I have always been fascinated with the concept of the superhero; the question of what a person decides to do with their life once they are given superhuman abilities. The superhero figure can also provide colorful commentary by reflecting the values and morals of a society that is constantly evolving and adapting. “Tiger and Bunny” is a very engaging anime that presents us with a possible world where superheroes are rewarded for their noble deeds with a point based system in a reality T.V show that is fed by monopolized corporations. Welcome to the future of superheroes, ladies and gentlemen, where icons are replaced with logos and ethics are substituted with sponsors.
A Good Beginning Makes a Good Ending
The story for “Tiger and Bunny” is set in an alternate 1978 in Sternbuild City where its citizens have the potential to become NEXT i.e. super-powered individuals. The NEXT citizen takes it upon themselves to become either a super hero or a super villain. The heroes of the city are all members of Hero TV where their exploits are captured on camera for the whole city to see for entertainment purposes. Each hero is sponsored by the company they represent and must wear brands and logos on their uniforms while also being awarded points for how many citizens they save, how many villains they take into custody, etc.
The story mainly focuses on a small group of superheroes with two being given the most attention: Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Wild Tiger), the over-the-hill veteran who is struggling to maintaining a fan base while still trying to uphold his old-school sense of justice, and his partner Barnaby Brooks Jr. (Bunny), who is a symbolic representation of the future where superheroes put commercialism before heroism.
This anime is one of my personal favorites simply because of how stylized and well crafted it can be while still maintaining a sense of witty self-awareness. The show does a brilliant job of creating social satire regarding how heavily commercialized its superheroes are in a way that feels oddly familiar in contrast to how we as a society tend to commercialize our own “heroes” that we look up to (celebrities, athletes, musicians, etc.) The superhero in this anime is portrayed more like a professional wrestler as opposed to a protector of the innocent and Wild Tiger becomes the most vocal of this concept which, in turn, makes him a very well rounded character. Barnaby is also a very well rounded character; he acts snobbish and aloof but he has a dark past that he is constantly trying to battle and overcome throughout the series’ run which adds a lot of weight to his overall character and prevents him from becoming two dimensional. It’s no surprise that these two characters are the poster boys for the show because their ability to be foils for one another really showcases an impressively witty script.
The animation is the stuff of legends; each frame is drawn really well with a flawless integration of 3D graphics that rarely clashes with the 2D graphics. Every moment is colorful and bombastic to the point where you will never find yourself becoming bored as your eyes become fixed to the screen in anticipation of what is going to happen next. The other minor characters are all important to the plot and each one has their chance to shine and overcome their own problems while still being integrated into the shocking conspiracy that defines the second half of the show. There is never a dull moment and each cliff-hanger will leave you squee’ing like a nerd at Comi-con.
All’s Well That Ends Well
“Tiger and Bunny” deserves your undivided attention simply for the fact that it has a plethora of layers involved within its integral theme; when the thin crust of witty banter and super-heroics are stripped away you are given a show that has great self-awareness which contains a surprising amount of ironic social commentary on the effect that the media and capitalist conglomerates have on individuals with power. Look up in the sky and marvel at this wonderful show that encapsulates everything right (and everything wrong) with the superhero in our modern era.