Tiger & Bunny is a hero series from 2011. It was brought to us by Sunrise. I’ve heard it mentioned a lot over the years, but never got around to watching it. But since it’s hero month, it seems like a good time to check it out and form some opinions.
Our narrative is set in the future where mutants… I mean “Next” have started popping up. Naturally, this has led to a group of heroes who wear product placements like they think they’re Captain Amazing from Mystery Men and who fight criminals & rescue civilians alike to earn points for a television show. Enter newcomer, Barnaby, a hero with a dark past he’s looking to unravel. He becomes the first hero duo with veteran, Wild Tiger. Unfortunately for both of them, they don’t get along all that well and Barnaby’s past may be creeping up on them.
One of the biggest problems with the series is that it has severe tonal issues. It tries to strike a balance between darker and lighter moments like some of the best comic runs out there including Claremont’s X-men run and the Wolfman/ Pérez Titans run. The problem is that it sucks at it and there are two reasons for that. The first is that it goes two far in both directions. If you look at those comics that shift tone well, they have pretty realistic degrees on both ends. For example, The X-men facing the brood and finding themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation on account of the royal eggs that have been implanted in them but still maintaining hope and doing everything they can versus Shadowcat telling little Illyana a bed time story for an issue. In Tiger & Bunny, the lighter elements cross into Silver Age goofiness. Think Batman and Superman having a slumber party at the fortress of solitude but somehow dumber whereas the darker elements cross into 90s darker and stupider territory. Which means there’s a lot more of a shift between the tones. Tiger & Bunny also fails because it combines the elements. If you look at those good comics, they actually transition from one tone to the other instead of abruptly forcing the tone to change. In this, they’ll have goofy silver age elements, like evil plush toys piloting mechs, side by side with more serious elements like Barnaby trying to get revenge for the loss of his parents and that’s just highly dissonant.
Another issue is with the main villain’s plan. I don’t want to go deep into spoilers, so I’ll keep this somewhat vague. Even though who the villain is going to be becomes really obvious as soon as our heroes have a certain conversation in hospital. In any case, our arch villain gets caught with a tiny contradiction and all he has to do to keep things from escalating is pretend he also doesn’t know what the deal is. Instead he gives a huge villain speech revealing everything and tries to cover things up by messing with someone’s mind. Then he makes things even worse by unnecessarily lying and trying to frame another hero. Even though said hero has had a costume where they can easily be identified just by visually comparing him with one of his old trading cards or videos. To make things even dumber, this guy supposedly wants Next to be treated well and that’s why he’s manipulated the Hero media but when things aren’t looking so good he decides to have androids kill all the heroes that the citizens know and love even though that will clearly interfere with his big plan. I don’t know how it’s possible to be as egregiously stupid as this villain.
Although that does lead me with yet another problem I have with this series. They bring up this idea of their mutants being feared and mistrusted a couple times, but it’s not something we see any real evidence of. There are, maybe, three scenes where someone is a dick towards the Next. Other than that, they’re treated like heroes, people buy their merch, big companies sponsor them to make themselves look good. There’s almost nothing to indicate that things are bad for them. The series also wastes its one opportunity to do something with some impact right at the end by having a cheap cop out. So, the ending is pretty shit. The series also likes to repeat itself way too much, going over plot points to a ludicrous degree. For example, the anti-hero appears and gives a big speech about how “he is doing the true justice” and there are about three conversations after that where our heroes can’t figure out what he’s after. It’s like they think their audience is really, really slow.
I’ve already described how bad the antagonist is, so let’s talk about the other major characters. Our big characters are Tiger, Kotetsu, and Barnaby. Kotetsu is a horrible, neglectful father and obnoxious cretin. Barnaby is just boring. Which is kind of the way things go in this series. At best, the heroes are trite and bland. At worst, they’re gross homophobic stereotypes, Hi, Fire Emblem. Sky High is probably the most likeable of them all, even though he’s dumber than a wet cardboard box, because he’s a paragon character with a dog. Blue Rose is an insipid twit with a really annoying crush on a dude more than twice her age. Which might not be so bad if they didn’t bring it up constantly throughout the series.
Dragon Kid and Origami Cyclone are dull. Rock Bison is so boring that even his “best friend” can’t think of any personal information to give about him. Seriously, there’s a scene where Tiger is giving out some information about all the other heroes and he has nothing to say about this guy. There’s also Lunatic, one of those generic anti-hero characters. Although it is worth noting that he wants to be seen as seeking true justice, but he calls himself Lunatic. That would be like Mister Sinister trying to convince ordinary people he’s actually the hero while still calling himself Mister Sinister.
The artwork is a bit mixed. Some of the city shots look impressive, but the character designs are kind of mediocre. and the action sequences aren’t very interesting. One thing that’s absolutely horrendous is the product placement. The hero costumes are plastered with logos to the point of it being really tacky. It’s like Sunrise just decided this had no artistic merit whatsoever so they might as well just suck off some fat corporate guys for a bit of extra dosh.
Here’s one aspect where I can give the series some credit, the actors are pretty decent. Maybe not great, but they’re about as good as they can be with characters this insipid. The best is probably Inoue Go, who does pull off the simple-minded paragon character pretty well. The only truly bad performance comes from Tsuda Kenjirou. It’s not really his fault since he’s voicing a super flamboyant gay stereotype, but it is awful to listen to.
Ike Yoshihiro does the sound track and it’s the best part of the series. They may not be the best tunes out there, but they’re quite good and well put together.
It comes entirely from our gay stereotype, who has fire powers. Wow, that isn’t the least bit subtle or clever. And I’m sure one person is going to say “didn’t you have a gay character with fire powers in Omicron Squad?” Which is true but I had a lot of gay characters and Anastasia wasn’t a stereotype. So, not really the same at all.
Areas of Improvement:
- Gives the characters personality beyond tropes. One of the things that makes for a good hero comic is a strong sense of personality from the characters and well developed interpersonal dynamics among them. Plus strong villains instead of total knob heads.
- Consistent Tone. If you want something stupid and goofy like the Silver Age, just go for it. If you want something darker and stupider like an early Image comic, go for it. This clearly doesn’t have a strong enough writer to pull off something between, so let’s not fluctuate between those two extremes.
- A Consistent World. If you want to be like the X-men and show powered heroes doing their best in a world that hates and fears them, that’s fine. If you want to have a future where everything is built up around a culture of hero worship, that’s also fine. These two things do not work together.
Tiger & Bunny is a complete mess. It can’t decide which extreme tone it wants and ends up awkwardly and really badly mixing them, its heroes range from boring to obnoxious & offensive. It has plot holes so massive you could fly a 747 through them. The world building is wildly inconsistent. The “twists” are really obvious to the point of being bland. They treat their audience like it’s made up of a bunch of morons. The sponsorships are tacky as hell and it’s just never interesting or entertaining. My final rating is going to be a 2/10. This anime sucks.