Title: Tiger & Bunny
Encompasses: Complete 25 Episode Season Over Two Parts
Published by: Siren Visual
Based on: Original Anime Series
Genre: Science Fiction / Superhero
Audio: Hybrid Dub
Classification: This title has been classified as M for Animated Violence and Coarse Language
Special Thanks: Siren Visual for providing me with a copy of this release to review!
The city of Stern Bild is protected by corporate superheroes known as NEXT, who fight crime while promoting their sponsors on the popular show “HERO TV”. Veteran hero Wild Tiger relies on his years of experience and instincts to fight crime, but his tendency to destroy public property for the sake of protecting the lives of the innocent has earned him the nickname “Crusher for Justice”. Now under orders from his new employer, Wild Tiger finds himself forced to team up with Barnaby Brooks Jr., a rookie with an attitude. Two polar opposites work to fight evil in this thrilling buddy-hero action series!
In April 2011 Siren Visual announced their short-lived simulcast program with one of their inaugural titles being Tiger & Bunny. After a childhood exposed to super hero series such as Batman and Superman I found myself tired of the genre itself despite titles individually being good in their initial formats. When I finally got around to doing my First Impressions article of the first seven episodes I ecstatically claimed that “the series showed me that there was still more for the Super Hero genre to offer” and gave it a tentative A-Grade.
More than two years have passed since then…. and it is time to see how the tentative A-Grade has shifted since then. Have the remainder of the episodes lived up to the high expectations I set? Did the localization work do the series justice? Does the series have the potential of being my Australian Anime Release of the Year 2013? Read on to find out the answers to these questions in my review of Tiger & Bunny Parts 1 and 2, now available in Australia thanks to Siren Visual.
Tiger & Bunny deals with many of the stereotypes surrounding the whole super hero genre and breathes a new concept into the long-running genre. While hidden identities and special abilities to each hero are played upon rather heavily, they no longer do their good deeds just for public safety or morales – in-fact to some of the heroes their goals are to build up points and promote their sponsors. Sponsored by companies such as Pepsi, UStream and Bandai, the best of the best heroes take part in a television shown known as “Hero TV” where under the direction of their own abilities and the shows producer Agnes they work to take down criminals of varying degrees under the watchful eyes of the general public. Earning points for being the first on the scene, saving civilians and capturing the criminals in question, they earn points in order to build their rankings and be crowned MvP at the end of the season.
The main protagonist Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Wild Tiger) is one of the veterans of Hero TV who is endowed with a special power (As a NEXT) which for five minutes allows him to multiply his strength by a factor of 100. With strong aspirations towards Justice, he has been known to have a lack of regard for collateral damage and his actions have caused him to slip down the ladder to near the bottom. Eventually his sponsor is bought out by another one of the big companies (Apollon Media) which changes everything – no longer is he a solo hero but is paired up tag-team style with new hero Barnaby Brooks Jr., who shares the same Hundred Power ability as him and has an almost polar opposite personality and mode of action on the field.
The dynamic between the two lead characters at least at the very start makes for an interesting and quite often comical watch, and aided by a cast of six other eccentric and unique heroes with different kinds of abilities to a sizable “normal human” character cast every episode leads to something interesting. Unfortunately most of the character development is centered on Wild Tiger and Barnaby, therefore most of the other heroes only really receive an episode or two (if lucky) of character development focused just upon them. While I would have liked to have seen more of these characters individually, their roles collectively work well and contribute to the overarching storyline well.
Wild Tiger is the main lead character, and quite often deviations between characters will follow him rather than even Barnaby. Despite this, the actual storyline focuses around the backstory of Barnaby Brooks Jr. whom when he was younger lost his parents to a tragic murder – and seeks to find out the person whom committed the crime despite absolutely no leads. This main plot point carries across the entire 25-episode series although spikes in importance at both the half-way point and later in the final episodes as he and the rest of the heroes slowly unravel the mysteries of this crime and an organization by the name of Ouroboros. That being said, it still makes room for other elements such as the single-episode Hero TV segments and the mystery behind another entity known as Lunatic. While there were a few moments in the storyline that had me lose interest, for the most part Tiger & Bunny made for an interesting and enjoyable watch from start to finish.
