During my wilderness years away from the anime fandom, there were not many shows I watched. In fact I can probably count on one half of one hand about how much i was watching. One of the exceptions to what was this anime, something that came up on my radar and I was just compelled to watch it. Its second season has just aired, but we are going to start where it all began and give the first season a look. So with that, let’s take a dive into the first half of Tiger & Bunny after the cut!
It may be strange to some people these days, but there was a time when the idea of superheroes wasn’t a worn out concept. Back when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in its early stages and My Hero Academia was a scant 4 years from starting publication. ‘Cape movies’ were still going through a re-discovery, and it was only a matter of time before anime tried their hand at it. What we got was Tiger & Bunny and man, what a show it was.
Taking place in the futuristic city of Sternbilt, we follow Kotetsu Kaburagi as he works as the super-hero Wild Tiger. With sponsors all over his arm, and the ever present HeroTV watching, Kotetsu and the other heroes have to beat up crime, rescue civilians and rack up points for all of it. It’s a good life, but when Kotetsu’s sponsors go belly up, he finds himself partnered with the young and driven Barnaby Brooks Jr as the cities first tag-team duo. Determined to both win points and un-cover the murder of his parents, both Tiger and Barnaby have to learn to work as a team in order to succeed.
A simple and well worn concept for sure, but one thankfully TnB is able to execute it extremely well. In the first half we are introduced to all of the characters, the world of the series, and the idea of the NEXTs. None of it is overdone and none of it overwhelms the story. It is allowed to breathe and while many of the episodes are mostly episodic, there is a through-line that links them all together. This is helped immensely by the chemistry and characterization of the cast. Kotetsu remains one of the most unique leads of that decade, a walking example of ‘dad-humor’ who is a true hero, but one that is trying to also just be a father. It contrasts perfectly with Barnaby who is more of the expected character from a show like this, and Kotetsu’s ability to bring out his humanization does a lot to bring him around to be likeable. Characters like Blue Rose, Dragon Kid, and Fire Emblem fare pretty good, with their own episodes helping flesh them out. Blue Rose probably remains the most developed out of the secondary cast and is a great example of a teenage hero who isn’t an annoying piece of crap.
Furthermore, TnB’s first half is also able to show how superhero media is still able to be unique and fresh. Even watching this show well after the MCU has dominated the world, TnB kept me interested in how it tries to be different, I loved how each of the heroes is covered by real-life sponsors, and how the reality tv aspect seems both restrained and effective. I loved how the world was both built around superheroes, but also has all the trappings of classic New York. The use of mecha suits for most of the heroes helps set them apart from the usual spandex stuff and ties the world closer to anime. And even when the ‘plot’ kicks in with the last handful of episodes involving a criminal and ties to Barnaby’s past, it doesn’t get bogged down in angst or trying to over-explain things. I’ll get more into the overall story in the next post, but the ideas laid down here are pretty good so far.
The first half of Tiger & Bunny was damn enjoyable to watch after so many years. I was afraid that, having checked out of the MCU after Endgame, I might have hit superhero fatigue. I think I do have it, but sitting down to watch this show reminded me that there is still juice left in the tank. Great music, fun characters, and a show that takes itself not too seriously, TnB is something anyone fan of the genre will get a kick out of. We’ll see if these good feelings carry on into the second half, so stick around for that!