Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Addict Overview: Tiger & Bunny

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".

While that covers the "Tiger" side of the show's title, let's look at the other half. Barnaby Brooks Jr. shares the same power as Kotetsu, but is also more loyal to the network, younger and more of an eye-catch. He makes his grand debut onto the television scene when he saves Kotetsu after running out of time with his powers and not long after is partnered with Kotetsu as a way to draw in more viewers with their first superhero duo as well as to boost Wild Tiger's popularity among the audience. Thing is Barnaby wants nothing to do with Kotetsu and his old way of handling things, opting to make the network look good and gain points. He's "affectionately" nicknamed "Bunny" by Kotetsu due to the two antennae protruding from his suit's helmet, which give off the resemblance of rabbit ears. As time goes on we learn that Barnaby is the show's "Batman" type character. He comes from a wealthy family, but his parents were murdered while he was still young, leaving him to try and find out just who it was that killed his parents and why they did it. The overall plot of the series revolves around this whole mystery as each clue leads to repercussions that affect not only Barnaby, but Kotetsu and the other heroes as well.

While what happened to Barnaby's parents drives what goes on in the series, Kotetsu also goes through his own character revelations, most of it having to do with his age and how it ends up affecting his powers. And the both of them also share one last overlaying plot point. As the show goes on we watch as both Kotetsu and Barnaby learn to trust in each other and become a stronger duo. Hell, by the last episode they act no where near as dysfunctional as they did back in the beginning. As they improve, however, so do the threats they encounter. During the first few episodes we see our heroes having to deal with petty crooks and other NEXT who use their powers to commit crimes. By the end they're dealing with a threat that may affect the future of Sternbuild and lead to the extinction of all NEXT if they don't stop it in time. This adds a bit of a shonen vibe to the whole series and just about every event ties into the final confrontation in one way or another. The story-telling is very well-done and keeps the viewer engaged with its twists, turns and revelations.

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!

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