used as the story’s setting, and when you get down to it, he was never a part of my childhood the same way Spiderman or Batman or even the Hulk was – and f*ck me if I remember anything about the Hulk other than how his powers work and the existence of She-Hulk.
As such, I never paid much attention to the fact that Netflix was releasing a live-action series adaptation of the guy, let alone that it was part of the same Marvel universe as those Avengers films and that it was the first of four planned series and a crossover miniseries. It’s kind of hard for me to get motivated to watch live-action series in general as they were never a part of my childhood and thus it’s difficult for me to adjust to their one-hour episode length format, let alone how freaking long they are in general compared to my other hobbies. However, a combination of a mediocre anime season, my refusal to write about anime as they air anymore unless there’s something really interesting I can say about ’em, and tons of positive feedback from both critics and certain fandoms I pay attention to – most notably the ones that compared it to Batman and Death Wish – finally got me motivated to check it out, and boy am I glad I did.
I’m not going to add to the fan wank because, well, I don’t fan wank in general since nothing ruins a product more than having to share that love with a bunch of sycophants, but anyone who likes what The Dark Knight and Man of Steel brought to their respective superhero franchises should definitely give Daredevil a look. The details are different, but general outline-wise, it has the same grittiness, mixture of genres, and clash of well-developed ideologies between the hero and villain that made both movies as successful as they were. Except this time, it has some really sweet action to complement what it’s going for. That hallway fight scene in the second episode is popular on Youtube right now and for a good reason.
It’s kind of lame to say it’s the characters that make the product, but it really is. Or to be more accurate, it’s what they represent and how they complement each other – particularly the central character. Daredevil represents a force for good that clashes with his day job and even nearly sinks into the same horrors as his enemies in order to carry out said “good”. That’s kinda interesting in of itself, but when you pair it with a villain who represents a force for evil that clashes with his daily persona/social life and friends who want to maintain good whilst staying within their day jobs, the plot is pretty much flavoring compared to the actual story these people create. It still has to be there of course because we’re not watching Mad Men or The Wire here, but for something that’s so simple to describe, you sure don’t see me praising “it’s all about character” in anime, do you?
Well I’ve said before that most antagonist relationships in that medium devolve into either simplistic morals and/or fetish fuel which is a death knell to what Daredevil goes for, but when you get down to it, anime in general just has something inherent to it that prevents it from ever reaching that sort of engaging character-driven narrative – even in regards to ones I like like Psycho-Pass. Now this isn’t meant to be a post comparing Daredevil to a different medium entirely so I’m not going to go into detail on the subject here, but if you want to convince me that something is good because “it’s all about character”, Daredevil is the standard. Not the peak. Get to its level first before you start telling me that the product is good because of how likable the cast is.
Not that the show doesn’t have its gripes, because it most certainly does. You could easily have condensed some of the episodes into a single hour-length one with nothing substantial lost, there’s a conflict between Daredevil and his best friend that comes off a little forced, and there’s a subplot in the middle of the series regarding Daredevil’s mentor that exists mostly as something to be resolved in the future rather than now. Also, whilst this isn’t really a complaint, the entire first season is meant to serve primarily as Daredevil’s origin story, so you won’t see him in costume for quite a while, but you will see him lose a lot due to his inexperience. So fans of the traditional superhero story probably won’t be into this show the way I am.
Having said that, they should check it out anyway. Give it an episode or two. And so should the rest of you for that matter – as long as you have Netflix of course. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think Daredevil is the best live-action series I’ve seen in years, and I watched the first seasons of True Detective and House of Cards. Here’s hoping the second season, along with the rest of the MCU Netflix shows capitalize on what this show brought to the Marvel universe as well as the superhero/live-action drama genre in general. And man, is it going to be tough to go back to this current season of anime after finishing it. Seriously, I don’t really know why I’m still watching Gunslinger Stratos.