I’ve been trying my best not to get too nostalgic when writing my introductions to posts recently, but I can’t help it with Tiger and Bunny. Why? My nostalgia is heavily tied to this show because of my time at one of my alma mater’s anime club. I enjoyed a lot of shows from my time in that club, but I don’t think a single one was big and memorable to me as Tiger and Bunny. The first part of that is because of the good times I’ve had watching and talking to these wonderful people about this wonderful show every week. The second part is because is soon after finishing it, my club and I went to the local big convention, Sakuracon, that was across the state. There were a lot of Tiger and Bunny cosplay at that time. All of that happened slightly less then a decade ago. (I’m old, ok?)
When I first starting rewatching this show on Netflix, because Double Decker is supposedly a T&B prequel in which I don’t think it is, I was scared that Tiger and Bunny wouldn’t hold up to what I remember about it. I feel incredibly biased by it, but I can’t help but think that it did hold up for me. Possibly because I saw a lot more things watching it this time around that appealed to me. Now that I am taking away my nostalgia goggles, I am think it’s time to dig into this show a little more. Maybe that is a big lie, but that is something that I will try my best to do.
When it comes to super hero media, do you have a preference in what you are looking for? Are you a DC fan that likes to watch characters with nearly limitless powers, besides batman, fight against evil? What about the more human stories about flawed super heroes doing their best to fight against what can be considered crime like Marvel? What about a different brand of marvel series focusing on characters like the X-Men who are cast aside by humanity just because of their differences? All of these are generalizations of course because each franchise has had many interpretations over the years including in movie form, but the basics are always the same? But besides all of that, what if you didn’t have to choose? Then I might have the anime series that you are looking for. It’s an anime called Tiger and Bunny. Pointing out things like this are what these review things are for, right?
In a parallel universe to ours, there lies a city called Sternbild City. A city that similar to our New York City, but was built on the very thoughts and dreams of super heroes. Seriously, pillars holding up higher portions of the city have super heroes carved on them. In this city, the most popular TV network that almost everyone in the city watches called Hero TV? The network where you can watch heroes take down criminals on live television in order to gang points and be the best super hero there is for that year. Each hero is corporately sponsored by a major corporation for advertising purposes. You can say that this might be a good comparison to our sport’s networks where everything, including replays, are advertised by some company for monetary reasons. Each super hero must be a Noted Entity for Extradionary Talents or N.E.X.T. before taking this position, which is where my X-men comparison comes from. If they weren’t on super hero TV to make NEXTs normal, N.E.X.T.s would be heavily discriminated against. Welcome to Tiger and Bunny’s world.
Tiger and Bunny is a show that I would like to throw up as an example of where character development is not always that important to a narrative. I say this, because a lot of characters that are introduced in Tiger and Bunny always feel the same when they leave. This isn’t a bad thing at all, because they are all still wonderful and fully realized characters who feel like real people. Take one of our main character Wild Tiger or Kotetsu Kaburagi as an example. His power is the hundred power, where his strength and speed increase by one hundred fold for five minutes. In the series, he is a character in his mid to late thirties that is on his way out of being a hero. His character arc happened a long time ago when he saved the first hero, Mr. Legend when he was a kid and just became a super hero and got married. At the moment the show started, his wife years ago, has a kid he doesn’t see very often who is growing up away from him, and is only able to help with provide for his daughter with the money from his job. He’s also an endlessly goofy super hero that might be all washed up, but feels like he knows what it means to be a super hero and it’s not for money, points or fame. I didn’t even dig in that far, but you see what I mean right? His character arc already happened. The only thing that changes is getting closer to his daughter by the end of the show and that is just something that happens.
