To me, the most underappreciated show that has recently reached its conclusion is Tiger Mask W. A show that has gone on for three seasons and doesn’t seem to have acquired that much of a following over here. Maybe it’s because I follow only a certain amount or type of anime blogging people in my little twitter bubble and only a few people have even talked about it in any capacity. Then again, I haven’t seen many comments about it on the Crunchyroll video comment section or Reddit threads, so I feel like my assumption about this anime being unpopular is correct. This show is one of the many reasons why I wished people watched more than a short number of episodes being reining a judgment on it. This show turned out to be thirty-eight episodes, so do you really think that two or three can give a watcher a full vision of what the show is going to be like? No, I don’t think so.
Tiger Mask W is yet another anime that is a sequel to an older, classic property that is done in a way that modernizes the show and the setting. Osumatsu-san is another example of this. Tiger Mask was a series that started airing in the late 60’s. It was the tale of a wrestler from Tiger’s Den, Naoto Date, that left to become a heroic wrestler to inspire kids to be a hero. Tiger Mask W takes place forty years or so after the original series and you can feel the generation change. The current wearer of the Tiger Mask, whose name is also Naoto, is trained by somebody who used to be in Tiger Den a long time ago to fight the current Tiger Den and GWM from taking over Japan. No, not the original tiger mask, but somebody who had the original Tiger Mask’s trust, Kentaro Takaoaka. He uses the original Tiger Mask’s training facility. That guy also represents the older crowd and explains how certain villains that the current Tiger Mask is facing are related to who the original tiger mask fought. Just having that guy there to explain everything makes the world of this series feel so lived in. There is also titles that include “the third” and “the second”, which gives the show even more a generational shift to it, which is fun.
Now that the old stuff is out the way, let’s dig into the new a little more. Naoto, the current Tiger Mask, has two people that he has his absolute trust in. The older man that I talked about before and Naoto’s manager, Haruna. She is Takaoaka’s niece and represents the newer audience of this series. The people that don’t know much about wrestling, but have enthusiasm for it anyway. Seeing her make deals on who Tiger Mask next with higher powers and selling Tiger Mask merchandise before matches was really fun, but her best material came later on. Around the second cour, Haruna started training herself behind Takaoka and Naoto’s back and fighting in her own matches. That was great and I want more. There were times when Haruna felt like the real protagonist so I think she needs her own show. The fact that the epilogue featured Haruna and every single female character in the series join together to start a female wrestling league, which shows that the creators want this as well. There better be a spin off series.
Based on the cover, you see two different Tiger Masks and yes, there are. While the focus of the show is mostly on Naoto and his journey, the other masked tiger, Takuma, is just as important. He is Tiger the Dark. On a character level, I think that both of these characters are kind of dull. It’s their difference of experiences they go through that makes them interesting. Both of these characters started off at the same place, working under Takuma’s dad’s wrestling gym when they were rookies. Then a major event happened which severely injured Takuma’s dad and both of them wanted revenge against the perpetrator. This is where they separated. Naoto was lucky and got to train while living a somewhat normal life. Takuma never had that opportunity, because he went into Tiger’s Den and faced a lot of darkness, anger, and ruthlessness in order to get his revenge. Hence the whole Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark thing. It’s not subtle at all, but that story is very Shakespearean in some ways. These two characters were rivals at one point and they never knew who the other was, until a major incident happened more than half way through the series. It definitely gave more life and intrigue to this series.
There is a lot more going on in Tiger Mask W then characters and their motivations. There is also a lot of politics and intrigue about ticket sales. The main overarching plot of Tiger Mask W is the fight over the dominance of wrestling in Japan. A massive group called The Global Wrestling Monopoly, after taking over the rest of the world’s wrestling markets, have made it to Japan. GWM is also were the brutal tiger den is from. There, GWM is in conflict with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Not only in actual combat phases, but in ticket sales as well. Each side has to one up each other with special gimmicks and different wrestlers from all other the world to hype up the country and get an audience to sit down and watch their fights. Ticket sales are a major factor. Of course, the GWM vs NJPW is the larger conglomerate vs small organization nonsense that is seen in a lot of places, but I like how they are not fighting to over the world itself, but local tv markets. Even if the GWM domination of the entire globe does affect people in an economic sort of way, I glad that the entire world is not in crisis again and needs to be saved again. Kind of refreshing to be honest.
I think you all guessed it already by the names of organizations, but Tiger Mask W is a wrestling series. I don’t know about you all, but I am not a fan of Wrestling on tv. That stuff is fake. I may have had some kind of interest in it when I was in elementary school, but I have long since lost interest in it. Tiger Mask W was something different for me. For one, it’s an anime which automatically means that the boundary of what we see on tv can be pushed so much further. People actually hit each other and characters can actually take enough damage to end up in the hospital for recovery. None of these characters were faking what was going on. For another, I just thought of this show as a grounded tournament series. There are no energy attacks, flying around, or any special techniques that manipulate the surroundings, just solid one on one (or one on many) person to person fist and throw combat. Some of the attacks were super human, but they are so much more believable than anything I’ve seen in many other shonen fighting anime. Very old school fighting, but that’s what I wanted from this series.
Finally moving onto the graphics portion of this series, the animation is very inconsistent. Of course, that may be expected from a three cour series. While some animation cuts look amazing and possibly the best you’ve seen this season (second only to My Hero Academia last season), it takes all the concentration and budget from surrounding episodes to make it so. This is where computer graphics came into play, though that wasn’t integrated into the show as good as it could be at times. To me, there weren’t any stand out bits of the soundtrack either. Just some mildly interesting music that fits the scene from time to time. Nothing special to me, but that’s not why I was watching this series.
If you had read all this, then you would know that I saw a lot in this wrestling series that I feel a lot of people pushed off to the same. I know a lot of people that pushed this anime off to the side from just watching the first episode because the animation was that good or nothing interesting happened in that short amount of time. I wish people had more patience with anime these days. A thirty-eight-episode series is not going to show its cards in the first episode. I had a lot of fun watching this series. While it was something new, it had an old school kind of feel that felt refreshing compared to everything else I have been watching. The many simple ingredients that I talked about earlier combined together to make something incredibly fun and entertaining. Not many series are able to do that. To be honest, that’s not everything. So many side characters had their own little sub plots going on and some attributes from “filler” episodes came into play later on. All 38 episodes were taken advantage to the best of its ability from a story perspective. The whole experience was a lot of fun.