Title: Tiger & Bunny
Format: 25 episodes
Date: 2 Apr 2011 – 18 Sep 2011
Synopsis: Welcome to Sternbild City, a thriving metropolis that is home to an unusual group of people born with superhuman powers called “NEXT”. Among them are a valiant few who feature in the hit reality TV contest “Hero TV”, where they serve as Heroes to the public while they bear the names of their respective sponsoring employers. Their purpose is to accomplish heroic acts in order to accumulate points and stand a chance to be crowned the “King of Heroes” after every season. One of the Heroes is Wild Tiger, a veteran who is forced by his new employer to partner with the new hotshot on the block named Barnaby. It proves to be an uphill task, as the two’s rescue efforts get regularly thwarted by their conflicting traits.
Idea: Interesting and somewhat novel; praiseworthy approach at a Western concept.
Theme: Take on classic superheroes may be nostalgic for some viewers, but mediocre for others.
Storyline: Solid and well-written; slow at first but gradually builds up with good plot twists.
Characters: Not striking from the onset, but they gradually grow on the viewers.
Number of sponsors in this show: Shameless.
Tiger & Bunny isn’t the type of series that grabs your attention from the onset and tells you that it’s a dark horse of the season. If anything, it’s the type that some viewers may lose interest because of how mediocre it appears to be for the first few episodes, and those who are too quick to judge shows are likely to give this a miss. It would be unfortunate if a handful shun this show for good, because it eventually turns out to be an entertaining action fare that combines competent characterization and solid writing. This is perhaps one which takes time to properly develop as a whole, and viewers who watch it to the end would appreciate its true worth as the story progresses.
One of the first things viewers may need to adapt to is Tiger & Bunny‘s approach towards the concept of Western superheroes. Its simplistic take on it may turn some people off, especially those who appreciate how such characters have gone through darker and edgier storytelling in their original mediums. However, as light-hearted as it may seem at first, the show gradually delves into more serious issues such as revenge, domestic violence and superheroes’ fall from grace upon losing their powers. This is where the show becomes gripping, and viewers begin to appreciate it at a deeper level. It’s not just a straightforward story of good-versus-evil; it’s essentially about real people coping with real issues and dealing with their inner secrets.
A praiseworthy aspect of Tiger & Bunny is the characters, which aren’t striking at first but eventually grow on the viewers as the story unfolds. Most of them fall under certain archetypes – Sky High is the classic knight in shining armor, Blue Rose is the tsundere, Dragon Kid is the tomboy, etc. – but what matters more are their character and relationship development, particularly the protagonist duo Wild Tiger and Barnaby. The two come off as a clichéd “odd couple”, but the show looks beyond their conflicting personalities and builds the more substantial parts in their relationship such as trust and looking out for each other. The same goes for the rest of the cast: their backgrounds are explored, and in turn their characters get fleshed out in a credible way, from Blue Rose’s dilemma between her personal ambitions and Hero lifestyle to Sky High’s romantic experiences. My only issue is Lunatic who, for an anti-hero that has a lot more to offer in the series, doesn’t get enough of the spotlight that he deserves.
Tiger & Bunny‘s other strong point is its storyline. Despite the novel reality TV superhero theme, the show passes off as a typical Sunday morning cartoon that viewers may enjoy but not take seriously. However, the plot thickens when the villains are gradually revealed and each Hero’s flaws are slowly exposed. The plot is well-written with minimal plot holes and effective plot twists, and the pacing is appropriate throughout the story, from the slow initial stages to the fast buildup to the climax. These are all made possible mostly because of good characterization, in particular, the main antagonist whose cerebral schemes really stir the story up in the later part of the series.
To be frank, whenever an anime tries to take on Western superheroes as its theme, my inner biases tells me that it’s not a good idea and shows like Blade and Wolverine are only enforcing my opinion. However, Tiger & Bunny is a good step towards such an initiative because of its well-written plot and charismatic characters. If I may offer my two-cents to those who don’t have a good impression of this show because of its theme, it would be to give it a chance and silence their inner Western comic fandom. It is a decent tribute to the classic generation of superheroes after all, and it’s quite novel to see this from an anime’s point of view. Perhaps the only two things that the series asks from viewers are patience for it to shine, and tolerance towards the sheer amount of company sponsors that cover the Heroes’ costumes.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: AC