Many characters are maybe a little simpler, but well characterized like Kotetsu without any arcs. Agnes, the female head of Hero TV, is incredibly hard working and gives directions to the heroes in order to get the best entrances possible for the best possible TV ratings. She is so focused on work that she has given having a family of her own so she didn’t know how to play off being a mother when the mayor’s baby was kidnapped or couldn’t stop herself from swooning when being saved by an attractive super hero before snapping back to her TV ratings loving self. There is also Sky High who is the hardest working super hero even off TV and is a personification of what Tiger used to be years ago. Blue Rose, another hero, wears a fanservicey costume, but hates it because it doesn’t protect against weapons and is only taken this job in the first place for her singing career in the future. (I don’t like her one sided crush on Tiger, but Tiger never feels the same way because he focuses on his daughter’s needs.) So many other heroes are like that. If Bunny never showed up, Tiger and Bunny would just be a super hero slice of life series with some good commentary and that would have been a good anime. I do like what we got better though.
While the focus character is Tiger, the entire show focuses on Bunny’s arc. Yes, he is the one with a major story arc. Bunny or Barnaby Brooks is a hero that isn’t afraid of giving his identity to the public and is technically batman. He is a hero that works his hardest for justice, while clashing with Tiger for one squabble for another, because he is searching for his parents killer. Another reason why he let the public know his name. The villains that appear at the end of Tiger and Bunny’s first half are very joker and Harley Quinn like to Barnaby’s almost batmanness, so it’s a pretty standard super hero story. The second half is also focused on characters from Barnaby’s past in some way, is also a more thoughtful story with a larger commentary on the super hero world itself. To me, that is where Tiger and Bunny hits its stride. I won’t go any further then that, because that would be spoilers. 😉
Ready for me to get a little picky about character exploration and motivations? Besides my usual complaints about “we could always get more” not withstanding, I think the show is incredibly confused about what it wants to do with the Tiger and Bunny’s antihero, Lunatic. He has a fantastic character design and has a compelling backstory, but he’s often thrown to the background until he isn’t. I mean, he’s a lawyer who is also the son of the legendary hero Mr. Legend. The same whose Mr. Legend’s decline in powers lead him into alcoholism in which he abused Lunatic’s mother with brutal beatings until Lunatic killed him with his N.E.X.T. powers. I love this character and everything, but how interesting would it be if Lunatic and Tiger knew more about each other? The first one knew the real Mr. Legend and the second one that still idolizes him. Meeting your own heroes can be painful sometimes. I suppose that isn’t enough for an arc, but that would be an interaction I would like to see. Nothing ever bends to my will, right?
Tiger and Bunny is visually gorgeous. It feels at the high quality level of when Sunrise was making Big O. I mean, this is a Sunrise production and they know when to build cities when they want to. The only thing that confused me is the fact that Sunrise removed the advertisements on each of the super hero’s suits when it originally aired because these were corporately sponsored super heroes after all. I suppose there must have been a lot of legal reasons tat resulted in this happening, so that’s ok. Other then that, this show could have easily been a western animated series. Especially since it’s art style is something you would see in any super hero shows that aired on Toonami. I mean, look at the ones above here. Then there are the sprawling cityscapes that are wonderfully colorful and full of life. Sternbild feels like some place that I could live in because it’s nice and cozy with a lot of heroes. The action animation is pretty solid, even if the cg is a little out dated because this show is now seven years old or so. At the same time it is still a lot better then some pure cg shows that come out today besides Land of the Lustrous.
With Tiger and Bunny’s soundtrack being similar in how it’s presented to a lot of modern super hero shows with awesome openings and endings, Tiger and Bunny is a show that anyone who loves super heroes should watch. It does a lot of things that My Hero Academia does now, but with more adult characters. I mean, only two characters out of many are in high school after all. It’s such a fun series and I still wonder about why it wasn’t as popular as it could have been. Maybe it just didn’t appear at the right time? Who knows, but I like it quite a bit. I think that is what counts in the end. Still, if you like super hero media and/or aren’t exhausted by today’s super hero climate and want to see something funny, heavy, and animated, then boy do I have a show for you.