Anime review time! Today I’ll be looking at Tiger and Bunny, the immensely popular show about superheroes. Produced by Sunrise and directed by Keiichi Satou (famous for creating The Big O), Tiger and Bunny came out of nowhere and captivated anime fans across the globe with its stunning visuals and rich cast of characters.
The story of Tiger and Bunny is as follows. Sternbild City is home to people called “Next,” who use their special abilities to protect the people as superheroes. Each of the city’s most famous superheroes work for a sponsor company, and their uniforms also contain advertising for real-life companies. Their heroic activity is broadcast on the popular television show “Hero TV,” where they accumulate points for each heroic feat accomplished, and the best ranked hero of the season is crowned “King of Heroes.”
Enter Kotetsu T. Kaburagi, the veteran hero known as Wild Tiger. After finishing poorly in the latest season, his sponsor company goes under, and he is paired with a young new hero named Barnaby Brooks Jr. Although both men would rather work alone, they are forced to team up in order to up their popularity. The story follows the pair’s growing pains and adventures; what starts as a tumultuous relationship soon blossoms into an unbreakable friendship.
After watching the first episode, I was immediately hooked. Don’t get me wrong, I did have my doubts when I first heard about the show. However, there was a special allure to Tiger and Bunny. It’s that feeling you get when you can’t stop watching a show, when every episode seems to fly by in a blink of an eye. This is what Tiger and Bunny did for me. So far, no show besides perhaps Mawaru Penguindrum has been able to grab my attention like Tiger and Bunny. This effect, this allure, is the power of a show’s presentation. For me, the idea where heroes essentially compete in a game show was a unique aspect. They are worshipped like Hollywood celebrities. Also, the heroes in Tiger and Bunny are employees rather than vigilantes; they are at the mercy of their sponsors. They appear in commercials, interviews, and even do live performances.
While watching these powered beings fight crime is a joy in itself, the strong point of the show lies in the people behind the masks; in other words, how the heroes balance a life of fighting crime and fitting into society. The greatest moments were when we, the audience, were able to glimpse into the lives of the heroes outside of crime fighting. We learned of their motivations, their aspirations, their passions. Some participate out of a sense of duty. Some do it for a promise. Some do it for guilt or because they have no choice. Being able to relate to a character allows one to enjoy the show even moar.
Of course, the focus of the show lies in the relationship between Tiger and Barnaby. While the rest of the cast serve as a great backdrop, it is the interaction between the two titular actors that makes the play so brilliant. Kotetsu is a man behind the times; he has a simplistic view on things, which causes him to get in a lot of trouble. Barnaby is everything Kotetsu is not; he’s his foil. He’s arrogant and straight to the point, no messing around. He’s a thinker as opposed to one who runs on pure emotion like Kotetsu. However, there’s moar to these men than what they portray. I really grew fond of Kotetsu; his simplistic thinking provided countless comedic moments. Although he doesn’t always think things through, he’s a caring, honest man with a strong sense of justice and doing the right thing. He struggles to connect with his daughter due to being a hero, and he really doesn’t know how to live without the prospect of fighting crime. Barnaby’s attitude is a result of his intense desire to avenge his parents’ murders. He’s obsessive yet tormented. Truth to be told, they were both meant for each other. They learn from each other, as Kotetsu begins to think things through, while Barnaby learns to soften up and appreciate the subtleties of life.
The narrative is set up to gradually guide you through their unfolding bromance. Part 1 involves the building up of trust, which is essential to any partnership. Although it was a terrible film, Batman and Robin nailed the importance of trust in a partnership. By helping Barnaby conquer his demons and vanquish his parents’ killer, Kotetsu earns the trust of his partner. Part 2 involves the subsequent adventures as not only partners, but close friends as well. Everything that happens is meant to build upon the friendship. Moar personal aspects of each hero are explored, which only further drives the incredible story. Namely, Kotetsu losing his powers and Barnaby discovering the true mastermind behind his parents’ deaths.
Not everything is perfect though in Tiger and Bunny. Although the overall story is pretty solid, the execution could have been better. The rest of the cast, while getting adequately established in part 1, do not grow much in part 2, especially Lunatic, who is completely shafted. The main point is of course the dynamic between Tiger and Barnaby, but I would have liked to have seen some moar meaningful interaction among the rest of the cast. Part 2 also suffers from perhaps too much bromance. The reason why part 1 was so much fun was because both heroes had to learn from and grow to respect each other. Part 2 they are firmly established friends, which is fine, but nonetheless, I would have liked to see some tension outside of misunderstandings and brainwashings. Lastly, it was painfully obvious Sunrise was shooting for a sequel (at least to me it was). This fact detracted from some of the moar emotionally driven scenes near the end. This also may have caused the aforementioned shafting of certain characters.
Despite these small flaws, Tiger and Bunny is a show worth watching. You won’t find a moar original, gripping story anywhere else. The dynamic between Tiger and Barnaby is some of the best character development in any show I’ve seen. There are plenty of twists and turn, and a lot of emotional moments. Sunrise clearly went all-in in terms of production values; the CGI art blends beautifully with the 2D settings, and the animation is terrific. This is evident in the extravagant action scenes. The idea to advertise in the show via the heroes’ sponsors was also ingenious. So do yourself a favor and go watch it now! You won’t be disappointed.
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