What’s the best way to incorporate a gross amount of product placement into your show? Easy, make it integral to the plot! Tiger & Bunny does just that with its world of corporate-sponsored superheroes and, amazingly, it totally works. As eyeroll-worthy as it may be the first time you see a hero decked out in USTREAM-branded gear, Sunrise has produced an entertaining action series that’s actually not based on a manga or some similar pre-existing product.
Heroes rule in the city of Stern Bild, all thanks to a popular TV show called Hero TV. This is the stage on which heroes with powers known as NEXT compete against one another for the title of “King of Heroes.” Each hero is sponsored by real companies, from Bandai to Softbank, and they earn points through their heroic activities, most of which are broadcast live via the show itself.
Kotetsu Kaburagi, AKA Wild Tiger, is the seasoned vet of Hero TV. As such he’s well past his prime, and has become one of the least popular heroes among the star-studded lineup. Kids scoff at his collectible cards, happily trading them for those of Sky High, winner of last season’s “King of Heroes” title. Yes, Tiger is the grumbly, jaded lead, making him the perfect contrast to fresh-faced newcomer Barnaby Brooks Jr., who Kotetsu nicknames “Bunny.”
Thus we’re thrown into a classic buddy flick scenario, as Tiger and Bunny are forced to work together as partners. Tiger has to either suck it up or face obsolescence (or worse, unemployment). One can immediately picture the clashing that ensues—it’s not exactly the freshest of concepts, after all, but Tiger & Bunny pulls it off nicely. A lot of its success is thanks to Tiger himself, who, while certainly somewhat of a blowhard, manages to come off as sympathetic and, occasionally, even charming. His intentions are what elevate him above some of the other heroes—it’s an aspect of his personality that begins to define itself over the course of the episodes that have aired so far (the latest episode is 6).
Bunny is far less interesting, despite the undying adoration he immediately receives from Hero TV‘s hero-hungry fan base. This doesn’t detract from the series or anything, it’s just the nature of his character. Bunny is a pretty boy with the same powers as Tiger, and despite the fact that he does his job well, it’s clear he’s still learning the ropes and is actually in need of the kind of mentorship someone like Tiger can provide, whether he admits it or not. Now if only they could actually manage to get along…
That said, there’s still plenty of room for Barnaby Brooks Jr. to evolve. The show is just now starting to explore the lives of other Hero TV stars. Blue Rose—a young girl with freezing powers and one of the show’s laziest catch phrases—juggles her family, friends and aspiring singing career with the pressure of keeping Stern Bild safe. The stress of this dichotomous lifestyle increases along with the city’s myriad dangers, which includes the presence of criminals that also have NEXT powers. Hopefully future episodes will strike a similar balance between characters like Blue Rose and the more central conflict of the lead heroes’ begrudging partnership.
Tiger & Bunny is directed by Keiichi Satou, whose previous works include the Karas OVA (Director), Big O (Character Design, Mechanical Design, Supervising Animation Director) and Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (Animation Director), among others. The show is briskly paced, peppered with plenty of criminal-catchin’ action, and some solid animation. Yes, there’s an abundance of CG, mostly prevalent in all of the vehicles and costumes, but it’s not distracting or obnoxious enough to make it a notable caveat to an otherwise enjoyable show.
Most crucially, this is one of those rare shows that could actually serve as “gateway anime” for new viewers. That doesn’t happen very often, but Tiger & Bunny casts a wide net of appeal, so it could theoretically attract fresh fans to the world of anime. The only blazing disappointment here is the distinct lack of Pepsiman in a world where his thirst-quenching powers are desperately needed.
© SUNRISE/T&B PARTNERS, MBS