To be honest, the only reason why I watched this 2011 anime by Sunrise studios (of ‘Gintama’ and mecha anime fame) was because I recently read that there was going to be a Hollywood adaptation of this starring Tom Cruise. I was surprised to have found that out because, as far as I’m aware, this would have been the second anime/manga inspired movie in recent time featuring him (the first movie was ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ based on ‘All You Need Is Kill’).
So I wondered… Why was Tom Cruise going to be a part of a children’s movie? From the name, it’s apparent that ‘Tiger & Bunny’ sounds like a romantic ‘Doraemon’ or ‘Ninja Hattori’.
Boy, was I marvelously wrong.
Tiger & Bunny turned out to be a kind of superhero anime I would proudly recommend to my elder brother who was big fan of 80s and 90s cartoons like ‘TMNT’, ‘Centurion’, ‘Thundercats’, and ‘Swat Kats’. It’s the sort of cheesy goodness you’ll enjoy on a Saturday morning – especially now when Western-style superhero shows, comics, and cartoons are full of darkness and edginess rivaling that of a fusion of obsidian and bismuth.
Synopsis from MyAnimeList: Sternbild City is home to people called “Next,” who use their special abilities to protect the people as superheroes. These heroes solve cases and save lives so they can wear sponsor logos or acquire “hero points.” Their activities are documented on the popular program “Hero TV,” which picks the “King of Heroes” in a yearly ranking. The veteran hero Wild Tiger has always preferred to work alone, but now he’s been assigned the rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr., who has a different perspective on being a superhero.
To properly talk about the very simple and straight-forward story of Tiger & Bunny, I first have to say that the show is laid out in a basic formulaic pattern. It’s mainly divided into two halves. Each half has two or three beginning episodes which have to do with the conflict of that half and the over-arching plot which begins to roll out in the second half. This is followed by a few episodes of ‘filler’ to provide a bit of background on the anime’s world and flesh out the one-dimensional supporting characters. Finally, the last three or four episodes take the pacing up a few notches and end matters with a bang.
If I were to rate just the first half then I would give it a 6 out 10. I (and you probably too when you watch the show) found myself being irritated by the fact that superpowers of the heroes and villains aren’t really explained along with no elaboration on the influence of the reality TV show in the anime called ‘Hero TV’ outside of the anime’s city of Sternbild.
You see, people with powers are called ‘NEXT’ by the public. Some NEXT become bad guys while some enroll in an academy to train to become a ‘Hero’ for Hero TV and save the day. These powers are probably due to technology. Or maybe because of the awakening of the human mind. I don’t know. Are these powers inheritable. It seems like it but I’m not sure. There are some fanatics who hate NEXT but exactly how bad is it? No clue. Sparse world-building really brings down this great anime.
So, in the last paragraph I did some major bashing on an ensemble of plotholes carefully selected from many, right? Then you’re wondering why I’m calling this anime great.
Well, that’s because in the second half of Tiger & Bunny, I realized the kind of identity the show was going for and enjoyed it as such by choosing to ignore very loose world-building and the numerous plotholes put on glaring display. Tiger & Bunny wanted to be a light-hearted anime with an optimistic positive image while striking a JoJo-pose with one foot firmly planted in a shadow. And that’s what I accepted it as.
Even though the second half was just a tad above the first half in terms of character interactions and the overall plot, I still rate it significantly higher. An 8.5 out of 10, I guess. Why? Because I massively enjoyed it. And what caused this weirdly huge enjoyment?
Kotetsu aka Wild Tiger is hands-down my favorite Marvel superhero (lol). No really, he feels exactly like a Stan Lee character but with most of the cheese and camp replaced with an actual human heart. He’s probably the weakest Hero in the show but his aging widowed dad with a golden heart really warms you up. He’s kind of slow in the first half but he really picks up in the second half when things go bad for him and his personal family life is brought into focus.
His partner is Barnaby Brooks Jr. (that’s also his Hero name) aka Bunny lovingly by Kotetsu. Bunny is Batman. Literally. He’s a less edgier, more human, and leaps and bounds not perfect at all. He’s the best iteration of Batman ever. There’s not much to say about him without spoiling but, let’s just say that his development is choppy as hell and yet works quite nicely like that which is something I consider a feat in itself.
Other than that, the supporting characters are one-dimensional to the bone. But that doesn’t mean that they are bad. They are actually really fun and their interactions with each other and especially Kotetsu is just great. I like how the American isn’t super patriotic; how the Russian isn’t a vodka-holic, and how one of the black men isn’t a raging gangster faggot. Japan, you did right here.
For 2011, the animation looks much better than some 2015 and 2014 shows I’ve seen. It’s crispy, it’s fluid, and it’s consistent. Though, for an action show the combat choreography could have been better. People have claimed that the CGI in this is bad. I think those people are blind and whining for no reason. The CGI in Tiger & Bunny is extremely detailed and blends well with the 2D animation. In hindsight, the animation would have been very bland without the CGI.
I’ve got nothing much to say about the music. The background music is typical Western superhero music. Fits the show well but isn’t something I’d save on my phone. The Openings and Endings are objectively good but they didn’t tickle my ears.
I highly recommend this show and give it a startling 8 out of 10. If the plotholes weren’t aplenty and so obvious and if the world-building wasn’t so half-assed then this would have been an easy 9+ out of 10 show.