It’s not often that I watch anime as it airs. I could never really do the weekly episode thing, as I usually end up forgetting to watch a show and letting the episodes pile up. That’s not really any different here either, as until a few days ago I had only seen the first four episodes of Tiger & Bunny, somehow managing to fall nine weeks behind. I also don’t review currently airing series very often, partially because of the aforementioned not watching them, and partially because I just prefer to wait for DVD/BD releases. But since I really like Tiger & Bunny, and it’s being simulcast (even though I can’t watch the simulcast because I don’t live in the US, United Kingdom, or Australia. (Seriously. God damn Australia gets a simulcast and Canada doesn’t)) I figure I might as well review it now that it’s about halfway finished.
Sternbild City and its citizens are protected from danger by a group of NEXT, individuals who have developed super powers, who play the role of heroes on a reality TV show. They get points for saving people and arresting criminals, and each hero has sponsors whose logos appear on their costumes. Wild Tiger is an older member of this group of heroes who has a habit of destroying property in the process of saving people. Things change for him when his sponsor company is bought out, and he’s forced to work with a partner that he has trouble getting along with.
Right off the bat Tiger & Bunny gets points for having an interesting concept. In a time where people are often complaining about anime lacking originality (hardly surprising for a medium made up mostly of adaptations of existing properties) it’s pretty great when a series actually tries to do something new. So a series about superheroes who compete with each other on a reality TV show, like crime fighting is some kind of game, really manages to separate itself from the rest of the herd. Though the reality TV show aspect isn’t as prevalent the further you get into the series, and the idea is never quite utilized to its full extent. That’s a little disappointing since there’s probably some interesting things you could do with a setting where characters view super heroes the same way we do, as characters who exist to entertain them, even if they’re also saving their lives.
Tiger & Bunny doesn’t have much of an overarching story, and instead goes for a more episodic approach along with a few small story arcs. Some episodes tend to focus on one of the heroes, detailing why they decided to become a hero and some of the personal issues it causes for them. Kotetsu Kaburagi, also known as Wild Tiger, is a single father who lives away from his daughter and never gets to see her because being a hero takes up all of his time. His partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr., became a hero to find a certain criminal and get revenge for something that happened in his past. The episodes delving into the heroes pasts’ really makes the cast feel more human. Despite whatever powers they may have, they have their own personal problems to deal with, and it makes the show that much more engaging.
The buddy cop dynamic between Wild Tiger and Barnaby also plays a large role in the series. Sometimes it’s used for comedy, centring around the pair’s different views about how a hero is supposed to act. Tiger thinks a hero’s responsibility is to protect people, while Barnaby cares about getting points and pleasing his sponsors. This leads to the two arguing over what to do, getting in each others’ way, and missing out on opportunities to save people or apprehend criminals. At other times it displays an actual friendship forming between the two. While Barnaby initially hates having to work with Tiger, eventually he starts to trust him and open up to him about his goals and why he became a hero. It’s a fairly standard buddy cop situation, but still interesting to watch.
One complaint about the series would have to be the villains that have shown up so far. For a series with a concept as interesting and original as Tiger & Bunny, the villains are a little lacking. The first one to show up is Lunatic, a NEXT with fire powers who starts attacking and killing criminals. His belief is that the heroes method of justice is ineffective and that crime must be wiped out completely, and he takes it upon himself to do this. Like Light Yagami if he could shoot fire out of his hands. The other villain is Jake Martinez, a NEXT who believes that humans are inferior to NEXT and deserve to be wiped out. That describes almost every JRPG villain I can think of off the top of my head. Jake is also connected to what happened in Barnaby’s past, but his exact reason for what he did is never explained before this story arc is wrapped up. It’s disappointing to see a series with such a great concept have such cliche villains.
Tiger & Bunny makes frequent use of CGI animation, with most of the heroes being animated this way when in costume. The quality of the CGI animation tends to vary. It always looks fine, but the way it moves is kind of off and inconsistent with the normal animation at times. The CGI animation is just more expressive, leading to characters moving around more when talking in costume than out. It just doesn’t really mesh so well with all the normal animation used for pretty much everything else in the series. However, the CGI does lend itself well to fight scenes, with Barnaby’s fight against Jake Martinez being an example of this animation used well. The rest of the animation is also good, with Sternbild City having some nice architecture on display, even if a lot of the buildings look the same. It’s a nice looking series overall, even with the occasionally wonky CGI.
In conclusion, watch Tiger & Bunny you guys. Seriously. It’s pretty great.
Pros: Interesting concept, great characters, good action, just a fun show overall
Cons: Villains are pretty cliche, CGI animation isn’t always so great
Tiger & Bunny is available streaming on VizAnime (United States only)