While I don’t usually consider visuals to be a breaking point of an anime series, the design concepts and visual quality alike of Tiger & Bunny certainly haven’t hurt it by any means. In attempting to keep with the super hero theme of the series, Sunrise chose to amalgamate traditional anime style visuals with CGI animation which compliment each other very well. For most of the non-action scenes you can expect the traditional anime style visuals which are well detailed and animated. On the other hand, when characters don their Hero Suits the hybrid animation style kicks in with strong visual impact – and even when you see the two styles on two different characters side-by-side it doesn’t look awkward at all. They also throw in a few visual quirks such as the scene that proceeds “Good Luck Mode” that effectively ties in with the genre well.
Each of the characters have been designed effectively to suit both their personality and style – and are creatively done so every single hero stands out from each other. While it does seem like they do occasionally reuse the same character designs at time (Eg. Scarf Girl), most of the characters are designed well and it is easy to match a name from a face. The environment designs are also a highlight, with the city of Stern Bild bringing across the bright-lights metropolis vibe that works so well with the action scenes.
Music / Voice Acting
Overall, Tiger & Bunny comes with two opening sequences (Orion wo Nazoru by Unison Square Garden | Missing Link by Novels) and two ending sequences (Hoshi no Sumika by Aobozu | Mind Game by Tamaki). Overall all four of these sequences do the job and while their animations are quite nice the songs are average to above average at best. Despite that, the musical backing of the entire series is rather good, and contains some great tracks especially in more suspenseful and action oriented moments which suit the genre well. To be a tad picky, I wouldn’t have minded a more diverse range of tracks however as many of the good tracks were overused.
In terms of voice acting, both the English and Japanese dubs do their jobs well. However as someone who grew up watching English-dubbed super hero films I must admit my preferences do lie with the new English dub which Viz Media enlisted STUDIOPOLIS (Bleach, Afro Samurai, Naruto) to produce. Wally Wingert and Yuri Lowenthal tackle the roles of Wild Tiger / Barnaby Brooks Jr. respectively very well, each matching each others personalities and mannerisms toward each other well. The rest of the voice cast is also of a rather high quality with some rather eccentric and well suited voices across the board. Some highlights of this series include Kari Wahlgren as Blue Rose, Patrick Seitz as Sky High, Tara Platt as HERO TV producer Agnes and Eden Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi. While there are occasions where you notice that the same voice actor is tackling a different voice role with little alteration to their voice, I was overall pleased with the presented quality.
Extra Content / Packaging
One of the things that Siren Visual haven’t been doing lately is including slipcases with their anime releases. Fortunately this changed with both parts of Tiger & Bunny with not only slipcases, but one of those fold out DVD cases with room for two discs and an added slot. This added slot is comprised of an assortment of miniture “Monthly Hero” magazines which are themed after the different heroes while (In a magazine-style) highlight different events from the series and details of the characters and their development. Also included in the mix are “Hero Cards” picturing different NEXT from the series. Granted these are small extras but it is small things like this that I like – shows that the company is trying to do something different with their release.
While both Parts come with only a few extra on-disc extras, what they do provide are lengthy. In the first part is an “Inside Sunrise” video which at almost 29 minutes of footage from inside the animation studio specifically focusing on the development / conceptualization of the series. Also included in the first part are the Japanese opening and ending sequences for the first half show, which have little difference from what is shown in every episode (Pretty much replacing the English text with Japanese text). In a similar regard to the “Inside Sunrise” video from Part 1, Part 2 has a 24 minute Behind the Scenes video for the series with no Opening/Ending sequence additions.
There was a notable issue with both DVD discs in Part 1 where only individual episode scenes were defined, therefore it was not possible to (for example) skip the opening sequence without winding up in the next episode. This issue was however resolved in Part 2.
Final Words / Review
Overall I was glad to finally see that after such a long wait, Viz Media and Siren Visual were able to get this series out to their respective regions. While it may not do so harmoniously all the time, Tiger & Bunny is a good merger of comical elements that build upon cliches in the super hero genre and more serious plotlines from the writers own mind. But overall the series has shown me that there is still much that can be done with the super hero genre and here’s hoping for future installments – especially considering it leaves its ending right open for one.
Overall for the Tiger & Bunny Parts 1 and 2 I give it the following grades:
Storyline / Character Development: A
Music/Voice Acting: A-
Personal Preference: A
Therefore, I give it the overall score of S