Tiger & Bunny Part 1 (Episodes 1-7) (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD/Bluray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 169 minutes approx.
Superheroes – big burly protectors of the mortal and the innocent, fighting in the name of truth, justice and the American (or wherever your location may be) way. Well, that’s how it used to be. Nowadays in the city of Stern Bild the super powered crime fighters ply their trade in the name of corporate sponsorship and television ratings. Can you imagine Batman holding off from capturing The Joker because of a TV producer needs to go to a commercial break? Or Superman sporting a Sony logo on his chest instead of his trademark red “S”? No? Then welcome to the world of Tiger and Bunny!
In a futuristic world people with supernatural abilities are called NEXT and while some use their powers for criminal activities, others use them for good. Exploited on the must see TV show Hero TV, controlled by the sexy but ambitious producer Agnes Joubert, a group of superheroes with outrageous personalities and costumes to match are sent on missions to capture foolhardy criminals and earn points and public approval, all played out on live TV. Along with the advertising that adorns each of the heroes’ costumes there are the inevitable merchandise tie-ins, the sales of which are reflected by the success and popularity of the heroes.
Our two leads Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi and Barnaby Brooks Jr reflect the dichotomy between old and new school crime fighting. The veteran Kotetsu is considered past his prime yet he still fights valiantly alongside his younger counterparts, his motivation being the old fashioned values of protecting the people and ending crime. Pretty boy newcomer Barnaby is the modern hero, happy to wear his corporate colours and play up to the cameras. Kotetsu names Barnaby “Bunny” because of the ears on his helmet, something the youngster hates, adding to the uneasy partnership forced upon Kotetsu when his former sponsor goes bust and a new sponsor picks up his contract. While this doesn’t sit so easy with Kotetsu, he is at least thankful for his new suit built by the soft spoken Saito – so soft spoken in fact that he needs his own subtitles to be understood!
If you thought Kick Ass was a wry deconstruction of the Superhero concept than Tiger & Bunny takes the cynicism a step further with its deliciously savage assault on the manipulation and superficiality of the modern corporate TV generation. While the satirical bent is very much in operation throughout concerning the media exploitation of superheroes, this show also takes a look at the people behind the masks and explores the pressures people with powers are under and the effects it has on their regular lives, picking up the “With great power comes great responsibility” mantle thrown down by Spider-Man. The seven episodes included in this release introduce us to the main cast and while no overarching plot is present just yet, the seeds have been planted for future development.
Oldest hero Kotetsu is a single father to ten year-old Kaede who lives with her grandmother. Kaede feels let down that her father is never there for her, but Kotetsu refuses to reveal his superhero double life, the reason he lets her down so often. For rich kid Barnaby, his personal mission is to find the murderer of his parents when he was a child, explaining his reticence towards being a team player with the others. The only clue he has to go on is a specific symbol of the mysterious Ouroboros Syndicate. Also featured in this volume is Karina Lyle aka Blue Rose. The youngest of the heroes, Karina is a high school student and the resident idol of the group, using her powers of freezing and Blue Rose persona to kickstart her true ambition of being a singer. Family and academic pressures are just part of the problem Karina has to deal with when not crime fighting while she hopes for a greater respect for her anonymous singing career.
Making up the group and often providing much of the humour to the show are the butt kicking female Chinese martial artist Dragon Kid, the reticent Origami Cyclone, who manages to appear on screen just to get his advertising in, the colossal but clumsy Rock Bison, the super popular scoreboard leader Sky High and the extremely flamboyant Fire Emblem. The NEXT villains in the early episodes are a fairly incompetent bunch but in the last two episodes a sinister and powerful adversary appears who does not plan on making life easy for our already busy heroes.
As much as action is a key facet – and so far we’ve been well supplied on that front – the has been no scrimping on the story front with a witty and snappy script that manages to flit between humour and drama without any awkwardness. The interaction between old school Tiger and modern day Bunny is pure gold be it together or a part of a group scene, making for a refreshing change to see such believable humanity brought to the characters of such a far fetched show. The animation is by the always reliable studio Sunrise who don’t disappoint in both the quality of the artwork and character designs while the action scenes are nothing les than spectacular. The CGI might be obvious in places but never to conspicuous to spoil the overall illusion. Viewers with Blu-ray capabilities will find this to be one of the better looking show of recent times without question.
While seven episodes might seem like a cheap start for this series compared the now customary thirteen episode releases, this is a clear case of quality over quantity. Tiger & Bunny establishes itself as one of the must see shows from the onset and fans of action, humour, engaging characters and quality storytelling will not be disappointed. This is anime at its best – just as it should be!
Japanese Language with English Subtitles
Limited Edition Collectors pack:
3 collectors cards
3 collectors mini-magazines
Ratings – ****
Man In Black