ANIME & MANGA - Review
13:27 - 14th April 2013, by David West

Tiger And Bunny

With great power, comes great responsibility. And corporate sponsorship deals. In Sternbild City, superheroes may help to keep the streets safe for women and children to walk at night, but they also compete for points on the reality television show Hero TV. At the end of each season, the hero with the most points - for catching villains, rescuing citizens in peril and being generally upstanding and heroic - is crowned The King Of Heroes. Like an underperforming school trembling whenever the evil Ofsted inspector comes to town, the costumed crusader Wild Tiger hovers at the bottom of the Hero TV league table. He has a bad habit of destroying public property in the pursuit of justice, and with his popularity in the doldrums, Tiger is assigned to work with a new hero on the block, the brash and good looking Barnaby Brooks Jnr. The veteran crime fighter promptly dubs his new partner Bunny. Unfortunately, the two heroes mix about as well as oil and water and struggle to get along even as the city is in peril.

Directed by Keiichi Sato, Tiger & Bunny,/i> is a superhero show with a twist. Actually, with several twists. The heroes who compete for points on the TV show all have corporate sponsors with their logos proudly displayed on their uniforms. In an example of art imitating life, many of the companies featured as sponsors on the show are real businesses - most notably Blue Rose is sponsored by Pepsi, and their logo features prominently whenever she is on screen. This is the one area where the show really misses an opportunity, as there was certainly an opening to comment on the pervasiveness of corporations in modern life, or the notion that the heroes serving the public good are all ultimately for sale, but the script never touches that subject.
That quibble aside, Tiger & Bunny is a briskly paced show with a fun, diverse cast of characters. At first sight, Fire Emblem teeters on the edge of becoming a parody of a flamboyant gay man - particularly with his RuPaul, drag-queen-like make-up, pink hair and outrageous outfits - but as the show goes on, it becomes clear that while he may be camper than a row of tents, he is also brave, intelligent and tough.

In the first volume, some heroes receive more attention than others. Tiger and Barnaby are at the centre of the show, but Fire Emblem and Blue Rose in particular have plenty of screen and script time. The Pepsi-swilling heroine is given an interesting subplot of her own, as she struggles with the life of a professional hero while her heart's desire is to be a singer. Blue Rose is the idol of the superhero world, but while her outfit is skimpy, the series never plays up the potential for fanservice, which is refreshing. It is not entirely clear how Blue Rose's powers work - in some scenes she uses a pair of special guns to generate ice attacks, while in others she projects ice out of her hands.

The episodes loosely follow a villain-of-the-week format as new threats are introduced and faced down. However, there are overriding plot arcs that link everything together. The most intriguing of these is Barnaby's quest to find the person or organisation responsible for the murder of his parents when he was a child. Seeds are sown in these early episodes that will bear fruit later, and they provide the thread that binds the individual storylines together. The tragedy in Barnaby's past means that he is distant with the other heroes, and often seems to be somewhat stuck up. When he is first assigned to work as a team with Wild Tiger, the duo squabble constantly and singularly fail to coordinate their efforts. The interplay threatens to be wearying, as they seem unable to agree on anything at all, but the relationship develops as the episodes progress, preventing the two protagonists from becoming stuck in a rut.

Wild Tiger is not your perfect, clean-cut hero. He is not very bright and not much of a dad. His young daughter, Kaede, lives with her grandmother, and Kotetsu is very bad at finding the time to visit her. He claims he is too busy with his hero work, yet Blue Rose manages to go to school, keep up with her studies and pursue a music career while balancing her obligations as a hero. Is Wild Tiger lazy, bad at time management, or just a lousy father? At times, he appears to be more interested in solving Barnaby's problems than dealing with his own shortcomings.

At this point in the proceedings, some of the other heroes remain firmly in supporting roles, waiting for their turn in the spotlight to fill in their personalities and back stories - but it does mean the show has plenty of room for growth. Dr Saito, a scientist who works for Hero TV, provides some laughs. He invents costumes and gadgets for the heroes to use on their missions, but he speaks so softly that everyone struggles to hear a word he says. The doctor derives a slightly worrying pleasure from experimenting on Wild Tiger whenever he has a new product to test. Fortunately, Kotetsu is nothing if not durable...

Production values are high, with slick animation and plenty of attention to details - check out the way the flames ripple on Fire Emblem's cape. The costume designs are colourful and sure to inspire a legion of cosplayers, while the music and audio design are excellent. All round, an inspiring start to a series that's sure to become a firm fan favourite.

With a cast of flawed but compelling characters, plenty of action and a message about the nature of heroism, Tiger & Bunny has all the ingredients to make a classic adventure series that puts its own unique spin on the superhero genre. Forget about Celebrity Big Brother, Hero TV is the only reality television show worth watching this season.
SCORE: 4/5
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