Director: Keiichi Sato
Writer: Masafumi Nishida
Animation Studio: Sunrise
Version Watched: Subbed
This may sound a little weird, but I’ve found that every now and then a show comes along that’s just written well. There’s a strange quality to such anime that I find difficult to define but they leave me with an impression of completion or wholeness that is really very satisfying. Despite one or two issues, Tiger and Bunny presents an entertaining and novel cast alongside an incredibly unique concept with style, making for a fun and engaging experience.
In the futuristic Stern Bild City a small population of humans are known as NEXT. These individuals hold a variety of special abilities, with the strongest among them able to become Heroes, commercialized defenders of justice whose goal is as much to promote their sponsors on prime time television as it is to fight crime. Hero TV provides 24/7 coverage of the Heroes’ escapades, ranking them by the number of criminals they capture or civilians they rescue. Kaburagi Kotetsu, better known as Wild Tiger, is one such Hero, a veteran, and when his supporting company goes under he is placed together with Barnaby Brooks Jr, a newbie on the scene. With the seasoned Kotetsu’s desire to help to populace in every way possible, and Barnaby’s desire to rack up Hero Points, the two might find themselves spending most of their time getting in each other’s way.
Tiger and Bunny immediately plunges you into its unique setting with visuals of caped crusaders with colourful company logos emblazoned on their costumes bringing home the reality of commercialized justice (and they’re from real companies!). The series absolutely nails the portrayal of this key feature to an impressive degree: Special catch-phrases, TV interviews and even a Hero whose only goal is to appear in the background of as many TV shots as possible to show off his sponsors. Among several other themes, the conflict between the media’s need for ratings and the desire for unobstructed pursuit of justice makes for icing on the cake.
The overarching story is both a strength and a weakness for the show. On the one hand I was very pleased with the final arc and the way everything concluded, as well as the general flow of the narrative, but on the other there are several characters and plot devices that don’t get the attention they deserve after they are first introduced. The cast of Heroes and other individuals was a major asset to Tiger and Bunny, but beyond one or two episodes devoted to them they get very little attention compared to the two leads (who, don’t get me wrong, have a fantastic relationship that develops throughout the show). You might think that that’s only to be expected but there were several characters I would have loved to see more of, because in general they are very well written. The biggest issue I have on that front, however, is the introduction of a major villain in the first half of the series who really just falls by the wayside and is relegated to a minor role in the finale despite how important they are made out to be initially. It’s not like this was a manga adaptation that had to be rushed through or altered (being an original anime), so I have trouble understanding why this was done.
Visually, Tiger and Bunny has some fantastic moments accompanied by some…well, not so good ones. To begin with it makes some of the best use of CG I’ve ever seen, from super suits to entire characters being completely computer generated. Admittedly it does fall into Uncanny Valley at points but overall it’s quite impressive. Other than that, the close-up shots are very well animated while those farther out are of notably lower quality. As per usual, the soundtrack does what it needs to without standing out and the voice acting is superb.
Summary – Tiger and Bunny is an example of a novel concept executed well. It’s easy to get caught up in the show’s pace due to its excellent cast and entertaining story. Odd choices regarding certain characters and a lack of time in the spotlight for others are relatively minor complaints in the face of what is really just a great anime.
Score: 9/10 – Great