Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Anime Review: Tiger and Bunny

Eeek, I still have seven more anime series to blog after this one and this is my fourth review of the summer anime already, really wish I had the time to post more here but I really do have too much school to make that work, lovely. Also, on this tangent, I'm hoping to get the first half of the fall short reviews up on Friday (just waiting on those noitaminA shows and Last Exile: Fam) and the second half up next Wednesday (not tomorrow but the one after that) which is also a bit late but I always put those posts up later than everyone else anyway. Onto the review!

As I believe I've said multiple times now, this show wasn't even on my radar during the spring preview because come on, an anime about Western style superheros that's trying to market itself to the 14-22, male Western comic book fan audiences? That's almost the exact opposite of my tastes but it was one of the first shows to air back in the spring, got some good reviews, was streaming on Hulu so I tried it out, found the first episode to be much better than I expected and as the show went on it turned out to be centered around a central plot instead of the episodic, villain-of-the-week kind of show I was expecting. I really found myself loving the show more and more as it went on and I know I wasn't the only one, it's one of the best selling shows of the past season to the surprise of just about everyone.

Tiger & Bunny

Summary: In an alternate Manhattan (here called Sternbild) there are people with special powers, called NEXT, and some of them act as a kind of corporate mascot by becoming superheroes and taking down crime, all while wearing logos all over their outfits. Kotetsu T. Kaburagi is the superhero Wild Tiger who isn't rated very high, doesn't have a lot of popularity and has a habit of causing property damage chasing criminals and costing his sponsor company money. The company folds and he's brought into another company to be part of the first superhero team with newcomer Baranaby Brooks Jr (Bunny), too bad neither of them really want to be partners.

The Good: As I pointed out in my second Diversity post, this show has quite possibly the most diverse cast of characters I've seen in any story, any medium (barring webcomics which are a bit special) recently. None of the characters come off as stereotypes and many of the side characters get their own focus episode to develop more which is great, the show is focused around a central plot but it's incredibly character focused. All of the major and minor characters have been fleshed out well enough that if you were to put two of them in a room together the viewer would know exactly how they would react, no matter the situation. The plotlines, while no the craftiest bits of writing ever conceived, were good and interesting to watch.

The Bad: Sadly some of the heroes didn't get their own focus episodes and the second league of heroes only appeared once after they were first introduced, hopefully if there is a second series both of those groups will get more attention. Sometimes the plot twists, especially towards the climax in the second half, were painfully obvious or the characters were being a bit dumber than normal which could get frustrating at points, the show does have it's cheesy moments. And if there isn't a second season after the stinger thrown in at the very end then Sunrise might have an angry mob on their hands which is never a good thing.

The Audio: It's been a while since I was surprised by a change in an anime's OP/ED but that happened here which was a pleasant surprise. The first OP/ED weren't bad per say but I found the second set (especially the ending theme) to be much more catchy and generally liked them more. I don't really have anything to say about the voice actors aside from saying that all of the acting seemed well-done without any odd moments and I'm sure there are many other reviewers out there who can talk more about the details.

The Visuals: Another reason I was so hesitant to watch this show was because it was obvious from the promo art (like this piece) that a lot of the heroes would be done in CGI on traditionally animated backgrounds which I always find to be really jarring. It is jarring for the first couple of episodes but you really do get used to it quickly and at least this way the heroes are never off model. And, while the rest of the show looks fine it is interesting to see all of the TV series/Blu-Ray comparisons, Sunrise has been doing a lot of touch-up on characters facial expressions so they look more natural and, in one case, adding in the elusive background character "scarf-tan" whom fans had fun finding in all of the later episodes.

The show is finished now and feels complete but there are still tons of things a second season could be about, most fans would love to see it deal more with the crime syndicate Oroborus and it seems the most likely direction a new season would take. Viz is streaming this in the US using Hulu (so Candian viewers can't see it, sorry guys!) although they haven't formally announced if they have the DVD/BR rights everyone wants them to get on it, dub it, and then put in on TV since it would probably be a hit there as well. It's really funny to compare this oddball show from Japan who no one thought would succeed to the recent reboot of DC Comics, the creators of Tiger and Bunny seemed to effortlessly make a great reconstruction of the superhero genre with fun, diverse characters (even the apparently "obligatory girl superhero in sexy outfit" Blue Rose is a well-rounded and interesting character and is barely used for fanservice, compare that to any of DC's female characters) and it has tons of fans. 750,000 people wanted tickets to the Tiger & Bunny live event in November, I don't know if any single volume of DC comics released in the US cracks 100,000. Over the past few weeks I've realized that I actually do like stories with superheros in them and that there are a lot of fun ones out there, it's just that none of them happen to be done in the style of traditional American superhero comics, how strange is it that it took a show from Japan and a few webcomics for me to come to that conclusion? 

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