Tiger & Bunny – The Beginning (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: All The Anime) Running time: 92 minutes approx.
After quickly becoming one of the most popular and successful shows in recent years the announcement of a Tiger & Bunny movie no doubt made fans giddy with excitement. But with anime film spin offs either serving to extend the brand’s popularity and creative spectrum or ending up being lazy clichéd material presumably made up of rejected storylines for TV filler episodes (Naruto I’m looking at you) a feature length outing of even the best shows can often do more harm than good. This first film to feature the super powered reality TV stars is something that in some ways straddles the line between to the two fields of success being both a partial rehash of the TV material combined with strong new arc to take things into a different direction.
In case you need a refresher or have yet to experience the delights of this great franchise, the setting for this tale is Stern Bild City in the near future where a group of people with bespoke special abilities called NEXT use their powers to fight crime. However they are sponsored by multi-national corporations whose logos appear on the heroes’ armour while their crime fighting adventures are played on live TV, with the successful hero gaining points and the kudos of being the top ranked star of the series. The titular protagonists are Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi and Barnaby “Bunny” Brooks Jr – the former a 10 year veteran who adheres to the old values of crime fighting, the latter a brash new comer interested in fame and adulation. The pair are forced to team up by their sponsor finding it difficult to get along even when the odds are against them.
The first forty minutes will be familiar to returning fans as it covers the material of the opening three episodes of the TV series, with a few added scenes to help flesh out the characters a little, a helpful tact in the absence of the luxury time brings to a twenty six episode TV run. This may not sound too exciting but a brief flashback of Kotetsu’s wedding, the birth of his daughter Kaede and the death of his wife is as efficacious as a whole two episode arc in establishing the backstory of elder hero. Conversely Barnaby’s tragic past and the quest to find the killers of his parents, including an Ouroboros reference, which will be lost on new viewers while being reassuring to established fans that nothing important has been glossed over.
The old favourites in the cast are all present and correct – Blue Rose (who is far more bratty and vain in this film), Dragon Kid, Origami Cyclone, Rock Bison, Sky High and Fire Emblem – and are given plenty of screen time to establish themselves as integral members of the group rather than supporting players to the eponymous duo. They are afforded time to show off their personalities both on and off camera, with the likes of Rock Bison and Origami Cyclone’s non-hero sides being revealed in depth for the first time. Of the ladies, the idol side of Blue Rose’s persona is played up to far too much here whereas he TV counterpart was much tougher and more adept to fighting. Also retuning are soft spoken scientist Saito, bossy TV producer Agnes Joubert and of course, Kotetsu’s mother and daughter.
The new material comes after the welcome party for Barnaby to the Hero TV crew after a collective job well done against a rampaging statue. The festivities are interrupted by Agnes with news that the prized statue that is the symbol of the heroes has been stolen by a NEXT thief named Robin Baxter, who has the power to switch places with anyone within a certain range, making his capture extremely difficult. Can Barnaby and the rest of the team work together in order to bring this evasive villain to justice?
Baxter is a thin faced, shifty looking chap who relies on roller blades to manoeuvre across town when he doesn’t need use his ability, thus isn’t a particularly remarkable or threatening antagonist making his inclusion rather disappointing and ultimately forgettable. In the grand scheme of things this arc is purely functional to put across the idea that the unit can function together even if the catalyst is an arrogant newcomer who is out for himself and for whom being as team player is currently not on the agenda – yet it works and is a succinct way to make this point within the limitations of a 90 minute run time. It also means that anyone unfamiliar with the story is left on a rather dour note as Bunny is still a sour puss whereas the rest of us know differently.
Animation wise, the TV series was of such a high standard that it would go some way for this theatrical outing to improve on it, so while the general aesthetics are largely similar the increased use of CG is noticeable but never intrusive or overwhelming against the 2D artwork. Of course on Blu-ray the colourful neon setting of Stern Bild City really looks a treat.
I rarely do this but I have to mention the extra features on this Blu-ray release, especially the World premiere featurette. This has to be seen to be seen to be believed as it runs longer than the film itself. This is no ordinary film premiere, this is a premiere done Japanese style. Along with real life versions of the heroes performing skits and stunts inside the packed theatre, the voice cast expectedly come out to say hello, then proceed to sing and dance for the next two hours! It’s quite something it has to be said.
Don’t be put off by the rehashing of previous material Tiger & Bunny – The Beginning is still a fun ride that feels fresh despite the familiarity and the new material is utterly congruent and in keeping with the oeuvre as we know and love it.
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA w/ English Subtitles
World Premiere Event
Special Pilot Trailer
Weekly Hero Countdown
Limited Edition 24 page Colour Booklet
Rating – ****
Man In Black