Guess who's back? Yep, after pretty much abandoning the blog, I figured I'd try giving it another shot. This time with a new anime review. The year is almost at it's end and we've gotten a pretty good bunch of anime during the spring and and winter seasons. One such show involves a concept we very rarely see in anime; superheroes. The traditional Japanese superhero wears full body spandex, a helmet and usually either rides a motorcycle or pilots a mech of some kind, such as Super Sentai or Kamen Rider. It's also a concept that's almost exclusively live-action based. If we see stuff like this in anime, it's usually in the form of parody or satire. We've never really gotten a serious superhero-centric anime before. Until now. Let me welcome you to the city of Sternbuild....
Sternbuild is a somewhat futuristic, multi-layered city that also serves as the NEXT capitol of the world. NEXT is what super-powered beings are called in this world. While it's not really explained as to why they're called that, it's safe to assume it's meant to mean that they are the "next" step in human evolution and physical development. While the general populous don't completely trust NEXT, the broadcast phenomenon known as "HERO TV" acts as a way to not only show NEXT doing heroic feats, but also gains the network revenue through sponsorship, with corporate logos being placed on the costumes of the hero they choose to support. The premise of HERO TV is simple; If a large crime or dangerous event is occurring, the show sends out any or all of their employed heroes to deal with the situation. The more heroic the deed, the more points said hero gets. The end of each episode tallies up the points each hero receives and ranks them based on the overall total. In short, it's a reality/game show involving superheroes.
Now while this whole premise could be enough to support it's own series, Tiger & Bunny follows two of the heroes featured on the show. Kotetsu T. Kaburagi is our main character. Kotetsu is one of the older heroes working for HERO TV under the alias of Wild Tiger. Tiger's NEXT ability is known as the "Hundredth Power", which, when activated, grants him highly enhanced speed, strength, stamina and invulnerability. The one catch is that this power only lasts for 5 minutes, meaning he has to work quick in order to avoid losing his powers in the middle of a situation. Unlike most heroes, who are more into the business to make an income and support themselves, Kotetsu is more into just because he feels it's the right thing for him to do, taking after his childhood role model and renowned hero, Mr. Legend. The problem is that he usually acts first and thinks afterwards, usually causing a lot of property damage in the process and causing the network to pay for it, while also subtracting the costs from his paycheck. This trait of "smash first, worry later" earned Tiger the nickname "The Crasher of Justice".
Besides our title characters, there are also six other heroes that flesh out the cast and play secondary roles. Each of these heroes plays up a certain stereotype that we see in most superhero fiction. Blue Rose originally just wanted to be a pop idol and wanted nothing to do with hero work. Sky High used to be the top-ranked hero before Barnaby arrived and, while he isn't bitter about it, he still feels like he should push himself to be the best. Origami Cyclone feels he doesn't deserve to be a hero and opts to stay in the background the entire time, letting other heroes take the glory. While overall they don't get as much development as Kotetsu and Barnaby (Such as Origami Cyclone and Dragon Kid, which is CRIMINAL), we do get to know them enough to sympathize with them or even deduce which one ends up being a favorite.
The animation is top-notch with a more realistic look to all the characters as opposed to a more traditional anime style. CG animation is also used for some of the more bulky suits, such as Tiger's and Bunny's, and blends in very well with the traditional animation used. Animation for both is fluid, expressive and looks fantastic, especially during fight scenes. The music is orchestrated and helps set the mood, with the number they use for HERO TV events becoming the most recognizable music cue of the show. The voice acting is great. No voice feels out of place to me and they all emote very well, especially Kotetsu, who can go from over-the-top to sternly serious with little to no hesitation. Make no mistake, this is quality stuff.
So overall, is Tiger & Bunny worth a watch? In my opinion, yes, absolutely. For a genre we rarely see in anime, this is a damn good crack at it. The characters are likable, the threats are no laughing matter and the production is top-tier, with the only slight downside being that not every main hero can be fleshed out as well as Kotetsu and Barnaby in the time frame they had to work with. Considering the amount of positive feed back this series has gotten and the way it ends off, it's safe to assume we may be seeing another season of Tiger & Bunny in the future. And personally....I can't wait!